death

Saying Goodbye

So, the past week has been exhausting. As most of you probably know by now--thanks, social media--my grandmother Joan Yoder passed away on Tuesday April 12 at the age of 95. She'd been in pain for a long time, and with the sadness of her death comes the relief that she will no longer suffer. 

It wasn't a complete surprise. For one thing, she was 95. While her oldest sibling made it to 99, grandma had been failing for a while. For another, my aunt sent a text blast on Monday with staggering vital signs. (After researching hospice care for various projects, I saw this for what it was: the beginning of grandma's death. Kinda like when the water breaks as a woman is about to go into labor.) I went to bed Monday night knowing that at any moment I'd get that phone call. Turns out "Do Not Disturb" is serious shit on my phone. When my alarm went off at 7am Tuesday, I saw a missed call and voicemail from my mom. By 7:02 I had the news. By 8am, I'd talked to Sean and by 8:30 we were cleared for him to take the rest of the week off to travel to Indiana. Sean, our daughter, my mom and I boarded a plane at 5:30pm that evening and landed at 1am at Indianapolis, International. After grabbing some food and a long drive, we arrived at my aunt's house at 4am. 

That in and of itself should be a clue as to why I'm exhausted. We shared my aunt's house with her, her visiting daughter and son-in-law. Seven people and 1 bathroom. And most of the time the house was delightfully full of people. 

We did what our family does: we sat around and told stories. We talked. A LOT. Our family is full of stories. Hell, my grandma was constantly telling them. So we told them. We remembered her. We shared versions of her that people might not know. To give you some semblance of what I'm talking about... my oldest cousins are 20 years older than me. That means that their grandmother was 20 years younger than mine. She was a different person. And my grandmother is not the Grandma Jo her many great-grandchildren or even her great-great grandchildren knew! So many stories. 

The viewing at the funeral home on Thursday was well-attended for someone of her age. There was a slideshow running in the back of the room, many pictures full of people that the younger ones didn't know. So I pointed out, "Oh, that's Grandma and her brothers. That baby? That's your grandma!" 

Friday was the funeral service. I gave a eulogy. I won't share it here, honestly. I wrote that for a specific audience and it contains some very personal, very sacred stories. My cousin Tim read a lovely poem to close out the service, and we released a bunch of balloons in her memory. All in all the trip was a blessing. I saw family that I hadn't seen in 12 years. Sean got to meet people I love dearly. It was a very safe and loving place to grieve. 

But I'm so exhausted. It's not just jet lag now. I remember when Nicki died in 2011, I said I felt numb, like I wasn't feeling what I thought I should. My friend Jasmin remarked, "Rest assured you've been mortally wounded." I think all deaths are like that. A piece of me has been ripped out and the world will never be the same. Feeling all of that at once would be devastating, debilitating even. So I've been in an odd sort of stasis since coming home. I've been numb and tired. I've been focused on work that's already behind schedule. I haven't had the breakdown.

Normally when I lose someone I come to this blog and eulogize them. I can't do that now. Maybe I put it off too long what with the trip and diving in to finish editing UNINVITED the second I got home. Maybe I said all I needed to in the eulogy I gave at the funeral. Maybe I'm too tired. Or maybe I'm avoiding it. Grandma and I shared a very special bond. It's one that I'm very protective of, and frankly, I want to keep to myself as much as I can. 

So what I will say is this...and this is something not a lot of people know. There's been a death in the Cat Sharp family. It's one you won't see on the page, because I can't lose her twice. But if you've read the Cat Sharp books, you've met my grandmother. She is the basis for Cat's adorable landlady Mrs. McIntyre. Her voice, her mannerisms....they come from the very real Joan Yoder. While I may write very non-grandma adventures for her, I will always be able to see my grandmother in the pages of those stories. 

 

Yeah. 
I'm not okay right now. 
But I will be.

