Mountains and Valleys

As I write this, I can say that I’m overwhelmed with the response from friends, both from life, and virtual, from other corners of the world. The death of my grand father hit me squarely, not in the aspect that I will not be seeing him on return trips into my home state. No, hearing the profound sadness in my father’s voice over the last few months, is what affected me the most.

I’m not usually someone who gets initially hit by any emotional high or low, I’m thinking more or less, I’m just being weathered to many things as my life has itself, encountered a paradime shift. Someone I know or have befriended through work (second family) has a child, or is going through a divorce, or some traumatic thing. I learned to listen better, and to at least a legitimate effort to give. Usually I just listen.

But hearing my father’s voice, who is usually a level voice of reason, now stricken with grief, it gives me a wealth of thoughts I was not ready for. I’m in my late 30’s and I’m just now losing the first of the people I grew up with as my grandparents (granted, my grandfather on my mother’s side was gone before I was born). I can only literally imagine, my father, had the same exact thoughts of his father once he hit his 30’s. “Oh, my dad was so smart! He told me of this so many years ago, and I didn’t listen to him! At least I remembered that he schooled me on this.”

Ad infinitum. My parents don’t wear capes but they were wonderful role models for a small-town boy growing up. I didn’t realize it for many years, but I idolize my dad.

I can only imagine he did the same for his father. And my dad, ever a wellspring of love and understanding, was there for him daily, with his sister, taking care of their father. He endured a lot of conflicting thoughts at the home, being asked by his dad to ‘take him home.’ And not being able to bring him to reason some times that, that just wasn’t possible anymore. This retirement village, this place, this is your home, now.

I need to have a break, or some sort of mental pause here, while I stretch and let the tears flow, so you can feel like it is the true forty seconds before I resume this posting.

I started this job and suddenly my time took on a new definition. A new love for those moments of solitude or quiet. First thing I do when I suddenly am not required by work to work, is to do a mental checklist. My parents receive a call from me many times through the week now, where before, it wasn’t so. “Have you called mom or dad today? It’s four in the morning, probably wait until later.”

I don’t know if it was a high-school friend’s passing that hammered it home to me, that the landscape of home was changing more rapidly than I would be comfortable with. Soon, it was the friendly insurance salesman that had helped my family for over twenty years. Then I started taking score of “who is left?”

People that I assumed would always be there in my little ‘burb of four hundred souls, suddenly had been gone for ten years. They had moved on to a comfortable retirement home or had strokes. They were wheeled out of their homes under sheets by volunteer paramedics, or they passed in a hospital when their body could not endure another fortnight. While I and many others, self-absorbed in adulthood, casually went about business.

I probably will not encounter a smell like my grandmother’s kitchen, ever again. The skillet-fried vegetables (medleys beginning with onions and green peppers) were just a small brick in the foundation of just ‘how a home should smell.’ In the years leading up to my grand parents leaving independent living, her recipes often were varied drastically. Either she had a wild hair-mentality on what we should eat, or worse, she was losing her memory.

These seemingly small things are very large things to my parents. For many years, my grandfather’s home was literally a hundred feet away from my parents. While the thought of “food roulette” probably wasn’t high on the list of upcoming events, the dawn of realization that the same “food roulette” was not going to be present, had to hurt.

Has to hurt.

Damn…

To my friends, again…I thank you, I can’t thank you enough. Your outpouring of love and strength and care, I want to layer this on…it means a lot to my family. If you see my Aunt Celeste, or if you see my father, let them know personally. If you have a moment, pray for them. They were the front line during this emotional LeMans, circling the track many times. They watched a man that was strong and stubborn in convictions, go from around two hundred pounds, and cancer took him to a buck-fifty.

My final memory of my grand father is when he was seated in his kitchen. Smoking a cigarette, unsure about his fool grandson, who was headed to a state far from home. He was sure of the words coming from his mouth, “are you sure you want to leave? Illinois isn’t that bad.”

Probably a statement that I will disagree with him on for many more moons before I put it to bed…

I wish I could give my parents that memory, my aunt, that memory. Let them see him how I remember him. Let them hear him, with that gravelly voice, pretty certain I would return to Illinois, tail tucked between my legs, asking to be home again. He was a strong father figure, I can’t imagine what it would have been like growing up under his roof. But I did, his eldest child put a lot of what was passed down, into practice.

I want to wrap this up, with how I manage to keep this in perspective. My faith allows me to envision a happy reunion, between my uncle and sisters, and my grand father. Typing about it, 1050 miles away from my parent’s driveway, is surreal. I can’t look at this as any other type of situation. I imagine, it’s real to me, as the mahogany desk I type on, that this event, happened minutes after the soul looked down on the weeping members of the family.

It might be construed as hope, or faith, or conviction. But I can not envision anything else being possible to happen. By and large, I have a dogma that requires me to use things like forgiveness. It’s the basis on how I was raised. It’s the cornerstone of my religion. Thus, his soul, would be enjoying the harvest of Heaven as I type this.

Maybe Up There, time passes differently. Maybe it’s only a few seconds between arrivals and hugs. The long seconds on our clocks mean nothing in the after life. But use those minutes well, down here. It’s the most powerful currency, you will ever trade in.

Samuel J. Lombardo
1928-2014
Rest in Peace, Grampa.

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