19 April 2007

in my corner

Monday was a beautiful, balmy day that defied the bitter cold and flurries (!) of the weekend. I’m so thankful it was a beautiful day, for it was Poppa’s last. Two weeks prior, he had a massive heart attack. The cancer, though still being treated, was no longer the imminent concern. His heart’s output was a paltry 10% versus the 50-55% of a healthy heart, and as a result his kidneys failed at the end of last week. Then it was simply a matter of agonizingly painful days.

I met Poppa about 10 years ago, and from that time on I heard often of his failing heart (though you’d never, ever know it to look at him!) and how incredible it was that he was still alive. Over the years, he had 15 “documented” heart attacks, and there’s a story of one he “muscled through” because he was plain mad about it. Poppa was a cynic, but a loving one. He had a sweet heart that welcomed me into the family with open arms.

There is a long, long history of strife between the two sides of my husband's family. However, since his mother died before he turned three the dominant influence was that of his father and his father’s parents. From before the time of my engagement to him, I heard bitter, ugly tales of the “other” side of the family. Any time seemed a good time to dredge up half-truths of decades ago and embellish them at length. But, if that is all you’ve ever heard from people you’ve trusted your entire life, you accept those stories as truth and never flinch. . .

Until we attended an annual Father's Day family reunion on his mother's side. That day a cousin mentioned a possible job opportunity (using his newly acquired AutoCAD skills) with their aunt’s husband. One thing lead to another, he called for an interview, and he got the job.

Thus began a journey into knowing his mother’s family that went past the obligatory visits and guarded attitudes. It opened connections to this family he barely knew, reasons to see his aunt at the office, ways to get to know them all better, and with time the knowing one another was no longer awkward, but deeper and happier and lacked all the scalding tales of his youth, lacked the gossip-fests he’d heard his entire life. There were times when family “issues” came up, and they were discussed briefly, the laundry aired when fit, truths sometimes clarified, but then everyone moved on to better topics. They found no reason to dwell on history or past mistakes. No one family was completely blameless, but only one family harbored the need to allow old wounds to fester. And sadly it carried through the generations.

To hear the doctors, Poppa should have died many years ago. But I believe God allowed Poppa this last decade to give life to a relationship where once there was a void. And I was delighted to be along for the ride. My mother-in-law was the middle child, and I have often felt I’ve missed something important in not knowing her. Perhaps it is for this reason that to me the last 10 years feel like an extra gift. My husband, too, feels that he’s had an opportunity to know his mother through her parents and siblings. From the first moments, I learned that this family loved from the heart. It was what it was and you could take it or leave it. We chose to embrace it.

This man truly captured my heart. As my mother once said, “He’s in your corner, huh?” He was indeed. I shall miss Poppa greatly.


Carbon said...

I'm sorry for your loss CJoy. You've written beautiful words here in your post, I'm sure your Poppa would have been touched.

Mommy-loguer said...

I was just coming here to leave you a post, to see how you were doing. I'm sorry for your loss ): Carbon said it best; I'm sure your Poppa would have been so proud to read the sweet and loving words you wrote about him. I'll be thinking and praying for you & your family.


spring said...

How precious. I am in tears because I have seen and heard exactly what you have written. It is amazing to see how the Lord works against (through)the family malice and gossip. It gives me hope.