Life Topics

His Hands

The skin on his hands were pale and paper thin
showing a tangle of blue veins.  Fingers longer and
thinner than I remember.  I stopped and stared at
the age spots and bruised skin of purple and blue.

Those hands changed my diapers, helped me cross
the street, tied my shoes, turned pages of a book
and spanked me.  I’m sure I deserved it.  My little
hand fit so well inside your warm fingers.

Now with weak hands, you reach for help and comfort.
We will hold them to support you, hold them to
assure you, to raise you up.  Our touch is compas-
sionate and real.  You’re never alone.

Daddy, when did you get old?  You didn’t warn me.
Signs of decay and weakness overlooked.
A gradual slowing down to a stop, to a chair and
to the bed.  Resting your hands or pressing them
together for prayer.

My life started with you and will end without you.
Nature sometimes sings a sad song you can’t conceive.
Those hands have always been a gift.  You lovingly used
them for giving, never for taking.

Life Topics

Putting Charlie to Rest

iStock_000058582528_LargeWe put Charlie to rest today.  It was a small funeral with a handful of family members and Mom and Dad.  His box of ashes sat in front of us as soldiers went through the honor ceremony.  We blessed ourselves through prayers while the wind lashed out at us.  My middle-aged graying cousins, who I hardly knew, stood with us as the grieving do, but there was no crying, no sorrow.  In fact, no one really knew Charlie.

Charlie was 88 years old when he died last week.  Dad found him when he went to check on him.  Charlie was a brother and an uncle, never a husband or a father, and he was barely that as he kept to himself, afraid of human contact.  Dad is the baby of the family, and at 80 years old himself, was Charlie’s main caretaker.  Anxiety ruled Charlie’s world.  He was a recluse because of his fear of people, and would only go out to doctor’s appointments.  Other than that, he would sit in his chair, in his apartment, in his building and reject the world outside.    He spent most of his life living with his other bachelor brother Chris, who also cared little to socialize.  But, at least Chris would be the life of the party when he did go out.  They bickered constantly.   Charlie was like an old cat lady, without cats, wearing tattered clothes and talking to himself.  Chris died a few years back, and Charlie was left alone, which was probably how he preferred it.

People didn’t visit Charlie, and he liked it that way.  He would occasionally call my Dad and always say, “hello this is Charlie from Wareham”, which my brothers and sister found amusing.  So, we never called him Uncle Charlie, we would always say, “so, how is Charlie from Wareham doing?”  We did see him more when he spent some time living with my parents.  He had his routines that drove my mother up a wall, but not my Dad.  He had a severe lack of hygiene, as well as being nearly deaf.  He would painfully try to engage us, but would never hear the answer and would refer to my sister and I as Ann or Joan.  Our names are Susan and Jo.  He would go back to drinking his tea once the ill-fated conversation was over.

When I spoke to my cousin’s before the funeral, there was a consistent theme.  While they all felt sorry that Charlie was gone, they each said, “I hardly knew him, but I’m here for your Dad.”  I guess that’s what funerals are all about, being there for the people who are most effected by the death.  Prepared or not, it’s got to hurt on some level.  My Dad has always been loyal to his family, even when they weren’t loyal back.  It didn’t matter to him.  Because having an open heart, enjoying people, having contact is the right way to be.  There will surely be a lot of tears at my father’s funeral, and everyone will have known him well.

So, why do we say the dead are at “rest”.    I think everyone needs rest from this crazy world, but the ones who really need the rest are blessing themselves in the wind and holding back the tears.

Rest easy Dad.