Monday, July 19, 2010

Laughter Through Tears

"Hey, Grampa."

I still talk to him, even though its been 6 years since he passed away.

I usually find myself talking to him when I see a Cardinal in my backyard. Or when I find myself turning the furnace down during the day, even during the coldest of days. Or when I'm at the Credit Union and I decide to withdraw ONLY what I need, not twenty bucks more. Or when I see the surplus of Anti-Freeze that is in our garage...

I talk to his picture and ask him for help...I think of him whenever I'm putting gas in my car, wondering if I had gone a couple of miles down the road, would it have been cheaper?

My Grandfather passed away very unexpectedly 6 years ago. He was getting ready for church, and just like that, he was gone.

I got the call that hot Saturday afternoon, and remember every second about the moments and days that followed.

It was chaotic~my parents were vacationing out west somewhere~My Grandmother and Uncle and Sister and Cousins and I were trying like mad to contact my Mom. Arrangements had to be made. I remember HATING the word "arrangements." Arrangements for the services. Arrangements for the luncheon. Flower arrangements.


I think they are put in place so that people who would normally be falling apart are forced to think somewhat straight and focus on details, so as not to think about the loss.

I remember being at the florist and when the lady asked me what I wanted the ribbon to say, I replied:

"How about...'THIS SUCKS.'

That's what I felt. That is what I wanted on the ribbon.

She looked at me, confused and sad. I felt a little bad for her, but I felt worse for me.

I settled on some lovely message and moved on.

I am writing this with some very special people in mind, and because~

It has been on my mind, since every year at this time, my whole family remembers him.

AND, knowing many of my friends are experiencing loss right now, I wanted to share some funny moments that occurred during my own time of sadness. One of my favorite quotes is from the movie "Steel Magnolias~"

"Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion."

Like I mentioned, my Mom and Dad were away when my Grampa, Tony Luciano, passed away. No one saw it coming~and my Sis and Cousins and I were there to make necessary arrangements~

So obviously, we were all exhausted. It's the kind of exhaustion that you can't even really explain. Not really sleepy tired, but more like numb.

And I had a headache that got worse by the second. Stress does it to me every time.

So at one point, I finally found some Tylenol in someones house~my Mom's, Julie's, my Sister's...who knows? But I remember taking 3...or 4?


My sister and I were driving to Augusta to find a dress for my Grammy~for the services.

I was driving...I didn't feel great...and I was feeling so incredibly headache was gone! Thank Goodness!

I suddenly realized that I was getting so sleepy! Like I could not keep my eyes open ANY longer. I said to my sister, "Kate...what is WRONG with me? I am so tired all of a sudden!"

We were both thinking, "it's just all catching up..."

"At least my headache is gone...I finally took some Tylenol..."

She got a strange look on her face..."WHAT Tylenol?"

"It was on the counter..."


"Oh My God! I took, like, FOUR!"

I just about drove off the road. She was laughing...I felt like I had just sucked down 10 Margaritas...

That was one of those moments that we look back on now and laugh...

That afternoon, we FINALLY got in touch with my Mom and Dad, and ARRANGEMENTS were being made to fly them home, and pick them up from the airport.

The closest and quickest flight would only get them to Manchester, New Hampshire. About 3 hours away from us...and there were complications. I can't remember ALL of the complications, but they were there. Complications that complicated every complicated travel plan we came up with. They were with friends. Their cars were in Portland...We needed two vehicles to get to them...Their flight wasn't getting in until midnight...And so on...and so on...

So it was decided that I would drive down to Portland with my wonderful, down-to-earth cousin Bryan. We would pick up the car in Portland, and continue on to Manchester to pick up my parents and their 4 friends(or was it 6)?


Thank goodness for cell phones...Bryan and I actually had a good time talking and catching up, crying together, but laughing together, too. Grampa left us with so much to remember.

I stopped at Dunkin Donuts for the "Largest-Most-Caffeinated-Whatever" they had to counter the Tylenol PM that left me hungover but still headache-less..

But THAT caused ANOTHER problem...

Oh, yeah.

By the time we reached the state line, I had to PEE.

Not just a little.


Damned coffee.

I called Bryan who was now following me in the other car.

"Bryan. I have GOT to STOP SOMEWHEEEEEEERE!!!!!"

But the highway stretched on forever. And we were on a schedule.

How we didn't get pulled over is beyond me...I guess Grampa had already started looking out for us.

I was sweating bullets by the time we flew through the toll booth in New Hampshire.

There was nothing I could do.

I pulled into the commuter lot, Dukes of Hazard style, with my poor, kind of shy cousin right behind me.

I peed my pants.

I could not have cared less. Bryan is still traumatized to this day.

My two different colored flip-flops were soaked.


Thankfully, there was a blanket or something that I finagled a big diaper out of and went on my way.

That's how I showed up to pick up my parents at the airport.

In a diaper and two wet flip-flops. One blue. One orange. THAT I remember.

It was the best thing that could have happened.

It was funny.

And we all needed to laugh.

Another situation occurring at the very same time was the fact that I had just met Chris. I had only known him for two weeks at the time, but he was right there for me and my family. Through it all. I knew I was going to marry him when I finally broke down and cried, and he just held me and didn't say a word. He took my son and niece for walks around the block when "arrangements" were being made. He held my hand tight in church before I did a reading. I said yes right away when he asked me to marry him soon after~I knew Grampa would approve.

We still miss him. Tony Luciano.

But boy, he left his family with so much!

Wonderful, funny memories. An un-matched work-ethic. An eye for a "bargain." The importance of saving money. Patriotism. Love of Family.

In the days that followed we learned so much about him. About his childhood. About his love of baseball. About the War. His friends. His family. That he saved every pair of shoes he had ever owned and stuffed them in a hall closet. And so, so much more.

We already knew how much he loved us. We know he knew how much we loved him. And still do.

It's easier now to recall. It does get easier.

The beauty of it all is that we, as a family, grew even closer. We got back together with friends and family we hadn't seen in years. We realized how wonderful our friends and community were.

We learned again how important it is to say, "I love you." And show it.

So, if you ever question whether or not to buy in bulk...just do it. Do it because Tony would have.

Especially Anti-Freeze.

Look for the lowest gas prices.

Root for your home team.

Sing "The Star Spangled Banner" with your hand on your heart.

Save your never know.

And laugh when something is funny. It's okay.

Love to you all that are grieving.

And Thanks, Grampa.


  1. You are so special! It is simply amazing the different emotions you can evoke with the retelling of an incident in your life that meant so much to you. It brings out the tears, and the laughter, too. I could just picture you in your "diaper". The quote is perfect. It's the good times, and the funny times, that can carry anyone through times of sadness.

  2. Karen Gilbert-BoweJuly 19, 2010 at 5:18 PM

    Thanks for sharing this Kristen. Your Grampa was a wise man. You're story is funny too. You're a great writer and story teller. I can picture everything you wrote. And I can understand your love for your Grampa. I too pray to my Memere and Pepere Gilbert all the time. Not to mention using their quotes in everyday life. Life was simple back then but we can learn a lot from them.

  3. Wow, that was an amazing story. I remember how sweet your grandpa was, always smiling. You just reminded me of the memories I had of my grandfather and I sometimes talk to him too and especially my grandmother when times are tough. When my grandmother was on her death bed, Kurt came with me and met our family, that day I knew he was the one for me even though we were newly dating. God bless your grandmother and the rest of you because you were all lucky to have such a very nice man and I am sure he was lucky to have you all in his life.