Category Archives: getting old

A daughter is a day brightener and a heart warmer. ~Author Unknown

Nobody wants to see their daughters get out of the little girl stage.   They are cute, lead uncomplicated lives, and they adore their daddy.  Unfortunately, there is no way to stop it from happening.  They get older, start getting other interests, and they eventually start liking boys.  An anonymous author once said:

Daughters are like flowers, they fill the world with beauty, and sometimes attract pests.”

I have had those “pests”  hang around, and it was tough to let go when my girls told be to quit scaring them away.  

They marry, leave the house, and start having babies of their own.   It was tough for me when my daughters’ mom and I divorced.  I was not able to be around them on a day to day basis.  I missed some of the growing up that they do, especially the little things.

I am grateful that my youngest daughter Jessica, who was only 4 at the time of my divorce did not let that affect our relationship.  She has always wanted to be a daddy’s girl and wanted approval from her old man for the things she did.  (Special note:  Erica, my oldest daughter and I have our own special relationship and this is not a comment on the status of that relationship.)

Jessica turns 28 today.  She has turned into a beautiful young lady, a wonderful kindergarten teacher and a fantastic mom.   It is hard to be a divorced single mom, but she handles it with a lot of class, patience, and sometimes with tears, but she handles it well.  Although Round Rock is only 81 miles away, I do not get to see her and my granddaughter Chloe as much as I would like.   I miss them.  I miss not being able to be there and hug her and console her when the single mom routine gets her down.

But I am a proud dad.  She brightens my day when she calls.  She will always be my favorite youngest daughter.  Happy Birthday sweetheart. 15859_625225650875_1977861_n

Advertisements

What if you threw a funeral and nobody came?

December and January for some reason have become months of funerals and anniversaries of deaths of friends and family members. My dad passed away several years ago in December, my brother-in-law just passed this month, and at the end of the month my mom will have been gone for over a decade.

Funerals are a strange phenomena sometimes. You find family members getting together and repeating the same words they spoke at the last funeral – “We need to keep in touch!”, “Why do we wait so long to get together?” and “Why does it always take a funeral to bring us closer?” After the services, when the crying is done, the hugs are given and the reception food eaten, we go back to the same old routine and just ignore our family and friends. I am not being critical, I am just making an observation of things as I have seen them over the last few years.

A lot of time is spent at funerals talking about what a good person the deceased was in their life, and the difference that they made in people’s lives. Some people call it a person’s legacy. At a few of the funerals I helped put together video tributes to the loved one that helps bring back some great memories. It got me to thinking, what is my legacy going to be? What difference have I made in people’s lives? If they held my funeral would they need a larger facility or could they hold it in a closet sized room?

I kid with my wife and kids that I already have the songs I want played at my memorial. My choices? “Happy Cause I’m Going Home” by Chicago, and Israel Kamakiwiwo’ole’s version of “Over the Rainbow”. I know that this my be a bit cliché, but it’s what I want and expresses what my thoughts. My son Sam, who is only 21 has already told us he wants “American Pie” played at his funeral. Don’t know why, but that is what he chose and I respect that.

I have had the opportunity to teach over the last 10 years, and several of my students keep in contact with me to let me know what is going on in their lives. I hope that somehow I left a footprint in their lives somewhere. My very first Eagle Scout as a Scoutmaster surprised me a few years ago when he caught me at DFW Airport and yelled out my name. He gave me a belated thanks for helping him through his Eagle project and application. He said it helped him get his current job as an engineer. Since that time 30+ years ago I have helped several others out as well.

A lot of people, especially Molly, my wife, tell me that I have a hard time saying no. Volunteering to do things just seems to be a part of what I do and who I am. My former boss, who was the mayor of Laredo, Texas when I was an assistant City Attorney there, once told me that I should be glad that I was not a woman. When I asked him why, he said that if I was a woman I would always be pregnant because I did not know how to say “no.” A bit crude, I know, but he was trying to make a point. When my daughters were in Choir I couldn’t just be a part of the booster club, I had to volunteer to be president. I couldn’t just go to the Homeowners Association meetings, I had to run to be on the board.

This is not a “hey look at how great I am” type of story. The thought of who would take time to remember me isn’t a huge part of my thoughts on a daily basis, but you can’t help but wonder–how will people remember me? During a professional development meeting one day we were asked to state what it was that we would like to see on our tombstone. Being the smart aleck that I tend to be, my immediate response was “Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” It got a few laughs, but I was floored by the thoughtful response of one of my colleagues. He said he wanted it to say, “he was a good husband and father”.

Wow. That summed it all up in just a few words. That is what I want my legacy to be – a good husband and father (and by extension grandfather as well). I need to spend the rest of my life living up to that legacy. If no one but my family came to my funeral, I would be ok with it. Family should be the emphasis and focus in my life. Time to make it happen.

