Dignity

Dignity. I think a lot about that word. The definition is this. The state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.

I just want to give a shout out to nurses everywhere. But especially the ones that tended to my father during his last days on this earth.

And treated him with dignity.

We knew that it was going to be the end of his life. The doctors (but mostly nurses) let us know this.

And during those last hours the nurses entered his room and treated him with the utmost care. Spoke to him kindly, turned him and positioned him comfortably. Like he would be alive the next day. Or the next week.

I could never express my appreciation enough for those loving nurses and their care for my father in his final moments. They treated him with honor and respect.  Until the very end.

I am and will be eternally grateful.

Education

I miss my father every single day. He pops into my head each and every day. I have a great love for all of my family. Near and far. Because I was and am fortunate. I get that. Not a one of them perfect. All perfect for me. But my father was special. I also get that one day I need to really process that he is no longer here.

But I was thinking of a story today that I have heard more than once. Never from him. But from his six sisters.

He was a young fellow. Good at the maths as they say. But due to the times and my Granda looking for work they moved around Ireland a bit in their youth.

My dad was a student at a school. And apparently due to the moves he wasn’t up to snuff in a certain subject. His teacher was a poor excuse of an educator and a poor excuse of a human being. On this one day he beat my father mercilessly in the classroom. In front of everyone.

Could you possibly imagine?

My dear father, ashamed and embarrassed, did not race home that day. But went somewhere to hide.

When his mother, my Granny, found out what happened she immediately went to the parish priest to lodge her complaint. Only to be told that the teacher in question had a family to support and that there was nothing he could do. Hands tied.

This “teacher” was an alcoholic brute.

My father never finished high school. Do I even have to wonder why?

A young kid who won a dog who they named Nully (from Nollaig) because he was clever at math.

I remember him sitting at the kitchen ¬†table (I was horrible at math-still am) trying to teach me percentages and fractions with a dollar bill. Not quite understanding why I couldn’t get it.

For some (this) reason I have never judged people by the degrees on their walls (or the lack of degrees) but rather how they treated their fellow human beings.

I dropped out of college. And my father was upset. I, of course, didn’t know the story of his curtailed education and wouldn’t know until years later.

But I remember, when I was speed dating my soon to be husband, a work mate of mine asked me if “K” would be bothered by the fact that I hadn’t completed my degree. Oh my gosh! It had never occurred to me and it had never come up in our conversations. So I immediately asked him if it would be an issue.

He said, “Mary, some of the smartest, most intelligent people that I have met in my life did not have a college education. Some had no education at all. You not having a degree means nothing to me.”

Yeah, so I married him. Because I always liked his answers.

I am not sure exactly what my point is in this posting. Because I am totally ensuring my own children get the best education possible.

But I think my point is this. Or should I say points?

To sacrifice, hurt and humiliate a child will always be wrong. Always. Always. Always.

A degree hanging on the wall is just that. A framed document on the wall. What you do with it and how you treat people is really what matters.

And we all have an obligation to protect our youth. Always. Always. Always.

A Fright

I was about to step into the shower today. But I heard noises in the living area across the hall from my master bedroom.

Totally figured that mutt of mine was into something. As usual.

Like when I caught him with a box of butterscotch candies the other day. Thinking he was all slick. Or yesterday when he was chewing on the foil pack in which my antibiotics had been packaged.

He knows me. That there could always be the day when I think, “Ah, I can’t be bothered. I’m sure he’ll live.” So he keeps on keeping on.

And he also understands that it’s not my caring about him that makes me investigate. It’s usually the bothersome noise (crunching of hard candy) that disturbs my concentration or thinking he might be gnawing on something of mine that has some value. I could care less if his fishy breath is masked by butterscotch or if he staves off infection with residual grains of antibiotic.

That canine has consumed ear buds, feminine products, glass bulbs and had a go at many an item such as toothbrushes, dental retainers, stuffed animals and my valuable dime store specs. You just never know.

So, I thought I’d have a quick check since the noises continued.

I wrap a towel around my fifty year old body. My hair is up in a clip. Accompanying specs as always. Oh, and my face is slathered in a white hair removal cream.

Who cares? My dog certainly won’t.

I slip across the hall and poke my head into the room fully expecting a big mess.

Nearly had a heart attack when there was a little Malay man sitting on the floor!

I totally jumped, yelped out,”Geez!” and then fled, heart pounding, back into my bedroom!

Oh my goodness! Wasn’t expecting him.

My dog was probably thinking, “Gotcha good that time! Totally wasn’t me!”

I was telling the story to my friend. She started laughing. Then told me about the time when she was first married. Her husband was at work and she figured she had the house to herself so thought she’d give herself a bikini treatment.

Some time into it she felt someone’s presence a few meters away. Yup, was the lawn guy just outside the window.

I was laughing out loud.

So, there you have it, folks. Someone always has a story that’s better (or worse!) than yours.

Now I have to go find my pup so I can apologize. And have a talk with whoever let a repairman into the house unannounced.

Around The Corner

Yes, there were times when I thought my Dad was mean.

