I got back into Austin on Thursday evening, after what has to this point in my life been the most stressful week I have experienced. A lot of sweet and great things happened in it, but a lot of sadness, fear, and frustration also had to be encountered.
As you know, last week my beloved Paw Paw passed away. I am still sorting through many emotions, but by far the greatest is that I just wasn't ready to lose him! There have been two men in my life who I knew that I knew at all times I was just as precious to them as they were to me. My Paw Paw was one of them. My Uncle Jerry is the other.
I didn't grow up with a father who doted on his baby girl. In fact, more often than not, I thought I was a burden who was annoying and in the way. I didn't feel like I could do much "right" for him or that my efforts were ever recognized as the very best I had to offer. Our relationship was always strained, and to this day it continues to be.
I mention this, because my Paw Paw was never like that. As I said, I always knew that he loved me and wanted me. Even when I was an awkward teenager and he just really didn't know what to do with me, I was still special and loved -- and I knew it!
I last saw my Paw Paw in December. While my mother and I both had a break from work, we made the 11 hour drive to go see him. When we left, I said goodbye, but certainly did not expect it to be goodbye! A few weeks ago, he had an infection that caused him to go to the hospital. I so wanted to put away everything I was doing and go see him. But I didn't know or understand the urgency. I was very busy with work and had a thousand and one "important" things on my plate. But I didn't know that it would be my last chance to touch my Paw Paw, or hear his sweet voice. I didn't go. And I wish I had, because I never got to really say goodbye to him.
My sister, Marcie, and I drove up together for the funeral on Sunday. She has two babies, 7 month-old Amanda and 24 month-old Emily. The trip didn't take us the 11 hours I previously mentioned...no, it took us 18 hours! Yes, you read that right! The girls did AMAZINGLY well for the first 14 hours. It was pretty hairy after that! In the final 1 1/2 hour stretch, I was driving and my sister and the girls were sound asleep. My sister was so exhausted that she didn't even notice we drove through a thunder storm with hail. She was sitting in the back of the minivan to be close to the kiddos. I kept looking back, expecting her to wake in a panic. She never did. It wasn't until we hit Amarillo and slowed to exit the interstate that she actually woke. We got lost on the way to the hotel and my cousin had to come meet us to get us to the right place. We unloaded, did laundry, and made it into bed somewhere around 4:30 am (a full 24 hours since we had last risen out of bed).
On Monday, we woke early and got ready. While both of my sisters and I were together, we made the trip out to go see my father, his sister, and her husband. I really wanted to see my aunt and uncle, but honestly I wasn't sure I wanted to see my father. I didn't know what to expect, and I wasn't sure that I was ready for what may greet me. It had been 2 years since Shawna saw him, 8 since Marcie had, and 5 since I had. He of course had not met his grand-daughters, and it was important to Marcie that he get the chance while we were so close. We met him and our uncle at a restaurant, ate lunch, and then went to see my aunt who was not feeling well enough to come to lunch. This experience will have to fill up another blog post. But in short, the meeting went well. But I was definitely very stressed by it! We wrapped up our visit there and headed back to Amarillo to get ready for the viewing. We were late to the viewing, so I didn't have the chance to go actually see my Paw Paw and say good-bye without masses of people around. At one point the sanctuary emptied enough that no one was standing next to him having a conversation of any sort and I walked up to his casket. He didn't look like himself! He was pale, thin, and so very still. Even seeing that it was in fact time to say goodbye, I couldn't. I just wasn't ready!
In one day, I went to see the man who never valued me for who I am - living his life without me being a part of it. And I saw a man who treasured me as a valuable that could never be replaced - still and laying in a casket. It doesn't seem fair!
That night, my sister Marcie and I were both beyond the point of exhaustion and stress-able-ness. We had an argument and the only thing I could do was just walk away. I did not have the resolve to push through the argument to the solution. I just couldn't. I was saddened by our interaction and feared that because of the rocky road we have always traveled, there was no hope that we would ever get past it and walk on a smooth and straight road with each other. When I came back to the room, Marcie had gotten in bed and I followed suit.
Early Tuesday, my aunt got admitted to the ICU. We weren't sure if Uncle Jerry would make it to the funeral, but he did. That morning, we all worked together as a family (Shawna, Carl, Marcie, Mom, Me) to get Emily and Amanda ready, so Marcie could get everything gathered that would be needed for the day. We did well! We got out of the hotel and made it to the funeral on-time! Emmie sat between me and Car-Car (Uncle Carl) all through the service and she did great -- she knows "church" and so we told her we were at church and she needed to stay quiet. I was so proud of how well she did. I was paying attention, but felt a little numb; almost as if I couldn't process what was actually happening. At the very end, when they carried the closed casket out to the hurse, a piece of me just wanted to run up and stop them to say, "You can't take him away yet! I'm still not ready!" Don't worry, I didn't. We proceeded to the grave sight, where he was buried right between my grandmother and my cousin Marlena who passed away my junior year in college. Somehow, the fact that his body would rest right there - between two other people in his life that loved and adored him just as much as I did - it seemed ok. Everything that happened after that is a bit of a blur.
One thing about that day that stands out to me as a wonderful and amazing thing was a conversation that Marcie and I had Tuesday afternoon. We talked through our argument from the previous night and how it related to so many other arguments that we had. It was a good conversation - and Emily and Amanda slept through most of it, so we actually got to pay attention to each other without distraction! In this conversation, hope was restored that Marcie and I really can have more in our relationship. We both expressed our desire, prayers, and hopes for so much more -- and I think that the fact that we both want it so much will keep our relationship improving!
On Wednesday, we drove back as far as Abilene. We decided that staying there and having a change to play a little and get a good nights sleep would really help out with the rest of the drive. We still only got 5 hours of sleep, but that was between 2 and 4 hours more than we had for the previous 4 days!
We finished the drive on Thursday. It was a good drive! We talked some more about things that were important to both of us. And for me, one of the best parts was that Marcie was asking me about MY life. She genuinely wanted to know about my work, theories on education, and my own personal experiences that have led me in the direction of who I am today. It was as if 30 years of walls had begun crumbling and falling down!
After dropping Marcie and the girls off in Fredericksburg, I gathered my things and headed back to Austin. I had work things that needed to be addressed, a doctors appointment for my neck, and my small group meeting. I pushed through (and enjoyed) these things and then came home and CRASHED!!!! Friday I didn't have to be anywhere, and it was a good thing. My body was so exhausted that I pretty much just laid around all day. A friend of mine scheduled to have two housekeepers come clean my house on Friday afternoon, and it was the biggest blessing! I have a work party at my house tonight and having someone else come in to clean and help me get my house together was HUGE!!
I think this is probably the longest thing I have ever posted. In reality it is probably at least three different posts, but I just needed to spill it all out. If you have actually stuck through reading this whole thing, bless you! I am impressed!