Why Umbrellas?

Put up your umbrella.  It all started with my first boyfriend, Greg Ptacek, in the city of perpetual rain – New Orleans.  I need to start by saying that Greg was (and is) the nicest guy.  To this day, I don’t remember if he broke up with me or I broke up with him.  If he broke up with me, it just goes to show that he was such a nice guy in doing so that I don’t remember the pain of the moment.  If I broke up with him, it just stands in a long line of irrevocable and outrageously stupid things I’ve done in my life.

We were both students at Tulane University.  Creative and thoughtful in all he did, Greg gave me the most fabulous umbrella from England on my birthday.  He purchased it at a millinery (frilly hat shop) located behind the St. Louis Cathedral in The French Quarter on the corner of Pirates Alley and Royal Street.  I can still picture the umbrella.  Its handcrafted wooden shaft was topped off with classic tan fabric.  The mechanism that opened and closed the umbrella was the finest.  It came in a lovely carrying case that matched the umbrella.  The case sported a strap to wear over my shoulder fashionably to carry the umbrella when not in use.  I kept it with me often.  I loved it.  It was maybe one of the nicest gifts I’ve ever received; unique, unusual, functional, and oh so beautiful.

The umbrella took on a life of its own when a suite-mate borrowed it from my dorm room without my expressed permission.  She left it at a New Orleans restaurant for it to be lost forever.  My roomie didn’t immediately tell me.  She waited until I was at the point of insanity looking for it, and then guilt made her confess.

She offered to replace it.  Normally I’m the “Oh, never mind, it’s okay” kind of girl;   normally, but not this time.  I boldly told her “Yes, I want it replaced”.  While my friend could not match the original, she bought me a lame replacement.  Nonetheless, I kept (and used) it for many years, always missing the real thing.

Time marched on. I married Dann Bosselman, and I gave birth to two beautiful children early on in our marriage.  When my children Megan and Ryan were about 6 and 8, they joyfully danced around the yard in the pouring rain with the counterfeit umbrella (shades of New Orleans second line at Mardi Gras).  I can still remember gazing out the front picture window watching them laugh.  The umbrella was left out for the night, and the wooden handle warped beyond repair.  It was a sad ending.

The memory of the umbrella lived on.  Megan went to England as a high school graduation gift. Wanting to surprise me, she searched high and low for the infamous umbrella.  She came home empty-handed and disappointed.

Megan named Greg Ptacek “The Umbrella Guy”, not because he gave me the English umbrella, but he passed on to us a metaphor for life.  When my daughter was discouraged, I would tell her “Put up your umbrella”.  It would be my way of telling her that seasons change, and by putting up her umbrella it would mean she was waiting for the rain of blessing, a rain of change, a rain filled with fresh new life.  Maybe you can’t see it, but you can smell rain in the air and should always be ready for it.

It stormed in our lives.  Days after Megan graduated from college I knew something was critically wrong with our girl.  I told Dann either Megan was having a nervous breakdown or something was horribly wrong in her body.    In August of 2004 we got the news that Megan had adrenal cancer – a condition almost unheard of in someone her age.  Life expectancy for adrenal cancer is five years from diagnosis.   The rain kept coming down.

In the midst of the life and death of my girl we made every effort to keep track of our metaphorical umbrella.  People became the umbrella, and they covered us and protected us;   People showered us with love in the midst of dying and people were servants that held up the umbrella for us when we were incapable of doing it on our own.

This blog is about the extraordinary friendship, protection, and care of our friends.  It is also the raw truth about human failings, including my own, in the midst of the horrific circumstances that cancer or chronic illness bring.

It had been Megan’s wish to survive and one day fall in love.  She wanted her wedding on our outdoor patio.  The gift she wanted to give all of the guests?  Pink umbrellas.  It’s good luck for an Irish girl to have rain on her wedding day.

This blog is for Megan Bosselman.  In memory of my girl,  put up your umbrella.

On a Lighter Note:

  • When he’s not singing in the rain, Greg Ptacek is a writer-publicist-marketeer in the entertainment industry, specializing in independent film, music and digital content.  He founded the Silver Lake Film Festival (silverlakefilmfestival.org) and has written several notable books over the years.  He has been happily married to his wife Alisse since 1990, a notable music publicist.
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7 thoughts on “Why Umbrellas?

  1. Valerie,
    All I can say, is I will never look at an umbrella again the same way. You’ve had more than your share of rain and sadness, but Thank God you are the strong woman who is able to share, education and help others.

    • Lisa, You have been so very good to me for a long time. I cried when I read your name today, remembering that you ordered stickers from me in the last days of Megan’s life. Your business, along with many other consultants, enabled me to care for my girl physically and financially. I count it a privilege to know you.

  2. How could I have never heard this story before? I have goosebumps. You’re a terrific writer, Valerie, and I’ll be first in line for my signed copy! What a great way to remember the incredible, inspirational Megan! Thanks for sharing your rainy days and sunny days, too.

    • Dearest Valerie, Incredibly beautiful tribute to your girl Megan.I can only imagine the depth of sorrow your feeling missing her, she was a beautiful gift to you and life will never be the same! I pray that in this new life without her the goodness of God will shine in extrodinary ways. I am especially excited for you and your adventure as an author! What I have read already, makes me want more of what you have to say, truly amazing talent in writing.

  3. Hi Valerie,

    I can’t find a link to contact you, so hopefully this will reach you quickly. I would really like to use your ‘Why Umbrellas?’ piece in our newsletter for a non-profit organization called Grief Watch. This month’s newsletter theme is umbrellas, and I just found your blog and thought that your description of umbrellas is perfect. We would cite you as the author and put a link in directly to your blog.

    Please get back to me by email or phone as quickly as you can with any questions you may have. Our website is http://www.griefwatch.com if you want to check us out.

    Many thanks,
    Codi Lindsey

    Grief Watch
    503-284-7426
    codi@griefwatch.com

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