November 2011

What can I possibly say about November… except that I’m glad it’s over?!?!

I’ve been wanting to blog for weeks now but just didn’t know how to find the words, honestly. But I’m having blogging withdrawals at this point… and I can’t move on until I blog about this, so bear with me as I try to make some sense of November here.

November started out okay, like any month starts out. I don’t really even remember what we were doing the first few days of November, to tell you the truth. But I can tell you, in detail, what we were doing the night of November 4th…

November 4th: Nick had to DJ a middle school dance from 6pm to 10pm on that Friday night. Damon went with him to help… and make a buck or two. So, Avery and I were looking forward to a girly night at home. We started out by taking a trip to K-Mart, where we stocked up on new coloring books and my favorite Crayola Twistable colored pencils (they color more like crayons than pencils, and they’re awesome… just FYI!). As we were leaving K-Mart, Nick called… and asked me if I could run home and bring him his computer bag, which he’d left at home accidentally.  So, Avery and I went home, brought Nick his computer bag, and brought Damon home with us at this point (he’d helped Dad with the manual labor part of unloading his equipment and he really didn’t want to sit at the dance all evening). We finally got home and Avery and I settled in to color. Damon actually joined us at one point. So all three of us were piled on Avery’s twin bed, coloring. I’m pretty sure I even posted a pic of it on Facebook… it was a nice moment.

Then, at 9:30pm the phone started ringing. First the house phone rang… and I couldn’t get to it in time. Then my cell phone rang. It was Nick, which didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was that my husband was hysterical on the other end of the phone. To the point where I couldn’t understand a word he was saying to me. I recognized something that sounded like “bad news”… and my mind is going a million miles a minute, thinking he’s been in a car accident. But he’s okay because he’s talking to me. And, wait… he’s DJing ’til 10pm, so he wouldn’t have been out driving at 9:30. Then, I make out a few more words… five words that shook me to the core, that changed our whole family… in the blink of an eye: “My dad died this morning.”

I immediately screamed, “WHAT??” and asked him what happened, even though I wasn’t even processing this information enough to know what I was thinking and/or asking. To say I was shocked would be putting it mildly. Exactly one week earlier, we’d spent 4 hours on Skype with Gordon. Four hours. It had been months since we’d talked to him, so when Nick got him on Skype that night, the conversation just went on and on and on. At the time, I was mildly annoyed… because conversations between Nick and his dad tend to be repetitive and tedious. Now, I’m forever grateful that they had those 4 hours. We had no way of knowing those would be the last 4 hours that we’d ever spend “with” Gordon. That that would be the last time he’d ever talk to one of his kids and “see” any of his grandkids.

A lot of that Skype conversation was spent talking about Gordon’s plans to come home to the States the following month. It’s been 4 years since he was home last… Christmas of 2007… and it sounded like he was REALLY looking forward to this trip. He was also in the process of trying to get his girlfriend Michele a Visa so that she could travel home with him. As anxious as he was to get home and see his family, he was just as anxious to bring Michele to America with him… to introduce her to his country, like she’d been introducing him to hers for the last several years.

The day before Gordon passed away, they received the bad news that Michele’s Visa application was denied. According to a coworker of his in Shanghai, Gordon was visibly upset by the news… and left work early that day. The next morning (November 5th in China, the night of November 4th here in the States), Gordon suffered a stroke and died at home, with Michele by his side. He would have celebrated his 64th birthday just 4 days later.

We would spend the next 3.5 weeks trying desperately to get him home from China. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine how complicated that process would be! And I now completely understand why it is our custom to have a funeral and burial as soon as possibly following a death. The funeral allows us the time and opportunity to grieve for our loss, and then we can begin to put the pieces back together and move on with our daily lives. But our family was basically on hold for 3.5 weeks and couldn’t go through this grieving process. So, when the time finally came, on November 28th, I think it hit us even harder than it would have 3 weeks earlier.

We also spent those weeks trying desperately to get Michele a Visa so that she could come home for Gordon’s funeral… to say her final goodbyes with the rest of us; we knew that’s what he would have wanted. However, she was once again denied that opportunity by the U.S. Embassy… despite the fact that we had a huge team of legal experts, politicians, and various others working on this. Apparently they are really terrified that a Chinese citizen will come to America and stay here… although, why she’d want to after all of this is beyond me!! So, sadly, Michele wasn’t able to join us for Gordon’s funeral. They did, however, have a memorial service for him in Shanghai, so I hope that brought her some closure.

It never occurred to me that at this point in our lives Nick and I would be dealing with the death of one of our parents. We were absolutely, 100% unprepared for this. Even now, a month later, it’s still rather unbelievable to me.

And, in the midst of all this, on November 8th I started a new job. As exciting as this was for me, considering it’s the first time I’ve worked outside of my house (and outside of my jammies!) in 12 years… Gordon’s death overshadowed it, just a little bit! And understandably so. But I have been working for almost a month now… and to sum it up, I’m LOVING it! I’ll have to write another post about the job later, since this one is turning into a novella!

So, that was November… in a nutshell. Definitely a month full of surprise and change. Definitely a month to remind us all to cherish every moment we’re given. Life can be so short and nothing is guaranteed… and a million other cliches that I won’t bore you with here. I’ll probably revisit parts of this past November in future posts, as things come to me. But I had to get this post written first. I think that, in a way, this is as natural a part of my grieving process as the funeral.

For now, I’ll leave you with this… the Quintessential Gordon Witschey. This was the last picture I took of Gordon, on Christmas Day almost four years ago. He and Nick had been standing outside smoking, and I tried to sneak out there to take a picture of the two of them together. Only, I was too late… they were walking back in at that point. So I just snapped this random picture of Gordon, not knowing that 4 years later it would take my breath away when I saw it. That I, and everyone else, would look at this picture and say, “THAT is Gordon.” The cigarette, the Bayer jacket, the glasses… everything about this photo is typical Gordon. This is how I will always remember him.

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One Response to November 2011

  1. Tami says:

    Erin, I am so sorry for your loss! What an incredible thing to have to deal with from a distance. And to have Michele’s visa denied is just unbelievable. I pray that you and your family can find peace and comfort in your memories of Gordon and find a way to celebrate Christmas while you are still grieving. Hugs to you and your family.

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