A couple weeks ago, we had a couple strange weeks and I'm finally getting caught up enough to write about it. As stories go, this one tends toward the long and convoluted end of the spectrum, including more than 1,300 miles in the car, two funerals, the birth of my first nephew Simon Gregory Gross, and a one-eyed dove named Blind Pete. If you want to know more, buy me a beer and I'll explain the whole thing. But for the purposes of this post the abridged version is fine.
Above is a photo of the orchids that were blooming in my Grandmother's house when she passed away. We were already in Michigan at Sarah's grandfather's funeral when she died. Doc had passed away the weekend before, Memorial Day Weekend, and we had gone to be with family there. So after the services in Alpena and several meals that included kielbasa (both smoked and boiled) we said our goodbyes, loaded up the car, and went straight to Southern Wisconsin. Do not pass home, do not collect clean laundry. At least we already had our dress clothes.
For me, the photo above says more about my Grandma than many of the photos of her. Maybe because Grandma always seemed more absorbed in the things she was caring for than herself. Constance spent a great deal of time shuffling her orchids around the house, moving them from light to shade, from the warm sun room on the back of her condo down to the cool dark of the basement. She cared for them and in turn they bloomed for her. They kept her busy. Before the orchids, it was finches. Sometimes more than a dozen at a time chirping and hopping around their cages. I remember a tiny nest once with two impossibly small eggs. Grandma joked about omelets.
Before the finches filled the empty nest, there were her children. Seven of them. My Grandfather passed away young. He was 51 years old. Grandma Constance raised the family on her own, going back to work after years as a stay at home mother. She did a variety of things in her career, but the only one I really know much about was her work as a chemist at Rayovac. I remember visiting her at the lab when I was little and thinking that it was her job to be a mad scientist. Probably not far off. All seven of her children went to college. All seven earned degrees. And all seven were in Madison two weeks ago for her funeral, each of them incredible people in their own right.
Grandma passed away on the first Friday in June, and the following Friday, my brother and his wife had their first child: Simon Gregory Gross. Simon is Constance's first great grandchild. Despite his early arrival (by almost 2 months), Simon and Grandma stilled missed each other by a few days. So it goes. Simon is small: 3 pounds 8 ounces at birth. But as it turns out, he's also a tough little guy and, despite some struggles, he's steadily improving. I can't even describe how excited I am to be an uncle, and to know that Simon and my sister-in-law are doing well. We're anxious to meet him.
Looking back at the last few weeks, I'm reminded of the words of my favorite philosopher, the Big Lebowski: "Ah, you know, strikes and gutters, ups and downs." I've spent a lot of time thinking about these recent arrivals and departures, the cycles of everything. The strikes and gutters, if you will. I've been thinking about what's actually important, instead of what seems important at the moment. About all sorts of things that I don't usually think about. And really, for all my thinking, I don't know that I've come up with anything new. No answers, per say. But I want there to be something bigger. Some take away message. So far, the lessons all sound like the motivational quotes in Hallmark cards: cherish your loved ones, rejoice in your health, live life to its fullest. Well of course. Didn't we know all those things already?
So, I guess the most important thing I learned is that maybe life is random, but at least the happy and the sad seem to average each other out. There's at least some comfort in that. I also learned this: one-eyed doves, lacking the binocular vision required for depth perception, have an unfortunate tendency of flying directly into hard, immovable objects. But that's really a different story all together. I think there's a metaphor in there somewhere...I'll keep thinking about it.