September 21, 2010

Jack The Fireman

She called it Grief Revisited and it made me think about a bunch of things such as saying goodbye to my grandmother earlier this year. A few years ago I still had three grandparents and now I only have one. Grandma's voice is saved on my voicemail. It is a short message with her and grandpa singing happy birthday to me.

Mentsch tracht, Gott lacht.- That is Yiddish for Man plans and God Laughs. And if ever there was a time where I understood that to be true it is now. I called this post Jack The Fireman because that is what I am doing-putting out fires.

Got a million things going on that all require my attention and it feels like half of them are things that have to be dealt with yesterday.

If this was an action movie I'd be the hero that is driving the car on the freeway. We're doing well over a 100 MPH except we are going the wrong way. Horns honk and fists are being shaken at me. The other drivers think I am crazy and maybe I am. But that is immaterial now because for better or for worse I am stuck.

Because this is the chase scene and my task is to get away from or capture the bad guys. I am moving with purpose. I didn't choose to do it this way, but this is how it is. Part of me feels alive. Part of me loves the challenge of dancing in the flames trying not to get burned. It is a test and I don't fail tests.

But I don't really want to just barely pass either. A satisfactory grade isn't going to make me smile. So I do what I need to do. I hit the radio and turn on some driving music and tune out the distractions. The horns and fists of the other drivers are seen but not acknowledged. I am focused on what lies immediately ahead of me but keeping an eye out for the exit that must lay just a little bit ahead.

The plans I made so that none of this would happen didn't exactly pan out. Some of them worked and others...well they just didn't happen. My grandfather, the self proclaimed atheist has had a very difficult time with the holidays. The first set without grandma. He leans on me for support and talks to me about life. He starts to cry and tries to hide the tears from me.

Looks at me and tells me that when you love someone as deeply as he loved grandma life feels empty without them. Asks me what I would do if I spent 85 years living with the most beautiful woman ever. Tells me that at 96 it is too hard to start over and that he won't. I nod and smile and tell him that we'll have to talk about it when I am 96. I'll let him know if he is right.

He laughs and says that he is working on making it to 100. The kids run by and he laughs watching them play. Tells me that my six year-old nephew asked him what he does now that grandma is dead. Oy, sometimes the kids are a bit less empathetic than we would like.

I listen to his stories and do my best to file them away. As he talks about grandma I think about how she would have appreciated my telling her that I am a fireman. Grandma didn't complain- she did. She just took on whatever came and handled it.

There is a checklist of things to do sitting next to me. I am running down the list and crossing them off as I go. The plan wasn't to have all of this come down at once. The plan was to deal with all of these things in bite size pieces- not chunks that threaten to choke me.

I can hear my other grandfather speaking to me. Can hear him tell me that all you can do is try your best. Can hear him tell me that you can only play the cards that you are dealt. It is 4.5 years since we lost him but I carry him with me. Can still see the twinkle in those blue eyes. I remember the firetruck that he gave me when I was little.

Wonder if he would be surprised to see me playing fireman now. Doesn't matter because the one thing that I know for certain is that whatever I did/do grandpa had my back. And with that it is time to stop reminiscing- got to focus on the highway and do what I can to avoid that tractor trailer that is dead ahead of me....

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