Thursday, June 25, 2015

All men must die. And women too, I guess...

Death was busy in the past week or so.

My friend passed away, the one I stayed with on a long Saturday night recently.  And in typical me fashion, I missed seeing her before she went by about 45 minutes.

She was moved into a skilled nursing facility, thankfully, about a week and a half after I stayed with her. 3 days later, she passed on.

I was on my way to see her when she died.  I was disappointed that I didn't make it over to her after work the night before, as my plan was initially. And of course I kicked myself because I had every chance in the world over those three days, but I wasn't sure what the hours were that I could visit in the evenings and I was reluctant to find out. Saturday is always a better day. And of course, I laughed at myself. Because isn't that just like me to end up doing that.

I am honored to have had several days of time with her close to the end here. I met another friend who was headed that way and headed him off at the pass. We had coffee and talked for a good long whie.  51 years old, and 8 years of battling her cancer were finally over. But not without a hell of a good fight.

Well done, Good and Faithful Servant.

A lady from our church passed away the same day. This came as somewhat of a surprise.

Doug was her deacon, and he would visit after church when we went (which wasn't every week, but...) he would always make it a point to bring her the bulletin and any news. And on Wednesdays we'd get a nice thank you note in the mail. It always warmed my heart that she wrote thank you notes for a piece of paper and a five minute visit.

She was a lifelong resident of Newbury, MA, and lived in a sweet little house beside a cemetery and across the street from a church she'd attended since childhood. When that church changed philosophy (went from a "Christian" church to an "Earth Centered Kind Of Hippie Worship Church Which Didn't Mention Jesus") she started going to our church. It broke her heart to leave her church, but everyone loved her at our church and we all took good care of her.

Last year she moved into a nursing facility, with a gorgeous view and a giant solarium, giving up her little three bedroom historical house in Newbury MA and her lifetime of memories. It never felt like it suited her.

At the assisted living facility she often expressed how disappointing it was not to be in her house. Sure, they were nice. Sure, they took care of her needs. But she missed her house, and her things, and she wore a slight hang-dog expression when she'd gesture around the small room at her bed, her recliner, her bureau and the small bathroom.

Not quite the same.

The last time we saw her was a couple Sundays ago, and she had some complications medically, which she didn't want to discuss because it "wasn't lady-like" (she was very much the lady) but she did shrug and say "oh I may as well tell you..." I won't share it here with you, because you don't need to know.

She was fully dressed, coordinated, shod, perfectly groomed, and was waiting for her niece and grand-niece to come visit for the family reunion. I hope they were able to transport her there comfortably, and I hope she had a good time.

I didn't get the chance to ask her how it was.

Her funeral was on Wednesday morning June 17th, and Doug went representing us while I packed us up and got us organized for a trip west.

Mildred, "Middie," Grandma
Doug's grandmother passed away on Tuesday June 16th. Doug's sister had emailed me in the morning saying that she didn't think Grandma would make it much longer.

She was 97.

Over the past five or so years, every time we went to see her she'd cry as we were leaving and say "This is the last time I'll get to see you..." and I'd say, "oh Middie, you're talking foolish. We'll see you soon."

This is my biggest regret - that we didn't make it out there in quite a while to go and visit. I think it had been close to two years. But time flies and I can't quite remember.

I found out she and I have the same middle name, and I said to Doug "why didn't you ever tell me that her middle name was Louise?" And he looked at me and said "I suppose I didn't know that."

We stayed the weekend and helped clean out her room. A tiny little space that was packed with tons of things. Different than Janet's room at her facility, which was sparsely decorated and didn't seem to have a lot of things, Middie's room had tons of stuff in it. She had so much clothing. I took a Russian style faux fur winter hat that I'll wear with pride, and a dozen very fragile looking handkerchiefs. Doug and Jess laid claim to the weiner dog figurines. Grandma loved Dachshunds very much. When she moved into the assisted living facility, Jess got quite a few of the figures and cherishes them greatly.

She liked angels too, and people bought her angels. Bonnie kept trying to get us to take one, and to be honest I'm kind of creeped out by them. Now I kind of regret not taking one or two, just because they were hers, and she cherished them greatly.

I should cherish them greatly, because of her love. But I just couldn't.

There were these frog pictures that were in her bathroom for a million years. I remember seeing them in her house bathroom at the first place (the last house before the next two senior residences and the nursing home) where I met her. I kind of wanted them. But Doug didn't.

I laughed and said "come on, you want these! You took baths under these when you were like four! This is a big part of your history!" But he shook his head and quoted "A Mighty Fortress is our God" with the single line "let goods and kindred go."


Additionally, my friend Robin's mom died very unexpectedly. One day, she was at the playground with the grand children, playing on the swings and climbing the jungle gym. The following morning, she didn't wake up.

Robin said "I want that to be me. I want the last day I am on Earth to be a day where I'm playing and doing wonderful and fun things." How cool is that? Especially if you are 88.

So a lot of different deaths, and all of them women. Some deep in my life and some on the periphery. Long battles and short surprising ones. All told, Doug's stolen line from Martin Luther rings hard and true. But I wish I took those frogs.

