Wise Words

Today my daughter turns twenty three years old. Not sure how that happened. Tempus fugit!

She lives in a different country and I wish we could celebrate together. But this is life.

I did ask her if there was anything special she wanted for her birthday.

She replied, “Nothing. Just my health and my family’s health.”

Continuing she said, “Wise words from my favorite man.”

So, if you ever doubt that your kids are absorbing everything (or anything) you say I think it would be safe to remove that doubt!

We learn from our parents. And our children learn from us. We learn from our grandparents. And our children learn from them also. Either directly or through us.

Warning: This applies to the good and the bad. So we need to choose our words wisely.

Happy birthday, Rory, we love you and wish you the very best of health. For many, many, many years!

Sharpies

I arrived back in Malaysia. Trying to get over this awful thing called jet lag.

And realize I have an event tomorrow evening. I knew about it. But. I didn’t think much about it. Til now.

Until I saw my hair this evening. And realized my time away in Rhode Island was a week too long. In the hair coloring world.

I have gray roots making their own statement.

I have neither the energy nor inclination. Or time. To do anything about it.

But the mind did wander into the quick fix world. I actually thought if I can use a brown or black permanent marker (AKA sharpies) to cover up scratches on my furniture why can’t I………?

Just a thought.

Good Cry

I suppose I will mostly be writing about my father these days. Because he is on my mind all the time. Bear with me.

Today, I had a good cry and I guess that is good and needed to happen. It’s been a month in the making.

Here’s what prompted it today. Finally.

I was trying to relax and lose myself in one of my favorite hobbies. Genealogy.

But, of course, when my family tree appears on the screen so does a photo of my dad.

And beside his picture it shows Birth:  March 19, 1931 in New York City.

Under that it has Death: and in bold type appears “Living”

I just cannot update the family tree.

I kept staring at his photo and I could feel the tears coming and then I sort of wanted to get angry. Like “Dad, why did you have to go? Why did you have to leave us?” As if he had any choice in the matter.

I knew that my thinking was unfair. He was a good age and his was a life well lived. He knew his kids and his grandkids were all loved, cared for and fine.

People pray for things like that.

It just doesn’t make it hurt any less. At least for me.

Mustard Seed

I received a message yesterday from a childhood friend who had just heard about my father’s death. She was so terribly sorry for us.

This same friend lost her mom recently. Her dad died seventeen years ago. She said not a day passes that she does not think of him.

I was fully aware that most folks who came to pay their respects to my family knew exactly what we were feeling. I understood that these people who provided us comfort and solace have all suffered some loss in their own lives. Could have been losing parents, children, siblings or friends. Could have been tragic or welcomed.

It’s the condition of being human in this world for a very short time. Maybe we didn’t sign up for it but we are here and those are the terms of the contract.

It reminded me of a story my husband told many years ago.

A woman’s child died and she was utterly devastated. She approached the Buddha and begged him to bring her child back to life. He said he would be glad to help her. But only if she could bring back a mustard seed from a home that had not suffered from a death.

This grief stricken mother traveled, near and far, to find a home that had not been touched by loss. After many months, knocking on every door, she returned empty handed. She never found that house.

And then she found some peace.

This recent experience of losing my father reinforced the fact that even though my personal grief can be unique it will never be unshared. This will provide me with some measure of comfort during my own quest for peace.

My father always paid his own way. Just the way he was. He’d certainly pay the way of others but he always paid his own way.

I liked that about him. And I ended up marrying a man who is exactly the same in that regard.

Last May, he and my mom flew out to Northern California for Rory’s graduation from university. He didn’t usually insist on things. But he insisted on being present for her high school graduation and then her university graduation. I met them there. It was a great week. We probably ran them ragged taking in all of the sights. Chinatown, the Golden Gate Bridge and park, the Painted Ladies, the Marina, the Wharf, Napa Valley and loads more packed into the busy days.

We used the BART to get into San Francisco from Berkeley. But there were other times when we needed to hail a taxi. Not always easy so my daughter used the Uber app on her phone. For those not familiar with Uber it is a car, taxi, or ride-share service. Your credit card is on file. You can see what driver is closest to your location and then order the car. The name of the driver, picture of person, type of car, etc. is all available to you. No payment need exchange hands. It’s billed to your card.

Dad struggled with this. My daughter would order a car to bring them back to the hotel each evening. And he’d be fumbling around for his wallet trying to pay someone. Anyone. The driver, my daughter or me.

Rory would say, “Don’t worry about it, Papa. I got it. It’s going on the card.”

He did not like that at all. Or this whole Uber thing. He sputtered about it. He was not comfortable with his college aged granddaughter paying for his taxi fares.

After graduation I headed back to Malaysia. Rory accompanied her grandparents back to Rhode Island and stayed with them for three weeks.

She told me that one morning she woke up and went to have breakfast. Papa’s soft-boiled eggs. Always perfect. Mom took care of the fried eggs but the soft-boiled ones were Dad’s specialty. He would even take the tops of the eggs off for us. Tap, tap, tap with the edge of a butter knife.

