Category Archives: On Family and Parenting

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Neither Gone Nor Forgotten.

Mom at 22.

My mother died in the early morning hours of May 6, 2017 after a long, hard-fought battle will illness, injury, and a life that, beginning in reduced circumstances, was filled with hardship and pain. She never had it easy. Never got a break. Not even for one day.

Today’s post is one I posted some time ago and feel is particularly fitting now.

She was weak before the accident and more severely weakened after it. The orthopedic surgeon said her arm was shattered and because she was high risk for surgery, he chose Option #2 – putting her under for the 10 minutes it would take to reshape her arm and hold it in place while they cast it. It would not afford her the mobility she would otherwise have had, but she would have some use of it even if it didn’t work quite as it once did.

There was a time when her hands did what she wanted them to do. When we were kids, Mom didn’t have a lot of free time, but on Sundays she played games with us. Our favorites were Sorry, which we played over and over again, and Monopoly, one game sometimes taking an entire afternoon, and a card game called War – so fast-paced we played it even more times than Sorry. Sometimes Mom made popcorn on the stove, put it in a big bowl, and we’d eat it as we sat around the game board on the floor in our tiny living room. When she was able to set aside a few extra dollars, she would walk us downtown to the Park or Lake theaters to see a movie and by us milkshakes at Isaly’s across the street. Sometimes we’d go to Edgewood Park to play and swim.

She was always busy: cooking, cleaning, making our clothes, washing and ironing, keeping the shack we lived in as clean as possible. She made curtains to cover the scarred window panes so it looked more like a real home.

When my sister came home from school with lice in her hair, Sunday game time was put on hold, and Mom spent the entire afternoon and evening going through my sister’s long, thick, black hair, one strand at a time, picking out the nits. It was a painstaking process, but her fingers were deft then. They could do anything.

But those same fingers that once pushed our clothes through a hand-wringer washing machine, now struggled to push the buttons through the buttonholes on her blouse.

Her hands ironed my father’s work shirts for his shift at B&W, and later, after he left us with nothing, they ironed a bushel basket full of white dress shirts each week for the men of other wives with easier lives. Each bushel basket contained 20 damp shirts rolled up like newspapers. Twenty white dress shirts had to be starched and wrinkle-free. A pristine job earned her $5 for the basketful. If the owner was dissatisfied with even one shirt, no remuneration was forthcoming for Mom’s efforts.

Those same hands that made most of our clothes using material selected from the pile of remnants on the bargain basement table at Marshall’s in Barberton, now have difficulty pushing a button on the tv’s remote control because the arthritis in them is so painful.

Mom’s hands have wallpapered, cooked, sewn, crocheted, and knitted for far more years than they haven’t. There is a picture of a flower-patterned, intricately crocheted tablecloth on top of a drop-leaf table in front of which my sister and I are sitting when we were about 4 and 6 years old. Mom had placed a small Christmas tree on top of it, and Christmas icicles were dangling from its branches creating a prism of sparkles behind our heads as the photo is taken. Mom made that decorative piece the year before I was born. Now it graces my own dining-room table.

Those hands that took care of us and once did so many things with such ease falter now trying to push the nurse call button. They can no long push her up from her chair or pull a blanket over her in bed. She’s a little better after all the physical therapy, but not enough.

She tries to lift her left arm so she can use her fingers to utilize the utensils she needs to cut and pick up her food, but it proves difficult. She tries again and it’s hard to watch her struggle and not jump in to help, but we are told not to. It is something she must do herself. The fiberglass cast stretching from her shoulder to just below the first knuckles of her fingers is too heavy to lift with her good arm, which isn’t strong either. The fingers on her good hand shake as she attempts to grab those on her other hand, semi-contained by her cast. I want to cry.

Her entire life has always been a struggle.

For a long while Mom worked hard to get strong enough to go home, and she finally made it. But she threw some clots a few months later and suffered several TIAs. She spends her final five months in Hospice.

I feed her dinner. She cries because her hands and feet ache so badly; most of the time she can’t hold a spoon in her hand. All she wants to do is go home, unable to accept the fact that she isn’t going to make it back.

