In my wife’s life, before memory begins, there was Andy.
He was the one constant that runs through her experience.
On Friday, near the top of Second Flatiron, he fell.
Andy had the softest hands of any person I’d ever met.
I’m not sure what that means but we all get a kick out of it.
Homeboy did a lot of good deeds in his life!
He taught my wife to ride a bike then offered my wife shelter when she shattered her wrist (riding her bike). 🙂
He taught all my kids to swim – my son even got special treatment – he got to start before he was two.
Another good memory.
In our household there’s something called a “Caplan Pour.”
The Caplan Pour is when you grab a bottle of wine and casually dump 2/3rds into your glass.
If anyone notices then a smile and a boyish giggle will suffice.
Andy died on Friday and Halloween was Saturday.
So we had a bit of a wake – it was good to be together, remembering Andy and supporting each other.
I have a request to make of you.
The way many of us are acting greatly increases the risk that one of Andy’s sisters will transmit COVID to his parents.
When someone is in the depths of profound grief, it is unreasonable to expect them to push you away.
So please mask up before you approach the survivors.
Let’s not multiply this tragedy.
OK, another story.
On Friday, I was sitting at my desk when Monica called from Chautauqua.
Andy’s car was in the lot and he was late for work.
This was not good.
Andy didn’t have many rules but he had two rules that helped OCD people (like me) deal with him.
1/ I’m not late until I’m three hours late.
2/ Never worry unless I’m late for work.
He wasn’t three hours late when I got the call but he was late for work and his sister/girlfriend were sitting with a ranger looking up at the Flatirons. They told me there was a rescue going on.
I felt empty.
From that point, I knew the only surprises were going to be good ones.
I headed up as I expected the ladies were about to fall into the abyss of grief.
Andy’s death was a shock, but it wasn’t a surprise.
He was operating well within his capabilities on a route he knew well.
I know my kids will come back to this piece so I want them to remember this… small risks, repeated, become significant.
Andy and I had very different views on risk, ruin and ethics.
Reading that he would have smiled and told me, “but bro, be sure to remember that’s just your opinion!”
…and he’d be right.
…and I was grateful my kids had an opportunity to be deeply influenced by him.
It’s important to remember that Andy lived exactly as he wanted to live.
…and he respected your ability to do the same.
His tolerance was amazing.
He was even tolerant of the intolerant.
I loved the guy.
My kids have been watching me.
Wanting reassurance that their reaction is appropriate.
Am I too sad?
Am I not sad enough?
What should I do?
Sweetie, there’s no script for dealing with grief. Whatever you feel is OK and it’s normal to be all over the place, for a while.
After we knew on Friday, I went back up to Andy’s car to check things out. My daughter tagged along.
Andy’s car was a reflection of Andy => planner, set of skis, bike, spare shoes, clean clothes and his lunch.
It was the lunch that got me. I came really close to falling to pieces.
Our kids, and spouses sometimes, don’t have the contextual framework to understand that falling to pieces doesn’t mean I’ve fallen to pieces.
In fact, giving yourself permission to absolutely fall apart is an excellent strategy for rebuilding, stronger than before.
Bro, not only did I marry your sister… …I ate your lunch.
I needed a laugh and Caplan’s do make the best PBJs.
About that planner.
Oh the planners…
My wife spent the last three days working through the planners.
She’s still working.
Many years ago, another Andy (Penfold) did the same thing for Stuart. Back then it was a paper phone book. A => Z. Andy P said it was healing. My wife is experiencing the same thing.
It takes exceptional courage to walk into those phone calls knowing you will be feeling, really feeling, grief.
I don’t want another mom walking into the pool, with her kids, and the receptionist having to tell her what happened.
The capacity to think of others, on your worst days, is a wonderful trait.
Don’t be afraid to feel.
I didn’t make the call – we went over as a family.
What do you a tell a man who is dealing with your greatest fear?
The death of his son.
I didn’t tell him anything.
I sat with him and listened.
Later, just him and me, I completely fell apart and was grateful for his non-judgement.
The next day, I shared my experience with my daughter. She was relieved to find out I had fallen apart (and perhaps grateful that she didn’t have to listen to me suffer, which freaks her out).
My son had questions.
Questions about death.
We happen to have an expert in the family. His grandfather had a near-death experience as a young man.
So we went over yesterday to see what we could learn.
Afterward, he wasn’t able to fully articulate what he learned.
…but he felt better
…and that was the main point of our visit.
So, when I’m gone, I want you to remember that I gave you my most precious thing.
I gave you exactly what Andy was always willing to give me.
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