Monday, June 23, 2014

Being Held

Tomorrow at this time I'll be on a plane to California, going home for my dad's memorial service. Last time I flew home hoping to see him, but this time I know he isn't there.

Except that he is always with me now, and I carry him in my heart. But you know what I mean: I will open the door, and he won't be sitting in his beloved chair. He won't get up to give me a hug. He won't drag in my enormous suitcase [a low-maintenance traveler I am not; just ask Brunie: I bring a trunk, she packs everything she needs in a Highlights for Children backpack] while I protest, "Dad! Save your back! I'm young and spry, let me do it!" He won't listen to the story of my trip home [something always happens to me] and guffaw at the absurd parts. [In March, Hertz wouldn't let me rent a car because according to their records, I was 110 years old. "But," said the desk clerk, eying me, "We know that's not true . . . right?" Yeah, I'm very well preserved, lady. Must be all the hooch.] I have had all of these experiences a hundred times, and I will never have them again.

The morning after he died, I got up early and headed to the kitchen to make coffee — and it hit me: When have I ever made coffee in my parents' house and not brought a cup to Dad? (Answer: Never.) And there I was, bawling over the coffeemaker.

There will be little whammys like this all week long, I expect.

I wanted to write a post about the awesomeness of my friends and just how wonderfully kind everyone has been, but I find myself overwhelmed by the hugeness of the topic. Suffice it to say: My friends are awesome. I hear from several of you each day, from all corners of my world. You've been feeding me, offering treats, nourishing my soul. You've written beautiful things, you've shared music with me, you've somehow known exactly what I needed. My dad would be so happy to know that I'm being taken care of.

My dearest old friends Lady Darcy and J are coming to the memorial service, and I can't wait to see them. Dad enjoyed all my girlfriends, and he was at each of their weddings. It will be so great to have old friends there, especially if I need a respite from all family, all the time.

(Both brothers plus wives plus me plus Mom are staying at our parents' house, and I have this feeling that it might get a little . . . intense. But I'm keeping an open mind, also a song in my heart and a skip in my step on the sunny side of the street! Ha.)

The first person speaking at the service is me, which is a daunting responsibility. Here's what I've planned for my opening words:

Good morning.
The poet Mary Oliver once wrote: 

To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
To love what is mortal
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
And when the time comes to let it go
to let it go.

Today we come together to honor and celebrate the life of Gerald Eugene Davis, my dad, who died very peacefully after a brief bout with cancer just one month ago.
During this past month — and especially now, as I look out at all of you who loved my dad — I find myself reflecting on the words “I’m holding you in my heart.” I have said these words many times to people who have endured a loss, and now people are saying them to me. My friend Jane sent a card to me in Chico the weekend that Dad died, and she wrote, “I think that if you look outside, you’ll see a lot of us out there, standing vigil for you, your dad, and your mom,” and that is just what it feels like — like there’s a cushion or a blanket of love and care enveloping me and my mom and my brothers right now. And I want to thank all of you who are holding us in your hearts and giving us this experience of being held. 

*                *                   *                    *

I probably won't post from California, but I'll be back for America's birthday. Send traveling mercies my way, won't you? And please also keep a good thought for the little band of Chardonnays here in Massachusetts, who are also sad, who won't have a memorial service to bring them closure, and who will be missing Wife/Mama a lot next week.


— Lady C

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Look What I Did!

I saw this in Good Housekeeping and fell in love. Twigs, hot glue, a vase with straight sides — how hard could it be? I decided to try to make my own version for Mrs. Cynicletary's birthday.

First I had to make sure I had enough twigs and that they were roughly the same height:

I hot-glued them in place, easy-peasy:

The final touch: a hemp bow and an armful of sunflowers (also some lime mums that I loved and a few branches from my front hedges). Voila!

This may be my new craft. I am so happy with how it turned out!!

(Got a new keyboard today, plus a new resolution to never, never, never drink anything anywhere near my keyboard again. I have made this resolution before, but this time I mean it. Really!!!)

Happy Fathers Day to all who celebrate, and sending tons of love and virtual hugs to those who are missing their dads today. Husband and I worked on Dad's slideshow today, and that was a very perfect way to spend my first Fathers Day without a dad. The slideshow is awesome, Husband is a genius.


— Lady C, artisan craftswoman

Saturday, June 14, 2014

What Dad Would Have Wanted

I've had a couple of really good days. My daddy is smiling on me.

When I got home from California, I decided to take a full week to succumb to grief. Good Neighbor Anne advised:
Try not to have your typical "to do" list for a while.  Or, at least cut it in half (or quarters).
And I thought she was absolutely right. I canceled the two subbing jobs I'd scheduled, and I stayed home and took baths and hugged my kids and my husband and called Mom every day, and was just sad.

But then it was time for re-entry. On Wednesday, I met with my minister for an hour of pastoral care, which was lovely. I brought two pictures of Dad with me, and I told her stories about him and our family, and it was incredibly healing and sweet.

On Thursday I subbed for second grade, the grade I've determined is my favey-fave, and it was total fun. The kids are so cute!! Then I came home and hot-glued a bunch of twigs to a glass vase, to make a fabulous birthday present for Mrs. Cynicletary. 
(I’ve been trying to post pictures of it but I spilled a tiny bit of margarita on my keyboard and now it’s possessed. Stay tuned!)

