Sunday, February 10, 2013

An Act of Love

Me and Grandma
AKA: G.G. (Great Grandma)
I've been in Kentucky this past week, helping my family settle into taking care of my grandmother who has recently been put on hospice care. She is doing as well as can be expected; she's in good spirits, has an appetite, is comfortable and is still able to tell us she loves us and understand when we say the same. Several times during this week she's commented about the wonderful family my mom and dad raised. Every time she says that, we remind her that it started with her.

My grandmother divorced my grandfather shortly after WWII--a stoic act of independence in those days. She remarried some years later, but never seemed to need someone simply to fulfill her life. She married because she loved. She has always been my example of how strong, devoted, independent and caring women can be. Even sick and in my parent's house, she insists on paying her own way. It's how she's always been. She takes personal responsibility for everything she does and expects others to do the same. She instilled that in my mother, and my mother (and father) instilled that in us. We were shown nothing but love and respect, with the expectation that we take responsibility for our lives and not force others to do our work or pay for our mistakes.

Grandma gave me Roary 35 years ago.
Now he's the hero of my first novel.

As I've mentioned before, this winter has been rough. After six-plus years working on my novels, improving my writing skills and building relationships in the industry, the fact that I've yet to find an agent has been...frustrating. As you'll read in any writer's blog, writing is hard work. Not only is the creative process more challenging than anyone expects, there's the editing, reviews, critiques, and building of a business identity--a skill that not many of us excel at. I've recently questioned whether or not I should continue, whether or not I'm getting as much energy back from the dream as I'm putting in, or if that even matters. What I've really needed is an attitude adjustment. Time with my grandmother provided that for me. Decades ago, an act of love provided the inspiration for my first novel and I've carried that love with me my entire life.

Seeing her continue to be a kind, loving and generous person even when she knows her body is wearing out lifted me from my self-pity. She has always been nothing but herself, and has never spoken of regret. She is proud of me and the man I've become, and I've become that man because she taught me how, through her actions even more than her words.

Five Generations
I have the skills and the opportunity to live a dream that I've had since I was eight years old, sitting in front of a blank piece of paper jammed into my sister's typewriter. Over the past six years I've worked hard to create a life that gives me the chance to fulfill my dreams, to pursue my passion for storytelling, to have my name on the spine of a novel and meet the heroes who have inspired my imagination. It will take work, but it won't be work.

That is the attitude adjustment I've been looking for and I found it in the smiling face of a woman I adore, who is looking back on her life knowing she is leaving something better in the world than when she came into it. She's leaving us--her children, her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren and now her great-great-grandchildren, all of whom have lived better lives for her being the woman she is.

Addendum 3/14/2013

GG passed away on Friday, March 8th, 2013. She went without pain, in the company of family and in the comfort of my parents' house. I was unable to attend the service in Kentucky, but my brother and mother told me story after story of how touching it was. A special message to my brother-in-law, Rev. Dr. Jesse Brannen, who performed a beautiful service. Thank you.

When I heard what music they chose, I laughed until I sobbed. It couldn't have been more perfect.

Love and gratitude to all the friends, family and co-workers who shared their compassion with me and my family over the last few weeks. You're what makes life worth living.


"My Way"
Performed by Frank Sinatra

And now, the end is here 
And so I face the final curtain 
My friend, I'll say it clear 
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain 
I've lived a life that's full 
I traveled each and ev'ry highway 
And more, much more than this, I did it my way 

Regrets, I've had a few 
But then again, too few to mention 
I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption 
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway 
And more, much more than this, I did it my way 

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew 
When I bit off more than I could chew 
But through it all, when there was doubt 
I ate it up and spit it out 
I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way 

I've loved, I've laughed and cried 
I've had my fill, my share of losing 
And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing 
To think I did all that 
And may I say, not in a shy way, 
"Oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it my way" 

For what is a man, what has he got? 
If not himself, then he has naught 
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels 
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way! 

Yes, it was my way

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