6 months in…..

Ah Death, the unintentional, yet totally intentional, theme of this years blog.

I did not know 6 months ago when I went to sleep that night, that the next day would be my fathers last day on earth. Tomorrow marks 6 months of his death. I use the word ‘death’  because this is what happened. I do not use words such as departure, passing, moving on etc. I don’t use these words or others like them because it makes light of what death is; death is a slap in the face, it is harsh, it is raw, it is death. You can paint it how you want it, but in truth we can not dress it up enough. When I was a kid my Grandma would light this Rose incense in her bathroom anytime she ‘smealt’ it up. She didn’t succeed in neutralizing or even covering up the stench, only in making it smell like rose covered turds. Much like bowel movements, death can’t be covered with niceties, it will always smell of decay.

Part of me understands why people spew forth these hallmark greetings, (He’s looking down on you, He’s out of pain) when you speak of death and spirit there is a pressure to say things like, “He’s in a better place” etc,. I am a very spiritual person, full disclosure here, but just because I believe we go on in one way or another doesn’t mean that this idea comforts or fills the gigantic pothole in my life that my father left when he died. What people fail to realize, is that the loved one was here yesterday and the day after he wasn’t, your mind even 6 months later, is still trying to understand it.

I still find myself planning the future and my subconscious still registers my dad as being a part of that future and then very quickly, before the thought is in it’s complete stage, I recognize that my dad will not be there. I saw a man who looked like my dad today (or rather the man’s beard looked like my dads, really after seeing that it wasn’t my dad, the only resemblance was the facial hair). For a moment I almost said aloud, “There’s my dad”, as if it was any other day before his death. Each time you make this mistake and catch glimpses of your loved ones ghosts everywhere, it serves as a rude reminder that you’ve lost something very dear that you have no hope in getting back. On top of dealing with daily touchstones, you now have to deal with ‘ghosts’. Great.

So tomorrow marks 6 months of my dad’s death. I have learned to celebrate him when I feel like crumbling, to hold on to his spirit for strength  and to look at his life like a good book, full of adventure, trials and lessons, beauty and sadness. In the end of all good books there are people to carry on the story to pass on to generations, and in the history to come, perhaps there will people to carry on my dad’s love for others, the forgotten people, the misjudged, the addicts, the tinkers, the clowns and just the plain regular folk.

I took this photo below 5 years ago Mardi Gras day and in all the horrible signs and banners people were protesting with, there was this little girl with this shirt, and the shirt sums up my dad.

Finally someone with something positive to say at Mardi Gras, thank you little lady.

Finally someone with something positive to say at Mardi Gras, thank you little lady.

The Bat, The Girl, The Rock

And the bat devoured her entirely, except her fingers, which he found too boney and her breasts, which he found too fatty.
The bat was death. He stalked her by the night of her soul; The times her guard was down and she thought only of the mediocre, when she was tired and her mind was overwhelmed, when her feet ached from the walk. When finally she sat upon that rock, the rodent fell upon her.
Her thought faded from memory, her feet ceased to ache, she felt only nothingness.
And in that split second of consciousness and death, she wished she had kept walking.

Heratio! I die! Heratio!

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Tragicomedy: The Laughter of The Dead

Tragicomedy:a play, movie, situation, etc., that is both sad and funny.

In moments of sadness, most people know to play it cool and somber. I have found however that I, along with a large majority of folks, find sadness, impossible situations, depression and even death of loved ones, quite humorous. It’s not that we, the mournfully happy, think it’s funny that say an ‘Aunt Peggy’ died, it’s more or less the situations surrounding her passing. It’s the people, it’s the strange and often hilarious ways we will cope with something as heavy as the subject of death. In short it’s our human qualities that make us laugh aloud at inappropriate times.

