Friday, October 29, 2010

A Connecticut Yankee in the Virginia Sheriff's Department

Monday night marked my third class with the York Poquoson Sheriff’s Department, and ultimately one of the most engaging to date.

I had no idea what to expect, beyond the obvious, as the class was titled “Uniform Patrol 1”. It was not just about uniform patrol, though. There was much, much more.

The first speaker was Captain J. Culler, a decades long veteran of the sheriff’s department. Captain Culler has a sort of police presence about him, the type of man that causes others to sit up straight and respond with a ‘yes, sir!’. There is also a touch of cynicism to this man, an air of having seen perhaps a nasty side of our fellow humans and wearily come to terms with it all.

“People can be just plain rude,” he told us.

I really did know better, but I just couldn’t help myself. “But, you’re the guy with the gun, why would they be rude to you?”

Captain Culler was incredulous. “What, do you have unicorns painted on the walls of your room?”

No, but I did just get back from a vacation at Disney. Maybe that would explain my ‘everything is magical’ world view.

Seriously, I can’t imagine being rude to a police officer (or deputy, as the case may be). These are the people that are just doing their jobs, which by the way includes saving your ass if it comes down to it.

After Captain Culler finished, our next section involved talking with the Emergency Response Team (ERT). These are the people that get the fun toys for their job, like entry tools, body armor and some very fine weaponry. Deputy West told us a little about surveillance, rescues and recoveries, as well as what one might expect with a job like this. In addition, a display of weapons and gadgetry was set up at the front of the room so we could see for ourselves what was needed for those nasty situations such as abductions, hostage takings, suicidal subjects or barricaded gunmen.

Again, in an emergency situation, ERT and patrol definitely have our backs.

Our field trip that night consisted of going outside and learning how a flash bang is used. All I can say is that it is very, very loud and very, very bright. And maybe just a little bit scary.

On Wednesday of this coming week I will get to go on what is known as a ‘ride along’, which will be an evening of me riding in a patrol car with an assigned officer. According to Captain Culler, if a high speed pursuit should occur, I cannot be in the police car. I’m supposed to exit the vehicle and wait.

If you see me on the side of the road this week, honk and wave. And maybe you could even come back with a cup of coffee or something.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Adventures in the Sheriff's Department

I think that many of us have a certain fascination with forensic science and police procedure. If this were not the case, shows like Law & Order and CSI would never get watched. We love to see television detectives nail the bad guys in a neatly timed hour, or read about medical examiners that can crack a case wide open with their amazing techniques and intellect, or try to figure out who the perp is from a novel’s carefully doled out crime scene details. The business of crime as entertainment is big, and it is no wonder that some of us want to know more.

I recently received an email from a friend I met eighteen years ago. We used to work together in an office in Stamford, CT, and the reason we became friends was mostly based on our mutual irreverent and obscure senses of humor. In her note to me she asked, Do you remember when you wanted to be a forensic photographer? Your only issue was you didn't like looking at gross stuff. Big obstacle. Thankfully you found your true calling! Although I would have loved to see a crime scene through your eyes :)

Well, it looks like my friend is about to get her wish. Brace yourself, Yorktown. Yours truly has enrolled herself in the York Poquoson Sheriff’s office citizen’s academy. Obviously, I am much better suited at writing about crime scenes than I am as an active participant in solving them. As I write about crimes scenes, I have complete control over the gross stuff. Plus, I have the added bonus of knowing who to call to get those pesky details correct.

Last year I was stuck. One of my book characters, Ella, was faced with a dilemma early in the book and needed to call 911. Later, a dead body surfaces. Not knowing proper police procedure, I drove myself straight to the sheriff’s department. Captain Richardson, the community relations guy that has to deal with people like me, was unfailingly polite and fully answered all my questions. To his great credit, he didn’t even twitch when I asked, “So, if I buried a body out in Poquoson, do you think the neighbors would smell it?”

“Nope, not if you use lime.”

An easy answer to an easy question. Next question. “Should I wrap it in plastic?”

Captain Richardson nods. “Of course. That would help stop the smell, too.”

So far my experience with our local police has been that they are unfailingly polite and helpful.

It will be interesting to go through this class and learn all about proper procedure. Hopefully this will also mean I won't have to ask Captain Richardson a gazillion questions about crime scenes.

I have convinced my friend and neighbor, Cindy, to take this class with me. During the next ten weeks we will learn all about 911 Communications, Hiring, Training, Policies and Procedures, Criminal Investigations, Criminal Law, DWI Investigations, Family Violence, Narcotics Enforcement, Tactical Operations, Hostage Negotiations, Jail Operations and Firearms/Weapons use.

