“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” John Lennon
There are only so many, “oops my bad” intros I can have to explain away why, for all intents and purposes, this whole project is FUBAR, so I won’t even bother.
Suffice it to say I have always had the best of intentions for keeping up with this blog and its underlying theme. Unfortunately though, it would appear that intentions are like opinions, and well, we all know what they’re like.
You can have your life mapped out to the minute, but when the universe has something else in mind, (which she often does) that map becomes about as good as the theoretical paper it’s written on.
Indeed the universe was not impressed with my map and proved it by snatching it out of my hands, setting it on fire, and throwing it at my head.
In the plainest of terms, my life basically blew up in the last month, and I am just now clearing away the debris. This foundational explosion of my existence however, wasn’t all bad.
No, I am lying, it was really, really, REALLY bad…but not unlike the spectrum of light that appears through the clouds after a rainstorm, the aftermath is proving to be quite a thing of beauty.
Just over one month ago my husband’s grandfather by lineage but father by actions was taken to the hospital. It was clear that this was the beginning of the end. How soon that end was to be however came as quite a shock when he passed away just 12 days later.
You may ask why the death of my in-laws patriarch would rock my life in such a major way.
Or you may not, whatever, I am going to tell you anyway.
From the moment we were introduced he took me in as one of his own, but more than that, my daughter became his world.
I can still hear them playing up in his room, him trying to coax her to say, “I love you” and her dancing around, oblivious to the spell she had cast. Though her and Mama had become fast friends, Avie was incredibly coy with Papa for the first few months that he was in her life.
Our first Christmas as part of their family, I was able to convince Avie to record a message to Papa on an electronic picture frame. She simply said, “Hi Papa, I love you.”
When he opened the meager gift Christmas Eve, and was shown how to make the gadget work, he beamed. More than anything else that lay before him wrapped in shiny holiday paper, this gift was everything. He proceeded to play the message over…and over…and over, until I am pretty sure we all went to bed that night hearing, “Hi Papa, I love you… (click) Hi Papa, I love you…(click) Hi Papa…”
Avie and I came into his life when his health was starting its slow decline, but we were still lucky enough to bask in his presence and energy. And boy, what energy! Those early Sunday dinners, though nothing special gastronomically, were by far some the best memories I have of my in-laws. Sitting around the table, long after the pasta had cooled, and the vinaigrette had begun to congeal slightly at the bottom of the salad bowl, we would listen in awe, as Papa would regale us with amazing personal narratives that almost always seemed to end with him threatening someone’s life, or punching someone in the face.
Lingering over limoncello and legend became a regular Sunday affair and before long the sun was setting on our first summer together. J and I went to his grandparents for our usual visit one Sunday in August, but there was nothing usual about it. It was one of those late summer evenings where the air begins to hint at a cooler time to come, enticing you to squeeze all of the life you can out of the remaining daylight.
Dinner came with its customary show, but the real entertainment happened after the meal was over. J and I brought over a Dean Martin record that I had given him as an early token of our budding romance. While Mama did the dishes, J and I put the record on the turntable in the dining room. For a brief moment, the sounds of the Italian crooner drifted through the house and transported us all back to a different time. Through music and memory, J and I got to experience a sense of Mama and Papa’s early amore, all while living in the moment of our own. We danced and sang, we laughed and watched as, for a short while, any ailments that had steadily attempted to eat away at their already fragile bodies seemed to vanish, and through Dino’s words, they were again able to live la vita bella.
Time marched on, as it has a way of doing, and the Sunday dinners became fewer and far between. Soon, Mama and Papa required assistance in the house, and despite the fact that J’s mother took on the task; dinners were never quite the same as those first summer gatherings.
It’s easy to disassociate yourself from the reality of your loved ones failing health. Your own life becomes a distraction and before long 8 years have passed and you’re standing over the casket of someone you just kind of always expected to be there.
Though this wasn’t the first death I had experienced by far, it definitely hit me in a way that I wasn’t at all expecting. I have lost blood relatives of all ages. I’ve seen friends lose their parents, and I’ve cried over the loss of friends my own age. No death until now however has made me examine my own mortality in such an explicit manner. I don’t know if it’s just my age, but it’s as though Papa’s death has shifted all of us one step closer to the great precipice, and it became painfully clear that I am just not ready to fall to the other side.
I immediately took stock in my life at its current state. All of the parts that I had been unhappy about but felt too paralyzed to truly fix suddenly appeared in crystalline focus. One by one I placed each life fragment into two mental piles, “toss” or “change.” Obviously I can’t toss my health, but I can change the amount of exercise I get and what I ingest into my body. Despite the fact that school was an expensive commitment I had set up for myself, I had never been truly happy there, and as of late felt that it was more of a waste of time than anything. Though I worried about what my next steps would be were I to quit, and still worry, nevertheless I made the decision to put my MSW studies on hold. It has only been two weeks, but my general demeanor has lightened, and the load off my chest is immeasurable. I’ve been saying that I wanted to hone my photography skills for the better part of ever, but always seemed to find less constructive ways to occupy my free time. I’ve since been picking up my camera every chance that I get in an attempt to self-teach as much of the craft as I can. I honestly love it.
So, what does this all mean? Do my loved ones have to die in order for me to cut through my complacency and actually live rather than merely exist? Perhaps, but fuck, for their sake, I hope not! I prefer to think that this was just one unfortunate incident I needed to finally push myself in the direction I have been so afraid to move toward on my own. Papa’s life, more than his demise, has served as a reminder that it all really is fleeting, and it’s up to us to make our own memories, so that one day we too can sit around the dinner table regaling our grandchildren with stories of living la vita bella.