When my dad died, my family and I were waiting on the coroner. My folks farm house is sizable but felt rather small with myself and my husband, my brother and his wife, my Aunt and Uncle and last but not least a handful of cops and the emergency response team, all in two rooms of the house. At one point it was impossible to move.
After the shock of death and an hour and a half has passed, the practical sides of things started to surface. For instance, we have a dead body on our hands, yes it’s my father’s but it’s a dead body, there are rules to nature….and the coroner, I think, might be lost.
Things could get messy.
My dad once explained all this to a horrified me, over the phone, when my mom’s dad died. I don’t know if you are aware of what the body does after death, if not I’ll let you look that up yourself, but this was something my dad knew all too well. As a Navy Vet, one of his jobs when he was in Vietnam, was diving down into dark water and bringing up dead soldiers. So when my mom’s dad dies, naturally he was anxious for the coroner to come.
My Grandpa’s death was a long drawn out process. He was sick for months ahead of time and in the last two weeks of life, the family sat vigil with he and my Grandma in their front room. Once he finally passed on, I’m not sure if no one had eaten in days or if the loss just made everyone hungry, but either way it goes at some point someone lifted their head from their tear soaked lap and said , “Hey, anyone want a pizza? I sure am hungry!”. Apparently, everyone loved this idea because the family ordered Pizza. And sat. And ate. In the living room, with Grandpa, dead on a bed. It was at this point, my dad got nervous. I talked to him on the phone around this time and he said, “Maggie, we’re eating pizza here! I don’t want to be insensitive but If they don’t get Grandpa out of here soon, things are going to get messy.” I could tell he wasn’t saying this to be humorous, he was seriously concerned.
So, flash forward 6 years to my dad’s death, that night as I knelt beside the body of my father, this memory of my extended family having pizza around my deceased Grandpa popped into my head, all I could hear in my head was my dad’s voice, “Maggie, if they don’t get me out of here soon, things are going to get messy!” Inside I laughed and I may have let a smile escape my lips. I think I was starting to get panicked a bit myself thinking, “where is that damned coroner???” And then “Do I smell Pizza?”

The things that run through your mind when you are under stress, I think this must be a coping mechanism, a way to keep your body and mind from overload and a total nervous and mental breakdown.

As that night played out, I found myself relating to comedies that focus on death and family relations. I could easily see some of what was transpiring before my eyes, happening in a movie.

Once the coroner did arrive, she began to ask my mom questions, general ones, she was a kind woman and was right for the job. In a time of lost senses and incomparable pain, this lady showed grace and class and was very warm to talk with. As I was thinking this, I realized I was being asked a question by my mother. Would I help her take off daddy’s rings? I sighed a heavy sigh. See, this task was difficult in life, dad never took those rings off for a good reason, he couldn’t. They were permanently apart of him, stuck on his fingers. Now in death I was somehow supposed to be able to take them off? I wasn’t sure of the science behind this, But I grabbed the dish soap anyways and got to pouring.
My dad’s fingers covered in blue gloop, I noticed how immaculate his fingernails were, a habit he had learned from his dad. Not only were they filed nicely but they had shine as well, a shine that is brought on only by buffing. Anyways, after a few minutes each of lubing and tugging at his fingers, the rings were released, and subsequently my dad’s hands washed.
After this, I brewed some tea. My sister-in-law and I sat down and sipped at our mugs…which had a perfumed taste, like Dawn dish soap.

So much for tea….

We have to laugh. It oddly feels right when stressful situations arise. Our mind tries to beat us down and put a guilt trip on us for finding laughter in a horrid situation but the truth is, we’d all die of heart attacks due to stress if we didn’t find humor in some of this shit.
It has been over 4 months since my dad’s death and still there are things I am chuckling about, I laugh at his crazy habit of buying knic-knacks, the way he’d buy something new and walk around like the cat’s meow and take the time to explain why it was the best thing and how he got a real deal on it.
I am still laughing at some of the happenings surrounding the planning of his memorial and celebration. I think I will always.
Oddly, I can’t remember my dad’s laughter too much. Seems silly, it hasn’t been long but it’s one of those things, it’s something unexpected you assumed would just stick with you, but it hasn’t. I can explain what it sounds like but it’s like seeing your reflection in a rain drenched window, the edges and shadows are there but none of the detail. However, through all this tragicomedy, I can hear a silent whisper of a laugh, one my memory strains to recall and can only make out parts of, it’s the laughter of the now dead….. and somehow, it’s enough.