She doesn’t always recall who I am and sometimes refers to me as “the nice lady who comes to see me every day.” One day she says she hasn’t seen that lady in awhile and wonders where she is, what’s happened to her. She cries because she likes her so much and says “that lady was so nice to me.” She couldn’t make the connection between me and “that lady” and it made me so sad. For her and for me.

But during those five months together, we carved out a mother-daughter relationship I will treasure the rest of my life. I love my mother and have a deeper understanding of her and all she’d been through. I know she had to die; we all do. But I didn’t want her to die alone and spent the last week of her life sleeping beside her – she in her bed, I in the recliner pushed up against it.

I will miss our talks, Mom. Our playful banter, even the tears we shared. I know you’ll miss my dancing (a private joke between us). I hope I brought you a measure of happiness and helped you make the peaceful transition to a better life with Grandma and Aunt Toni who have been waiting for you for so long. And I hope you know, now, how much I have always loved you.

Now I know, for certain, that she loved me, too.

She had to do the dying herself, but I wasn’t going to let her be by herself when she did it. I was there. I kissed her, telling her it was okay to let go. She would be all right, and we would all be okay. She chose to leave this earthy plane later that night as I slept by her side.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. You will always be in my heart.

Your loving daughter, Linda.

“If you can remember me, I will be with you always.” – Isabel Allende

Advertisements

The Earth Beneath Our Feet

Laura and I have done some house-sitting in both California’s exclusive enclave of Montecito, known for the celebrities who live there, and Santa Barbara with its beautiful harbor, the Channel Islands off the coast, and the Pacific Ocean beyond. The city’s backdrop is formed by the Santa Ynez Mountains and its foothills, lit at night by lights from isolated homes dotting their landscape.

Other homes can be seen from the vantage point we occupy on top of one of these foothills, but they are well below the house we are currently minding. Save for the insects, the coyotes, and the sporadic warning of a hissing rattler poised to strike, we are out of easy reach in a realm of total silence.

A few minutes past midnight our first night there, we are awakened by a chorus of frenzied coyotes howling and barking. Within a few seconds everything begins to roll and shake.

It’s a minor earthquake, a tremor. A presentiment of possibly something more, something bigger to come.

Like the earth beneath our feet, relationships are similarly subject to tremors, warning signs that something might be amiss. And it doesn’t always take much to cause that rolling, shaking feeling. Sometimes we are subjected to little “digs” that ordinarily engender a halfhearted laugh, and we move on. But when these become more pointed, too frequent, or are delivered at the wrong time, the brief, deflective chuckle morphs into something less chuckle-worthy and more disturbing. One’s disappointment over this seemingly innocuous form of what feels like bullying should be enough to discourage a repeat of this offense.

And if it doesn’t? If the pattern of bullying or neglect continues, despite one’s pleas for reform? What message does that kind of disregard, and the tremors it causes, send? The underlying problems take on weight and begin feeling more like earthquakes shaking the solid foundations on which one thought they had been standing.

A bit rattled initially, you manage to dismiss it. But it’s disheartening to be summarily dismissed or not taken seriously. To feel that what you want, or you yourself, isn’t important. That your feelings don’t matter at all. Bullies will tell you it’s all “in good fun,” but when they push you to the point of anger, it doesn’t seem very funny, does it? It’s not a punch in the stomach or a derogatory remark, necessarily, but it’s bullying just the same.

If you’re doing or saying something that is clearly not appreciated, why keep doing it?

Disappointment becomes frustration, then anger, and causes a disengagement that takes on a permanence you failed to anticipate. The message you send says 1) you don’t take this seriously, and 2) how the recipient feels about your message isn’t important. That message conveyed may be unintended, but that is the message just the same.

We can’t play with people’s feelings, then say we didn’t mean it.

