January 07, 2013

May the road rise to meet you

I met Irish Storyteller thirty years ago. I’d just graduated from college, and he was a school administrator who hired me to develop a program to teach computer programming to elementary school children. We worked together to develop the program, I taught computer stuff to little kids for a semester, and then I went to grad school. But Irish Storyteller and I stayed friends. We worked together for years on a writing project.

About once a week, I’d walk over to the beautiful old house where Irish Storyteller and his wife, Warm Smile, lived. They were about the same age as my parents. I’d gone to high school with one of their sons, and my daughter went to that same high school with one of their grandsons.

They always treated me like family. I’d come right into the kitchen, and Warm Smile would offer me cookies, just like my own mother always did. She’d fill me in on all the family gossip: which of the kids had gotten a job, which grandchild had a piano recital. After every family vacation, she showed me photos: the whole gang gathered on a beach usually, everyone tanned and relaxed, usually in bathing suits and t-shirts. They had six children and eighteen grandchildren, so getting everyone together for a week-long vacation was always an exercise in controlled chaos. We'd both get to laughing as she told stories about the week.

That's what I will remember most about her: that easy laugh, that gracious enjoyment of the little things in life, her pride in her children and grandchildren.

This morning, on a cold winter day, all eighteen grandchildren were dressed in their church clothes. They gathered at the back of the church with their parents and their grandfather, and they walked up the aisle with the casket that held the body of Warm Smile, the grandmother they loved dearly.

It’s never easy to say goodbye. Two of her sons gave beautiful talks, both choking up as they did so. Irish Storyteller held his oldest daughter’s hand, tears on his face as the violinist played.

Later, we ate lunch in a room filled with flowers and piano music. The youngest grandchildren roamed about in herds: it’s clear that the cousins adore each other. When I talked to Irish Storyteller about the woman he’d been married to for 56 years, he said to me, “You know when it’s going to be the hardest? At about 4 pm every day. That was always our time. No matter what was going on, we usually sat down at 4 pm, maybe with a glass of wine, and talked to each other. It’s so important – to talk to each other.” Many times during the summer while taking a walk in the neighborhood, I’d seen them on the front porch of their house, just relaxing, chatting with each other, and watching the world go by. They’d always made time for that daily activity.

I hugged each of the six children before I left. The youngest said to me, “My mom was totally amazing. And we all knew it. We always treated her that way.” That kind of summed up the feeling in the room. It was filled with love, with sadness, with grief. But no regrets. 


Sharon said...

They sound like a beautiful, loving family.

L said...

Oh, this is incredibly moving. And a lesson to all of us to make time for the things that really matter, right?

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy reading about the people in your life. They all seem so lovely. Maybe it's just that you are so good at seeing the loveliness in others.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

This is beautiful, jo(e).

robin andrea said...

A beautiful, loving tribute.

susan said...

Awww...what a wonderful woman to have had in all your lives for so long.

Zhoen said...

People die, love don't. Not that kind of real love, anyway. I suspect he'll stop and talk with her everyday anyway.

Amanda said...

What a legacy. I think one of my favorite things is a lump in the throat that comes from that depth of gladness for someone having been. Thank you for shring.