The ramblings of a freelance writer, novelist and avid reader.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snow and Death – My Ruminations on Christmas Week

A couple of weeks ago I started writing a frivolous blog about how much I was enjoying this winter and the snow – oh, so much snow!! I spent a few days in my own little snow bubble (globe even) happily wrapping Christmas presents and baking Christmas cookies; watching my favorite Christmas movies and listening to my favorite Christmas songs. Before I could post said snow day nostalgic meditations I received some bad news. My friend Jill lost her cancer battle – my second friend in a few short months to do so. Cancer is some kind of sick, twisted bastard. Not that this is news to anyone at all, but I feel it’s worth saying at this juncture: Cancer, you really do suck.

I’m crap at sympathy. I never know what to say. “I’m sorry” – although it’s true – seems insipid at best. What I’d really like to say is, “Wow, that blows!” Because it so does. Although this is also inappropriate; so mostly I remain awkwardly silent at funerals trying not to smile too much, but not staying completely somber at the same time. Jill, one of the most vivacious women it’s ever been my pleasure to acquaint, would probably laugh at my “that blows!” comment and agree whole heartedly. Jill, I will miss your smile and laugh most of all; but I am so much the better for having heard them. In an ironic twist of fate (and nothing at all like rain on your wedding day) I will be unable to attend Jill’s funeral tomorrow as I will be a pallbearer in my grandfather’s funeral; who, at 88, won his two battles with cancer but finally succumbed to time and age on Boxing Day this year. Yep, it’s been a rough week – but then again I feel like an idiot saying that, because it’s been a much rougher week for many other people in general and quite a few people that I specifically care about.

And where I think I’m actually a horrible human being is the pure joy I find in being alive and healthy this week: The air smells crisper, food tastes better and love is stronger. I’m not sure where this life euphoria comes from, but it mostly makes me feel hideous in between its bright bursts of sunshine. Maybe it’s because old age and cancer are both usually preceded by lots of pain and I am happy my loved ones are no longer suffering. Maybe it’s because death is inevitable, but it only conquers when we fear it. Hmm, that was a little too Hallmark for my usual blog musings…sorry. Maybe it’s because what I remember from Grandpa’s death bed is the beer he was drinking, his Navy tattoo, and his comment when we got up to leave for the day, “Shit! You just got here.” That’s my grandpa – all German, career Navy man – straight through to the end. My mother told him I was going to get his tattoo on my own arm before we left – which is odd, because I was thinking the very same thing. My mom has always been a little fey this way, so expect pictures of a tattoo before I turn 35 in a few short months. It won’t be his naval tattoo – I think that belongs to the men on his super carrier during WWII – but a Celtic something or other from the Book of Kells is high up there on my list of things I wouldn’t mind being inked with for the rest of my life.

I realize I learned to love the poems of Tennyson, Frost, Blake and Burns at my great grandfather’s knee, but I learned to love children’s poems at my grandfather’s. He loved limericks and easy rhymes most; often reading to me from an old book of read-out-loud children’s poems. My cousin and I have spent the last two days posting some of these poems back and forth on her facebook page, but the one I remember most is “The Duel” by Eugene Field. Yet one more a-ha moment for my need to write children’s literature – maybe we really are the sum of our parts after all.

Eugene Field

The gingham dog and the calico cat
Side by side on the table sat;
'T was half-past twelve, and (what do you think!)
Nor one nor t' other had slept a wink!
The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate
Appeared to know as sure as fate
There was going to be a terrible spat.
(I was n't there; I simply state
What was told to me by the Chinese plate!
The gingham dog went "Bow-wow-wow!"
And the calico cat replied "Mee-ow!"
The air was littered, an hour or so,
With bits of gingham and calico,
While the old Dutch clock in the chimney-place
Up with its hands before its face,
For it always dreaded a family row!
(Now mind: I 'm only telling you
What the old Dutch clock declares is true!
The Chinese plate looked very blue,
And wailed, "Oh, dear! what shall we do!"
But the gingham dog and the calico cat
Wallowed this way and tumbled that,
Employing every tooth and claw
In the awfullest way you ever saw---
And, oh! how the gingham and calico flew!
(Don't fancy I exaggerate---
I got my news from the Chinese plate!
Next morning, where the two had sat
They found no trace of dog or cat;
And some folks think unto this day
That burglars stole that pair away!
But the truth about the cat and pup
Is this: they ate each other up!
Now what do you really think of that!
(The old Dutch clock it told me so,
And that is how I came to know.

Yes, I will post those Christmas nostalgic blog posts over the next week – because I really did enjoy December this year, and because both Jill and my grandpa would enjoy said posts. I also desperately want to hug everyone who reads my blog, all of my friends and family, and every single facebook friend I have…and I’m not a big hugger. I think I might be loosing it, because there is yet more snow on the way for my small corner of the world on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day and I CAN’T WAIT for it.


  1. Matt says that you should wait until the one year anniversary to get a tattoo for your Grandpa.

    I started with that because I do not know what else to say. Your writing about these twin deaths really moved me, but that's such a vapid thing to say. The funeral service was neat, with its Masonic and Naval rituals. Yet that also does not really say anything. I will have a hug waiting for you whenever you're ready for it. That's all I can say that's worth anything.

    And I'm so, so sorry. That blows.

  2. You have my sympathies, Papaya.

    I'm trying to picture you with any type of tattoo. Perhaps you could talk Chris into getting one also. You guys could get complimentary ones on your necks that say "His" & "Hers" bath towels.

  3. I’d like to tell you all that I’m getting over the loss and the New Year has brought much joy and even more snow; alas I can not write those words. In fact, quite the contrary, I found out I lost another friend yesterday. It’s an epidemic and I’m getting very angry about it. I really wish my loved ones would stop dropping like flies and I really wish that were a joke.

    Nancy didn’t succumb to cancer or old age; her heart simply gave out at the age of 42. She borrowed a heart at 16 and went back on the transplant list in her 30s – but did not reach the top again.

    Nancy, you lovely woman, the world was never meant for one as beautiful as you. There are few people whose hearts are as big as yours – borrowed or not. And because I doubt very much I’d be friends with someone who did not understand me when I say yet again – THAT BLOWS! Also, I really hope you were listening yesterday when Gennia and I were talking on the phone – because it’s true even if we shouldn’t have said it and because you would laugh the most.