In our house, we have a dinner time check-in ritual called Sadappeys (thank you, Toddlerisms, for blurring the line years ago from where it started as Sad/Happys). We don’t do it every night, but when we do, it gives us a chance to reflect on our day and share our ups and downs with each other. And right now, we are faced with a huge Sadappey.
You see, it hasn’t been since Harrison was the age Wilson is now (approx. 3.5 months) that we’ve had a direct loss in our family, but Monday morning, my grandpa Cliff passed away suddenly. Maybe 89.5 years doesn’t qualify to some as sudden, but his death was certainly not anticipated and has been, as a result, a bit of a shock for all of us. Plus, as noted, we have been tremendously lucky in this respect for many years, which also makes this feel like uncharted territory.
In some ways, it really is. We’ve never had kids old enough to remember losing a family member, so we’ve never had to deal with helping them understand/manage grief while also trying to understand/manage our own. So here is another parenting hurdle to face, and like all challenges, I find that I am very much in it with the extra phone calls and memories and tears and smiles, while at the same time, “normal” life very much continues with laundry and homework and so on; all of this leaves me feeling a bit dazed at trying to hold all this normal and very NOT normal together at once.
In other words, it’s a hard week. And that’s OK. This muddling is very much part of the process and it’s likely that this juxtaposition of handling life while celebrating and remembering a life will continue through the weekend and beyond as we travel to South Dakota for the funeral being held Monday. In true on-point kid style, Harrison nailed it on the head when his first response to the news was: “So we are going to take a sad trip to South Dakota, soon?” Yes, Buddy. Yes, we are.
And yet, when I think about my Grandpa, my namesake (Clifford Raymond for Jennifer Rae (hence Raegan’s name spelling)), there is so much joy in remembering our time with him. I was lucky to call him mine for almost 36 years, and as I’ve been sitting here the last couple days, thinking about him, I realize there are so many characteristic bits of awesomeness about him that I have stored in my head and heart. Essentially, I find myself in the height of Sadappy existence right now. So sad to know he is gone. And so happy to have had as much time with him as I did.
I’m sure the list will grow as the week continues and the Sadappy trip takes place, and so I hope to add to it as we go, but for now – a glimpse at Clifford Raymon Jansen through his oldest granddaughter’s eyes…
the one who turned a ski rope and a tree into a trapeze, and a boat cushion into a stair toboggan for all six cousins to ride together.
the master of horseshoes (he could spot us 20 points and still beat us as played on the beaches of the Missouri River near Pierre).
the fishing guide who always had a line or two out on the boat or the beach. Soooo many walleye caught over the years.
the one who gave me a greeting so big at my wedding that my veil came lose.
the lover of old school country music that we danced to together in their basement that was, I’m convinced, 70s-tastic enough to have shaggy carpet on some of its wall (that might have made the stair taboggan slightly more safe?).
the man who took over after my grandma’s death, almost 15 years ago, to be the sender of birthday cards (and he rarely missed a one, even for all of my kids) that always included a clever, handwritten note inside.
the bearer of blue eyes – the same bright blue eyes (that hold that seem devious-in-a-fun-loving-way spark) that I see in my Truman.
the one who called me Jennifer more often than not and loved loved getting to meet (and see almost annually) four of my five children.
the sayer of things like “Well, I’ll be darned” and “Is that right/is that so?” and another one I can’t remember right now, but each of them would usually be accompanied by an emphatic head nodding gesture that in recent years I have totally caught myself doing.
the wearer of a pack of smokes in his shirt pocket that I was sure were getting crushed when he’d hug people (the man was an enthusiastic greeter/parter) and a holder of, what I remember most, a can of Old Mud (Old Milwaukee) in his hand.
the maker of cookie salad (bless him) and provider/pusher of sour cream and onion Pringles when you visited him (Ben says we’ll have to have some in his honor while we are in Pierre).
the one who showed me the magic of a big family. One of 13 kids himself and the father of four, it is in part from watching him with his own siblings at reunions and with his kids and grandkids over the years that inspired my own desire to have a large family.