Robin Williams

The death of Robin Williams had a profound affect on me.  I felt I had lost my dad all over again.

Though only 6 years my senior, he seemed a generation older and wiser and funnier.

I suppose it was the movie Popeye that opened my heart to him.  You see, it was there that I first saw my dad in him – a resemblance that only increased as time passed and he grew up and older.

After my dad passed, Robin Williams became a sort of surrogate dad (or big brother who resembled my dad).  Watching him brought my dad to life again as I remembered my dad’s crooked smile and sparkling eyes, his easy laugh and love of people, his enjoyment of a good joke…his funny side as well as his serious….

Watching Robin Williams grow gracefully into his golden years was like watching my dad grow older all over again. He didn’t slow down. He lived more and more into who he was and leaned hard into who he was becoming.  (CNN reports that there are four as of yet unreleased Robin Williams movies.)

Learning that Robin Williams’ death came at his own hands compounded the sorrow of the loss felt. I could only imagine the pain his family and friends felt.

Behind those laughing eyes there was a sadness. And, that sadness created a depth to his characters that made them all the more real – and Robin Williams all the more human.

Why did he take his life? I don’t know.  Why DO funny people commit suicide? Why does anyone?

What would drive you to do so?

Don’t be so quick to say you never would – depression is an odd master that drives one to do things that seem out of character and impossible to believe from the standpoint of one standing on the outside looking in.

Suicide Prevention Hotline.

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Daddy

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!

This would be your 56th year to celebrate the title of Daddy. No man ever wore it as well or deserved it more than you.

I love you.  I miss you.  I celebrate you – today and everyday.

You are my daddy and I am your daughter.  There’s no denying that fact. I see you in me every single day.

And, I smile at the recognition.

Hello, Daddy.  Your right hand is clicking this keyboard. (My left hand looks more like Mom’s.)

Hello, Daddy.  Your eyes sparkled at me in the mirror.

Hello, Daddy.  Your laughter echos in my own.

Hello, Daddy.  Happy Father’s Day.

I’m in church this morning – honoring you and worshiping our Great God. After church I’m taking Mom to Piccadilly for lunch. And, from there we will slip over to your grave. Mom will remark that one day she will lie beside you and I will tell her there’s no need to rush things.

She misses you.  We all do.

And, we all remember and celebrate you today. Thank you for raising me right, for loving God, for teaching me well, for loving my rough and tumble ways, for being strong, for being our rock and our example.  Thank you for being YOU!

I love you, Daddy!

And, I miss you, oh, so much!

Happy Father’s Day!

Living with Remembrance

There’s a difference in looking back at the past and remembering, and living with remembrance.

Looking back tends to keep us past focused and backward facing. Neither is conducive to forward motion.

Living with remembrance is present focused and forward facing.  It openly accepts what is and acknowledges what was and it incorporates both into a workable solution that launches one forward into what will be.

Living with remembrance honors the memory, provides an outlet for an expression of grief, and keeps one in the present and looking toward the future.

This weekend is a difficult one for my family.  Yesterday, Hubby’s mom celebrated her first wedding anniversary without her husband – a marriage that lasted almost 60 years.  She lost him 4 1/2 months ago.  Tomorrow, Hubby will endure his first Father’s Day without his dad, and I will remember three Father’s Days ago when I watched my dad take his last breath.

Sorrow has a way of sucking us back to where and when it all happened and if we’re not careful the past can wrap its memories and emotions around us and snare us.

As we immerse ourselves in this weekend, may we do so present tense with our faces set toward the future, living with remembrance, loving those left and those who left us, and rejoicing in what and who we have with us still.  May we remember the blessings we had in those who blessed us with intent, with their presence, love, discipline, strength, character…for so much of our lives.

We are who we are because of them. And, we live with remembrance to honor them.  It’s what they would want us to do.  After all, it’s what they modeled for us.

My Father-in-law

I met the man who would become my father-in-law 37 years ago.

It’s been said that first impressions are lasting impressions – good or bad, they often affect how we see and interact with an individual later on.

The man who would receive the designation “Hubby” wanted me to meet his family – and for them to meet me.

To say that I was nervous would be an understatement. Would they like me? Would I like them? Could we mesh and work as one?

The man who knew them best assured me they would love me as he did and that I should just be myself.

