Posts Tagged ‘death’

Come in and know me better, man.

As I have been struggling to process the death of my father, lovingly known as Bear and Bearpaw (Grandpa), certain aspects of my relationship with him continue to surface repeatedly.  One of them was staring me in the face, literally.  I found a picture of my dad with my sons that I had forgotten about.  I took it at our annual outing to see A Christmas Carol performed by Gerald Charles Dickens, Charles Dickens’ great great grandson.  It was our fourth year at the show and Bearpaw was goofing off with the boys while waiting in line for photos with Mr. Dickens.  The boys had worn their Dickens hats and Bearpaw had covered Younger Son’s face with his hat.  Then he dropped the hat down and I captured a beautiful picture of the three of them, full of the Christmas spirit, full of love, full of joy.

Dickens hat down

This picture shows Bear’s love of love.  His love of his grandchildren.  His love of life.  I realized only now as I have been missing him terribly why he loved this particular version of A Christmas Carol so much.

First, he got to share it each year with his family.  The boys were six and eight the first year we went. It’s tradition now.  And yet every year we forget when we’re supposed to participate.  (Ooh, ahh…!)  Bear also loved that every year Dickens would tweak the script, the story parts a little bit.

That was his second love of A Christmas Carol.  It’s one of the greatest stories.  And my dad loved to tell stories (good and bad)!  He loved the art of storytelling and appreciated the details, the characters, the shared human experiences.

When Scrooge is with the Ghost of Christmas Present, “Come in and know me better, man”, we hear the stories of the people, the food they ate, the games they played.  Bear celebrated many days that way.  Special occasions and regular ones.  Scrooge discovered the importance of living life in the past, present, and future.  Bear lived his life this way.  He held the past, present, and future in his heart.

On Easter, Bearpaw would create the wonderful Easter egg hunt for the boys and the boys would miss standard eggs each year. Bearpaw would laugh each year.  He added little clues and goofy challenges to add more fun.

On Christmas as we sat around the dinner table feeling full and blessed, Bear would pass around the lottery game tickets and he would sit with the biggest smile on his face as we furiously scratched off the silver covering to see if we won.

On any day he would add games and laughter, whether it was telling you about a spot on your shirt (and then gently flicking your nose as you looked down) or “fixing his toupee” (he could move his scalp to make his hair look out of place and then “shift” it back into place). I still can’t do that trick!

And, like the Ghost of Christmas Present, he wanted folks to come in and know him better, man and in turn get to know them better too.  He loved chatting with people he would meet.  Sharing experiences, discovering what he and the person might have in common.  All it took was a little time to share together and in a few minutes of talking with my father, you knew you had come in and known him better, man.

His life was full of love.  There were rough times.  There were sad times.  But Bear always was full of love.  He loved index cards-he used them every day, for categorizing things, saving notes, reminders.  He loved index cards and paper plates, but index cards were more portable (fit right in his front shirt pocket).  I found one the night he died on which he had written:

“Finish each day and be done with it.  You have done what you could.  Tomorrow is another new day.”

a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Below the quote he wrote, in parentheses, the word “over”.  Upon turning the card over, you read this quote from Goethe,

“There is nothing worth more than this day.”

And then again in parentheses, below the quote, the word “over”.  With a simple index card he had created a perpetual motivator.  Something to remind him that each day was so valuable and to live each day the best you could.  And Bear did.  He lived each day to the fullest, carrying the past, present, and future in his heart.

So remember from my father these pieces of advice.

From Emerson, “Finish each day and be done with it.  You have done what you could.  Tomorrow is another new day.”

From Goethe, “There is nothing worth more than this day.”

From my dad, “Stand tall, shoulders back, head up.”

And from Dickens, “Come in and know me better, man.”

Try it with the next person you meet.  Go in and know him better, man.

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One Month

One month ago my sweet, loving, funny, joyful, beloved father was in a serious and fatal car accident.  I still cannot believe it even though I have not gotten a phone call or message opening with “Hey, there, it’s the Bear-man” since then.  Even though there was no birthday card delivered for Younger Son.  Even though when I go to my parents’ house his car is not there.  People sent beautiful flowers and fruit arrangements, cards, condolences, but I still don’t believe it.  I sat in a trauma center with my family waiting for the doctors one month ago.  I identified his body one month ago.  I cleaned out his car four days shy of a month ago.  I attended his service five days shy of a month ago.  I visited his niche at the cemetery.  I still cannot believe it.

And I miss him so very much.  I don’t know what to do with the sadness, the anger.  I keep looking at pictures of him, looking through cards from him, watching videos of him.  I keep dreaming of him.  Having conversations with him, but he’s always behind a door, or in another room, not visible to me.  I know time will help with acceptance.  But it moves in such a different way at the moment.  Sleep is frustrating, but being awake is frustrating too.

