Sunday, October 19, 2014

Brace Yourself

I've started this post a thousand times in my head, there's no happy or easy way to do this.

Our dear friend Pop has moved far away.

He has made a video for you, scroll to end of post to watch.

The details don't really matter, do they? Know that Pop is ok and the decision was his. At 105 and completely lucid, it's amazing to think that he is still making sacrifices for the people he loves. Sure he'd rather stay in his beautiful Florida Keys, but the reality isn't romantic. Health care down here is lacking. People are spread out, and many people work 2-3 jobs so finding help isn't always easy. Although he does have family down here, he has even more numbers of immediate and extended family to the area he has gone. And much better health care. He will be embraced wholly in this next chapter of his.

I haven't had much time to adjust to this, it was very sudden. Surrounded by "my people" and the bliss of farm animals in upstate New York, we got the news. I don't want to be selfish, this is about Pop, but he was a huge part of both of us happy vegans lives for the past 10 years. I saw that man practically every day for 10 years, sometimes several times a day. Everyone loved him, and loved hearing stories about him. Remember the post about how I met him? Hil-freaking-arious!

It took a lot of planning in a very short time for all the preparations to be made. We were asked to drive him to the airport in the predawn hours on departure day. We were very honored. On the last night Pop was in his house, I drove by, parked outside and looked at his house under the star splashed sky. Pop's sky. I saw the ocean shimmering, the water was so calm. Pop's bed was as close as it possibly could be to the his giant bedroom window, which looks out over a giant panorama of ocean. I knew he was in there safely tucked in bed under that sky, next to the ocean. The last time, for the last night. I sat there for a while, feeling numb and overwhelmed.

The next morning I walked down to his house alone in the pitch dark with a flashlight to guide me. The sky was still completely covered with stars. It was so beautiful. I walked up, knocked and heard his familiar "come onnnnnnnnn in!" for the last time.

We went to the airport, they let us be with him up to the moment he had to be taken on the tarmac. In one pocket a vegan vanilla blueberry muffin was tucked safely inside, in the other pocket, a boarding pass.

Famous smile for everyone at the airport!
We watched as he was helped onto the plane until we could no longer see him. Then we left, heading for the beach in Key West to wait for his plane to take off. As we waited, the sun rose. How is it possible for the sun to rise every single time there has been such grief in my life I have no idea, but it's true, the sun has always risen. Even on that very sad morning.

The sun did rise.
At the beach, we heard the engines and knew it was the one. First plane out. It went right over our heads, precious cargo and all. We sat and watched until it was out of sight, and then drove home. We passed his house. He wasn't there.

Precious cargo within.
On the day before he left, we had a talk. In that talk he gave me his recipe box. It's sitting on one of my counters.  There's little notes written on some of the recipes, mostly from his departed beloved wife… notes like "George likes this with chocolate chips!" really got me smiling. Chocolate. Pop loves chocolate. At different times, Pop gifted me with a vegan version of his famous shoo fly pie, as well as a vegan version of his tomato soup cake. Can you imagine? He was over 100 at the time. Pop and I had very different thoughts on many topics including sports, religion and politics. Despite this, he accepted me for who I am and loved me anyway. In a society where skin deep beauty and mediocrity is the order of the day, where chaos and violence rules freely, where people who disagree can't allow each other to disagree…. Pop accepted me for the very flawed person that I am, and loved me. He's from the greatest generation. Could there be any better, or more humbling, compliment?

I could write forever about Pop, our experiences together, our talks, just everything. Pop was my touchstone for many things, but especially when it comes to balance. He often counseled me on finding balance in my life, and sometimes was pensive when it came to both of us happy vegans… Pop is nobody's fool, and he realized how hard we work, and how much both of us happy vegans take on. That would give him pause for concern, the subject that we weren't having enough fun. That seems so trivial, those words, what I'm trying to say.  Everything I write seems to fall far short of what I feel, what I want to convey to you.

While I think the human experience is at the same time very simple and very complicated, I also feel it is very cruel. Anyone can realize this is the right thing, as well as being a bold and brave decision by Pop to empower himself. But spare me the platitudes, for now I just need to sit with my own sadness.

I'm not the only one sitting with sadness today, this I know. I'm also aware I'm not the only one who is wishing away platitudes either.

I am a better person for having him in my life such as it was. I will miss him terribly.


Pop, you rascal. xo forever.