It’s all about the “Dash”.

We can’t explain why some things happen. Things just do. I read somewhere recently that said we assign “good” or “bad” to a situation, when in reality all that happened was “something happened” …good or bad is irrelevant.

My relationship with my family had been strained a lot this last two years and with the passing of my mother last month you tend to think, I have tended to think I was “ok” with it and began to move on, we did have 18 months to prepare for her passing. When my father called to tell me, it still hit me kind of hard. My lungs filled with air, I let out a deep sigh and immediately thought of her alone somewhere in the universe with the rest of us left behind on earth to deal with what had just happened.

There is a lot of weight to losing a parent. A lot to process and accept. The finality of this statement:

“we live, we breed, we die and we disappear”

She is never to be seen with human eyes again.

My thoughts after the wake/funeral was “it’s over” and we would move on to the next phase. But then my mother’s cousin (my cousin) Julie found some old pictures at my Aunt Eleanor’s house. (Aunt El died maybe a month before my mother, 6 weeks if that)…

I took the 5 or 6 photos out of the card board envelope to find a couple of pictures of my parent’s wedding day, a picture of my brother and I as teenagers when we were on speaking terms and a picture of my wife and I taken on Christmas Eve the year or two after we started dating…on the back in my mother’s hand writing it reads:

“Scott and the love of his life, Dawn. Very Serious!”

I never knew she wrote that. in the photo she and I are all of 19 and 17 if we are that old. I’m guessing the photo is from Christmas Eve 1988 or 1989. And here we are still together 22 years later.  Been thru heaven and hell together and still standing strong. A little older but still standing strong.

I look at the kids in that picture that I believe my mother took and I hardly recognize us. And I think back thru the dating years, the engagement years, our wedding day and the nor’easter that wouldn’t let us take a picture outside that day in October.

I think about this house. Our kids. And Cancer… in an instant I think about my grandmother’s, then mine and then back around to my mom. Two out of the three of us are no longer here (thanks to cancer).

But all of this represents a life lived. Somewhere in between all the bullshit and arguments and misunderstandings in life, it still and only comes down to people. People we love, don’t always get along with or like all the time.

The pictures of my parents in their very early twenties, this is July 1968. Just 15 months before their first child would arrive. (yeah, me) and they look like they have the whole world ahead of them, just like Dawn and I look in our wedding photo. In it together, forever.

For better or for worse. For richer or for poorer. In sickness and in health. Til death…do we, do they…does anyone, part.

Just when you think you have it all figured out…kids are grown with kids of their own…life is supposed to slow down and you get to relax. When life reminds you of your past and the smoking catches up with you (or whatever it is, drinking, drugs etc) and you get handed a diagnosis that changes everything and turns your world upside down.

Dawn and I have already been down that road…sort of. Close enough to it.

But it seems just when you think life is as good as it’s gonna get….BAM! God punches your ticket and calls up your number and your partner in this life down here on grubby old earth is ripped out of your life and you get left behind.

I remember once, still living at my parent’s house when we witnessed our family cat stalk and catch a mallard duck. I don’t recall if it was male or female but the fury of the response, the retaliation or attempt to rescue the duck from our cats jaws involved the duck (not attacked) and even us…he had it by the neck and had killed it.

Hours later I saw the mate to the duck that was killed, walking along the river bank (my parent’s house sits on the edge of the Passaic river). This duck was wandering about like it was lost. Looking at the remains of the duck our cat successfully hunted and killed in the yard. At the time it was the saddest thing I had ever seen in my life. Ducks mate for life. This duck now left behind who until an hour earlier was probably the happiest duck on earth, was now all alone.

Life does that sometimes. We can’t win. All we get is the time we get and we forget to make the most of it. Because before we know it, it’s all over.

There are days when I think of my mom and miss her (even though I never fully understood who she was the whole time I knew her)…which leads me back to my dad, wandering around now without his mate. Who until a year and a half ago was probably the happiest guy on the earth, thinking he had at least another decade with my mom by his side…

We learned the other day another friend/acquaintance we came to know a little bit during Eric’s pre-school days had died from his second battle with cancer. Tony had testicular cancer and treated it and beat it nearly 5 years earlier. When it turned up again his wife told us he was hard to get to go to CT scans when he had it the first time (before their daughter was born). So when given the chance back then he decided to not follow his doctor’s suggestions and missed or skipped his last treatment/surgery.

Tony’s cancer came back with a vengeance and almost two years later his wife is now a widow and their daughter who should be Eric’s age (about 7) is fatherless. And I’m sure Kristen felt she had decades to grow old with Tony by her side. And like that mallard duck she is adjusting to life without her mate, taken away “just like that” never to be seen with human eyes again.

Life sucks! 

The built-in capacity to love and lose but live and experience all sorts of amazing things with the people you love is a complicated puzzle of epic proportions. I can’t figure it out. But looking at these pictures reminds me of how life in and of itself is short and to the point and fighting over something stupid is just wasting precious time.

It’s over before we know it. I have entertained my own mortality, when we didn’t know what was going on with my two cancer’s at the time. Having imagined my family living without me in their lives was enormous. Just being a face in a picture that can’t talk back. That can’t hug back. That can’t kiss back.

Our lives are fleeting. A vapor. My mom was 62. My grandmother was 60.

I am going to be 41 in just a couple of weeks. So barring anything unforeseen (which is everything) I need to break 63 before calling it a life. When you look at how far away that is for me right now…it might as well be two weekends away.

Before Dawn and I know it, our kids will be dating, engaged. Married etc. Life keeps moving forward. It has to…we do too. It’s not easy to let go but it’s all about “the dash” on our head stones. That “dash” means we have lived. Even if it has been cut short. The dash means everything. And it is something we all will have in common someday,  no matter who you are or where you come from. We all started somewhere and we will all end somewhere.

It’s what happens in between (the dash) that matters.

Please give some one a hug and a kiss.

-S. 🙂 hanging in there.

Published in: on September 14, 2010 at 1:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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