Thursday, May 26, 2011

Goodbye Grandpa

My grandfather passed away in March and I've been meaning to post the eulogy I gave.  Here it is:

Walter was my grandpa.  He was also my hero.  We all knew him and loved him despite any faults.  The man who never spoke above a mumble and who had a comb-over long before I was born.  Some of my earliest and my best memories include Grandpa.  I'd like to share some of those memories.

If I had to pick just one favorite memory, it would be catching lightning bugs at dusk.  When I was young I would spend a week on the Farm with my grandparents each summer.  I remember preparing for our nightly adventure by finding a mason jar and helping Grandpa pound holes into the lid so the bugs could breathe.  I remember watching the twinkling lights above the corn field, getting closer by the minute.  I would run around the yard capturing lightning bugs and Grandpa would hold the jar for me.  Once I had captured about 50 bugs we would take the jar inside and watch them glow.  I would put the jar next to my bed and let the twinkling lights dance me to sleep. 

Some of the most defining memories I have of my grandfather revolve around watching him take care of my grandmother as they got older.  They were married for an amazing 71 years and watching Grandpa take care of Grandma taught me the meaning of real love and loyalty. 

I'd like to read an excerpt from a class project I did for a college English class I took in high school.  For the project I interviewed Grandma and Grandpa and wrote about teaching in the north vs. the south during the civil rights movement:

Three generations in one room: my father, grandfather and grandmother, and me.  Grandpa Walter, hair carefully combed over, reclines in his favorite chair wearing his favorite striped shirt with his favorite slippers.  Bruce, my dad, armed with the tape recorder and microphone, settles in the chair between my grandparents like an anxious reporter preparing to cover a presidential debate.  Grandma Kathryn, in her striped shirt and slippers, sits in a "borrowed" chair from the dining table with her cup of coffee and glass of iced tea.  I sit at the kitchen counter, poised with my pen and paper ready for use, my pen and paper passport to another time - an America I never knew. 

Disjointed reminiscing begins in response to my preliminary questions.  Our road trip begins; on this journey Grandpa is the chauffeur of our "story-mobile," Dad is the back-seat driver, and Grandma is along for the ride.  I am the bug on the windshield - hearing everything, but never speaking above a low hum.

I loved listening to my grandparents tell stories, and am blessed to have been able to capture many of these stories on tape during that interview.

One of my favorite stories Grandpa told me recently - at Christmastime.  He told me about how he and Grandma used to dance to the big bands at the college  -  and that story is especially important to me since I am now a ballroom dance teacher who teaches those same dances my grandparents used to dance. 

In closing, I'd like to share with you a letter I wrote to Grandpa in January to make sure I got my chance to say goodbye.


Dear Grandpa,
Just like the frond of the card says, You Are My Hero.  I'm so proud to be your granddaughter.  I love you more than I could ever express in a card, a letter or a lifetime. 

You're sick right now and I'm pretty healthy.  I'm used to being the sick one - and if I could I would trade places with you so you could be healthy. 

I don't like goodbyes, but I believe if you are lucky enough to know one is going to come you should take the chance and say how you feel.  I've lost lots of friends and family and it's never easy.  Most importantly, I need to know I've told you how much I love you.  You've made such a large impression on my life.

I remember once watching a show about the Golden Gate Bridge with you and you were able to tell me more than the show.  I'm in awe of all that you have accomplished - from simply living to see your 90s, to being married 70 years, earning your PhD, being a wonderful father, grandfather, great-grandfather (before I was born!), and recently a great-great-grandfather.   Most of all I'm impressed at how nice of a person you are.  That's what I want to be most of all - a nice person like you.

I've very nearly run out of room on this card so I'll end-  even though I could write for a very long time - with a Thank You.

Thank you for being a wonderful grandfather.
I love you, Grandpa. Now and Always.

Your Granddaughter,
Carla

Lucky

Lately I've been feeling really lucky. 


