The other night, I took my four oldest daughters to see a movie. It was Thanksgiving, we were restless, and I did not want to go shopping. Since my youngest does not do that well in movies yet (she is a bit of a busybody), my wife stayed home, and I took the girls to see Disney/Pixar’s, CoCo.
Without giving any spoilers, the story involves an aspiring musician named Miguel, who, by chance, finds himself in the afterlife. In his quest to get back home to the “real world,” he searches for his great-great-grandfather. Like I said, I am not going to go into details here, because I think you should watch the movie yourself. However, the premise of the movie is that once your last living relative has forgotten you, you are truly gone forever. Nobody deserves to be forgotten, and if someone remembers you, then you still get a chance to come back and visit your family.
As a kid, I met older relatives, not really understanding who they were, how we were related, what they did for a living, etc. I never really knew them. You know? I have brief memories, flashbacks, if you will, of visiting my grandpa at the grocery store he worked in. I can still remember going to a work picnic at the factory my grandmother worked in. To this day, I still don’t know what they made at that factory.
My great-grandmother and great-grandfather used to live in a nursing home. When we visited, we never stayed long, but I usually left with a dollar I didn’t have when I got there. I remember my great-grandfather wearing overalls and glasses, and I remember his name. I do not know what he did for a living. I do not know what he was like as a person, who he aspired to be, and if he ever reached his goals.
My parents went through a lifetime of hard lessons raising my sister and me. There are some spotty memories, and some stick to me like paint on a wall. I know a lot more about my parents (not really that worried about forgetting them), than I do about my grandparents, my great-grandparents, and my great-great grandparents. In a way, I have forgotten them. I hope someone else in my family is taking the reins and remembering them for me, and showing their pictures to their children and grandchildren, so they will not be gone forever, and can still come and visit us.
Truth is, none of us really know what happens to a person when they are gone. It was kind of nice the other night, nonetheless, to think that my deceased family members come back to check on me and the rest of my family. I bet there were times when they were wondering when I would ever start to grow up. If life really is like that movie, I hope all my relatives come and visit me all the time now. Even if it is just once a year, I am okay with that.
I have heard a lot of names in my wife’s family, and many I have forgotten.
However, I know that I will never forget the nickname, “Apple.” From the stories my wife has told me of her grandfather, I know she loved him just as much as I loved my grandpa. Unfortunately, I never had an opportunity to meet him, and she never had a chance to meet my grandparents. However, I have had the pleasure of meeting her grandmother, and I could not be happier she is now a part of my life, too. She is just as big of a cheerleader for me as my own grandmother used to be, and for that I will always be grateful.
Do not get me wrong, I am still a young man, but my kids seem to be growing up a little faster than I would like. Occasionally, I will throw out a random number, like “five years,” and see how old my children will be then. It puts things in perspective, because I keep getting older by that many years, too. Hypothetically, in five years, I could be a grandfather myself. I could have a kid about to graduate college, another in the middle of college, a couple in middle school, and another in elementary. I know one thing, in five years, “I” will be a college graduate, and if you had asked me about that five years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you.
Life has a funny way of revealing itself to you, and the last year of my life has been eye-opening. Instead of looking at things on the surface, I pick them up, peek behind them, and dust them off before I put them back down. I have struggled with certain aspects of my life, and there are plenty of chapters in my life I wish had never been written. I still struggle attempting to turn a couple pages of the new chapters I strive to write. Despite that, I know there is still a lot of my book left to be written, but one day it is going to say, “The End.” When it does, and the book shuts one final time; I am going to tell you all the same thing I told my kids as we walked out of the theater the other night: You guys better remember me.
Last week, my mother invited me to go out of town with her. When I left Kansas City, I didn’t realize I would be seeing my grandfather for the last time that week. I guess I’ve always been a pretty optomistic guy, and although I knew he was not doing well, he’s always persisted in the past.
On our way to Illinois, my mother and I conversed about anything and everything. As we crossed the Mississippi River, leading into Illinois, the tone of our conversation became a little more serious. The doctors had given my grandfather possibly, a couple more months of life on earth. Turning down small country roads, we passed through St. Elmo, and we wondered if that was where “St. Elmo’s Fire” was filmed (I looked it up — it wasn’t).
