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on life and laughter. and poppyseeds.

April 19, 2013

we do not know the true value of our moments until they have undergone the test of memory. like the images the photographer plunges into a golden bath, our sentiments take on color; and only then, after that recoil and that trans-figuration, do we understand their real meaning and enjoy them in all their tranquil splendor.

-georges duhamel, “the heart’s domain”

beautiful budding trees?  pollen allergy.  glossy red fingernails?  chipping a week later.  with the good comes the bad.  with laughter comes sadness.  and loving people means that you shed a tear every once in a while.  not because people hurt you or disappoint you but because they’re gone.  the laughter stops.

a month or so ago, my dad’s best friend from college was diagnosed with advanced cancer.  though our family only saw “uncle bob” occasionally, his impact was not insignificant.  he and his wife introduced my parents.  and every thanksgiving when we were little sarah and i would be gussied up and forced to suffer through a pizza dinner and video games or being held at beebee gun point by bob’s three boys at their family home in kansas city.  years later, sarah and i wound up at college with bob’s middle son.  his youngest son and i share instagram photos of our beloved beagle rescues.  and his eldest son helps my dad out with commercial real estate in the atlanta area.  sarah and i would whine and complain getting into our rental car and heading to bob’s during those thanksgiving visits way back when.  dad would even bribe us with ice cream.  but mere hours later laughter was ricocheting through the house.  and it wasn’t just the adults, gathered around the dining room table, reminiscing about their days without kids on ski trips and cross-country road trips.

bob’s family rallied around him.  and so did my dad and his college friends.  he came home from the hospital, resolved to get healthier so he could start chemo.  like a spider spinning a web, my dad and his friends starting threading together a system of support and encouragement for bob and his family.  but they weren’t sad.  all that i heard was laughter.  the messages weren’t of condolence, they were of college humor.  then the laughter stopped.  two weeks later, bob suddenly died.  it felt particularly cruel given that my dad and another college friend, along with bob’s two eldest boys, were all in airports working their way to his side when it all ended.  with the good comes the bad.

russ is, interestingly enough, a part of this tangled web as well.  he was a french professor during my dad’s college days and actually taught a group of bob’s buds.  when i applied to college, russ was the first person i met on campus when he interviewed me way back in 2002.  after i graduated, i joined him in the admissions office and we worked side-by-side for five years.  he inherited my office when i worked remotely from d.c. last year and i inherited the leftover poppyseeds from his routine everything bagel when i would come back to the office to work.  like bob, russ had a booming laugh.  his professorial, grandfatherly and outlandish personality made him a favorite of high school visitors and office staff alike.  so his cancer diagnosis was equally devastating.

he came home to virginia to be with family and face whatever time he had left.  i was getting ready to sit down and write him a note last weekend but i didn’t know what to say.  and then i opened my email to find the words no one ever wants to say.  hi jen, she wrote, i’m very sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but since you emailed me last friday about russ, i thought i’d let you know that he died yesterday.  i could hear his giant, wolloping laugh.  and then i cried a little.  with the good comes the bad.

don’t get me wrong, i am super glad to be surrounded by people i love and that love me back.  but sometimes it kinda stinks to think that one day all of that will end.  the buds bloom and then fall from the trees.  the gloss fades and chips around the edges.  the laughter fades.  and then all you have are memories.  the good news is that i probably won’t remember bob’s or russ’ death.  those won’t be the memories that come to mind.  what i will remember are the thanksgiving visits.  and the sprinkling of poppyseeds on my desk.  but most of all, the laughter.

with the good comes the bad.  with the bad comes the good memories.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Megan permalink
    April 19, 2013 11:25 pm

    So eloquently written and such a beautiful tribute to both Bob and Russ. Love this.

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