(Ha ha ha ha…be…my…self.)

When we arrived at his parent’s house I was greeted with open arms and a fair amount of curiosity.  The curiosity I expected, the immediate open arms…I didn’t.

I immediately became “Ms Suzan” and they became “Mom” and “Dad” – terms of endearment that exist to this day.

What did I find as I watched the man who would become my father-in-law?

I saw a  gentleman, a protective and loving father, the ruler of his family, provider, pastor, fisherman, carpenter, gardener, mechanic, giver, a merciful and gracious man, quick to forgive, stern in opinion, devoted to family, sacrificial, determined, strong, good natured, fun-loving, an honest and humble man who lived his life to please God and care for his family.

This man opened his heart and arms to me and I became daughter #2. He loved me.  He corrected me.  He teased me. He scolded me. He advised me. And, at times he locked horns with me (that’s what happens when two hard-heads disagree sometimes).

I lost my wonderful father-in-law in February of this year.  And, I still grieve for him.  Both of my dads are gone now – what a huge hole their departure left in my heart and life.

When I first met Dad I had no idea of the impact he would have on my life – and, in his absence, the impact he still has.

He was quick to love and even quicker to forgive.  He was the Dad of the second chance – any of his children can tell you that.

Today marks the 85th celebration of Dad’s birth.

Happy birthday, Dad!  Thank you for loving me and for welcoming me into your family as one of your children.  I am indeed blessed!  I love you!  And, I miss you.  Happy birthday!

Looking Ahead

I usually have posts scheduled several days ahead.  As I type this, it’s Saturday mid morning, Feb 1.  I have posts written and scheduled to post through Feb 4 and from Feb 7 through 10.

Days 5 and 6 are nonexistent – so far.  This will be Feb 5, I suppose.  And, I’ll schedule it to post knowing that I most likely won’t be where I can change it’s post date or edit it in any way.

Most likely, I’ll be in SC on this date, and without adequate internet.  Hubby’s dad’s health is failing and we anticipate the necessity of travel soon.

As I type this, my mind is going over my travel list and my “to do” list for before we travel…here at home, at my mom’s, with work, etc.

My own dad’s death comes back to me time and again as we learn more about the situation with his dad and attempt to decide what we need to do and when – and for how long.

The nurse said today that she believes his dad is in “end stage” – the time is near.  We’ve asked God for wisdom and guidance in timing and details.

If this posts you will know Hubby’s dad continued his march toward the promised land without a look back and we grieve our loss and rejoice in his gain.

And, Suzansays will be silent tomorrow.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow

How is it possible that after a person is gone, it seems you come to know them better?

Perhaps it’s because the old barriers are gone and there is freedom to explore, not only the individual, but ourselves and our feelings.

Perhaps it’s because we are able to see the person as a whole, from the views and positions of others, and not just with our own eyes and through our own relationship.

I don’t know.  Wish I did.  Perhaps someone who reads this will be able to shed some light on this for me.

Dad died Father’s Day 2012.

When he died, I thought I knew him well.  And, I felt I had learned all of him, and about him, possible…that there could be no more to learn.

After all, as his daughter, I had known him for 55 years and had lived in his house for 20 of those years.

But, in the year+ that he’s been gone, I’ve come to see beyond the man I knew as Daddy and saw through eyes of adoration. In his absence, I’ve experienced him in new and different ways as friends and family have spoken of him and of their own loss.

I see my dad differently now. And, perhaps, I see myself differently as well.

My dad didn’t change.  It was only my perception of him that changed as my knowledge of him grew to a more well rounded understanding of who he was as a man, a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a father-in-law, a grandfather, a friend….

And, as I beheld the man…the whole man, I began to look at the woman…the whole woman.

Me.

Part of my understanding of who I was (am) was founded in who my dad was, or, who I saw and understood him to be, and my relationship to and with him.

My identity was, in part, wrapped up in his.  Or, in the identity I had given him because of my experiences with him, our relationship, and the words of others.

“You’re just like your daddy!”  “I see your daddy in you!” “You’re your daddy made over!”

Dad’s been gone a little over 14 months.

When I look in the mirror, I still see him…the eyes, the perpetual frown (genetic not anger generated), curls, freckles….

But, more often than not, I see me and traits I obtained from him.  And, I am beginning to accept, and like, the me that I see.