As we pulled in front of his house, I was a little uneasy. We had visited numerous times over the years, and he had met my oldest four daughters. I hadn’t been to his house, however, since high school. He had moved since then, and it was surreal seeing my grandpa through a different set of lenses. My mother told me that more than likely he would not ever be coming back to this home. It hit me pretty hard as I walked through his house trying to learn about him through his acquired possessions.
Walking into his home, I was greeted with oxygen tanks next to the doorway. A grandfather’s clock hung on one wall, a rifle next to his rocking chair. Sitting on his coffee table, was a picture of our family we took at Christmas this past year. Another wall displayed a picture frame with my nephews and my oldest four kids. His coffee table reminded me of my other grandparent’s coffee table. There was a small office space, and a small guest room. One of the closets was filled with Western genre books.
I have never read a Western novel, but I do enjoy watching them occasionally. In his bedroom, his cowboy boots filled the bottom of his closet, and his clothes were neatly hung. Although he was already fairly small in stature, as he aged, he appeared even smaller.
My mother invited me out to the back yard, so we could take a look around the property. We spotted the well, and the old outhouse. There was a large barn, with a broken-down tractor, and a dilapidated bike. Into the edge of the woods, an older bus had been tucked away. We walked around to the front of the yard, trying to avoid the hornet’s nest we had awoken when we first arrived. His garage told the biggest story about him. His main passions in life were fishing and hunting. In the small guest bedroom, you probably could have guessed he liked to hunt, by the amount of rifles that were in there. However, if you hadn’t guessed that by now, maybe the amount of antlers hanging up on the garage walls would have given it away. In the back of his pickup, a single fishing rod was still hanging out, just hoping for one last trip to the water.
After a few minutes of looking around, we headed to the hospital. Since he lived in a very small town, we had to drive over an hour to get there. Seeing grandpa lying in the hospital bed, he looked even smaller than I had remembered. He looked up at his daughter, his grandson, and smiled. Although he was having an incredibly hard time breathing, he insisted on talking with us. He sat up, had dinner, and inquired about the girls. He was doing better than I had thought he was going to be, and we had a good conversation. I shared the newest pictures I had of all the girls, and reminded him of just home much they loved him. He said he loved them, too and it felt so good to say those words, and hear them reciprocated back.
On the way back to his house, we stopped at his sister’s house to visit with her and her husband. I may have met her when I was a child, but I cannot recall. Either way, after spending a couple hours with them, I felt so much better about the quality of my grandfather’s life. I know he has been in good hands with them. In fact, they had been taking that hour-long drive back and forth to the hospital every day, and helping him with anything he needed. I am truly thankful he had them looking after him.
With life, the only thing guaranteed, is death. It is inevitable. Too many times in our lives, we lose people, just to have regret over something we said–or didn’t say. As a younger person, when I was just eighteen years-old, I lost my grandfather on my dad’s side. We all said our “goodbyes” to him in the hospital, as the doctor’s said he may not make it through the night. However, he willed himself out of the hospital, and back into his own home for a couple more months. Not one time, did I go back to see him. In my mind, I had already told him goodbye, and I have lived with regret ever since.
When my mother told me last Thursday night (after I had driven home), that the doctors had given her dad only seven to ten more days to live, I had a little bit of regret creep back in. Although she had spent hours at the hospital that day, without him even waking up, I still felt like I could have maybe seen him one more time. I could have hugged him one last time. I could have told him one last time that I loved him.
The following morning, my dad called me to let me know my grandfather had passed early in the morning. My oldest two had already been told of his recent situation, but my middle two were out of town. My youngest, being only one, will have to rely on pictures and stories to know her great-grandpa. That night, was my twenty-year class reunion. I tried my hardest to suppress any sadness, and enjoy my night. Although I truly enjoyed seeing my classmates, it didn’t take away the fact that he is gone now.
My middle two children were out of town last week, and my wife and I agreed that their first day back should be a day of relaxation, happiness, and them telling us stories of what they did on their trip. Yesterday afternoon, my wife and I had the talk that no parent enjoys having with a seven and eight year-old. My wife was cool, calm, collected, and worded everything perfect for them to understand. Perfectly-formed words, however, do not turn away tears from a child’s eye, and hurt from their hearts.