I have yet to convince Cindy that we will be the next Cagney and Lacey. Perhaps she’s right, and we’ll be lucky just to meet a few nice people and go for a fun ride in a patrol car.
Or maybe, between the two of us, we can use these new techniques combined with our amazing intellect and crack a cold case wide open.

Somehow, I don’t think any criminals are going to lose much sleep over the new crime fighting duo in Yorktown.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Remembering Natalie

The summer before my senior year in high school Madonna was on the radio, a new drivers’ license was in my purse, and I had the breath-stealing, tantalizing awareness of being on the precipice to freedom. I had plans. They might have been vague and ill-defined, but they were my plans, born of a vision I had for the woman I wanted to become. Besides, vague and ill-defined suited me. Life specifics are overwhelming and scary for a seventeen year old.

Looking back, I think of the summer of ’85 as the time when my instant of innocence vanished. Consumed as I was by my teenage social life (which was, admittedly, shaky at best) and senior year anxieties (the ‘didn’t study for the test’ nightmares were a regular occurrence, especially since I very often didn’t) it never occurred to me that my perception of reality was not exactly reality.

I think lots of kids have those kinds of feelings at that age. The future is poised to unfurl before us, yet we still cannot see the road clearly. What I did not realize, what nobody realizes in their instant of innocence, is how completely the world might shift. And once it shifts, it stays that way.

I was in between jobs that July, having just finished a stint as a waitress at the local Friendly’s restaurant and waiting to start my new cashier’s job at the grocery store. Mostly I spent my time at home, talking on the phone, swimming in the pool and being a general nuisance to my parents (from an evolutionary perspective, I was right on target for them to happily kick me out of the nest).

We had already finished dinner and cleaned up the kitchen that warm summer night when I heard the sirens. I didn’t think much of it, it was just background noise. Until the phone rang. My father answered and talked to a friend of his, and when he hung up I could tell he was upset. Standing in the kitchen, replacing the receiver on the wall phone, he turned to me.

“That was Chet,” he said slowly.

“What did he want?” my mother asked.

I knew from the look on his face something had happened. Chet had a police scanner and would sometimes call us with updates on crime in our little town. It was a small town without a lot of crime so most of the time he just called to talk. That particular night was different, though. That night something had happened.

I felt a moment of fear before my father spoke.

“He said someone’s been hurt. A young person.”

“Car accident?”


“Who?” I asked, my mind numb. Someone I knew?

Impossible. That did not happen in my world. It did not. Not.

“They’re chasing the guy who did it right now.”

There was a frozen hesitation when, looking at my parents I saw the worry in their eyes. Worry and something else, something that I have come to believe was part fear and part relief. Fear about what was happening, relief that I was home safe with them.

This is where my memory gets foggy. At some point soon after the phone rang again. The details of what had happened were relayed, and by the end of the night most kids from the Watertown High School class of 1986 knew.

Natalie Guay had been murdered.

Her killer, a jilted boyfriend, had tried to escape but was later caught by police.
The attack was brutal. It is trite to say that many peoples’ lives were torn apart that night, but that is exactly what happened.

Twenty five years ago, yet that summer has been replaying in my mind recently. This is a loss that has echoed through the decades, one that should not be forgotten.

And so we remember. Remember that girl from that small town taken too early, remember that people are not what they seem, and remember that some choices are not ours to make.

How could this have happened?

In school, Natalie was a quiet girl with a shy smile. I have no idea what kind of student she was, but I have sense of what kind of person she was. Natalie was nice. I don’t mean ‘nice’ in that way that sometimes says ‘boring’, I mean ‘nice’ in the kind of way that she was sweet, always said hello, would never deliberately hurt anyone, and had an ability to deal with her school tormentors with grace (one particular boy comes to mind, an equal opportunity bully that the producers of after school specials like to document. I wish I had had the courage to stand up to him, but unfortunately, I didn’t. Nobody did.).

I cannot remember if I spoke to Natalie’s family the night of her wake. If I didn’t, it was because I was uncertain of what to say. The unimaginable had happened, and I felt like there was nothing I could do to ever make it better.

It occurs to me now, all these years later, that the night we graduated high school must have been hell for the Guay family. I can only suppose it was an evening of what-ifs and might-have-beens.

