Sunday, April 20, 2014

4-20-14, a personal tale

hey daddy.

sometimes it seems like it was just last thursday that i picked up the phone and there you were on the other end of the line, brightly talking and saying how you were doing pretty good and glad to be coming home. only it was not last thursday but a year from last thursday that we had that last phone conversation.

it was the next day, in fact, that we had our last face-to-face talk. you lay there in your bed in your most comfortable pajamas and told me quite emphatically that my hands were cold. i tried to warm them, and as the hours went by and everybody crowded by your side, it was a sweet, holy moment, all of us there with you.

sometimes it feels like yesterday and sometimes like 10 years and other times like the long year it has been, since you last spoke to me. for awhile there, after we lost you, i'd go back into my email and read your last written message to me, looking for more meaning in it than was already plain to see. by then you couldn't really write letters anymore... your thoughts were too jumbled, so i hold this one close, what you wrote to me about something i had posted on this blog.

'One of your best...........from your favorite reader.....wth love.  gvbsr'  


this weekend we have marked many things. meredith and james have been married for five years. FIVE. what a joy it is for them and for our family to see how happy they are together. she is still the city girl you proclaimed her to be at 3 months old. we doubt, sadly, she will ever leave it. but knowing they are so happy together softens that sadness. she and james will be a great couple, no matter where they are.

after supper last night we facetimed with pamela, mama and hooks, something you knew very little about last year, but we do a lot now. in fact, you may remember that you talked to hooks and meredith and maybe kendall, too, that last day on Facetime, which made them feel like they were there, in the room with you.

FaceTime keeps us connected though we are often states apart. i wish we'd had it in when i lived in georgia, so i could have seen your face when i talked to you. but i do have your letters.

our favorite facetime time now is with gracie, because she is always happy and waving. when you left us she was but a bit of a thing, and now she has teeth and is talking about what the dog-bird-cat can say. laura gray is growing up, too, and so much the big sister to vance, who seems like the happiest part of you, which is wonderful. cole of course, is the star of every family show, and he loves his little cousins so much.

today we were in our favorite town — the one you always said you wanted to leave, but in the end, where you chose to come back to. and we were there because of you, to celebrate Easter, and to remember where we were on 4-20-13.

no more perfect day than this, the day of Jesus' resurrection, to take a moment to ponder about your own.

we gathered in church with mama on the pew you shared with her for so long after we left home. (we filled three pews, thank you very much.) and afterward met up with you at the cemetery. kip brought the circus peanuts and i brought the orange slices, a communion of sorts with your offspring and your favorite treats. your children read at thing or two (gra even wrote a prayer in the best baptist tradition) and we did it (mostly) without tears. mama had a few, but on days like this, she is a sailboat without her tiller. though there are so many of us trying to direct her way, we are not the same as you there, holding onto her elbow as she crosses the street.

we have been crying a little bit, remembering the day last year, which is really ok because you cried a few times in your life, too. and our crying is because we miss your very being, and your being witness to all that won't stay still in our family... and there is a lot. 

sam & lindsay are getting married on saturday, and kip has become chief resident... he obviously is as smart, though more outgoing than you...  meredith and james have new jobs and promotions, kendall and matt have a new house, and jay and john both have great jobs in new cities. graham has built that shed to house the saw you gave him... oh, and he brought a special young woman to share this day with him today. (she helped him paint the shed, if that tells you something about her.)

we picnicked at your favorite place — the bird farm — introducing cole to a baby duck and gracie to a hundred parakeets in every color of the sky. cole petted the duckling, and gracie even tried to pull the tail of a parakeet when it landed on her stroller. a full flock of them landed on my arm and in my hair and tried to eat my shoes. 

our picnic was fried chicken from hardees and mama's potato salad, pamela's chocolate chip cookies and hooks's brownies. graham brought your favorite deviled eggs, and we talked about the fact that you would only eat the yolks. there are three left, the three you would have eaten if you'd been able to. sam brought the humor, and kip wore his gvb tie clip. all your boys were dashing today.

all your number ones were there, including jimmy, marti and rick (in no particular order) but we were missing meredith & james & lindsay, kendall, matt, laura gray & vance, jay and john, but they were all there with us really, just as you were.

at the end of our meal, mama stepped in to say what you would have... thanks for coming... and that looking around, there is STILL not an ugly one in the bunch. i honestly don't know how in the world that has happened.

on friday, we will be together again, to celebrate sam and lindsay and their marriage, and we can't wait for that. you will be happy to know that mama will be wearing beige, and PINK, and she will look beautiful in both. 

