Monday, July 22, 2013

When a mighty rock falls

For the first time, I don’t know what to say to my Big Susan, Neiman. You see, last night she lost one of her Big Susan’s, the Rock. 

Y’all know that I know what it’s like to lose a Big Susan. I’ve talked about here and here I talk about losing the original Big Susan. While that gives me an inkling of what she is feeling and a great deal of empathy for what she is going through, each person’s grief is their own and the loss is deeply personal.

The Rock was her answer to all of life’s practical questions.  He helped her buy two homes, multiple cars, computers, and assorted electronics, tools and the like. He installed, he repaired and he tinkered. He was a second home to her late dog, Beau and her current pooch, Grace. They didn’t go to a kennel – oh no. They stayed with Rock in the Big House.  I’m not sure who enjoyed those visits more – Rock or the dogs.

When Mini-Me first came onto the scene, Rock help Neiman and I see each other.  He got me freebies, vouchers and discounts so I could take Mini-me to the Mile High city.   I knew how to thank him – I had chocolate covered strawberries delivered to his desk. He only cared about the chocolate; the strawberries were just a vehicle to get the chocolate to his mouth.  And, the Rock was no chocolate snob – spending lots on that really good chocolate was lost on him. He didn’t savor every bite. He was like a kid on Easter – just munch it down with joy.

But Rock wasn’t just there for the easy stuff.  When Neiman faced family angst, he was there. When she fought her own battle with cancer, he was with her every step of the way. Lending an ear and often a shoulder.  As she has moved through her career, every turn, every change in navigation was done after talking to Rock.  When Neiman knew it was time for Beau to cross the Rainbow Bridge, Rock was there.  He held her hand, knowing she was doing the right thing.  The tears that fell night were not Neiman’s alone.

Losing a friend is so very hard. It’s a different loss than that of a parent or family elder.  You look at yourself differently – at your own mortality and many questions race through your head.  When Neiman called me last night she simply said, “he’s gone.” She was quiet. There were no tears – just silence. Grief comes in many forms and shocked silence is one of them.  I reminded her that Beau was waiting for him.  They are together in an old house with a big yard and lots of things to fix.  A man should always have a dog by his side and Rock is now with Beau. A whole different kind of big house.

My trip to be with her this week has been long planned – we had planned to fill the days with girl stuff and a shared birthday visit with Rock.  I will still be with her this week – but our time will be different. Our visit with Rock will be goodbye. Our days may be filled with memories and tears – perhaps some laughter will find us along the way.

Neiman spoke to Rock every day for the last 13 years. Now, she doesn’t know what to do. I tell her to keep talking. He’s listening.

Robert Reid Blankenship 1956-2013

Friend to many, Big Susan to dear sweet Neiman.

May his memory be a blessing

To read about Robert and his extraordinary contribution to the lives he touched, click here.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Her own journey

All this for only 8days - and I only packed what was on the list
Mini-me is completely packed for camp. Clothes, towels, , camp t-shirts, blanket for council fire, flashlight, riding gear and more. She told me that she is nervous and excited that it will be full of people she doesn’t know but is “for sure” going to make new friends. I’m thrilled with her mature optimism.

I remember what it was like to be packed off to camp – to hope you don’t cry when saying goodbye, to be excited to meet new people and hope they like you. To be nervous, scared and excited all at once.

Mini-me doesn’t know anyone at camp or anyone going. I’ve explained the whole thing about having special camp friends – friends you can write to during the year and then connect with again the next summer.  I’ve been really positive and encouraging. I’ve done everything the books say. BUT…for the first time, I’m feeling apprehension.  Now, let me be clear - I’m not an “ooey-gooey” kind of mom. I love my daughter dearly, I’m proud of her, who she is and what she has done but I’ve always been quite practical about sending her off to daycare, preschool, kindergarten, etc. I scarcely batted an eye when I left her multiple times with Beach as I traveled for business or with dear friends when I when to be with Neiman during cancer treatment. I knew she was in good hands and would have a great time.

But now? I am 100% certain she will make great friends, relish new experiences and have the time of her life.   I also know she’ll start this journey in the parking lot of a WalMart. I’ll watch her board a bus to a destination that she will know better than I do.  Unlike play dates and sleepovers at homes I’m familiar with and people I know well, this is truly her own experience. I won’t see it or share it. I won’t meet these friends, hear the laughter or watch the fun.