The Giant Purple Cyclops

I met Tim Froman when I was a freshman in high school. He was a behemoth who always wore a smile on his face, a camera over his shoulder and a purple jacket embroidered with the name of our high school marching band. Tim was marching drill before I popped out of the womb, so we never shared the field in the temporal sense of things, but we were both Marching Giants, both part of a Tradition of Excellence that our directors instilled in us. I don't know how it is with other marching bands, but if you were part of the Ben Davis High School program, you came in a musician, but you were sculpted, driven and pushed to bleed purple. The band was expected to be everything to you. For me it was. I loved it dearly and gladly put my body through hell. (I'm still paying for that shit.) It was the same way for Tim.

Tim was a lifer. He graduated long before I ever stepped foot on the field. But he stuck around. He loved it that much. Being a Marching Giant was in his veins, heart and mind. He sometimes helped teach marching basics, but mostly Tim was the videographer and unofficial historian of the band program. He filmed some rehearsals, every football game and every contest we marched providing valuable footage that helped the band get better. He traveled out of state with the band filming parades. He worked websites. He helped load and unload trucks. Tim was a constant presence during my time at BD and remains a fixture even if now it will be in memory.

Tim died of a heart attack Saturday, February 10, 2013.

It's odd. I didn't know Tim very well. He was that guy behind the camera that my dad was friends with. That I talked to sometimes. That I was friends with on Facebook. He got me, though. He would send me fun drumline videos or post Thor/Loki memes on my page. The last thing he posted to me was two weeks ago. That pic over there. Tim, while definitely on the periphery of my life, was one of my biggest supporters.

That's how he was.

Maybe that's why news of his death hit me as hard as it did. (I was at a Da Vinci exhibit at the Science Center and sat with tears streaming down my face while looking at the Last Supper.) Tim and I didn't know one another well by any means. We didn't march together (which has its own form of war-bond). But we were part of the same legacy. The same purple blood flows through our veins and that same passion calls to both of us. We were family. We understood one another, too, in a strange way. That geekdom that speaks to itself, that passion for music and motion, a desire to honor history and keep it for others.Tim loved music--everything from Wagner to Rush, Jesus did he love Rush!--and in recent years had developed a passion for cycling. He was a collective memory for many people. He kept records, videos, memories, pictures and his own thoughts for other people. If you were a Ben Davis Marching Giant, Tim loved you because you were family.

When I was in high school, I knew Tim because he was just as present on the field as the 50 yard line. Not nearly as prominent, mind you, but there's not a single memory I have of band that I can't freeze frame and find him in the shot. He's on the periphery, sure, but that's so he could get the best view and take it all in. He had the back of all 300 of us in my day and has had the back of every Marching Giant before and since. Even if you didn't see him or notice him, he was there. And he will continue to be. A scholarship has been opened in his name to help students who will be going in to Music Education.

Tim Froman was an amazing human being. I'm thankful to have known him, for all of his years of support. I'm glad to have been family in our odd sort of way.

Aloha oe, Tim.

Shuffle Up And Deal

Author's note: I'm getting tired of writing these, but when these things happen, this is the only thing I know how to do.

Over the years, Cathy has changed last names a few times. Neihaus, Gillespie...she started off, though, with Wyman. One of five Wyman kids, as a matter of fact, to inhabit the original Dysfunction Junction (pictured at the right...damn I miss that back yard).

My aunt Cathy was a sharp-tongued, occasionally foul-mouthed firebrand of an Irish-Italian woman. She was loud, crazy and her laugh--dear God that woman's laugh is as easy to call up in memory as my own name.

Whenever I think of Cathy, I think of summertime. I spent many summers as a child with her as my day-care provider. She taught me to dive into a swimming pool, how to clean someone's clock at 500 rummy and how to shuffle cards. Those summers with her I watched her grow large with pregnancy, watched the babies in her tummy kick her cards while we played. I watched her change diapers. I played with my cousins at her house.

My Aunt Cathy is gone.

She's been sick with various problems for many years, but being a stubborn Wyman, nothing could keep her down. Not until now, when Leukemia took hold of her. She doesn't have to fight anymore, though. No more pain, questions, illnesses. Now, she is free and at the truest peace she's known. Today, at around 5:20pm Indiana time, my Aunt Cathy joined her mother on the other side.