It’s good to look beyond and observe the whole of a matter…of a person…of a situation.  Taking in what’s ignored or unseen gives a more complete picture and greater understanding of and appreciation for what is.  And, you never know…you just might find yourself – your true self – hidden within your assumptions and blind ideas.

Take a look around you – a fresh look with open eyes and willing heart.  You might be surprised by what you learn about those nearest and dearest to you.

And, you just might be surprised to find that you grow up and grow into the person you’ve been all along and just didn’t realize it because you were trying to be someone else.

Happy 88th Birthday, Daddy!  I’ve always loved you, but I find my love and appreciation for you has grown in your absence. The more I learn of you, the more I love you and appreciate the traits of you that I see in me.

Hammered

I can’t remember how old I was when I first handled a hammer.  I do recall that it took both hands to lift it from the floor and I wasn’t able to lift it much farther than that.

It was HEAVY.

The handle wasn’t all that heavy, just a short stick of wood.  I picked that up easy enough. But, when it came to lifting the hammer head…well, that was another story.

Dad quickly intervened lest I drop the thing on my toes.  No worries about dropping it on my head – I couldn’t lift it that high.

As I grew older, larger, stronger, I learned to manage a hammer.  First, with both hands as I pounded in the direction of a nail, but rarely on it.  Then, with one hand – much to the horror of Dad because that left the other hand in harms way.

I learned that by holding the hammer behind the head I had more control over what the hammer head did and where it went than if I held the handle like my strong dad did.

I also learned that I liked to hammer and enjoyed the heft of the hammer in my hand.

Dad taught me most of what I know about hammering.  I watched him build things, repair things, hammer nails, saw planks. He was my mentor.

One day he handed me a smaller…lighter weight hammer that was easier to manage and that wouldn’t do as much damage as his larger, heavier hammers could.

Then, he handed me a nail and pointed to a discarded board.

With my little claw hammer in one hand and my nail in the other I mimicked what I had seen him do countless times.  And, then I did what I had seen him do only a couple of times.

I missed the nail head and hit my hand that was holding the nail.

It hurt!

I cried.

Dad said, “Well, Babe, why did you do that?”

I’ll admit, I was asking myself the same thing!

As the pounding in my hand subsided, Dad showed me repeatedly how to hammer a nail.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap-tap.

That was the sound his hammer made when he hammered a nail – when it was a long nail.  He was strong enough that he could drive a shorter nail in with one whack.

Tap – set the nail into the board while holding it.

Tap – drive the nail in 1/3 of the way.

Tap – drive the nail in 1/2 to 2/3 of the way.

Tap – drive it in fully.

Tap-tap – make sure the head of the nail is flush with the board.

I wanted to hammer the nail: tap, tap, tap, tap, tap-tap.  Not, tap,whack, tap, whack, tap, tap, tap, whack, tap, tap, whack, whack,  tap, tap, tap, whack, tap, tap, tap….

Time and experience has a way of teaching us many lessons and building strength where  it’s needed.

Brother was fond of Dad’s hammers, too.  He and I would select one each and take them out to the picnic table in the back yard, crawl under it, and crack open the little river rocks Dad had placed under it.

As my hand/eye coordination improved, my right arm grew stronger and my aim got better.  Not only was I able to hit the nail on the head without missing, I was able to continue doing so without stopping until the nail was flush with the board.

To me, that was an accomplishment.  I had arrived.

I graduated to a “real” hammer – one of Dad’s heavy hammers.

It wasn’t long until I was tapping out Dad’s rhythm.

Driving a hammer is like riding a bike – once you learn how, you never forget.  However, if you don’t do it often, you find that your muscles lose their strength and endurance.

High school pulled me from Dad’s workshop.  Girls were encouraged to embrace Home Economics and boys took Shop. My muscles grew soft as I sewed, stirred batter….

Next came college – no opportunity to pick up a hammer and have fun there.

Then, I married.  Apartment living left me with no need of a hammer, apart from hanging a picture on the wall.

My grandmother kept her hammer under her mattress “in case she ever needed it.”  I didn’t understand that until one night when I was home alone and I heard someone/something scratching around my apartment door.

A hammer is an up-close and personal weapon of choice.  I didn’t intend to allow anyone intending me harm to get close enough for me to be able to wield a hammer in defense.  No way!