I was probably in the fourth or fifth grade and I was invited to a sleepover at the home of a classmate. Sleepovers were not as popular then as they are these days. People just didn’t do it back then. Probably figuring out where their own were going to sleep was enough of an issue.

So way more exciting for me.

I asked my father if I could attend. He said, “No.”

I remember being heartbroken, crying and asking why.

He said, “Because I said no. I don’t want you to go.”

I was inconsolable.

The next weekend my father took us to an amusement park called Rocky Point. It was not the usual thing for us. And just for the record- it was in no way a “makeup” to me. He never played mind games with us. He was totally black and white.

But I remember thinking then and I still maintain the thought to this day. Maybe you won’t believe me. But it’s the truth.

I thought then that when we don’t get what we want (as hard as it might be to take) there is going to be something special or better around the corner. I tell my girls this all the time.

I now also think that my father had every right to tell me, “No.” I was his daughter and he had some reason he didn’t want me to go. Maybe he knew something I didn’t know. Maybe he thought I was too young.

And he didn’t have to tell me why or give some drawn out explanation (no matter how badly I wanted one) because he was my father.

It’s old school. He was old school. But, as a result, I learned a few lessons. I won’t always get what I want and that’s okay. And I also learned, as a parent, you have to trust your instinct. It’s totally okay to say no. You do not owe an explanation to anyone.

And there’s always something better around the corner!

Mean

Remember in my last posting when I stated that my father didn’t have a mean bone in his body?

Well, that was the truth.

But when I was young there were many times when I thought he was mean. Like when I wasn’t allowed to do things that other kids were doing.

I would exclaim, “But Diane is allowed to go!”

He would say, “I don’t care. You are not Diane. Your name is Mary Beth.”

After he died in March, my two brothers and I spent the day on Cape Cod. No kids, spouses or other distractions. Just his kids. We went to all the places he used to bring us when we summered there every July. A pilgrimage of sorts. It was a “Big Chill” reunion minus the pot, drama and cool soundtrack. Because we didn’t have any of those three things with us.

We usually stayed in a house for two weeks-sometimes at his uncle’s place- but there were a few days we stayed at a hotel. Maybe until the house was vacant. I can’t remember.

Anyway, we went by the hotel and my younger brother said, “I wonder if the pool is the same. I remember when we would get out of the car I’d get so excited that I would make a bee-line for the pool. Mom and Dad were still unpacking the car and Dad would yell at me to stay right where I was. As a parent of two little ones I totally get it now.”

I agreed and thought of a gal that I used to work with at the phone company. In 1999, I had read in the newspaper that she had experienced a tragedy beyond comprehension.

Not long after arriving at a R.I. beach, on a summer’s day, her eight year old baby girl went into the water and drowned. She could not be revived even though there were doctors and emergency personnel on the beach that day.

I had a baby that year and was the mother of a six year old. I was absolutely devastated for her and her family. I couldn’t imagine.

These things can happen in an instant. No judgement. Ever.

This is not to even compare the situations. Of what happened or what could have happened.

Just this point. It is what I thought of that day when my brother said he now understood. My Dad wasn’t being mean when he said I couldn’t do things I wanted to do. Or when my brother wanted to run to the pool alone.

He only wanted to protect us. That was his job.

We totally get it, Dad. And we will always love you for it.

In The Moment

A couple of summers ago I was relaxing on the couch at my parents’ home. My kids were messing around with my Dad while he sat in his chair across the room from me. I wasn’t really listening until I heard one of my kids ask him, “Papa, so what was Mom like as a teenager?”

Uh, oh! Papa on the spot! I instantly perked up and almost had a coronary. Thinking, “Oh my gosh, this is it!” Started the rosary in my head.

But i never should have had a doubt. My father did not have a mean bone in his body.

He laughed (a little too heartily) and said, “Your mother was a tiger. But I loved her anyway.”

That was a really nice way of putting it.

The thing of it is this. My father lived in the moment. Like my mother still does.

They’ve never, ever been ones to hold a grudge, to bring things from the past into the present or to care about it at all.

What’s in the past is in the past. That’s it. Mom always says, “Ah, that’s ancient history.” About anything. Not always referring to my teenaged years. Okay, honestly, I wasn’t the worst teen out there.

The time is now. Live in the moment. It’s the biggest and greatest gift of all.

We just don’t know how many moments we are allotted. Make the absolute best of them. No need to be mean. Better to laugh. Maybe even a little too heartily.

And that is how your loved ones and your world will remember you.

Respect

I hadn’t realized, at the time of my father’s recent death, that my kids hadn’t ever been to a wake and funeral service before this.

So, yes, a blessing that we (they) haven’t had the experience of too much death. But very sad that the first service my children attended was that of their sweet and beloved grandfather.

My oldest one, Rory, confided to me before the wake that she had mixed feelings about our practices.

After it was all finished I asked her, “What are your feelings about the whole thing now?”

She said, “It was so amazing to be in one room with so many people that I loved.”

“And that all of those people in the room loved Papa.”

I think that, as exhausting as the process might be, we have something right.

It was a celebration of life, an opportunity for family to reunite and for so many others to pay their respects to our family.

Men, women and children. As one. As it should always be.

No mixed feelings in the end.

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