I miss him.  I don’t want to keep being sad because I know he wouldn’t want that.  He loved life.  He loved his family.  He loved joy.  He’d scold me for being sad, but I cannot stop feeling so very sad.

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I read it.  Please do not read into this post that I am sad and filled with regret of what could have been.  The lady wasn’t nice, at least not to my mother or me.  The last time I saw her was in an airport and I told her she should treat her mother with respect.  Shouldn’t that have been the other way around?  This is what I found interesting in the obit.  When her husband, my step-grandfather, died, my mother and her children (me and my siblings) weren’t included.

In her obit, we are.

It’s simple.  She controlled what went in Grand-dad’s obit.  I’m guessing my great-aunt wrote Grandma’s obit and she included us because she’s nice.  I find it hard to believe they are (were) sisters.  The obit also mentions “two great grandchildren”.   Did some of my cousins have kids or is that a reference to my sons?  Don’t know and probably never will.  If it is a reference to my sons, it is nice of my great-aunt, but sad because she never met them or Hubby.  Perhaps my great-aunt doesn’t realize that.

And so closes the chapter with that relative.  I’m the type of person that needs to see something to believe it.  Either attend the viewing or read the obit.  Then I believe it.  I felt a calm reading it.  She can’t do anything to hurt my mom again and that’s comforting.  For my mom’s birthday one year, Grandma sent a card with my mom’s (biological) father’s obituary in it.  I guess that was the gift?

One day I’ll explain to the boys about that part of the family.  Or not.

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Dead Grandmas

I had a pretty rough day at work.  Then when I got home I learned I had a dead grandma.

At work, I called Hubby during lunch and on the way to my car.  The second call I was crying  and he was freaked out a bit.  I told him I was fine and just wanted him to know I was leaving so amazingly late.  I was worried I had messed up other stuff we were supposed to do.

Once I was home, I said hello to Hubby, the boys, cats, and walked the dog.  Next I vented some more about work to Hubby.  Then I finally called my dad because he had been leaving messages on every phone except my work phone.  My dad likes to converse.  When you call him you need to know that you have at least thirty minutes or so because he enjoys a good conversation.  I love this about him.

Tonight’s call only lasted 17 minutes because he was calling to tell me that my maternal grandmother died two days ago.

I don’t know how I feel about this.  The last time I saw her was in Logan Airport back in 1985.  I told her off because she was being so mean to my great-grandmother.  I loved my great-grandmother a lot.  I didn’t like her being treated badly.  I can’t say I’ve thought a lot about my grandmother in the years that have passed.  After that day at the airport, when she wrote to my mother she would only ask about my siblings, never me.  My mother cut off contact within a few years of that situation.

In my grandfather’s obituary, besides being survived by my grandmother, he was survived by my uncles.  My mother wasn’t included nor were her children.

My grandmother was listed in her boyfriend’s obituary too.  Her boyfriend died before my grandfather.  Yeah, think about that.

I wonder what tomorrow will be like.

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No, I’m not wicked (or at least I try not to be).  No one threw a bucket of water on me to make me melt.  I just feel like I’ve been melting the past few days.  I caught something from one of the students in my class.  That wiped me out for the weekend.  Homework for the boys is getting heavier (a good thing, just a time management thing).  Work is sort of settling into the new semester, but there are always new technological challenges to face.  And comparatively speaking, while there was great sadness for me today, I know there are others feeling this sadness even more strongly at this moment.  My heart and prayers go out to them tonight.

There are families in this world that have experienced divorce.  My husband’s family has had a few divorces.  The interesting thing is that the family never exiled the ex.  The ex-daughter-in-law, the ex-sister-in-law were still daughters and sisters.  There is divorce in my family’s history too.  I’m still the daughter, still the sister.  That’s as it should be.  Other relationships don’t have to end because two people can’t live together or remain married.

I’m glad that today I could be there, in whatever small capacity it was, to lend love and support when these special people from my life needed it.  So while I have been feeling like I’m melting, today’s events reminded me that I’m not.  I’m loved.  And blessed with family in so many ways and from so many unexpected places.

When my sons are older, I’ll explain the whole history behind this other part of the family.  For now they know the most important part-more people who love them.



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“May be she’ll learn something about what death really is, which is where the pain stops and the good memories begin. Not the end of life but the end of pain.”
― Stephen King, Pet Sematary

The first dog I had was named Tasha.  She was a fox terrier.  The curly, or wire-haired, type.  She was adorable.  She lived till the ripe old age of ten.  When she went, it was the first experience I had with losing someone close to me.  Yes, she was a dog.  I do differentiate between humans and animals, but she was the first living creature I had seen every day from the age of two to pass.  Now, at the age of twelve, I didn’t get to see her anymore.  Pets do so much in a person’s life.  For all the many years you live with them, they fill your days with happiness, laughter, and good times, good times.