Goals vs Systems As It Applies to Grief

I read an interesting article in Entrepreneur on The advantage of focusing on your system to accomplish something as opposed to focusing on your goal. In other words, and as explained by the author of this article, James Clear, if you are a writer, you commit to writing X amount of days for X amount of time until your book is finished. The idea being that if you have a solid system in place, your goal will happen. Alternately, if you focus only on your goal, and you do not have a good working system, your goal may happen but what then? You have no system for maintaining it.  This creates the yo-yo effects often seen in a poorly executed weight loss fad. As James Clear puts it in his article, “every time we set a goal, we try to do it. We try to plan out where we will be and when we will make it there. We try to predict how quickly we can make progress, even though we have no idea what circumstances or situations will arise along the way.” If we have a good system in place we can adapt more easily to circumstances beyond our control, otherwise we are shooting blindly, hoping we hit the mark.

As I read James Clear’s article, I thought about my own business. Being a business owner with no real schooling, has been challenging. Luckily, I have a very take charge approach and simply put, I can’t fail. This is not a “I can’t fail because I’m that sure I’m winning” kind of statement but rather a ” I can’t fail because my family needs to eat” statement. I have two kids, two cats, one dog, one turtle and one amazing man who works along side of me and who shares this ownership in business,  I don’t want to let down the team.

Thinking of of my business and my set system, I also couldn’t help but think of the grief myself and my family were and are going through with the sudden loss of my Dad. With him being gone 4 months, I can’t help but feel that I should be ‘over’ some aspects of this mourning. Of course, each one of us is grieving in their own way and are dealing with different issues created by my dad’s physical presence no longer being here. The more I speak to my mother, who is heartbroken the most, I am reminded how much she wants to ‘get there’, to that goal, that place of peace, of knowing that even though Dad’s not here, things will be fine and life will be happy again.

This brings me to the question of, How does one have a system in a time of grief?

For me, though my dad’s death was unexpected and at times I still come to tears and my thoughts go to the ‘should have’s’, I know I must focus forward and so I do. My system that is already in place has become my system for getting through this mourning.  But it’s easier for me. I have, as I pointed out above, kids, pets, a business and a husband who is counting on me to push through this. So, I do and because I am forced to, by my own encouragement and by the encouragement of my spouse and friends,  the goal seems closer. I am back to my system, my daily routine, setting things in place that need to be, moving things along that have to stay in motion and drinking copious amounts of coffee when I’m zonkered.

For someone like my mom, the spouse, who has no kids at home and who’s life revolved around my fathers, and his life around hers, the world seems empty and the system has utterly shattered. She is faced not just with the loss of her husband but also with the loss of her system. THEY had goals. THEY had dreams. THEY had things they were going to do. THEY had a system to achieve the goals. Now THEY is only a she.  My mom is now facing finding a new system just for herself. Her goal? I am unsure completely, you would have to ask her but if I were to guess, perhaps, contentment and joy in this life without my dad, and to come into her own and find herself after years of my dad being apart of who she is. Being married to someone for over 40 years, you tend to share a bit of them in you and they get a bit of you in them. My husband and I have been married only 15 years, and it is hard to imagine a daily routine where he isn’t there, even if he’s just silently sitting in his armchair watching Fraiser. It’s like you trade pieces of yourself. Slowly the two do in fact, become one. Even after the death of a spouse, they remain a bit of who you are. So again, how do you build a system when half of you is missing and you can not go back to the old way of things?

