Posted in confessions, coping mechanisms, death, Family, finding your way, growing up, Inspirational, life lessons, memories, moving on

Remember Me…


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. PicsArt_11-25-08.27.06

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.

 

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Posted in coping mechanisms, death, Family, Family Time, growing up, life lessons, memories, Uncategorized

Goodbye, Old Friend…


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. IMG_20170731_154733 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.

grandpa

We all love you grandpa. Goodbye, old friend.

Posted in Family, finding your way, life lessons, love

The Path…


There’s this path that I’ve been traveling on.  It’s pretty cool, I suppose.  It takes me this way and that way.  Sometimes it goes straight for a long time, other times it feels as if it goes around in a complete circle.  Either way, I’m not the only one doing this on a daily basis.  No, every single one of us is going down a path.

If you were to take a walk in your neighborhood, you may know what to expect on that path, but occasionally you may be surprised.  Say, for instance, a dog barking at you may take you aback.  A car backing up out of their driveway, maybe a police cruiser or ambulance speeding by may get your attention.

Just know, that you are not alone.  Nor am I.

I wonder about the path I’m on though.  I really do.  Am I taking an easier path than necessary?  Maybe I’m turning into the woods when I should be heading into that open field.  Trying to find things that make you happy in this world is necessary.  Nobody wants to be grumpy all the time.  Unless your name is Oscar.  If your name is Oscar, you have my permission to be grouch every once in a while.  I think happiness is an achievable feat.  I really do.

Finding that one thing, or maybe it’s multiple things that draws your heart to happiness eludes many of us.  Sometimes it’s elusive for many years.  When you do find it, sometimes we realize that our happiness acts like a drug to just ease our pain for a little while.  Thinking back to things that make me happy, I can think of many things that no longer would have that same effect on me if they occurred at this stage of my life.

I hate seeing people fail.  I really do.  I would never wish ill-will upon a person, even if I didn’t like them that much.  I may wish they’d do better, or be better perhaps.  In all honesty though, I want nothing but the best for most of us.  I’m not in a competition with anybody else, I’m just along for the same ride that they are.

I have a hard time judging people these days.  You never know what someone is going through.  You never know what may be burdening them, what may be tearing them up on the inside.  Many of us have become oblivious to the pain that we once used to feel and may not even realize all the bad vibes we may be giving off.

I try to remain positive throughout each and every day, and some days i succeed and other days I fail miserably.  Yesterday, was one of the latter days.  I had a bad day yesterday.  I questioned the path I’m on.  It’s not like I’ve never second or even third-guessed myself, buy yesterday was painfully obvious to me, and probably to most that was near me.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it.  Yesterday I was not at my best.  So far, today has been much better.  My oldest daughter yesterday could tell I was having a moment.  I cannot, and for the most part will not tell her every single thing that’s going right or wrong in my life.  She knew, however, that her dad was vulnerable for a little while.  I hate that.  I hate not being Superman when I need to be.  My other kids didn’t really seem to pick up that vibe, and by the end of the day my path was clear once again.

It really is a neat thing if you really think about it.  Just imagine, if you will, leaving your house one day and not getting in your car.  Imagine all of your neighbors just walking out of the house and onto their paths.  You look down and see your feet going one foot after another down yours.  Sometimes you’d have people to chat with on the way to where you were going, and other times you would have plenty of time to enjoy a little solitude.

What if your children, instead of walking to the bus stop, walked on their own little paths?  I like to think of that, and just imagine what is on each one of their paths.  I bet my oldest would pass by a lake, maybe a pool.  It’s probably filled with friends, money, and cute boys.  My next oldest one would pass by photography studios, the YouTube headquarters, friends, her family…oh, and probably cute boys.  Next in line, my six-year old’s path would probably be filled with butterflies, sweet dance moves, cooking shows, and plenty of paper to draw on.  My youngest daughter’s path, I imagine, would be filled with her family, her pretend “purple grandma,” her toys, my phone, and loud noises.

Then I think of my wife’s path and I imagine it being filled with her family.  All of them.  I know she misses them and doesn’t get to see them very often.  I think of her hopes and dreams, and I see her path being filled with a loving home.  It’s filled with all the expert DIYers and home flippers on HGTV, FYI, etc.  I see her in her wedding dress again, looking at me like “You better get it right this time, Mister.”  I envision her holding our new baby, and making sure our other kids are being taken care of.  On her path, I envision her being truly happy.

When I look down at my path it is filled with love.  Plain and simple.  I want love.  I want to feel loved.  I want other to feel like they are loved.  Even strangers.  I want us all to succeed in this life.  Not just my family.  I want certain member of my family to do better than they are of course.  I’m sure they wish the same of me.  I look down at my path and see a new home my wife and I can call “ours.”  I see me doing home renovations making it everything we want in a home.  I see smiles on my kid’s faces, and see them going through every stage of their lives.  And do you know what?  I sense myself on this path I’m carving enjoying every single second of it.

To anybody reading this, just know that there are empathetic people out there.  There are people who care about you, even those you may not even know.  Forge your own path people.  Find your happiness.  Hold onto it.

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