Fiennes. Shakespeare. Revenge. Dark. Tough. Tragedy. Verse. Storytelling. Current. Yes.
I’m so fortunate. I have always known this somehow, even though I’m no stranger to trouble and obstacle and death and sickness. I’ve known it. I’ve also been lucky to somehow always have known the things that are most important in life. Which again I will say are the people you love and who love you back. That and all things gadgety. Well, maybe not really, but I love gadgets and was attempting humor.
Anyway… I’m fortunate to know these things, but then I experience something like I did this past weekend at Grandpa’s memorial service and I not only feel that fortune magnified, but I’m humbled by the enormity of it.
There we all were, family, friends, friends of Grandpa, and former students and teachers of Grandpa’s. The later groups, the former students and teachers, surprised us all. The surprise was not that they were there so much as what they said. It was humbling to know that Grandpa, who we as family already knew was stellar in his role as father and grandfather, was also stellar in his role as friend and educator, as boss and mentor.
The memorial started and we were sitting up toward the front. All of the family was around us, tables filled. I hadn’t looked behind me until it came time to pass the microphone around and offer people a moment to share their thoughts and feelings about Grandpa. We’d already had the siblings, his children, each offer their memories. We’d had a couple of musical selections. We’d listened to the words of some of his grandchildren. All fine and lovely and heart felt. All fueled by the deep love and admiration we all share. But then… then the time came for others present to offer anything they wanted about him. I turned around to look and listen, totally surprised by the number of people there. There were a lot of them, and offer they did.
From the man (and forgive me for not remembering their names) who talked about being a terrible student until he had my Grandpa as a teacher for the 5th and 7th grade and how he learned lessons from him in confidence and how to be a better boy, and therefore man, to the man who said he’s known two great men, his father and my Grandpa, and how he named one of his son’s after Grandpa. This man a student of his so long ago. There were stories of him as mentor to new teachers, a friend when he worked as an accountant before he was a teacher, as principal and in his role as assistant superintendent of public schools. Story after story of his heart, his integrity, his willingness to be a friend, and to help someone out. Stories about the quiet unflinching discipline that made people want to be better, to do better. Stories of his honesty, his being quiet and gentle, of him as a man of high expectations and a big heart. Stories of how people in his work life knew the most important thing to him was his family. I was, as I think we all were, floored by the outpouring. Person after person stood. It went on for a while. And as it did I think my heart actually grew. Swelling with the emotion of it, the wave. Swelling with pride.
It’s not that I was surprised by it, it’s just that my experience of Grandpa was/is as a member of his family. My time with him was always family time. He never spoke of his work. I mean, never. Not to me. The closest I ever got to that was occasionally hearing he and Grandma discuss something or another about his work when he was assistant superintendent and that was always fleeting. Grandma bringing something up, asking a question, Grandpa answering, and then moving on to being with us. Attention on us. Attention on his family. So I never thought of him really as a working guy, which of course he was. And when people starting standing up, starting talking about him, bells went off inside, along with a swell of pride. Because, of course, he was the same man everywhere he went. And because he was the same man, he had the same effects on kids he taught in school, kids he had to discipline in school, people he hired and mentored as teachers, friends he made along the way. He was the same man everywhere he went, and being that man, he touched so many lives, more than I imagined.
I sat there, tears coming down, feeling an overwhelming sense of him, as a whole man, and along with that feeling an intense sense of honor and pride at being his granddaughter and all that entails. We have a legacy. This beautiful amazing legacy left to us by both our Grandpa and our Grandma. It’s such a privilege to be a part of that legacy, to be a part of this family, and also such a responsibility. We must use those lessons taught to us so well. We must honor his memory, and the memory of our Grandma, by being the best people we can. By living the best lives we can. We must continue to put out that energy of acceptance, warmth, laughter, expectation, guidance, heart, adventure, good will, integrity, humor, and abiding love of life and family. We must. It would be his wish, his expectation, and that expectation is strong, still. He and Grandma would want us to continue on with love of life, love of family. And, they would be, and I feel are, proud of us. Proud of the people we are. The people they made of us. Just as we, to the last of us, are oh so proud to be Grandpa and Grandma’s children and grandchildren and great grandchildren and great great grandchildren.
I am proud, and honored, to be their granddaughter. More than I can articulate adequately here. There really aren’t enough words to describe it. And maybe that’s OK. Maybe my Uncle Tom’s words, said at our family gathering after the memorial, say it all, “My Dad is a rock star”. And yes, yes he was, and still is to all of us.
Today’s image is by Jean Gazis. Location: Greenfield, MA.
The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper. — W.B. Yeats
A couple of days ago Mom called as we were driving home from Oklahoma City. Karen answered and I could tell by her response that it wasn’t good news. Not entirely unexpected, but not good news just the same. My grandpa, William R Atwood, had passed away.