The temptation in grief is to completely alter your view in life and escape. This comes through the urge to change states, hair color, cars, philosophies etc. For me this alteration manifested in my desire to throw away every problem I had with people, hug them and say ‘let’s be friends’. I wanted to live in peace, because after all, god dammit, wasn’t life too short? (Que the butterflies and easy listening music) The truth is, as much as that seems great, life is life and we have to deal with everything that comes our way. As much as I want to throw away the problems, that fact is, they are still there and will be no matter what philosophy I apply to them or where I go. Perhaps, there is a balance to be struck, I can adjust my attitude and the way I deal with issues, but I can’t deny or forget that a problem exists simply because I want to escape or that I find this Utopian idea  of “why can’t we all just get along’ inviting.  So, I have to adjust and make this adjustment a part of my day to day system of dealing with my grief. It’s small, it’s not a huge leap but it is a change and after someone dies, the need, desire and lust for change is so overwhelming and it hits us all in so many different ways and to varying degrees of urgency.

So, once again I ask, How do we develop a system as it pertains to grief? The honest answer? For you, I don’t know. For my Mom? I don’t know. For me? I have an inkling of an idea but…..I don’t know. Maybe the system is found in the simple, monotonous and the mundane. Perhaps the system is found in the daily rising for coffee, the walk outside, the nightly glass of wine. That seems like a start. Then small changes incorporated, the boxing up of memories, the letting go of personal items, getting involved in a group that watches birds or goes hiking or just gets together for a drink a couple times a month. One thing I think I know, is that you have to push when you don’t want to. It’s uncomfortable and it hurts like hell, partially because you’d rather stay in this sad and angry state, there’s something satisfying in it, but also because moving forward feels like you are leaving your loved one behind, suspended in space and time. On the day before my Dad’s ‘Celebration of Life’, I didn’t want to get out of bed. I just wanted to lay there, covered up. My husband made me get out of bed. It seemed cruel and I yelled at him, telling him he was being insensitive. He looked at me and said gently something along the lines of, “Maggie, Your dad is dead. But the kids and I are here, and we can’t let this house fall apart.” I hate it when he’s right. That day, my new system began. Plans to move forward, how I was going to tackle the days when my grief seemed overwhelming. My goal isn’t so much a thought to me right now, as it is something there waiting for me along the line of my system. I say along the line, because really after the goal is met the system stays in place to help make way for another goal and then another. New things will be added to the system, some taken away to suit different needs. t’s about personal progress not attaining something. In this situation, it’s about dealing with grief in a healthy way and not letting it close me in the dark. It’s about realizing that carrying a corpse isn’t honoring my father, but living and progressing is. It’s about showing my children how to grieve, not properly but completely and come through stronger, more loving and happier. It’s about carrying my memories and giving them life again by removing them from the past and using their knowledge to fuel the future.

The system for grief is much more complicated, the lines are very blurry, and it’s different for everyone. Yet even when we don’t feel like we are making progress, we are.

I’ll end with some thing my Mother-In-Law told me once. After speaking to her about something i was going through, She told me in her Georgia accent, ” You take the time you need and you go in a room and you scream and cry, but when you come out of that room, you don’t think about it, it’s over. You have to move on. If you don’t then it ( your anger, a person etc) wins” . I think this is wise, in Grief we have to do this many times, but just as the screaming and crying is part of the healing so is picking ourselves up off that bed, opening the door, walking through it and then closing it behind us. If we don’t then the grief wins. This small piece of advice given in an entirely different situation is now part of my system, which will get me to and help me beyond my goal.

Did It Just Get Uncomfortable in Here? Or Death, Uncomfortably.

Anne Lamott said that writing and reading decreases the feelings of isolation. I have found this to be true. Sometimes reading someone else’s words make you realize, “Hey I’m not so nutty after all!” Or if you are that nutty, at least someone else is right there with you, racing you to the finish line. It is because of this honesty in writing that I desire beyond anything else, to be truthful about what matters, to paint a picture of raw emotion, unfiltered thoughts and to display humanity for all to see. I do this in the hopes that someone will read it and say, “Oh thank God, I’m not the only one.” 

