what i write about when i write about missing home

December 23, 2011

Day three  on antibiotics and I am rejoining the living. Slowly. Left the house. Saw lots of people I did not know. Came back home.

I am feeling encouraged by the sun and the brief company of strangers.

Christmas makes me miss Indiana and also makes me a little nostalgic for the past. For instance, I was thinking of my grandmother this morning. She died this past April, several months after her 100th birthday. It was a long decline that started in earnest at least 7 or 8 years ago and for a while it pushed out the ability to see her any other way except declining.

But recently I’ve been thinking of her the way I knew her best — her hair permed, her house immaculate, cooking, cleaning, and watching TV with her leg swung over the arm of her big, black leather lazy boy.

My grandmother loved car trips. She loved to garden. She loved to play cards. She was a good cook. She made the best fudge. She made the best apple dumplings. She made the best chocolate pie. She liked Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. She watched Lawrence Welk and HeeHaw on TV. She saved paper bags and margarine tubs. She baked her Christmas cookies ahead of time and then hid them in her house, even when there were no longer kids or grand kids sneaking around to try and find them. She was a good whistler.  She was a terrible driver. She wore Estee Lauder perfume. She wore clip on earrings. She wore a thin and delicate watch on her left wrist. She ironed her sheets. She always made her bed. She liked hard candy. She drunmed her fingers on table tops and arm rests and the outside of her purse. She had good china. She had good silver. She told us grand kids to “sit up straight” and called us “kiddo.” She made sweet tea.

Which is what I was thinking about this morning. I was about thinking about my Grandmother getting ready to have everybody over on Christmas and picturing her standing at her kitchen counter, pouring boiled water from her kettle into her teapot, the 7 or so bags of Lipton tea squeezed under the lid.


there & back

April 15, 2011

I’m back from the shortest trip home I’ve ever taken. It was kind of intense and much sadder than I had expected, although I’m not really sure what I was thinking would happen. The sadness stems from lots of things, but mostly I think it’s about getting older and time passing and living a couple thousand miles away from my family and being part of how some people cope with some things and being totally apart from how other people cope with other things. And of course there’s just plain old grief over someone I loved so much dying.

The funeral was sincere and straightforward and heartfelt. The songs were perfect. Heartbreaking but perfect. I could barely sing for crying. And the eulogies were so personal and moving. My uncles and my mom did an amazing job of planning a service that was about all of us and my grandmother, which is really hard to do and I’m incredibly grateful they did it. They made  rituals matter in a personal way. For instance, I was one of the pall bearers and it meant a lot to me that my family was willing to break with tradition to include me in that. I can’t articulate why, but I really wanted to help carry my grandmother’s casket to her burial plot.

Other things happened too while I was home. Even when someone dies there’s not just death. There was the sound of thunder and seeing lightening from the plane and the sunny skies the next day, with the temperature rising to almost 80 degrees. My mom and I got to spend a big chunk of time alone together and it’s been a while since we’ve done that. We ate at Steak and Shake and did errands and we laughed at ourselves a lot. I also got to go to my Aunt and Uncles 50th wedding anniversary and see all my cousins on my mom’s side and hang out with Ty and have lunch with my dad’s oldest cousin, Pattie and her son John and his wife Becky. Pattie called everyone deary, which seemed very sweet. We talked about family history and they told some stories I’d not heard before.

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two moyers and a fritchman

June 21, 2010

2 Moyers and a Fritchman

Originally uploaded by proteanme

I traded in celebrating Pride in Portland to spend time with my family at the coast. That wasn’t the original plan, but long story short, that’s what happened and here we are. Or there we are.

I missed Pride, but not as much as I thought I would and the family time was good. It was the first time my mom, sister and me have been together since my dad died. We are all a little softer with each other these days. There’s more give between us now, which is welcome. We enjoyed one stunning day of sunshine and warm air and then then rain came back in all it’s relentless oppression.

It always seems so poignant to stand anywhere on the Oregon coast, which some people call the beach, but I just can’t because I associate beaches with warm water, sun tan lotion, bikinis, et al, and that is not the shore line in Oregon. Anyway, I stand on the beach and think to myself, I’m standing at some point on the end of the continent. having grown up in the middle of the country, that still seems kind of exotic to me.