It was a pretty rough week for my mom, and she is still out of town tying up all the loose ends. For a few more days, she is still battling hornet’s nests and his neighbor’s twenty dogs who like to show up unannounced in the pitch-black. My mother has worried about him for years since we lived so far away, and now the worry part has gone.
We all love you grandpa. Goodbye, old friend.
Well, it’s about to happen.
A long time ago my dad took me to a wildlife refuge area near our home. He got out of the car, he switched sides with me, and he let me sit in the driver’s seat. We were in a light blue 1986 Oldsmobile Ciera. It was the newest car we had ever owned, and he let me drive. I was so not ready.
This was it. I gripped the steering wheel, I glanced over nervously, and I focused. I focused hard on not screwing this up. I put the car in drive, and I slowly inched forward. Well, I attempted to slowly inch forward. What really happened was more of a car lurching forward dangerously close to a ditch.
Needless to say, a gravel road doesn’t have much traction.
This was something my dad did with me a lot though. He was patient. He got annoyed occasionally, and he believed I could do it. After all, he was the one teaching me.
My sister learned to drive using his 1970 Plymouth Road Runner. He never once let me drive it (well, except for the times he put me on his lap). I remember her getting her first car, and the dashboard catching on fire while she was driving it. I remember her slowly rolling her car into the front of our house because she was distracted. Then there was the time she ran into the back of a parked car because the sun got in her eyes.
I vaguely remember taking my Driver’s Test. I really wanted to drive to the mall first. He said I couldn’t yet. He did, however, allow me to drive it around our small town to gain more practice. He let me drive it to school and work. He believed in me, but he was scared to let me go.
The first time I drove to the mall by myself, I didn’t tell him. A couple years later, on that same highway he didn’t want me drive on when I was younger, I wrecked. I wasn’t hurt, but I did hit a guardrail going backwards at highway speed after spinning out.
I remember my first ticket. I remember my second, my third, my…OK, I stopped counting. I do, however, remember wrecking my car pretty violently. It wasn’t my fault, but it happened. My little Mazda B2500 pickup truck flipping over the highway ended with me on a stretcher in the back of an ambulance.
I have had almost too many cars to count since I’ve been driving. Had I listened to my dad a long time ago, I may have had 2 or 3 by now. Kids are stubborn. Kids have to learn mistakes on their own. They have to learn the hard way sometimes.
Putting yourself in debt over and over again is fun, right?
Driving. It’s not a right, it’s a privilege. Right? But yet, every day, kids line up to take their official “Driver’s Test.” They are all ready to be a big kid. Every day, parents have to worry about their big kid getting behind the wheel of a car.
Now, instead of a boombox sitting in my passenger seat that my parents had to worry about, I’ll have to worry about the phone sitting on my daughter’s seat. I’ll have to worry about how many distractions her friends will cause. I’ll have to worry about where she’s at, and if she made it there safely. I’ll have to worry if she’ll be able to keep a cool head, and not overreact if someone cuts her off. I’ll have to worry if she’s the one cutting someone off. I’ll have to worry about if she’s using her blinkers correctly, and if she’s driving defensively. I’ll have to worry that she may get a flat tire, or run out of gas. I’ll have to worry about semi trucks on both sides of her on a highway.
Then again, maybe I won’t have to worry about a thing. After all, I did help teach her. There’s not a whole lot I can do about it anyways.
Either way, and whether I like it or not, it’s about to happen…
It’s hard to let go. Duh. If you’re able to read this, you are probably capable of understanding the meaning of that sentence. At different points of our lives we learn that very thing. Just as a heads up, I’m typing this with a heavy heart.
Life is tricky.. First of all, none of us (not me, not you, nor anyone else that’s ever existed on this earth) has asked to be here. Yet, here we are.
Our lives are interwoven between close friends, family members, acquaintances, coworkers, and everything in between. Some of us have a hard time at this thing called life. Others have a knack for overcoming most obstacles that is thrown into our way.
Certain things make us tick, if you will. For instance, at this very moment, I have quiet piano music playing in my headphones. I almost never wear headphones, but I like to when I write. It’s something that makes ME tick.