This next bit of blog I have stood tipsy-like on the line, teetering between wanting to write it, feeling I should write it but also knowing that it has to be done with grace, a grace that quite honestly I am unsure I possess. The subject that intertwines itself with death, is about people who because of past situations or hurts, make the grieving process a bit harder for you.  So you see this blog, is a delicate one indeed, but again as Anne Lamott said, If people wanted you to write more warmly about them, they should have behaved better. I will attempt to give my truth with as much love and grace as I can.

A short story to get things going…..

There was a person, one who had shown my family great love through out the years. He helped support my family in a time when others bailed. He was a friend of my Dad’s and at one time a friend of my husbands and mine. Over time we found ourselves working closely professionally with this man. As business so often tends to do friendships, the kinship began to crumble. He began to talk nastily about my husband and I to our customers and in one account to my dad, putting him in a very terrible spot. What a horrible and confusing experience for everyone involved. So the relationship with this man diminished and long story short, he left the business. Since he was my dad’s friend, when my dad died, I called and told him and he was kosher over the phone. We decided to ask him to help seat people and help organize the last rights and salute with the Navy for Dad’s funeral, which He was happy to do and we were thankful for the help. I guess here is the rub, I was hoping that since a person we both loved had gone on, my father, his friend, we would be able to at least offer each other condolences at the funeral, not a water under the bridge scenario, but a human understanding of grieving.  I tried to make contact , I reached out my hand for his arm, he not only ignored it but avoided us the entire time. He didn’t say one word or even try to say hello.

I tell you this, not to run this person in the ground, he has his good qualities and we tried to see eye to eye with him but couldn’t. Please don’t think I am taking the high road here, or that I am trying to make myself look good. In all honesty there have been days where all I could think about was the ruin of this man, I was so angry. There are still moments that I want to see him fail. I know it’s not right, I know this anger is something I will continue to fight . I also know I am not the only one to encounter this behavior at the death of a loved one.  I write about this to approach a subject I have yet to find talked or written about, relational awkwardness or outright  angst in some situations, at a funeral. You would think bygones are bygones when someone dies, that all bets are off and hey, can’t we just love one another, ya dig? But as it turns out, the oddest things come forth, our true nature and our humanity rears their heads, for better or for worse. Whether it is relational difficulties are petty arguments, we all fall victim to the things that aren’t the point. The point being the man we all love who now fits into an eloquently carved shoebox-sized wooden container.

So I write about it. Why? Maybe to get it off my mind and chest. It is a lonely feeling, isolating. As Anne Lamott said, we read so we don’t feel so isolated, perhaps I write for the same reason. As much as I write it to be read, I also write it because I NEED it to be read so I am not kept prisoner with it. The death of a loved one brings about all kinds of feelings that really have nothing to do with that person but because it relates somehow, even vaguely, it digs it’s knife a little deeper and then, it twists. I feel rotten for allowing these feelings and thoughts to be mixed up with the healing process of losing my dad. I think though, this might be a natural part of letting go, and we all have to at some point, let go. That doesn’t mean we forget, but it does mean we have control over what we will allow to influence our life, our anger or our willingness to let go which will allow us to move forward and walk in peace.

As everything goes, it all boils down to choice, what will I allow in my life? For now I’ll say,

It’s a waste of energy to be angry with a man who behaves badly, just as it is to be angry with a car that won’t go” Bertrand Russel

 

Right now, I choose to move forward and Let go.

And I also choose to have one giant bowl of ice cream.

 

The Honest Truth About Clown Noses on Dead Men and Grammar’s Big Screw You

 

clownI have been starting out a lot of paragraphs and blogs with ,”when someone dies” and this paragraph, in this blog, will be no different. Sorry folks but my dad is dead and this is how I deal with it. You definitely don’t have to read it, there are countless other nameless bloggers like me out there waiting for your ready mind, So…..

