Archive for the ‘Growing Old’ Category

Good Health

When I was a young girl I would ask my father, “Dad, what do you want for your birthday?”

“Dad, what do you want for Father’s Day?”

“What would you like for Christmas?”

He would always, always say, “My health.”

I probably did an eye roll. What that even a thing back then?

Was hoping he would make my shopping easier. Because we are conditioned. We need to buy people presents on these special days. Would be nice if we had a clue as to what was wanted or needed.

He always meant it. He was nothing if not sincere.

Now I  am older. And Dad is gone.

If you asked me today, “Mary, what do you want for Mother’s Day? Christmas?”

I would say, “My health. The health of my family and friends.”

That’s all I want. That’s all I need.

Nothing else matters.

We don’t need to buy anything.

Some things just can’t be bought.

 

 

 

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I dropped my daughter off at the Rhode Island airport yesterday.

On the ride, I reminisced a bit.

Said, “Reminds me of all the times Papa (my father) picked us up at this very airport.”

I continued, “Papa knew a lot of people. Whenever we were out with him there would invariably be the hearty hello or head nod to/from some random person.”

Some years ago Dad was milling about the luggage carousel looking for my bags. Think we just arrived from Dallas via Chicago.

Guy walks by, “Hey, Pat, how are ya?”

Dad responds in kind.

Rhode Island is a small state. No surprise that you would run into someone you know. Or their cousin.

Few minutes later a woman strolls by, “Hi Pat! How are you?”

Dad smiles and asks her how she’s been.

Okay, doesn’t stop there. More and more people in our path with same, “Hi Pat, how are you?”

Ummm, Dad, this is getting crazy.

Dad finally clued me in on the situation. These people were all members of an Irish society based in Rhode Island. Can’t remember now whether it was the Irish Ceilidhe Club or Ireland’s 32 Society. Or another group.

Apparently they had been on a trip (and on same flight as me) and were returning back to Rhode Island from Chicago.

Just thought it was a lovely memory. And, according to my kid, I hadn’t shared it before which is amazing in itself. Because I am kind of a broken record with my stories.

Made me remember how I felt when I would first see my father as I was coming down the escalator at the airport after months away.

How he always did the heavy lifting. Not going to let his daughter pick up the heavy bags. ūüôā

Brought back the fact that everyone, who knew my Dad, had a smile when they greeted him with nothing but respect.

Made me remember that every time I left him in his later years, he said, with eyes filling, “We love to have you and we sure do hate to see you go.”

How it’s hard to arrive at the airport and no one in that crowd is eagerly and expectantly looking for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There is a ten year anniversary coming up in the next week.

Not a happy one.

It was ten years ago that a school friend of my eldest daughter lost her life in an accident. Veronica was fourteen at the time. She held on for awhile but finally succumbed to her injuries on October 20th.

Her mother asked me in a message the other day, “Does it seem longer than ten years or shorter? Or both?”

So hard to answer. Ten years seems like such a long time ago for me. A lot has happened since that time. I moved from Dallas to California. And then overseas to Malaysia. My eldest, who was Veronica’s friend, graduated from university. I lost a parent.

Life went on and just happened.

And yet I can remember the day of the accident like it was yesterday. It was a beautiful autumn afternoon.

I’ve always been one for denial. When my daughter told me that Veronica had been in an accident I asked, “How do you know?”

She said, “Some of the football kids who were at Sonic came back and said it.”

I said, “Well, we don’t know for sure.”

Then we passed by the site and her yellow backpack was sitting there in the street while the rescue and police were securing the area.

Felt like I could vomit.

I didn’t know Veronica’s mom except for a community service project at the parish, communication about cross country car pooling and a confirmation of a birthday party.

But I did vow that I would not be one to drop off a casserole and just forget about them.

Can good things come out of bad? I guess her mom would have to answer that.

I remember, after we got word of Veronica’s death, thinking that I needed to make that call. Also thinking it would be the worst thing ever. How selfish of me.

Talking to my husband who was away at the time I said, “I can’t call her.”

He said,” You have to….”

I replied, “I know I have to but…”

He told me, “Call her tomorrow.”

I said, “I will.”

And then I paced and paced. Smoked a bunch of cigarettes. Went into my bedroom, locked the door and picked up the phone to dial. Shaking like a leaf on a tree. Knew I wouldn’t sleep if I didn’t call that very night.

