Saturday, December 17, 2011

I'm Still Here

I haven’t blogged in two weeks. I woke up yesterday morning and realized it. The past two weeks have been a complete blur. So I’ve been making excuses for myself in my head. Here are some of my reasons, in no particular order, for not blogging. In the past fourteen days:

I had 4 photo shoots (now, that doesn’t sound like much. You have to work in all the editing. Which adds an average of 4-5 hours per shoot).

I rode from Virginia to Florida with my brothers and sister. We somehow managed to turn a 12 hour drive into 15. But we loved (almost) every minute of it.

I ate at the Mellow Mushroom in Savannah, GA.

I walked around Savannah with my family for two hours, looking at the architecture, studying the historical signs, taking pictures of the Spanish moss. It was wonderful.

I hugged my Mama for the first time since July.

I ate my stepdad’s spaghetti and my mom’s chicken and dumplings. Both in the same setting. That’s right. And I’d do it again.

I shared a living room with my four brothers and my sister.

I hunted down anthills with my brother Nathan.

I fed about a hundred turtles.

I TRIED to toast my grandpa with his drink of choice, a Rusty Nail. But I either don’t have enough of the Scot-Irish blood in me, or he had really bad taste in drinks. Sorry, Grandpa. You know I can honor you in other ways, and without gagging.

I kissed my Grandpa for the first time since June, and for the last time on this earth.

I watched my frail, slight-shouldered Grandma stand beside a casket and tell her husband goodbye.

I read a poem at my Grandpa’s funeral.

I heard twenty one guns go off in his honor, and felt unspeakable pride, respect, solemnity, and grief.

I watched a 6’6” Army CO bow to honor my 4’11” grandmother as he handed her a folded up flag and thanked her for her husband’s service to our country.

I saw my brothers, cousins, and stepdad bear my grandfather's casket.

I met cousins that I’d never seen in my life before.

I rode from Florida to Virginia.  We somehow, again, managed to turn a 12 hour drive into 16. This time we loved a bit less than every minute of it.

I listened to these three albums. A lot.

I made gingerbread houses with my kids.

I went to see Phineas and Ferb Live with Ashton and Chloe.

I went to court and paid for a speeding ticket.

I went to three Christmas parties.

I cleaned 8 houses, and a school twice.

I made, with my friend Missy, about 30 ornaments.

I (FINALLY!!!) started potty training Atleigh.

I went to a Christmas program at my kids’ school, and heard Ashton (attempt to) play violin, and watched Chloe be the most perfect kindergarten Mary in the history of school plays.

I cried. A lot. A lot a lot. Quiet, staring at the ceiling crying, chest shaking, soul tearing crying, crying in the shower, crying in the car, crying listening to the radio, crying watching TV. Headache inducing crying, sleep inducing crying, wordless wailing crying. I’ve cried it all.

I felt grief, joy, anger, aching sadness, bewilderment, awe... and underneath it all a constant current of weariness and being overwhelmed.

And I’ve survived it all. I’m still here. Tired, yes. Emotional, yes. But still here.

So, thanks for waiting.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Legends Can't Fade

This has been an incredibly long week of waiting. Last Friday, Black Friday to be exact, my mom called me at around 9 in the morning. My grandfather had had a stroke and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. The doctors told the family that the stroke had destroyed his brainstem, that he was in a coma, and that they had put him on life support until the family could come say goodbye.

I slumped down in the middle of the shoe section at Penney’s, clutching a display size 10 Vans shoe to my chest. It may as well have been a cannon ball. An older man sat on a bench near mine, watching me out of the corner of his eye as tears streamed down my face.

On Monday, they took Grandpa off of the respirator, expecting him to fade away within minutes. But he’s stubborn. Against their expectations, he hung on for 4 more days, breathing in and out, just... being. The waiting has been horrendous. The back and forth calls everyday, the constant, “Is there any change?”, “No, no change”, repeated every few hours for 4 days straight. But in the end, he went out on his own terms. Quietly. Peacefully. With dignity.

Yesterday evening at 5 my mom called me again. As soon as I saw her caller ID, I knew. I never thought I could be so relieved and so heartbroken at the same time. As much as I was expecting it, as much as I wanted him to be at peace, the grief rocked me. Since yesterday, the pain has come and gone, little pockets of grief bubbling up without warning and without control.

You may have read about my grandpa before. If I could describe to you a man worth knowing, it’s him. He’s more or less a legend in our family. I couldn’t tell you all the stories about him. I don’t know them all. I couldn’t tell you his favorite song. I couldn’t even tell you what it was about him that made him such a legend to begin with. His voice, his eyes, his very personality drew you to him. He was a man of dignity, honor, integrity. I never saw him walk stooped until he got sick. He carried himself with confidence, spoke with gentleness. His humor was quick, and very, very dry. He always looked you in the eye when he spoke to you. His generosity knew no bounds. When I say that the world- my world- won’t be the same without him, it’s no exaggeration or platitude. It’s 100% true.

My grandpa may be gone for now... but there are little pieces of him that are still hanging on with us. Atleigh inherited his nose. My brother Nathan has his mouth, his smile. My beautiful niece Hannah has his piercing, ice blue eyes. My baby brother Isaac inherited his dry wit, not to mention his name. As for me, well... I don’t know if I inherited anything from him. But in my spirit, because of him, has been instilled a respect, a pride and love so fierce that it has changed and molded the contours of who I am. My life is better, more beautiful for having him in it. The true beauty is in knowing that I’m not the only one. Hal McIsaac will live on, in so many lives that he has touched and influenced.

There are just some legends that can never fade.