Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ups and Downs

The past week has been a full one, that's for sure. Full of funny little things coming from the kids -mainly from Kurtis and also, unfortunately, very full of some major downers that do come along with life.

I'm sure most everyone has heard by now the news coming out of my Alma Mater, Penn State University, that "Joepa," (as many referred to him) -Coach Joe Paterno, died on Sunday (January 22, 2012) of complications of lung cancer. It's been a very difficult time for the Penn State community as a whole since early November with all the bad news of "that" event circulating like a tornado some days and no need for me to mention it here. But regardless of what some people may think about Joepa, he was a great coach, mentor, family man and supporter of education -in particular, Penn State University. Although I never met him -never even ever passed him on campus while I was a student there in the early 90s -but I've admired him and his work for many, many years!

He will be missed, for sure!

And then, on Tuesday afternoon my daughter and her children (Maya and Kurtis) received some very sad news too. Her former father-in-law -the man the kids knew as "Pappy" - died of lung cancer too. Granted, we knew he had very little time left but no matter how much information you have, how much you prepare yourself and especially two small children for such news, it's still a difficult time for all concerned.

Mandy had been explaining as much as she could, as much as she felt the kids could grasp and understand about Pappy and his illness and such but still, when it came time to tell them what had happened, she was braced for an onslaught of questions -mostly from Maya. And yes, those questions did come forth too!

She started to tell them that Pappy had no longer been able to fight off the thing that had been making him sick and making him hurt any longer and so, he had died. Maya does understand to a degree about death but Kurtis -I'm not sure there about how much he really grasps. He hears things but he may be too immature right now to actually comprehend this. Mandy also tried to explain a bit of what we think will probably happen and, knowing that the plan is for Pappy to be cremated, she mentioned that too.

And after that, Maya's questions began and that's when Mandy called out to me -saying "Assistance needed in aisle two, Mom" -meaning hey, I don't know how to answer her, see if you can help me out!

So Maya came over to me and began by asking me "How do people go up to heaven? How do their bodies get there?"

So, I told her that our bodies don't go there, just our souls or our spirit -whichever you want to call it. And she seemed okay with that explanation. But then, she asked me what happens to people's bodies then when they die and I explained to her that most people are buried in the ground but some people are cremated and yes, I was hoping that she would gloss over my use of that word - "cremated" but my hopes were all for naught as her very next question, of course, was "What's cremation?"

Now, trying to figure out a way to explain that process to an 8-year-old who has a tendency to pick up on things and then obsess about them, I ended up telling her simply that right now, I felt that trying to explain cremation to her was a topic she wasn't really old enough just yet to understand exactly but when she is older, able to understand things better, I would explain this to her then.

And thankfully, she accepted that answer. But then, she caught me a bit off guard with yet another question as she asked me if people who are cremated have cream rubbed all over their bodies? Hmmm. Now how to respond to that. So I said "Well, in a manner of speaking I suppose you could say that."

And her response to that was to clap her hands together and say -very excitedly -"I knew it! I just knew they did that!" And away she went, off to her own devices and seemed content with the explanations she'd received. If she gets her mind set on something and the answers she's given don't register completely with her, she will keep on asking question after question until she is satisfied with what she'd heard in her mind so apparently -for the time being at least -she's coping fairly well then.

I mentioned as I began this post that the past week or so had also had some ups too and those times involve things with Kurtis, beginning with his questions one night last week at the supper table.

He was trying to skirt around finishing the chicken on his plate that he was just pushing around, not eating, when out of the blue, he asked me "Where do ducks come from?" I have no clue what possessed him to ask this question because there are no ducks around us and nothing about ducks had been mentioned prior to this.

So I answered him, very matter-of-factly, saying "They come from duck eggs." I figured this would suffice but unfortunately, he had other ideas as he then began to argue with me that no, they didn't. I don't know where Kurt gets his information from but it led to a strong discussion about who was right -him or Gram. Just before he asked me that question though, Maya had left the table to go back to the bathroom and as she came back to the dining room, I said to her, "Maya, Kurtis doesn't believe that ducks come from duck eggs. Will you tell him that I am right and he's wrong because they do come from duck eggs?"

