Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Please remember, please remember me

In the screenplay of my life, there will be a scene in which I attend the memorial service for my uncle, my mother’s youngest brother, who died tragically close to my stepfather, their demises separated by only five days. And while we are sitting on the deck trying to forget why we are there, the widow, my aunt, will ask me too casually how my father is doing. And against all protocol and social etiquette, I will tell her the truth.

“He’s dying,” I’ll say. “He’s been dying for years.” And because I cannot stop myself, I will go on to fall apart. “It’s terrible to lose someone without actually losing them,” I’ll cry. “You’re not allowed to grieve, and yet you have lost a parent. And nobody understands. The worst part is that, by the time I’m actually allowed to grieve him, I will have forgotten more about him than I knew in the short time we had together. I find myself thinking about the day he actually goes and I’m called upon to speak about his life, and I won’t remember anymore the father I knew. I can’t even tell you what his favorite meal was anymore. His favorite place. His favorite movie. And that makes me sadder than it ever will to lose him.”

And the weight of what I have just said, and the circumstances in which it was said, will fall like a weight over the table causing a pregnant silence that seems to last hours. And then I will hear a tiny, fractured voice from the diminutive woman at the other end of the table, my mother, who will look up at the group from under damp eyelashes and say, “country fried steak.” In the midst of another uncomfortable silence, I will toss her a puzzled look and she’ll meet my eyes and say, “his favorite meal. It was country fried steak.”

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I've had some time to think about it on the long ride home

R.I.P. Ronald J. Gross

August 26, 1949 - February 18, 2006

Many of you know this already, but my stepfather died on February 18, 2006. My greatest condolence in all of this is that I had the opportunity to be there with my mother when it happened.

My mother and Ron met too few short years ago. He was my stepfather, even before they made an honest woman of her, but he always knew his role. Even though I’ve been without a father for years, Ron never attempted to impose himself as a father to me. Instead, he did the greatest and kindest thing he could do – impose himself as my friend.

Above all, Ron was the funniest man I ever knew. Always ready with a joke, but not an obvious one, Ron had the ability to diffuse virtually every situation. And he had the most accurate social thermometer of any person I’ve ever known. The consummate salesman, Ron could read a room like a book and offer to each person in it, not only personal attention, but the precise kind of personal attention they needed.

Sadly, Ron’s time with my mother was painfully brief. And, believe me, there is so much about that circumstance that makes me so, so angry. But, at the end of the day, Ron loved my mother, truly loved my mother, in the down to your toes, make your knees weak way. And that – that love – cannot be bought with any amount of money or time. So, instead of being angry, I choose to be grateful. For the man that loved my mother like she deserved to be loved and the fact that my mother had the luck and good sense to take advantage of it.

I love you, Ron.