Oct 5, 2011

There Is a Season

The last time I wrote, I was headed for Florida. Zac and I left early Tuesday morning...the plan was for him to leave me so I could help out my grandmother as my grandpa wasn't doing well. We pulled up into their driveway and I headed for their front door....I imagined him on the other side - sitting in his recliner, with his white socks mounted up on the foot rest - his head would turn around and he would smile and say "Hey there Sug (Sugar) how's Papa's little girl been?"
He wasn't there. His chair was there, his bible lying on the end table with the Daily Bread open on top....his owl candy dish sat near (empty)...along with his remotes and manicure set (papa always messed with his toenails while sitting in his recliner.) If you've lost someone close...you know the feeling of emptiness that comes over you when you hear that they are gone....the hole that starts small and stretches out and grabs at your heart. The hole was overwhelming.
My grandpa flew to Jesus...that's where he wanted to be. I'm not so sure that's where I wanted him to be yet - but i guess there's never a good time to lose someone.
All of the little reminders of his presence were left around the house - and out of the house.

His fig trees that he was so proud of stood tall....leaves bigger than your hands and little fruits nestled in their palms. I could envision papa walking me around the yard pointing to all his plants, excitedly telling me about when he planted them...and then what he would do with them when they were ripe. He would say "Now, Lessa...this one here is Papa's fig trees....and around the fall of the year they'll have fruit on em'." Papa John loved to plant.

His old shed needed a lot of work done to it....his old tools and lawn equipment were lying around everywhere...right where he had left them. It was strange looking at them and thinking that his hands were the last hands to touch them....it was just surreal. Looking at his "treasures" (some would call it clutter) was just another reminder about how my grandpa had a hand in everything....a zest for life - wanting to try EVERYTHING. He was fearless.

His grape vines were growing beautifully....they were all full and soft looking, a flowing fountain of leaves. There was something about these vines that spoke to me - for some reason that gave me hope. I don't know if it was the verse about how Christ is the vine and we are the branches...or if it was the shape of the heart like leaves...or the deep soothing green colors, but they comforted me. I think because they are life. Papa's life is over, but he isn't over. The morning glories he planted are still blooming and raising their deep blue petals towards the heavens every morning. The shed is still standing, the vines are still growing. More than the things he left behind, my grandfather left a wonderful legacy of joy. Everyone that he came in contact with eventually loved him...and it wasn't hard. His heart was big, his laugh loud and his wallet always empty because he gave. My grandfather was a great man.

It was so good seeing my two brothers. The distance between us three has, in a way, devastated me over the years. I know it can't be helped - it's part of growing up and moving away....but it still hurts. I love seeing Josh and Micah and being able to remember funny parts about our childhood, sharing jokes that only the three of us would "get" - in a small way reliving fun times. I miss their families and still hold on to the hope that someday I will be able to really be their children's tia (aunt) that they can grow close to and trust. That is my heart's desire.

The time in Florida definitely was not all sad times. There was a lot of laughter the day we took the kids to the river to unwind. It was fun seeing my dad's old "stomping grounds" and thinking about what it was like when he was a teenager. My dad seems to think that when he was a young man he was "all bad." I don't agree....sure, I didn't know him at that time - but the fact that so many people from his past love him begs to differ. It was fun meeting his cousins that he grew up with and them saying "you're Tim's daughter?" with a smirk on their face. That smirk meant "your dad was a load of fun." Now....my dad might interpret the word "fun" as "trouble" ...but they still smile - and people don't smile if you're only trouble.

My Tristan was happy to see his mama. I forgot to mention that Zac dropped me off that day and took the kids back the same afternoon - a nice 14 hour day for the four of them. Oh my how I missed my family. And zac is the epitome of wonderful dad. He took care of the three older kids for 5 days alone....drove them home and back to florida all by himself - he is much braver and stronger than I could ever hope to be. :)

The kids were excited about getting to swim in the river in their undies. At first Brady looked a little shocked that we were actually permitting him to do such a thing...but Uncle Josh assured us that in Italy (where he and his family live) it is quite the norm to be skimpy.

I watched my dad walking along the river, catching his breath from the whirlwind of events. I can't imagine losing one of my parents. I think especially when you are an only child...when you lose a parent ....you lose 1/3 of your original family. Brothers and sisters can be annoying, but they can also bring a lot of comfort and stability in the midst of a time of need. I'm glad my dad has my mom who can 100% empathize and sympathize. I'm VERY glad they both know the Great Comforter personally.

