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Dear Gram,

It’s been eleven years now, and I still miss you.  I think of you often, especially while I’m holding Courtney in my lap, reading stories like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and But No Elephants.  When she follows along with the words to Geraldine’s Blanket, her long, blonde hair in pigtails, holding her blankie, I’m bombarded with images of us.  I hold her the way that you held me, encourage her the way that you encouraged me, and love her the way that you loved me.

Every day, we listen to great songs by The Beatles, Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, and The Eagles, and I introduce her to newer bands, like 10 Years, Godsmack, Avenged Sevenfold, Art of Dying, and Five Finger Death Punch.  I remember how you loved Humperdink, but how you put up with some of my bands like Guns N’ Roses, Damn Yankees, and later, Nirvana, just so you could be more involved with what interested me. Years ago, I heard about the time you were Christmas shopping, and you bought me two of the greatest albums ever made. I could picture the shock on your face when you saw the cover of Nevermind, (that’s tame these days) and I know you winced when you heard the Black album for the first time.

Along with great music, I teach her about books.  You’d be so proud of the full-to-bursting bookshelves in my home.  Classics and popular fiction, poetry and biography, plays and naturally, children’s books. When I see the careful way she holds them, reverent, turning pages ever so precisely, I remember the books that you bought me, and how much I loved them.  I remember the way you fed my passion for books. I remember the time you saved the money that Grandpop gave you for things you needed, and how you spent it on a set of dinosaur books for me.  I remember how you kept my most favorite novels, on the shelf next to yours, when I asked you to keep them from mom and her book ban.  I remember how much she hated me reading, and I remember how you told me to never stop.

We read every day.  Sometimes, when she won’t stop pestering me, I read her my assignments for school.  I doubt she understands that she’s been exposed to some really great literature, like Steinbeck, Ibsen, O’Brien, Vonnegut, Frost, Plath, and Eliot, but I know.  I know that I am imitating something good, something that I was taught by an amazing person with a special gift: you.

Yes, Gram, you were gifted.  You were talented and influential.  You loved me.  You loved a little girl who probably drove you nuts with 10,000 questions per day. You encouraged a young child to learn everything she could, about everything she could.  You taught her to expand her thoughts and reach for impossible dreams.  You were my first teacher, and I think you deserve credit for all of the things I’ve accomplished.

Gram, I’m graduating from college in May! I’ve applied to graduate school, and even if I don’t get in, I’ll keep trying anyway. Not too shabby for a girl who grew up in a trailer, had a bum for a father, and a mom who went to ninth grade…  I’ve published several pieces of my writing, too.  The first acceptance letter I ever got made me nostalgic; I had clear visions of the stories I used to “write,” how you’d staple them together, put a title on them, and how you saved them until the day you died.  I only hope that I can live up to the example you were.

I am the most influential person in my daughter’s life, the way that you were the most influential person in mine. She’ll remember that, even if she remembers nothing else.  She’ll remember that someone will always accept her decisions, encourage her dreams, and dream them with her whenever possible.  She’ll know that she has somewhere to go, the way I always went to you.

I miss you terribly.  Those words seem so inadequate for the empty place I have in my life without you.  Someday, I hope that I’ll get the chance to hug you again, throw my arms around your neck the way I did when I was little, and the way that Courtney does to me now.  No matter how busy I am, I have never forgotten you.  I have such a clear picture of you in my mind, and sometimes it’s as if I could extend a hand and touch you. If only I could reach…

Hugs

 

I love you,

Tricia

P.S.  Could you give Donnie a hug for me?  I think he knows how much I miss him, but it never hurts to say.

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2011 in Life

 

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Live for the Living

The old cliche’s are all true.  That’s why they become cliche’.  They get over-used, to the point of becoming ingrained into our minds.  We’ve heard them all at least once; maybe more, if like me, you lived with an elderly family member as a kid.  Two things I always heard from my grandparents: “This too shall pass,” and “Life goes on.”  Well, I hate to admit it, but they were right.

Today marks the one year anniversary of the night my brother-in-law, Donnie, was killed on his Harley Davidson.  Truthfully, today is really no different for me.  I think about him every day, sometimes with a wry grin, other times with tears and regrets.  I remember the day of his funeral, my husband was on his knees, trying to breathe through the pain that crushed him like a car crushes a squirrel, and myself saying, “Life goes on, Chuck.  Live for the living.” 

