Tuesday, December 23, 2008


This time of the year always makes people remember those who aren't around any more and I'm no different. My dad died 28 years ago on December 12, one day after his 30th birthday. I was only 6 1/2 years old but my favorite trait is a good memory and I remember that day and related funeral and wake events quite well and I treasure these memories greatly. My brother was 4 and sister 2, so they really have no recollections beyond what I can share with them from my own. It's the memories that I think help sustain us when a loved one is gone, helps nurture us back to happy times when we think it isn't possible. Memories have a magical ability to change over time and it never gets old to revisit them. Now, with 3 children of mine all under the age of 5, I can't help but note that they might not remember me or Jennie if we were to die early. I've never thought about it before and it seems far fetched considering that we are the constant and dominant figures in their lives.

Anyway, back to memories. One appropriate for the season happened when I was 4 or 5 years old. My dad had just walked in the door from the barn and I told him proudly, "Dad, I just wrapped your socks but you can't have them until Christmas!" I also remember being towed in a loud, red wagon down the road by my dad on several occasions. It didn't occur to me then but I now have 2 questions: Did he not feel like he was getting enough exercise working full time on a farm? And, is that where I got my ability and desire to run?

We now have another opportunity to test our abilities to grieve. My wife's great uncle Arthur Neuhauser passed away this past Sunday at the age of 90. He was an amazing figure to us and we were very close. Since our move to Vermont 8 +years ago, he made the 60 minute flight up from New Jersey 5 or 6 times in the summer for an annual visit to the North Country, all which feeds my memory bank with some real solid material. Like the time he was served a 2nd bloody mary for dinner because he didn't hear the waitress ask him if he wanted another (he just nodded his head and boom, more liquor!). Ever the jester, he told her that it was good thing he wasn't driving home (he couldn't see very well and hadn't driven in years). He's the only person I know who made a new friend after dialing the wrong number. Even better was that the wrong number turned out to be a funeral home. He was trying to call Jennie's parents and got the funeral home in Malone instead. He had such a good conversation with "funeral home Mike" that he spoke with him at least one more time and this time, he didn't call him by accident. This is just one illustration of his belief or unwritten philosophy that people are interesting and by golly, I'm going to get to know as many of them as I can. During one of his visits to Vermont, he had such a good conversation with Tom, a good friend of ours that Tom now has his own Arthur memories

More recently, Baxter barged in on him in the bathroom while he was doing some "business". He didn't scold or ask him to leave, he promptly launched into a story, as was his custom, all while sitting on the commode. The stories were legendary and covered most of the last century. Mostly, I'll remember the conversations during our drives to the Lake or sitting on our porch. The past few visits, we entertained each other with the wonders of Wikipedia. He would recall a particular event from his youth and I would get the details from wiki to test his accuracy, which more often than not was spot on.

We are sad but not in a tragic way. He lived an amazingly full life, was loved by many and was not afraid to shower us with affection, which was not common by men of his generation. I only got to know him and develop a relationship over the past 15 years of his life, so I can only imagine the pain his own family feels. He wasn't my uncle but was something better: he was my good friend and I will miss him.

So during this season and whenever you need to, remember the good times and those we miss will be with us always.


Q_Monroe said...

thanks derek. yesterday helped alot. we all told stories and laughed and cried alot. can't wait to see you guys.

Q_Monroe said...

seriously manny, it's about time to write about something new -- like your new son or something?