When Irish Eyes are Laughing…

My grandfather passed away exactly one month ago today. When I first started this blog, I wasn’t inspired in the right way to pay tribute to him. With the trauma of dealing with a sudden family death, amongst other things like my hyperemisis, discovering twins, and issues at work, I felt a little cheated during the immediate grieving process. I kept saying to myself, “don’t worry, it will all hit you and you will feel the pain and the sadness.” It never came, or at least, it hasn’t so far. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely had moments where I miss him and am sad, but nothing compared to what I thought I was going to go through.

My grandpa was this great, jovial Irish man. He was proud, passionate, and kind. He always found the lighter side of things, could laugh at anything, loved to tell stories to make people laugh. I love the way his name is defined in Celtic…Hugh: bright in mind and spirit. And like I said in my eulogy at his funeral, I couldn’t find better words to describe him. What makes me sad about not feeling really present with grief when we lost him, is how hard it gets to see time fly by. How he was only gone for a few days, then a few weeks, now it’s been a month, soon it will be a year, 5 years, 10 years, and so on. That makes me sad to think that he won’t be a part of my life in that regard in anymore. And going forward, I will have to rely on memories.
The other thing I realized immediately was how much my grandmother relied on him as a partner. They were married for almost 55 years. I imagine what it would be like to lose my husband after 8 years of marriage. Devastating. I cannot imagine what it would be like to add another 47 years to that. It is like losing the yin to your yang. It makes me sad to watch my grandmother be alone. She’s not literally alone, she has 4 children, 8 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren (and counting) who all live within a 10 minute drive, and visit her often. Not to mention, she lives with one of my uncles and his wife. I guess it’s not that she’s alone, but that she’s lonely. My grandpa would be the one to lift her heavy pots so she could make her sauce, he would eat the sweets she loved to bake, he would put away her groceries after their weekly excursion to the grocery store. They would bicker, but in their later years the bicker usually turned into hysterical laughter as they had learned to appreciate and love each other for who they are. My mom and my aunt have made sure to keep her busy these last few weeks, which is a distraction during the day, but it’s the time of day when you miss them the most there is no distraction for.
Rockstar Mom and Grandma at Grandpa’s funeral reception.

Since March 11th, I have been on bed rest. I am such a busy body, that this literally is killing me softly. I love to run and do yoga, and be active with my kids. It is so hard to be stuck in my house all day. My mom suggested we take a few days and go down to the beach. My parents have a house in Orange County, so it is a quick getaway, about a 3 1/2 hour drive from Vegas. Since my daughter and I were both stuck in this house during spring break while my 5 year old was hitting the slopes in Telluride, Colorado, I figured it would be a welcome break. My dad was initially going to come with us, and honestly, it would have been a more relaxed and quieter trip with just my parents and my daughter and me, but work got in the way, so he had to stay in town. My mom convinced my sister to drive us down with her two boys, ages 4 1/2 and 2 1/2 years. Well, actually, they drove, Stella and I flew. I had tickets and was worried it would be too hard for me to drive for four hours in the car with my unpredictable condition. Since it was just the girls going, my mom and sister and I decided to talk my grandma into coming with us as well. At first she was adamant and said no, she wasn’t ready. She never really explained what that meant, but I’m sure we all came to our own conclusions in our head: she wasn’t ready to leave my grandpa at home, wasn’t ready to celebrate life while he had just passed, wasn’t ready to be reminded of all the times they spent together at the beach…whatever the reason, she was standing her ground. After discovering my aunt and uncle, whom she lives with, would be out of town, and my aunt, who drives across town religiously to entertain her on the weekends, would be out her car for that weekend we were gone, we convinced her the day before we left to come with us. I think she’s glad she came.

When my grandfather first passed, my grandma would talk and talk about what a great man he was. You could tell that she just missed him terribly. And we would all listen, we still do, but she doesn’t talk about him like she did when he was first gone. The one thing I love about my family is that we all support each other. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, it truly is unconditional love. It’s the one place you feel ashamed to run to at first because you don’t want anyone to know you’ve let them down, but it’s the first place you run to when you feel ashamed because you need the support and the love and to know that no matter how alone you feel in the outside world, there is that immediate group of 25 people who love you unconditionally, and they can’t help it. Beyond those times, there are just the times when you need to regroup, re-energize, reconnect, and these are the people we do it with. We need each other. This is a legacy my grandpa left behind. I get that we are the fortunate few to have this type of family dynamic, and at times we take advantage of it, but most often we know what an amazing thing it is to be a part of.

My cousins and brother at Grandpa’s funeral reception.

We got my grandmother laughing and talking. She was relaxed, she was spending time with her daughter, grandchildren and great-children. We ate out every meal, and went to the places she likes to go to. The last night, we were able to secure a babysitter to do some shopping and a nice dinner without the chaos of having two pre-schoolers and a toddler along. It was quiet and nice to concentrate on shoes and bathing suits vs. quick glances at price tags, thinking fast, yelling and chasing after kids. We planned dinner late, and at that point, I was hungry, sick and tired. We finally made it to dinner at this great little steak house in San Juan Capistrano called the Vintage Steak House. They served mesquite grilled chops, live jazz music, and awesome desserts in refurbished train cars. It was a great atmosphere, great conversation, and great food. After we stuffed ourselves silly, we sat there and laughed about how much my mom’s dinner cost alone, how her and my grandma had left their money and credit cards back at the house, and how we harldy knew the babysitter, but that’s how desperate we were to get out of the house (she really was a college friend’s recommendation). We were still laughing so hard when we got back to the house, that when my grandma got out of the car, she froggied (as my kids like to say), and that made us laugh even harder. For a moment, we forgot that my grandpa wasn’t physically with us an
ymore. For a moment, we were just living our lives.

Grandpa and Grandma in June 2009.

It was at that point I realized that maybe this was my greiving period. That my granfather was never one for tears and sadness. At Irish funerals, they all drink beer and sing songs and tell stories to celebrate the life of the one who has passed. Again, another legacy my grandfather passed on to us. Be proud. Be passionate. Be Kind. Live. Love. Laugh. He is in all those words to me. Maybe that is why I’m not experiencing the kind of grief I thought I would. Because he taught us to live different than that. To expect more out of life than tears and sadness. To celebrate by telling stories and being together, being there for each other. These are big shoes to fill, and with everyday life happening, it’s easy to get distracted from this. But if there is one thing I can do to keep my grandfather’s legacy alive, it’s by keeping the way he lived his life present, and share it with my kids and grandkids. In my mind, this is what he would have wanted for me.

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