In had an exchange this morning with my younger daughter, Grace. She had just found out through Facebook that a friend’s mother died several months ago. This friend is her age and I could tell she was upset by this idea of death and the loss of a mother. We exchanged “I love you’s” via text and I thought, once again, how precious life is.
In honor of this exchange with my daughter, and the three-year anniversary since my father’s death, I want to post the following blog that I wrote way back when. I like to take time to know my family history, and to consider those who have gone before. I value appreciating the span of time: past, present, future. Here goes . . .
This morning for the first time I called my Aunt at her new CRCC or “old folks community” in Pennsylvania, where she has just moved after living in the same house in North Carolina for 45 years. I was with her months ago when her moving process began, helping to empty out her house. We sorted, read old letters together, tossed out faded photos, and made many trips to the library’s Book Drop Off. That was the same week my father (her brother) died. We were together when the news came and Aunt Peg immediately fished out my Grandfather’s terrycloth bathrobe from her closet and put it around my shoulders. “I saved this when I went through your Grandfather’s house,” she said. The heaviness of the robe comforted me as we lit a candle, cried together and told a few Dad stories. We ate chocolate cake even though it was 6:30 a.m. to honor my father’s love of food. We laughed together at the sweet craziness of the moment.
Later that day we picked out a futon couch frame for my Aunt’s new home. She told me she would put it together herself “on the other side” in Pennsylvania. Yesterday though, upon opening the box, she realized there were just too many pieces for a 76-year-old to put together on her own after a week of moving in 100 degrees of humidity. “So I asked for help,” she said.
“I’d heard there is a group of men here that like to put things together for $5 an hour,” Aunt Peg said, “so I called them up.” “The man answered on the first ring and said that yes, they could do it but their fee had gone up--to $6 an hour.” She laughed. “The man appeared promptly the next day with his tools. We sat for two hours and had the most wonderful time! It was like working with my father, your grandfather, again. He muttered to himself as I handed him things. There wasn’t much talk but a lot of cooperation.”
I like envisioning my Aunt with this man and his engineer’s mind, like my father’s and his father’s, and his father’s before him. I am grateful to him for helping her, patiently wielding his screwdriver and making sense of complex directions. I could see the man’s hands wrinkled and worn as my 94-year-old Grandfather’s used to be. Hands like my father used to have at age 78, crooked bones saran-wrapped together by a thin layer of almost translucent skin. Hands and minds working to figure out how it all works and the right way to put the world together.
I have seen the same mindful engineering these past weeks as I sort through my father’s belongings. I have a special box for all his old post-it notes, with their increasingly illegible scribbles--observing this, wondering about that. His curiosity and vitality were evident until the end.
My Aunt told me she feels a greater sense of freedom now in her new community, without a house and garden to manage on her own. She feels safer surrounded by others who are still very much alive mentally and emotionally even as their bodies wear out.
I am touched by the spirit of wonder and the ability to keep learning. The continuing on. The precious quality of life and of knowing. And the openness of not knowing. The possibility of trusting and surrendering.
Yesterday I found seven blue 3x5 cards in my father’s desk drawer. In my father’s handwriting, each card is clearly marked: “1. Creativity; 2. Kindness; 3. Love; 4. Beauty; 5. Expansion; 6. Abundance; 7. Receptivity.”
I will never know why my father wrote these cards but I feel great gratitude that he did. My inner peace today comes from having a father who was open, an Aunt who can ask for help and gracefully receive it, and a daughter who texts “I love you.”