I’ve came across many things in my lifetime that was hard to let go. In Fourth Grade, I woke up to get ready for school, and noticed my pet bird Scotty had died. I put him in a shoebox, crawled under my bed with him, and cried and cried. I didn’t want to go to school, I didn’t want to see anybody, and all I wanted in the world was for my bird Scotty to come back to life.
I had a girlfriend in high school my senior year that was the one. I fell so hard for someone, not realizing our lives had barely begun. My life had hardly started to take shape, and there I was trying to predict a future that just was not meant to be. Needless to say, I was an absolute wreck when our relationship ended.
A long time ago, I had a friend that told me that I had been raised inside a “box.” And when I finally started taking steps outside of that box, I wasn’t going to know what to do, how to behave, and part of what he said was true. We’re all raised a little different, and he and I had very contrasting yet sometimes very similar views on the world. I think these fleeting moments of clarity between two people are what causes people to become friends more than just coworkers.
Sometimes a smile you receive as you hold open a door for someone lifts you out of a funk you had no idea you were even in.
I’ve let quite a few people into my life over the years. Some of them not much by choice (family), and others I have openly invited to share in part of my life. I guess, in a way, that’s what I’m doing at this exact moment.
Honestly, I’m a tad emotional right now, and writing is making me feel a little bit better.
I’m in a unique situation right now in my life. I’ve come to a point where I don’t want to fight anymore. Fighting hurts. I’ve got myself into trouble one too many times where words were said that hurt someone else. I remarried my wife after our divorce, because I’m done fighting. Life is too short to be mad. Life is too short to cause someone pain.
I’ve been done arguing with my ex-wife for quite some time now. We are in this together, at least for the next few years. We have to finish what we’ve started. Our oldest children are not going to raise themselves. Thank God my kid’s mother and I each found someone who complements each one of us, and is walking side by side with us as we all four tackle the challenge of raising our family the best we know how.
Be empathetic. Be humble. Be a kind person. Be a good friend. Learn. Learn more. Listen more. Love more.
These are things I strive to teach them on a daily basis. Not because someone is forcing me to, but because I’ve lived far too long without attempting to put my best foot forward in every aspect of my life.
As I’ve gotten older, I realize that my children are getting older right along side me. So is my wife. My parents. My kid’s mother.
WE are getting older everybody. Our days are limited. Our time is up sometimes entirely too soon. Last night, my oldest two daughters lost their Grandpa. Their mother and aunt lost their father. And my heart absolutely weeps with sadness for them, because he was their everything. Just last week, as I looked at pictures of him playing dress-up Santa for the umpteenth time, my oldest told me he was her best friend.
My mind keeps drifting away, back to a different time. Back to a different world that I live in now. Back to before I was ever a parent, and I met him for the first time. He appeared at the front door wearing a white wife-beater tucked into his light blue boxer shorts. His knee high black dress socks along with his coke bottle glasses made him look like a cartoon character. He was sweating. Music was playing loud from his basement, where his wife and he had been dancing their evening away. That was almost eighteen years ago.
He was protective of his girls. He always cracked jokes that made the older kids cringe, and the younger ones laugh with glee. He stepped up as a parent when he needed to. I admired him for that. My kids adored him. They have a younger sister now too, that loved him with every inch of her tiny heart.
As most of you know, life never happens like you think it will, and his was no different I’m sure. Talking to my kids on the phone last night and this morning it’s plain to see. A lesson will be learned from this. Unfortunately, I’m just not that ready for them to learn it already. He will be missed by many.
It’s just so hard to let go sometimes…I hope you truly do rest in peace.
I almost wrote a blog today.
Actually, I almost wrote three of them. I wrote the first one about being a dad again, then deleted it.
I wrote the second one about wanting things I don’t have yet and being grateful for the things I already have. I deleted that one also.
I wrote the third one about “One of these days” statements and why they can be a good thing, and why they can be a bad thing. Deleted.
Unfortunately, none of them really summed of my feelings of what I’m actually feeling right now, what I’m going through, nor what I struggle with on a daily basis.
But, just so you know, I tried. I did. I almost wrote a blog today.
