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Thursday, October 29, 2009

I guess I'm a little emotional this evening...

I've been sitting here in my living room for the last hour or so...

... okay, maybe two hours or so...

trying to figure out what to share tonight. My mind is going a million miles an hour lately for so many reasons, but for some reason I can't find a way to make everything just stop for long enough so that I can actually plot out some sort of rhyme and reason for this post tonight. Maybe I'll just spew a bit, and compose a bit, and see what comes up.

I've been a little emotional this week.

See, Monday, my parents told me that they were headed to Corpus Christi, Texas, which is for all intents and purposes is my family's hometown. I grew up in Houston, but might as well have had dual residency in both cities. We spent so many amazing times there at my grandparents' house growing up. There are so many memories...

... hunting easter eggs around the pool.

... the wonder of Christmas morning around an impeccable tree in the formal living room which was adjacent to the dining room where we'd had so many Thanksgiving dinners, which was just around the corner from the den with the couches that just had this way of making you fall asleep... after Thanksgiving dinner or after a day out at the King Ranch learning to shoot a gun with my dad.

I'm not sure if there is such a thing as a perfect family, but my family is pretty special. And it's because we're anchored... held together... by Meme and Papa. My grandparents. My dad's parents. I've said before that they were shining examples of what the greatest American generation could do. And I'll be damned if they didn't do it. They came from humble means. Farmers. Country. They served our country. They gave of themselves. They found incredible success through honest, hard work. They gave back, working to start and guide organizations which continue to give back in so many ways. They raised a family. Owned a home. Lived the American dream.

But most of all, they loved each other. Married for over 50 years, they did it right.

While I was in Lancaster, God called Papa home. My daughter never had the chance to know the man who had so much knowledge to impart on me at so many times when I was a child. He was a quiet man, with an amazing smile, but who led his employees by example and who guided his family in the same way. This was a man who could have played professional baseball, but who believed that serving our nation in World War Two was more important than playing a game. He came home, and unleashed his inner entrepreneur by doing something he loved - photography. And he did it well. In fact, he did it so well that the business he co-founded stood for 50 years in South Texas, while chains came and went and while technology evolved again and again. A champion of the American dream, he lived a full life and I believe lives on through the example he set, through the organizations he was a part of and in the hearts of my family... and me.

That was almost 10 years ago. And I know it wasn't easy for my grandmother. Her partner in this life left  before life was ready to let her continue on with him into the great beyond. So she pressed on, carrying on his work as best she could with the business and in life. I'm certain the emotional toll was tough, but with love - from my Dad and his Sister, and our extended family, I think she gave her full measure until life... and something else... brought her to the crossroads we'll all eventually face in this life. After a life lived full, Meme just couldn't physically keep going. The business, and my grandparent's staff of loyal employees, brought operations to an end...

.... as Alzheimers continued to take it's toll on my grandmother's mind and body.

A few Christmases ago, I introduced Kyla to the matriarch of our family. I could tell her mind was fading at times as afternoon in my grandmother's life started to give way to evening. I told Kyla at that time, not knowing if she'd ever understand what I meant, that "you will meet the woman in our family that I hope you can become one day. She's someone I've loved unconditionally for as long as I've been alive. Someone who has been there for your Papa and for me regardless of anything. She's a woman of grace, love, refinement, hard work and everything amazing, and I hope you are the one who can continue her legacy..."

Yeah. I said this. She was three.

Seeing them together for the first time made me tear up. The foundation of my family... and the promise of what is to come had intersected in this life for the first time...

Later that year, during the summer, we went to Corpus Christi, to the family's homestead. Kyla came with me and the woman I was seeing at the time. Again, it was magical. To see Kyla playing where I'd hunted easter eggs... opened presents... swimming in the pool I'd swam in as a kid. Things began to blend... life began to weave... and the fabric of time began to reveal itself.

But I know even then that Alzheimer's and time were taking a toll on the matriarch of our family.

That brings me to today.

The sun is setting on a life well lived, and all I can do is watch from a distance. All I can do is hear updates from my parents on how this tremendous force in my life is walking into the evening of a life well lived. How time continues to take it's toll... and how this Alzheimer's continues to rob my grandmother of the moments and memories which in the end are all we have in this life.

She's 91. She'll be 92 on Thanksgiving day.

But I am hopeful. Perpetual optimism is, after all, a force multiplier.

And I don't know if she'll be here to meet her 92nd milestone.

Tonight, I'm thinking of Kyla. I'm praying that she will become the woman I pray she can be. She carries with her a name - the name - of a woman who lived a tremendous life, who supported an amazing life partner, and who has made a difference. If she can even do a fraction of what my Meme - her Great Meme - has done, then she will have lived a life full of happiness and grace.

I pray that the spirit of my grandmother will take root in the life of my precious little one... so that what she was will continue to touch and change the world... as Kyla becomes who she is to be.

From Washington, goodnight.

PS....

No one should be robbed of their memories because of age or illness. That, my friends, is one of many reasons why I support extensive funding of health care and research, the creation of a public option, and the exploration and innovation without limitations which can bring us to find cures to diseases which rob us of life and happiness. We've won two world wars. Freed the world. Travelled to the moon and back. We travel into the stars and live among them for months on end. It's our destiny to discover a cure to this disease and any other disease which robs anyone of life, love and happiness. And, it's our responsibility to ensure that health care is recognized and accepted as a fundamental human right... like the right to an education and the pursuit of life...