What to say about Grandpa. First and foremost is that he was the center and origin of joy. We are lucky in this family, the Atwoods, to be a group filled with joy and curiosity. It’s part of our genetic makeup, a part that most certainly came from Grandpa. Where Grandma was the inspiration and adventure and mischief, Grandpa was the happiness with a good natured easy going manner. This was never more evident than when anyone entered his space. He would light up at just the sight of someone. A truly genuine and amazing thing.
Grandpa had no pretense. No agenda. He wanted to be right where he was, saying right what he was saying, enjoying everything you were saying and doing, without a thought for anything else. He knew what it absolutely meant to live in the moment. Always did. From teaching me how to tie my shoes and play backgammon, to walking in the woods, enjoying a laugh with family, making pudgy pies while camping, and just smiling from the eyes as he listened to you tell a story about this or that thing, he was there with you. Full mind, body, and soul. A lesson, always, in being present. You always felt listened to, heard, loved, and adored with Grandpa. He had that kind of magic.
I used to watch him with people, I loved doing that. The way he seemed almost giddy at whatever one of his 19 grandchildren or 7 children had to say. The way he loved, and always went along with, Grandma’s ideas to take off and roam around the country. His response was always… sure, let’s do it. He was the same with everything. Ready, available, open, eyes always on yours.
Grandpa knew how to have a good time. For him that usually meant whatever he was doing at the time, with whoever happened to be around. A special quality that allowed him to truly enjoy himself and those around him, no matter what. This all sprang, I’m sure, from his uncanny ability to be at ease. He was so good natured, so mellow. I don’t know, in all my life, if I ever saw him mad. Maybe slightly miffed a couple of times, but never really mad. He knew how to put things in perspective. Another gift.
Grandpa and Grandma had an enormous, loving, amazing family. Seven children, 19 grandchildren, a passel of great grandchildren, and now some great great grandchildren. Grandpa liked to say that he had 70 progeny, and if you include all the people he touched throughout his life via his music, work as an educator, friends, and extended families through marriage, there were many more than that who were touched by his spirit for living, his warmth, and his ability to include everyone.
I smile when I think of him. I always have. He had that kind of effect. Still does. I think of him playing the piano in only the way he could, with an almost childlike exuberance not often seen. I think of dancing with him, keeping up with Grandpa rhythm, the rhythm only he had. I think of talking to him about life plans and hearing his non-judging acceptance and encouragement. I think of watching he and Grandma interact with each other… Billth and Marth. I think of walks in the woods and lessons about life and spontaneous runs for ice cream and plays put on in the barn on the farm and I smile a big ol’ smile. I think of Grandpa’s smile and that makes me smile all the more. He had a one of a kind fantastic smile from the eyes kind of smile. A smile with a twinkle.
He was, to the very core, a stellar human being. An honest, genuine, fun loving, real, true man who always made me, and anyone in his presence, feel special. That’s the kind of man he was, who he was to me. He made me feel special and loved and his being able to do that, to be that for me and for all of us… that was another of his magic gifts. Just as he was a gift to all of us.
I love you Grandpa. I love you.
The forests are the flags of nature. They appeal to all and awaken inspiring universal feelings. Enter the forest and the boundaries of nations are forgotten. It may be that some time an immortal pine will be the flag of a united peaceful world.
I love words and this is a great one. Pronunciamento. Meaning… pro·nun·ci·a·men·to [pruh-nuhn-see-uh-men-toh, -shee-uh-] noun, plural pro·nun·ci·a·men·tos. a proclamation; manifesto; edict.
I came across this one today as I was looking around the dictionary. Or more precisely, in this new age, dictionary.com. It’s a wonderful word found in a wonderful place. Dictionaries are exciting, to me anyway. I’ve been reading them since I knew what one was and found one in our house. Words. Wonderful.
I used to play word games with some of my work mates. Emails going around with sentences made up of words with the same letter. Peter picked pickled peppers. Like that. We’d start with A and work our way to Z and back again, or we’d rhyme, or be cute some other way with wonderful wacky words. Fun, to us anyway. We’d stretch our minds, our vocabularies, and we’d laugh and laugh. Words are good like that.
Today as I looked around I came across this great word. Had never heard of it. And now I love it. I am also, I think, going to use it here. Make a pronunciamento about things I’d like to do this summer… a proclamation of sorts. Here, publicly, live and “in person”. Maybe if I put some things down here I will do some of them… maybe I already have. Maybe I would anyway. No matter… it’s a fun exercise.
(Riley is playing with her Uncle Kevin right now… he’s rubbing her belly, she’s growling, barking, and jumping up to wiggle around and play bite at him. She’s like popcorn. It’s cute. They missed each other.)
