Friday, September 10, 2010

a bittersweet farewell

When a chapter of life ends, when someone dies, when there's a loss;  I expect and want the world to stop with me.  Last Friday, someone important in my life died and yet the world kept going.  Part of me wanted to stop people and say to them, "don't you know, we lost someone special, someone who made a difference, someone who loved me and who I loved, how can you keep going as though this a normal day when it is anything but?"  I wanted for just one second for the world to stop and mourn with me. 

Last week, last Friday, I lost someone who is indescribable, someone who I cared deeply for after many years of trying not to, someone who though not my father was around a lot longer than my own father, someone who taught me so much and who I am afraid never really understood how much I did care and how thankful I was for him. 

I don't exactly know when Charles and my mom became serious,  I think I was in middle school, but for 20 some odd years Charles has been kind of a father figure, but more importantly he has been my mom's companion, her person, her significant figure, her other half, her confidant, her best friend, her fill-in-the-blank. 

Charles and I had a rough start, I hated him, well hate is a strong word, but pretty darn close.  He is not who I would have picked to be my mom's person, my dad's replacement, though he never tried to replace my father, it's just all so complicated.  At the time I resented him, I resented him because my mother would choose him over me, because it wasn't just my mom, sister and I anymore, because everyone knew who he was and it was kind of embarrassing that my mom was dating my former elementary school principal, because he wasn't my father, because I was a teenager and isn't that what you are suppose to do?  It didn't help things that Charles was stubborn, strong-willed, and had a temper just like me and the two of us butted heads more often then not.  But as I got older I realized that he wasn't so bad and I really appreciated him especially his relationship with my mother, though flawed because he has been there for her and cared for her and took some of the pressure that was on me.  He made her happy so I didn't have to.

In the last five years Charles' health has been declining.  Well not really his health, his muscles, his strength and two years ago he sold his house and property and moved himself into a nursing home because he couldn't take care of himself anymore.  A year ago after suffering a stroke his muscle strength weakened even more and the last year has been very difficult since he was been mostly bed ridden.  His Inclusion Body Myositis, the disease affecting his muscles started affecting his ability to swallow and probably cough this summer and he started aspirating and developing pneumonia.  Last week, he was tired of fighting the losing battle and pneumonia took over.  Though we knew the end was near, what we thought would be days took only hours, I guess when you are ready to let go, you do.

His death is so complicated, like everything.  I am thankful he isn't suffering anymore, that he isn't uncomfortable, that he isn't trapped in a bed with a body that doesn't work, but at the same time he's gone.  It is frustrating because with his situation there were no right answers.  He could have fought harder and possibly survived for a little bit longer, but what's the point when the quality of life is so poor?  Death for him is best for him, but not for us who are left, but it is selfish for us to want him to suffer just to have him around.  It is all so difficult.

Even though I resisted for many years, Charles made a large impact in my life and I am thankful.  I hope he knew how appreciative I am and how much I do care and love him.  15 years ago I would never think I would be sitting here crying over the loss of Charles, but I here I am, feeling as though the world is a bit empty because he isn't in it.

Since I love making lists, here's my Charles list- what he brought to my life, what he taught me, what he showed  me, etc:
1-Charles gave me a love for going out to breakfast- he would always take us out to breakfast and we would go to hole-in-the-wall kind of places, like Country Kitchen, Carol's, Clayton's or Waffle House- ones where back in the day the waitresses would be chain smokers and would call you sugar or honey- I still prefer going out to breakfast, but I tend to go to Panera, but I am still up for a good southern hole-in-wall kind of place

2-Charles passed on to me his ability to talk to strangers everywhere and anywhere, funny thing is that use to embarrass me so much and now it is something I do all the time, Charles would talk to everyone everywhere and now I do, I will strike up a conversation with anyone and everyone, it's ironic how the very thing I hated most is now something I do all the time

3-camping and travelling in an RV- camping and travelling was okay, but once Charles got a camper, I loved it- I loved having a bathroom, a kitchen, a table, and most importantly as a teenager a television when we went on trips- it was so much fun travelling in the camper- I have many good memories of camping at the beach and the lake in the camper

4-the opportunity to ride on fast things to fulfill my need for speed- Charles had a 4 wheeler at his house and I loved taking it out into the woods and when we were at the lake he would rent a jet ski for me to play on, it was so much fun and both things are something my mom would never have approved of

5-fishing, specifically surf fishing which always required a bit of skill since you were trying to decide whether the pull was the surf or a fish

6-infomercials-  Charles would buy anything and everything from an infomercial- some of it would be junk, some would be wonderful (the turbie twist hair towels- still love them) but you never know until you get it and Charles passed on his infomercial appreciation to me- I will admit I was overjoyed to receive some ShamWows for Christmas

7-fried chicken from Mitchells and food in general from mom and pop convenient stores- if it wasn't for Charles I would probably never have had food from convenient stores, but I have and survived to tell of it and know it wasn't that bad, especially Mitchell's fried chicken and I don't like fried chicken

and my list could on and will go on
but most importantly he showed me a world outside my bubble/social status/network/whatever you want to call it
Charles was no saint, he wasn't perfect, and probably just as many people disliked him as loved him
but he wasn't above anyone or anything, he was for the most part humble, he cared for people, he made an impact on numerous people, and he expected a lot out of people, he was a teacher.educator through and through
and at times could be described as a grumpy old man, he wasn't a snob, an elitist, he didn't care what other people thought, and I hope one day someone can say the same thing about me, not the grumpy part, but that I loved and cared for all people, that I wasn't a snob, and that there are no such things as strangers, just friends we haven't met yet

So as hard as it is to say good-bye and how time separates us further and further each day, I am thankful for the memories and experiences he gave me and that he is not suffering anymore.

Thank you Charles, thank you for expanding my world further than I would have thought possible, thank you for loving my mother, thank you  for loving me and sticking around despite my best efforts to make you go away, thank you for everything that you have done for us, we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you and though I never said it enough, I love you and will miss you always.   -your Sarah B.


sarah said...

I am so sorry for your loss. He made a profound impact on your life and will be greatly missed.

Altruismed said...

Sarah, I am a bit behind, but wanted to express my sorrow for your loss. That was a very beautiful tribute and clearly shows what Charles meant to you and how he affected your life. With deepest sympathy, Chris

Lloyd said...

I am so sorry for your loss. I will lift you up to the Lord in prayer to give you the peace that only He can bring. Blessings. Lloyd


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