Saturday, November 17, 2007

When I was 20

Another blog buddy's loved one died on Thursday. Five us now in the short few months I've maintained this blog. I worry that all my friends will lose their loved ones. Yet they were each there for me when my dad died and I want to be there for them. I read their blogs with both anticipation and dread.

Stef's Nonna, her grandmother, is the most recent casualty. Stef introduced me to the Lion King not very long ago.

I was very close to my paternal grandparents. They lived across the driveway from us when I was a child. When you live with someone like that there is a special bond that forms.

My Pop died when I was 12. At that age I was still enough of a child that the event was soon swallowed up in the death of my own childhood and the birth of my adolescence and the frenetic chaos of that time of life.

My Granny died when I was 40 and struggling with my own midlife problems then as well as the emerging adult lives of my children.

So Stef's loss made me think about how I might have handled the deaths of my own grandparents when I was 20. I was so self certain at that age. I was married at 20. I knew what I wanted my life to look like even before then and by 20 I was busy accomplishing that goal just as a painter might prepare the canvas and sketch the still image and then proceed to paint.

Paintings, as good as they may be, are not alive. We value them though because the good ones, the really good ones, capture a portion, only a portion, of a glimpse of the magnificence of life.

A short while before 20 I still imagined myself as a university professor type doing research in theoretical physics and teaching a few classes and walking around with a tweed coat that had leather patches on the sleeves and smoking a pipe and looking altogether rather intelligent. And whiling away the mornings in the union over coffee and talking about the quantum nature of matter and space and nth degree tensors and stuff like that. And in the afternoons heading to O'Connell's for beer and listening as the conversation turned to girls and politics and whatever. And taking classes that assigned us to watch Juliet of the Spirits.

But that didn't last so long.

I did not know about being then but I was all about doing. Maybe it has to be that way for some of us, or most of us, or even all of us.

I suspect if I had lost my Pop or Granny when I was 20 it might have disrupted that self certainty a little. But probably not enough and maybe none at all. Self deception is not easily displaced. Even now that's true.

I think I know what I would have done. I would have read every book on death and dying and grief that I could find. I would have not stopped until I understood the subjects and what had been thought and written by others. I think that because I have done it more than once.

But knowledge is no more a substitute for emotion than is doing for being.

I no longer think that there are 5 stages of grief with all deference and respect to Dr. K├╝bler-Ross.

As strange as it is to write it there is a certain beauty to grief. Is it so bad I wonder that we should stop and remember? Not that we stop very long. Is it so bad to feel the sadness or to experience fear or even to question our regret? Not that grief should be welcomed but at least that its arrival is recognized. And what if it did not arrive? Or what if it does not? What does that mean?

Saturday morning musings.


dave said...

Thanks for writing this piece.
I had my grandparents until I was in my 40's, all 4 of them. It was a wonderful experience, made better by being a father myself.
Maybe that is why I mourn so for Stef, and for my kids who lost all of their grandparents before they were 20.

SKYGIRL said...

Good Morning Flinty! If there was an award for the most changed Man in his lifetime, both emotionally, mentaly & spiritually, you very well might claim it!

I used to say that most people were Human-Doings, instead of Human-Beings. In some ways it serves a purpose. If one stays BUSY enough, one does not have to think or feel, anything?

I used to be one of those people too, on the fast tract. I couldn't squeeze enough things into one day.

Now, I am lucky to get a few chores done, and maybe one fun thing a week, but it is O.K. I got the big Stop-Sign in the sky. Some people get this if they don't slow down enough to really listen, I guess I was one of those people!

My Grandmother, was hands down the Matriarc of our Family. She just died in 1998. She was born in 1890 Yes, she had, an extremely long life. But our extended family pretty much fell apart after her death. No more family reunions, no more visiting Oklahoma City.

I must (and do) make an effort to stay in touch with as many family members as possible, we are really spread out across the Country!

Being a Human Being, instead of a Human Doing isn't that bad. Besides it is what we were meant to be.

Joanne D. Kiggins said...

It wasn't until I read your post, that I realized I WAS 20 when my grandmother died. I knew she'd been gone 35 years, but it never occurred to me until now that I was Stef's age when Grandma died. My grandmother was the only grandparent I knew, and it broke my heart when she died. Now, I feel even sadder for Stef, because I know how it affected me at that age. :(

Lori1955 said...

Oh I can just picture you in a tweed coat with a pipe. It would have suited you, I think.

I was 22 when i lost my father. Looking back on it now, I can see how it changed the whole course of my life. When I think about the grief I had then compared to the grief I now have, I think that the biggest difference is that back then, I was not prepared for it. It was my first grief.

nancy said...

great post terry. even as i wrote my post i did not realize that i was 21 when my grandmother who i mentioned in my post died. i still can remember her death like it happened last year.

i too had to chuckle as you described yourself in your tweed jacket with the suede patches. SO you!

Chris said...

I was 20 and had just had my baby when my grandma had a stroke. She lived a year and died. Grandma and I were so close. I adored her like Sted does Nonna. My world came toa screeching hault the day Grandma died. That lady was my reasoner, my mentor, my go to girl and she was gone. I miss her still, to this day but I can now smile at the memories that once caused so much pain. I pray for that for Stef as time goes by.

~Betsy said...

I was only 19 when both of my maternal grandparents died. My grandfather died in January and my grandmother in May of 1982. Two days before my grandmother passed, my then boyfriend (who is now my husband) had a terrible car accident. He broke both femurs and was life flighted to a hospital in Pittsburgh. He nearly died twice.

I remember the devastation I felt when my grandfather passed - he was such a special person. But sadly, when my grandmother died, I was tossed into a fog. I spent all day at the hospital, left for the viewings and funeral and then back again to the hospital. It was a terrible time and is still a big blur.

Like Chris, I am also finally at the point where the fond memories of my grandparents over run the sadness. It didn't take 25 years, but it did take a very long time.

My thoughts and prayers are with Stef.

steflovesnonna said...

Thanks for making this post. I had to go back and read a lot of yours because I have not had time to keep up. I wonder what Terry was like at 20. I know I am not the normal 20 year old kid. I know this because when I am around friends I can see it. Thanks for thinking about me friend.

ps I am so glad I made you watch Lion King! lol