I dug through the hall closet and came up with Hubby’s aluminum baseball bat and stood it beside the door.

Hubby and I moved into a house.  Houses are perfect for hammers.  There’s always something that needs to be pounded back into place.

Or into place…like tomato stakes.

There’s one thing about tomato plants, they like to grow.  And, if they aren’t supported into a “bush,” they will run along the ground like the vines they are.  Hence the need for tomato stakes.

Fast forward to our “this year’s garden.” Our tomato plants were caged when they were young, but quickly grew too tall and too wide to be corralled by the cages.  To prevent wind and heavy rain from breaking off the vines, I selected old tomato stakes found when I trimmed over-grown hedges and hammered them into the ground. Then, I tied the snaking vines to the stakes for support.

The cucumbers had outgrown their cages as well, so I took several shorter stakes (that had broken off due to dry rot) and set about pounding them into the ground around the cucumbers.

I used one of Dad’s old heavy claw hammers to do the job.  The heavier the hammer, the more work it will do for you.

Well, this hammer did more than I counted on.

The wood at the end of one of the stakes was brittle.  When I brought the hammer down hard onto the top of it (to drive the stake into the ground), the end of the stake shattered and the hammer came down (hard) onto my left wrist as I held the stake firm for the pounding.

I thought I had shattered the bone.

Inside I went for a Ziploc bag and ice.  Mom was no where to be seen, for which I was grateful, so back outside I went to sit and nurse my wounded hand.

When the cold from the ice pack became unbearable and inflicted more pain than the pounding it received did, I removed the ice pack and examined my hand.

I had not broken the skin open.  That was good.  I had a bruise, but nothing appeared broken.  That was also good.  I could move all of my fingers and could make a fist.  Again, good.  I had pain, but everything worked.  Good – all good.

Mom came out to see what I was up to, took one look at the ice pack, another at my reddened hand and said “What did you do?? Did you break it open?”

I assured her I was fine. “I just got hammered,” was my reply.

Her reply: “I thought your dad taught you better than that.”

I thought he did, too!

Knowing My Limit

After an extremely long and hard day of yard work at Mom’s house, I sat my dirty, sweaty self on the swing on her patio.  Mom had overseen the last hour of my work and was ready for a little chat time before I heading up the hill toward home and Hubby.

She said several things.

  • The yard looks nice.
  • You are just like your daddy.
  • Now all we need is a little rain.
  • Did you put away the hoe?
  • I believe you got more work done today that your dad ever did in one day.
  • Your dad had more sense and knew when to quit!

I should have seen it coming.

But, I didn’t.

My body was exhausted and my mind was tired – and in some ways my day was just beginning. When I left her house and arrived at mine, Hubby and I would walk for an hour, then I would cook a late dinner and work on whatever had come into my work email since I’d last checked it that morning before heading to her house.

I had no control over what was said to me, but I did have control over my reaction.

Mom had worried all day that I would over do out in the bright sunshine, 90+ degree weather and extremely high humidity.  It was hot.  Sweat literally ran from me, dripping off my eyebrows and chin, running down my legs and leaving trails in the dust that covered me.  Dehydration was a concern and so was heat exhaustion.

She had lost my dad a year ago…and here I was out working in the sun like a crazy woman. She worried that she would find me passed out in the yard.

I understood her concern.

  • She cared for me.
  • She was concerned for me and my health – and for herself as well.
  • She was frightened by what could happen to me.
  • She was not experienced in working in that type heat.
  • She was not physically capable of doing the work.
  • She was relieved I was finished and okay.
  • She wanted to warn me to take care of myself.

I assured her that I had remained hydrated and had rested in the shade.  I also told her that I knew my limits and though I had pushed them, I’d not overstepped them.

Her response?

“Yeah, your limit is when you drop.”

She had a point.

When I arrived at Mom’s house, I had a to-do list of all that I intended to accomplish before leaving.  And, I worked single-mindedly, with that goal in mind.

I do tend to go at things “like a house a’ fire” and work until I’m about to drop. Then, I rest for 5 minutes and go again.

That’s the only way I know to get it all done.  It’s what Dad taught – by example.

I reminded Mom that she had spoken those same words to Dad in summers past.

Her reply?

