Remembering an Amazing Life

Hello from JFK,

It is exactly a year ago today that I would be leaving Lydia for a last time. It was an amazing day because Carissa was able to get the little tornado into the shower and wash her hair and get her a bit more comfortable. The picture here is of her that morning. My thoughts these last days have certainly been about her often. It seems impossible that a year has already past. I would be leaving for Poland on the 28th, so it is a couple days sooner, but this time I will be there for three weeks.

As I have lived through another calendar year, the reality of losing someone who affected me so significantly almost a year ago has really struck the core of my being in a profoundly different way. Seldom does an entire week go by that somehow, somewhere, some way my thoughts are not focused upon this strong, vibrant, and determined little two-digit-midget, as I called her. The loss of her stunning blue eyes, her infectious smile, and her strong Austrian accent are all things that  miss seeing, hearing, or experiencing. And she was an experience. Her interest in things economic and the world in general never ceased to astound those who knew her. Even for some time after she was living at COH, she watched for the mail like a hawk waiting for her Wall Street Journal (WSJ). She read the complete journal article by article and she had such disdain for those who did not care to understand such things. I remember her telling me a couple years before the 2009 economic meltdown that it was coming. She was so brilliant about such things.

I have heard her classes were very difficult, but she certainly knew her subject matter. Shortly after I started living next to her, she asked to see how I had my WPS pension invested. When I told her what I had done she said I was too conservative. She then performed a 10 year analysis on my pension, finding that the difference between a fixed account, which is what I had, and have, had performed amazingly close to what she had. She was satisfied, but only after she had done her due diligence. Of course, if you knew Lydia, even a slight bit, none of this would surprise you. She was careful and thoughtful about most things. This is not to say she could not be a bit stubborn about things. She certainly had an opinion about most anything. Well, perhaps that is a bit far-reaching. If it was worth her notice, and certainly some things were not, she probably had an opinion. Usually things that did not interest her she would note, albeit rather curtly and in her distinct Austrian accent, “that is just stupid”. I would have loved to take a class from her because she would have forced me to think. There is a rather successful business person in Menomonie who told me more than once. I had her for two economics classes and I got Ds in both of them.

Even now, there are moments I find it difficult to comprehend, nay, perhaps accept that she is actually no longer there in Menomonie. I wonder at times if it is because she seemed almost larger than life or if it is because I am, and was, in Pennsylvania when she passed? I was actually in Kraków, where I will be later today. I remember earlier that day praying in the church of Pope John Paul II that George might convince her to let go. That was New Year’s Eve day. Even now, a year later, I also have to say a most sincere thank you to the Langtons for coming in from North Carolina to be with her. Then there are all the amazing caregivers who cared for Lydia in the 4 years she lived at Comforts of Home. She changed so much in that time. While she was no longer safe in her home, she was quite an amazing person and still very independent when she came to live in a north Menomonie. She took care of the plants, she helped set the tables, and she was less than pleased when I would cook because I was not sitting next to her. She knew what she wanted and why she wanted it. I remember the first Memorial Day  I did a cookout for everyone. The residents and staff were ecstatic, save one person. She thought it was “okay” as she gave a look of nonchalance and waved her hand as if to say, “Do not think of yourself too highly, Michael.”

To this day I regret that I was not there that last day, but only God knows (and I mean that literally) how long she would have hung on had I stayed. To the last person, we are sure she did not want to put me through seeing her pass. I still feel in my heart that she became and was the mother who did as much for me as my grandmother did when she served as my mother when I was a small boy.  I have in my blogs compared them before. They were both independent; they had both lost their husbands before they were ready to do so; they were both elegant and had a beauty that endured throughout their days. They both had incredibly kind and giving hearts. When I think of either one of them I am profoundly aware of both how loved and how blessed I was, and still am, by their presence in my life. In terms of time, it has been 38 years since my Grandma Louise left this world. For Lydia, I cannot seem to come to grips with the reality of an entire year within the week. What I know is her loss has affected me more significantly than any other loss in my life. Is it because I too am older? Is it because I am still realizing how influential she was and how loved I was?

A year ago I was praying you would let go, only because I wanted you to leave a life that was little more than mere existence. A year later it is me struggling to let go. I cannot seem to finish everything or anything I need to do  (and that seems to be across the board). Too often I seem stuck in a haze of my own existence, but an existence missing its heart. You found your way into my heart, Lydia. You made life worth doing in ways I did not know before. You were my mother, my family. As I write this I am struggling to see the screen through the tears that have welled up in my eyes and now trace their paths down my cheeks. It is not the first time this has happened, and it will probably not be the last. I remember last Spring in class I cried more than once in class. My image as a hard-ass professor was pretty well blown.

I remember writing last year at this time you are my guardian angel and I would try to not make your job too difficult. As you know, once again, I am in George’s country; you also know that I wrote a sabbatical proposal to work on the historical fictional novel I promised I would write. I am hoping that proposal is approved. We’ll see what happens. As I approach the first anniversary of your passing, ironically I am in the same place I was a year ago. I remember lying in bed and sobbing, sobbing that you were released from the shell of the phenomenal woman you had once been; sobbing because of the hurt from the profound loss I was experiencing. Sobbing because I was not with you. As I am preparing to land in Kraków I have been up for about 36 hours and I am tired, but I am thinking of you, remembering with both joy for the amazing life you lived and how I was blessed that you loved me so much, and a sadness that I am writing about your memory, about your beautiful eyes, the radiance of your smile and that amazing accent calling my name. What I wouldn’t give to see and hear you again. What I wouldn’t give to have one of the caregivers, usually Leighann, calling to tell me you wanted to talk to me. What I wouldn’t give to have Carissa sending me another picture of you and her. I love you still and forever.

Michael

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