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Some things you can’t have

I used to talk to my grandfathers as a child and as a young adult. I’m sure many of you did too. Some of your grandfathers may have passed on from the living too.

Sometimes it was out loud, as if I was talking to you – though I’d sure as hell make sure you weren’t there to hear me. As a child, sometimes it was a whisper filled with yearning, as if they’d be more likely to hear me if I wanted it enough. Mostly it was silent thoughts, knowing they were gone, unreachable, but imagining their invisible presence to help me sort through tougher times.

And no, there was no psychosis involved, no hallucinations, or sharp blows to the head.

I understood the implications of death, but I wasn’t afraid of it. I had strong opinions on the matter though. I hated it like it was a thing, something that had stolen from me.

I don’t talk to them anymore. I don’t think about them as much as I did. Life gives us too much as we grow to grasp so tightly the things we’ve lost so long ago. But of course I still miss them, even as my memories of them fade. Maybe that’s life crowding out the pain of loss, healing a wound by overwhelming it with healthier tissue. If so, I think it’s misguided if not cruel. I want those memories back. I’m not satisfied with random events, I want to remember who they were. I want to remember with all my senses, but much of it is lost to time. My memories are more like a photo album than something experienced.

I wish I could really talk to them. I’d like to ask them for advice. I’d like to get their take on current events. I’d like to talk politics with them over a cup of coffee, even if we didn’t agree.

Some people wonder if their ancestors would be proud of them and what they’ve done with their lives. I wonder sometimes too. Tonight I lay sleepless in my great-great grandfather’s bed, wondering the same thing, my fingers tracing the wood grain of the headboard, imagining him doing the same many lifetimes ago.

I don’t want to wonder about my grandfathers. If they’d lived as long as I feel they should have I’d know, talking to them over a cup of coffee.

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A little pinch of pain

Cheryl is with Adam today at the Magic Kingdom, outside of Orlando. Around here this is nothing special, particularly for the last year. A little over a year ago we cashed in a few years of reward points on our Chase Disney Visa Card and bought annual passes. The kids have loved it. It’s meant almost unlimited Disney. We’ve used every discretionary dollar to indulge their inner mouse, doing several character breakfasts/dinners – where you and a select group of diners sit, relax, eat pretty decent food, and hug the Disney characters as they walk around having fun with the guests.

Even for a mouse doubter like myself, it’s pretty cool… especially when you see the kids’ reactions, particularly Adam. Beth’s reached the stage of teen reserve, where anything they see as below them is tolerated rather than enjoyed. Superficially anyway.

You may know this is the last weekend in February. What you may not know is our annual passes are good through this February. With school next week and church obligations tomorrow, the Disney window closes this evening.

Cheryl has been a world class mother these last few months, going way beyond the call of duty. She’s done the over and back, single day trip to the Magic Kingdom with the kids almost every Saturday since January, milking every bit of value and magic from the passes, and the kids have been anything but unenthusiastic participants. They haven’t tired a bit of it all. Since I have trouble walking ten minutes, let alone all day, I’ve had Saturday’s to myself at home. But that’s ok. I knew the kids were having a great time. Before Beth started a confirmation class this fall, requiring she attend an early Mass on Sundays, our Disney trips were weekend mini-vacations, staying over with my sister in Orlando.

Now it’s over. Adam and Cheryl are probably in the car now, driving home knowing it could be the last time in a LONG time. With financial uncertainties the coming year, we’re not sure we’ll be able to keep the house, let alone renew our passes.

Beth had her somber farewell last week, knowing she had a church function all day today.

This is not a tragedy however. Obviously no notes of sympathy are necessary. Everyone’s healthy. They may not even need all five of Kübler-Ross’ stages.

But anytime my kids feel bad, a little of it rubs off on me.

It’s all part of the package we call parenthood.

Something Lost

Your mother wasn’t feeling well last night or this morning, so we called her doctor. The pain was worrisome but not unbearable. The doctor took us right in this morning and gave your mother an ultrasound to see how you were doing.

I have no medical training, but I knew enough looking at the monitor to know we will never get the chance to meet.

I noticed the nurse wasn’t saying anything, and I got the sense it was deliberate. Your mother was looking at the screen too, but I couldn’t tell if she knew what I knew, and I was no better than the nurse. If your mom had looked at either of us she would have known right away.

So now we’ve lost you before we ever had you, and my soul is filled with sorrow at the loss. Even though you were never born, the idea of you is three months old, and your loss has struck me more than I would have thought. My only memories of you are made up, fantasies of what you could have been like. We’ll never get to make real ones. I’ll never get to look into your eyes and see some of myself in you. I’ll never get to look upon your face and see some of your mother in you. I’ll never get to see you play with your older sister. I’ll never get to share my love with my second child. One day we’ll probably have another, and maybe by then I’ll have recovered from your loss. People will refer to that child as our second child, and I might too; but it’s hard to imagine now. I’m so sorry.