“Yeah, and you see where he is now!”

Okay, point taken.

Father’s Day White Rose

This is my first Father’s Day to wear a white rose in memory of Daddy.

He died Father’s Day morning, 2012.

From the earliest age at which I could be trusted with a straight pin, I have honored him each Father’s day by wearing a red rose pinned over my heart.

From this Sunday forward, I will wear a white rose in memory of him.

In memory.

Memories of my dad are sweet, and they grow sweeter as days pass without his presence in them.

(I pause here and allow some to roll through my mind – snatches of time frozen in memories. Those of you who knew my dad are calling up your own memories now.)

I am Daddy’s daughter.  I see him reflected in the mirror’s image of me.  I feel his expressions upon my face. My daughter says I walk like him.  Mom says I work like him. Hubby says I have his stubbornness.

My brother bears resemblance to Daddy, too.  I could look at him forever, just picking my dad out of his features, mannerisms, utterances, attitudes….

I see him in his grandchildren – and yes, in his new great granddaughter.

My dad was the best of the best. (It’s okay if you disagree – I would hope you would consider your own dad in that way.)

I miss you, Daddy. We all do.

I love you.

Happy Father’s Day!

And, Happy FIRST Father’s Day to Son! What an exciting time for him. I see my son in Sophia and know as she grows older, I will see him in her many times over.

When Dad died last Father’s Day I thought surely the celebration of Father’s Day was past for me, but God has a way of opening doors and throwing off shutters that allows us to see and experience beyond our own darkness and step into the light of others.

My son…a DAD!  His Grandad would be so proud.  I know I am!

And, Happy Father’s Day AND Happy 35th Anniversary to Hubby who so graciously agreed to celebrate our anniversary yesterday instead of today.  I love you!

June

What an emotion-filled month June is for me this year.

Tomorrow, June 5, marks the one year memorial of the passing of my sister-in-love’s (SIL) mother.

The 8th of June is the day we arrived in town last year for her “visitation”/funeral, and the day I realized my own dad had little time left to live.

9th marks the burial of my SIL’s mom.

The 10th found us heading back home with heavy hearts – my mind set on preparing to return within days to remain with my parents until after Dad’s death…long enough to get Mom on her feet and feeling secure.

June 14 marks the day we returned, amazed Dad had declined so much in 4 days.

June 16 is our wedding anniversary.  Last year was the first we celebrated apart in our 34 years together.

June 17 was Father’s Day.  Dad died just before 11 a.m.

(This year our anniversary is on Father’s Day, which provides an interesting dilemma and added emotions.)

On the morning of June 18, Brother, Mom and I were seated at a table in the funeral home making plans for Dad’s funeral/burial.

Hubby and Daughter arrived on the 19th in time for “visitation” at the funeral home.  It was their first time to see him – the pallor of death had been covered with makeup and his skinny form covered in a favorite suit.

The 20th drew friends and family together for Dad’s funeral.

June 21 – Hubby and I took a long walk and make life changing plans to move here to live near Mom.

June 22 provided a change of pace. Hubby had a wedding rehearsal – that of our son.

The wedding, on June 23, went off without a hitch but not without a tear or two. Dad/Granddad was missed – he had hoped to see these two wed.

(Their first year anniversary will be celebrated with their newborn daughter.)

The 24th sent Hubby and Daughter home to begin the task of packing their things, with the understanding that I would remain with Mom until she was settled and felt secure enough to be left alone.  And, then I would go home to pack the house, say goodbye to our life there, and move here.

It’s been a long year.

And, it seems June has already been a long month even though I’m only 4 days into it.

Yes, there will be tears in the days ahead – and plenty of opportunities for tears.  But, there will also be smiles and laughter as we remember and celebrate SIL’s mom, Dad, our 35th anniversary, Son and DIL’s 1st anniversary, our new granddaughter, our new life here, new friends, new opportunities, the first ripe tomato…and Mom’s renewed health.

(Mom almost died Mother’s Day morning.)

Yes, we have much to be thankful for – much to rejoice in.

God’s grace, mercy and peace was so evident last June.  Each day ticked off above is a reminder of God’s presence, goodness, love and care.

And, I’m reminded that I’m not alone and I don’t have to walk through this month on my own. God is ever present.  And, Hubby is here to hold my hand and walk through June with me.