My parents had faith in a God that would always provide, even when neither was working. No reason to assume I would ever go hungry. $50 bucks a week feeding 10 to 12 people. 7 kids getting free lunch at school, breakfast if they left early. Government cheese, big cans of peanut butter. Always an extra person at the table. Even when we didn’t know when the next meal was coming from, there was food.
The chest freezer was full whenever uncle Denny sold us a cow, emptier other times when it was hardly worth the electricity to run. Someone had chickens used as placebos in experiments, dead and beheaded but not plucked. After boiling them so the feathers could be plucked easier, the kitchen smelled foul for weeks. Going into the freezer to get dinner items I had a pain in in my stomach while hanging at the waist to dig through frozen chunks of bloody beef to find corn or fish sticks. But I had a secret. The fun-sized Nestle crunch bars we received because they were burned in production. I would sneak whenever I could get away from the kids to grab handfuls. My earliest bingeing behavior. I never went hungry.
Jim. A 92 year old man who lived a full and blessed life. I spent a couple of hours today listening to the stories of how he lived and my heart was full, and breaking. Full because it was evident that he touched so many lives, and breaking because my friend was mourning the passing of his Pop. The priest gave a wonderful homily about sunrises and sunsets and birth and death and about Jim going home. No matter what your thoughts about religion and life and the afterlife, it was a wonderful celebration. From the a cappella opening song “How Can I Keep From Singing”, chosen because Jim spent a lot of time his last couple of years singing out at the home, often at the top of his lungs, to the moving eulogy given by his son John, whose stories captured his essence perfectly.
And the stories I heard today from a few of his kids and from his wife – funny, heartwarming stories. And what I witnessed today, how he lives on in his kids and grandchildren. He proudly served in two wars, but was very private about it. He was in his 30’s when he met a woman raising 5 young children and this ready made family became his whole life. Two of his sons and at least one grandson followed in his footsteps, when they met women with young children and decided to create families with them. The path he forged as a loving and committed father helped those he loved bring joy and love into their lives.
Jim was a hard worker and a solid businessman who had a specific sense of right and wrong. He was a devoted husband and father. But every single member of his family shared stories today about his keen sense of humor, his tendency to seize any opportunity to play a prank, and even in his last years the ability to throw a few zingers at his unwitting targets. That is the Jim I remember whenever I went home to Greene with John. Everyone was fair game and although at first you thought he was just quiet, you found out very quickly he was just biding his time until he could strike. He was often a big softie as a dad, the perfect counterpart to his wife, who was often seen as a general keeping that crazy household running. In later years after retirement they traveled together and there’s a special picture of him in a kilt, unknowingly celebrating his Scottish heritage on a trip to Europe, that brought comfort to his granddaughter last weekend.
I wonder about the legacy I will be leaving, no children or business or any other situation that will continue on. Things live forever on the internet, and although I don’t know what kind of technology will be available 30 years from now, I am sure my stories of friends and family and fun will be out in universe. And then I think of the legacy that Jim left, loving dad and granddad, and now the great-grandchildren who will reap the benefits of his wisdom and wit. The memories of stories and laughs and family dinners will keep his spirit alive for many years to come. I think that if I am still teasing my friends and family and singing into my 80’s, much less my 90’s, then I will be blessed.
You haven’t heard from me in a couple of weeks because Shameless. I spent the last couple of weeks with the Gallaghers. slipping deeper and deeper into their dysfunctional chaotic lives. And what happened to the promises made at the beginning of the month to match NaNoWriMo commitments from previous years, to post a blog a day during the month of November? Sadly, it seemed to go the way of all the ones made in years past. Another pre-Christmas retail season had me working extra hours and limping home, reaching into the medicine cabinet for copious amounts of Advil. And then hours of keeping up with the drug and sex-fueled Chicago family who just can’t seem to keep themselves out of jail. Go Figure.
A total of 12 blogs, all written in the first two weeks of the month, is still more writing than I think I accomplished in past Novembers. It was a strong start. What did I learn during this latest attempt? That maybe November is not the best month for me. I will be gentle with myself, continue to blog at a pace more suited for my #retaillife, and bring you quality writing as often as I am able. Thanks for your continued support. And if I end up in jail in Chicago because of those crazy Gallaghers, I will let you know where to send the bail money! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzznfBbbMVc