Grief Brings Out The Best In People

9 08 2008

I sat in the Fellowship Hall of a small, country church. I didn’t talk to anyone although there were some pretty well-known Tennessee politicians in attendance, friends I went to high school with and a family I’ve known for what seems forever. They attended my mother’s funeral 10 years ago.

I didn’t want to talk. I wanted to just be.

I focused on Homer. Her hair is thick and chocolate brown and her eyes smile and cry. She’s one of those people that you can tell her state of mind by looking in her beautiful eyes. They were sad today. She had her own demons to slay. I had mine. Being with her made it safe.

Mark Maddox spoke first and what began as a speech from a veteran public speaker was filled with a cracked and ailing voice by the end of his eulogy. When I heard him speak, I found myself going back in time when he gave the eulogy at my mother’s funeral. When his voice cracked, I found myself unexpectedly tearing up for many things.

The loss of his brother. The fact that I was with people my age who were grandparents. The sad and strong look on Homer’s face. When she asked for a tissue, I didn’t have one. I felt that I had failed.

His brother spoke. The same thing. A seasoned public speaker who works as a minister. His voice broke. I looked out of the doors of the window as he stopped, his words and tears so evident.

We couldn’t see them speak. We could just hear. I don’t know what would have been worse.

The final speaker was the minister of this country church. He spoke about the standard affairs of a funeral. He talked of salvation.

This is my second funeral in three weeks of people I grew up with. We drove our cars fast, hid out on back roads talking about our future and drank beer bought by those a couple of years older than us in corn fields still smelling of a fresh harvest. We were going to take on the world. We wanted to own it.

We were, and are, a lost generation sandwiched in between the boomers and Generation X.

We didn’t expect to die, but we will. We thought that the world of MTV would define us. We thought we owned our generation. Some of us, some of us didn’t. Some of us wanted more. Some of us were content. Some of us wanted the stars, like my friend Stew.

I look to the future. I see the possibilities.

I mourn my friends’ losses. I mourn mine.

I wish to do a thousand things before I say goodbye.

I watched Homer and thought how lucky I am to be loved.

As Tommy Maddox was.

With this said, I wish Karsten my best.


Life Is Like A Dart Game

29 07 2008

The air is chewy these days.

Within moments of stepping outside, I find myself covered in sweat and breathing is amazing and labored. The sky is thick with the humidity of the South. As Squirrel Queen and I were headed out to enjoy the Monday of our staycation, the tire on the truck was flat. We changed it, SQ rather as I fetched things as is my role in situations like this, and we were wet, our skin clammy from the heat.

We were headed to play darts. It’s become a special thing between us in the last couple of weeks. We keep seeking the best place to play, away from the issues of the day. We aren’t good but we are getting better. We’ve also found in our dartplay that it creates a bubble where we don’t have to talk to other people. If that sounds rude, I’m sorry, but it’s true. We play the game and we don’t have to answer questions. We laugh. We encourage each other.

Life is about transformation. I’ve been spending more time with Homer which is wonderful. In the mornings, we are watching Angel although I’ve seen it. It’s a quiet bond where we can lose ourselves for a little while.

When I was younger, I used to collect things. Now I wish to unburden myself with the things that I thought I had to have. My life is simpler now. I realized in a moment of epiphany over the weekend that I haven’t lived in the moment for awhile. Always living in “what would happen next.”

I’m sure a lot of this has to do with Stew’s death. Sometimes I miss him so much that I choke back tears.

What a waste of living in events that might happen and not seeing the world around you at the moment. The dart games have taught me this. One throw of the dart, then another. Some games you win. Some games your strategy works. Other times you are just slinging darts hoping for the best, relying on luck that you might come out ahead.

Life is like a dart game.

I was hot last night and I’m starting to hit the numbers I’m aiming at. It feels good seeing I’m getting better. I came home and made a salad made with what we bought at the Farmer’s Market and heated up some corn. I ate the salad with my fingers, the balsamic vinegar making my fingers oily. My niece talked about playing basketball while I cut the vegetables.

In the moment. We forget in the moment.

I don’t want to wish my life away.

I watched sharks biting people. It was graphic.

Random thoughts swirl through my mind.

I ask Squirrel Queen if we can play darts again. She smiled before she fell asleep.

Annoying Autobiographical Pause #777

26 07 2008

I walked out into the humid July sun feeling more free than I’ve felt in months.

I could breathe and I needed it although it was hot and made me want to gag a bit. The humidity cranked at our skin leaving us covered in an uncomfortable sweat but there was excitement. My skin was wet, the back of my neck under my thick hair damp and rank within mere seconds yet there was some hope of things to come.

We drove.

I sought the joys of living in rural America. This week, a local farmer I only know as R.D., brought me dozens of peaches and creme corn. Why, I do not know. I was given tomatoes and banana peppers. Three bags full which I only paid $4 dollars for. They had just been picked yesterday morning and I had them, guarding them with glee by noon and knowing they were good as they were still covered in dirt.

We went to Hooterville-Extreme which is the farm that Squirrel Queen’s mother owns. We see her rebuilding after the death of her husband and we hope that we are helpful. We sat and talked about dogs and beer and the Internet and her still prevalent fear that people that we meet online are wiggy. She has decided, because the night her mother died, when CeeElcee, called that he is a good boy. She says bloggers can come to the farm but she needs to weed out what she calls her “rednecks” first. She wants to see what this is all about. This reminds me of Kathy Griffin’s “gays.” I like it.

And then we found crawfish that a man brought up at a local restaurant which I helped devour two pounds of. There are some that will get this is that it is nearly my favorite thing other than Nutella and Bass Beer, Brie and pickled okra, anything picked and fresh homemade purple hull peas smothered in Chow Chow. As I ate them, and yes I did, my mouth burning from the spices covering the small creatures. I took picture after picture of the food that I adore the most.

Some understand.

We headed home and the remnants of what I believe Dolly hit us with a violent ferocity that I found myself compelled by. We stopped to find Badger and we talked about our new fascination with darts. Squirrel Queen has gotten amazingly good and Badger knows more than she reveals. We stood downtown on the streets of where we live, watching the lightening crash around us. The thunder I could here. I still can’t hear as well as I could and I know that I’ve taken a hit. My dad has lost his hearing and I’m wondering if I’m joining him, tied to the realities of genetics. I grow older and the audio darkness is real. I worry about this the next time I see my friends in the state who blog. It scares me. You will hear me say “Huh?” I can’t hear.

But I felt and heard the thunder and I didn’t want to return inside.

It felt so very real. like I could taste it. I felt alive. SQ grabbed my sleeve and led me gently into safety.

I didn’t want to go.

We talked of Stew and played darts all evening. It was more than wonderful although I didn’t win a game.

I awoke this morning and Homer and I talked of things happening in Hoots and how we are amused by more of it than we are outraged. She decided, as she is the Alpha, that today we would honor our mother and grandmother’s tradition of cooking a traditional country meal. I headed to the local farmer’s market, which is nothing like you will find in the city. Pickup trucks filled with peaches and cream corn, green tomatoes, squash, dozens of kinds of tomatoes and so much more. We saw a local business woman I admire who had a Boxer puppy with her who had striped fur who licked my hand and gave me a sly lick on the mouth.

And then we bought a dart board for the house at a local pawn shope and decided to get a Cadillac’s cheeseburger and play a game of darts.

We only play 301. We are smitten. We will learn more.

A man named Ike sat at the bar and asked if he could play darts with us. We didn’t want the interference. But we said yes.

He was lovely although at the end of three games asked us if we were married. He had been to Vietnam and talked about he used to play with “the boys.” We knew he was looking for lady companionship yet there was no interest from us as he held a cold Miller in his hand as he wore his Vietnam Vet hat.

He was a gentleman. He told of us of his puppy which is a pit bull. He calls her Diamond. He says that she is the only thing he’s ever loved. He works in Ethanol.

He said the world was dying.

He hit three bulls eyes in a row, but Squirrel Queen beat him every time. She’s that good.

We went home and cooked a country dinner like our mothers and grandmothers’ made and the closeness of a good kitchen filled with people who love each other was outstanding.

Homer looked at me ,once, with sadness in her eyes but then again, she’s not nostalgic. That could have been me wanting to see it as we honored the food of the women who made us.

I look for meaning everywhere.

It is not even 7 p.m. and SQ is asleep. Tired from the week of burying our friend, from trying to find meaning and knowing that life isn’t always easy.

And my first day of a vacation is over.

Saying Goodbye

23 07 2008

We said goodbye to Stew yesterday.

We spoke about his laughter and his kindness. Our friend Misty spoke of the funny things because he made her promise that basically he wanted to put the fun in his own funeral. (Stew was awesome with the gallows humor.) Misty talked of the time he was on the radio saying a mystery celebrity was going to show up at the local County fair and how he and his cohorts talked about it for weeks. The entire media from the local newspaper and other radio stations simply took it for fact and were wondering who this was and how had Stew scooped them.

Tons of people showed up to see who it was but what they didn’t know was that Stew rented a limo with tinted windows and showed up in the limo and got out of the car.

The local media had been had. Misty and I love that story. We had the same stories and she spoke before me telling his stories which were all of ours. I slowly folded up what I had written and put it back in my purse because the many things she had brought up were in my eulogy.

She was exquisite.

