To conclude each Sunday service at my church, Caldwell Memorial Presbyterian, there is time set aside for ‘Joys and Concerns.’ Parishoners stand and one by one clear their minds in front of God and other witnesses. What they talk about is all over the map; prayers for those who are ailing, wishes for safe travel for relatives, thanks for some random kindness, help to find a job, etc.
My weekly letters perform much the same function. Joys range from thankfulness to being Ellen and Reid’s dad to watching some unidentified bird flit among the branches of trees in the green belt behind the house. My concerns shift from our collective pursuit to land meaningful work to the string of events you saw unfold these past few months.
There is one other concern to share. What was lost has now been found: namely last week’s letter, dated July 5, to the kids. But a post or two ago I mentioned that my dad’s passing was a chance to reconnect to others who reentered my life at that trying time. In that vein, here is a note to my good buddy Bob back in Des Moines. Excuse the coarse language. The momentarily lost letter to Ellen and Reid is pasted below the letter to Bob.
July 7, 2010
Bob: It’s been a hell of a stretch these past few months but thanks for your email the other day. That tended to make things much easier. I’m not in a bad spot right now. The real crusher was all the events that led up to his passing. That’s where the anxiety and exhaustion set in. I’ve slept like a rock these past few nights although it’s not a sleep inducer I’d recommend to anyone. Got by pretty well although there were the usual family gymnastics if you know what I mean.
So I’m back in the fold now, trying to prove my worth and stay put. Haven’t followed Meredith very much except for the stock pages.
Hey, your photos from Oregon were cool. No wonder folks want to come from far and wide to play there. You lucky stiffs. No one comes down to Carolina to play – and given the scorching heat we’ve had since June 1, I wouldn’t either. It’s been a broiler coupled with incredible humidity. Omaha felt arid by comparison.
Have ridden a lot this spring and summer, in part because I’ve got a bona fide girl friend who exists to ride. We’ve been all over the Carolinas collecting dealer pins. Average day trip has been about 225. Bike just passed 40,000 miles. Probably time for a Road King. Told Reid the current bike is his if he meets certain stipulations (license and rider class, can’t live in Chicago, etc.). So we’ll see if he lives up to his end of the bargain. Not a lot of Harleys down here by comparison, but the roadways make for incredible riding. Hardly a straight road anywhere. But when it’s hot it is a beast. Makes Sturgis seem like a refrigerator.
My golf is just plain shitty. My swing is so long as to replicate Charles Barkley’s. Just God-awful in all respects. Plus, I’m playing maybe once a week (what with all the bike riding) and the courses are okay but not anywhere near conditioned as you are used to “up North.” Haven’t enjoyed it nearly as much as I did way back when.
But I am enjoying the blog. It’s the one creative outlet that’s still in my control. Just went past 75 posts since January, and according to Reid, that’s a good amount. Not a whole hell of a lot of subscribers (19) but there seem to be about 20-30 page views a day. Topped out in the mid-70s during dad’s final days. It almost felt like a long running serial at that point. Reid has semi-promised to help me with the design and the promotion (the fine points of which are totally over my head). It has me thinking about re-tooling the book in its entirety away from the college-centric approach to more of a general correspondence situation. As always, your thoughts are welcomed and listened to.
Well, time to move on (as opposed to moving onward and upward). Say hi to Val, and hopefully I’ll get my sorry ass up there sooner than later.
July 5, 2010
Reid/Ellen: Whooee, now is the time for hard earned, unfortunately, down time. You guys deserve it. I am really proud of how you dealt with everything about the entire situation; your own grief, the relatives, the events and the circumstances. Your grandfather would’ve patted you both on the back.
It’s okay to be in a bit of a fog. The stress is not just caused by your grandfather’s passing; it is everything that led up to it for the past few months. The late night calls from nurses, the increasingly dire reports, putting their house on the market and organizing their material possessions, keeping relatives and friends informed about him and your grandmother. It is all just extraordinarily tiring but it simply is the process.
Now we have to move on to the care of your grandmother. She knows and processes more than people would like to believe, and this is extraordinarily hard for her. She really handled herself well at both services – and much of that owes to you Ellen at the visitation, and you Reid for insisting on helping her escape the Glen for a meal in a real restaurant. That was so good for her. She just came through those tough days in fine style. She has a whole new set of emotions that are in front of her, and it causes both pain and confusion. At the Chicago airport I got a call from the nurses’ desk at the Glen; they’d read her Friday letter and she had turned very sad and wanted to talk to one of her sons. Reid, it’s heartbreaking that she did not recall on her own that she’d seen us and gone to dinner. It’s important for people to see her and visit her. That’s why she lit up when her friends came up to console her and say hello. I called the Glen back and told them that anytime she was upset and wanted a friendly voice, they have my number. Any time and however often she wants to talk. That calls aren’t long, but it’s important to her.
There’s no timetable on her next move. Like you, Reid, hers’ is not a cut-and-dried situation. She has friends and relationships there, even if some of them are with the staff. I’m kind of conflicted although I see my brother’s point about having her close to her most local relative. I don’t know how often her friends would truly be able to see her, and your uncle will see her most days and be there for her other needs. My guess is that once the house sells and the dust has settled, that’s when she will head West. The upheaval in itself would not be good but I suppose she would get used to it. I did think it was hilarious when she described the other women chasing the one available elderly gentleman. Not much gets by her.
The other big rock is the dispersion of all their stuff. I wish you would be there because I think things are going to get cherry picked in your absence. That’s just the way it is and not much of it is worth fighting over. For me, the glass covered roasting pan (you guys don’t know of it) is about all I want. Ellen, some fine bone china will be coming your way at some point. I don’t necessarily need it and it is really a beautiful pattern. I’m glad to see it passed along to you. I’m kind of with you Reid in that the memories may be enough. There’s not a lot of worldly goods that I treasure beyond some of the photographs. There are lots of archival, never used post cards from the late 1800’s that are worth some serious money, along with what is essentially a 1917 copy of ‘Goodnight Moon’ that is in incredible shape. Who knows what will happen to those.
But it’s not about the stuff, it’s about what remains in our minds and in our relatives. I was distressed to see my Uncle Henry slide; he’s a great, great man and loves your grandmother dearly. It was thrilling to find a lot of photographs with him, his sister and your grandfather in the shots. His predicament is just the progression of life. But he’s got a solid family behind him. It was good to see everyone; cousin Eric and the others. Like I told the Glen, I’m just a call away for you two.