Talk all you want about how you’ve lived a full and meaningful life, done more good than bad, got right with God and the universe, and how you’re in good stead with yourself and others. But I suspect at the very end, when shown the light toward which we all must walk, all the artfully articulated words of your peace and readiness become instantly and utterly vain and meaningless, eagerly traded in a panic for just one more day, hour or minute that might just make the bigger difference you always dreamed about but had never yet found.
Things that make me cry:
Remembering my dad
Fishing a stream at dawn
Watching poor people surviving
Watching very hungry old people
Flash mob proposals
Compassion acting without audience
Endings of most novels
Things I can’t change
People who do
Total surprises from God
Songs at just the right moment
Every kind of cancer
New regrets I just remembered
Cuddling no one
Writing stories that will long outlive me
A really, really good laugh
Lists like this.
After years of enduring, I’m never quite curing those tired, maturing old souls I’m procuring, assuring, and each day securing while touring misfortunes untold.
Lately found myself fading, restating, relating to so many in waiting contemplating unabating, and creating these tales that unfold.
What these people are needing is a break from the beating, a mere greeting or feeding, and daily repeating their pleading for a peace they hope soon to behold.
Yet I find them endearing when I, upon hearing their fearing, I’m steering some of them to a clearing free of pain, persevering the bright light which will someday console.
Though my mission, ambition, and heartful condition cries out in admission I am no magician, physician, nor in a position to cure, just to help and to hold.
Nothing seems to rhyme when you’re old.
I hardly recognized her.
Wearing pink lipstick, faintly rouged cheeks and the brush of a crusted old eye shadow she’d packed away 30 years ago after her husband died, she removed her new glasses and struck an atypical pose remarkably athletic for a woman her age.
“I’m baaack!” she said through a smile wide enough to be a laugh.
Since her early 50s, she’d never clearly seen herself in any mirror. What she could make out of the blurry image that peered back was less than half the cheery disposition she’d adopted overnight since they arrived.
To be specific, it was five business days. That’s how long it took to get her first vision exam in 30 years and the corrective lenses that notched her view of herself up about 10 points.
“I haven’t seen myself in 30 years, Don,” she blubbered through the tears that dampened the mascara and the artful thank you face she’d spent all morning to create for me.
His death back in 1985 had left her with a halved income and nothing extra for anything–including an exam or glasses–for at least three decades. Putting on makeup had become impossible and checking to see if she’d applied it in the right places was worse.
So long ago, she’d given up on making herself beautiful for a man or a mirror…and ultimately, herself.
Now she can see and read most anything, anywhere for the first time in years, including her own beautiful new self image, all because I work at a great place called HopeLink who saw her need and gave her hope and vision and a great view for the future.
No more bruises for Gina.
No more bad excuses or long sleeved disguises to hide the evidence of long suffering codependency. Others now follow your story about when enough was enough and follow the scent of your flower’s first bloom released at the exit that saved your life and three little others.
You’re on your own now. Your own money and future and hope since it was never too late to ask for help out of a hell you’d called home for too many painful years.
Best of all, no more bruises but those fading distant memories which hurt less each courageous independent step forward.
And just this morning, three little hearts looked up at you and called you hero as if it was your destiny. And indeed, as you poured their breakfast cereal, God knew it always was.
No more, now that you know more.
She just smiled, rolled over, and went back to sleep.
I was on my 4th cup at 4am feeling responsible for breaking my daughter’s water 40 minutes ago via text message and thinking strange things like if all these 4’s mean anything other than I’m gonna be a grampa today!
The only ones up at this hour are narcoleptic fathers and severely pregnant daughters.
Nearly 5am now and she’s on her way to the hospital and I’m walking circles in the carpet at Mom’s house where I stayed last night. Writing this, I’m seated in the very chair at the very table where only 36 weeks ago, she and her husband broke the news to us that we were all gonna have a new baby in the spring!
Transcript as follows:
313am: Goooooooood Morning Daddy!
–Ha, you saw I was posting on Facebook, lol.
I did, lol. The baby is doing some work in here.
–Bummer, she’s gonna have my sleep gene.
I think I’m having mild contractions, they woke me up.
–When is Alan back? (My son-in-law is away on business in Florida.)