I haven't seen her since 2007 at my grandmother's funeral. When I think of Cathy, though, my mind immediately begins to walk through her house. The living room where we played cards for hours on end. The backyard with its treehouse, the creek running through the woods, the dog house. The pantry that was always full of infinite varieties of cereals and chips. A fridge full of treats that I could sneak away not so stealthily. I think of summertime...sticky with humidity and the juice of mulberries from the ginormous tree in the back yard.

I like to think that wherever she is now, she's basking in sunlight....maybe in a big backyard like the one in the picture with springy grass between her toes and the scent of pear trees and honeysuckle in the air. I like to think that she and my grandma are putting together a big picnic or something for us when the rest of us join her when our times come.

I've got a while *knock wood* before I see her again, but when I do, I hope she'll have time for a game of Rummy. First one to 500 wins.

Treasures

Last July my family thought we were going to lose my grandmother. To make sure I could go home to Indiana and see her, my cousin Rich paid for my airfare. The only questions he asked were, "Which airline do you prefer and when do you want to land?" Grandma is still with us. Rich, however, is not. I got word this morning that my cousin passed away. While he's had his issues, this is not something that was expected, not any time soon anyway, ya know?

Rich married my cousin Cindy when I was little more than a peanut-sized mass of shapes in my mom's bits. His riotous laugh is a fixture in my memory. Seeing him, my cousin and their daughter was always a special treat because while I lived in Indiana, they lived in Minnesota. He's an unrepentant geek, heavily into tech and with the scraggly long hair, it's hard not to think of him as an older version of my own husband. (Which is hilarious because everyone in my family calls me Cindy instead of Jamie half the time. And our daughter reminds me of their daughter, my cousin Jenybeth.)

I don't know what to say about him other than this: Rich was, is, and always will be one of the most spectacular men I've ever met. he was a genuinely good person. I'm thankful for the times he welcomed me into his home, took me to the Minneapolis/St.Paul Zoo, helped me get home, geeked out with me, for the stuffed lion he sent my daughter 2 years ago (that I've barely stopped hugging today), for surprising us by coming to our wedding in 2010... but most of all I'm thankful that he was here at all and that he shared is life with our family. That he was one of us for a time and always will be. He brought some sanity to the clan and also so much needed levity.

Thank you, Rich. Thank you for being family.

Aloha oe.

Hug your family. All of you. When you can't (due to distance or circumstance) hug a stuffed lion. Dreadlocks are optional.

Legendary

I've been working lately on various projects, on "strengthening my author platform" (see my new Facebook page) and otherwise living. Yesterday, though, I got news that a guy I went to junior high and high school with has passed away. His name is Ky Vanderbush. Ky and I weren't friends, nor were we enemies. We just ran in different circles. Thanks to the cruelty of alphabetical seating we did, however, see a lot of one another in the backs of classrooms. We knew a lot of the same people and shared friends. In a graduating class of almost 1000 people, this name is one that I remember and can still put together with a face.

What's poking me in the heart right now is that while we weren't friends, Ky and I are peers. I'm going to be 32 this year. That's how old Ky was yesterday. That's how old Nicki was in October. I look at this and realize that one thing that still has me reeling after losing my soul sister is this nagging feeling ... this voice in the back of my head like Danny Glover on helium shrieking, "We're too young for this shit!"

Rationally I know that there is no age limit on something so sweeping and natural as death. But doesn't it get you sometimes? That feeling of, "what the hell?" Aren't we still 13 and angsty? Aren't we still 18, untested and full of hopes and the ego that says we really can do anything? Aren't we still invincible?

We know it...all of us from increasingly early ages understand that one day we will be gone. We have a limited time here to live and laugh and learn. We forget that, though. We think we're different or just figure we've got an infinite selection of tomorrows until something happens to remind us otherwise. To quote the Beatles, Tomorrow Never Knows. We might not have tomorrow to fix things.

I'm sorry if this is a downer and I don't want to get pedantic, but really...mortality is weird. Just...take some time today to reach out to the people you love, the people you've fallen away from. Don't put it off until things "calm down" or whatever other excuses you're making. Love now. Live now.

My thoughts and prayers go to Ky's family, his friends...and to all of us who want to hold on just a little longer to the delusion that we are immortal.

Nerdmaste.