Well, I wish you could have seen the look on her face when I said that to her. You could see she was really bewildered about what the heck Gram was talking about there so I repeated myself to her and then, you could see a look of understanding come across her face -that here was her chance to side with Gram in an argument with Kurtis that she could win! (And do it without getting into trouble too!) So she immediately then told him "Oh yes, Kurtis, they do come from duck eggs so you are wrong!"

And then she geared up to have a nice long session of lecturing Kurtis to show him how knowledgeable she, his big sister is and how he doesn't know anything at all. I think Kurtis sensed that was what was coming too because he then turned to her and said "I no wanna talk about duck eggs no more cause I am not interesting to them!"

I love the way he tries so hard to speak using "adult-type" words and sometimes, gets them a bit confused -like saying "interesting" instead of "interested" but it sure does say that he's understanding words and usage a lot better than we realize a lot of the time, isn't he?

Then another day last week, someone had posted a video on Facebook of Etta James -about her passing and the video was of her singing the song she was probably best known for, "At Last." I was sitting here, playing that video, watching and listening to the beautiful words and music when Kurtis came up to me asking "What's that noise?" So I corrected him by saying "Kurt, that's a lady who was a very good singer and she's singing a very beautiful song."

He backed off momentarily then came back over, standing by my left side and said, "Boy, she sounds like Mrs. Lawrence when she sings!" The Mrs. Lawrence he was referring to is a lady who belongs to our church but more than that, she is also one of the Kindergarten teachers at his school.

I had to giggle to myself at that comment and posted about it as my status then on Facebook that I was wondering if Mrs. Lawrence had any idea at all that Kurtis thought this highly of her singing! To which, one of the members of our church choir then responded by saying "Well, now they know who to go talk to about joining the choir!" I'm still waiting for the opportunity to tell Sue Lawrence this myself.

So anyway, there you have it - a few of the light and bright spots of life in our little "fast lane" here and also, the things that had come to pass within my grandkids world that will change their family, their roots and life and the event that also has greatly impacted not just my world as an alum of Penn State University but had saddened many, many people across the nation.

Rest in peace, Pappy and Joepa!


Suldog said...

So sorry to hear about the death in the family. Awfully tough to explain about cremation to a small child, but here's hoping she understands what really happens before someday someone mentions it and she says, "Oh, I know all about that! They rub cream all over you!"

Paterno was so unfairly smeared. Could he have handled the situation differently? Yeah. But I believe his explanation, that he was told and then he relayed the information to someone whom he thought could handle the situation more effectively than he.

Linda said...

The thing that I don't get about Joe Paterno is why he didn't retire long ago rather than continue to coach football as long as he did? The man was 85 years old for crying out loud, he could have retired ten years ago, rested on his laurels, and been spared the horrible drama of the last few months. Granted, I'm sure he wanted to continue on coaching football for as long as he could but I'm sure that the lung cancer didn't just pop up recently either and maybe that should have been the time to hang up his coach's whistle. Ah well, everything happens for a reason and hopefully people will remember him for the good things he did and not that one last thing that so tainted the end of his career.

Palm Springs Savant said...

sorry to hear about Pappy's passing. Never easy stuff for the family, especially little ones. Hang in there dealing with that.

Deb said...

Emotional week to be sure ! Sorry about the loss in your family. Death is such a difficult concept for both children and adults. Hope that the sun starts shining soon. Take care!

CiCi said...

I don't know how you do it, Jeni, but you seem to find great answers for for your grandkids' inquiries. I like the cream all over answer for cremation. How wonderful that the children are questioning things.

Bud said...

Hi, Jeni -

Sorry about Pappy. I never thought about how hard it would be to explain cremation to a young child. I had to chuckle a Maya's explanation. I sounds like the kind of cremation some of us might like before we die :) It's a shame that Joe's legacy was tarnished in his last year. Hopefully, he'll be remembered for all the good he did once the sports talk guys get through blabbing about him.