What are you waiting for?

Today I attended the funeral for the son of one of my instructors.  The young man was 26 years old, seemed to be a kid full of life and energy, was well liked, had a lot going for him — and took his own life.   Certainly I am not in a position to judge the action, and this is not what this blog is about.     As I sat through the funeral with my wife,  I had a number of thoughts cross my mind.  This will be an attempt to sort through a lot of those thoughts.

First, depression apparently was a  hidden problem with this young man.  The priest who presided at the funeral, as part of a wonderful homily that he delivered, explained that depression is not the type of illness where a person stands on top of a hill and yells “Help me!”.   In fact, the opposite is exactly what happens.  A person suffering from depression hides his/her problems, often ignoring the symptoms or trying to work it out on their own.  I can tell you it does not work.  If you know me really well, you know that I suffered from clinical depression back several years ago.  It cost me my practice and two marriages.  But that is a topic of another blog down the line.   All I want to say is that if you know of someone suffering from depression, or that you think might be suffering from depression, please do not ignore it.   It can be a real killer, both physically and mentally.   You might need to suggest, hint, cajole, kidnap or even force them to get help, but it is very important that they get the help that they so desperately need.

Secondly, I had such a deep impression that no parent should ever outlive their children.  There is no way I can console my co-worker/friend by telling her that I know how she feels.  I don’t and I never hope to personally know the feeling.  What I can do is be there to listen, to laugh, to cry and to share.  It would be disingenuous for me to sit there and pretend to understand the emotions that she must be feeling.  This was not a case of a 95-year-old parent losing a 72-year-old child.   This was a vibrant young man with a lot going for him.   My heart goes out to her and to anyone that has lost a child.

Thirdly, why are we so afraid of death?  Both of my parents have passed away, and during their funerals I was quite taken aback by the different reactions of people to the death of their friend, relative, neighbor and co-worker.    Some were very consoling and understanding, and ready to help at a moment’s notice.  Some were afraid to look you in the eye or talk to you, as if by doing so they might set off a reaction they could not control.   Some avoided my family and I all together, choosing to stand at a distance.

I can remember one of my family members (whose name I will keep private) actually accusing me of not caring or loving my parents because I did not openly display uncontrollable fits of tears or emotion.   Because of my faith I feel I have a good understanding of the entire death process.  Although I certainly felt the loss of my parents’ company, I also knew that this was just one more step in the process of our lives.  In my mom’s case, it ended a long-term of suffering in incredible pain and disability.  In my dad’s case, he would no longer suffer the loneliness he felt at my mother’s passing.   Death is not something one should fear.

Finally, I kept thinking about a recurring theme that I have pondered all year long.   It has been brought into clearer focus since the birth of my adorable granddaughter Chloe.    Why do we wait?

Why do we wait until someone passes to express our love and respect for them?  Why are our friends, family, companions and others we care for not constantly in our thoughts, our hearts,  our prayers and our actions?

My wife and I were having a conversation the other day and I jokingly remarked that since I was going to be in Round Rock on Christmas day, I was going to miss seeing those people at church that I only see on Easter and Christmas.   Again, I do not say this in a judgmental manner.    But as friends, do we not do the same thing?  Do we not wait for significant events like deaths, weddings, births, surgeries, etc. to find the time to visit?   How many times do we say at those events – “We really need to keep in touch”, only to fall back into the same old pattern in our lives?

In the case of the death of one of those we care for, do we find ourselves regretting not having spent more time with them?  Do we wish we had told them how we felt?

I have a very vivid memory of the last phone call my dad and I had before he passed away.  My dad lived in the little town of DeBerry, Texas.   How and why he chose to move there after my mom’s passing is still a mystery to me.  He was 7 hours away from the closest family (which was me) and lived by himself.    We chatted about me making a trip to DeBerry to help him find a new heart doctor so that he would not have to make the 800 mile trip to El Paso every time he needed to go for his checkup.   We discussed all the things he liked to talk about, and had a friendly argument about his other favorite topic – hating whoever was President at the time.  But what made this last talk special is that we spent the last few minutes of our call talking about how much we cared about each other.

I got a call 3 or 4 days later from his pastor.  They found my dad on the back porch where he had apparently collapsed after a heart attack..   What sorrow I would have had if I had not had the time to say what was on my mind during that last call, even if I did not know it was the last time I would talk to him.

Recently I have tried to reach out to my extended family.  My father’s family (as opposed to my dad that I just talked about) is from Michigan, and I have had some limited contact with them.   My mom’s side of the family, many of which I met at a family reunion about 13 or 14 years ago, is another story.  I have been horrible at keeping up with them, and it is my goal this year to make sure that they become a part of my life.

Don’t be surprised to hear from me.  Regrets are not something I want to have in my life.  I will be reaching out to those I love and care for.   What are you waiting for?

At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.
Barbara Bush