At the end there is pain.  But the pain you feel disappears just as Uncle Stevie wrote.  The good memories begin.  Tasha was a fun dog who let me dress her up in doll clothes and she would sit in the doll stroller.  She had a lot of patience with me.  As she got older, she gained weight (don’t we all?) and spent more time sleeping (don’t we all?).  When her time came, it sucked.  I cried and it made me mad that she couldn’t live forever.  It was not the first time I had experienced death, but I hadn’t known the relatives who had died, they weren’t a part of my daily existence so I really didn’t notice (at that young age) any change now that they were gone.  I noticed that my dog was no longer there.

Now that I’m older I realize that with the passing of the relatives, it does impact my daily existence.  As each generation passes, you move up one.  You take on new familial responsibilities.  Perhaps not overtly, not things you notice every day, but overall you move up in the family tree.  You have more branches growing and suddenly you are the one who is supposed to fill in the names in the book.

I think that’s why pets are a good thing for a family.  They help you to learn about loving unconditionally and how to grieve when the time comes.  It does not make the loss of a loved one any easier, but you have an understanding of the grieving process.  You understand the feelings of anger, frustration, sadness.  The experience of not being able to do a damn thing more than what you tried already.

Tomorrow the second dog I have loved will be with us no more.  Brigs is twelve and has been in a lot of pain the past year or so.  More than we probably realized, more than he may have shown until quite recently.  And it is time.  Our youngest is afraid of the growth on his head and our oldest recites a little mantra before he goes downstairs to visit him.  It’s hard for me to look at this beautiful dog with the memories of his happy, fun life in my head while he struggles to stand up.  Brigs hasn’t been upstairs for a year-he can’t handle walking up or down the stairs.  He’s been on thyroid meds for five years and insulin twice a day for three years.  There is a litany of issues this sweet dog has been dealing with but that’s not the part to focus on now.

Tomorrow we will learn about where the pain stops and the good memories begin.  Like when he ate my husband’s underwear.  Or ate the chocolate.  Or ate his flea collar.  Or ate half a dozen dog beds, including one that was obscenely expensive and guaranteed to be chew proof.  He ripped that thing apart, stuffing everywhere, within twelve hours.  I called the company and the very nice guy on the phone asked if the bed had arrived.  I told him yes.  He asked if my dog, Brigadoon (I splurged for the embroidered name if memory serves), liked the bed.  I told him he thought it was delicious and did they mean it when they said it was guaranteed?  He asked how long the bed lasted and I told him it didn’t make it through the night.  They happily refunded my money.  Anything he could eat, he did.  Brigs still has an iron stomach.  The rest of him just doesn’t work so well.

Once he ate the boys’ crayons.  Very colorful poop.

He’s allergic to acorns.  They cause him to have convulsions.  He has never been able to enjoy our shady back yard because the two oak trees drop lots of acorns and he thinks the acorns are kibble.  Silly dog.

We’ll think about the time the boys colored him with the red magic marker.  We’ll think about the “puppy Olympics” he would do in the house.  He would run from one end of the house to the other as fast as he could and jump up on the chaise at the one end.  We had a perfect mold of his ass in the wall from where he slammed into it over and over again.  I have the sheet rock to repair the wall.  I’ve had it for over a year.  Just can’t bring myself to repair it.

In their young lives, the boys have lost two cats.  They have vague memories of the experience.  When their grandmother, my wonderful mother-in-law, passed, we told them about it but didn’t have them experience the viewing or funeral.  They were too young.  Hell, I had nightmares for months after she passed.

It didn’t make sense.  I loved her and we got along really well.  Why would she be chasing me in my dreams?  Had she not really liked me?  It haunted me for months.  My husband and I discussed what could be causing the nightmares but couldn’t come up with a reason that made sense.  Then a few months later my husband called me from his dad’s house and he was very excited.  He was helping his father close out the accounts and he discovered I hadn’t cashed my birthday check from my mother-in-law.  Well, if there was one thing Mom couldn’t stand, it was an uncashed check.  I found the check, cashed it, and bought some shoes in honor of her.  Nightmares stopped.

Tomorrow the boys will have their first first-hand experience with death.  They will be sad, frustrated, angry, and then hopefully happy as they remember Brigs as he was, not as the old, hurting dog he became.  I will not let them read Pet Sematary, hell, I can’t read it anymore.  Now that I have young sons, I can’t read it.  I’ll read it again when they are older.  But we will take Uncle Stevie’s words and embrace them.  We will let the pain end and the good memories begin.  Not the end of life but the end of pain.

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