memorial day

Holiday Weekends for the Heroes

Memorial dayMemorial Day Weekend. Lost in the shadows of barbecues, beer, and brotherhood, Memorial Day commemorates those who have given their lives for our country.  The heroes. Flags flutter in the wind, flowers grace cemeteries, store sales abound, sporting events blast the tube and government stops. It’s a time for family, friends, and community. For the fashion conscious (which runs in this family), Memorial Day marks the official acceptance of “white wear.” White clothing, white shoes. Yes, even Gregger pulled out the white jeans and bucks! We savor these three-day weekends. We plan, we party, we poop out.

For Gregger and I these holidays were simply a “day off.” For many years he closed the store. He was a rebel. He believed people deserved the day off. If it was a holiday, close the store. Everyone needed rest. He defied the rules. Then the shopping center gods stepped in. Lease rules. No overstepping the boundaries. So he did it his way. Holiday hours. He sucked it up and did what he had to do. Memorial Day was one of those holidays he passed off. I got lucky. I had him for two whole days. It was strange at times. I wasn’t used to his being home for two days straight. Most people would find that odd. But for 40 years Gregger worked six days a week. He never took extra days off. Two days in a row. That was really something! We savored those moments. But that was in the later years.

Scan 102 (1)This holiday weekend I was thinking back to days gone by. Memorial Days when Gregger and I were in our prime and the kids were blossoming and athetically active. Watching the French Open today brought back a bevvy of memories and emotions. I missed so many holidays with Gregger. I was busy traveling with the kids. Nothing extravagant or flashy. We were staying in roadside motels, driving from state to state.  The boys were competitive tennis players. It was a crazy life. Tennis never had a season. A year round activity. Year round schlepping to practice. Year round juggling homework, practice, tournaments, and social life. Year round stress.  And the big tournaments were always over holidays. From Labor Day to Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, Easter to Memorial Day, they never ended. Our travel took us southwest, midwest, California. Gregger was stuck at home working his tail off to pay for all of the travel, coaches, equipment, and other paraphernalia. Each weekend Ashley lugged her backpack filled with coloring books and crayons.  Her faithful companion “Woof-Woof” tight in hand, Ashley sat silently on the sidelines. Meanwhile, I paced, gnawed my nails, clapped, and faked calmness as best I could (I completely failed!). If one or both of the boys made the finals, Gregger might hop a plane to surprise us. Or, if we were lucky enough for a Tucson destination, he would make it down for a match or two. It was a crazy life. But certainly a life none of us would change. Or maybe we would. The vote is out on that one.  ryan tennis

JFKI spent this weekend with new friends (stepped way out of my box – thanks Marcia and Geoff!), my son (who was sweet enough to drive over from AZ), and alone (learning to cope). I would much rather be chumming with my “buddy,” but he’s not here. I hope he’s enjoying his day off. He looked so forward to two days in a row. He lingered a little bit longer with his coffee. He scrolled slowly through his facebook page (but wouldn’t admit it!). He got a bit of “scruff” after not shaving for two days. He even settled back with a beer or two (maybe even a Jameson) to catch up on some TV. They were fun times. Good times. Memorable times. With the kids. When the kids were grown. So on this Memorial Day, I honor the heroes who died fighting for our country. But I honor my lost hero too. I miss you.


Did You Ever Know That You’re My Hero?

imageWhat is a hero? Through the eyes of a child, it may be the Supermans, Spidermans, and Batmans who save the planet, the superhero with super powers. To others it might be a friendly stranger, a brother, sister, mom or dad.  A hero makes this world a better place. Their statement may be big or small, but their impact is unspeakable. Gregger was my hero. Would he be described as heroic by typical standards? Maybe not. But to me, he was a hero. He was courageous, good-hearted, generous, a survivor, and he ALWAYS put everyone else’s wellbeing above his own. He “saved” me in so many ways. He helped me discover the true me. He encouraged me to believe in myself. He gave me the strength to deal with the tragedy of his loss. He was kind, giving, loving, and compassionate. He didn’t meet a person who didn’t become his friend. I believe that captures the essence of a hero.

On August 30th, my hero could no longer save himself in the waters of Maui. He fought his final struggle and drew his last breath, but I believe he had two heroes with him that day. He passed the buck. The day started out as one of our best. We left Wailea heading to the beaches in Kaanapali for a day of swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing. After a long 45 minute drive into no man’s land we arrived at a nearly deserted beach. Ashley and I were annoyed because we just wanted to plant our lazy butts in the sand and catch some Maui rays. All we could see was an outhouse, an okay beach, and clouds. Get us to Black Rock! So we piled back into our family mini van and back to Lahaina we trekked. The mood was a bit edgy as we all just wanted to get where we were going! Family VACATION FUNTIME! Park, unload, lug, and land! Ashley and I planted ourselves in the sand and the boys headed off to check out the snorkeling situation. Gregger was geared up for the water. For some reason I was a “jiggly” inside. I just wasn’t feeling it. I wanted him to wear a vest, but they weren’t renting them that day. Typical Gregger…”I’ll be fine! What are you worried about?”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEverything captured on film, we took our typical beach photos…Ash & Gregger, Ash & Tyler, Ash & Ryan, Gregger & me, and all the other combos. Two of each, just in case. One hugging, one kissing. Final words…”I love you. I love you too.” And off he went – into the water chasing after Ryan and Tyler with snorkeling gear dangling by his side. The beaches were crowded. People jumping off Black Rock, shouting, hooping and hawing. Ashley and I were fairly relaxed, but I was edgy not knowing where the boys had gone. Suddenly we heard screams of “Help! Help!” They were far off in the distance and we assumed it was the crazies jumping off the cragged rock. The cries kept getting closer and soon we were hearing “911.” My heart was racing. I remember yelling at Ashley that something was wrong and running from my chair. As I dashed to the edge I caught sight of Gregger’s bathing suit floating toward us, and I knew. At that moment, I knew. I screamed. I fell to the sand and I remember someone grabbing my arms. Suddenly crowds of strangers were holding me, hugging Ashley and me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGregger made it to the shore that day because of two special son, Ryan, and my son-in-law, Tyler. Their courage and strength in the most difficult of situations could only be described as heroic. At one moment Gregger was smiling underwater and giving a thumbs up. Seconds later Ryan realized something was terribly wrong and reached out for him. He screamed for Tyler and between the two of them, they safely pulled Gregger in. They took off his mask, flipped him on his back, and pushed, pulled, shoved, and screamed until  help arrived. Gregger would have called them his heroes. The quick reaction to save him in such an incredibly difficult situation could only be described as heroic. The paramedics, fire fighters, and doctors worked on Gregger relentlessly. Tyler prayed in the sand at his feet, while Ryan prayed by his side. It felt like the world was praying, but God had decided he wanted the Gregger that day. Whether his mom was calling (it was the 10th anniversary of her death) or they just needed another one of the “good” guys “upstairs,” we’ll never know. Whatever it was, someone else won the battle. But, my two boys were the heroes that day. They saved their hero and brought him to us so we could say “goodbye.”

There were a lot of heroes that day. The strangers on the beach holding us, praying for Gregger, keeping us safe. The paramedics, firefighters, and doctors fighting tirelessly to bring back his heartbeat. The chaplain who stayed by our sides for HOURS providing comfort, kind words, and support. We would not have survived without these people. But, my SUPERHEROES on August 30th were Ryan and Tyler. I will forever be grateful to them for their courageous efforts and strength for bringing my HERO back to me, to us.

“Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you’re scared to death.”

Who is your hero?   image