On the Road

The past couple weeks have been a whirlwind. Two trips to Connecticut in two weeks. And by trips I mean car rides. And by two I don’t mean up and back; I mean up and back TWICE. For the record, that’s approximately 12 hours each way. But when you factor in a stop to rally the troops at my sister’s house, it’s more like 14+ door to door.

Ouch.

The first trip was a much needed visit to my Mother’s parents, i.e. my Grandparents. It had been a little over a year since we visited, and Gram and Pop had yet to meet Little Dude. Some QT was definitely a necessity.

However, there is no easy way to travel. After some hemming and hawing, we decided that Dude and Little Dude would hit the road on their own and rendezvous with the Lady in the Shoe, one of her many offspring, and my mother for a group trip in one minivan to CT. Makes the trip easier for everyone and saves quite a bit of cabbage…although the whole fam was missed.

It was a fantastic trip. Little Dude did much better in his seat than I expected…driving through the night is a must. So good to see my Grandparents and have them meet LD…GreatMa was the first to teach him how to clap! ūüôā It was a great opportunity for some Daddy/Little Dude bonding….it’s fun being his Dad. We even found time to add some flowers to their yard. All in all, a great trip, and we made it home safe and sound. Although, these before and after pictures describe the effects of traveling with a toddler pretty¬†accurately:

On the Road - Before

On the Road - Before

On the Road - After

On the Road - After

Two days after arriving home, we received the unfortunate news that my Dad’s mother, aka Baba, passed away. And the services would be held in CT. Back to the road.

This time it was like my childhood revisited. The Dude, Mom, Dad, The Lady in the Shoe, and one of her many offspring piled in a minivan. Family roadtrip. I don’t think we made a trip like that since my sister was looking at colleges twenty years ago. Strange but fun.

Death tends to instigate reflection. It’s an opportunity to remember the life someone led and the effect they had on other people.

Driving in a car for 12+ hours also tends to instigate reflection. Quite the combo; faced with one of life’s most basic truths (i.e. death), and nothing but time to think about it. As the tires rolled along the highway, I filled my time with thoughts of the lasting effects Baba would leave with me.

It’s a deep thought process. What do we take from someone we love? How do they make us who we are?

Baba was a character. Many would categorize her as a disciplinarian…usually her family. But the flip side is that many would say how loving and generous she was. Complicated, but I guess everyone is.

I fall somewhere in the middle. As her second Grandchild, I was early in the cycle of her relaxing with age. I was exposed to her disciplinarian ways, but I never really took her seriously, and as the older sibling, the Lady in the Shoe was outspoken enough for both of us. Over the years, I developed a joking but loving relationship with Baba where she never forced discipline on me, but always offered a loving hug, smile and kind word.

In the end, I have nothing but fond memories of my time with Baba. As I rolled through the catalog of Baba memories, I searched for that lasting effect. The nugget that I would always say was Baba.

After a two day trip north, I still could not hit the bulls-eye. I wandered through memories, and smiled at the loving thoughts, but could not land on the life lessons I would hold close.

Then I went through the funeral process – the wake, pallbearer, and burial – and I realized that my thoughts didn’t need to be so deep. I didn’t need to look so hard for the lasting effects. Perhaps the process was needed to work through a loss, but the answer was much simpler.

Family.

That’s the lasting effect I take from Baba. Family. And the importance of holding family close.

This may seem like an odd lesson considering the¬†trajectory¬†of Baba’s life, but to me (and I think Baba in the end) it makes complete sense.

Baba was a fighter, and she could hold a grudge. I won’t pretend to know the difficulties she faced through her life or the experiences that shaped who she was, but I do know that she would tell you what she believed (right or wrong), and if you didn’t like it, she wasn’t afraid to cut you out of her life. Seems harsh. And it is. But it’s part of who she was.

As a result, there are groups of family members that we don’t knowt. But a funeral brings people together. It brings¬†long-lost¬†family out of hiding.

As I took in the funeral process, I realized how much family is connected…regardless of disagreements. Baba may have been a fighter, and probably alienated some folks, but family remains connected. Memories remain and similarities persist.

It is amazing to see a group of distant relatives in one room. Similar looks, similar memories, similar mannerisms. Connections that run deep, despite disagreements and separation.

Genetics is strong.

We may disagree – and maybe even dislike – members of our family, but in the end we are connected…and we will always be.

Baba was not the same person when she passed as she was throughout her life. I’m sure none of us are. We grow, mature, and relax. As I said, I have fond and loving memories of Baba, and despite any imperfections, this is the woman I know she was; kind, loving, and an outspoken fighter for what she believed to be right.

Baba loved her family. Despite disagreements, that love was strong. Families do not  always get along, but the love that she shared with her kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids was evident and passed down through the generations.

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

— inaccurately attributed to
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love this quote. I think it is a great description of a life well lived, and I can unequivocally confirm that Baba lived a great life according to this standard.

I am a better person for knowing and being loved by her. I can’t pinpoint that single lesson that Baba bestowed, but I know that I am who I am as a result of having her in my life and the genetics passed down the¬†long line¬†to me.

Baba, I love you. You will be missed, but I smile when I think of the great life you lived. Thank you for being the person you are.

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2 Responses to On the Road

  1. Little Bill says:

    Beautiful, Dude

  2. Lady in the Shoe says:

    XO

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