The Eternal Flames We Tend

Photo: Saturday morning PJ party. French toast on the griddle, coffee brewing, bacon sizzling… these are the sweet moments in the early Autumn sunshine.

There was a death in the family last week, Dear Reader. A Great Aunt, who I met only a few times in my life, but who loved my mother and sent me graduation and wedding gifts… She was on my annual Christmas Card list. She was a doctor of music, a teacher and, unfortunately, a victim of Alzheimer’s. It is a sad and cruel condition. My family celebrated her life and buried her in North Carolina on Saturday. I wasn’t able to attend, but we sent some lovely flowers down.

So I spent a bit of time on the phone such. But I saved my call for Father for last. I was tasked with making sure that the flowers my Mom and I sent were delivered, and also I needed to check in on him. I haven’t spoken with my Father since the last phone call I blogged about… what was that? Spring? Winter? Whatever. It’s been a long while.

It occurred to me, as I was speaking to him, how tired he was, and how sad he was. His father passed away some 15 years ago, but the women of that generation have lived into their late 80’s. There are two left now for him, and that’s a tough thing to deal with. We all, eventually, have to bury our heroes. I suppose that is a lucky thing (when they bury us it’s a tragedy)… but it is damn hard, too.

It got me to thinking about my own towering figures. Including the Father who I (ultimately) love, but harbor very angry feelings toward. Who, in his grief, felt the need to give his instructions on how to deal when it is his time to go.

“You’re my eldest, Kyra, so when the time comes, I expect you to represent.”

“Father, you have a wife, and she’s your next of kin. There is legal shit there. I can’t actually really–”

“I’m telling you, when the time comes, that you’re my eldest, so you need to represent. She isn’t going to know what to do because she ain’t from here. But you do. So I expect you to represent.”

Longtime readers will recall that this is the man who has been recently thinking about his “legacy” in regards to his two young sons. “I want to be able to pass something on to them,” he told me. I find it almost comical that I look forward to grim decisions and final rituals rather than whatever riches he thinks he’s going to collect between now and oblivion. It bubbles as it stings, makes me smile as I refuse the tears.

I assured him that I’d do as he asked. As that is what a dutiful (and not bitter) daughter does. He trained me well.

Still though, I’m thinking about the sadness in his voice. The sort of shell-shocked nature of it. There is grief for the individual who died, but there is also an understanding of two things: first, this life really doesn’t last forever and, second, all of our heroes must die. We must walk on in this world without them and hope upon hope that their lessons stick. Not just that our memories of them won’t fade away but that all of their wisdom, meticulously collected and passed on in some many forms, will be kept safe and built upon. I heard the burden and the strain of it as he spoke to me, the need to spill it all out as we spoke. It was all so heavy… so exhausting.

But I listened. In so doing, I got an image of a woman I only really know through pictures. She was fully alive for two hours yesterday as Father spoke, and that’s what he wanted. May she always be so real and tangible for him in his memories…

In the meantime, I sit grateful for my two grandmothers who still live. One who I get the chance to speak to every single Sunday and regale her with stories about her two bad little great-grandchildren. I am so proud of how well I’ve gotten to know her and how much of her will always be with me. I told her this week that I took a loaf of bread to church on Sunday morning, and how I thought about my great-grandmother as I did so. “Can you believe it? The family tradition continues!” She laughed and laughed.

Indeed, I baked seven loaves of bread this weekend. Only six stayed in this house. All the rest went out the door: to school, to church, to say thank-you to friends for kindnesses that happened over the summer… “That’s what our kitchens have always been for, Kyra. Love is made with those hands, right there. That’s what makes everything taste so good.”

My feet hurt and my back is screaming from all of that work, Dear Reader. Only a single row of knitting got done and not a lick of writing.

But to serve always fills the jar for me. So does remembering. And speaking, even with those who we’d rather scream at than listen to. Let’s see if he remembers to call me for my birthday this week. I doubt he will, but one can always hope, right?

Who are you working for this Monday, Dear Reader? Who are you remembering? Who are you keeping alive, if only for a few minutes, through your stories of through your giving? Remember someone this week and share their story, Dear Reader. Share one with me, maybe? You know I always love a good story.

Until Wednesday, take care.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Wow, he put you in charge? That’s huge dude. Well won.

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      LOL but not really, right? “I expect you to represent” is still him firmly in control. I have charge of nothing. “Kill me when I want to die. Bury me how you know I want to be buried. K? thanks.” Uh huh… thanks, Father.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.