…When someone dies,  Everything is changed and I do mean EVERYTHING. For starters, there’s the shock of it. You lose it. In my case I bellowed. I am not sure I knew what a bellow sounded like until I heard it resonate from my own mouth. I had no idea my mouth could make noises like that. I am sure my downstairs neighbor thought I was having a nervous breakdown but hey that’s death. Try it. See what you do. We went to my folks home as soon as we could. I remember pulling around the corner from their house and my husband saying, “Maggie, do you need to take a moment? Your Dad’s body will be there still, are you prepared for that?” My dad’s body…. Every time I go visit my mom now, there’s not a moment when I am coming around that bend that I don’t think of that night and that specific moment. Seeing Dad, there, it was a last chance to tell his physical body how much we loved him. What made dad who he was had left that night , Clearly, this was just a shell, the proof of our decomposing bodies beginning to be evident on his.

Now, this is where my family’s strange comes out. My dad spoke often about things he would like at his funeral and this changed from one year to the next, but he said he wanted a clown nose to wear at his funeral so people would laugh. Just before he died, he decided he would like to be cremated. He died so suddenly that we didn’t have a chance to ask, “But dad, what about the clown nose?” As if that was the most important thing ever. And of course it was, because it was one of the only things we KNEW dad wanted. So at the visitation, which was just us kids and mom, we brought Dad a clown nose and we put it on him. Then, we left the room ( I’m pretty sure my mom second guessed this part).

I can only imagine what the folks at the funeral home must have thought. I can hear them discussing it, “Say Tom, maybe he was a clown?” Then Tom in an angry voice, “No, they had no respect for the dead, this poor old man, ungrateful asses! ” I often wonder what happened to the nose, did they cremate him with it on or did it get thrown away? Or perhaps saved in some sort of box labeled “things left behind”, a sort of memory box for the undertakers to pull out on slow days and talk and laugh about. Who knows.

After the visitation, everything greets you like a bright summer sun on the morning of your worst hangover. In fact, you do feel hung-over, come to think of it. Your grief has now made you physically ill. On top of this you must contend with the people who love you and say the most beautiful things, so beautiful, in fact, that it pisses you off. But people want to help even if it’s a seemingly helpless situation and even if it’s something as simple as saying ‘I’m here”. Even though I’m going through my own grief, others around me are trying to figure out how to help that and just as I feel helpless , so do they in their desire to help.

And so present becomes past when someone dies. It’s like it was put on hyper-speed, and Grammar just said “Screw you!” Suddenly you find yourself using words like ‘was’ in place of ‘is’. Your verbs get all jangled up, and if that’s not bad enough you are constantly having to stop yourself mid sentence to correct your grammar, “I’m sorry, I mean my dad liked chocolate pie.” It becomes awkward a moment and you think, do I tell them he’s dead? Or would that be weird? Shit it’s already weird, it can’t get weirder, right? So, you blurt out, “He’s dead now.”

Aaaaand you were wrong, it just got a little bit weirder.

 

 

 

 

Canned Tomatoes and “Question Authority” T-shirts and Their Relation

I find myself, almost to my embarrassment, bringing my dead Dad into conversation. Sometimes it fits neatly, other times it’s like putting pineapple on pizza, it doesn’t belong. To give you a lively example, I might be waiting to check out at the grocery store and the lady behind me in line might start talking about the particular brand of canned tomatoes she bought and why she prefers them. Her comment might go something like, “Oh I love Progresso’s canned whole tomatoes, they are the best! My sister keeps using the store brand and I keep telling her they taste too sweet!” She then might look at me expecting either an agreement or another wildly entertaining comment on say, canned green beans. Cut or French Style, which is better? I give neither. Instead I squawk out, “Oh, you like Progresso huh? Well my dad had these shirts that read in great bold letters ‘Question Authority’ and he had them in damn near every color.” The lady would then cock her head to the side and instead of shutting my mouth as I should, I would continue, “Yeah, he had a lot of them. I think his favorite one was the red one. I mean I don’t know that for sure but I have two pictures of him wearing the red one so clearly it had some appeal.” At this point the lady would give me a “are you crazy?” glance and possibly start checking other lines to see how long they are. She might even rightly ask, “But what in the hell does that have to do with tomatoes?!” I’ll sigh heavily and turn back around to face the front and mumble, “Nothing.” In truth though it has everything to do with it. Death and tomatoes go hand in hand.