I took a walk with my grandma the day after the funeral. The weather was so lovely...mid 70's with a cool breeze, perfect walking weather. We came around a bend and the road was shaded....the sun was starting to go down tinting everything with a golden hue. I looked at my grandma grace and said "You are such a strong woman grandma. The way you are handling yourself is beyond amazing." And it's true. She had moments where she burst out crying and times where she was smiling and laughing and remembering - all natural when you are grieving. My grandma lived with a man that she knew was dying...and she took care of him for 2 years like that. She told me that she was holding his hand when he went. I'm so glad he had her and she him.

I love this picture of Finn and Grandma. It reminds me of the cycle of life and how when ones that we love are gone, even though they can never be replaced, God gives us others to love.

Driving away from Blounstown was hard for me. Only my grandma was waving goodbye...and Zac and I were driving away with my grandpa's truck (oh yah...forgot to mention the very GENEROUS gift from my dad and grandma. They gave us my papa's truck so we FINALLY have 2 vehicles after 2 years of having just our minivan.) It was just a "in your face" that he wasn't ever going to be there again. The trip went well....I had actually never driven 7 hours by myself so I felt cool. Finn screamed for the last hour, so when I got home I felt a bit frazzled but still just had the attitude of "let's just get home and get settled."

I arrived before Zac and when I pulled up I noticed that our little Ozzy wasn't in the yard. Zac had only been gone a day and a half and had left plenty of food for the little guy....so I figured that he must have gone to our neighbor's house. I got the kids out of the van and they started calling "puppy!" but no dog came. When I reached our front door I noticed an orange slip on the knob which told me that our dog had been impounded.

I called my neighbors (the sweet ones with the lovely garden I often tell of) and found out that they had called the pound on our dog. At first I thought I was angry...but then realized I was EXTREMELY hurt. She told me that she just couldn't take him coming into their yard and that it was an Animal Shelter that came and got him. I tried to call the Shelter but it was already closed.....just leaving me with my tears for the remainder of the night. I know...I'm a baby - but all I could think of was that sweet dog being mistreated somewhere and knowing that I had let him down.

the next morning I called the number as soon as I woke up and the voice on the other end wasn't friendly AT ALL. She said that they had a "black and white" dog and that if it wasn't picked up by Friday they would put him to sleep. If I got him it would be 50 dollars plus they would write me a ticket...but then she said that she would "cut me a deal" if I got him vaccinated. I hung up the phone and after a river of tears AGAIN (my eyes have never felt so dry in all my life) zac and I talked about how having the dog is just not practical for us. So, I put it in my mind and head and heart that i need to stop being so "Fern" and get over it. To no avail.

Needless to say, zac went and got my dog - took it to the vet and got the vaccinations and he is forever mine now. No more trying to get him adopted....no more saying "well it just isn't practical." Zac said the pound was disgusting and the other dogs there were all sickly and horrible looking. Killing a sick dog...or a dangerous dog - or a very old and decrepit dog is one thing. But...BUT...BUT killing a sweet healthy little 5 month old dog for no reason is an entirely different matter. Poor Ozzy - he has a big clump of glue on his forehead that I can't get off where the pound put a sticker with his "date of death" on it and he's been staying right by us all day long.

The vet said that he is very healthy and a really good dog...a border collie terrier mix. We got him a little bed today and oatmeal shampoo and doggie treats - and a tether to keep him in our yard.

Last night when my heart was hurting and I was showering (when my heart hurts I bathe....it's the only place that's quiet around here) I told God that I don't understand why when I try to love people...or tell HIM that I want to love everyone - why I'm challenged so very much. I love my neighbors...I took them meals a couple of weeks ago and I carry in their groceries. I put together a scrapbook for them the other night...why would they have done that too my poor puppy and to my kids? And then God tells me that it doesn't matter what they do ....who is He? God is love, so I am still going to try and love instead of being angry at them. It's kind of hard when I see Oz and his hair all matted and him acting forlorn when he was full of life. I know he'll get over it, but i still think it's sad.

I feel like my grandpa's death has really made me think about my life and my convictions and who I am...or who I want to be. My papa still lives through me and in me. I love seeing his candy dish over on my coffee table...his gray sweater hanging in my closet for chilly fall days when I could use a hug. Memories of my papa make me laugh....I know the future will be brighter because he was in my past.


Leat said...

I am truly sorry for the loss of your beloved Grandpa! Keeping you in prayers.


kate fried said...

what a beautiful post, alyssa. i'm so sorry your grandpa passed away. my heart goes out to you, sister.

Cindy said...

that was lovely Alyssa.
oh and I'm not a dog lover....but really??? glad you got the dog back.

loving our neighbors can be a really hard thing...but, i believe you can do it. :)

Madeline said...

Oh goodness, Alyssa, I am so sorry for your loss. My prayers are with you and your family. I'll say a prayer for your neighbors too. I hope God gives them a little more compassion for others, and maybe he's already working on it through you. Hugs.

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