Posts Tagged ‘pappy’


Posted: October 3, 2010 in Life
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It’s just a cat. Damn, why does it matter that much?

It was Pappy’s cat. And Grandma’s before that. She’s been gone since 2003, and Pappy died just last year. So this was like the last thread I had. What other connection do I have?

Something was wrong a month or two ago, and we had him checked out; but Rimmer seemed much better recently. And for a couple of months since. But this morning, he took a real dive. Every horrible symptom of every horrible disease came to the fore this morning. Lethargy, weakness and the most pitiful cry you ever heard. It was a recurrence of an illness that he’d recovered from before. I gave him some antibiotic that he’d been prescribed from his last bout.

It was Oktoberfest today. An inconvenient time for a sick animal. Last time he got sick, it was on a Saturday, so the vet charged a premium. I knew that he would either get better, in which case a vet trip was a waste, or he wouldn’t, in which case the vet couldn’t help anyway.

Pappy had a great time when we took him to Oktoberfest back in 2008. It was a highlight of his last couple of years in this life. I’ve been proud of how much he was able to enjoy it, despite his infirmity. He had joy. We saluted him as we sang and danced. Was this date some sort of serendipity?

When we got home from Oktoberfest tonight the cat was in such bad shape that I could only give him comfort, holding him and stroking his ears like he likes. Trying to make him purr. I got him to wag his tale a bit, but he was quite out of it. I imagine he was waiting for us to come home so he could say goodbye. On the day of Oktoberfest, when Pappy had his last great joy.

He died in my arms. He died in my arms. And while he did, I said another tear-soaked goodbye to my grandparents, who had taken him in and gave him a home long before I did. And I hope that if my grandparents could see us now, that they’d be okay with how we’ve honored them.

I regret that we weren’t home all day to comfort him, but we were holding out for him to recover. I’m relieved that we got the chance to say goodbye before he passed, got to hold him and pet him and comfort him in his final moments. I’m comfortable knowing he didn’t suffer until the end. And I think he was able to slip into death, quietly and easily, the way we all hope to. Damn, it’s hard, though.

There’s a little mound in my backyard now. There’s a cat buried there that was loved by some ancestors of mine that I’m most fond of. How long will these emotions be this strong? Will I experience another pang of sorrow when I sell this land and move away? Do I carry that sorrow with me, or does part of it stay behind?

Lister is going to be so lonely now, and he’s pretty old himself. I’m not looking fondly to the day I have to deal with the loss of that little buddy. Lister’s been with me since 1999, when he was just a kitten. What will I do? How do I cope with that? How did I end up with such a strong tie to a cat?

It’s just a cat. Damn, why does it matter that much?

Goodbye, Rimmer. You will be missed, and in missing you I will honor my Pappy and Grandma.

I didn’t want to give a talk at his memorial. It was my mother’s idea. Anyone who saw me try this with my wedding vows knows what we’re up against – but tomorrow I’ll have a hankie ready.There isn’t anything I had left unsaid to Pappy (the original “Red” in my life), so this isn’t for him. And he had often told me what I meant to him, so this isn’t for me. Our friendship and our love for each other were so obvious and so often said out loud, it has never been in doubt. I don’t think that happens between people very often in life, and I thank God for it.

John "Red" Hannon, my Pappy

John "Red" Hannon, my Pappy

So who’s this for? As I wrote this, it was extraordinarily easy to find nice things to say about the man. So I guess this is for anyone who doubts that such a person can exist.

There’s a popular Irish blessing that goes:

“May those who love us, love us. And those that don’t love us, may God turn their hearts. And if He doesn’t turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles – So we’ll know them by their limping.”

I don’t know anyone else in my whole life that was so well loved by everyone he met as Pappy was, so I don’t guess he saw many people limping. His Irish charm, outrageous generosity and simple friendliness were the broad brushes with which he painted his world. His humor, his storytelling, his love of life, his joy and his laugh endeared him to everyone. His love for his family was matchless; it was especially evident in the way he adored his bride of 64 years.

When I was a child, Pappy represented everything to me that was fun and happy in the world. My fondest memories of childhood were of time spent at Grandma and Pappy’s house. Pappy was my favorite guy, my favorite place and my favorite time. He was more fun than anyone! With Pappy around at Christmastime, Santa Claus never had a chance.

There’s another Irish saying that goes, “You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was.” Grandma and Pappy moved away when I was still a little kid, and I was an adult by the time we lived near each other again. Our new relationship, though different, got deeper. I was able to look at them through the eyes of an adult; where I once had childishly unrealistic images and expectations, now they were real people. Grandma was surprised and delighted to have a grown-up version of me around for long, adult conversations; and Pappy enjoyed being able to share a pitcher of beer and a pack of smokes over a game of pool. Grandma didn’t always like that part so much. When Grandma died six years ago, I was the man Pappy leaned on for support, and we shared our grief together.

That week, Pappy gave me a newspaper clipping Grandma kept in her things, a poem by Robert Test called, “To Remember Me…” which she left as sort of a living will. The poem ends:

“…Scatter [my] ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow. If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weaknesses and all my prejudice against my fellow man. Give my sins to the devil; give my soul to God. If, by chance, you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you. If you do all I have asked, I will live forever.”

