Blessings, Irony and Tears… March 3rd

Tomorrow marks exactly one year since my Pop moved on to Heaven.  I say that with confidence, because while my Pop was larger than life here, he was forever a humble, faithful servant of God and His people.

They say the first year is the hardest.  I’ll say I’m not so sure.  The first year is, by it’s nature full of “firsts” and figuring out how to do things for the “first” time.  It’s about their first birthday in heaven, the first holiday, or family tradition they are not there to participate in.  And, while this year was tougher than I imagined it would be, I’m not so sure it will be the hardest.

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I should be embarrassed at 43 years old to be lamenting the loss of my 96 year old grandfather.  I should simply be full of gratitude for the years we had, and for the time we shared.  But, that’s not exactly how it works.  You see for 42 years I knew NOTHING other than having him there.  All the time.

All loss is tragic, to different people, in different ways, and at different times.

We lived in the first floor of their house for 15 years.  I kissed them goodnight.  They fed me breakfast.  They came to our school shows and plays.  He drove us to practice.  Watching him love my Grandma showed me so much about how a relationship needs to be nurtured.

At the back door in the hallway was this brick door stopper- a reminder in philosophy and style.
At the back door in the hallway was this brick door stopper- a reminder in philosophy and style.

We vacationed together for about the same span.  Ocean City, New Jersey.  Still to this date some of the best summers of my life.

We moved when Mom married, but that changed little.  We didn’t move far.  At first it was walking distance, then driving.  Pop taught me how to check the fluids in my first car, and how to measure the pressure in my tires.  He told me never to let anyone think I didn’t know what I was doing.  He meant under the hood of the car, and everywhere else too.

He and Grandma drove to college to visit.  We talked on the phone regularly.

SUNY New Paltz circa 1992
SUNY New Paltz circa 1992

And when I was back home, there were trips to their living room.  I usually chose a spot on the floor where I could get a clear view of Pop in his chair.  Come to think of it, I almost always sat on the floor.  I think it was because even when I became an adult, he was larger than life in my mind.  The view seemed more fitting.

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There were stories, about the war, about the firehouse, about church and the bank.  There were stories, and memories and laughs.  There was, “Oh, boy!,” and “Come on!”

There was “Susie,” from a man who spent most of his life in a house with too many women.  We even had numbers… “Susie 1, Susie 2…”  And to the rest of the women, young and old, “Susie” was a term of endearment.

There were stories I heard dozens of times, and ones I only heard once.  Yet, they all blur together now.  How I wish I had recorded them.  Or written them down.

What I would give to hear, “Who threw the overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s chowder?” just once more…

He was always there.  Always.  No matter what was needed, the answer was always yes.  Always.

For a while I thought Pop was the tough one.  I later learned that my larger than life Grandfather was not tough at all next to my little Grandma.  Although, I was an adult the first time I saw Pop cry.  And it didn’t happen often.  Once was when Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.  The second was during a Memorial Service at church on September 12, 2001.  There were a handful… but, those two I can picture as if they were yesterday.

When we bought the house in 2000 I wanted wood trim.  He was 81.  Every day for months I would come home from work elated as a new piece of trim was placed, around a door, window, or floor.  There is no room in my home he hasn’t touched.  And for that I am so grateful.

He took my husband in as his own.  Immediately.  He took my husband under his wing and let him extract years of knowledge from his brain.  He taught Felix carpentry and wood working tricks, and helped him find confidence in his own abilities.

Felix looked after some of Pop's hand tools
Felix looked after some of Pop’s hand tools

 

My daughter loved Pop.  I loved the way his great-grandchildren rejuvenated him.  It’s hard for me to imagine that just 5 years ago Pop and Grandma were getting Meghan from half days at school.

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Pop brought a smile, love and humor to our lives. Pop brought a smile, love and humor to our lives.

 

There are no words for Pop.  Even as I try and images flood my mind – there are no words to do justice for the influence he had in shaping me into the woman I am today.

I always knew there would come a day when his  body would no longer be with us.  I always knew.  Yet, I could never really have been prepared.

I wish I had listened a little more closely.  I wish I had hugged a little tighter.  I wish I had taken just a few minutes to record his stories.  But, I watched.  And I observed.  And I felt the love.  And I witnessed the compassion.  And I watched a true Christian man support his family to the best of his ability, at all times, and in all places.

I will never forget the lessons he taught.  His influence is etched in my heart.

Maybe that’s why I’m not sure the first year is going to be the hardest.  I’m certain that not a day will go by without thoughts, words of wisdom, advice, or a smile from him.

I will treasure every single moment, even as the years will surely blur them together.

It’s a blessing to be 42 when you lose your grandparent, but it’s a blessing riddled with irony.  If you’ve been lucky enough to be in my position – you know exactly what I mean.

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Oh, and Pop, I could use some extra angel power tomorrow at noon.  I could never do your memory justice without my voice, so lets keep that surgeon’s hand firm?

