Tag Archives: Grief

What am I going to do with my Dad?

For the record, I’m really talking about my dad’s ashes.  My dad died in 2016.  He is sitting in an urn in our living room, and I seem to get some sort of odd comfort in knowing where he is.  I didn’t really give this question much thought until our Boxing Day party, when a friend asked me who was sitting on the fireplace.  It took me a minute to realize he was talking about my dad.  This led to a discussion of scattering ashes and how to memorialize someone who has been cremated.

I love cemeteries.  I’ve been actively involved with Riverside Cemetery since we moved to Macon.  I love to go out and walk and look at the graves.  I love knowing where my grandparents and great-grandparents are buried.  But what am I going to do with Daddy?

At some point, my dad told someone he wanted his ashes scattered at Hanna Park in Jacksonville.  He might have told me; to be perfectly honest, my memory is fuzzy on some things.  There were a few things I really wanted to forget.  But I can’t scatter him.  I just can’t.

Part of it is the issue of memorializing, and this was my friend’s objection to scattering.  I find comfort in bringing flowers and going to the cemetery.  If I scatter him, how will anyone know where he is?  How will anyone remember he was even here?  Will anyone care?  Who will remember him when I’m gone? How do we memorialize him?

My step-father’s ashes are at the National Cemetery in Salisbury, North Carolina.  I told my mother we could put the two of them together and then I would only have to make one visit.  I thought it was pretty funny but my mother didn’t.

I am the person who makes decisions.  My daughter and I planned my father’s funeral.  My brother has not been involved and has said he really doesn’t care.  I care enough for both my brother and me.

I just don’t know what to do with Daddy.  Do I scatter him, as he wished?  I’m not ready.  But he deserves to be memorialized somewhere.  I just don’t know where.

Suzanne

Making Connections

We were invited to a GPB dinner on Tuesday evening to share our ideas on one of our favorite shows, On Second Thought.  The show is taking a new turn, as the previous host stepped down for a new and wonderful adventure.  One of the reporters said she was from a small town in North Carolina, and I said I was from a small town outside of Greensboro.  She said she was, too, and it turned out she is from Trinity, about 15 miles from my home.  Trinity has a small airport, Darr Field, which is where I had my first flying lesson that really ignited my passion for aviation.  It was a wonderful conversation and we talked about some of the things we love about North Carolina.  We left with sense of just how connected we all are and how small the world really is.

And then today I received an email today from a man whose grandfather owned our (my!) airplane before my dad bought it.  He talked about flying with his grandfather to a baseball game between Kansas City and the New York Yankees, and how he got to see Mickey Mantle play.  I told him how Daddy flew my brother to Baltimore to see the World Series, around 1970, and how they flew to Indianapolis to the Indy 500.  He told me that his grandfather purchased a Cessna 210 after he sold the Cessna 172, N7214A, which he had owned in a flying club with three other pilots.  I told him how I stripped all the paint off the plane so that Daddy had no choice but to paint it yellow and white, just like I wanted.  He told me he was a commercial pilot and flew crop dusters.  I told him that was what I always wanted to do.

I’m always amazed by connections and how small the world truly is.   But right now, I just want to call my dad.  I want to tell him about the email and I want to tease him about taking Robert to the World Series and the Indy 500 instead of me.  I want to hear him laugh about losing his airplane the day I had the flying lesson at Darr Field.

I just want to remember.

 

 

Last Wish

My dad is in his final days. He wants to see his grandchildren, great grandchildren, and his sister and we’re going to make it happen. It won’t be easy; Daddy and his wife are frail and Aunt Kitty. His wife is visually impaired and Daddy has dementia on top of everything, so the bulk of the load falls on my niece, Brandi, who is his 24 hour caregiver. My brother and I are supplying love and financial support.

The logistics of traveling with a hospice patient requires contracts and coordination. Besides the rental car, there are the obvious medical needs. Daddy is planning seven nights on the road, four at our home and three in a hotel in South Carolina. He sleeps about two hours at a time. Dementia is challenging; sometimes he’s with us and sometimes he’s not.