Egg cup that Annie bought Papa a few years ago.

Egg cup that Annie bought Papa a few years ago.

That morning, under her place mat on the kitchen table, there was a crisp one hundred-dollar bill.

Rory was like, “Oh no, Papa!”

He said, “Look, I don’t want to hear another word about it. That’s final.”

That’s just the way he was.

My Dad- May 2014-Berkeley, California

My Dad- May 2014-Berkeley, California

I’m going to miss his soft-boiled eggs in the morning. I’m going to miss him taking off the top portion of the shell for us. I’m going to miss his old school ways. I’m going to miss just the way he was.

Quahogs

I am still in my father’s home. Just for a few more days. Then I will head back to Malaysia and get on with life there. See and hug my sixteen year old who I have been missing a ton. A nice surprise is that my husband will be there for a week.

I have been so busy here assisting my mom with things that I feel like I haven’t grieved. Whatever that looks like.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been moments when my eyes fill up. Or that my throat gets caught. Because I guess the mind does allow a few seconds of reality to seep in now and again.

After Dad died I took stuffies out of the freezer.

Stuffies (for those living outside of the area) are stuffed quahogs. Quahogs (for those living outside of the area) are hard shelled clams. Its name comes from a local Native American tribe. And I have heard it pronounced all sorts of ways. The correct pronunciation is “kwaw hawgs.” And I’m sticking to it.

Clams are chopped up and then mixed with seasonings, bread and other ingredients. Sometimes it seems like everything but the kitchen sink. It just depends on who is making them. Once everything is mixed together the stuffing is then put back into the shell.

quahog

This picture is to give you an idea. You can see pepper, onion and clams in this one. But please keep in mind that this photo shows a quahog on steroids. The ones you buy at the store are not as generously packed. My brother brought some of these homemade bad boys for my dad from a club down the road.

For years, every time I went to heat up the stuffies, my dad would always say, “____ minutes for each one. And make sure you turn them halfway.”

Sometimes I’d hear him say it from the other room. Other times it was over my shoulder. He was nothing if not consistent and predictable.

And I would say, “I know, Dad. I know.” I was nothing if not consistent and predictable.

So, on this day, when I was about to heat them up with Dad no longer calling out from the living room, I just stood in front of the microwave. And stared. My eyes filled up and I whispered, “I didn’t know, Dad. I didn’t know.”

Then I had to look up the directions on the package.

I guess I didn’t ever really know and I’d give anything to hear him tell me once again just how many minutes it would take and to make sure I turn them halfway.

I don’t want to look up the directions. And it’s not because I’m lazy.

Walk Away

This past week, each day at the same time, I sat in a waiting room. With folks who were waiting for chemotherapy and/or radiation. Or waiting for their loved ones who were having these treatments. I was waiting for someone.

They all know each other. Like a club. I told my brother it’s like they have their own clique thing going on.

Day One:  I walk in and find a chair. Don’t say anything to anyone. I don’t know the drill. I did give a sort of a half smile. But I didn’t feel much like chatting. The previous week had been a long one so I was welcoming a short rest of nothingness.

Day Two: I hear bits and pieces. I pick up names and spirited conversation about college basketball between a nonagenarian and septuagenarian. Georgetown, Villanova (pronounced Villanover by one of them), P.C., Kentucky and others. Predictions on who will win and who will lose. I hear terms like dark horse, sweep and seed.

Day Three: They say hello to me. I respond in a cheerful manner. Then sit back and absorb the background chatter.

Vic is ninety two years old of Italian descent.

Ron’s grandmother had Russian background. Sounds like his dad’s side were Swamp Yankees.

Vic has two children. A daughter and son.

Ron, seventy nine years old, lost two siblings at young ages. I think one was forty nine years old and the other in her fifties.

Vic walks three miles a day.

Vic has an older sister in her nineties who was in perfect health until she fell. Now she is in a nursing home.

Ron is there for treatment for kidney cancer. One was removed.

Vic accompanies his wife. She put off seeing a doctor because she was scared. She acknowledged that was a big mistake.

Vic said he does things/jobs around the house but never, ever tells his son. His son doesn’t want him doing anything.

Day Four: Same. Nice greeting. There are other people that are a part of this daily group. But Ron’s the loudest and I like that he asks everyone lots of questions. Saves me the trouble while also satiating my curiosity. I now know a lot about the folks in that room. And just how many chemo or radiation sessions everyone has left.

On this day I hear Vic telling Ron, “I always walk away from negativity. All my life I just walked away from it.”

Ron laughingly responds with, “And that is why you are ninety two and in great health!”

Vic says, “Even if guys are arguing about sports I just tell them that they’re right. And I walk away. Because you’re never gonna change their minds.”

Ron said, “You’re absolutely right. You’ve got a great attitude.”

I have been thinking a lot about the waiting room conversations.

You’d think it would be one of the most depressing, negative places in the world.

It’s not.

We know life is funny. And not always in a “ha, ha” way.

It can slap us around a little. Or maybe even a lot.

We can’t avoid the slaps but we can choose to walk away from some of the negativity that surrounds them.

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