Saturday, September 22, 2007

Day's End

It's been a long, long day today. A VERY long day! A day filled with things I really wish hadn't been a part of my life, but they are, they were, and much of what I'm about to write about didn't make today one of the better, nicer, days I've experienced. But, sad to say, they happen and they make life what it is - sometimes nice, good, cherry and sometimes, just plain sad -sorry to say.

This afternoon I finally got a chance to watch MY team - Penn State -play. Yes, the game today was televised in our area - a big game for them too against Michigan. And I'm really sorry to report in -in case you haven't already seen the scores - that my Nittany Lions got handed a defeat today. It's like we are totally jinxed every year anymore when we play Michigan. I was really hoping that with the three wins going into today that the team would have a full head of steam and go great guns, really make old Joepa -and me - very happy with a nice, big, fat old win. But it just wasn't in the cards again this year.

While trying to watch the game, I decided to try to get something else started too - something I could easily do while paying attention to my Lions try to roar. I had this really snazzy yarn - sort of a plum shade with pink metallic like speckles in it - an eyelash (or fuzzy, furry yarn in other words) that I had started making a scarf with it a few weeks ago and over half way through the project, I had to lay my work down to finish fixing supper and much to my chagrin, when I returned to my knitting about two hours later, I discovered that a certain little busybody here had removed my needles from my work. Now, trying to pick up lost stitches with this particular type of yarn is virtually impossible, so I had placed the yarn and the remains of the scarf project up until I had time to unwind the knitted stuff and start all over again. Seemed like a good thing to do today as it would keep my hands busy, do something productive, while watching the game. I even got restarted too on my scarf project. I had about ten rows completed and had to put it down for a minute to tend to the baby and don't you just know, when I came back from doing that, the little busybody had struck again and pulled the needles out of my work. Talk about adding insult to injury, this kid really knows how to do that to me. I did manage to get that small amount of work ripped out, re-started for the third time and now, as I type this, I have my work placed in a safe place - high above my computer desk, well out of reach of the sticky fingers of a mischievous little almost four-year-old!

But those two events - the game, the knitting - depressing, upsetting as they were - had no comparison to what Mandy and I had to do earlier today.

We had a service to go to at our church - the funeral for my next-door-neighbor's father who died this past Monday night.

My older daughter and her fiance had come up last night to go to the viewing as his daughter, my neighbor, is one of my daughter's closest friends. Carrie had called me as they were on their way home, telling me the funeral home was so packed with people coming to pay their respects that they had to stand in line for close to an hour and a half before they even were able to get inside the door. Hearing that didn't surprise me in the least though because he was the kind of guy that I don't think he ever met anyone who didn't then almost immediately come to regard him as a friend. (I couldn't get up to the viewing last night because Mandy had to work and the son-in-law had several projects he was working on too so I had to skip that to stay home with the two little ones.)

I was really thinking this morning after we got to the church, had gone through the last viewing there, spoke to his children and widow, that I had a good handle on my emotions today. I really felt strong about this that I wasn't going to dissolve into buckets of tears.

Well, I may have thought that for a while, but I was wrong.

The first thing that really "got" me was when a group of ten men, all members of our volunteer fire company here, walked in together and sat in the front pews on the right side of the church. You see, they had all come not just to pay their respects, but also to serve as pall bearers for the man who had served many, many years in our fire company and was the head of the company at the time of his death. They even brought one of the fire trucks to the church and when the time came to go to the cemetery, eight of the ten firemen stood at the back of the truck in position as the truck led the hearse to the gravesite. Let me tell you this, I've never before been to a funeral where the procession was led to the cemetery by a firetruck, with the lights flashing, but it is quite a moving thing to see that kind of respect paid to this man.

The pastor's sermon too was exceptional. His comments about the type of man Erling had been were so on target as he mentioned Zippy's devotion to his wife, children and especially to his grandchildren; his humor - quiet, laid back, ever present; his rock solid presence in the church itself -if anything needed to be done, Zippy was generally there to give a helping hand. And, of course, as I mentioned above, the work he'd always done for probably over 50 years -since he was just a teenager - with the fire company and his dedication to it along with just being a hard worker all his life, and a darned great neighbor but most of all, just a really good friend.

