The Story of Family

Between 2006 and 2011, we lost my mom’s parents and my dad. It seemed just as we were moving forward from the loss of one, we would lose another. I was 36 when Daddy died. Noodle was 4.

Jim and Doris Rains 1976

My grandparents with me in 1976.

I have vivid memories of the last conversation I had with each of them.

Grandma, who had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for year, had a conversation with me about babies … I would be a mother for three more weeks and she wouldn’t have known that then. As I was leaving, she said “I love you”, something she rarely said, although I always knew she did.

Grandpa with Noodle. They always had BIG conversations!

Grandpa with Noodle. They always had BIG conversations!

About a week before Grandpa died, he had been admitted to the hospital for heart trouble. That same day, he told me he wouldn’t be there much longer. Many would hear that as a sign of going home soon. He did, just not to the one in which he raised his family. He knew … and in those last days as we talked, he reminded me of so many things he had taught all of us. I woke up from a dead sleep the morning he died and, as I quieted back into slumber, he was there, in my dreams, telling me everything was going to be okay. He was standing on the porch of a cabin overlooking the water … in the middle of nowhere. That’s where he always wanted to be.

Gpa Big Wheel 3

Daddy with Noodle January 2007.

The weekend before Daddy died, Chili and I had celebrated our anniversary at a Bon Jovi concert. When we returned, Daddy wanted to hear all about it. He was always fascinated with stage productions and the lighting and technology used. I shared every moment I could about that concert. That wasn’t our last conversation … we talked every day for at least a few minutes … and it was the time of year where I’d leave my office in early afternoon and we’d sit on the deck and drink beer … and talk. I miss that more than anything.

You’re wondering why I’m posting all of this on Thanksgiving. People grieve in different ways and the holidays … all of them … bring up memories I had long forgotten. Since Daddy died, I’ve had several friends who have lost grandparents … we’re at that age now … and a few who have lost a mother or father. One of my dearest friends as spent nearly her whole life without her father, but we talk about him frequently and always will. Holidays are rough. They’re tricky. We want to celebrate with family and friends, but someone … or “ones” … will always be missing from the dinner table while we go on living.

The first holiday after Grandma died was Christmas. Noodle was born on the 22nd, so we had a lot to smile about. The first holiday after Grandpa and Daddy died was Father’s Day. We nearly didn’t make it through … and we did only because there were other very important Daddy’s in the family. We survived holidays and birthdays and I spent Christmas Eve 2011 in tears. Each year has gotten less teary, and the seats at the dinner table have shifted and are full with others.  I miss them all and would much rather they still be here and life be like it was. It’s not … and that’s what Grandpa was always preparing us for.

I tell Noodle stories all the time about her Papa Joe and her great grandparents. She misses my Daddy, too. As we talk, I hear Grandpa’s words escape my mouth. We’re born … and we die … and in between, we have a lot to be thankful for. Lives are to be celebrated, even through tears. People are to be remembered, talked about, and cherished. Our fathers and mothers and grandparents and siblings … our family and friends shape who we are, even after they’re gone … as well they should.

On this Thanksgiving … over this Holiday Season … be thankful for those in your life, no matter how far away they may be. Be thankful for the memories you have and the stories you can tell … and tell those stories for that’s the only way your children and their children will remember those who came before them … that’s how we create the story of our family.  

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