But I can say this: the class of 1986 did not forget. Natalie, we were angry that you had to die, especially the way it happened. You should be with us in the world today, raising a family of your own and pursuing your dreams. But know that what we are left with, the memory of your quiet smile, has stayed with us.

Natalie was among the first of our class to be lost, but certainly not the last. In remembering that summer, her life and her death are spread in front of us as a part of the tableau of 1985. For most of us from that era of Watertown’s history, Natalie is a part of who we became. She reminded us, in life and in death, of the importance of kindness. She showed us to be better than the bullies. She taught us to be careful who we trust. And today she is a poignant reminder of our deep connections to those around us and the profound effect we have upon each other’s lives.

Natalie, you are remembered.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

North of Here

This story is dedicated to the friends and family that make up the history of all I am. We are all connected. And yes, I do believe that there is magic north of here.

There is a magical place, just north of here. In the winter snow crystals leave an imprint on the trees and grasses before evaporating into blueness. The air is luminous and diffused with a golden clarity. In the midst of chaos there is a quiet stillness here, a sense that everything is in balance, just right.

Alice did not live in this place anymore. Several years ago she and her family relocated for a better job. It was a move they did not regret, yet there were times, once in a while, that she felt weary. In the mornings, after her husband left for work and the children were at school, it took her a long time to move from the kitchen table where she sat drinking her coffee. In the late afternoon she sat in the dining room to watch the play of light as it danced through her front window. Throughout the day she was tired, constantly tired. This was not the sort of tired that would go away after a long night’s sleep, this was deeper. She was tired in her skin and often dreamed of floating away.

“Come home,” her aunts begged her, phoning every week to catch up on the happenings in the family. Alice was careful to sound cheerful, to outline the achievements of the children and the success of her husband at work. “It is a wonderful neighborhood”, she told them, “we have everything we could possibly want here.”

“Come home,” they said again. “You need to rest. Bring the children, we’ll look after them. Let someone care for you.”

It was difficult for Alice to hear anyone tell her that she needed rest. If anything, she felt as if she could never rest again. Motion was comfortable for her, preferable to the accusing sound of silence. Making her life a conveyor belt of backpacks, nutritious meals and housework was comfortable, sitting in silent introspection was not. And yet she felt her balance had slipped, leaving her to sit immobile and silent.

There is always a starting point for these things. How does a confident, capable woman lose her way so easily? Like so many, her life became eclipsed by larger circumstances. It started with the illness of her mother. An unexpected moment, a phone call that said, “Honey, can you come help me? I think I’m getting a little sick again,” would change things forever. Alice’s mother Jenny had never told anyone exactly how sick she had been, but after that night her mother never went home again.

She tried to talk to her father about it. “Dad, I have to tell you something. I spoke with the doctors today, and…” Alice tried to take a deep breath. She did not want to do this, she did not want to be the one responsible for this, yet here she was with no real choice in the matter at all. “Dad, they don’t think mom is going to make it.” Alice started to cry, unable to hold herself back.

After a moment she looked up at her father. He was still, standing in front of her, looking at her with uncertainty. “Dad, do you know what I’m trying to say? They told me that mom is going to die.”

She tried to give her father a hug, whether for her reassurance or his she didn’t know, and she felt him absently patting her on the back. “Are you okay?” she asked him, pulling away to look at him.

“Oh yeah, sure, I’m okay honey. Are you ready to go now?”

Alice stared at him for a moment, telling herself he was fine. Everybody processes things differently, and she thought that maybe her father needed some time alone to think about everything.

Six weeks later Jenny quietly left this world and crossed into the next.

Alice expected her father, James, to be devastated. She thought he simply would not be able to function without his wife. Instead, her father simply allowed himself to be absorbed into his own illness.

James had been diagnosed by a neurologist Alice had chosen for him. She found it difficult to believe that anything was wrong with her father, after all, he had always been so big, larger than life, and so capable. He was the kind of man who existed in a room long after he left.

The day of the appointment was cold. The previous week there had been a terrible ice storm and the counties were just starting to crawl out from under the frozen mess. As the doctor sat at his desk, continually pushing his round black glasses up the bridge of his nose and fiddling with the papers on his desk, Alice spent a few moments gazing out the window behind him, watching the play of light on ice.

“Lewy Body Dementia.”

The weight of the words produced a moment’s pause, followed by Alice asking, “What? What is that?”

“A degenerative dementia, characterized by increasing hallucinations, tremors and bodily disturbances. It won’t get better from here,” the doctor answered.