A woman I knew online died.  She was my age and had a double lung transplant but didn't have CF.  The headline on her blog is "When life hands you an illness...spread it."  I didn't know her well, but I did read her blog - and it's hilarious.  I think illness makes you funny.  It can make you profound and wise, as well, but the CFers I know are hilarious.  Especially my friend Lauren.  I've been thinking about her a lot lately, and I know she's not doing so well.  Even though she's pretty sick she can still make me laugh really hard. 

One of my favorite memories of Lauren is going with her and a friend to Perkins.  Our waiter was "Sean" but she kept calling him "Seen" because of the way his name is spelled.  I laughed so hard I nearly peed my pants that night - and it's always that way when you're around Lauren.  I would love to be that funny - maybe someday if I'm that sick I will be.  Maybe it's something you learn from being so sick all the time. 


I'm so lucky it makes me cry sometimes.  I'm able to work part-time and spend time with my family and friends and I feel like I'm truly alive.  I haven't always felt this way; when I spent all my time waiting to get sick, for example.   But now I don't focus on breathing or how difficult it is to breathe because I'm not so worried about needing IV antibiotics and being hospitalized. 


There are times I'm actually bored - and not because I'm laying around sick.  It's because I'm not really sure how to spend this energy I have.  Sometimes I'm torn between spending the energy or saving it up.  Most days I feel like spending it - I have it, it's a gift, I'm going to use it! 


I feel so lucky - and it's an amazing feeling.  Try and think about why you're lucky, I guarantee it can make you feel so much better. I may not be funny, but I am lucky. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Graduation

May is busy.  I am attending 2 graduations, Great Strides, and trying to balance work and my life.  This spring feels like my graduation - a graduation into life.  I'm being thrown into the realization I'm an adult and I'm not so sure I like it.  When I was little I used to say that I wanted to stay a kid forever.  I'm sort of realizing why that wasn't such a bad idea.  

I'm a grown up.  Are you serious?  You've got to be kidding me.  I'm still 7 and running around the backyard with my friends.  I'm playing with dolls wanting so badly to be 12 so I can babysit.  I'm still 12 and can't wait to be 16.  I'm 16 wanting to be in college.  I'm living in the dorms.  Am I really turning 25?  Why do I no longer consider 25 an adult?

The other day I was driving my car around, listening to new music and enjoying the nice weather.  Then Taylor Swift's "Never Grow Up" came up on my iPod and and as the song played I cried and then cried harder.  The first part of the song is:

Your little hands wrapped around my finger
And it's so quiet in the world tonight
Your little eyelids flutter cause you're dreaming
So I tuck you in and turn on your favorite nightlight

To you, everything's funny
You got nothing to regret
I'd give all I have honey
If you could stay like that

Oh darling don't you ever grow up, don't you ever grow up
Just stay this little
Oh darling don't you ever grow up, don't you ever grow up
It could stay this simple
I won't let nobody hurt you
Wont let no one break your heart
No one will desert you
Just try to never grow up
Never grow up

I cried some more.  I cried because the first verses remind me of Luca; He's little and laughs at everything and I would do anything to protect him.  Like the song says, "I won't let nobody hurt you."  I would lay myself in front of a bus to save him.  He's innocent and wonderful and I love seeing the world through his eyes.  I was crying because I don't want him to grow up so fast - I want him to stay little longer. 

And I cried.  The last time I promised someone I wouldn't let anything happen to her she died in a car crash less than a year later - and there was nothing I could do.  This song reminded me of Tory and how I couldn't protect her and how much I loved her too.  I know it's almost been 11 years since Tory died, but it still hurts.  Will it ever stop hurting?  I cried harder.

I cried because my grandfather died in March and I miss him.  Death and funerals always remind me of the people who should still be here.  I should have had more time with my grandparents while they were younger.  I should have gotten to meet my aunt and had more time with her husband, my uncle.  I shouldn't have to say goodbye to CF friends.  They should be here fighting with me.

I cried because my best friend graduated from college.  She has been my best friend since kindergarten and she's graduating from college.  We really are adults, aren't we?  I want the summers we spent walking around downtown and going to the pool back.  I want to be putting on a puppet show out her bedroom window.  I want to be talking into a microphone about nothing and laughing about everything.  I miss her.  And not just her - I miss all my friends who have graduated and moved away.  I want them all back.  I want to be in college again - go down to the dining hall and eat dinner every night with the same group of amazing friends. 