A tremor is a warning that puts us on notice. Worse things may come if we don’t heed the message it sends. The next time might be one too many. Consecutive incidents chip away at the foundation of your relationship, and each nick requires more effort to overcome the pain it inflicts. The crack becomes a chasm, and you perch on its edge watching everything get sucked into its black hole from which nothing is any longer salvageable. When we fail to heed the warning signs, when we become inattentive to our surroundings and the individuals in them, bad things can – and will – happen.

Last night’s tremor was a reminder that things could have been, and might still get, worse should we fail to do all we can to obviate problems that might arise from our disregard or complacency.

There’s a reason they’re called warning signs.

Up Close and Personal

I have a phobia. Well, okay, so I have more than one. Who doesn’t? And this one is a biggie – SPIDERS. I hate the way their legs move in a stealthy manner wherever they go, always leaving a silken thread to mark their territory. Yes, I know it’s not deliberate in the full sense of that word, but they do creep along one or two legs at a time making them seem all the more…intentional…in their behavior, and I find this supremely troubling.

Just finding one hanging from one of those threads fills me with waves of anxiety. Yes, I do scream on occasion because I’m startled. Like, almost every time. And I feel them sometimes when they’re not even there – but might be. Go ahead and call me a scaredy-cat. Sticks and stones may break my bones but, as the saying goes, names will never hurt me. Spiders might, though. You never know.

I’d like to blame Stephen King for my inordinate fear, but I was afraid of spiders long before I ever heard of him. He was having nightmares about spiders whose webs he turned into gold while my fear was fine-tuned by personal experience, not dreams that blew away like dusty, old cobwebs when the sun rose in the morning.

I went swimming this morning, clocking in at just over a mile which I do at least once a week. Even while I’m counting laps, my mind chases words and ideas around and I must juggle the two (or three or four) simultaneously. Mental gymnastics that work sometimes but not others. This morning I wasn’t focused on anything. Just enjoying a forest of trees on the other side of the massive windows and watching the sun rise to pour its light over the water and play on its surface.

After my shower, I reach in my locker to retrieve my gym bag, and that’s when I see it. A small spider suspended in mid-air a couple of inches from the inside of my elbow. Way too close for comfort. Jumping back, I barely suppress a scream, and a woman in front of the mirror asks “What’s the matter?”

It’s a mosquito, I say – more to make myself believe it than to convince her. I needed to believe that’s what it was, but there was something about the way it moved when I moved. As if my movement away from it drew the air it was in, toward me. It, like a spider rather than a mosquito, was moving with me and in my direction.

You can imagine my dismay.

Jumping back a step, I almost fall over the bench behind me while watching it move in mid-air laterally across the row of lockers before disappearing, its color an effective camouflage against the grayish, nondescript lockers providing its backdrop. A mosquito would do that. Setting my bag down on the bench, I looked it over carefully but didn’t want to set alarms bells ringing in the woman who was saying she could deal with a spider better than a mosquito because she was “a mosquito magnet” and always getting bitten.

Still, better a mosquito than a spider, I’m thinking. Hurriedly grabbing her things, she leaves, and I’m left to fight the battle with myself and the spider/mosquito on my own.

As I was drying my hair I kept wondering where he/she/it (covering the PC bases here) had gone, though I doubt much that he/she/it would care one way or the other. Was it too much to ask that it not be there when I turned around and gathered my things to leave?

Getting into my car, I set my bag on the seat at the same time scanning it and everything else, just in case I’d missed it somehow. I’ve heard of people having a car wreck because of finding a spider in the car, and honestly, I could envision that happening to me, too. I wanted no surprises once I was on the road.

You always have to worry when you’re in the car because spiders, pregnant ones, have the ability to find their way in via the vents, if nowhere else. And if they give birth inside – well, you can guess the rest. This happened to my daughter Laura once when she and a friend got in her car and turned on the defrost, blasting hundreds of baby spiders out of the defroster and onto the windshield (on the inside, naturally) which said spiders chose to ascend, crawling onto the roof above their heads, and – that’s right – dropping down on those glistening threads while Laura and Anna were swatting at them left and right and having hysterics which who knows how many people witnessed in that parking lot at Chapel Hill. They spent the trip home gazing at the roof instead of the street and were lucky to make it back in one piece.