“Typical, arrogant doctor,” Alice told her husband later that day. “He thinks he can sit behind his desk and make these pronouncements. He didn’t even run any tests or take blood or anything!”

In the months after the diagnosis there was no noticeable change in James. He was still full of life and laughter. Once in a while he did seem a bit confused, but Alice wondered if she was projecting her own fears onto the situation, a situation she felt entirely unequipped to handle.

“He’ll get better,” Alice thought. “He has to…”

There is no getting better from Lewy Body Dementia, as Alice soon discovered. There is the task of dispensing medications, completing household chores, preparing meals and locking doors. There is the task of childproofing the house for an adult. There is weariness and tears, not in that order.

After reading all the information she could find about this disease Alice was scared. But the only thing for her to do continue with the job of caregiving. Really, what choice did she have?

When her husband received an offer for a better job in another state they could not refuse. It is more expensive to live north of here and the winters are very long. Being practical, they moved her father, James, with them. James would live in the same house and Alice would take care of him.

Alice proceeded to pack two houses, hers and her father’s. They purchased a new house with an in-law apartment, they enrolled the children in their new school, and they began their new life in a different state, away from the family and friends they had known for a lifetime. James moved with them and their lives moved forward.

Shortly after, during a phone conversation her aunt Lily told her, “They don’t call you the ‘sandwich generation’ for nothing, you know.”

“I’ve never heard that,” Alice answered, “What does it mean?”

“Well, you’re sandwiched in between everyone. You’ve got children to take care of, the younger generation, that is. And you’ve got a parent to take care of, the older generation. You’re in the middle, you’re the meat of the sandwich. You’re the one doing all the work, aren’t you?”

“Well, no, actually my husband Adam is amazing. I don’t know how I could have done this without him.” It was true. Her husband had been extremely supportive, helping her to dress, bathe and move her father when necessary. The doctor had been correct on that cold day, it was not getting any better.

“We’ve had to put him in diapers”, Alice quietly told aunt Lily. “It’s just- there were so many times…”

“I know, I know. You are going to do what you have to do, honey, and none of us can tell you anything different or help you through this. You’ll be fine, we support you all the way.”

“I just didn’t think it would be so quick,” Alice whispered.

“Listen, kiddo, this is just the beginning. Have you started looking at nursing homes yet?” aunt Lily asked.

“No, I don’t think it’s time. I mean, he still recognizes me, and while he still recognizes me and the kids I don’t want to put him somewhere that will make him worse. I’ve got a routine with him, I can handle him for now. I just cannot bear the thought of putting my father away.”

Aunt Lily’s voice was gentle. “I know you can’t, honey. But there will come a time when you have to do what you have to do. Like I said, we support you. You’re the one doing all the work. Do what you have to do, and if that means putting your father in a home that is okay with all of us.”

But it was not okay with Alice. The days rolled by and still she could not bear the thought of placing her father in a home.

James knew that his memories were dripping away and that the world that appeared to him was not the world that others saw. On a mild Friday, the week before Thanksgiving, he took his daughters hand. “I can’t hold on much longer,” he told her. “It’s just getting so hard… I can’t do it anymore. I love you.”

It would be four long months before James actually died. In many ways, however, he was gone to his family. He no longer recognized anyone and usually did not make sense when he did speak. He could not feed himself and sometimes could not walk. Alice, with her husband and a home health aid, tended to her father’s needs.

When Alice looked at her father she could hear her heart shatter. When her children asked why grandpa was crazy all she could remember was a young man swinging his toddler daughter high in the air. “He can’t help it,” she told the children quietly. The youngest, Jeremy, solemnly nodded his head, telling her, “We know. He’s got the forgetting disease.”

Still, she could not bear to place him in a nursing home. Doctors, nurses and hospice helped as Alice stood by, unable to alter the outcome in any way.

In the final ten days of his life James did not eat or drink. At night, Alice slept on the couch next to his bed, not wanting her father to die alone. She held his hand as he took his final breath.

Nobody told her how guilty she would feel. Everyone said that what she and her husband did was a wonderful thing, and her aunts and uncles were so proud of them. But there was an overriding sense of guilt, a feeling that she had failed.

“I’m so sorry,” she told her uncle, calling him to inform him of James’ death. “I tried, you know, I really did…”

“What are you talking about? We knew this was going to happen. There’s nothing you could have done about any of this,” he told her.

Yet there was a strange belief within her, a sense that all her caring and love should have been able to hold back this disease, that her will alone should have been enough to save her father. She felt as if her love had somehow failed her family.

