Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Irvin D. Bird 1930-2009



I stopped by Brighton Gardens about two weeks before he died. Hadn't seen him in about a month or so. Things had gotten worse. He was still dressed in slacks, black leather shoes and a collared shirt; his white hair still slicked back - but skinny, lost in thought staring above an uneaten plate of food. Irv always dressed well. He was just smooth like that. His speech was nearly unrecognizable and he had lost so much weight. Talking seemed like a burden so I asked if he would take me to his room and play me a song on his piano. He sat down in front of his jet black upright, and started to play my favorite song. I didn't even have to ask. During the music you could have forgotten that he was sick, it sounded so right. Claire de Lune wafted from the piano and it was the last song I ever heard him play.
My brothers and I all made the immigration of sorts from Germany to Salt Lake City, one at a time over the last few years and spent time with Irv. My older brothers ended up living together in a house downtown about 4 blocks from where I now live. Their landlord was a cheerful business man who had lived much of his life surrounded by women, wives, sisters and daughters. I think that is why he took to my family so much, (5 brothers). It didn't take long until he became a sort of interim grandfather in addition to being our friend. His stories of learning to play the organ in Paris, the cars he'd owned, the women he'd loved, the places he'd been and what it all felt like. The passion that he lived with was magnetic, even if experienced only retroactively through a story over lunch or a car ride. A few years ago he was diagnosed with Alzheimers. It wasn't a surprise to him, his mother and nearly everyone on that side of the family had died of this disease. He would jokingly say to me, "Everyone on my mother's side died of Alzheimers...everyone on my fathers side lived well into their nineties. Looks like I am going to live forever and have no idea who I am! Some mornings I wake up and think, who's that old guy in my pajamas!?"
In the end it wasn't the Alzheimers, rather cancer that took him so swiftly. Two weeks later his family and my brother Greg, his wife Jenny and I said goodbye in the hospital room at the VA in Salt Lake. I played Claire de Lune for him on my laptop while I finally admitted accidentally breaking a sprinkler head of his when I was a kid, asked for forgiveness and said goodbye. Later that night when it was just the two of us while his daughter ran family back home from the hospital, I sat with him, he wasn't speaking by then. I found an old green hymn book in the hospital room and sang a few hymns. Hymns he'd played probably thousands of times. I kept wondering if I was doing him a disservice, sending him out of this word off key, but it just felt like the right thing to do. My brothers and I were honored to be pall bearers at the funeral, and as we were standing at the graveside I remembered the end of a summer a few years ago. Of all the great memories of Irv, this was my favorite. This is out of my journal.
September 2, 2007
"...I picked Irv up and we drove up to Mountain Green to Greg and Jenny's church for Sophie's blessing. When we pulled up to the church we were early and I wanted to just go inside and wait on some comfortable chairs in the foyer. Irv wanted to go outside across the street and look at the mountains, horses and lonely highway that slices almost inconspicuously throught Weber Canyon. He liked everything, new cars parked, hay bales, moving trucks on the freeway, everything. I guess that's what it's like to be in his position; everything to denotes progress is an icon of a beautiful memory. We looked out across the fields, down the rise and he said with a full breath, "see it all, do it all, have it all." In other words, don't sit inside and miss it cause of the comfy chairs."

15 comments:

wendy said...

Great Story. Thanks.

artsybee said...

this was quite touching. you don't impart too much but he seemed to be a man who truly lived every moment and let none pass him by.

David and Shalynna said...

Usually I laugh when I read your blog, but today I'm about to cry. What a sweet man and thank you for sharing his story and these beautiful photos.

Jackie said...

This story is so...great. I loved reading it and the photographs are stellar!

sour said...

i loved reading this as well. very touching.

Idzie said...

What a beautiful and moving story. Thank you so much for sharing, even if I'm now holding back tears!

Jenn said...

That was lovely. Thanks for sharing.

Mark Johnston said...

Thanks for sharing Mike.

Mrs. E said...

Very touching. That last photo is haunting. Sounds like he was a teacher of life lessons.

Steve Gravano said...

Beautiful

Annette Mineo said...

poetry . . .your photos are like really good poems, they stay with you

T.RIPPY said...

I love this post-the pictures speak so much.

Alexander Farnsworth said...

I only dream to know my grandfather as you did -- thank you for sharing.

The Zangs said...

so touching... i find myself sucked into your blog right now- reading one beautiful thing after another, seeing tons of fabulous images - and being reminded how unique and priceless life is. i have a million things to do, but don't care because i am engrossed in your stories, pictures, and amazing perspective.

Melvin said...

wow, great post...
thanks for this post...
I like this blog.........

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Melvin
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