Death and pancakes

People have been asking me since Friday how I’m doing, since I got the text from my dad about my grandfather’s death.  They ask in kindness because they love me and they love my mom, and because they want to be there for us.  I’m grateful for their kindness and their friendship, but I don’t know how to answer the question.

For my family, this loss is complicated.  My grandfather had been unwell for many years, his body wracked with diabetes, arthritis, and dementia. And he hung around for a couple of years after my grandmother died, but really, I don’t think he know how to be in this world without her.  Not because he was an especially romantic guy, but because he had spent much of his adult life angry and taking it out on the people he cared about, and his world became very small.

For me personally, this loss is complicated not only by the stuff it stirs up in my family, but also by the stuff it stirs up in me.  And what’s getting churned up is a whole lot of anger that could have me living in a way that looks too much like the way my grandfather lived if I’m not careful.

And I want better than that.

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“You know, you get to be angry.  You got treated badly and you get to be angry about that, and you get to feel however you want to about your grandfather,” Amy told me in a quiet stolen moment at the neph-in-love’s birthday party.  She pulled the fingers of her left hand together and brought them to her forehead. “But, don’t go too much in here, okay? Promise me you’ll call me before that happens?”

I promised. And then we ate cupcakes.

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We sat at the end of her dining room table, everyone else departed to clean the kitchen or play with Noah in the living room.  Jesse put her hand on my knee and I laid my head on her shoulder and she asked me how I was really doing.  I told her I didn’t know and she told me it was okay, that she was just glad I was there to celebrate Noah’s birthday.  “I love that you’re here, and Noah really loves that you’re here.”  And as if on cue, Noah dropped the Megablock from his hand, giggled like the little boy that he is, and crawled over to us.

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'IHOP Menu' photo (c) 2012, Sam Howzit - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/I told Danielle that I was tired of people telling me not to be grumpy, tired of people giving me Bible verses as if they’re supposed to be some kind of miracle cure to making me feel better.   She took a breath and said, “It’s good they’re doing that, because whatever they’re telling you is true.  But, I’ve said this before, you spend too much time taking care of everybody else that you need to ask for this to be about you for five minutes, and if you don’t want to hear another Bible verse because you’ve already heard it then stop them.  It’s okay to do that, to ask for what you need.  And if you need somebody to be grumpy with, that’s what I’m here for.” She looked down at the menu in front of her and pointed. “Now, I’m getting this giant steak omelette here. What are you getting? And this is cheat day, so don’t even think about looking at anything with the words ‘Slim-Fit.’”  

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My week could be easily filled with stories like this. Stories of people who’ve shown up and said just what I needed to hear, or who hugged me just when I needed a hug, or who weren’t offended by the quiet when I just needed quiet.

And today, it occurs to me that this is my saving grace.  These people and these stories are exactly what are going to keep me from living the same angry life my grandfather did.

Because when someone knows you well enough to not let you hide inside yourself, or crawls over to you giggling, or is glad for your presence, or mandates you eat pancakes, that’s enough to cool the embers of anger that want to rage, at least for a little while.

And it’s enough to start me praying, first out of gratitude for my friends and then from the heart they helped keep from breaking.

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2 thoughts on “Death and pancakes

  1. You are blessed to have folks around who will let you be both who and where you are. That more than anything else I have encountered most helps me to let healing come in its own sweet time.

    1. I am blessed! Thank you, Kim, once again for you kindness and understanding. Healing really does come in its own sweet time, and I’m so coming to appreciate the people who get that and don’t force it to come any faster than it is.

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