Chris spoke next and for the first time in the 17 years I’ve known him, I heard his voice break. He said the things about their friendship that were honest and so real that I had to put my hand on the arm of the chair and squeeze because I thought I might lose it. His voice broke and I had to go into a zone in my head so I wouldn’t lose it. He talked about when he and Stew met each other, they didn’t like each other. I was around for that one. They were wary as they both are competitive and they both were morning men on the radio and they would both talk to me about the other one that came from a place where they respected the other one but they wanted to be the best. But they found each other and I don’t think I’ve ever seen two men cultivate and enjoy a friendship as much as those two. Through divorces and children and real life, these two loved each other more than I can explain.

But it was Squirrel Queen who spoke of her friend and how she had him to herself for one hour a day, six days a week and then she had to share him with the world when he went on the air that tore us up. You would have been so proud of her because she spoke so deeply and with so much love and passion regarding Stew that it made it hard to breathe.

Then it was my turn. Every one had spoken of the things I’d written down so I had to wing it. I’ll be honest, I don’t remember really what I said but it came from my heart. I talked about how he comforted me. How he was paid to talk for a living but that he was one of the best listeners I’ve ever known. I talked about the time I had covered a terrible car accident where two elderly people had died and how he sat with me on the back steps of the radio station. We sat in silence but he knew I had some pretty awful images sitting in my head. The sign of true friendship is that the space between two people can be that we can communicate without speaking. He comforted me while the bad stuff swirled around in my head just by sitting with me. I wasn’t alone with the ugly images of death. He knew without asking. I spoke that Stew gave us the stars, he loved astronomy and space and that at night, we could look up and know that those bright lights in the sky were I believe him to be. I looked up last night and said hi. I believe he heard me.

It’s funny. Both Misty and I quoted things from his blog. (I think that’s important. His words are forever captured online, archived much like Winston’s although Stew really didn’t understand the whole blogging thing. And after time, as the bone cancer went on the march, it became to painful for him to type.)

His son spoke last and he was speaking to his mother. It was important for him to tell her things that I felt like I was eavesdropping on a private conversation. It was important, probably the most important eulogy given.

And then it was over. The chapel filled with hundreds of people and as I looked out I realized that Stew was indeed the richest man in town with the friendships that he had cultivated over the years.

One of his and my favorite songs is Vienna by Billy Joel. I didn’t know it was going to play. When it did, I smiled within myself. It’s a song about longing. Stew had ideas of the world and he was an amazing man. When I heard the song it reminded me of things left undone. For him, for me and I guess for us all.

He was 48-years-old.

Getting Unstuck

21 07 2008

When you lose someone you care about, it’s hard.

Tomorrow is the memorial for our friend Stewman. He wanted Squirrel Queen and I to speak at his service.

I don’t know what I’ll say. I plan on working on that later today.

This summer has been a violent mistress. I am comforted by knowing this too shall pass but I’m in critical burn out right now. My leg is still sore from the spider bite but it’s better. It could have been so much worse so I’m grateful for that.

With Stew’s passing, I’m, of course, thinking of life and mortality and how everything has a root system. I feel like the world is connected. I’m also thinking because of intense stress that has accompanied these hot months that I may need a break from the world and sleep for a few days. Death reminds you that there is little time on this planet. We must make the most of it. We just have to.

I’m also thinking about being in a pattern that isn’t pleasing me right now. And how that if people are stuck, how do they get unstuck.

I’m working on that.

Stew was always supportive. He was amazing and he never backed down, even if he was afraid. He walked through the fear even when he was terrified.

I hope that I can as well.

The Genius Of George Carlin

23 06 2008

There really isn’t anything I can say about George Carlin that hasn’t already been said who died yesterday of heart failure.

He was funny. He could be very insightful and biting in his humor. Sometimes, his humor was about how society ignores the big picture, how we allow to be herded around like goats by The Powers That Be and that the words that we put so much emphasis on are not really the ones that can hurt you.

Those words got him arrested in Milwaukee, you know. Lots of folks have forgotten that. Sharon has more on his legacy.

My only recommendation is to watch “The Aristocrats” and see him be almost gentle and the elder statesman to younger when it comes to comedy. You will also see him, and others, tell the dirtiest joke ever uttered.

R.I.P George. You made things very much of the good and you will be missed.

The Hiccups

28 03 2008

Katherine wrote this last night about death. It resonates with me because it’s absolutely the truth written eloquently.

It goes like this, though, the way death sits with you like the hiccups.  You think it’s not bothering you anymore and you have moved past it, and then you start with a wee break and you’re gone again.   Those five stages of Elizabeth Kubler Ross are very neat and antiseptic and make you feel like you can spreadsheet the whole thing when your turn comes–and your turn is coming–but it doesn’t work like that.   There is no “Okay I had denial, now let’s bargain for awhile.”   After the first few days when you realise that nothing is quite the same you are sort of normalish and then angerbargainingdenialgrief  come burbling out at the oddest times.   No amount of scaring it away, of drinking water while standing on your head, makes it any easier.

Grief comes is so many ways, but it’s that little moment that finds you and doesn’t let you get away with anything. It’s like momentarily being blinded.