Tears and Delight

Dear loyal followers, today is a first.  In my year of blogging I have not had a guest writer until today… I’m turning over the keyboard to my mama, Heidi.  Please give her a waggy welcome.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.  ~Kahlil Gibran

This quote brings me solace.  It also makes me weep.

Three years ago today my father died and the grief I feel daily is, as Gibran beautifully states, my heart missing my delight.  My father was completely delightful.

Dad as a little boy (with Grandma Benadetta & Grandpa Del)

I had the honor (and delight) of accompanying my dad to work every day for six years of my childhood.  My father taught 3rd grade and science at Nueva Day School, my elementary school.  Nueva wasn’t an ordinary school — it was extraordinary, just like my dad.

Our school was housed in one of the historic Crocker mansions — an elaborate French chateau style abode built for the banker in Hillsborough, CA.   We had acres of formal gardens as our playground and most of 3rd grade (taught by my dad) was conducted under the giant and ancient weeping willow tree on the lower lawn.  Ahhh… so many incredible memories….

Today Nueva is full-on prep school, but in the years I was there it was a free-spirited and creative endeavor for “gifted” students (and teachers).  With the exception of the school’s director, all students were on a first name basis with their instructors.  At home my father was “dad”.  At school I called him “Del”.

The 60’s were a progressive and groovy time for sure and my dad even grew the obligatory long sideburns and mustache.  I thought he was so cool and brilliant.

And he was brilliant (“cool” remains debatable).  In my dad’s short 68 years he accomplished more than most; educated thousands, had over 20 books published and gave hundreds of speeches and seminars at universities around the country.

But my dad’s greatest accomplishments would not show up on his resume; he was an excellent husband and father, and he had the ability to make everyone he met feel important and special.

As a child, my father could make me laugh like no one else!  He had silly nicknames for us kids; I had 3 — Chloe Minerva, Shardell and Grace.  Marty was King Martin and Matthew was Baby Ergo.  I always felt special having not one, but three, private nicknames.  But of course us first-borns always get more glory!

The “tap-dancing weatherman” was a staple in dad’s comedic repertoire and I laughed every time he did it (which was nearly every evening!).  He would watch the news and — you guessed it! — tap dance his way through the kitchen describing the upcoming weather.  I can still see my mom rolling her eyes and saying “oh Del”.

My dad would tell us stories at bedtime and the stories became more elaborate when my baby brother, Matthew, was born.  He made up this wonderful ongoing tale of “the magic butterfly in the land of the dewey, dewey doo”.  I was older when my dad started this series (my youngest brother is 9 years my junior), yet I was riveted along with my brothers.

Heidi & her dad, Del

Memories are flooding my mind as I sit here at my laptop and I’m stymied by how to best articulate what I am experiencing.  Nearly every memory of my father (with the exception of the last days of his life) are filled with laugher & warmth.  I am smiling and crying at the same time as I reminisce about my dad.

Yesterday, my mom, brother Marty and I spent the afternoon doing something we knew my dad would love;  went to see a silly movie followed by a pasta dinner — two things my dad adored.  Note:  Matthew lives in Tucson and was unable to join us.

My father would have really enjoyed our afternoon but he should have been with us.  Life isn’t fair — I get that — but to lose such a fantastic man at such a young age just doesn’t feel right.

Dear Atticus followers, please forgive me for taking his space today.  I am clearly not as articulate or cleaver as my dog (or my dad), and I thank you for this indulgence.

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How I Lost My Grandpa

Ok, we watched “How I Met Your Mother” last night and we were all in tears.  This episode really resonated with us, especially mama.  This is a telly show that we had never seen until mama, Bella and I moved in with my grandparents (mama’s parents) for a short period in 2008.  You see, as we were fleeing our negative and abusive situation (mama’s marriage) in early 2008, my grandpa (mama’s dad, Del) was going through chemo treatment for his unusual form of bone cancer; multiple myeloma.

Me & Grandpa D

Grandma & grandpa have a beautiful and large spread bordering the state park at Folsom Lake.  We wanted to spend as much time with grandpa as possible, while he went thru his treatment, so we put our things into storage and moved in with them.  We essentially had our own “wing” of the house and we were where we were needed and wanted to be.  A serendipitous time for all of us.  It was during these poignant months that we were introduced to “How I Met Your Mother”, a favorite program of mama’s parents.  I was administering my puppy therapy by cuddling with grandpa during his tv time.

We moved into their house in February 2008 and on May 31 of that year, my mama lost her father.  A mere four months, and he was gone.  Last night’s episode of “How I Met Your Mother” focused on the death of Marshall’s father and the last words that they exchanged.  This brought about a flood of memories and tears for us.

When we arrived in early 2008, grandpa Del was still working.  Well, he had “retired” from his day job a few years previous (Superintendent of Lodi Unified School District – 25,000+ students), but he was still putting in long hours as a Professor at Sacramento State (graduate department), grad student advisor, and consultant for the California School Board Association.

Sure, the nasty drugs slowed his usual hyper-energy, but he was still grandpa Del, a man known and honored in California as a great educator, but ultimately he was a fantastic dad and husband.  My mama has great admiration for her dad, as do I, and she’s always said that she loved the dichotomy of her father’s personality:  he was the most brilliant man she had ever met and the goofiest.  This is a splendid, and not often seen, combination of qualities.

Grandpa & mama

Grandpa spearheaded forward-thought in experiential methods of teaching math and science, publishing over 20 books on the subject (“Laboratory Laughter” is a classic!).  In the ‘60s, when mama was just a babe, he earned the honor of “California Teacher of the Year”, presented with a plaque by then governor Ronald Reagan.  Even though my grandpa was a staunch liberal and progressive thinker who abhorred Reagan, in his office he proudly displayed the photo of the Govenor shaking his hand during that ceremony.

Mama reports that when she was a child her dad would quiz her and her brothers at the dinner table.  It was sort of like Jeopardy, with pasta, and the categories were random.  One night would be world capitals and the next night would be the ERA’s of every Giant’s pitcher on the current roster or the best one-liners from “Blazing Saddles”.  Seriously.  And this is what made this man exceptional.  Intelligence and humor is an intoxicating combination.

Tears flowed as we watched this “comedy” on the telly last night and we wondered about grandpa’s last words to us.  Truthfully, the last words are in a fog that mama doesn’t need to clearly see through, so we will remember better moments.

I’m sad and reminiscent, but this is not a dark essay.  On the contrary, I smile widely and wag wildly as I remember my grandpa.  Mama has only bright memories but grandpa Del’s presence and light is greatly missed.

Remembering a lost loved one is bittersweet for certain, but the sweet greatly outweighs any sadness.  In honor of my beloved grandpa I think I must watch “Animal House” or “Caddy Shack” and then dive into an intellectual missive about science education.  My grandpa’s memory and inspiration towards learning and laughs will never die.

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