At the time, it was the only thing I could think of to say.  But, in actuality, it was the best, and most true thing that anyone could have said. We settled back into our routines, back to school, work, diddled with our projects, cleaned our houses, and so on.  One day turned into another, and before I knew it, a whole year had passed.  The pain is still there, the sharp sting when I see the leather jacket he used to wear, or when I hear his laugh ring through my mind, or when I think about the race tickets he handed us, the day before he died. The pain is still there, but it does fade, just a little, especially when I remember that Donnie was so full of life, so full of attitude, and filled with a strength that could stand stubborn in the face of  disapproval.  He’d tell us the same thing.  Life goes on, so live it!

So, in honor of Donald J. Kinney (1968 – 2010), I would like to celebrate the living today.  There are so many people that have touched my life.  Some have picked me up when I was broken, some have held me up when I lost my strength, and some have pushed me forward into the unknown, when I might have gone backward into the safety zone.  Some have shown me love, others cruelty, but all have influenced my life, and have helped on this long, winding road that we call life.  I’m grateful for the living, and happy that I am among them.  I hope some day I will be able to influence someone else, the way that I have been influenced, guided, and inspired.  Live for the living, and cherish the ones you love.

RIP Brother, I’ll always love you and miss you like crazy!

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2011 in Life

 

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I Remember You

It’s no secret that I miss my brother-in-law, Donnie.  I’ve blogged about it, talked about it, written about it, and I’ve got a memorial tattoo on my arm.  A Harley symbol with three sets of initials, celebrating the special connection between myself, Chuck, and him, completed with Avenged Sevenfold wings.  It’s painful to look at, but it helps.  After all, he was involved in 90% of what we did, from working on trucks and riding motorcycles, to 4th of July fireworks and throwing hay bales all summer long, not to mention those quiet summer nights standing in the doorway of the garage, beer in hand.  Winter was a time for ice hockey, snowboarding, and drinking whiskey by the woodstove.  (Well, I drank the whiskey, the boys drank beer.)  The point is, he was always there. 

Afterward, I couldn’t even look at his chair by the stove.  The thought of it remaining empty for the rest of time brought a crushing weight down on my chest, and made it hard to breathe.  The garage was a nightmare for me, and the sight of a motorcycle could never fail to bring on the tears.  It’s gotten easier, but it never goes completely away.  We’ve been moving on, doing our thing, but in the back of my mind, I know that we are minus a member of our three-man crew.

Last week, when I hauled Chuck’s truck to the pulls, I turned to him with a sad smile.  “You know what’s running through my mind right now?” I asked. 

“That day you hauled the baler home,” he said, the pain evident in his voice that broke a little, just a little.

“Yeah,” I said, “He woulda really enjoyed this.”

The pain is always there, although sometimes it’s recessed in the corners of my mind, waiting like a snake to strike out at me when I least expect it.  We started haying last night, and as I jumped on the tractor, sitting on the fender while my five-year-old drove us down to the field, I was drawn back to a day when Donnie stood on the fender, teaching me to shift the gears.  As I stood on the wagon, ready to stack the bales thrown to me, I was taken back to a day where I was going down to the field with him.  He was holding a beer as he drove the Ford tractor down the road.  When we got into the field, he handed me the beer, told me to finish it.  Afterwards, he taught me to stack a hay wagon.  He’s always there.

The other day, my five-year-old, Lucas, handed me a rock he had written on.  “It’s Donnie’s name,” he told me.  “I remember him.”  What an amazing thing to hear from my son. I remember him too.  I remember the way he touched my life, and apparently, my two boys’ lives.  I remember every little thing from the last eleven years.  I’m glad that my boys remember him, and I’m sad that CC won’t. 