Brandi asked me whether I was sure I didn’t want them to stay at a hotel. No, he’s my dad. Her response was, “But he’s a handful!” Yes, I know. His medications have been adjusted and titrated, and sometimes he’s okay but sometimes he’s not.

Food restrictions? “No shrimp, catfish, pork, or anything like that,” she said. “And no spaghetti. He doesn’t like pasta, spaghetti sauce, and nothing with any red dye. He’s very worried about red dye right now.” Hmmmm…red dye? He might have dementia but he has very specific opinions.

My daughter is working on sleeping arrangements but we’re not sure what we’ll need beyond that. We’re playing this by ear.

His brother waited until he saw my dad, and was gone before Daddy got out of the driveway. Last wishes can be tricky, especially with someone so frail.

This will be interesting. I want to make this next week memorable for everyone. He’ll see his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I had not heard the lyrics to Carly Simon’s “Like a River” in a very long time, but she talks about how she is no longer waiting for her mother, as a daughter, as the part of their lives together is over. I have wanted my dad to come and visit ever since we moved here, but I never really pushed it because of his health. He’s coming this time on his terms, and I will cherish whatever days I have with him. It is his last wish.

I have certain movies that I watch for different reasons. I can watch Brian’s Song and cry without anyone questioning whether I’m okay. Airplane makes me laugh myself silly and the quotes sometimes come out at the most inappropriate times. And right now, the thought that comes to mind is, “I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.” I have to find humor wherever and whenever I can.

But to quote Gone with the Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.”

September 11.

September 11. Home.   Not happy. I should be flying. Nothing to do but maybe I could go play golf. 8:45 a.m. I hate morning television shows but I go into the living room and turn on the TV to CBS. Before I’ve brewed my tea, the nightmare begins. My cousin calls first. Ken wants to know I was safe.  Phone calls continue throughout the day and night. No one can believe it.

Days earlier, I had been in Columbus, Ohio. “Please, Chris. Please! Let me go out early!” I begged and pleaded but the answer stayed the same. Chris said I needed to stay home. What did he know. I just wanted to fly. I was already going out on September 13, and I was wrapping up an extended tour. It was a game to work your schedule so you could fly on your off days and stay home on your work days. This meant $$$.

The airspace was reopened on September 13 but our passenger didn’t want to go. My copilot was a skinny guy from Alabama. The silence over the airways was deafening. I thought of “The Stand” by Stephen King, where everyone disappeared. Periodically we’d key the mic and ask ATC if they were still there. Yes, but quiet.

As we crossed over Richmond going into Baltimore, we were told to look out for close traffic on our wings. I never dreamed of a military escort, not in my wildest imagination. When we arrived at Baltimore, our identification was checked before we got off the plane. It was a somber day as we awaited our passenger, a senator from Wisconsin who was attending the memorial service. We could still see the smoke when we approached White Plains, a few days later.

Flying changed. My attitude towards flying changed. I had imagined being hijacked but I never imagined an aircraft being used as a weapon. Each time I went to Hartsfield to meet my aircraft, my luggage was searched. My underwear would be strewn out over the table, my uniforms pulled out and wadded up, and my battery operated toothbrush turned on. Nothing was ever put back correctly so I now had to allow extra time for repacking. That was minor, though, compared to the realization that we were no longer safe.

There are four days in my life that I will never forget. The day President Kennedy was shot, the day Martin Luther King was assassinated, the day Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, and September 11, 2001. Of course I will always remember our wedding day and the birth of my children, and there are probably others, if I think about it. Each of these events changed the way I saw the world.

We can’t forget.

Grief, Again

We were on our way home from the airport.  I’ve been in Washington, D.C., working on a pretty incredible project that will decrease the digital divide in Nepal, increase literacy, and improve education.  It has been a very exciting trip and I was fired up.  If I had to rate this entire week, I would give it a 10+.  My flight arrived on time and I was excited to see my husband and three of my grandchildren.  We would drive home with Sirius 78 on the radio, Kids Place Live.  There was a lot of laughing and a lot of fun, until a surprising trigger came on the radio.