To the ones who got away…
So, there we were, sitting in Mrs. West’s first grade class. You walked in, with your long hair parted down the center. You had long legs, a perfect smile, cute little dimples, and although I had never even thought about it before, you were everything I had ever wanted in a woman. Your laugh was infectious, and I remember planning our future out before we ever spoke. Well, that’s probably because we never really did speak that much. Probably why SHE got away. But I digress…
My first grade crush had a couple of friends that were actually pretty dang cute too. I had no choice, but to like them a little bit too. They all had long hair, all of them were taller than me, they could run faster than me, and I figure they never even knew they had got away. Oh, but they did.
My only “girlfriend” in elementary school got away before two weeks into our relationship. I hardly knew anything about her except her name and her smile. I also knew it took an army of friends to convince her to be my girlfriend. We had one, yes ONE conversation on the phone that lasted about oh, I don’t know, two minutes maybe. I’m sure to her it felt like an eternity. Her friend (yes, one of the ones from the paragraph before) informed me of the break-up. But after SHE spoke to me (even if it was to break up with me for her friend), I have fond memories of kicking the back of her chair in sixth grade. You know, to let her know I was *wink wink, interested. Yeah, SHE got away too.
There was the girl who lived right next to the elementary school and the sisters who lived a couple of blocks away. All of ’em got away.
There was the girl named after a month of the year, that I always fancied a little bit. As I got into middle school, there was a plethora of young women that got away. There was the one I sat next to in English who I thought never noticed me. She ended up marrying a MLB pitcher. Can you believe that? Well, she got away too.
There was the one who I accidentally made cry by laughing at her when her KEDs got stolen. I really didn’t think it was funny, but I was always a little nervous and indecisive when it came to talking to the ladies. So yeah, she got away too.
I had a couple of young ladies get away from me in band class, and we all played the saxaphone. One of them was mentioned up there a few paragraphs ago, and yes, she was the one who could run faster than me. The other one stuck her knee so hard into my private area after band one day, she single-handedly took away every chance I ever had at having a boy. 😉
There was my first grade crush again in my ninth grade English class. We graded each other’s papers sometimes, and I talked more to her then than my whole entire Elementary career. As I sat with a back brace on for scoliosis underneath my shirt, braces on my teeth, and a face full of craters, however, it was no wonder she got away again.
The next year, although I never told her, there was the principal’s daughter. By my sophomore year, I had definitely moved into the “friend zone” as I tried to figure out how to talk to women.
There was the girl from my typing class who looked like a grown 25 year-old woman that got away. There was another girl from typing who worked at Pizza Hut, and I used to beg my dad to take me there so I could see her. Totally not creepy. Not at all.
As I got a little older, the braces came off, my back brace came off, and I got a job. Right about this time I thought I’d send flowers to a young lady I was rather fond of. Thanks to a friend of mine, he got her address for me. Not creepy at all. Yeah, she got away too. There was the young lady who used to write hundreds of notes to me, and her mom was my preschool teacher. She was the one I actually dated the longest, and I was pretty devastated when she got away.
There was the gym coach’s daughter, a couple of other ladies from my old Youth Group. There was a couple of ladies I met because of Kentucky Fried Chicken (my first job).
As I went through high school, and memorized just about every pick-up line in the book, I realized I had let so many people get away.
So many women, too little time. Maybe it was a lack of commitment on my part, maybe I wasn’t cute enough. Maybe I lacked ambition, maybe it was just the wrong time.
Years have passed, “actual” relationships have passed, and I’ve grown up. As I’ve grown up, I’ve made mistakes, I’ve learned some very hard lessons. I’m not the only one though. Thanks to Facebook’s popularity, I’m able to keep in touch with some of the ones who’ve gotten away. I’ve got married three times. Twice to the same woman. I guess one of the biggest things I’ve learned over the years, watching my life pass me by, watching my kids grow up, is I don’t want to let anyone get away now.
I don’t want to nonchalantly watch as someone I care about goes off in their own direction, and leave me to fend for myself. I text my wife the other day because I had a random thought pop into my head. It just made me happy when I thought it, and I needed to share it with her.
I asked if she remembered when we got divorced and we were both single again. I told her I realized something about her. That she was damn near irreplaceable as a mother to my kids. And that I couldn’t let her get away.
So, to the one(s) who got away, I wish you all the best in your lives. Thanks for the memories.