On Friday, I got up early and walked three miles on the Bike Path!! I realized that I was building this up in my mind to be something scary and insurmountable — the idea of walking far away from home and being trapped somewhere if I re-injured my knee had me paralyzed. But I figured — if I can do zumba, which is way more high-impact than walking, I can certainly take a walk. And worst-case scenario, I can always call for help. So I walked, and it poured rain on me, and it wasn't exactly fun but neither was it horrible, and I was so proud of myself when I did it! My knee definitely got tired and sore, and it took me much longer to walk three miles than it usually does, but hey.

Mrs. Cynicletary and I had a fabby birthday lunch (her birthday is May 30, but I was in California), and we laughed and cried together, and she let me talk about my dad for hours and hours. She lost her own dear dad several years ago, we are in this terrible club together (with Brunie and Good Neighbor Anne and J and Zanzibar and too many more friends to count).

This weekend, my goal is to finish the handout about my dad that we're inserting in the program at the memorial service, finish writing what I'm going to say (my brothers and I are all speaking at the service), and help Husband finish the slide show — pictures and music from Dad's life. We are also going to celebrate my darling husband on Fathers Day, because he is a wonderful father and deserves to be celebrated. My kids are so lucky.

Nurse Kathy just stopped by with a sympathy card — "and," she says, "some sympathy wine and cheese and crackers." Last week, Mrs. Cynicletary and her boss, Sweet Shy Bob, sent me flowers in various shades of purple, my favorite color, and Writer Jenny brought me yummy banana bread, which we feasted on all week, and a bottle of fancy champagne, which my imagination has been feasting on all week. The bread, she says, is Jewish tradition; the hooch, not so much, but knowing me, knowing how I talk about my dad, she suspected it would be welcome.

My friends are amazing. So far, I am using quotes from two of you — J and Michele, Oasis of Calm — in my memorial service remarks. I am so lucky and so blessed with true and wonderful friends.

As was my dad. Almost every day, Mom tells me about some new act of kindness. As you can imagine, it's hard for me to be so far away from her right now, and it makes me so happy to know that people are taking care of her.

And I am trying to take care of myself. I get a good night's sleep every night, I'm back in the exercise groove, I'm eating fresh produce and fiber like it's the latest thing. My dad would be proud of me.

Time to take Li'l Martini to a sleepover at HoneyBear's house. My kids are doing okay; they're used to having Grandpa be far away, so Heaven, California, whatever, it doesn't feel all that different to them right now. When we visit Grandma this August and Grandpa isn't there — that will hit them hard, I predict.

Ham-onion-Swiss omelets for dinner tonight. Yum!

— Lady C, grieving and coping in New England

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Anniversary of Suck

Last Sunday, Mom said, "Should we do something at 2:05?" "Yes!" I said, having no idea what she was talking about. But that marked the time that Dad had been gone exactly one week. By coincidence (or perhaps not — the insight and wisdom of my boy cousins is impressing me more and more), my youngest boy cousin stopped by right then. He cracked open a beer, I poured a wine for me and Mom, we lit a candle and put Billy Eckstine on the CD player, and we all toasted my dad and shared a moment together.

Today, back in Arlington, I was talking to Mom on the phone and said, "Are you marking 2:05 in some way?" She said, "Yes, I'm pouring a glass of something, toasting your father, and thinking of you doing the same thing in Boston." I was cooking dinner (it was 5:05 my time), but I refilled my sangria glass, brought a picture of Dad into the kitchen, lit a candle, and toasted.

In the meantime, my youngest boy cousin texted me a photo of Jerry Duck, the namesake baby duckling born the day after Dad died. I think my youngest boy cousin is looking out for me, which is so sweet. (In the photo, Jerry Duck is checking out a shapely girl chicken, which sounds just about right.)

Every day I wake up and it hits me: "I don't have a DAD." At church today, one friend told me that it will be that way for a while, then it won't be that way every day, and then it will hit me at random times. It's already hitting me at random times, like when I saw a newspaper review of a new TV reality show pitting toddlers against each other in things like block-stacking and coloring, as their parents cheer them on. This is just the kind of (gross) (ridiculous) thing I would have cut out and mailed to Dad, and I cried and cried because I had no one to send it to. But then I thought — I have a dozen people to send it to, and I'll add a Post-It saying "Wouldn't Dad have laughed/groaned at this?!" And that is one way I'll keep him, and his particular appreciation for the absurd, alive and close to me.

Tonight while I cooked I listened to the soundtrack from Kiss Me, Kate, one of my dad's favorite shows. I love listening to music he loved, because it helps me feel closer to him, wherever he is. And this afternoon my dear friend Writer Jenny came by and listened to me talk for a long time, which was lovely. I find myself telling the story of his final days over and over, and it's getting easier. I think I'm coming to peace with it.

Tomorrow my goal is to finish writing what I'll say at his memorial service and the two-page handout we're inserting in the program. Once I've finished that I'll post it here, so you can all get to know my dad a little bit better as well.

He was a great dad, but he was also a really great guy — witty, charming, and debonair, a consummate and gracious host, a generous and kind friend. He leaves an enormous hole in this world.

I've been trying to take care of myself — eating well and getting a good night's sleep. I went to zumba on Thursday, and it was okay; I'm debating whether to sign up for summer zumba or try something new, like tai chi. My knee is doing okay, but now the other one, the "good" knee, is buckling, which drives me crazy.

Every time I go home my weight shoots up 10 pounds, but it's gone back down again — though the 10 extra Tam pounds continue to plague me. Hmm, let me refill my sangria glass and ponder this . . .

(Hey, sangria's full of fruit! It's healthy! Don't judge me.)

xo Lady C . . . just a teensy bit snockered . . . on fruit