Gosh. I sat for a good twenty minutes trying to come up with something less morbid than I’d normally, ideally want to lead with on my first post for ThinkKit. But, it was the biggest part of my life in this past year – the passing of two other lives.
Not only did I lose a grandparent on October 21 and December 3, each time my mother lost a parent. As the eldest of her siblings and I that of the first cousins, we both would come to feel many implicit responsibilities take shape in the time leading up to, during, and after these deaths. As a close-kin, able-bodied guy, I was inevitably called to serve as a pallbearer for my grandmother, Mary M. May. Just six weeks later I did the same for grandpa Thomas B. They had stuck together through thick and thin for almost 55 years. It was an overwhelming time for all, to lose them in fairly rapid succession and under certain conditions.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been a pallbearer, but one thing I kept telling myself both times was “don’t trip” and “don’t lose your grip”. My hands were tasked with doing one of the most symbolicly important things I would ever do in my life – honoring my grandparents’ corporal side of the journey to their final resting spots.
My grandmother happened to pass on Back to the Future Day, noted for when Doc, Marty and Jennifer time-traveled from 1985 to reach what is now the past in the first sequel of the movie franchise. Even though I had been reveling in the buildup and buzz focused on the occasion, I let myself wonder how I could even dare try to have fun on such a sad day. I had to prepare to re-arrange work and travel down to my hometown in a couple of days. Not to mention, I needed to get my suit dry-cleaned before then (one that grandma helped pick out and buy many years ago). The more I thought about it, grandma would not be encouraging my moping around.
I skipped all the special Back to the Future movie screening opportunities, such as the one at the IMA, because I knew I’d struggle to not be a Debbie Downer. Although, the next day I took solace in picking up an old-fashioned newspaper with my bare hands. This wasn’t just any old newspaper though. It was the exact version of USAToday that was featured in Back to the Future II. How cool.
As my grandpa’s health further deteriorated after grandma’s funeral, I continued to put in some time working at a local running store. Part of the job was helping people try on shoes – up to and including tying their shoes. A fellow runner or walker is very particular about tying shoes – no sloppiness allowed! Sometimes you have to re-lace the shoes in unique ways to get them to feel just right for the customer. Either way, it becomes more of a habit when you are doing these fittings so it’s easy for your mind to wander. In these days of grief for grandma and with the dark clouds gathering around grandpa, my thoughts, on several occasions, threatened to shut my hands down from their duties. But, I pressed on best I could so as to not disappoint the customer’s experience.
Is there a happy ending to all of this hand talk? Of course there is, my dear reader. I am certainly an experiences over materials person, but sometimes in passing of someone, their former possessions are a strong stand-in for memories of certain experiences. Remembering the importance and pride I felt during a summer job as a teen selling Cutco knives, my mom let me pick out any pieces of the giant set I had sold grandma and grandpa. They were a big part in helping me get going with confidence and I did well enough that I ended up being able to almost build my own set from acheived sales incentives. One thing I never got but aspired to were the Cutco forks and spoons. Now, every time I eat a meal, my hands will be holding the prompts for memories of family meals at my grandparent’s house.