Hello everyone. I wrote this last Friday to be posted on the 15th so with everything you read, keep that in mind. Timing of it was important to me but I guess other events took precedence. I hope you’ll enjoy it and get something out of it anyway.
As many of you know, both of my parents are now gone. Passed away. Both of my mom’s parents passed in 1992 and 1993. My dad’s father passed in 1991. This past Sunday, Dec 9, I got the call that my dad’s mother had passed away. She out lived him by nearly 13 years. In fact, 6 days shy of that. For all of you doing the math, Dad died 13 years ago today. When he died, grandma was out west visiting his younger brother. Neither of them came to the funeral. I could understand why she didn’t but for him, not. For that and events before and after that time, I’ve not cared to see him or hear from him ever again.
I hadn’t seen my grandmother in about 9 years. She was living in a retirement home here. Not a nursing home, this is one of those places where people live when they can still take care of themselves but need to be looked after in some way. She had a house but sold it to move out to live with or near my dad’s brother after dad died. Through some of those unspeakable circumstances, she wound up back here in this retirement home. About a year after she moved in to it, she began to develop Dementia and it finally turned into Alzheimer’s. She was taken back out west so her son could take care of her and about 7 years ago, she was put into a nursing home. By then, she didn’t recognize or remember anyone around her or from her past. The little bit of exposure I have with this disease, it isn’t a pretty sight. It isn’t a nice way to go out. It’s confusing for its’ victims and it’s taxing for those around them trying to help and take care of them. Before she was admitted to the nursing home, funeral arrangements had to be made. I didn’t know that is how it works. She and my grandfather bought cemetery plots a few years before he died. So she has been sent back here for her burial, today. In fact, by the time any of you are reading this, that is where I’ll be (if you’re reading in the morning). Don’t cry for me, or her.. If she was suffering as much as I think she was, I’m glad she’s gone.
Now that I have that out of the way, here’s the reason for this post. The above is what brought all of this to mind for me and it is something I’ve been thinking about it all week. That something is this. What do I remember most about the people in my life, alive or not? Is it some perceived or actual wrong done to me or someone I love? Well, yes, I’m very likely to remember those things for a long time to come and some of them, I may eventually forgive. Is it mom’s cooking? Well, I remember the cooking but I can’t say I remember the taste of any of it unless she was experimenting with a ‘new’ recipe and it made me gag (It was known to happen once in awhile). Is it even their faces? Not really. The longer they are ‘gone’ the more faded those images become. I don’t know why that happens, it may be some sort of coping mechanism that we’re all born with. If I didn’t have pictures of any of them, I eventually wouldn’t remember what they looked like at all.
For me, it is the audio that I remember the most. I can still see and more importantly hear, the image and sound of my father playing his accordion even though when he passed, he hadn’t played it in about 8 years. I can hear him from when I was a kid, hollering, JEFF!! as he wanted to give me some task to do because he thought I was relaxing a little too much. In fact, to this very day, I can still hear that. I can hear my mother talking on the phone with one of her customers of her business or one of her subcontractors as she called them on their attempted BS. I can hear my grandfather telling us a joke, as kids, about a farmer talking to his horse and the horse responding. I can hear my grandmother in the same way (mom’s parents). I can easily remember my other grandmother droning on about people we didn’t know and couldn’t care less about. That’s just who she was. You get the idea.
What I remember most about all of the departed and even the people still in my life, is their laugh. It is like I can pull up an MP3 in my brain and play it, over and over. With each and every one of them. Sometimes I can remember the event or statement that brought on that laugh, most of the time I cannot. It isn’t important enough to me. Each laugh is different too. Some were just a chuckle or a giggle while others were gut busting pee your pants power laughs.
I don’t think there is any denying that laughter is contagious. I’ll bet money that there isn’t a single person here who has ever heard someone laughing and you didn’t at least giggle because of it, even if you don’t know what it is they are laughing about. Honestly I think those who can’t have a contagious laugh are either wound too tight or deeply troubled. I guess in part, where I’m going with this, is when those around me are no longer there, I hang on to them through the memory of their laugh. Even playing them back in my mind, as I write this, I’m having a good one.
As they lower my grandmother into her final resting place next to my grandfather this morning, I won’t be mourning her. I will be remembering her laugh and pardon the perceived disrespect if I have a huge grin on my face. The greatest gift I’ve ever been given by the collective group of people in my life, is the sound of their laughter. Their ability, even if unintended, through the contagious nature of it, to make me laugh. For that, regardless of anything else, I thank, each and every one of them.
It is my hope that all of you have received the same gift from those around you. Above, or now below, ground level. Treasure it because, I’m telling you, it will sneak up on you when you least expect it and will be triggered by the strangest of circumstances. I hope you are able to give that gift as well.
PS.. For some entertainment, I hope you’ll allow me some self promotion that has absolutely nothing to do with this post.