Notes From The Beach…


The girls are at the beach with friends so Danny and I, through the kindness of a good friend who lent us his house for a couple days, decided we did not want to wait out the anniversary week of Lisa’s passing (does that need a catchier name? Lisa Week? Eh, that would be more fitting on her birthday. Death Week? Seems a bit morbid. We’ll work on it…) at home in a quiet, familiar, childless house. Instead we came to a quiet, unfamiliar, childless house, so it’s not like we’re having a party or anything. I think the thought was to get away, let ourselves mope a little bit, and then return with fresh faces to see the girls and face the 24th. It’s gray and windy here at the beach, and if I didn’t know any better I might think that we were creating the male version of the tear-inducing “Beaches”, and that one of us was the one with a terminal illness. But, no, we’re just a bit melancholy, missing a wife and sister. Here are a couple other things I’m thinking about:

What day was that again? I’ve found it interesting the way people consider dates, especially for something in recent history. Lisa passed away in the early morning hours of February 24th, but as we’ve been playing things back in our heads, we typically run off the weekly schedule of life. For example, we remember things like, “Friday so-and-so came to visit her, Saturday was the day we were told this, Monday was the day we had the family meeting…” etc.

 I have always worked better under this system, mostly because I’m terrible with dates, but also because it’s easier to use other events for context. I can’t tell you the date I started going out with a girl, but I can tell you the first time we kissed was the night of the UNC-Georgia Tech game that year. Danny joked he’s got enough emotion to “celebrate” both the day of the week and the actual date Lisa passed away, so we don’t need to worry about picking which one is the date we’re choosing to remember her passing.

“How’s Lisa?” That is not intended to be funny–Danny and I were talking on the drive down here about still coming across folks who don’t know. Recently, my Mom emailed with a family for whom Lisa had nannied for multiple summers. She loved the job, the family, and really enjoyed her time in Marblehead, Massachusetts. We were thinking about visiting since we’re headed to Boston this week to visit Sallie and Matt and their kids (Danny and I have godparenting to do!), but everyone feared that when we reached out to Lisa’s summer family, we’d also have to let them know she had passed away. We were right.

I also recently bumped into a guy who had worked at the Y with Lisa and Danny for a number of years. We greeted each other, and he quickly stated how he and his wife had just been talking about Lisa the other day and all the good times and stories they remembered of her. I assumed he was bringing this up because she had passed away and he was letting me know how much he thought of her. Then he caught me off-guard, “How is she doing?” Uh…

On the drive down, Danny relayed that DJ had a similar incident, only she had no clue who the person was. A lady, almost certainly a friend of Lisa’s, approached DJ, showered her with praise, told her she looked like her mom, and then promptly asked “How’s your mother doing?” I think Danny fears that such a question will send his daughters into a tailspin (since, admittedly, there have been times when someone will ask about her, or Danny, or the kids, or anything and the only answer that comes to mind is overwhelming sadness, and tears come before words), and that they might stuggle to answer. He asked her what she told the woman. DJ correctly pointed out, “Well, I couldn’t just say ‘she’s fine’, could I?!”

It sounds like DJ politely and unawkwardly told the woman that her Mom had passed away about a year ago. I think I need to take lessons from her. I still get terribly befuddled when people ask me how many siblings I have. Two? One? Had two, have one? How do you draw the line between being uninformative and avoiding a conversation that neither party is looking for?

This blog is a DOWNER Danny asked me on the drive down if he thought the blog was getting too depressing. I answered that I thought, yes, it had recently taken on more of a somber tone, but I thought it was more reflective of our current mood and what’s on our minds than anything. I told him I didn’t think it was a big deal and would not drive loyal readers away in droves if we had a week or two (or month?) of more thoughtful, somtimes even sad posts. However, f it’s still this way in April then we probably need to examine things, or not be surprised if people look for a more cheery place to visit on-line.