Veronica’s mom picked up the phone. When she heard from me she said, “Oh, Mary, I am so glad you called. Your family is one I had hoped I would get to know better.”

We had some things in common. Being on our own in Texas while husbands were working in the Northeast. Cross country girls. Same parish.

A few days later Monsignor called me to say that the family wanted me and another mom to be the speakers at Veronica’s service. I agreed and it was one of the few times I actually felt God’s presence with me. I honestly did not think I could do it but I felt like God was just sitting on my shoulder.

This posting is getting a little long.

Veronica’s mother amazed me in so many ways. When she needed help she knew it and asked for it. And she never wanted to be known just as the mother of the child who died.

When she knew the yard needed raking she said it. And all the cross country kids came out and raked away and bagged up the leaves.

When the thought of taking down Xmas decorations was overwhelming she called me.

When she needed help cleaning the house she let me know. And we got it done. Laughing and crying.

She and her eldest came to my house for dinner and we went to hers. Went to movies and dinner. Had a celebration of life with balloons soaring into the air for Veronica’s birthday.

I guess my posting today is to remember a sweet girl who will forever remain a fourteen year old child to us. Even if ten years have passed.

But it is also a testament to the strength of her mother.

And it is also a reminder to not take even one single day for granted.

A beautiful autumn day or a muggy day.

Seems like a long time ago. Seems like yesterday. Seems like both.

RIP Veronica Grace Sheer

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My Mac died in Malaysia but was revived once I brought it to the Providence Apple Store.

Just like Lazarus.

Sadly, it died again two weeks later. So I am at a loss.

But thanks to us being an Apple family my daughter is letting me use hers to write this post.

I write about life. And I write about death.

I am home now. Visiting Mom and family for the summer in Rhode Island.

Read three obituaries in the last week. I either knew the person or knew the family of the person. It’s a small state. The place where I spent my formative years.

If I read the obituaries in Dallas (lived there twelve years) I would not know the folks. Sure, there would be the odd, unexpected death of someone in the community that I would know. But it would not be the norm.

I lived in Southern California for quite a few years. Same. Wouldn’t know a soul in the obits.

But once you come back home. Well, that’s different. ¬†You know everybody. Especially when you grew up in a state that has a population of one million.

Yes, I once was one in a million. #Truth.

I was attending the funeral of my best friend’s father-in-law yesterday. He was ninety years old. A lovely man who led a truly wonderful life. Nine children and twenty-four grandchildren. Also great grand children in the mix. A family man. A faith filled man. A community man.

I stood outside the Portuguese church waiting for the doors to open. I was told we couldn’t enter because there was another funeral taking place.

Standing with others who were also waiting to fill the pews for the next funeral Mass.

The doors of the church finally opened.

There was a hearse outside on the street with its doors open ready to receive the blessed remains.

I spied a teddy bear in the back of the hearse. But I was still not prepared for what I saw next.

The smallest coffin I have ever seen came out of the church doors. It only required four pall bearers. I almost gasped. My throat closed. I looked at another couple who was also waiting to go into the church. And I could only glance at them and whisper, “Oh, God!”

Watching the young mother broke my heart.

The mourners of the young child left and the mourners of the old man entered the church.

The whole stinking process is sad.

It made me think.

The loss of a beloved father. No matter how old.

But still. A feeling of gratefulness.

Because his death was one of the best scenarios.

He left this world.

After serving his country.

Meeting and marrying the love of his life.

Bringing eight fabulous sons and a daughter into the world.

Starting his own business.

Being a community member.

Involved in his parish.

Caring about others.

I left the funeral service with sadness because I understand what it means to lose a father.

But I also left with an appreciation of a life well lived. And I sort of felt okay.

Not everyone has the same opportunity. For whatever reason.

Bless us all.

 

 

 

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I met with a friend yesterday. We were chatting about this and that. Traveling was one of the topics. Specifically about airports.

Jenny¬†mentioned a line from the movie, “Love, Actually” which claims that the Arrival Gate at the airport¬†is the happiest place to be.

Yes, that’s so true.

Even though an arrival gate can be quite chaotic.

Go through the doors and there’s a mess of humanity staring you directly in the face. Before they quickly dismiss you as not being their person.They continue searching for their loved one. Holding signs. Flowers.

