Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Dead People

My bff Becky lamented yesterday, on her 40th birthday, that she had woken up sad and missing her dead people. Beck has a lot of dead people. I've known a couple of them, and they were indeed wonderful and understandably missed. Although she has many dead people that I didn't know directly, I have heard their stories, seen their pictures, I have visited their mossy graves in southern Louisianna. I think I've spent more time with Becky's dead people than with my own.

Today was memorial day, and despite my best efforts, I got to ruminating about my own dead people. Resisting the temptation to run out to Walmart for crosses and wreathes made of pink and yellow plastic flowers, I quickly realized that all my dead people are spread all over the country... More cemetaries than I could possibly visit, even with a 3 day weekend, my last $50 invested in Delores' gas tank, a six pack of Depends, and a jumbo bag of little chocolate donuts.

Like many of us, my first dead person was a dog. His name was Sammy, he was a little cocker spaniel, and I believe I sobbed for at least 10 minutes. Then as a teenager, my grandfather died. I didn't know him well... His death affected me much more through the emotions of my mom and grandmother than through my own sense of loss.

My friend Cindy went next... She was a few years older than me, a mom, a wife, who had battled leukemia for years and ultimately died on New Year's eve the year I was 18. That she died at KU Med center crossed my mind many times during the horrendous health crisis of 2005, when I spent hours dozing, crying, being poked, prodded, and tortured at KU Med.

My paternal grandfather died next, when I was in my 20's and again it felt more like a passage than a loss.

Shortly after that, a man that I worked for died. His name was Roger Williams. I was not working for him at the time, but the loss was profound... He had muscular dystrophy, used a weelchair, and had very limited physical abilities... But his mind and his sense of humor were razor sharp. He was a mentor and friend and teacher. I've been thinking of him lately as I go through all the transitions that life seems to throw at me. He would certainly have something dry and cryptic to say about my current pregnant state, but I know that he also had a deep understanding of the challenges life throws your way... He certainly had his share. I like knowing that he would not only understand the incredibly painful past two years, but would also smile at the irony and joy of what's in store.

My paternal Grandma was next... that was a tough one. My grandma and grandpa in Wichita represented what seemed at times the only "normal" part of my childhood. I wasn't expected to clean the house, the yelling was minimal in comparison to home, and the only expectations placed on me when I was there were just to be a kid. I played outside whenever I wanted, got undivided attention from Grandma, Grandpa, and Unc, and was basically entertained and cared for in every way when visiting there. My grandma was a trip, though. She had ideas and she was stubborn and bossy as hell. She ruled that roost with an iron hand. She was a nurse and a devout Catholic, and hoped I would be also. I still miss her.

Somewhere in there my friend Oly died. Oly was my grandparent's age, a friend of my Dad's father, and was a generous soul. He lived alone after his father died, having lived with his parents his whole life, and was the catalyst for lots of rumors in the small-minded small town where I lived from age 15-18. Oly had family, it turned out, but we didn't understand until his funeral that he rejected these family members, and they him, because they were Jehovah's Witnesses. Apparently this was a real issue for Oly. Hence, he spent his money and his parent's money on others. He was known for helping people out, and generously aided several people, myself included, in getting cars, going to college, etc. He told me several times that he just wanted us all to do something good for someone else, later on, as our own resources would allow. This was before "Pay It Forward" or "Commit Random Acts of Kindness" became known phrases in our society.

He was pretty amazing, and truly a great friend. I think of him often whenever I get some new little gadget, cell phone, computer, etc. He was amazed by technology, and literally died just a year or two before we really all started to get hooked into the Internet. He would have LOVED all of it.

I've been lucky enough to work with some amazing people through the years. Unfortunately, some of these folks have died, also. Wayne Hendrix, Jim Duncan, David Welton, are a few of the ones I've had the privelege of being good freinds with in addition to working for the agency who provided services to them.

My good friend Chris died this last February, and I still have a hard time believing he's gone. I am in awe of his longterm partner/girlfriend that he left behind, and watching her survive the past 4 months has been amazing. Something tells me he's okay... his spirit is still around, certainly, and I know he'd be happy that she's done as well as she has under the circumstances. If I were in her shoes, I would have had to been heavily medicated and possibly committed.

I'm sure I'm leaving someone out, and will probably be visited by an angry spirit tonight for doing so, but anyway, those were the people most prevalent on my mind. And writing about them sure beats sticking weird plastic flowers on their graves.

1 comment:

gypsy said...

What a great blog, Kalli!

"I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time . Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult." --E.B. White