An apartment I once had in an old house a long time ago had a nest of spiders, too. When those babies were hatched, were born, or whatever, I, Ms. Scaredy-Cat, suffered a full-on case of paranoia in that awful moment of clarity that began when I saw tiny little white figures writhing on my dark blue comforter. I couldn’t understand at first, but with great trepidation, looked upward and found hundreds more wending their way down on those ropes of silken threads.

Spiders are insidious creatures. Just last week I opened the trunk of my car to put something in it only to find an even bigger, uglier, more purposeful spider doing somersaults from the trunk’s lid as I raised it. I’m sprouting goosebumps just from the memory of it as I write this. It curled up its multiple legs/tentacles, seemingly independent of each other, and rolled itself into a loose ball before letting itself down a bit on its silver thread (matching the color of my car, I noted, which would have made it harder to see if the trunk interior hadn’t been black). Then it began swinging back and forth.

A nightmare in broad daylight.

Stephen King wrote a lot of his stories based on his childhood nightmares, and spiders prominently figured in at least two of them – It, a novel, and “The Mist,” a short story/novella in Skeleton Crew. If spiders didn’t bother you before, read these and they will now. Have a big can of bug spray (FYI: they make some specifically for spiders) and a roll of paper towels at the ready, too. I never use Kleenex tissues for vanquishing enemy spiders unless I have nothing else, and even then I grab at least 7 or 8 of them so I won’t be able to feel them through the layers of Kleenex.

Some of you might be wondering if I’ve ever seen that stellar film, Arachnophobia. Surely, you jest.

And for the record, I don’t do snakes either.

Free To Be You and Me

As we are living in the world where the constraints placed on us by the past are loosening and falling away, we are becoming a freer you and me than ever before.

One notable portion of this genesis was Marlo Thomas’s Free To Be You and Me promoting the idea of a post-1960s gender neutrality, with its emphasis on individuality, tolerance, and being comfortable with who we are. Its main message being we are all capable of great things, and one’s gender should not be a factor in achieving those things. There was a time, and not all that long ago, that we weren’t free to be whatever we wanted. No. Not an option. Yet while we have moved forward, we’ve still got “a ways to go.”

Just this morning on Meet the Press – March 20, 2016 there was a discussion about Hillary Clinton’s orating skills. She’s accused of not smiling, having an “angry-looking” face, sounding harsh and loud, and being “pushy” when she speaks. I’m no fan of Hillary but does this seem like a rejection of gender stereotypes to you? I haven’t heard anyone invoking similar kinds of stereotypes about the male rhetoric in the current bid for the presidency. Despite the fact that demerits have been earned by Marco Rubio for his child-like looks, Ted Cruz for his scary, weird, almost unnatural face, and Donald Trump for his outlandish comb-over and unvarnished hatred for just about everyone and everything not “Trumpian,” these are not gender stereotypes. Low blows, certainly, however.

Free to be You and Me is about changing long-standing perceptions at the outset, enabling children to grow up thinking differently right from the start.

And what about the elderly? Will that change the existing stereotypes of them, too? One doesn’t hear much rhetoric about this demographic group that has seemingly outlived its usefulness, unless the topic has to do with the latest innovations in nursing home technologies. There was a time when the elderly were respected as contributing members of both the family and the community. Their wise counsel was sought and appreciated. They were cared for at home by family. Not warehoused until they died – often alone, ignored, with few if any visitors, except for the occasional over-worked social worker briefly checking in before moving on to someone else.

That particular portrait of the elderly is beginning to change, but far too many are still treated like children, thought unable to handle their own affairs, and viewed as dependent. They often get dismissed, are judged differently and under-valued accordingly, and assumed to be too old to be useful. And while some of them might be those things, many are quite capable of contributing to on-going conversations that require more than a modicum of intelligence.

One so often hears, particularly in restaurants,  “terms of endearment” usually reserved for children, directed at the elderly patron. What’ll you have dear? Thanks sweetie. Or Hi honey, and sometimes an aside to a fellow server:  “Isn’t she cute.” To talk that way to an adult is neither cute nor endearing. Rather, it is both demeaning and insulting, even if it’s not intended that way.