I’m so proud of how Mini-me now sees friendships. She knows we have those special friends who are like family.  She knows friends don’t always stay friends – that people change, aren’t always nice and can be real shitheads behind her back.  She knows that it’s better to have a few really good friends than a bunch of people are can’t be counted own. She’s friendly – or maybe just decent – to them all but she gets the game.  Still, she forges ahead determined to make these new connections.

I am very certain I will tear up tomorrow. I will hide my watery eyes behind my sunglasses. I will chat with the other parents as gear is loaded.  I will remind her to write me, to shower (and wash all parts), change her underwear and be nice to all.  But this is her journey.  Let  her come home with rocks, pictures, sewing projects, amazing memories and few more great people in her life.  She will get on the bus with strangers and I hope she comes off the bus with friends. 

I can’t wait to hear all about it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summertime and the living is easy. And hot.

It’s summer. Where I live that means it’s fucking hot – really fucking hot. We don’t go to church, we worship the AC repairman.  We are either in a pool or a heavily air-conditioned building.  And, we bitch about the heat. Just like you may complain about your spouse who has had some random habit that was charming at first and is now the most annoying thing on the planet – we complain about het place we’ve chosen to live. We complain that 3-4 months out of the year, it feels like we’re living on the surface of the fucking sun and may also complain if the AC is too cold.

Despite the heat, This has been a great summer.  I’ve been lucky to have spent time with great family and friends.  Last month, my family celebrated a big event – my niece and nephew celebrated their B’nai Mitzvah (total side note: I laugh like a 13-year old boy when my sister sends me pics of said event with the subject line “BM”. Even typing that made me giggle. I’m embracing my immaturity.)

For four days last month, I was surrounded by family and friends that feel like family. It was the first time since my mom died that me, all my siblings and our families came together. We were so lucky to be joined by Bumsie and her husband – you see Bumsie is daughter to the original Big Susan.  Having her there felt so right. I cried when I heard she was coming, cried when I saw her and when I said goodbye.  It was a great time but not without bittersweet moments. There were countless times throughout the weekend when we deeply missed mom, dad, Jack – and Big Susan. Such a momentous occasion seemed wrong without their presence and we found comfort in one another and our memories. Oh, the stories we told.  Lots of kudos and deep thanks to Mini-Mom and her hubby, the Gardener, for pulling off such a nice weekend. I’d like to think that mom and Big Susan had the best seats and were there with us every moment.

It was hard to end such a great weekend – certainly makes me miss my family even more but I had much to look forward to.   An old friend was coming to visit – we had talked about it for years, put it off and kept saying “one day…”  One day finally arrived and I spent the last four days in great company.  My dear friend, Runner, came out to visit with her daughter, SmartyPants.  We got to visit and watch our girls get to know one another.  I’m not sure which we enjoyed more.

I met Runner at 14 or 15. I can’t remember – my mind is sieve so please don’t hold it against me.  What I do know is that despite the fact that it had been too many years, our time together was easy and natural and we want more. We were as comfortable talking about big serious topics as we were about recipes and gas. We laughed about who we were and who we have become.  We missed our mothers together, shared family drama and tummy troubles.  She loves me despite my flaws and I love her despite the fact she has perfect hair (seriously, she can get out of a pool, run her fingers through her hair and it looks perfect enough to go out to dinner while my head looks like a longer, redder brillo pad.)  Our girls laughed together and we got to know each other’s daughters. I see so much of her in her daughter – in her brains and her beauty. Mini-me was enchanted with SmartyPants right away and I’m certain will now embrace the thick straight hair they have in common.

Our days were full yet I can’t remember a weekend when I was so relaxed. We movied, we day-tripped, we ate, we drank, we resorted and we caught up.  Maybe the exhaustion hasn’t hit me yet or maybe I’m still on the friendship high from the weekend. Aside from the gorgeous red rocks of Sedona – I took few pictures. I spent less time capturing the moment and more time living in the moment.

Next up, Mini-me heads to camp and I get four days with my Big Susan, Neiman – on her turf.  No doubt it will be another great long weekend. I'm once again reminded that time with friends and family should not be put off - relish the laughs, shrug off the annoyances and revel in the connection. I feel like I’m spoiling myself with all this friends and family stuff  this summer – we should all be so lucky.