Daddy, our family is growing and changing and that's exactly what a family is supposed to do. you and mama set us in motion all those years ago, and we have never really stopped. and of course, all the additions add so much color to our beige. 

today pamula read something you left for us to find in your desk, which talked about how whenever we really need you, you will be nearby. you were there today. we felt it.
i read parts of a letter you wrote to me in 1979, when you talked about how you would one day be someone's ancestor, and that your only hope of eternal life, really, was through your children and grandchildren.

well, i'd say you have it. that on this day of the resurrection of our Lord, you have yourself eternal life for sure, through not only what was promised by God to all of us, but through all of us gathered there, and those who couldn't be with us but who love you event though you are not physically here. 

i hope you can know, somehow, that we will, each one, as your ancestors, do all that you have hoped for us. and we will do you proud.

writemuch.blogspot is the original work of author susan byrum rountree. all written work and photography is copyright protected and can only be used with written permission of the author.

Friday, April 4, 2014

unbind him, and let him go

april finally got here. though on sunday, march seemed to tug hard at winter, come monday the sun came out and by tuesday, there was no foolin', none at all, because the birds woke up with cackling spirits, singing so loud about this new warmth that on our morning walk, we almost asked them to tone it down. 

but we didn't. 

everyone around me —neighbors, family, co-workers, birds, dogs, even strangers on the street looked up at the blue sky and said, well, thank heaven it's april. finally. 

now we take our meals outside and drive home with the windows down, drinking in the warm air deep and quick because soon the pollen will kick in and we'll have to shut the windows again.

april. a good month for me historically. the month of birthdays: my mother's— a birthday shared by a dear, lifelong friend and a godchild — a day that always meant Mama'd get a new azalea for the yard from her children and a bouquet of yellow roses from my father. april meant meeting Lydia on the back road to ride our bikes to school in the bright morning. it meant spring cleaning, when i'd come home from school to find my hair brush and comb soaking in ammonia in the bathroom sink and all my winter clothes put away, my spring dresses hanging crisp and pressed in my closet.

April in college: i was tapped on my mother's birthday to edit the school literary magazine. (it was the best birthday present i gave her, ever.) my first child began life one april day. it's the month of my grandfather's birthday.

last year April took on a different meaning for me. a sadness that it's taken me just about a year to shake. but i can feel myself unbinding, if only a little bit.

my siblings and i have traded emails today. routine things when you're dealing with estates and mothers and whatnot. when i looked at the calendar, i could not help thinking of this same day last year, when our lives took a tumble (my mother a literal one, breaking her femur in Daddy's hospital room.) i wrote about it here and here.

i'm blessed to have the mother i do. in this year we have all marveled, because she is all about April. Just watching her deal — with my father's illness and death, her broken leg and weeks in a wheel chair. in the weeks after Daddy died, when i visited her, each day brought progress. she got up out the the wheelchair. walked with a walker, then a cane. caring for herself. climbing stairs. set up a new home, drove herself, engaged life again. 

so we are celebrating with a party, not a birthday party (though it will be on her birthday), but a spring celebration. we've invited her friends from home visit, share a little lunch and see her new house. now when we talk on the phone, planning, her voice is bright, expectant, unbound.

i started a new Bible study this week. I am not one for sitting down quietly and talking out loud about God, but there you have it. there is a long-standing joke that Episcopalians don't actually read the Bible. but i have found when two or there of us gather we actually do know the Bible pretty well. our Book of Common Prayer is filled with it, as is our Hymnal

my friends and i met in the early morning before work and spent a few minutes with Lazarus, which is the gospel for Sunday, and well, we found that apparently, there is a lot in our lives to resurrect. 

by the end of the hour, we were all weepy — just like Jesus in the story — considering the hope offered in this ancient tale. we each had different reactions to it, but the Lazarus story reminded me of that holy day last April when we gathered around my father to say goodbye. only i don't think i did, fully. 

but it's time. 

yes, april finally got here, and it seems to me now, the whole month is all about unbinding —  everything from peonies to people, opening up, letting the light in after a winter that seemed to offer little. 

in the past few days i have been thinking of little except my father. the tone of his voice, his grin, all the times i have wanted to call him up and ask him something medical. my family will gather on Easter Day to remember him on the anniversary of his death. we'll picnic at a place he loved to visit and maybe even have a few candied orange slices for dessert. 

it will be a good day, a bright day, and what better day than Easter, to end our year of grieving, to unbind him — and ourselves — and finally let him go?

writemuch.blogspot is the original work of author susan byrum rountree. all written work and photography is copyright protected and can only be used with written permission of the author.