Thursday, January 23, 2014

Later that same Day

January 23

70 years ago my ex-husband and good friend, Jim was born.
3 years ago my father died.

Jim and I had our ups and downs. It took a few years after our divorce to rebuild bridges we'd torched when we separated. I can't even tell you how it happened. I just know today, I'm glad for the years we spent together. I'm happy for the memories we share. I'm smarter for the hard times and blessed for the good ones. My psychiatrist says I have an abnormal "attachment" to Jim. Sweetie doesn't understand it. Jim's wife is not sure she likes it. Maybe it is a little weird, but our kids are pleased that there is no longer tension between us. All's well that ends well. 

My daughter worked really hard over the past few weeks collecting pictures and memories from people her knew her dad. She put it all together in a Shutterfly Photo Book. I haven't seen the book, but I think it's going to be a fun read. Weneki is pretty good at putting those books together. Plus Jim is the kind of character an author would like to make up, but no one would really believe it. To say Jim is one of a kind would be an understatement. I sat on the floor one night going through old photos and reminiscing about the years we spent together. There was much to think about. Here's what I added to the book.

When I think of Jim, Jimmy, Texas Jimmy, El Condor, James Ellington I think of, in no particular order:
... having babies; starlit nights over the Grand Canyon; driving exhibitions; eating escargot; you standing in a hole in the car, where the engine was supposed to be; shoes with tassels; argyle socks; good books; skiing on land or water; gambling (winning in Monte Carlo, losing most everywhere else); you trying to teach me how to drive a stick shift, and me driving your car into the sand on our first date; Lladro figurines; Waterford crystal, track meets and soccer games; big, bushy Christmas trees; 5 Spanish chickens, 21 varieties of Scotch; una mas Cervesa por favor; you surveying the damage as one of your squadron’s helos sat in Otay Lake; squadron mates too numerous to name; laughing and crying (not enough of one, too much of the other); playing bridge; guacamole, lumpia, rum and cokes, peppery hash browns, scrambled eggs with cheese, “hole in the middle; the vacation from Hell; exotic places like Amsterdam, Nice, Monte Carlo, El Tovar Hotel, Barcelona, Andorra, Perth, the Bahamas; and others closer to home like  Rhode Island, Cape Cod, Monticello, Mesa Verde, the Grand Canyon, 4th of July rodeo in Prescott, AZ, Las Vegas, Tijuana, Disney World, Dallas, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Washington DC, San Diego, Yosemite National Park, and Patuxent River; driving up and around the Pyrenees Mts. in a seat that would not lock in place, with no safety belt in the car or guard rails on the road, while 5 months pregnant; driving from Dulles Airport to Pax River on icy roads that were closed to ordinary drivers; bicycles; pets named Ruby, Fred, Lucy, Rosie, Pebbles, Mr. Burnes; poet extrordinare; colorful outfits; 20 minute battle naps; tennis racquets; bowls; wooden ducks; Buck Owens; “Honky Tonk Angels;” Linda Ronstadt concert and leaving before the Eagles played a 2nd set; fiestas; 3-legged pig joke; fancy beds and bedding; change of command speeches (not so much what you said, but feeling proud of how well you said it); fine automobiles like Big Green, VW Beetle, MG, Rambler with no heat, Fiat, Toyota station wagon, VW camper, VW Rabbit, (actually the VW camper was not so fine); our children’s weddings; Pentax camera; taking slides and movies; feeding squirrels; Murrietta’s; the fact that you looked past the pink, yellow and orange sack dress I was wearing when you came to dinner at Mick and Linda’s house back in 1967.  
I wish for you a ton of happiness, good health, fun travels, love enough to give some away, reasons to laugh, and an Ace or two at the Black Jack table. Happy Birthday. 

It's odd that when I think of my father, I can only remember the day he died. It's seared into my brain like a photo negative. Being with a person as (s)he takes a final breath is a powerful experience. It is a blessing that is hard to explain. Similar in a way to that moment of birth when a baby takes its first breath. You can't really put words to the images but they stay with you.  I know I should concentrate on the life my father lived, not his dying. Today, however, I can still see the room where we gathered, hear the music in the background, and faintly feel the cool touch of his hand. Perhaps my psychiatrist would say I also have an unhealthy attachment to my father, dysfunctional at the very least. It wouldn't be the first time our relationship was described as problematic.

I know grief is a process, that its pain dissipates as time passes. I look forward to the day I will list memories of my father that don't include heart-wrenching pain. 

Though it's not an original thought by any means, I am aware, today that life and death are two sides of the same coin. And I'm aware just how powerful an influence these two men have had on me. Hard as it is to admit it, I'm a better person for it.  As I close up my computer and head for the shower, I choose to feel grateful not sad.   I leave you with one final thought.

Don't put off til tomorrow telling someone how much you love them, or how much their friendship means to you. 

Merry ME

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