Archive for June, 2010

lucy on the loose

Lately Lucycat has been expressing more and more interest in the door I go through when I do laundry.  So one day recently I decided not to shut the door behind me.  I got to the basement and was sorting through what could be dried in the dryer and what I needed to hang in the bathroom when I saw her tentative paws and giant eyes at the top of the last set of steps.  Since I didn’t want to frighten her any more than she already was, I let it play out and waited for her to reach the bottom.

Soon as she did I turned around and asked her what was up, as I am wont to do.  She started heading for the real basement and I made an attempt to grab her, but she took off into the depths of the mounds of storage my landlords have stacked down there.   “Eh, fuck it,” I said. “You’re an old gal and if this will make you happy, so be it.  I’ll leave the door upstairs open for you.”

lucy asleep on ottoman

Ten minutes later she was back in the apartment and a little dirty, which was understandable.  I was excited for her that she got to have an adventure.  Within five minutes she was mrowling loudly at the basement door clearly wanting more.  So I let her down again and she was gone for 15-20 minutes.  “Wow!” I said as I cleaned her cobweb-strewn whiskers when she finally returned.  “Who’d ever believe you’re a 15 year-old kitty?”

Right?!  In two months she’ll be 16.  Sweet Sixteen!!!  I want to have a party for her and she’s totally getting that bitchin’ Camaro.  She’s been asking for years….

Now it’s part of our routine; I let her down whenever she gets itchy for it and she always comes back.  She’s my girl.

memorial weekend

Over Mother’s Day weekend we held my dad’s memorial in Nashville.  Having been brought up Quaker, he wanted his ceremony to be organized like a simple Quaker meeting where everyone is in a room together - Vanderbilt’s Benton Chapel - and if/when someone feels moved to speak, they stand up and speak.  Beautiful.  Simple.

window at benton chapel

There were friends, colleagues, students, family and neighbors represented.  Once we’d all settled into the standing-room-only chapel, my brother, Michael, opened the “meeting” explaining how it would work and sat down.  It got quiet, but not uncomfortably so.  It was peaceful.  Dad didn’t have many shy friends so the first person stood up to speak before even two minutes had passed.

Every story told was simultaneously personal and universal.

Even my beau, Chris, who never got to meet my dad in person said something.  He wasn’t sure he ought to or not, but I told him he was moved to do so and should.  So he told the room about the phone call they had discussing his blues band’s CD.  Chris was used to dealing with girlfriend’s fathers who were… I don’t know, normal?  boring?  My dad had clearly listened to the disc more than twice and spoke knowledgeably about the influences he heard.  Chris just nodded dumbstruck at the speaker phone and pushed out a “yeah, yes, that’s all true.”  Then dad asked about another group, but Chris admitted he hadn’t heard of them.  Dad replied, “You don’t know anything about music.”

Staying true to the spirit of the gathering I didn’t plan what I’d say, but I knew I’d say something.  I am my father’s daughter, after all.  (Boy did he love to talk.)

I’ve never lost anyone so close before.  Relatives, even friends, have passed away and it hurt to lose them, but this is different.  Dad and I talked a lot, at times more than once a week and, as with mom, we’ve always been incredibly open and honest.  I relied on getting his voice at the other end of the phone at even random moments.  Like the time in the middle of a dinner party I had a question about Charles Shaw brand wine I knew he could answer. ~ He and mom would definitely have been my “lifelines” on whatever game show I might be on. ~

Feeling the way I do now, I have empathy for people who believe in the persistence of spirits.  It’s hard to come to grips with the idea that I’ll never, ever see him again.  And it’s a comfort to think he’s still with me, with all of us, enjoying the experience of life without the hassle of a physical body that was so consistently in pain.  For those who die especially young I imagine it’s important to hope they’ve moved on to someplace better and we don’t like to think that their short life was all they got.

Just after he died I had a dream where we were chatting like usual and he was sympathizing with some rant I was on.  It was just like old times and felt so real.  I marveled at this saying to him, “I didn’t think we’d ever get to talk again after you died.”  He responded saying, “Yeah, that’s a common misconception.”  Awesome.  I still dream about him at least once a week, and think of him every single day.

But much as I love, love, love  horror films and ghost stories and I dig the camp of Ghost Whisperer and the visions on Medium, and much as I enjoy the pleasant comfort of thinking dad is in “heaven” or something now, I don’t actually believe in those things.  Again, I am my father’s daughter.  He called himself an agnostic and true to being an educator, he was a realist.  I am right there alongside him.    He lived an amazing life and now he’s gone.

notebook of dad’s

All that said, and whatever you may or may not believe, I think you’ll agree that we live on in the memories of those who loved us.   And he has a lot of those.

dad

It’s taking me a long time to deal with losing my dad.  In the midst of editing a post about the memorial service we had for dad last month I remembered an email I wrote to  John Ryan, one of dad’s ex-students and a close friend.  John and I always had a good rapport and I consider him a friend, too.  He was with dad at a sociology conference in Boston and came to see me and my band over that visit.

First, John’s email to me:

Dear Ruth,

I am so at a loss for words.  Where would I have ended up without Pete?  I am so sorry for your loss.

Best,

John

I wrote this reply sitting at dad’s computer in his office at home.

John,

It is so nice to hear from you.

More than likely we all would have ended up “in a van, down by the river!” without dad.  I, too, am beyond sad, but feeling incredibly grateful for the few days with him at the hospital in late January to say goodbye.

Frankly, it’s all still a little surreal right now.  Things, literally his things, are sort of frozen in time.  It feels as though he merely got up from his desk to feed Nino and maybe take a nap, but he’ll be back at the keyboard any minute to continue whatever he was working on.  The many things he was working on.  The many things that, I believe, kept him going.  There was always a project in the works and another on the horizon.  His work ethic, his unbelievable intellectual curiosity, and his concerns and worries about his family members’ futures pushed his heart to continue beating.

As you know, he felt a constant thrum of pain somewhere in his body at pretty much every minute of the day for the past, oh, at least 5 years.  He was quite the trouper and didn’t complain much outside the family, but I feel comforted knowing he no longer feels pain.

I love him dearly, am more like him than I sometimes care to admit, and I will miss him forever.

me at dad’s desk

for now

I’m using this theme for now.  It’s a default wordpress theme that exists in my system.  Soon I’ll get some hand-held help and change to the theme I really want.  This should work for the time being - I was interested in something simple and clean.

And while I’m here I’ll say how funny it is to me that every June 8 I think of Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran because it’s his birthday.  Sheesh, some facts just won’t leave one’s head once they’re there, eh?

xoxo