About a month before Carly died, we took her to Disney World.  I ran a 5K on Friday, a 10K on Saturday, and a 1/2 marathon on Sunday.  It was Disney’s Glass Slipper Challenge.  The icing on the cake was being able to take Carly with us.  We rode lots of rides and she was captivated by “It’s a Small World.”  That particular ride is one of my favorites, as I rode it when it was premiered at the New York World’s Fair.  I think that was 1964, and I had never seen anything like it.  I have always loved that particular ride.  On February 21, the line for “It’s a Small World” was short and Carly was as excited as I was.  She was captivated by the animation and the voices and the many wonderful characters.  As the dolls sang and moved up and down, Carly was transfixed.  The photo was taken on the ride.  Such precious and wonderful memories!

I’ve done well, I think, with the pain of losing our precious granddaughter.  But today, when “It’s a Small World” came on the radio, I lost it.  Carly’s brothers and sister were in the car but the tears came, anyway.  I couldn’t stop.  The memories of the fun blended with the extreme sadness and the result was an extreme pain.

When I got myself together, I apologized to our grandsons.  I’m not sure they’ve seen me cry since the funeral.  James, who is 10, very wisely said, “It’s okay.  I understand.”  The sad thing is that yes, he does understand.

You never know when the pain of a loss is going to hit you, and you never know when it will grab you so hard it will take your breath away.  Today was my day.  Sometimes you just have to ride it out.

A letter to Glenn

Dear Glenn,

15 years ago tonight, I was trying to get a good night’s sleep but your mommy was fighting me, every step of the way. I had been away from home for six weeks in pilot training at Netjets, and I had just gotten home the day before. Your mommy was convinced that I needed to come and visit, the very next day. That would be March 22, 2000. I kept telling her I’d be there in a few days, but I needed to rest. Late that night, she called me and said she was in labour. I told her, I’m almost embarrassed to say I told her to go to sleep and call me in the morning. To my surprise, you made your appearance that very next day. From the moment you took your first breath, the people who loved you surrounded you with so much love and affection. You were a beautiful and beloved baby boy.  The light of our lives.

As you grew, you were even more beautiful each day. Your curls and those big brown eyes were perfect, and you were as sweet a child as there ever was. You were our Boogie Bear and we all adored you. You had a great mom and your personality was a light to all who knew you. We took you everywhere, places I still can’t imagine little boys enjoy going, but you loved meeting people.

From the time you were about three, your mommy and I owned a hospice and you went with her, sometimes, to see patients. Everyone commented on your excellent manners. At the same time, you were telling us things that should have been a forewarning. You told us your angels told you to pack up your toys and your clothes and give them to the poor children; you would not need them. We didn’t understand and we thought this was just cute.

It wasn’t too long before your little brother came along. Once when he fussed, you packed up your clothes to come and live with your Memaw and Bebob. That was so funny, and we happily picked you up so you could have a little break. You made your mommy promise that she would never let your brother look like he came from the Children’s Home. I hate to tell you this, but this is a promise she has not kept!

Then the worst happened. We will never know why you crossed the street that day, because that was something you did not do. Our world changed in an instant. Life would never be the same, as we lost our Boogie Bear. My prayer is that you didn’t suffer.

You would be 15 years old today. We should be celebrating with cake and balloons. Your mommy should be teaching you to drive and I would be teaching you to fly. You always loved that I was a pilot teacher. One of our funniest memories was when we all went up to Jackie Torrence’s memorial service, and you told everyone that your Bebob was just a pilot but that your Memaw was a pilot teacher. As if that wasn’t funny enough, at the memorial service, you stood up and loudly exclaimed, “You mean we flew all the way to North Carolina just to see a gold box?” We still laugh about that. You were five. A very precious five.

We have wonderful memories and you are frozen in time as a perfect little boy. I have no doubt that, at 15, you would still be a perfect boy but you would be a teenager. You wouldn’t want us to call you Boogie Bear, and you would probably have times when you would be grumpy and temperamental. It is highly possible you would be a challenge, but in our mind you will always be our perfect, precious little 5 read old.  We have every confidence in the world that you would have grown up to be a fine young man, but we did not get to watch you grow. I’ll bet you would still love raw oysters, though, and that you would remember how to stop a stampeding elephant.