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the life part of life and death

February 13, 2009

Everyone in my family is grieving differently, although my sister and I share a little more common ground in that we both are my father’s children and that legally it has been our responsibility to take care of the business of his death. I have to stop sometimes and imagine my mom’s grief. My father was the only man my mom was married to and after they divorced they remained friends.  She knew him for something like 56 years. And she likely knows as much about his life as anyone, even as he part and parceled it out amongst various groups of people over the course of his 83 years.  In many ways she is like his widow. The last time we were all together as a family was to celebrate a milestone of being alive — my mom’s 75th birthday. My dad spent a good chunk of time with us during our short visit.  And that was sweet. It felt good, that family feeling.

I also celebrated a personal milestone this week. After putting in some crazy hours for the last month and a half, we launched a redesign of my work’s website.  Our brand has a new point of view and the photography is really the star piece. This is the first time I’ve seen my own design work go live such a big project. To be fair I worked in closely with the Art Director, but the concept was largely driven by me. And of course I wrote some ass kicking CSS/XHTML.  It was incredibly satisfaying work.  Incredibly. Satisfying.


day seven, eight and nine

January 26, 2009

Day seven was about making day six’es phone calls except I had the right SS#.  And then there was this nice visit with my sister, who already had plans to be in town for my niece’s volleyball tournament, which was the best part of day seven and eight. It’s fun to watch my niece turn into a bad ass on the court. And it pleases me to know she read an email I sent to my sister extolling that exact sentiment in a heartfelt, “right the fuck on!” My niece liked that email so much she got my sister to print it out and taped the message to her wall. Then, at my sister’s request before I left the tournament, when I said good-bye to my niece, I lowered my voice and said, “that last play, right the fuck on.” My niece smiled so big and replied, “thank you.” Best damn part of day eight, the one week anniversary of my dad dying.

I left the tournament and spent the rest of day eight in bed. Feeling sick and incredibly tired. I know it could be stressed induced, but whatever. I feel better today, day nine, which is really the beginning of week two. The second week of living with a dead father. Death has not cut through the complexity of my relationship with my father. It’s added a new layer full of details I only guessed at what it would be like to deal with.  Funeral homes, coroners, financial statements, attorneys, sheriffs, and on and on and on.

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life on life’s terms

January 18, 2009

Or not. Unless we’re talking the wh0le shebang. As in life’s beginning and end.

And that’s what we’re talking about.

Right now as I’m typing I’m pretty sure my sister is talking with the Marion County Coroner who has emailed my sister a photo of my dad’s tattooed arm so that she can identify my dad’s body. Apparently there was a fire at my dad’s house this morning. Firefighters found him. He was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

It’s been an hour or two since I started this post. My sister made the ID. Then she called me after wards. She said the coroner was incredibly nice to her. I asked my sister to send me the photo of my dad’s arm and she did. I needed to see him. Get his death in my mind more concretely. I am so far away and my dad was mostly absent from my life even without all this geographical distance. Add onto that the suddenness of it his death and it was just getting to abstract. I don’t know if this is the right place to air these thoughts. But I think I just want to be witnessed. The experience of having him in my life was not known to many folks and I don’t want his passing to have the same kind of loneliness.

When I was talking to my sister today she told me the sweetest story about my dad comforting her once as a kid when she was sad and angry with him. It was a little heartbreaking, the story she told me, but I was grateful for the tenderness of it.  I think my sister and I both harbored secret fantasies that maybe one day we’d have some heartfelt conversation with our dad about his absence in our lives. It never happened; now, it never will. I was trying to think of my last conversation with my dad. I talked to him on the phone maybe twice a year and it was usually around the holidays. But this Christmas he was sick and we didn’t connect, so that means the last time I talked to him was before the holidays. I think that was when we were talking about this Byzantine church he goes to and I asked him if I could go with him the next time I came home. And he said, “I dunno.” And when I pressed him on it he said,”I gotta go.”

I miss him. I always have.

Thank you all for being my witness here. It means the world to me.