2016 - what a year! There were so many amazing high points, but I'm ready to close this book and start a new one. My step-dad passed away a few weeks ago and that took me right back to 1994 when my dad died. That grief shit is no joke...it's a moving target and just when you think you've got it handled, it shifts around and you're left sobbing on the shower floor. This time, it's even harder than when I was a teenager. This time I have to pick myself up, wipe the tears away, and help my children navigate their own grief. I've held my mom's hand through this before and I've navigated my own way - but this parenting through grief is an entirely new territory for me. And in case you were wondering, it absolutely sucks!
A box was delivered yesterday. It was our family Christmas present from my mom and step dad - let's just call them Grandma and Grandpa since that's what they are called at our house. I needed to take some time before opening it. Today is Sunday and we opened the box today. I prepared for what I was going to say and how I was going to use this as a teachable moment. The presents had been carefully chosen when Grandpa thought he would be sitting with us watching as we opened each box. The thought brought me to tears and reminded me of so many feelings I had stuffed through the years.
As if he had known, Grandpa Lee chose the cardinal as the theme for this years gift(s). Each family would receive a large box and in it they would find 3 smaller boxes:
A Christmas cardinal thermometer and snow gauge
A set of 3 Christmas cardinal yard stakes
A Christmas cardinal magnetic cover for the dishwasher
The Cardinal symbolizes vitality and creativity and I can't think of a better reminder of Grandpa Lee. He could take someone else's junk and turn it into something amazing. His body had grown old the last few years, but his eyes would sparkle as he told stories about road trips with his children when they were young, teaching Sunday school and disciplining students in most unusual ways, and times he had found this deal or that deal while thrifting.
Grandpa Lee could make you feel special with just a few words. He would notice a new hair cut, make up technique, or my favorite was a few months ago when he said "you know what? your house never smells like a farm house". He had noticed how much pride I took in keeping the house clean and that was his way of letting me know. He didn't say much. He enjoyed listening to people. I'm pretty sure that's why he bought a bar. I'm confident he didn't do it to make money. I think the bar to him was like my kitchen is to me. A warm place where friends can gather and feel safe sharing their thoughts and feelings.
We carefully opened each box and talked about Grandpa Lee. Then we had icecream. Grandpa loved icecream and sweets - not nearly as much as he loved his friends and family, but it was right up there. Grandpa Lee loved his bi-weekly summer bonfires. He would close down the tavern and invite everyone and anyone out to "the land" for a meal, a drink, and a bonfire. The food was delicious and plentiful. The stories were endless. I wish I had appreciate this time more. When my 8 year old son talks about the bonfires you would think we had taken him to Disney. As a mom, I saw mosquitos, mud, and dirty laundry. As a little boy, he saw adventures, endless fun, and his smiling grandpa. This time was priceless.
As we move forward, I want the children to remember Grandpa's vitality and his creativity. How he would take a broken mirror and hang the pieces around the firepit to make a sparkly light show. How he saved and sorted junk into good junk, and great junk piles. How he always had a story to go along with whatever chaos you were struggling with in your personal or professional life. How he was never in a hurry - there were times I swore Grandma was going to leave without him because he was listening to one last story, sharing one last laugh, or having a few more sips of the really really hot coffee he enjoyed so much.
...what we wouldn't give for one last story...
Thanks for the good times Grandpa Lee - the candybars, the smiles, the laughter, and thanks for sharing your vitality and creativity.
All Our Love!
You can find Crystal riding unicorns, taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff here and at:http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/