Now I'd known Zippy since I was probably about seven or eight years old -from church. I knew his parents too, quite well, over the years as well. He and his wife Elsa had made a special point frequently over the past 15 years or so to thank me many times for my having pressured their daughter into taking a really big step in her life - to go to college. She's an exceptionally smart young lady and when she first moved in next door to me, I was really upset seeing her struggle trying to keep afloat with two small children, in the process of getting a divorce and wasting her talents in a really dead-end job cooking at the local truckstop. Yes, I did pressure her - every time she came over to use my phone that she really should consider going to college and for every argument she gave me why she couldn't do this, I was able to counter her notions and prove to her that she could and she should go to college - get that degree. And, she did that. And, at the end of those days, I'm really glad I did that to her - pushed her, prodded her, gave her information that she would have blown off had it come from her parents but she was brought up to be respectful of people older than her so when I would lecture her about doing this, she came to realize that what I was telling her was true -and right. Today, she's a excellent teacher - special ed - in our local school district after having graduated from Penn State as an honor student I think every semester she put in there. Something her parents knew she could do but couldn't convince her of that and since I had a shot, I took aim at her and managed to make the shot count you could say I guess. Today, her two older children are now both enrolled at Penn State - her alma mater too!

But the thing I'll always best remember Zip for is the night things went really awry in my life when I was at probably the lowest of low points ever. My Mom had died in October of 1979. My ex-husband and I had separated two months before Mom's death and he was giving me a lot of hassles that fall and into the winter months and I was, to say the least, not handling things very well at all. Add some alcohol into that mix plus some anti-depressants and one Sunday night, my older daughter was in the midst of what, thankfully, was an unsuccessful attempt to put an end to things. She called the family next door, who called the EMT's and Zip was one of those who arrived, with an ambulance, trying to take me to the hospital. No, I hadn't taken enough pills to really need to go have my stomach pumped or anything and because I was able to talk, to accept or refuse the ambulance ride (which I politely turned down), they couldn't force me to go to the hospital then. But I'll always remember as the EMTs left my house that night, Zippy was the last to go out the door but not before he turned to me, put an arm around my shoulders and told me then and there if ever I needed someone to talk to, he'd be there to listen. I heard him then and I'll always remember that he said that to me and know, he meant it too. (I did end up in the hospital the next day when my aunt and uncle came down after the neighbor had my daughter give her their phone number and they called and told them what was going on. My uncle phone my doctor who, so I was told, said the best thing they could do was tell me he was ordering me to go to the hospital. So I spent a week under lock and key in the mental health unit but seeing others there pretty much shook me to the core and made me realize I needed to get my act together!)

And Miss Maya today -well, she wasn't exactly being the little angel she can look like as she merrily went about misbehaving right and left - from finding a pair of scissors and using them on some pages from her coloring book to make a mess all over the living room floor, to having a tantrum and pushing her little brother over on his face in the playpen, to sprinkling the powdered flavored creamer stuff I love all over the kitchen floor, to trying to drag out as many books of hers from the bookcase and throwing them on the floor. Suffice it to say, I had several "why me" moments with her this afternoon and evening.

But then tonight as she and her dad and I sat eating supper, suddenly she began to sing some little songs we'd never heard before and we figure she must have learned them at the school she's going to now. Considering two years ago at this time, she had no vocabulary at all - it wasn't until Feburary of 2006 that she finally said her first word - "Two" in response to our questions of "How old are you?" and now, thanks to all the work of her therapists, she has a fairly large vocabulary. In truth, she's turning into what my grandfather often called me when I was that age - a chatterbox! (Gee, imagine that, huh?) He said it in Swedish - which I can't spell the word but it sounded like this - "Snatherbutta" - and you know what, at the end of the day now, just hearing her voice, as she rattles on and on, annoying as it can be sometimes when she launches into a boatload of echolia, it is also oh so gratifying to just hear her finally able to speak.

And the loss of Penn State to Michigan - as disheartening too as that was today - well, regardless - win, lose or draw - they're still the best team in my book and besides, there's always next year isn't there?

