I’ll fly away, Oh Glory, I’ll fly away… or Just Another Black Friday

22 11 2012

How is it possible that it is Thanksgiving? This week – this year… hell, this decade plus in fact, has been what it’s been (past tense for “It is what it is”).

Two Saturdays ago, the Mrs. saw me answer my cellphone then turn to tell her that her younger brother had lost his year-long battle against stomach cancer. Instantly, her shoulders heaved, sobbing like I don’t remember seeing four years ago when Billy took leave of us. It occurred to me that just her reaction to that news could have sent her careening off into Glory and I’d be liable.

Not five minutes later, the front door flew open and in bounced Donny Diva, happy to see his GGma. He brought his younger brother to meet her…their ages spaced just about what the Mrs. and her brother had been. “Littles” was tenderly placed in her trembling arms and through a watery lens, she met her 10th great-grandchild for the first time. After all, this was the intent of the trip north. Little did we know how good it was that she was here with us to get the sad news.

I can’t get over how this works – how we are constantly in this mix of intense pain and joy at once. Held in the tension, we precariously place one foot carefully in front of the other as we make our way forward on that tightrope stretched thin over the Niagara Falls of Life. The last decade and a half for me has been at once exhilarating and exhausting. I feel closer to God and further away than ever (at least in the eyes of others). While it is often a silent, still place, the roar of voices in my head can be deafening. I both love it and am terrified by it – all at once.

My sister-in-law’s birthday was last weekend and as they turned the calendar on a new week, her 91-year-old mother turned suddenly ill and was gone within a matter of hours. Of course the family knew their dear, sweet mother wouldn’t be on this earth forever – and no, they weren’t ready to let her go. In an email she shared,

“Earlier though, something happened. When she was still battling the pain and going in and out of consciousness— her eyes were closed and I was holding her hand and silently praying—- then she turned her head toward me, and opened her eyes —- she looked up not focusing on me, but past me—-and her eyes became wide and blinked in what appeared to be awe or incomprehension –she faintly smiled but then looked almost as if she could cry—all I can think to describe it is that her face had the look of someone seeing a returning loved one whom they had not seen for a long,long time. Almost as quickly as her eyes opened then they closed and from that point on she remained unconscious until she slipped away. K was standing at the foot of the bed and she saw it too and we both felt as if (Mom) had seen past the veil of this earth—-

Exactly a week ago now I drove the Mrs. five hours to the south for the memorial service for her brother. It was a really joyous occasion yet punctuated by many tears. It wrapped up as he had requested. Singing one last favorite bluegrass hymn. I too was able to see past the veil…and it was good.

For that song – stuck in my head now for days – I am grateful.
And you do NOT want to get me started on what I think about Black Friday, or do you?



la pareja

2 12 2008

img_3824La pareja – the pair-a him and a her.  In Spain that could refer to two kids – a boy and a girl- deemed the perfect family set-up. It also means a married couple, like this little duo that was waiting for me at a flea market in southern Portugal years ago. 

It’s hard after 60 years of being a pareja to not think of yourself in those terms.  She has struggled in these three months every time she has signed a birthday, anniversary or sympathy card.  Her hand just automatically writes “we” – then she starts to cry.  This week she’s been working on Christmas cards – at least addressing the envelopes anyway.  She will have to be fully present and thinking when she gets to the point of signing just one name.

Last week when she was here for Thanksgiving, there was an afternoon that she was snooze/reading on the couch while I was quietly working on my computer.  Suddenly she startled awake and looked at me quizzically.  “What’s the matter, ” I asked.  “Oh, I was just thinking that this was a long time to leave Dad alone in the house.”  Then we half laughed remembering how back when they could still travel, they would leave their ancient dog in the basement with food and water for days on end.  Skye was happier there, knowing they’d come home – then she’d eat like there was no tomorrow after she was “rescued”.  

But the “she” of the pareja always remembers that the “he” is so much better off where he is…thinking that he probably doesn’t even care about all this any more and is having so much fun with his extended clan of family and friends that beat him to the punch.  Sixty years is a long time to walk beside someone and suddenly turn off the internal radar.  I’ve gotten the strangest looks in the evening when we are in her space watching TV and I’m in his chair…the other day I cleared my throat or coughed or something and caught her staring at me. Almost like the lights behind her eyes weren’t quite on.  I sat there a moment waiting for her to speak but the look on her face said that she couldn’t even find the words.  Finally it came out that whatever noise I had made – sounded just like him. 

If you’ve ever had a pet for years and suddenly they’re gone – you know the experience of thinking they are in the room or will be there at the door when you come home.  Few of us have had a pet that lasts 16 years, let alone a partner for 60.  

So if you get one of her cards and it looks like she has tried to re-write a portion or has crossed something out – I hope you’ll understand. I don’t even do Christmas cards so my hat is off to her for even attempting to put herself through the exercise of signing a single name that will stab her heart with each stroke of the pen.  But I dare say this is all part of the process…it will become the new norm with a little bit of practice.