“Come home,” her aunts urged her, beckoning with the warmth and love a family can provide. “We’re all older, now, it’s the way it is. Come visit, you’ll feel better.”

New spring leaves were beginning to appear when Alice, Adam and the kids traveled north to visit the aunts. She took two boxes with her, boxes containing ashes and small bits of bone. Two lives, so largely lived, reduced to small rectangular boxes.

Thoughts raced through her mind while they traveled. “It will be nice to see everyone. I can’t sleep, why can’t I sleep? Did I leave the heat turned up? I hope they don’t search my luggage.”

There was no evidence of spring in the north. The ground was frozen, the trees bare. Through the cold, however, Alice could feel the approaching season. There was a teasing scent in the air, a hint of the warmth to come mingled with the smell of fresh earth. Soon, she thought, everything will become unfrozen.

The aunts welcomed Alice and her family with love and food. There were hugs and tears, laughter and stories that lasted well into the late night. Later, the aunts told Alice “You should go to the cemetery. Then you can see the headstone that has been engraved for your parents. Then you will know the spot they are in, you’ll have the picture in your mind. It’s important to know these things.”

Alice agreed. She should visit the cemetery to see her parents’ headstone before she gave the ashes over for burial.

It was a bright, sunny day when Alice went to the cemetery. She braced herself before getting out of the car, uncertain what she would feel once she saw her parents’ names engraved in stone. She walked slowly through the rows of markers, counting. “It’s supposed to be row seven...” she thought, then abruptly stopped.

Slowly, she looked up and down all the rows she could see. The names, all those names. She read them in silence. DeGuerra, LaPorta, Kropp, DeRosa, LePine, Moffa, Guay, Levitt… these were names she knew. For as far as she could see, there were names that were familiar to her. These were families that she had grown up with, people whose stories she knew. And there, right in the midst of those names, were her parents. In an instant she saw her history as part of something else, something bigger. Her history was, in fact, rooted in a place and time. But more importantly, her history was rooted with those she loved.

Shaking her head slightly, it occurred to her that the names of the dead were also the names of the living.

Turning, she walked back to her car, climbed in, and drove back to the aunt’s house. The sun continued to shine as she sat at the kitchen table with her hands wrapped around a mug of hot tea. Aunt Lila sat next to her, waiting.

“I’m afraid,” Alice told her.

Her aunt nodded. “I know.”

“I did the best I could, yet it wasn’t enough. How can it not have been enough? What will I do if this happens to someone else in our family? What if it happens to Adam? What if I let someone else die?”

“You had to let your father die, honey. It was the only way he could be healed.”

There was silence as Alice processed that thought. Her aunt asked “How was the cemetery?”

Alice gave an apologetic half laugh, looked at her and said, “Powerful. It was powerful seeing all those names, all those families. All those people I have a connection to…” her voice trailed off as she gazed inward, seeing rows of headstones.

Aunt Lila nodded. “It’s important to see that and know your connections. Once you know where you come from you can go anywhere.”

It was true, Alice realized. Even though she would soon leave, she would always carry a connection to home within her. For the first time in over a year, Alice felt just a little bit lighter.

Traveling south, Alice and her family took a non-stop flight home. She had time to think on the plane while Adam and the kids slept, time to think about who she was and where she came from. For the first time since she had moved she thought about all the places magic and love exist. She thought about home and she thought about what she knew to be true, that we are made of all the things we came from, that we are part of the places we have been, and that sometimes we can choose to hold all of that magic within ourselves.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dreaming The Dead

Thanks to all my friends that offered up words of remembrance regarding their own dreams of the dead. Happy reading!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Meditation: Where to Begin

A friend asked me about meditation last night. She said that it was recommended to her that she try it, but she wasn't certain how to meditate or even where to start finding the information. "Don't worry," I told her, "I'll write out a few things for you and you can try what you think would be best."

I did not write an extremely detailed list of meditation how-to's, since that would result in a book. What I did write, however, was a simple list of various types of meditation techniques that people have used throughout the ages. Hopefully this helps. Feel free to email me your questions.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Depression and Medication: A New Way of Life

Recent news suggests that medical researchers have found anti depressants have little to no efficacy in treating mild to moderate depression. This subject fascinated me, so, as usual, I wrote an article about it!

