Rule #59- Out by 9
I had the chance this week to visit Pennsylvania and my family that lives there. Rachel, Andrew and Ashleigh are all doing awesome, and my granddaughters become more adorable by the day. I am truly blessed.
I’m not one that believes that you have to physically be at the grave of someone to remember them. Rather I think you remember people by actions, and in particularly the way you treat others and the lessons that you learn from the loved ones.
But I was in town and stopped by my parents graves. When I did so it was surprisingly emotional even though its been more than 7 years for my dad and more than 21 years for my mom. I miss them and just taking the time to focus on that was hard, they were both gone too soon. I let myself pretend that their passing didn’t impact me, but that’s a lie.
My emotions range from sorrow to anger to catholic guilt. You know that good old fashion regret sort of guilt where you run through your every mistake in your mind praying that the next replay will have a better outcome. I am a very flawed man, and sadly a flawed son. Neither of them ever made me feel that way ,but I know now that I could have been a better son. I regret much.
My way of making penance with them and God is to remember their lessons. A lot of this Blog and Podcast is a way of passing on the lessons I learned from them to my kids and grandkids. My hope that Aubrey and Hailey will read or listen to these postings and share the thoughts with their kids. In a real way I hope that this become real remembrance of my parents, who they did not get a chance to meet. My Mom would have adored them, and I feel that she does now in her own way.
As I sat by the grave I thought about one of the lessons my dad taught me, its how he kept sane after my Mom passed so early in 2000 at the age of 64. Being alone was hard- they has done most things as a couple. Parties, dinners and travel continued as a couple long past when it should have because of both those wills to fight against the robber of Alzheimer. It stole so much from them both but they raged against it till the end.
After she passed my Dad was sort of lost, he would sit in a darkened room with the cat she loved and he tolerated and sort of zone out. It was only through the gift of friends that they had both made that he started functioning again, first going out to dinner and then events.
I had the chance to ask him how he did it, how he got through it all.
He told me that the secret wasn’t hard, it just to get out of the house every day by no later than 9 am.
He said that getting old and being alone its easy to feel sorry for yourself. He told me that “the walls whisper to you” they tell you that your back hurts and that you are feeling bad. The house sort of consumes your spirit and the aloneness is like a dangerous drug that appears more normal the more you take it.
During the Holiday season that aloneness can turn to self pity and bitterness, blaming the world for what its taken from you. You can feel forgotten and you will start to give up.
My Dad’s secret lesson for the next 14 years of his life was to get out of bed, and go somewhere. Sometimes is was the mall to walk – he loved walking past the Victoria Secrets Store. Sometimes it was a movie or breakfast with old work buddies. But he got out.
That process of ” getting out by 9″ had him rejoin things like the School Board that he had given up when Mom was the sickest. He found passion in the community choir although he had the same musical talent I had, none. He used these times out of the house to reconnect with the world, and through it found purpose and happiness.
As I think about how simple the rule of ” out by 9″ is I realize how these simple lessons can be applied to so much. It isn’t just when you are old and alone – it when you are feeling depressed and overwhelmed by life at 40. The process of getting out forces us from ourselves and makes us engage.
As I approach 62 I realize that the quirkiness of Dad had hidden wisdom that I was either too business or to arrogant to embrace when given. But eventually even the blindest of squirrels finds the nut and learns to survive.
So kids if you ever get the chance to visit your grandparents graves or perhaps mine if I ever die, I ask that you do not reflect on the sadness but on the lessons. The simple lessons of life like “getting out by 9”.
It can make all the difference.