Graduations make me a little sad because it's something I wanted so badly - to succeed in college - and I really failed.  I'm so proud of the graduates because I know the kind of work that goes into earning a degree.  But I can't help feeling a little jealous, which makes me cry. 

My brother is graduating from college.  I cried.  I finished the quilt I'm making for his graduation which made it all feel really real - he is actually graduating and moving to Colorado.  Colorado.  That's like 3 states away.  Three Big States.  And I don't know if I can handle being so far away from the person who probably understands me the best.  Because he's lived with me and traveled with me he knows all my needs.  My best friend Sarah comes close, but she doesn't have everything memorized.  I can call Dar-Dar in a complete panic and he can calm me down.  I don't know if I can even put into words how much I'm going to miss my little brother.  Who's going to do my dishes and laundry?  I cried.  I am crying now. 

There is just so much flooding my brain and I'm trying to balance all this with work and I just wish I had never grown up.  I want to give back my Adult diploma.  Make me a kid again.  Can't I un-graduate?  There are so many things I love about my life, but losing people is not one of them. 

The song ended but my tears wouldn't stop. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Update on Me

I've been busy.  Too busy at times, but I love being busy.

I've been thinking a lot lately - about my blog, my book and my personal journal.  I want to write more.  The more I write the better I write.  If I write more I will eventually stumble upon and say something profound. 

A couple days ago I read a post on a different CFer's blog, and it brought me to tears.  She wrote about losing many CF friends recently - and it reminded me of the year I lost 8 in just as many months.  She wrote about losing her best friend, and I cried for her and for me.  I miss having CF friends, and at best I have CF acquaintances.   I want friends again.  I want to be able to share and talk about how we deal with this disease. 

Since I've been healthier I've avoided my CF friends, ignored my blog, and dropped out of online CF communities - communities I used to be such a big part of.  Part of me ignored it all because if I'm not involved I'm not dealing with CF every day.  And I want to be able to ignore my CF and pretend it's not there.  But I can't and I need the support from my cysters and fibros (terms I'm not sure I like... I prefer CFers). 

So here I am, wanting to blog more, wanting to post more in the CF groups on Facebook, and chat with my fellow CFers.  I'm back and I'm not hiding my CF anymore.  Like a friend of mine said yesterday, "We're all in this together!"

Love

My goal in life is to love and be loved.   It's that simple.  Last night I got an email from Chris and I want to share it here because I felt so loved.  Here it is:

Hello everyone!

One of my best friends, Carla, has a rare and serious illness called Cystic Fibrosis. Carla loves my son Luca, and has a lot of fun taking walks, playing games, hiding from pretend bears, looking for ducks, playing catch, reading, and all sorts of things with Luca. She is so close to us that she has spent some Thanksgivings and Christmases with us. She's also Luca's honorary auntie, from before he was even born. She's really part of our family.

Here she is with Luca a couple of years ago:


The disease she deals with is debilitating and often leads to an early death. Since patients with the disease die early, pharmaceutical companies don't have much interest in trying to find a cure. As a result, most of the research is funded by donations to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The Foundation even sacrifices member benefits in order to put more of its donations into research.

I'd like Carla to be there with us when Luca has his first day of school, when he learns to read on his own, when he starts to look and talk funny because of adolescence, when he has his first date, when he graduates high school and college, and when he starts his own family.

We can all help that happen by donating to the Foundation. So if you have a dollar to spare, even in this terrible economy, would you consider donating to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation? If so, here's a link to my Great Strides page:

http://www.cff.org/Great_Strides/ChrisS.

Great Strides is the fundraising walk for CF Foundation. If  you'd like to join me and my friends and family on May 22 at 9:00 AM, we'll be at Elver Park in Madison, WI.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your time!

Sincerely,

Chris
Thank you Chris, Kyra and Luca!!!

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