Friday, January 1, 2016

A hand of memories not cards...

I know it's going to sound dumb but new years eve just didn't have the same excitement as it usually does. It didn't have the same anticipation of something new coming but rather a feel of wanting to hold on to something that isn't possible to hold on to. The strange thing about grief is that is shows up in the strangest places and at the most unexpected times. Movies you have watched a hundred times will suddenly trigger a memory or emotion that you didn't see coming, songs that you used to love will have parts that pop out to you and stir up feelings that you've never had when listing to that particular lyric before. Grief also hits you when you see a person's handwriting somewhere and you take a deep breath in as if all the air has been sucked out of your lungs...

Last night, my hubby and three kiddos spent the evening eating yummy food and playing a card game that I used to play with my Gram called Groups and Runs. It's a game that her and I would play for hours, every visit we had together. There would be a year or more in between that I wouldn't play it but when we were together for visits in the summer ,we pulled out those cards and it was like it was the new best thing! Sometimes my Papa or Mom would play but really it was just something between Gram and I. The game has 10 hands of cards to it, so we'd find a pad of paper or sometimes just a scratch piece of paper and start keeping score. Occasionally we wouldn't finish the whole 10 hands, the paper would get lost or we'd run out of time on the trip but you could always be sure we'd pick up those cards on our next visit. After my husband and I married, my gram and I welcomed him into our card playing tradition. I treasure the memories of playing with both of them together and I know my husband does too. When Gram passed, there was lots of cleaning things out at the request of my papa and they kept trying to include my husband in the process of giving out sentimental things that had been hers. For me it was over whelming  the things that made me feel closer to her, but for him it was pretty straight forward. If no one minded, he would like to have a deck of her cards....I don't know why I hadn't thought of it myself actually. It had been years since she had been able to play with us, and the last few times were rather upsetting for me as she was having trouble remembering the rules and you could tell it left her flustered to try. But for my husband, he was able to just think of the good times, sitting at the table and the heckling that was sure to bounce back and forth between the two of them. He got her humor and she thought the world of him.

So, as I sat at my own kitchen table with my husband and three kids gathered around me last night, it was uplifting to me that we'd spend the last evening of 2015 doing something that she had once loved to do with me. I know that none of them probably realized how much that meant to me, especially my daughter who was having an off night of cards and ended up with a horrible score in the end....those special moments spent around a table TOGETHER are the ones that someday we'll look back on. It's not the time spent chatting on our phones or the hours spent playing shoot'em up games on the computer that make memories, it's the time we spend engaged in each other and making each other a priority that builds relationships. Kids of this generations don't get that. They think that socializing has to be done at a computer with headsets on, not face to face hanging out with friends.

As I sat snuggled with my oldest daughter on the couch watching the ball drop in Time Square on tv, I had this sudden panic feeling and tears started streaming down my face.... I know that we can't stop our lives from moving on and I wouldn't want to. My Gram wouldn't want us to either. But for a few moments the tears over came me and I suddenly just hated the thought that I was entering into a new year without her....After the kids were tucked in bed, I went digging into my closet for a box that I was pretty sure was there but until now I hadn't been able to find. Then I remembered that I had transferred it into a new box. I went right in, found it and sat down on the floor. I sat crossed legged in my closet and opened a box full of letters and cards I've been saving for as long as I can remember and in that box I found a stack of letters addressed to me over the years and at many different addresses....all having the same steady, constant and comforting return address and name of my Gram on them. And so I welcomed the new year in by reading letters that were once written to me from my gram. In the wee hours of the night, I was reminded that she will always be with me. She is with me in the very fibers of my being, in the way I love my kids, and the way I love and care for my husband. She is with me in the way treat my friends and the way I try to stay connected with people far away. I was amazed at the detail in the letters and the memories they brought back. She wasn't some eloquent writer, she just wrote from the heart.

In reading those letters about the mundane daily things she was doing and the questions she was asking me about school, and my new dog and how I was liking my new was liking having a long lost conversation with her. It was an unexpected treasure I'd discovered and for once I felt glad instead of sad. As I woke up this morning, not only is it a new year by number but it is also a new year for opportunities...and that makes me feel hopeful. I woke up reminded how very much she loved me and how lucky I am to have these unexpected "conversations" tucked away in my closet. It left me feeling inspired to push myself and my family to be more present in the day to day and to hopefully instill in them the need for keeping in touch with those we care about. In a world of technology, and instant gratification with snap chat, twitter, facebook and texting or better yet, mass emailing... where is the  personal connection of seeing someone's handwriting, or the funny card they picked out just for you? Where is the personal touch of drawing out a picture or sending someone a clipping from a magazine?

Today I woke up challenged to reconnect. I want someone else to feel the way I did last night reading those letters. I want someone else to come across an envelope from me, to see the return address on the envelope and have it make them smile. I want someone else to receive a piece of mail that isn't junk or bills and know that someone is thinking of them. I want my letters to make someone feel loved...

Won't you join me in sending some love out into the world this new year's day?

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