Anyway… back to the pronunciamento.
100 things to do this summer… and in life.
- Be present.
- Act with grace.
- Ride my bike around town.
- Use the frisbee golf set I purchased.
- Play with Sebastian.
- Eat grapes.
- Get my photos better organized.
- See an opera again.
- Hold hands.
- Be patient with people.
- Sing loudly in moving vehicles.
- Eat more whole food, less processed food.
- Play guitar again.
- Travel to foreign places.
- Be silly.
- Dance suddenly and randomly at home, and sometimes in public.
- Be child like.
- Hug my honey more than I already do.
- Use the library more than I do.
- Make pudding.
- Sleep outside.
- Be less afraid.
- Live more sustainably.
- Don’t buy anything for myself, including music, clothes, videos, etc. unless it’s second hand. (related to previous point)
- See a few movies in the park.
- Stop and listen to live music (street corners, festival bands, etc.)
- Paint something.
- Go to the drive in.
- Take photographs that inspire me.
- Continue to evolve.
- Give more than I get.
- Show respect to strangers.
- Buy meat from a farmer.
- Write and send actual letters.
- Study other cultures and ideas.
- Honor my ancestors.
- Swim in wild waters.
- Walk in Central Park in New York, eat lobster in Maine, watch hot air balloons in New Mexico.
- Use the crockpot to make dessert.
- Put my feet in lakes, oceans, rivers, puddles, tiny wading pools.
- Do another paring down of my clothes and shoes.
- Eat tomatoes from our tomato plant.
- Sit quietly outside in the wind and sunshine listening to the trees and not talk or play on the computer or phone or any other man made thing.
- Live responsibly.
- Worry less.
- Try new foods that scare me a little.
- Use hairbrushes and wooden spoons as microphones.
- Give the pups even more attention than they already get.
- Go snorkeling.
- Take random day long road trips with my honey to nowhere in particular with good music playing and great conversations.
- Embrace my dorky nature.
- Go to museums.
- Dinners with friends.
- Be in awe.
- Make people laugh on purpose.
- Make and eat pudgy pies.
- Talk to strangers.
- Laugh at myself and things that might irk me, but shouldn’t.
- Be the nicer version of me in taxing situations.
- Do things I love more than things I should do.
- Make and drink naturally flavored sun tea.
- Make a fort out of blankets.
- Smile often and only from the eyes.
- Camp in wild beautiful places.
- Put my toes in the sand.
- Eat more fruit and less bread.
- Read at least two books a month.
- Make stuff.
- Take care of my honey like she deserves.
- Skip, hop, and jump.
- See the AFI top 100 films.
- Know what’s going on in the world.
- Read poetry again.
- Play games and cards.
- Volunteer my time.
- Be passionate in life.
- Always look people in the eye.
- Wear funky hats.
- Write random and unexpected emails to friends and family more often.
- Get paid for being creative.
- Take the dogs to parks and on walks.
- Be an agent of positive change.
- Travel to new places.
- Take the train more often.
- Ride a bus to Chicago or maybe some other random place.
- Sit around our chiminea with good company.
- Make a s’more or two.
- Say what I mean and only that.
- Smell flowers.
- Live free.
- Eat handcrafted ice cream.
- Help out friends and family.
- Be kind to myself.
- And lastly, though I could go on, laugh laugh laugh at why WordPress has famous nuns and Saint Peter as recommended highlighted links down below this as I type. Hmmmm….
Here it is, June 1. I am amazed this much time has passed. Two years. Two.
Two years ago today I was a sick puppy and ventured into the urgent care, on the insistence of my honey and of the nurse who I’d talked to on the phone. Urgent care to hospital via ambulance a few hours later and the adventure began.
I can’t believe it’s been two years. Wow. I’m blessed, lucky, and so very grateful for all the men and women who have, over the course of the last two years, provided me with amazing care. From urgent care numerous times to hospital numerous times to infusion centers and labs and doctor’s offices I have seen the best of what humanity has to offer. These countless people treated me and continue to with such respect and gentle understanding I am humbled. From Oregon to Illinois I’ve been lucky to know them all. The genuine way they listen and treat is phenomenal. I wish I could hug each one and let them know how much they have meant and continue to mean to me. Having told them and continuing to tell them thank you just doesn’t seem like enough.
Two years. This is a great grand life I’m living. If this experience has taught me nothing else it is that a person should constantly, to the point of over doing it, express how much they care for and love the people around them. They are what makes our life fantastic and lovely. Nothing else. So to the universe of people out there, old and new, who I know and love and who have shown such great support and love throughout not just this experience but my life, I love each and every one of you.