–Better hurry his ass back here!
At this point, I asked her to be my date at our non-profit’s big fundraiser on Saturday and she replied “If I’m not having a baby, I will!”
–That makes me soooo happy, honey!
335am: Hey, so this really hurts, whatever is happening right now.
–Hmm…Think this could be the real thing?
–OMG. Call your mom right now. If your water breaks….well you already know what to do if your water breaks….right?…..Right?….Hello?
(Literally, a very very long and pregnant pause ensued while I stared at the chat waiting for another bubble with the three dots that would tell me she’s okay.)
Dad, it just broke, she’s up, and they just woke up Alan to fly home now.
–No shit? Are you serious?
She’s on her way to the hospital right now and I’ve sent 430am OMG texts to every stranger in my phone. I woke my mother. She smiled, told me to sit down, shut up and relax, and then went back to sleep. I seriously thought I might turn off her oxygen so she wakes up to share this moment with me.
5th cup. Overdosed on caffeine. Thinking about how I’m gonna be a grandpa today, and thinking about how my first granddaughter, Makenna Jacquelynn Berry, will come into this world and I will get to hold her and give her the first of a lifetime of kisses.
So I sat on the couch in the dark alone, percolating. I got up and peed four cups into the toilet while looking at myself in the mirror and I realized my life will change today, and in my head, I’m planning a birthday party. I sat down to write some more.
For experienced great-grandmothers, they must think this baby thing is just no big deal. For inexperienced grampas to be, this is hell. Nobody is texting back because they probably hate me for messaging at zero dark thirty. My closest friend is this keyboard where I’m obviously trying to get hold of myself and every racing thought in preparation for the coming hours. Aaaand, Mom’s sleeping. And again, I’m thinking seriously about the oxygen.
559am, standing next to the oxygen. “What are you doing?” “Nothing, just making another loop in the carpet waiting for your 78 year old ass to get up before I do something I shouldn’t.”
We spent the next half hour reminiscing about all her labors and deliveries with the three of us and laughed about how after all the hurt and pain, women still want another one. A concept I will never understand but I did thank her for making the decision about 57 years ago.
Dilated to a 5 and moving fast, I got my orders. I arrived at 7 centimeters o’clock.
More blur. Anxiety. Then more blur.
They called me back to see her after the epidural.
My little girl was about to give me another little girl 27 years later.
For as much as I have lived for and died to, I will never understand this thing called the Cycle of Life. Seeing her lying there, calm and beautiful, preparing herself to produce my first grandchild, felt like I was walking into a birthday party I never had. All the people I love most were gathered there in anticipation of the moment that inevitably arrived at 9:36am.
10 fingers, 10 toes and as planned, zero penises, Makenna Jacquelynn Berry entered the world of my dreams for as many unknown years as I had left. And something about that moment shocked my existential being to the core. If I had been called home that very minute, it would have been okay. The blur ceased, and the first tick of the clock began another lifetime.
It was awhile later when I was invited to meet her in person. The passing of her 5lb 13oz 19” little body into my cupped grampa arms rivaled every preceding moment of my life for first position as I looked down at my birthday gift as if they’d made her just for me.
It was then that I remembered the poem I’d written for her months ago:
Your mommy’s face, your daddy’s chin,
Your grandma’s smile and winning grin.
Your auntie’s humor, so very funny
Will find their place in you, my honey.
Smarts a given, kindness too,
Good looks, talents, all wait for you.
You’ll have it all, my first of many,
Adorning darling sweet Makenna.
If one thing I could give to you
A heritance with which to view
Your world ahead for many years
Wisely, safely, vision clear.
I hope you get my eyes, sweet girl,
To watch your little life unfurl,
And keep you safe when I’m not there
To see you through each day and year.
To shield you from all things that hurt
Protect from harm and help avert
Your precious life from things unseen
And close them tight for lovely dreams.
To flood your world with brilliant light
Prudence to know when to take flight.
Blindness to encroaching hate
And keen to know our God is great.
And if by chance my eyes aren’t yours
When I’m long gone to heaven’s doors
Of this be certain and of this sing,
We’re watching over everything.
And at that very moment, she opened her eyes and stared up at me, and every grandfather whoever lived, cried.