My shriveled, feeble heart is broken. (Hmmm..dark, shriveled? Feeble, wistful? futile?)
This wouldn’t be a fitting tribute if I didn’t infuse it with a little “Colleydrama”, and, you- dear Big Fish- always appreciated a performance.
I didn’t think I would feel this hurt so deeply. You lived 101 filled-to-the-brim years. I try to flippantly say “he was 101, he had a remarkable life and was smoking cigars and complaining about overcooked lobster a week ago.” Blah blah blah. I am sad, albeit enough warning. I know I should be celebrating your life, but for now, I am missing you not in mine. I am never again going to hear the whirrrrr of your scooter and smell the smoke of your cigar. I will however, still hear your voice when I wish. I never erased the Valentine’s Day message you left me in 2012. Were we really arguing about politics and the current dreadful state of the nation the last time you were conscious?
As I reflect on last week, I must always consider that time with you a precious gift. Many of our friends and family, upon hearing The Mighty You were in hospice were saddened and pained. And yes, it was excruciating, but I have to believe there is a reason I was given the opportunity to be with you. To brush your hair, rub your shoulders and talk to you without you screaming, “I can’t hear you!”, perhaps? To just be with you alone without one of your greatgrandchildren ramming your scooter (with you in it) against the couch, or everyone’s personal favorite: taking your prosethetic leg on and off, over and over again. You didn’t own that patience with me as a child, but I appreciate that you found such joy and amusement in my own rambunctious children. For the first time in as long as I can remember, it was nice to be with just you. Fortunate circumstances, no, great people in my life: a kind mother-in-law, a giving mother, an understanding husband, a devout babysitter, helpful friends and neighbors willing to lend a hand and drop off/pick up kids at camp and host playdates- allowed me to frequent your bedside, clutching your weathered hand and feeling it squeeze mine for a few days. I have to believe you could hear me reading you emails sent from our family and friends across the country, whildst I snotted all over your blanket. There is no dignity in death, is there? I spent the majority of the last few days re-telling the tapestry of our lives, as yours and mine weave together in parts. You are the soul of our family. How does one say goodbye to the LIFEFORCE that is YOU?
I am not going to sugarcoat it, this experience was agonizing for the people who love you, you were neither Here nor There. But, this.is.LIFE. And LIFE was never designed to be easy or comfortable at every turn. Phewy- you detested easy. In the aftermath of your passing, I am still trying to figure out why it is so hard to let you go.
Even up until the end, you never gave up. The day before you went into hospice, you were exercising. Three years ago, at the age of 98 when your right leg was amputated below the knee, you told me you would walk again. And almost every day, you tried. You lived for 8 days after you lost consciousness. For 8 days, we all visited you, we cried, we talked, we kissed you…the wonderful, fabulous people who serve as hospice nurses all told me they’d never seen anything like YOU…101 you.
You were the first man to ever tell me he loved me. And you wrote it in stone. Last night, Gregg found me chest deep in my closet surrounded by my memory boxes. I saved every last one of them- the notes, cards, valentines and letters typed on parchment copy paper in envelopes on old camp stationary circa 1965. The life advice letters, I still have them all. “Do something! Serve others! But…don’t spread yourself too thin….” And, let’s not forget the medical post-it notes. Is there nothing more awesome than getting a “PopPop luvs G.C.” on a Lipitor sticky note? Which reminds me, remember when you gave Gregg a bundle of cigars in a Celexa box a few Christmases ago? You were so amused by your clever nonagenarian self!
My heart is heavy but filled with gratitude. Mostly grateful that 6 years ago we chose to move back to my frozen tundra homeland to be with FAMILY. And this is what “family” means, doesn’t it? To have be able to hold your hand through the journey you didn’t come back from.
So, yes, I realize I have some explaining to do in roughly 63 ¼ years when we meet back up in the afterlife for the following choices:
* Firstly, I am really sorry I switched Fox News to CNN in your hospice room. I know you think Megyn Kelly is a babe, but it is my opinion that terrible news of the sad state of affairs just sounds better when Anderson Cooper tells it.
* Secondly, did you really think you could spend 101 years on this Earth surrounded by friends and family, then leave it with no closure? So while no proper funeral or memorial service will take place, as per your wishes, I found a loophole! A-ha! A Celebration of Life that will occur in the fall, after our hearts have healed a bit. You will be whereever you are, doing pushups off a chimney while smoking a cigar and the rest of us will be on this planet missing you in it. So, I am willing to take the risk of your wrath. Feel free to send me a sign of your displeasure- a bad oyster? And we will have many of those and the other things you loved- cigars, roasted peppers, cappellini- regardless of the fact that it is the most frustrating noodle to work with. You know of my annoyance with cappellini, we discussed and debated this silly noodle that cannot withstand a hearty shrimp, but for you, cappellini will be served. Besides, we can re-unveil your nature trail. And, maybe your swimming pool. Must be nice to have so many things named after yourself! P.S. I’ll see what I can do about belly dancers…
* Lastly, let’s talk about the obituary. Although I was flattered 4 years ago when you summuned me to your apartment to hand me stacks of folders to create your “perfect obituary”, I was a bit put off when I lost creative control rites. I could write about your honorary doctorate but not about Your Story, the tale of a poor little Italian boy who made his way in the world and affected the lives of countless people? That’s what everyone wants to read and remember. But, I couldn’t very well go against orders and rewrite the obituary after your final approval. So here I go. I will write the tales I wish to tell about magical you in my blog. Yes, I realize this is the same blog that discusses annoying elementary school car lines and hottie World Cup soccer players, but we will just let it roll. In a few days, or a few weeks, or a few months I will tell your story.
So here I am. Fingers feverishly typing away, trying to recall all the tales you told. Seeking to capture the character you were. Attempting to accept that you are a past tense.