This is an issue that is fast-becoming more important as our aging population continues to outpace those rising in the ranks behind it.

The elderly are like any other group of individuals for whom identification – from birth announcements to obituaries – is age-based. And let’s not forget that age is but “a number” – not sum and substance of what the individual knows, thinks, says, or can or can’t do. It’s a number – it does not define who someone is.

At 75 my grandmother was riding her bicycle – a coaster-brake bike, no less – all over Barberton. A woman ahead of her time in many ways.

Redefining our approach to this issue may be our only saving grace. And how we treat the elderly in our own families, in our neighborhoods, and in every other aspect of our lives as we encounter them may well determine what kind of care and consideration we are accorded when we reach that numerical era ourselves.

Dealing with the elderly can be frustrating, but so is dealing with unruly teenagers or smart-mouthed 20-somethings who, as we are all aware, know everything. Only with age do we begin to absorb the lessons others have to teach us because we tend to become more open to listening later in life. At least we used to be. No one seems to be listening to anyone anymore (a topic I’ve dealt with before), and in this regard, the elderly often have no recourse but to capitulate. To accept their fate.

Grandma never accepted “the inevitable.” If she wanted something, she had to fight for it. And fight for it she would.

Why should older people be treated differently just because they are older? White hair, wrinkles and hobbled postures need not be synonymous with a wizened brain, physical incapacity, or mental deterioration. We all want to be who we want to be, not conform to the preconceived notions of others.

Celebrate who we are. Celebrate all we can be in every hour given us. Only then will “you and me be free to be you and me” – whatever our ages.

Offerings

Against the dusky blue backdrop a hawk spreads its wings and glides in sweeping figure-eights back and forth across the sky at the onset of twilight. The figure-eights revolve as if gliding along an unseen disk moving slowly in a circular pattern like the top of the CN Tower in Toronto or the Space Needle in Seattle. It’s a pattern so smooth – in perpetual motion like a gyroscope.

The stars my father loved to look at, telling me about the stars, the planets. How they moved about. What they depicted. How far away they were and what they might signify. They spoke to him, drew him into discussions about astronomy, life, death. Where do we go? What happens after?

A child’s smile. Some children don’t, and you are grateful yours do. So sad for the others, it sometimes makes you cry. You cry for happiness when yours smile, when they laugh, when they comfortably lean into your body as you tell them a story, asking questions, thinking of the characters in the stories as real people. Like them: worried sometimes, fearful, brave, happy, sad. We are all the same. None of us alone.

A pile of clothes covers the bed. You’ve not worn them in forever and are giving them to someone you don’t even know who needs them. They will not be required to pay anything and the gift will be anonymous. You have washed and folded them neatly because it’s important and the doing of this will make the recipient(s) feel the importance you recognize they have to someone else. They will not be invisible, not to someone, not to you.

A grandchild who feels wanted, whose life is cherished. A child who wants nothing more than to be wrapped in the comfort of your arms to watch television, to be read to, to be sung to, to be rocked to sleep in safety. To be acknowledged in any way as being loved and cared about. Too many are important to no one.

An unusual bouquet of brittle, dead leaves that have lost their beautiful autumn colors because they were picked off the ground just before snow began to fall. You are careful to arrange them in a small vase so they don’t crumble to bits too soon. Your little one knows you love these pretty things, even if he’s not as discerning about which leaves it is you love. Here, he says, I picked these for you, Mommy. And you love them, love him, because he did.

An adult child who has blossomed into the most beautiful flower. Who has overcome the most difficult obstacles set in her path at almost every turn. She has survived, more than survived. She has opened her petals in the warm face of the sun. Bright, beautiful colors reflect the light within her. She shines though she thinks herself a useless weed with nothing to offer the lovely, fragrant garden that surrounds her.

A lost love, remembered and forever cherished for the ways in which his love helped you find your true self. With gifts of kindness, tenderness, intensity, and passion that knew who you were before you did.