But as to Zippy - as we left the church today to go to the cemetery, I was walking alongside a fellow church member - a lady who'd graduated from high school with Zippy 50 years ago this past May and she remarked to me about this being a very sad day. Yes, I'd agreed with her, indeed it was. We went on to talk briefly on pastor's eulogy and what a wonderful job he'd done, how well he'd shown who Zip had been. And we both agreed that the thing about Zip wasn't that he talked a lot, cause he really didn't do that. He was a friendly man who would talk to you but he wasn't a "pusher" in that respect. He was solid, respectable, caring but most of all, the one word we both felt that described him best, he was just "There." Always there!

So it is with my beloved Nittany Lions, my not-so-angelic granddaughter and with my good friend, Zippy - how glad I am though that at the end of the day, each in their own place in my life, are or have been -There!

This post -such as it is - my own ramblings about a good man, a good friend - is dedicated to Erling Gilbert "Zippy" Young, 1939-2007.


dr sardonicus said...

Zippy indeed was a good man. So is Joe Paterno. Your subjects in this post share more of a connection than you may have realized.

Linda said...

As strange as this sounds, I often wish that we could have our funerals before our death. So many times I read of the wonderful tributes that are made to people during the course of their funerals and I wonder whether the person in question ever knew how many people they've touched, how many lives they've changed, how much of an impact they've made on people while they were still alive.

I don't know what happens when you die, I guess that no one does, but I sure hope that one gets the chance to hang around on this earthly plane long enough to attend one's funeral so that they can see how their life affected others.

Your friend Zippy sounds like he was a wonderful man and no doubt he has assured his place in heaven.

Sunshine said...

Everyone should be lucky enough to have a "Zippy" in their lives. And there's not much more I could say than that.

As for football, as a Notre Dame fan, we are having, now officially, our worst season in history.
We have season tickets and I go to a few games, hubby goes to all of them. But we take our two boys to one of the first home games and I always get a little nervous, depending on the opponent, about the behavior (bad language, etc). After last year, when we took the boys to the Penn State game, I was VERY impressed with the fans, they (you) get high marks for being polite, cordial, and classy fans. Other teams (Michigan, USC) are at the bottom of the list for lacking in proper behavior. I mean, is it really necessary to scream F-bombs in the ears of two little boys?
I get a lot of knitting done when I watch football too! Yesterday I was working on Christmas stockings!

Theresa said...

It is always a great testament to how a person lived their lives in how others see them. Zippy sounds like an amazing person-I am sorry for your loss.

Maybe little busybody needs her own yarn so she can be just like grandma- remember immatation is the best form of flattery! You knew I would take her side!

Paula said...

So hard to lose someone who is so good. Just doesn't seem right. Sorry for the loss of your good friend.

I'm smiling over the knitting fiasco. I can just see that adorable little girl sneaking in while Grandma's not looking to do a little knitting of her own...

Debo Blue said...

I'm like you Jeni, I try not to break down into tears around the family during funerals, but sometimes it's not always possible. Besides, I cry at commercials, greeting cards, and beautiful buffet lines:-)

Sorry about your losses-the yarn, the football game and your family's friend.

Why don't you send your post to the editor who you were working with to see whether he will print it?

Vic Grace said...

So important that we let those people we appreciate know it before it is too late. I must make more of an effort to do so.

david mcmahon said...

Hi Jeni,

Vic is so right. This was a terrific message from your post.

I make this effort every day, just to soak up all the time and make use of every minute with everyone who is special to me.

Hope you're fully recovered from the bug of last week.

Keep smiling


magnetbabe said...

So sorry you lost such a wonderful and influential person in your life.

Sorry about Penn State, too. I am very close to abandoning my alma mater (Minnesota- the Gophers are stinking it up this year) in favor of my current grad school- South Florida. First time ever ranked in the standings and they're 18!

Stine said...

Yes - that's what I always feel at funerals - that I'm part of celebrating a life. Mourning a deat too, but to me, it's always been important to celebrate the life that was, and to remember. Whatever our creed, we will live on in the memories of those that are left behind.
So sorry for your loss of a good friend.
My husband's name is Erling, too. As Norwegian as it gets...