Today is my birthday, I am 47 years old. This last year has been a struggle, of work and love and family. As this week was winding down I couldn’t help but think about the people that I miss.
When I was 15/16 years old in the span of 18 months someone, and I say someone because the great God would not have been so unkind as to do this. Took my world, spun it on its head and shook it until all the pieces were jumbled. Like a jigsaw puzzle missing some integral pieces, the special corner or edge ones that without them the puzzle just doesn’t hold together anymore.
The first spin was my Grampie, my Dad’s Father. I was his angel, and I knew it. He and my Jama lived in town so he was always helping my Dad with something, and I got to tag along. To the hardware store and the lumberyard. Even up on top of the roof when they were shingleing one year. It was then I realized I was afraid of heights. Grampie helped me down.
Grampie had always had heart problems, and now his heart was really beginning to fail him. He was in the UCONN Medical CTR more than an hr away. But he wouldn’t give up his cigarettes. They were just a part of who he was. I learned to drive at night, no license, no learners permit coming back from the Medical Ctr, driving while dad slept. Those were way different times. Finally not only did his heart fail, all the rest of his organs too. And my special Grampie was gone. I have never seen such a big funeral in my life. For the after party we had a bartender, because you know the Irish love to drink. I couldn’t understand how everyone could drink and laugh when all I could do was cry??
The second spin was my Nana, the woman that I absolutely adored was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was a whirling dervish. A tiny woman, no more than 5 feet tall and under 100 lbs, she was never still. She wore out an Electrolux Vacuum Cleaner, 1 spec of crumb or dirt and she vacuumed the whole house. She was given a year to live at the time of diagnosis, but fought them all and lived 16 months.
Shortly after diagnosis Nana told Mom and I all the things in the house worth keeping and what was just pretty. She refused to let us be blind to the fact that this disease was going to take her life. As she got sicker and sicker my Senior Prom was approaching, there was nothing more she wanted to see than me in my dress. She was on a lot of pain meds, but made the nurses withhold them for the day. So that she could be lucid. My boyfriend and I went to see her before Prom. She was so happy, she gave me the engagement ring that my Pop gave her. Saying she wouldn’t need it anymore. It is a pretty purple topaz in a silver filigree setting. I think I will wear it today in honor of her.
A month later she was gone and I felt like someone had pulled the rug out from me. Like I was on Alladin’s Flying Carpet. In mid air, but I was falling, not flying at all. That funeral is a total blur, no bartender, she didn’t want anything. Left us specific instructions not to wear black, she hated it. To wear bright colors, and if we wore black she would come back and haunt us.!!
Her passing left my Pop all alone. He came to this country at 19 from Scotland, with $25.00 in his pocket, long pants made by his tailor father and his family kilt. He was an athletic trainer at some of the private schools. He could give a great massage, and work out the knots and kinks like no one else.
When my Nana died she left him alone with his demons his bottles of vodka, he had them hidden everywhere. He hadn’t driven for years when Nana was alive due to his bad eyes. He had cataract surgery and his first journey was to the package store. He was a lifelong alcoholic and without her life was not living. He took her mid 70’s Ford LTD on a pakkie run as us kids would have said. After a couple of near misses, the man hadn’t driven in years we took his car away. So as a true Yankee he found a way.. The riding lawnmower became his mode of transport.
My mom cooked meals for him, but I am sure as soon as she left, the meals went in the trash and the bottle came back out. He didn’t want to live without her. They were eachothers half and it was as if someone buried him when they buried her.
I was a freshman in college when my mother called to tell me he was in the hospital and I needed to come home. I grabbed a bag and began tossing clothes in it. Clothes for a week..a dress for a funeral. A skirt and a blouse for the wake. Heels for both, and appropriate jewelry. I had danced this dance before. My roommate said you will be back, he will be fine. I knew otherwise, my mom would not have called me home if it wasn’t urgent.
He was gone by the time I got home. Dead of a massive internal hemorrhage brought on by cirrhosis of the liver. All that alcohol finally caught up with him. But he got his way, 9 months to the day after my Nana was gone and 1 week after his 75th birthday he joined her.
He wrote his own obituary, left us money for the funeral and money for the party. He wanted bagpipes at his gravesite..to take him home to Scotland. I wanted those bagpipes to bring him back. To summon my Nana too, but no matter how hard I wished and prayed with my eyes scrunched closed they didn’t come back.
What I wish for now is that they could have seen me grow up, that they all could have seen me graduate from High School, College and with my MBA. That they could have danced at my wedding, met their great-grandsons. Who are now almost grown men, I am thinking they would be pretty proud of what I have accomplished since they left this earth. But I do know that not a day goes by that I don’t miss one of them.