“If I don’t see you in the spring, I’ll see you in the mattress.”
That was one of my Uncle Jimmy’s one-liners.
One of the many groan-worthy, yet funny, expressions that my Dad and his brothers are notorious for.
My dad is also famous for telling us that between he and his brothers, they know everything. Anytime I had them all together and stumped them, they didn’t miss a beat.
“That’s the one our sister knows.”
As we get ready to lay my Uncle Jimmy to rest – as I watch my dad bury his second sibling in less than six months – I find myself squeezing even harder to the present. It’s almost as though I’m trying to steal moments with my parents and other aunts and uncles – moments that are already mine.
But I’m trying to lock these memories in a box - to hang them onto the walls of my mind so that I can visit them whenever I want.
I’ve written before that with the privilege of aging comes the burden of loss. Since my I found out that my Uncle Jimmy was sick, I’ve been battling that sinking feeling that comes in late August, as summer is winding down and you realize that all of the moments and trips and picnics you had looked forward to are already past.
You wonder where the time went. You wonder how many of those sacred moments you spent mindlessly flipping through Facebook on your smart phone, or texting with people and neglecting the people actually in the moment with you.
As hard as it is to lose someone we love, death stops us in our tracks and forces us to reconcile with our present. It forces us to face our own mortality and to remember that this life, however hard it can feel sometimes, is finite. To remind us that we don’t have forever. That someday isn’t actually a day of the week, but the day we actually do something.
Someday is today.
The day we take that trip to Hawaii.
The day we pull that screen play out of our desk drawer and share it with someone.
The day we call up that long lost friend that we’ve been meaning to call for the past two years.
So today when I get to Pennsylvania – I will keep my phone in my bag. I will absorb every last bit of my dad’s giggle and be in the moment when he plays his guitar. I’ll listen to the stories that my Uncle Jerry and Aunt Louise will tell about my grandparents. I’ll listen to my mom think out loud and I’ll pay attention to what she is saying.
I’ll collect as many memories and moments as I can.
And hey, if I don’t see you in the spring, I’ll see you in the mattress.