Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Dealing with Loss
A month ago today, we buried my dad.
It’s been a heck of a month.
For those of you who didn’t know, my father passed away early on Feb. 27. At 5 a.m. to be precise, with my mother, my two sisters, one of my children and myself at his side. He's pictured above with my mom, in a photo taken a little less than two years ago.
I considered writing something about him here, but I did write a tribute of sorts to him in the column I write each Sunday – if you’d like to read it (and I hope you do), go right here.
On March 9 my aunt died. It was my mom’s sister, so yes, it would be quite an understatement to suggest my mother has had a difficult few weeks. My aunt had been sick for several months, some sort of mystery illness the doctors and specialists couldn’t identify. They could treat the symptoms, although even that was eventually going to be a losing battle, and there was nothing fun about those treatments.
Eventually she simply decided enough was enough and discontinued the treatments. Several days later she passed with her sons, her brother and her sister (my mom) at her side.
Although I did get a chance to visit with her a couple of times in the final weeks, I really hadn’t seen my aunt in a number of years. When I was a child, though, I stayed at her house each day after school for several years. Her oldest son and I were fairly close as cousins go – we were the same age (though I took great delight in constantly reminding him I was his senior by three months), we played sports together, tried to one-up one another, played throw-back-and-tackle together with our other cousins (that’s a game that essentially pits a ball carrier against everyone else), and each Friday night I either spent the night at his house or he was at mine.
And yes, we got into some trouble together. We absolutely totaled a go-cart he had racing one another when I cut him off on a turn and he ended up crashing in a creek. And we got a blistering punishment when we dammed up that same creek – so effectively we flooded a neighbor’s yard (and very nearly their house).
We had some fun times. But we grew up, grew apart, and other than visiting her in the hospital, I hadn’t seen my aunt or my cousin in years.
Then, ten days ago I woke to find an e-mail from an old friend, telling me about the passing of another friend, a young lady who was in the same high school graduating class as I was. My high class was small, just 25 students, so we were fairly tight. This particular young lady I had even dated a couple of times, though nothing came of that. We were just friends, and I recall a sweet-spirited, friendly person who never said an unkind word about anyone.
Again, I hadn’t seen her in years – probably two decades – so it wasn’t as if we were close. Still, it was quite sobering to see someone from my youth, someone whose image was still, at least in my mind, 18 and young and ready to take on the world, gone.
And I suppose that reminded me, in a way nothing else could, that I’m no longer young, that I’m no longer ready to take on the world. My own kids are getting to that age – my oldest will marry in September, my second will be transferring after two years of community college to a four-year school, and my next two are entering the later part of their teen years.
We still have one young one – she’s 11 – but even the final child is growing up, and I’m feeling old.
As I’ve aged my writing’s changed, too. I’m a better writer, and that’s good, but somehow along the way the newness, the idea that I’m creating something different every time I write a story, something fresh and exciting (to me if not to anyone else), has faded over the years.
I know that happens to everyone, whether they are a writer or painter, brick layer or traffic cop. As we age, we approach things differently, we see the world through older, sometimes less enthusiastic eyes. I guess it’s the way of life.
But it’s sad to lose that newness, that belief that you really can have an effect on the world, and most of all it’s sad to see those we care about lost.