Anxiously waiting.

Then the cries of joy. The smiles and laughter. The hugs.

It’s overwhelming when it’s face to face-on the same floor level. For the ones coming out of the gate. Especially if you are a shorty like me! Desperately looking for their own loved one in the sea of bodies.

What I always liked about the small airport in my home state is that you had to ride down the escalator to the waiting crowd. It allowed a bird’s eye view, while descending, to scan the masses and seek out your own people.

Also allowed them to look up and find you gliding down slowly.

And I would see my parents. Standing together and smiling when they saw us.

Would nudge my kids, “Hey, there they are! There’s Nana and Papa!”

Although they would have already spotted them on their own.

I went home last summer and then again for Christmas and it was different.

My father would never again be waiting at the Arrival Gate for me.

So, we passed through the excited crowds, collected our baggage and hopped into a taxi.

The Arrival Gate is a happy place. Love everywhere.

But not always. Sometimes it’s a memory of love everywhere.

And those memories are truly cherished.

 

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Once you go Mac you never go back.

Or do you?

What happens if your Mac goes kaput? Like mine did. Nothing. Not a light. Not a whir. Not a gasp.

Well, I gasped. Possibly shed a tear.

I wasn’t expecting a Mac to die.

Here’s the thing.

I didn’t want the laptop in the first place. I am not first in line when it comes to new technology. That would be my husband. I’m about four years behind him.

If I didn’t get the iPhone finally shoved down my throat I would still be happily using the flip phone. You’d get a phone call from me and not a text.

Now, I text and the only phone calls I make (where I actually have to speak to someone besides my Mom) or receive are wrong numbers, the unbearable conversations with repairmen which end up with me enunciating very clearly and the odd call from the school.

In this case the iPhone is a blessing. Laptop gone and phone to the rescue. I can do most things on it. But it’s not the same.

So I went and found the old laptop. The beloved one that put up with my hammering away on it for years. So much so that the letter “S” is non existent. Faded away because of me and my writing.

As an aside, “S” is very popular. I am not a yes girl but I am most definitely an “S” girl. Hangman, crossword puzzles and Scrabble. “S” always comes in handy. As in SOS! What would happen if you got a distress call “O”??

Anyway, back to the ThinkPad. I fired that baby up and was back in business.Except this bad boy literally heats up like nobody’s business. Could end up with third degree burns on your lap if not careful. I could rename it “lap-top layer of skin.”

Took getting used to again. I was trying to use my finger tips to move things around the screen to no avail. Kept deleting things. And getting frustrated.

Now here is the very cool thing.

When I opened up the laptop I discovered a file titled “Papa.” It contained photos and four videos that I hadn’t seen in a few years. Forgot they existed.¬†They were sent to me by one of my cousins. Taken at my father’s surprise party when he turned eighty.

It was me, at my cousin’s Irish Social Club, giving the speeches in honor of my Dad. Was a great day.

I came up with a game “How well do you know Pat Lennon?” followed with fun facts.

Then poked fun at him for his phrases in my growing up years. About how he never pronounced “th” only the “t” Like how my kids would ask the gas price (on purpose to hear his answer) and he would reply, “Tree-tirty-tree a gallon.”

I told him my memories of him would last a lifetime.

And then I thanked him. Not just for creating me and acknowledging that I was his best work ever. LOL. But I also told him I was grateful he was my Dad and that I was always aware I was one of the lucky ones.

At the end of the speech I told him I loved him.

You know what?

I was absolutely right that day.

My memories of him will last a lifetime.

And I was reminded of this by my Mac biting the dust and me having to figure out something else.

My Nana used to say, “Light from another window.”

One could also say that one door closes and another opens.

Sometimes that’s hard to believe.

But sometimes it is so true. Even if we don’t know it at the time.

 

 

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Truth

I was at a luncheon today. Not always fun when it’s a good-bye gathering.

Talking to a woman I know.

She says, “From what I hear you’ve been very busy. With the refugee stuff and school things. You really are a good person.”

I say, “Nah. Just doing what I can.”

Lady continues, “No, really! ¬†Because I spend most of my time thinking about me.”

LOL. I almost spewed out the contents of my mouth.

Because I appreciated the honesty of her words.

Sad as it might be.

She was being honest. Totally honest.

 

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