Tuesday, April 19, 2011

For Poppy.

For those of you who don't know from my super emotional Twitter statuses, my grandfather (Poppy), passed away today (on April 19, 2011), very quickly and somewhat unexpectedly.

After having knee replacement surgery, making a recovery to the point where he received a clean bill of health and went to rehab - we received notice that he had a minor blood clot in his lung, which eventually required him to go back to the hospital, which then led him to the MICU, and then to the ICU.


Pat was flown home in time to say goodbye (and it really wasn't until my parents booked him a last minute, first class flight without blinking an eye that I realized the gravity of the situation), and we all gathered around the man who has been the glue to hold us together for years, holding his hand asking us to squeeze our hands, and telling him one last time how much we love him.

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Tomorrow is the wake, and Thursday is the funeral, where I am delivering a speech (hopefully, because at this point I do not know if I can hold it together). When I was woken by my mom as she and my dad headed to the hospital after Poppy passed away, I was up just crying and reminiscing. Writing has become such an outlet for me that I turned up my music as loud as possible, and just wrote my feelings.

This post is in honor of my Poppy - I hope I make him proud on Thursday, and that my humble writing skills can express even a portion of what I feel for my grandfather.

Moi et Poppy, circa 1990.
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For Poppy.

While I was growing up, many of my friends had both sets of grandparents - and there were times that I felt really sorry for myself. I never knew my mom's parents, and my grandmother died when I was only three, so my memories of her are really borrowed memories from others. Those borrowed memories are wonderful, and I have no doubts to the kind of person she was, but those memories are not my own.

I had twinges of jealousy in elementary school, as I heard stories from the other kids about how they visited their grandparents in Florida, or when their grandmothers would pick them up from school. In my elementary school mind, quantity was more tangible than quality.

How foolish I was to be jealous. Because maybe those other people did have two sets of grandparents, maybe they had stepgrandparents - but I am the granddaughter of Thomas B., which means that I have known unconditional love that some people have gone through their entire lives without finding.

I know the love of a grandfather, who came to every single soccer game I ever played – some days to sit wrapped in blankets, shivering on the cold bleachers.

I know the love of someone who kept a recording I made at four years old on his answering machine and promised to never erase it, even when it got distorted and almost unrecognizable as the years have gone on.

I know the love of one man who was there for every function, big or small, who told you that you were beautiful, or special, or talented, at times when you needed it the most. I knew on the days that mattered to me – the county soccer matches, the birthday celebrations, graduations, plays, - anything of significance, I knew that my grandfather would be there for me. I knew that when I walked down the stairs, even if I was just slightly dressed up, that there was someone there telling me how absolutely beautiful I looked, someone who never laughed at my dreams or my ambitions and who taught me to believe in myself.

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My 23rd birthday at a Japanese steakhouse, where he tried to use chopsticks and had to get child chopsticks, which he took home to practice with.

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For those of you who don't know him like we all did - this was a man who as a child, was arrested for throwing cherries at cars, and when he was put in a police car, popped the door open on the other side and ran away. This was a man who sang songs that made absolutely no sense, but he continued to sing them because he knew they made us laugh. A man who thought family togetherness was so important, that he did whatever he could to get us all to spend time together - including squeezing way too many people into a four-bedroom condo down the shore every year, and insisting that we all attempt to sit at one table for dinner, driving servers everywhere absolutely insane.

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There is a French expression, l’espirit de l’escalier, which is when you leave a conversation and think of all the things that you wish you had said. I’ve been replaying over and over all the things I should have said to my grandfather – how I should have told him that he has made me a better person; a more loving person; that he has inspired me to be more – not to meet the expectations of others, but because I can be more; or just how very much I appreciated him – but honestly, I think he knew. I think he knew how much love we all had for him without a shadow of a doubt, because he instilled that type of love in each one of us.

I feel like my generation is more jaded – we don’t wear our hearts on our sleeve as much, and hold back. We conform to what we think our parents want us to do and many of us go through life never feelings truly accepted or happy.

How blessed am I, and are my cousins and brother, because have had a constant figure in our life who has loved us just because.

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One day, when I have children or nieces and nephews, I will be able to tell them stories ofS strength, or stubbornness, and of unconditional love for family and the importance of togetherness in a family, because that is the legacy that my grandfather is passing down to me.

Physically, my grandfather may be gone, and my heart breaks for the loss that I feel at the fact that there won’t be more time to tell him over and over again how much I love him, or laugh at the funny things he says – even when sometimes he didn’t realize he was being funny.

In the book Tuesdays with Morrie, Morrie explains to his student that while death ends a life, it does not end a relationship – the love that we have for each other will always remain, beyond the grave and that after we die, we live on in the hearts of everyone who we have nurtured or touched. I am proud to say that in this way, my grandfather will remain alive in me, and in the lives of all who he has touched.

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My hope now is that we can all take his legacy of unconditional love and apply it to our daily lives, carry him with us in our hearts every day.