When I started grieving my dad, I began to notice the empty spaces. The places that were once filled unknowingly with the vibrancy, the life or just the knowledge of this particular person or that particular person was here, alive, walking the earth with you. Though the canned tomatoes have nothing directly to do with my dad’s love of t-shirts printed with snarky and smart-ass quotes, they are related. Both the tomatoes and my dad’s Question Authority shirt are red. This is the way my mind works. That’s enough of a common thread to get my mind going. Simple things remind me of him. Today as I sat taking my break outside of the bakery, I glanced down and saw a bit of a green leafed plant poking through the dirt. It’s weary head lifting to the sky as if to say, “Holy Shit! What a winter!” And the plant’s right of course. In that brief encounter with the small budding greenery, my mind flashed back to a summers day about 1 year ago. My husband and kids, along with my brother Zach and sister-In-Law Tracey and their two children were out visiting at my folks house. My dad was taking photos with his new phone and having religious debates with my husband. He also had just bought some new and quite dreadfully ugly glasses. As one of my brothers stated on Facebook, “They look like Bono from U2 donated them to him”.  My dad was so proud of them, he kept saying they were “really cool” and he’d smile at me or whoever was around and I’d smile back and nod in agreement even though I thought they were hideous. In fact we all lied to him and told him how great he looked in them, after a fair share of ribbing of course. I don’t know why we all felt the need to tell him they were great, as if a small disagreement on style was more than this one legged Vietnam vet could take.

As quickly as I flashed into memory, I flashed back into present. Every day it’s flashes. We try to prepare ourselves for death, as if it will somehow shield us from it’s devastating impact. We might think as we look lovingly at Aunt Jill or Uncle so and so that we are really going to miss their laugh because it is so infectious. Isn’t it bob? And Bob nods, smiles and agrees. There are little habits the dearly loved one does that you tell yourself you’ll miss like mad. And you do, Oh, yes, you do. But it has been the subtler things that have taken me by storm. It’s the bird on the tree outside the bedroom window, a piece of lint found in the pocket, a child playing, an old man crossing the street. It is the things, places and people that seem to have no real connection that will in one instant bring you from laughter to tears, and from tears back to laughter.

This is the first real heavy loss I have had in my life. Both of my Grandpas are dead, they lived long rich lives and so I took their deaths differently, I felt it was their time and I had the convenience to be their Grandchild and not their wife. I have been acquainted with people who have died, though not close to them. I have sat with people in AIDS homes while they died because no one was there to be with them; I have held HIV positive babies in my arms knowing they will not live to see another month, week or day, all of these experiences helped prepare me for the cold wet slap in the face that death is, but in truth, I never saw death coming. None of us do.

These ‘flashes’, help me cope and they do bring me joy. One day Your t-shirt though directly related to my dad’s clothing choice might cause me to bring up menthol cigarettes, even though the most logical  and progressive step would be the shirts. Perhaps this is also a knee jerk reaction to making sure everyone knows who my dad is and was, and not just that, but plainly that people know he WAS. My Grandma told me that after my Grandpa died, people were afraid to bring him up for fear of causing her pain. Sadly not talking about him made it seem like he never existed at all. So, maybe subconsciously I’m making sure that people know he was here.

Whatever the case may be for my strange little processing mind, should you or I begin a conversation about, oh, socks, and in the middle of it I squawk out “Warty Toads!”, just know that in someway toads and socks are related.