I know there may be people out there who will argue the researchers findings, but remember, it's all about the bottom line. Especially for the pharmaceutical industry.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Yorktown, Virginia

As some of you may have guessed, I truly enjoy living here in Yorktown. So much, in fact, that I just wrote an article about it for Suite 101. Here's the link, enjoy!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Removing Ghosts From a Home

It happens sometimes... you think that your house might actually be haunted. What to do next?

This article will give you a few tips to start the removal process.

Remember, don't do anything dangerous or hurtful. When in doubt, contact an expert.

Good luck!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dune Road Book Review

Dune Road by Jane Green
Fiction, 2009
ISBN 978-0-670-02086-7

SPOILER ALERT: While I do not give away the specifics of the end of the book, I do address the manner in which this book ends. I will place the “spoiler alert” phrase prior to the actual spoiler incident, so you may read as far as you like.

So far, I have enjoyed all of Jane Green’s books tremendously. The author is originally from London but now lives in Fairfield County, Connecticut, both places I am familiar with and love.

Dune Road is set in the fictional town of Highfield, recognizable to anyone who has lived on the Gold Coast as an amalgamation of all that is Westport/Fairfield/Darien. The main character, Kit Hargrove, has recently undergone a divorce from an extremely suitable yet never present Wall Street worker. Kit is finding her way through life as her own person instead of as a wife or mother, and her friends and new neighbors are there for support and comradeship in this new phase of life. Kit’s story is interwoven with that of her friends, including the neighbor, Edie, who provides nurturing and grandmotherly advice; friend Charlie, whose life is being torn apart by the recent financial crisis; writer Robert McClore with a mysterious past and friend Tracy with an even more mysterious past. Also thrown into the mix are Kit’s children, mother and a mysterious stranger from her mother’s past.

Jane Green’s strength is in creating characters that we like and believe, characters that we would like to someday meet for a cup of coffee. She doesn’t shy away from presenting the ridiculousness of certain lifestyles, the ‘mommy competitions’ and inherent snobbery of a particular social strata. She also does not spend too much time dwelling on these particular snobberies, they simply become a part of the story as her characters try to avoid these pitfalls.

SPOILER ALERT – Okay, here’s the truth. The thing I loved most about this novel was the way it ended. Everything tied neatly at the conclusion with a very happy ending. The good guys earned their rewards and the bad guys were all chased away. Mysteries were solved, friendships remained intact. Far from sappy, as I read this I thought it was the right way to end. We all need a break from the world of terrorism, torture, killing and mayhem, and Dune Road is the perfect book for an escape.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Grief Interrupted

I was the luckiest little girl in the world. From a very early age, my parents told me the story of how they came to get me. They said that they wanted a little girl very badly, so they went to the baby store, walked down aisles and aisles of babies until they found the perfect one: me. It was a wonderful story to tell a child who was adopted how very much she was loved and wanted. I grew up in a family with a mother and father who gave everything they could, and then some.

But what of the birth parents, the people who gave me away? I met my birth parents, Susan and Pat, when I was twenty years old and found two people who were loving, caring and accepting of a young girl seeking the answers to all life’s questions. Susan was young when she gave birth to me, and realized that I might have a different and possibly better life with another set of parents. It seems to me the ultimate in parental love, the giving away of your child so they may have a finer existence.

My mother and father, the people who raised me, have both passed away. My mother died in February of 2006 and my father died in April of 2009. My birth parents are much younger than the parents that raised me. I had expected to have plenty of time with Sue and Pat, and had even looked forward to the possibility of them moving south for retirement.

This is what I did not know: lung cancer can be asymptomatic. By the time Pat discovered he had lung cancer it had progressed to his bones and various parts of his body. It was around Thanksgiving when the doctors told him he had cancer and it was already in stage IV. Pat Green died Christmas eve, December 24, 2009.

I went to Connecticut to visit Pat in December to say goodbye and see Susan. As he sat on his couch, racked with a pain so brutal he could hardly breathe, he turned to me and said, “You know, I’m a pretty lucky guy. I’ve got all this, a house, a family, people who care. There’s lots of people out there that have it much worse than me.”
In the midst of suffering, Pat saw optimism. He was that kind of guy. He was perhaps the kindest person I have ever known and had an ability to make everyone feel special. I loved him, and I know he loved me.

My husband, son and I went to Pat’s funeral in Connecticut this week. Worried about my six year old son, I asked him how he was feeling on the day of the wake. He looked out the window at the snow and said, “It’s good, bad and sad. I got to go sledding, but Poppa Pat is dead.”

Good, bad and sad. My son got it exactly right. In the midst of our grief we are interrupted by life.

Goodbye, Poppa Pat.