*~*

I write this with tears in my eyes, because it hasn't even been a full day, and I miss him so much. I miss his laugh, I miss the way he gave advice, I miss the way he loved us all so much.

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For all the Tweets, Facebook messages, etc. - thank you all. I love you all so much and wish I could give big hugs to each and every one of you.

If you could keep my family in your thoughts/prayers/whatever you're so inclined to do, it would mean so much - especially my brother, because he has a really, really hard time externalizing his feelings, so he's acting like nothing is bothering him at all, when I think he's feeling really guilty for being away when Poppy was getting so sick. I don't want my brother living with guilt over something he couldn't control.

Currently listening to: Florence + the Machine - Cosmic Love.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Puppy Love.

If you asked me from the time I was about age three up through age fourteen, the one thing that I wanted more than anything, I one-hundred percent would have answered that I wanted a dog. I carried around a battered stuffed dog named Woofy with me absolutely everywhere, and was in love with every single dog that all of our family friends owned.

From a young age, I begged my parents for a dog. Now, years later, they confessed to me that a dog was not their top priority because they wanted to travel with Pat and I without worrying about putting the dog in a kennel, so they reacted to my request with basically the most illustrious parental brush off ever - "We'll get you a dog when you are responsible enough to take care of one."

This was all I wanted (bow included, obviously):
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So, my young self would try to be responsible - I would make my bed, offer to set the table for dinner - but obviously this would last about a week and I'd be right back to being a young, irresponsible slob kabob again, and my parents breathed a sigh of relief, and went back to booking flights.

Basically, I understood that I would never own a pet that wasn't a fish (and honestly, I was a horrible owner of my fish. I forgot to feed them constantly and one at the other. Whoops).

I will never forget the day we ended up getting Cooper.

I was in ninth grade - filled with typical teen angst (I credit that to the fact that I listened to mostly Taking Back Sunday and Brand New - it had to rub off on my general attitude), and I was so over doing things with my family.

This senior guy had asked me out for the upcoming weekend, and when I went to my parents so thrilled and full of excitement over this development, they told me that I wouldn't be able to go, because we were doing something extra special as a family that I could not miss. Let me tell you - my fourteen-year-old self was absolutely livid. Clearly, my parents had set out to completely ruin my life, and any chances at my popularity level skyrocketing by going out with this guy.

I began the campaign to get Pat against whatever this family togetherness activity was, which worked beautifully, and by the time that Friday rolled around, my parents had two sullen children who wanted absolutely nothing to do with togetherness. (In retrospect, I feel so bad for the horrible way that I acted and wish I could say it was an isolated incident, but I really was quite the little bitch at that age).

I can't remember specifics, but I know that my parents had to fight Pat and I to get us into the car - to the point where my mother used the "F word," which is a very, very, very rare occurrence, and I'm pretty sure she just scared the hell out of us and threatened us to the point that we complied and sat in the car, sullen and complaining.

We drove for a while, out of Bergen County, and finally arrived at a small, almost run-down looking house (that was actually really close to the private school I went to - which just reminded me of the fact that I could have been on a date with that senior guy). Pat and I just looked at each other in horror, having absolutely no idea of what we were doing at this place (especially because we were kind of contemplating a night in the city, since dinner and Broadway shows were the typical family outing).

We may look sweet and mature now, but back then we were real terrors.
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I will never forget Pat and I sitting in uniformity, arms crossed and pouting as my mother and father tried to usher us out of the car, meeting a ton of restraint from the two of us. When they finally coaxed us out of the comforts of the leather seats of our car, we all headed to the front door together. My parents rang the doorbell, and literally, five children and an elderly woman came rushing to the front door.

I turned to Patrick and said, "Holy shit, they took us to an orphanage to show us how blessed and fortunate we are," causing his eyes to grow huge in horror and dismay.

My "worst fears" were confirmed when my mother turned to the woman and said, "Which one is ours?" Pat and I exchanged glances and were absolutely biting off all our nails, when all of a sudden, the woman brought out a tiny, two pound, little apricot colored puppy.

There were immediate apologies to my parents for being a complete animal to them, and I cuddled that little dog for the entire car ride home (and much through the night).

Since that day, Cooper has become more than just a family pet - he has become a part of the family (I know how cheesy and cliched that sounds, but it really is so true).

He's not very photogenic without a dSLR, which is probably the opposite of how I am.. (Also, these are from two years ago, which is sadly the last picture I have of me and dog together!).
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To me, Coop has become a strange and stable force in my life - home life for me is a tumultuous thing, but through it all, and especially when I'm sad or sick, this little guy never leaves my side. Even though he drives me crazy sometimes (when he barks incessantly, or eats a La Perla bra because he's annoyed with me), I am so thankful for him and for the unconditional love that a pet brings to the family.

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As for the future, I plan on having a house filled with little puppies - and now I'm dreaming of other pets as well...

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The topic of the week was "Pets" from the Those Who Blog Together group.

Currently listening to: Justice - Civilization
(I cannot wait for their new CD to FINALLY come out - every time I hear that song on the new Adidas commercial it makes me happy).