Friday, June 12, 2015

"Please don't grow up..."

September 1997, Plum Island, Newburyport, MA, the United States of America, Continent of North America, Western Hemisphere, the Earth, the Solar System, the Universe, the Mind of God. 

I have a lot of friends who have very young children. Heck, I have friends who are grandparents. Let that sink in for you folks... people my age have grandbabies. It boggles my mind.

But I'm alright with the progression of time. I truly am. I embrace it as part of who we are, and want to love every moment of this walk.

Some of my friends, they are not willing to march along with the second hand.

On the social media scene, folks with the wee ones are often posting pictures of the kids and saying "Please stop growing!"
"Don't grow up!"
"Stay this way forever for me!"

and the like. I find it distressing. I hold my tongue, because I know what they are saying - they love their babies. They love their little ones. They cherish the cute, the small, the new adventures every day. They want to stop time. Freeze this moment.

How many songs are there about "Time in a Bottle," and holding back the hands of time. It is a truly romantic ideal. And when you're staring into the big googley eyes of your little one, with drool on their chin and banana in their hair and they smile that giant two-toothed grin at you, you kind of die, right there.

And you don't want to move along, ever.

But it frightens me, you know why?

If you want a baby, or a toddler, or a young boy, or pre-tween girl to stop growing, stop aging, you're basically saying "die now." And I'm not kidding when I say that. That is what you're saying.

Don't progress past this point, don't grow, don't learn, don't change, don't learn to back-sass, don't learn to apologize and accept responsibility. Don't.

Cease your development, because I like you this way.

And the parents, if I were to say this to them would back track hard and say "no no no no no no that isn't at all what I mean!"  I know. But it kind of is. And they need to stop saying that.

Instead, I want to offer an alternative. I want parents to say this.

"Grow up to be amazing, as amazing as you are right now!"
"Be the greatest man you can be when you're big!"
"Can't wait to see what you are like in 5 years!"
"Keep going! You are making me so proud!"

When I look at that picture up there, before we had a diagnosis for Geoff for Nonverbal Learning Disorder, before they both did Shakespeare in the Park, before Jess needed back surgery, before Boy Scouts, Camping, Theater at high school, that's a pretty special little point in time there and one would think "wow. I want to keep these precious babies just like this."

And to be honest, I don't think I ever said or felt that even once.

As a parent, instead my mind was on now, today, and points beyond today. My mind then, with Geoff eating sand and throwing it in the air (I think almost immediately after this was taken he got sand in Jess' hair and she pushed him over) was on what they were going to be, when Geoff would walk, would Jess like to bike ride and hike (no, and yes). I never once imagined Geoff would join Cub Scouts, and stick with it all the way to the end. I never imagined at all that Jess would be mini-me with her sense of humor or everything she likes and loves (well, yeah, I hoped it).

I want parents to look at their babies and say "I love the grown up you will be." And then make them be that grown up.

Train them, teach them, guide them, support them, live as a wonderful example to them even when you make mistakes.

And then when they grow up and they plan on their own wedding, something like this may end up at your seat at the rehearsal dinner.

This image is stolen from my friend Maria who is currently Facebook posting gorgeous pictures from her son's wedding weekend and cracking everyone up. 

Looks like Maria did exactly what I hope parents will do.

I know I enjoyed them small. I bet Maria did too. But let me tell you, when you're a grown up and you watch your grown up "baby" do amazing things, the world moves. You see that small Cub Scout, or you see the little leaguer, or the girl in the t-shirt and overalls trying to ride the bike, and you say...

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

She's got a way about her...

Last night as he was leaving, my father in law hugged me and had tears in his eyes. He said "I just want to say..." and he looked away, "you've got an air about you."

I smelled my armpits and told him I'd be more careful with the roll on antiperspirant in the future.

He kind of laughed and said, "no. I mean, with people. You have something. Watching you talk to people at the graduation and then the neighbor kids in the yard and playing with them with the dog. You just make people feel so comfortable. Those kids wanted to tell you everything they think and know. And your neighbors coming over to see you. You just have something."

Never have I received a bigger compliment.

He left and I went upstairs to get ready for bed. I've always loved my father in law. He's a character. And I adore spending time with him. I told Doug what he said and he agreed, "it is one of the things I love most about who you are."

Anyway. I want to always be that person, that my Father in law talks about me being.

It was hard not to cry myself to sleep.

In other news... My son graduated from High School this weekend. That's the only other big important thing that has happened lately.

Some of you (3 maybe) have followed his tales through this blog and other places over the years. This is a special moment. I never doubted he'd graduate. But it was a long road to get here, wasn't it?

I talked to the parents of a girl who used to sit next to Geoff in first grade and my fondest memory of their daughter was how helpful and loving she was with Geoff because he had no concept of boundaries. The end of my desk is the beginning of yours and I should not put my stuff on your desk? What? Watching all these kids, some of them he was close to back in the day and others who he is close to now, walk across the stage and take their place as No Longer High Schoolers in this world.

The Eagle ceremony was the "big" event. But this was super nice. And look. He smiled for a picture.