Papa

I hate that a 25% off sale at Anthropologie still doesn’t make any of the sweaters remotely affordable.

Just wanted to get that off of my chest. Meanwhile, I realize that I’ve been sorely absent from my blog. The first thing I want to type is that I’ve had a rough summer and haven’t felt like writing.

But that’s so far from the truth in so many ways.

We went to Spain.

I worked at my beloved Green Cove for a week.

I got an amazing bike, and we’ve gone on lots of great rides.

My dad dressed up in drag to raise money for Alzheimers.

And honestly about a month ago I was planning to write a post on the song Up, Up, Up by Givers, about how joyful and light it was, and how it really exemplified my summer. How I couldn’t believe how much happier I’d been this summer than last summer. Then the thing we all knew was looming and ugly on the horizon happened. My grandfather Papa passed away on August 12. Do you ever not want to type something because it’ll feel more real that way? I sat here not wanting to write that sentence, working up the courage.

Papa was 95. He lived the most full life, up to almost the last minute. He really lived every one of those 95 years in every sense of the word. He’d been sick (bladder cancer) and had reached the point that he was just … ready to go, to be done. Three months later his body finally gave into his mind. So in a way I know I should be relieved that he got what he wanted, that he wasn’t stuck here anymore, in a sense. But I don’t care. I don’t care that I got to know my grandfather better and more fully as an adult than a lot of people get to know their grandparents. I miss him.

I miss Thursday night dinner where he’d start to order before any of us were even remotely ready, because he knew exactly what he wanted at all his regular restaurants. I can hear him saying, “coffee, decaf, black.” I hate the thought that I won’t be able to call him up when The American President is on TV. I don’t have anyone special to make my Papa brownies for anymore. He was my biggest supporter and critic when it came to my baked goods. He loved to hear about work, and no matter how frustrating of a day I may have had, he was always proud of what I was doing. And who in the world is going to tell me that my hair looks wonderful even when it looks like shit? I’m going to miss his endless and usually repetitive stories, especially the ones he told about my grandma, Mimi. God he loved her so much. He spoke about her in such a tone and with a look of sadness and total love that you knew he missed her and thought of her every single day, even though she had been gone for almost 14 years.

Today I was scrolling through the pictures on my phone and came across this one of a clock that Michael’s grandma has in her apartment in St. Louis. We took it because Papa had been describing this exact type of clock one day. He used to carry it in our jewelry store back in the day. We were going to share the photo with him, but it slipped my mind, and we never did. Such a stupid thing, and I shared so many other things with him, but there you go.

I really did not expect to be this sad when this day came. I think what’s been hardest for me to come to terms with is where he may or may not be right now. Papa was a hardcore atheist. He was proud of that. So I know that he probably didn’t believe in the traditional afterlife where you maybe meet up with your loved ones, etc. etc. What he did believe would happen to him when he passed on, I’m not sure. I want so much to believe that Papa’s with Mimi, that they’ve been reunited in the great beyond, but I don’t want to be unfaithful to who he was. So he’s just…gone? He just stopped breathing and that was it? That’s incredibly hard for me to wrap my brain around.

Last Christmas Papa and I were at Kids Ink, a children’s bookstore in town, picking out books for a friend. The lady in the store brought us a pile of books, including When We Were Very Young, a collection of poems by A.A. Milne. My dad read these poems to me as I grew up, especially the poem “Vespers.” I never realized the deeper family tradition with this poem until that day in the bookstore though. Papa picked it up, turned to the last page, and smiled. “My mother used to read this poem to me every night before I went to bed,” he said quietly. And then he started reading it, “Vespers.” I’ve never heard him get emotional when he talked about his mother, but right then he had tears in his eyes.

I didn’t want to talk at the funeral. I’m a terrible public speaker. Instead, I read “Vespers.”

Vespers
by A.A. Milne

Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed,
Droops on the little hands little gold head.
Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares!
Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.

God bless Mummy. I know that’s right.
Wasn’t it fun in the bath to-night?
The cold’s so cold, and the hot’s so hot.
Oh! God bless Daddy – I quite forgot.

If I open my fingers a little bit more,
I can see Nanny’s dressing-gown on the door.
It’s a beautiful blue, but it hasn’t a hood.
Oh! God bless Nanny and make her good.

Mine has a hood, and I lie in bed,
And pull the hood right over my head,
And I shut my eyes, and I curl up small,
And nobody knows that I’m there at all.

Oh! Thank you, God, for a lovely day.
And what was the other I had to say?
I said “Bless Daddy,” so what can it be?
Oh! Now I remember it. God bless Me.

Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed,
Droops on the little hands little gold head.
Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares!
Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.

A Tribute: Oma

My Oma passed away in the beginning of June. For awhile I didn’t want to write about it here. I didn’t know what to say, and I didn’t want to make a public ordeal over my loss and sadness. Now I want to write about Oma though. I don’t want to cry every time I think of her now, and the majority of the guilt I felt at first has gone. Now I just find myself remembering things.

My mom traveled to Holland for the funeral and to help Opa attempt to settle into life without his wife of around 50 years. Each of us family members who couldn’t make the trip wrote something for Mom to read at the funeral. This is what I wrote.

This past week and a half has been long. I’m glad it’s over, but it’s not really over. I’m glad I have a wonderful and supportive boyfriend. I’m glad I can support my mom. I’m not glad that the last time I saw my grandmother was two years ago. Distance sucks. I’m not quite sure what else to say right now. I think I’m going to miss my Oma though.

I remember how sometimes as she was fixing dinner, I would wander into the kitchen and stand at the counter. I’d look at all of the meats and cheeses she had out and she would roll up a piece of ham for me into a little tube as a before dinner snack.

She used to fill up these little tubs with water, they were yellow and green and maybe a foot tall at the most I think, and put them on the back terrace. We would play in them while the grown ups sat and talked.
I think lots of things that just appeared around the house had Oma’s hand in them. When we arrived in Holland every summer, the candy tins in the tv room were always filled with me and Ian’s favorite candy bars (Bros for Ian, Milky Way for me). A little white tent with blue trim always sat in the entry way. (I wonder now if that entry way was ever used for entering the house!) Inside the tent, Cobis the doll waited with his other dolly friends for me to play with them.
I remember Oma doing laundry. I’d sit in front of her washer and watch the clothes go round and round through that little porthole of a window. And then she never put things in the dryer. She always hung them outside behind the garage on the clothesline. We’d be playing in the backyard, pushing the kabouter around in the wheelbarrow, and she’d be hanging laundry. And it always smelled so so good. Not one bit like the laundry at home. And yet somehow whenever I smell laundry being done, I think of Oma.
Opa is more of a talker than Oma. He played with us, rough-housed with us, as kids. But Oma was always there with a kind smile and a hug, a really good hug where you could press your face into her chest.
It’s hard to live with regrets and guilt after someone has passed. So what I’m trying to think about is not how I didn’t get to hug her one last time, but how I got to talk to her on skype and how really lucky I was to get to see her face even though she and Opa live so so far away. That is very special. That’s what I’m going to try to remember now.