She wrote in the margin, “This is our wish – Mom & Pap”. They weren’t shy about their mortality. They discussed it openly and without fear. They were absolutely certain what was going to happen, because their faith was solid – God sent his Son who paid their ticket into the afterlife. No question. “Besides,” Pappy once told me, “if we’re wrong, what’s the worse that can happen?”

Pappy moved into my home a year ago so we could help him with his day-to-day. For a year he’s been there for us to talk to, to share meals with, to swap books with. Sure, he’s my grandfather, but he’s been my very close buddy for 20 years, as well. When he thought about being 93 years old (which was all the time), he often expressed astonishment – and impatience, disgust and annoyance. “It’s no fun, Mike,” he’d say. He was fond of chapter 14 in the gospel of John, the part about “my Father’s many rooms” being prepared. He’d shake his head and say, “you’d think the place would be ready by now. What’s He waiting for?”

What possible reason could God have had for dragging this out? We were openly grateful to have all this “extra” time together, but what’s God up to here? Together we looked for an answer for that, but it eluded us. I might be wrong, but I think I finally figured it out. You see, I think if God had actually asked Pappy, “Red, here’s the deal. Your rooms here are ready, so we can move you in right away – or, we can hold off for just a little while and make these last few years a gift from us to your family. Whaddaya think?” Pappy was such a generous man, especially in regard to his family, I think it’s a deal he would have done.

So I’ll say it to anyone who doesn’t already know it – there actually are people like that in this world.

Pappy and I both knew that God would eventually give him that happy welcome home. So now, he’s finally feeling good again, healthy, happy and strong. He even got there in time for a Sunday round of golf, a happy hour drink and Grandma’s birthday party.

When we were little and they came over for a visit, I remember how unhappy my sister Laura and I were when it was time for them to leave for home. His departure from us now has left a large, painful hole in our home here, but we joyfully praise God because of Pappy’s faith, and because we share that faith, and because of God’s promise on which our faith hangs.

No question.

Friday March 6, 2009 – 11:46pm (EST)

Things sure have changed here on Walton’s Mountain… but some things never change, especially that creeping feeling that my to-do lists are not a voluntary plan I’ve devised for my time but rather are a sinister underworld plan concocted by demons and devils to keep me shackled to a lifestyle devoid of entertainment, peace and contentment.

In March, I erroneously spied a light at the end of the tunnel. Turns out it was an oncoming train.

Shortly after Pappy was settled into a comfortable routine, Carol and I volunteered to host Financial Peace at our church – obligating us to seventeen weeks of planning, coordinating and leadership. Now that it’s over, whew, it was one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever taken on. I must be sure to remember how that felt when brainstorming for potential businesses I may decide to launch.

Now the pressure is on for planning the Haunt. I’ve got two months to wrap it up. My to-do list had this task being finished back in January. As usual, this looks like it may turn into another last-minute, can’t-believe-it-turned-out-this-good event.

The only other responsibility to which I’ve obligated myself is our Faith Lessons on Sunday mornings. Also very fulfilling, but a little bit of a job – not because the lessons require it, but because I feel compelled to work a little extra to make it nicer and more meaningful for everyone.

My lists may not be getting smaller, but they are consistantly interesting. And they keep me on task, aware, focused and disciplined.

Friday August 15, 2008 – 10:21am (EDT)

It doesn’t seem possible that it’s almost April already. I had so many plans that should have come to fruition by now. I distincly remember last November thinking that January, maybe February at the latest would be the month where my free time finally became available to me again. Ha! No such luck.

Although I continue to make progress on my to-do lists, I always seem to remain “just a few more weeks” away from that mythical situation – a day with nothing special going on and the opportunity to just head out on an adventure or two. It’s like the shimmery mirage in the desert that keeps just out of reach even though you keep walking toward it.

So I set deadlines and make lists, because without them I would simply flop around the living room in confusion, making whimpering noises and wiping the drool from the corners of my mouth.

Pappy will be moving in next Saturday. Which means that my son has to move out of his old bedroom and into the new one by Friday night. Which means that construction on the new bedroom has to be complete by Thursday night. Which means that I have to finish painting in there tonight. Oddly enough, I could have had the room finished two months ago, but nobody gave me a concrete deadline. Or rather, they kept moving the deadline back because they weren’t ready, which was okay with me and gave me time to procrastinate by tackling other things on other lists. There are always LOTS of things on LOTS of other lists. We spent our last three-day weekend going through 800 lbs of paperwork that has accumulated over several years (no really, 800 lbs!).

I will have earned my vacation, which occurs in a week. I’m not going anywhere, I just need the rest. Unfortunately, the kids also have that week off from school, so they’re likely to want to do, go, see, call, shop, visit, play and watch something every couple of hours. They don’t have the imagination that kids used to have coming up with inventive ways to entertain themselves. Don’t get me wrong – I remember being incredible bored an awful lot as a kid, but I certainly knew that I couldn’t count on my folks to hand me something entertaining to do. It was up to me and my friends to invent something to occupy us.

I can see that I am going to have to create some firm but artificial deadlines in my life if I’m ever going to see a day where I can once again say, “I’ve got nothing to do. Let’s do something fun today.” Maybe in a week or two. Or a few weeks after that.

Wednesday March 26, 2008 – 03:42pm (EDT)