Death and Taxes

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.
~From a headstone in Ireland

The planet lost an amazing man this past weekend. We knew it was coming. It didn’t make it easier… He was snarky and silly. He was stubborn and supportive. He was the classic textbook definition of patriarch. He was husband and dad and uncle and grandpa and great grandfather. He was Papa Don. He was amazing.

And absolutely one of my favorite people from my ex’s family.

I learned last week that divorce doesn’t just mean you deal with each other only for the kids. I learned that you deal with each other for life’s sticky messes as well. I know the ex better than anyone on the planet—for now (I expect/hope his fiance catches up and takes over)—and therefore have shared a lot of calls and texts while we were on our somber death watch. And all of those calls were calm and polite and occasionally emotionally difficult. It breaks my heart that we had to crush one another’s souls and learn to hate each other on some level before we could communicate like we are now. It breaks my heart that it took the death of Papa Don for us to realize that even though we didn’t work out, we still get each other like no one else.

The first time I met Papa Don I looked up, and up, and up. I felt like I was trying to see the top of a skyscraper from the street. He said “Hi” in this rumbly low timbre, and I looked at the ex and said, “you didn’t tell me you were related to Lurch!” That moment stuck with us. Papa Don and I would poke each other, banter, scream at football games, harass each other, and generally played some sort of giggle-battle every time we visited. I egged him on, he picked fun at me. It was a good time and I always looked forward to it. His wife is one of the most amazing women ever. I’ve never seen her not smiling. I’ve never seen her not living life to the fullest and enjoying even the tiniest stupid things. They were an amazing couple. And they raised some pretty amazing kids. I still miss my mother-in-law and wish I could be there to hug her. To tell her that her father was one of my favorite humans.

But she knows that.

And more importantly, he knew that. I don’t have guilt for not seeing him before he left us. Time and miles and circumstance prevented that. But I thought of him. I remembered him. The kids and I talked of memories. The ex and I cried over times past. And the universe sighed as the last breath of a great man joined it early Saturday morning.

I won’t be going to the funeral, because awkward bowling sucks. The kids will. They’re going to actually plane this one. Not how I wanted to get them on a plane… but they need to be there. They need closure. They need that family. And that family needs to see them. To remember that life goes on in the youth that shares their blood, their memories.

I told my son to do what I won’t be there to do… remind his father of specific good times, good memories. When it looks like he may crack, make him crack up instead.

I told my daughter to ask her great-grandmother how she first met Papa Don. To relive their first date… to remember a great man, a full life, and have that tidbit of knowledge to bring forward a generation.

Death sucks. And considering my day job, I wasn’t surprised when my black humor bone began chanting “death and taxes” all day at work Saturday. But after the uncomfortable laughter. After the tears have dried. After the ground is pounded flat and the grass seed planted… Lurch will continue to appear in reruns in my memories, and that’s what the kids and the ex need to remember. We didn’t really lose a great man. Rather, we had the honor of knowing him.

Thoughts? Tell me what you think...

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