Love you always…

“What are you celebrating?”

I am awake earlier than the rest of my family.  My big dog took a container of Meghan’s gluten, dairy, soy free chocolate chip cookies off the counter last night while we were out.  I think she will be fine.  She just had her second dose of activated charcoal, and she seems to be resting comfortably.  But. EVERYONE knows who the Mom is when they are sick – so she and I BOTH had a long night. (and I am sending her Daddy out to clean the yard! :-))

Allie - The Cookie Monster
Allie – The Cookie Monster

Last night we headed to Manhattan where we celebrated Felix’s sister’s 50th birthday.  It was a crowded room, and although the food was quite good, I had a tough time being so cramped in.  My little girl, as usual amazed me with her calm, patience, and poise.  I asked her before we left of she wanted me to ask the restaurant to cook for her.  She said she wanted me to pack her dinner.  She doesn’t trust very many places to “get it right,” and she did not want a belly ache.

So.  she put on her fancy dress.  The one she is so EXCITED to wear to the Father/Daughter dance hosted by her school Monday night.  I put her hair up and stepped back. This child has always been mature beyond her years, but when did her body start to catch up?

My little girl?
My little girl?

We sat, for a few hours.  There was minimal time to walk around, but when she did get to talk she vibrantly retold the story of how she lost her last baby tooth, and the Tooth Fairy left her $20 and a Tigger pin!  Way to clean up on the last tooth,  None of the others were worth that much!

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Magic.  She brings it back into our lives.  She rounds out her father and I.  She is a princess.  Yes, she has just about everything she has ever asked us for, but she has a whole lot more.  She has compassion, patience, maturity, and wisdom.  She has kindness and generosity.  She takes pleasure out of making people happy.

My mother always said, “Children should be spoiled, just not spoiled rotten.”  Doing our best Mom.  It seems to be working out ok.

Before I started writing this, I was searching the Disney website.  I was playing around with prices for a summer trip.  We have taken Meghan to Disney in August (usually for her birthday) every year since she turned 5.  My house has photos in every room that remind us of our adventures.  We have had the happiest of times at Disney.  We enjoy each other.  And, I have to say, the year my parents joined us, was one of the best vacations.

Family fun
Family fun

We started going to Disney because of their accommodations for allergies.  It  is almost impossible to maintain a gluten, dairy, and soy free diet for a week without staff trained to take every allergy very seriously.  And while we struggled a bit last year to find “quick service” food for her, on the whole we have had only positive things to say about our Disney dining experiences.  When you have a child with allergies, you plan your trips a little differently.  Everything else falls into place, AFTER you know they will be well fed.

Disney also accommodates her chronic joint pain.  Even with the Celebrex she could not endure the miles of walking we do each day.  She travels Disney – walking some, but spending the majority of her day in a portable wheelchair.  We always get a room on the first floor to avoid extra steps, and in the event those knees give out, every park has everything from Advil to heating pads to help with the pain.

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Not to mention the Magic.  I believe in the wonders of Disney.  I believe in the smiles of hugging Chip and Dale, and Mickey and Minnie, and all their friends.  I believe in the smiles on my girl’s face.  I believe in the memories we are making – that no one can ever take from us.

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So, this morning when I ran the prices of the trip through the computer I choked a little.  It, like everything else, has gone up a good deal since last year.  And, for a brief second the thought of not going crossed my mind.

I mean, the deck needs major work, we still haven’t finished the upstairs.  There are plans for the basement to be redone, and the backyard needs help.  What about that awning for the blistering sun in our back yard.  Plus, this year forced us into a new car, braces….

Then I saw the question in the corner of their website.  It said, quite simply, “What are you celebrating?”

Well, that did it.  We are celebrating all right.  We are celebrating Meghan’s negative biopsy.  We are celebrating the knowledge we have gained from our Cowden’s Syndrome diagnoses, and the ability to “strike first.”  We are celebrating that after a long stretch of studying, they offered the Electrical licensing Exam, and Felix passed part one on his first try.  We are celebrating the love of friends, the kindness of stangers, and the compassionate heart of my little girl.  We are celebrating the power of God and the Holy Spirit to lead us to a place we worship together as a family each Sunday. We are celebrating “more birthdays” as Meghan will turn 10 and Felix 40 during that hot August vacation.  And I could go on and on with the thoughts that flooded my head in reply to that simple question.

Disney 2012
Disney 2012

So today I will finalize our trip.  I will be sure to get “trip insurance” in case life tosses us any more curve balls between now and then.  We may not finish all the projects around the house this year either.  But we have lived here for 12 years now, and its a pretty nice place to be.  The projects, the bills – they will get paid for and finished.

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The magic may not last forever.  We have learned as a family to stop and enjoy the ride.  We are celebrating our countless blessings.  God is good.  Life is good.  Family vacations are worth celebrating.

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