So many things are going through my mind. Would you have been good at sports? Where would you want to go to college?   Would you play the piano? Who would you take to your first prom? How would you like driving the Porsche, your favorite car to ride in to school. Would your mommy let me teach you to fly? You had so many friends and so much promise, and you left a profound mark on so many people. From a spiritual perspective, even at 5 you knew the meaning and the words of the Sacrament. More than once you reminded our ministers that they weren’t saying it correctly. They did not realize what Holy Communion meant to you and how important it was to you. It was truly a Holy Sacrame

You have four brothers and sisters who remind me of you, each and every day. Your sweet spirit lives on. We had James’ photo professionally made at three years old, and when they showed us the photos, I burst into tears. It was just like looking at you. Carly saw the photo of you on your tombstone and thought it was Jacob. Sarah Catherine has so many of your characteristics.

I think we all struggle, at least to some degree, with the loss we suffered the day you were killed. It was a senseless accident and I personally have problems forgiving the man who so recklessly drove down Happy Valley Circle that day, talking on his cell phone. I know what my Christian beliefs tell me to do, but it is not easy. There are times I wish he could feel our pain, and that I hope he is haunted by his actions. I remind myself that you would, even at 5, tell me that was not right to feel that way. You were wise beyond your years.

As we reflect today on our gratitude, it is important for us to celebrate what was and the profound impact you had on so many people. We miss you. You gave us so much joy and laughter. You will forever be our perfect little boy. Your legacy lives on, though, in the service your mommy provides to other people who have lost their children.

Happy birthday, sweet Glenn. Today we will focus on our good memories. We will celebrate and we will give to the children at the Children’s Home, whom you were always so concerned about, even as a little boy. We will keep your legacy alive.

We love you, Glenn Milton Price. March 22, 2000 – November 2, 2005. You were gone too soon.

Love always,

Memaw and Bebob

Cleaning and deleting – Not an easy task

I’ve spent the past several days trying to delete photos from my computer and also clean out some of the boxes that we packed up in Newnan and moved down here, and haven’t touched in more than two years.  We probably packed some of them long before that.  It was easier to pack it up and put it in the basement or attic than deal with throwing the stuff away.  But deleting and throwing away was not so simple, especially when it came to deleting photographs from the hard drive on my computer.

We are coming up on what would have been Glenn’s 15th birthday.  The realization of this brings to the surface memories of what we would be doing, were he will with us.  Glenn loved the Porsche and he loved sitting in the driver’s seat of any of our cars, pretending to drive.  I have a great photo of he and my mom, in my Miata, pretending they were taking a trip.  He had such a great imagination.  If you know me very well at all, you know that Glenn was killed when he was 5 years old.  We won’t be teaching him to drive and we have missed the experience of those tumultuous teen years.  Glenn was a sweet little boy, perfect in every way.

As I was going through the photos on my computer, I found that I had three and four copies of many of the photos of the grandchildren.  It should have been simple to delete, right?  But as someone who wishes I could recapture every single minute of Glenn’s short life, even deleting a blurry image or a duplicate was difficult.  I know it sounds crazy, and I’ve been trying to figure out why.  Our other nine grandchildren are beautiful, healthy, happy, and smart, and I know we can’t live in fear that something will happen.  Yet there is a dark place in the back of my subconscious that remembers our loss, and doesn’t want to part with anything.  Not even a blurry, duplicate image that is almost unrecognizable.

My rational self has won this battle, but the battle was hard fought.  Pieces of broken toys in boxes have been thrown away.  Random pieces of paper with children’s drawings have been discarded.  I realize these were great works of art at the time they were created, but at this point I don’t even know who scribbled on the paper. My rational self and my even more rational daughter assures me that it is fine to throw these things away.  I’ve moved the random Legos to the Lego box, but most everything else from this corner of my office is going away.  I’ve deleted the duplicate photos and I’ve deleted the photographs of unknown blobs.

This job isn’t complete, but I’ve gone through six boxes and thousands of photographs.  I’m happy with my progress.  At the end of the day, I think that’s pretty darn good.