A friend who loves you as you are. Imperfect. Flawed. You can tell her anything. Every terrible thing you’ve ever thought, or done, and she will love you the same tomorrow as she does today. She will care. She will listen. She will be there when you need her, drop everything to listen, to help. To show you she cares. And you will do the same for her.

Standing at the top of a snow-capped mountain in the Alps, awestruck by the stark, quiet beauty of the surrounding landscape, the crisp air, the height from which everything below you is there yet can’t be discerned because you are thousands of feet above it all.

Walking along the lowest point of Death Valley, its unrelenting heat radiating in ephemeral waves off the sand dunes, the roads, the vistas, silent save for wind gusts that stir the sand and heat under a blistering sun. Unprotected skin burns in no time at all. You thirst. You can barely breathe in this insufferable clime. So beautiful it takes your breath away. You stand there to feel it, to think about it. You don’t want to leave. You want to return in the spring when it comes alive with desert blossoms.

Guaranasia, Brazil. A place of love and laughter, of friendships both old and new made in several different languages, two of which you can communicate. The others you manage with hand gestures. So much fun. New experiences, new foods, altered landscapes. Parrots in the wild. Ant hills the size of small huts. Friendly, welcoming people in the town of a very close friend who is getting married that weekend. Different from any other place and wonderful in the best of ways. A place, and people, forever remembered.

Driving alongside the Rhine. Ancient castles, long past the point of keeping hoards of inhospitable, plundering armies at bay, dot mountaintops along the river’s edge. Ancient towns with ancient histories. So much to be learned from yesterday. And today.

Truly beautiful things are not to be hoped for in the dawn of a new year but rather in things given little if any thought in the course of a busy day. A tape recording thought lost. A beloved grandmother’s voice singing a Slovenian lullaby to her great-grandchildren. Her soft, lilting voice a comfort, a joy. Sorely missed, even after 41 years.

Slow down. Take time. Remove those earplugs from your ears and stop talking, if only for a while. Allow quiet moments into your life. Moments to recognize, to think, to reflect. To relish what the smallest things have to offer.

We Don’t Remember Days, We Remember Moments

We don’t remember days, we remember moments

Ed on his motorcycle. Ed working on his truck. Ed having a burger and a beer at the bar. Ed laughing with friends. Ed listening to country music at the Jamboree in the Hills.

Ed telling stories in the way only he could tell them.

There was Ed the philosopher, Ed the scientist, Ed the astronomer, Ed the computer whiz, and Ed the chef. He knew something about seemingly everything, and in most cases more than just a little something.

Ed had a dry sense of humor and often dispensed sound advice based on his uncanny ability to get to the root of a problem by stripping it to its essentials with the precision of an expertly handled machete.

We remember moments. “There is no death…People die only when we forget them…If you can remember me I will be with you always.” – Isabel Allende, Eva Luna

I know I have my “Ed Moments.” There was never a time when Ed was in my kitchen that he didn’t have a tip for me about everything from cream puffs to glazed carrots and all manner of foods in between. Dawn and I were frantically trying to get the glazed carrots to “glaze” for a holiday party and he came in, asking what we were trying to do, and said we were using the wrong kind of pan. “The saucepan is steaming the carrots,” he said, adding that a frying pan should have been used instead.

He and I went to the movies and out to eat a few times over the last few weeks, and each time he talked about his childhood, saying he was “kind of a loner and buried {himself} in books” as a child. That’s when his love of science and astronomy began to develop.

In his mid to late teens, he took care of his ailing parents over several years with love and the patience one expects of older individuals. And though it took some time, he saved the money to buy them a joint headstone etched with woods, deer, and a lake because his mother so loved these things. He never complained – he just did what needed to be done, a trait that served him well throughout his abbreviated life.

In these last months, Ed watched Laura take charge of his care, relying on her research skills and ability to converse with his doctors from a knowledge base most lay people don’t have. It was a side of her he’d not witnessed before, one he respected, admired, and cherished. Even though he wasn’t pain free, he managed with Laura’s encouragement and help.