Sometimes I think the pain will fade, little by little.  It hasn’t even been a year.  Other times, I know better; I know there will always be a piece of us missing.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2011 in Life

 

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There’s Healing in Those Riffs

My twenty-ninth birthday just passed this week.  This was the first birthday without him.  Without the bottle that was a standard birthday procedure.  Without that joke about me getting older, and my old stand-by response, “I’ll never be as old as you,” while smiling sweetly.  Without that playful interaction that made me feel like part of the family, instead of an outsider.  I miss him, more than anyone could ever have imagined.  Though the blood wasn’t there, the bonds of family were placed upon us that very first day we met.  He was never afraid to be mad at me, just as I never hesitated to tell him what I thought.  We never pussy-footed around like the rest of our family does.  Maybe I wasn’t his blood sister, but he treated me just like one. 

Tonight, I’m going to see Avenged Sevenfold in Wilkes-Barre.  The tickets were a part of my birthday present, although I got them well in advance.  It seems fitting to me.  After all, A7X holds a very special place in my heart.  I bought their album, Nightmare, the night Donnie died.  I watched this nightmare of a scene unfolding, while thinking how ironic it was that I just bought an album with a startling connection to what I was experiencing.  Any Avenged fan knows that Nightmare is a tribute to The Rev, who also died a senseless death.  The things you think of at a death scene.

A month after he died, I saw them at Montage as part of Uproar Tour. The fourth ticket, meant for him, went to my niece.  I spent that night missing him; the kind of missing someone that makes breathing impossible as the weight of every heavy thing you’ve ever said sits down in the middle of your chest.  But, when Avenged came on, some of that weight went away. The energy and honesty in their music is how hard rock should be.  They’ve always displayed an intelligence in their lyrics that question some heavy things, like politics and now the absence/presence of God.  They are the type of band that makes you believe again.  Believe in the music, and the power it has to heal you, to change things, and to make a difference.  I wish I could explain how connected I felt, through the raw feelings they displayed on stage.  They were missing a band member, and I was missing a brother, and for a moment, I felt as though I could reach out and touch the music when they put it out there.  It was real.  It was healing.  I’m looking forward to that feeling again.

Donnie, I’ll be thinking of you again tonight, and the night after, and the night after.  I wish you could see the impact that you’ve had on others.  I think you’d be amazed at how much difference you really did make.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2011 in Life

 

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Dealing With It

I spent last night in the garage, with Chuck, a Honda shadow, sandpaper, and a couple of cans of spray primer.   As I scrubbed sandpaper across the front fender, which I had taken off,  I was reminded  of  other times in that garage when the smell of gasoline permeated the air, oil dripped off of my fingers, and Donnie’s laugh rang over the sound of 97.9x blaring from the stereo.   I have a bad temperment for mechanics.  I’m a little firecracker sometimes, and he always got a kick out of  listening to me bitch and curse after I’d spent 15 minutes wrestling with a bolt that wouldn’t budge, only to find out that I’d been turning the wrench the wrong way.  Whoops! 

I was always proud to work in the garage, alongside Chuck, and Donnie, with my father-in-law supervising.  I’ve learned so much from the three of them.  I think I could probably change a Chevy axle in my sleep, I dream about New Holland baler parts, and I know how to tighten a chain on a Harley Davidson, among other things that they’ve shown me over the last eleven years.  Everyone that ever saw me sitting inside of the hood of Chuck’s ’71 Chevy, baseball hat on backward, grease streaked down my nose,  would comment on how funny it was to watch me in there with the guys. With calendar girls, and racing tires on the wall, I’d slug Michelob Light, turn wrenches, and curse right along with them.   They never expected less, or treated me different just because I was a girl.  

Yesterday was a tough day for my family.  It would have been my brother-in-law’s 43rd birthday, and it was the first one that we had to deal with since his accident seven months ago.  As I sanded, stripping layers of paint away to reveal bare metal, I felt hollow.  I wondered if I’d ever find that pride again when I finished a job.  It got me thinking.  Do we ever really deal with death?  Or do we just cover up our feelings?  Was it an accident that we spent Donnie’s birthday in his garage, working on a motorcycle?  Or was it our way of celebrating a life that we desperately miss?  I really can’t say.

I can say that I’ll keep on working in the garage.  It makes me feel closer to him.  I’ll keep using the knowledge given to me by three wonderful guys, and maybe I’ll be proud of it again.  I’ll keep writing about it.  It’s always fun to surprise a professor with a poem about changing wheel bearings, or changing oil 🙂 Maybe that’s how we deal with death.  Maybe we use it, work with it, instead of against it.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2011 in Life

 

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