Saturday, November 29, 2008

Roller Coasters and Cool Cars

Twenty years ago, I was on one of the most thrilling, yet nauseating roller coasters the world has ever known. I couldn't wait for it to come in for a landing. I was 20 years old and I was looking for love. I had a good thing going, but he wasn't committing to anything at that point, and I wasn't entirely through looking around at other options. As long as I was around him, my world spun with him as the axis. The problem was he lived in my hometown, and I kept having to leave to go back to the land of teenage college life. I guess you could compare it to test driving a ferrari then driving to the dealership to see what the Ford Focus was like.

He was definitely the ferrari. He was tall, slender, OMG good looking with long flowing brown hair, and AMAZING blue eyes. He played bass guitar in a band that actually did make some money. Words just can't desribe how incredible he looked when he dressed up for a gig. For that matter words can't describe how incredible he looked when wearing cutoffs and no shirt working in his yard. Yes, I said his in the grass outside of his house, which was the place he went home to after a day at his job, all three of those things being out of the reach of the guys at college.

I ached for his presence, but he wasn't desperate. Time was not that big a deal to him. He was 32 years old when I was 20 and he had never been married. I knew our relationship wasn't "supposed" to happen. After all, I was 20 years old, attending a Church of Christ college, and I didn't drink, smoke, do drugs, or even cuss (most of the time). He was 32 (29 when I started chasing him), Catholic, smoked, graduated in 1974 (should be enough said on the drugs thing), and knew words that I hadn't even heard of yet. He didn't open car doors, he certainly wasn't chasing after me, and yet I wanted him.....until I couldn't have him, then I wanted someone else until I could have him again. So went my rollercoaster until I graduated from that college and decided to come home. Then he decided to let me have all of his heart on January 14, 1990, and my rollercoaster shifted gears to something much more tolerable.

Fast forward 20 years. I didn't know when I had kids that I would once again be on that vicious rollercoaster with its stomach turning drops and heart pounding loop-de-loos. They forgot to write this part in the "Oh by the way..." section of the How to Raise a House Full of Girls manual. NOBODY TOLD ME I WOULD HAVE TO RIDE IT AGAIN, WITH EACH OF MY KIDS!!!!!

In a weird and twisted deja vue sort of thing, history seems to be repeating itself sort of. The similarities are uncanny, and if I can be grateful for anything, it is that I've been on this particular part of the roller coaster the front seat. My oldest (yes, I'm just getting started back on the crazy ride) has had a fairly calm love life so far. There have been a few interests, but most were pretty short-lived, until this one. This one was different. This one was two kids that just sort of found each other by accident. This one was two kids who though different are alike in lots of ways. This one has been sort of "on" in some form or fashion for almost a year now.

This one has the background of being a country boy, but not just an ordinary country boy. He is a man's man. He knows what it means to work very hard. He has wrestled cattle to the ground as well as all-state linemen. He has picked and eaten black-eyed peas from the garden outside his "in-the-middle-of-nowhere" home. This one loves his mama, and yet he's no panty-waste Mama's Boy. It's been him and her facing the world since he was very little, which at 6'4" is hard to imagine.

He's the grandson of a retired small town Texas sheriff. My daughter is the granddaughter of a soon-to-be-retired small town Texas sheriff. They even did time together in preschool because he actually lived in our hometown when he was 4 years old. Most importantly, I felt like I could trust him with my little girl. He has always been a gentleman in our presence, and my daughter indicated he was a gentleman towards her, yet very much a normal 18 year old male.

Wednesday night, right before Thanksgiving, the roller coaster took a nose dive from a pretty high point. He called my daughter to tell her that after having a nice time with her over the weekend (we went for a college preview day at his college), he just couldn't see himself spending his life with her right now. He did, however, leave the door open for them to "hook back up" once she gets to college since she is planning to attend another school in the same town. It's just that he needs to test drive a few more models before making any decisions. I'm grateful that he's choosing to do this now at 18 instead of 20 years from now when he's approaching 40 and wonders what he could have had. However, they both carried me down that roller coaster drop with them as I held my baby while she cried. Glad she'll allow me to ride with her right now, but geez.....not fun!

After the tears, came the anger, then the crossing of "de Nile" into reality and acceptance. All in all, it has happened pretty quickly. My daughter knows she also needs to do a little more test driving and comparing models and she welcomes the opportunity. After all, when one shops around, one eventually finds something that has all of the most important features in one package. Sometimes shopping around lands you right back at the dealership where you started with the car to which you were first drawn.

Someone somewhere will end up with a couple of really incredible models. They won't come cheap, because one is a Ford F-350 King Ranch package, double cab truck, and the other is a sporty red BMW convertible. As a matter of fact, it will require a lifetime commitment to make the sale for either one. The former is strong, protective, hard-working, loyal, able to pull quite a load, and incredibly good looking. He may decide to play in the mud while out on a test drive, but he will still clean up well. The latter is beautiful, luxurious, sporty, incredibly fun, and made with amazing quality. She's keeping herself out of the hail storms so that she will have that totally new car appeal when it's time to go home with her man, and she will have quite a thrilling ride saved just for him.