And her love for him.

I believe Ed found strength, too, in the warm embrace of friends, He enjoyed being with those who visited and texting messages to those who called because his vocal cords were severely compromised. He loved being with all of you, feeling cared about, and giving back what he could, “being useful,” as he put it. One day I found him putting together some computerized thing and bemoaning the fact that the company hadn’t sent all the parts, but it felt so good to be doing something helpful for someone else. He continued to help others with whatever he could and to be a part of life around him.

He worried a lot about Laura, whom he loved and trusted completely. He worried about what all this was doing to her. We talked about a lot of things, every conversation ending with Laura. Ed’s first thoughts were always about others. He was generous and kind and never hesitated to give of himself, or his time.

It’s hard to think of any death, especially one that comes too soon as a result of something as invasive and heinous as cancer, as a good death, but it brought Ed and Laura closer together than they had ever been. For that I am as grateful as I know they both were.

24584_415827940209_3134054_n

Laura and Ed did get to Los Angeles, unfortunately during the worst rains California had seen in a long time, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and the infamous “Area 51.” Even though they didn’t get to take one last trip together, Ed had the woman he loved – and that’s what mattered most to him.

Ed was a cherished flower in our family’s garden. I loved him like a son – and I will miss him more than I can say.

“This flower, too, will fade and be no more” – unless we remember what it looked like, how it blew in the wind, and how lovely was the scent it left in its wake when it was prematurely plucked from its stem.

Laura has set up a site for donations for a memorial for Ed at http://www.youcaring.com/edward-grether-421348 where you will find more information about him and his life.

What We Keep With Us

The epitome of the cool guy in denim jeans and a black leather jacket stares at me from the photo in my hand, his thick dark hair just touching the top of his ears. This was one of several pictures of Bill that one of his brothers gave me a year-and-a-half ago. His shirt is open at the collar (even then a button-down) with his head cocked to one side in a relaxed sort of way, giving him a slightly disheveled look. The clothing struck me as “not very Bill,” though, and it took a while to determine whether it was, in fact, Bill’s son. The Bill I know is intense, doesn’t wear his hair “ that long” (at least not now), decries the wearing of jeans, and owns a leather jacket he almost never wears. Young Bill is, was, super easy-going. If anyone could “go with the flow,” young Bill was that man.

I was only able to make a positive ID by locating the Bill in my hand geographically – when he was on summer break from William & Mary working at an archeological dig in Montana. The tent and landscape behind him confirmed it – and the fact that young Bill didn’t even exist back then. But they could have passed for twins.

Young Bill, only 45, died unexpectedly five years ago today, May 9th. It was a Sunday, Mother’s Day.

There is so much to say – and really nothing one can say except that he is greatly missed. He is remembered. And loved so much.

The weight of moments he will never have, the milestones his daughters, Stephanie and Megan, will face without him, the moments he might have had that will never be filled, will never expand, will fail to become.

But each of us carries the Bill that was within us, the version we hold in a special corner of our hearts. He was loving, generous, kind, and forgiving. A good man who loved his family and cared about others. That Bill will always be young. Always remembered. Missed. Loved.

As I go through the photo album, there’s Bill with his teenage son, and I marvel at the resemblance. Young Bill looked “cool,” like his father did at that age, though his hair at the time was longer and curly and his father’s nowhere near his ears by this time. Losing a child, no matter how old that child is, has to be the worst thing that can ever happen to a parent. Parents are supposed to go first; that’s the natural order of things. Then the parent lives on in his/her child – in manner, in look, and in so many other ways. And young Bill will live on in Stephanie and Megan in ways they can’t foresee right now.

The proverbial torch will not be passed from father to son in this case, but neither will it be extinguished. We still have his children to nurture, to love, to stand beside as they achieve one milestone after another. We will stand in for, if not beside, their father when they graduate, marry, have children of their own.

And when we do, we will not forget the son and father whose absence will always leave an ache in our hearts – as long as we remember him.

We will not forget you, Bill. Not ever.