So stick with us, readers. This should be the blog at its most despondent. Things are getting better all the time🙂

How are the girls doing? Nothing makes me feel like a more inadequate guardian than not having a good answer to this one. With the temporary exception of one of the them seeming not her normal self for a stretch last summer, I feel like I have not noticed any major changes in the girls. In fact, people are always telling ME the things they have seen in the girls that are different, and I wonder if I’m too aloof to notice things or if I’m right and everyone else is just looking too hard. The girls are….girls! DJ is figuring out which high school to go to and probably more stressed out about the adults around her talking about it than she is by making the decision. Stephanie wants to sleep in on Saturdays and has a birthday party at Embassy Suites every other week. Michelle got a lot of Valentine’s Day candy and wants a later bed time. I have not been a parent, but all of this comes across as fairly normal to me.

I am not suggesting losing their mother will have no effect on them. I must admit, when 8-year old Michelle was filling out her “Letter to My Summer Counselor” for camp, and she wanted to describe herself as “sarcastic”, I worried a little bit that the influence of having two knucklehead adults in the house and no tough-love mom was probably taking its toll. (but I was still tickled to death. We convinced her to just go with “funny”).

Stephanie may prefer an extra hug this week, and DJ, true to form, is hunting for new traditions she can start to commemorate the 24th. But the girls are great, and I promise my lack of a better answer isn’t because I haven’t been paying attention. And that definitely mean don’t ask–like I said, I just feel silly when I don’t have much more of an answer than “great!”

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  1. Aunt Susan

     /  February 22, 2011

    Anyone who knows you and the “girls” think you guys are doing as well as can be expected. For not being a “parent” in the biologicial sense you are doing a wonderful job. As far as being a “down” blog,again if any body has been a follower they understand, and for those of us who know you and knew Lisa, it’s a warm and wonderful and really great way to celebrate her and her life.

  2. Patti

     /  February 22, 2011

    Speaking as someone who doesn’t know any of you other than through this blog, it’s okay if it’s a downer sometimes. I pray that it not only helps with your family’s grieving process but also people who come and read it. You remind us that life is beautiful and difficult at the same time.

    • Thanks, Patti. You said well what I tried to tell Danny…the writing reflects our mood. To feign happiness would be disingenuous and I think people appreciate our honesty/sincerity.
      Thanks for reading.

  3. Hopie

     /  February 22, 2011

    Just to lighten the mood — “sarcastic”??? Now, I am seeing the traits that Lisa left to Michelle! I have had some great laughs this afternoon remembering some of Lisa’s most sarcastic moments after reading this post –now that will make you smile through the tears.

    • Wait, you’re giving LISA credit for sarcastic? Classy, graceful…even bossy I’ll give you, but I thought sarcastic was my contribution! Oh well…I probably got it from Lisa, too.

  4. Uncle Jesse, I have really enjoyed reading your blog. I have been thinking about you all a lot with the loss of your sister. I lost my Mom about five years ago and I know that the “death days” or “weeks” are never fun. I wish I could say they get easier but I’ve yet to find that to be the case. You’re lucky to all have each other and the wonderful memories that you do have. You are all in my thoughts and prayers. Keep up the great work on the blog!

    Your old pal from high school,

    • Thanks, Cameron–interesting to hear you say the “anniversaries” don’t get easier. But you’re right….at least we got each other.
      Thanks again for the kind words.

  5. Mary

     /  February 22, 2011

    Given the fact that it’s Feb. 22, this blog–and its writers–have every right to be melancholy. My encouragement for ALL of you (and DJ seems to be a great person to help) is to find some way to commemorate 2/24 in a way that is meaningful for each of you and reminds you of Lisa in your own way. I take the anniversary of my own mom’s death as a self-care day that usually involves a massage and a trip to a bookstore. The massage is for me; being surrounded by books–and coffee–helps connect me to Mom. Some years that has varied, but I make every intention of slowing down on or near that date to remember…in my own way. I hope all of you can find a way to remember Lisa and make that day what you need for yourselves.

  6. Paige T

     /  February 23, 2011

    This post is more to let the Full House know that this blog has been a blessing to me. I know its about you guys, but its also been helpful in laughing and hearing how each of you are really doing day to day. Sure, you may have downer posts, but even on days when I haven’t lost anyone I get those. So, this reader will pray that you will continue to blog and post in any such shape or form. It’s comforting to know that when I think of Lisa or the girls or yes even “Danny”, I log in and get a quick fill. Glad to hear you made it to the beach and are together. You all together make a beautiful family.


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