Will these two end up in the same garage? Who knows. Impulse buys leave lots of room for regret. Lots of comparison shopping removes most of the doubt, and that takes time. One can never be guaranteed perfection, yet whoever gets these two will have a treasure of great value.

Fasten seat belts folks, the roller coaster is headed for another uphill climb. Ugh...there's the jerk of the cars grabbing ahold of the chain. That can only mean one thing......there's probably a stomach turning drop on the other side. Here we go again!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Pappy Moves On

Our lives have been fairly calm and uneventful for awhile now. However, our family will soon encounter one of those bumps in the road that everyone bounces over from time to time. My granddad whom we have always called "Pappy" is letting us know it is time for him to release his hold on this life so he can experience the next. It's not major trauma, but it does bring some sadness and a bit of a rough spot on our life's journey.

As grandchildren go, my brother and I have not exactly been highly attentive in recent years. "Pappy" has spent several years in the local nursing home. We've certainly not visited him enough. There's no escaping that guilt. My brother can legitimately claim the "want to remember him like he was" excuse, and I cling tightly to the busy mom excuse. Nevertheless, we both knew it was time to say our goodbyes.

Andy was there first. I don't know what was going through his mind, but I have a feeling his few alone minutes were spent longing for what once was. You see, he and Pappy spent lots of time together when he was a kid. He was the first grandchild, and he was an all around boy. I truly believe Andy and my cousin Brit were the glue that held Pappy together through the deaths of two wives. Batchin' with a grandpa, huntin', fixin' some dinner, and cleanin' a few birds or rabbits was a young boy's paradise and a grandpa's pathway through grief.

When I arrived at Pappy's bedside, Andy stepped out for a moment to take a phone call, or maybe to give me some space. I love my Pappy very much, and yet my relationship with him is very different. He wasn't the granddad I snuggled with. His wasn't the house I cried to visit. None of that really matters, because I have so many incredible memories of the adventures my cousins and I encountered while in his care. I remember sliding down the wooden staircase on my backside over and over again. I remember him putting sugar on his tomato slices. I remember greasy bacon and runny fried eggs and the crystal salt and pepper shakers that flavored them. I remember Coke floats and cans of Hershey's Chocolate Syrup. I remember a single red rose for my birthday.

I can probably still recite the prayer he said before every meal. The exact words might take a bit to come back to me, but I can hear the inflection of his voice rise and fall as he asked the Almighty to bless our food. Oh, and I can remember a king sized bed that wasn't designed to be a trampoline, and when two energetic girls bounced once to much, he didn't make a fuss. I guess those two bricks stayed under the corner of that bed for years.

As Andy and I left the nursing home where Pappy lay sleeping, I saw the sadness weighing heavy on my brother. A piece of his childhood is slipping away and it is so very painful to watch it go. I drove off knowing that I needed some solitude to think, to question, and to process this experience. I also knew that somehow, I had to be a voice to allow Pappy to say some things that he desperately wanted to say to his family so his next journey could be light and easy. I'm guessing there are many who think this notion is pretty kooky, but then every family has to have one of us so the rest have someone to laugh at.

I began walking around the perimeter of the pasture. I felt pretty sure Pappy's spirit was already moving beyond the boundaries of his physical body. I don't believe God has a magic Spirit Straw that sucks a person's spirit out of their body at the precise moment of death. I think our spirits have opportunities to venture lots of places without our bodies throughout life if we allow the journey to occur. Pappy has been exploring more and more the past few weeks. He was certainly enjoying the cool evening breeze in the pasture as much as I was.

I felt a need to ask Pappy what he wanted to tell his family. His physical body is no longer able to speak to us, yet his spirit still has words and feelings to express. At that moment, I was overwhelmed with emotion for him that I had not previously experienced. There was no audible voice, no misty aparition, and no handwriting in the sky. There was only a flood of thought that engulfed me as I walked and as I cried. He filled me with his feelings and his words. He shared with me that which he wanted his family to know. He told me things that were sources of great sadness and those that have given him tremendous joy. If I had stopped at that moment to write down everything that he sent flooding through me, I would have been there all night. As it is, only the most important points have stuck with me now.

He wants his children to know that he loves them with all his heart, each one as much as the next one and he did the best he knew how to do. He also wants each of his grandchildren to know how special they are to him. To Brit and to Andy, you are his whole world. You have brought him so much pride and joy and you allowed him to be your hero. To Alisa and Angie, you are beautiful young women and he is so very proud of your accomplishments.

Even the longest of physical lives is much too short, and yet those whose paths we cross leave a series of indelible marks along our own journey, painting the roadway with their experiences for us to observe and use as we choose. As Pappy lets go of his physical body, we know in our hearts that his spiritual journey continues on through eternity, and we celebrate the experiences he shared with us along the way as well as those he will continue to share if only we open up to them.

Epilogue: Pappy passed away in the early morning hours of November 5th, 2008. The last thing I would wish for him is to rest in peace. Instead, my wish for him is wonderful spirit companions, beautiful wide open spaces, a body that feels young again, and wildlife surrounding him everywhere. I'm tempted to include a beautiful shotgun and an endless supply of ammunition, but I haven't quite figured out how that would work in the spirit world yet. :-) Enjoy enternity, Pappy.