Two Weeks

It’s been two weeks.

Two weeks since my doorbell rang. My dogs went wild barking and my instant thought was, ‘It must be Cabin Grandpa. Why didn’t he call first?’.  He was going to stop by and pick up our Christmas tree, but usually he does give me a call to make sure it’s a good time.

Two weeks since I opened the door and was surprised to see a police officer standing there. He was looking for my husband. My answer was, ‘He is at work on the Slope… what did he do?’,with a smile. The officer looked down at my sweet boy standing by the door watching him and asked me to step outside. Little did I know my world was about to come crashing down.

‘I’m here to notify Vince that his Dad… his Dad is Curt Abbas right? (I nod)  He was killed in an accident this afternoon in Wasilla.’

There it was. This blow to our lives… a knock on the door, a poor man that had to break the worst news, and my two babies sitting inside watching a movie and eating popcorn on a Saturday night.

‘What am I supposed to do?’ I asked him. His face was filled with incredible sorrow for me and I (probably in shock) felt so bad for him… that this was his job. To come here and deliver the news that would change our lives forever. “Here’s a number to call and get the details. I was only asked to notify next of kin, but wasn’t given much”, was his reply.

He asked if I was okay and I did that hyperventilated breathing thing… sort of like when you’re in labor and trying to ride it out… but it was a kind of pain that would never subside. Eventually I must have said yes, because he left and I found myself in the kitchen… collapsing to the floor and sobbing hysterically. My intuitive 2 year old came around the corner and dropped to the floor next to me, crying equally out of control… ‘You sad, I sad Mama’.

So I picked myself up. Texted my own Mama because I knew when I heard her voice I would lose it. She texted me back, so must have realized I was trying to keep it together and was on her way to help. Then it happened… I had to call my husband.

I had no number… and he was in the middle of nowhere working. No cell service, no office number… I called him back on the number he had called me on, hoping someone could give me a number to get connected to him. A random man answered and I asked for Vince. He repeated his name and I heard Vince in the background say ‘That’s me’. As soon as he said hello I lost it. All I could get out was ‘You have to come home now’ before I became incoherent. He called me back on a private phone and told me he was leaving on the company plane in 15 minutes. Pick him up in 2.5 hours.

What a blessing that he was in the room he was in when I called, a blessing a plane had just landed and he could hop on it… a blessing my parents were home and could come watch the kids… another blessing that Vince’s boss and our close family friend would drive me out to pick him up… so many things fell into place that night. Except that I wish none of them had to.

The whole night seems like forever ago. The last two weeks are like a foggy haze of horror and having to adjust to a life that I would prefer not to. However… we don’t have that choice. Instead we are forcing ourselves to remember what Curt would say, ‘It is what it is’ and enjoy being alive. We are smiling at the small whispers of Grandpa we find laying around: a cigar frozen to a log at the cabin, his giant bunny boot footprint on the edge of the steps where he slipped into a hole, an open can of his favorite chips on the counter… trying to soak them all up while they are still here to discover.

My husband told me this weekend,”You know… I really miss my Dad. But there’s nothing I can do about that. Even more than missing him, I miss us being happy.” That was a really good ‘hey lady’ wake up call for me. Get it together, fake it til you make it and figure it out.

Somehow it’s time to pick ourselves up and move on remembering him and living a life he would be proud of. With him in mind, I went to work today and soaked up all those little people smiles, hugs and laughs. Not only did I make it through the day without crying, but I enjoyed my day. I’m hoping this can continue… and get better and better. There will still be waves of insane, insurmountable grief,but if I can smile everyday and can make my kiddos smile, I think I’m doing okay.

 

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Missing A Piece

I lost my friend yesterday.

I say friend, but he was more than that. He was a leader, an inspiration, a foundation block for our family, an ideal grandpa and the best father in law a person could ever get. The man set expectations and you did not want to let him down. Period.

When Vince and I first started dating (as adults. We dated in high school too) we were attached at the hip. I mean… everywhere Vince went, which meant a lot of adventures with his dad… I was trailing along behind him with my fishing pole and ’44, ready for whatever we were doing. Curt was game. That was the thing about him… he gave everybody a chance. Even me with my ‘forbidden’ piercing (maybe he didn’t notice) and tattoo.

I thought for sure I would get on his nerves eventually. Some  days I would be at the cabin when he got there, waiting on the dock for Vince to get off work, fishing away. He would bring me a beer, come sit down and chat with me until Vince got there. After a couple weeks of this, I earned myself my very own cabin key, which was a really big deal. I guess he figured if I was going to be out there, I might as well get the cabin warmed up while I was waiting.

The next summer we built our cabin in Petersville. Vince and I spent every single weekend out there with Curt. I was referred to mainly as ‘she’ or ‘her’ when we were in construction mode, and rarely addressed directly. But I did my jobs, helped out and made some amazing memories with our little building crew. We laughed, survived injuries, caught fish and even got our first moose together.

Moving on to our world with children, I saw a whole additional side to him. He is an amazing, giant, silly kid! A man who carries ‘mm’s’ in his pocket for the kids to discover, who plays tug o’ war with blankets and creates the opportunity for adventures at every corner. I feel like my kids (well, and us) were robbed of years of memory making. They didn’t get to do so many things with him that they should have.

My husband lost his Dad. His best friend. On top of everything that encompasses, it also feels like our last goodbye to Brenda, Vince’s mom who passed away ten years ago this year. Like we’re losing our last link to her. And random stories that would pop out now and then.

Now for my selfish loss… Curt did more for Vince and I than anybody else. Ever. Shoes that cannot be filled. Vince works out of town the majority of the year. Cabin Grandpa (as Sawyer started calling him and it stuck) would pop by somehow just knowing we needed a visit. Or every Wednesday (or Thursday…ok,sometimes Friday) when my garbage can was still at the end of the driveway, he would pull it in ‘on his way by’.

Last summer he called to see if he could come mow the lawn for me and was shocked that I had already managed to do it, while keeping the kids alive at the same time. Popsicles were involved… I’m not magic, just good at bribery.

He cleared trees and leveled our yard. He helped me move things. I had big plans of ‘conning’ him into clearing little trees for my new garden this Spring.We talked gardening and hunting and fishing. And politics. And stories and life.  He was the last person in the world I thought would be missing.

Now I have to put my big girl panties on and deal with it. And I don’t want to. I just want him back.