Archives for August 2013

Thursday Ten: Another Summer Comes to an End Edition

1. Usually by July, I’m ready to climb the walls crazy, ready for summer to be done. This summer flew by so much faster than that. Partly because of all the stuff going on, and partly because of the weird schedule the kids and I had – with them with their dad every other week, summer was measured in week-by-week chunks. My time with them, my time waiting for them to come home. Week by week, rather than day by day, and suddenly we’re looking at Labor Day weekend.

2. And with Labor Day and my part time schedule, I’m lookin’ at… a five day weekend. Five day weekends are decidedly less awesome with three day paychecks.

3. Open houses at the girls’ schools this week. Pumpkin is at the same school with a teacher that The Princess had years ago, and The Princess, well… we toured the MIDDLE SCHOOL, she practiced opening her locker, we met her teachers. It’s kind of exciting.

4. Less exciting? A middle school on a 90 degree day full of hundreds of smelly tweens and teens. Ooof. The smell was somethin’ awful. They should have been passing out deodorant at the door. (Also, parents? This is part of your job. No one really wants to tell their kid, “Hey you! You’ve got some wicked pit stench!” but sometimes you’ve just GOTTA. You can even say it nicer than that.)

5. I was watching an episode of some show on HGTV (I know, hold your look of surprise) and this couple was basing their decision on their dog’s opinion of the place. They’d go house hunting with their dog and make comments like, “He likes their front yard! That’s good!” or “Uh oh! The backyard is too small and he doesn’t like it!”  A couple of things. First, if I’m the one BUYING the house: I’m the one spending the money, I’m the one who chooses the house. Not my dog. My dog will just have to assume that I love him and wouldn’t move into a not good for dogs house. Secondly, if I was SELLING my house and people brought a dog through it? I’d be annoyed. They actually showed a shot of the dog jumping into someone’s swimming pool. I realize editing is some tricky stuff and it could very well be an authorized dog-in-pool event, however… WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? Ahem.

6. I’m tired of hearing about Miley Cyrus. I’m also tired of the rebound complaining about Robin Thicke (“Oh, we all attacked Miley but we really should have been attacking Robin so we’re going to attack him now because she shouldn’t have done what she did but he’s a grown man and la la la la la…”). TO WHICH I SAY THIS: Miley Cyrus is not a role model for my kids. Neither is Robin Thicke. Odds are, if we had just left it alone after the VMAs had aired, a large percentage of the people who are actually talking about it would have NEVER KNOWN IT HAPPENED. I have the ability to change the channel if I don’t like what’s on television. I also choose what music I’m buying, and relatedly, where my dollars go. If I don’t dig what someone’s doing, they don’t get my money. Also? I’m really sick of seeing the pictures. Again: I’d have never seen them if people didn’t insist on posting and posting and posting. I wonder what percentage of these outraged people were a) actually watching the VMAs and b) would allow their kids to watch it.

7. Have I complained about the weather yet this week? UGH the humidity. Walking outside is like walking through pudding.

8. Breaking Bad, oh my goodness. {I may very well say that every week until the series wraps up because OH MY GOODNESS}

9. I don’t think I can truly let go of summer unless I find some fun ice cream parlor and having one delicious hand-dipped cone. Probably mint chip because I am a creature of habit.

10. I really meant to start reading more again.

Grief is Such a Strange Weird Thing

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On Monday, I walked past a framed picture of my grandparents that sits on the etagere in my living room. I stopped, picked up the frame and inspected my grandpa’s photographed face. The picture was taken in June – so after his health had started declining but before the beginning of the end (which seems a morbid way of describing those last few weeks, but that is indeed what they were). Looking at that photograph, it occurred to me: I’ll never see his face in person again. No more hugs. No more conversations.

It seems obvious, but this is a realization that I keep having, in different ways.

His funeral was well-attended, though it was not what I would have chosen, had anyone asked me for my opinion – too somber, too ritualistic, nearly completely ignoring the intricacies of his quirky and lovely personality. The mass left me gutted and sad and heart broken, but I found no comfort in the priest’s words, I found no familiarity in the hymns that had been chosen, and I all too distinctly remember the last time I sat in that church: I was a child,  I could hear my grandfather’s deep voice belting out the songs and he passed me a roll of LifeSavers to keep me entertained during a Sunday service. There were no LifeSavers and I couldn’t hear his voice.

At the private graveside service, we were encouraged to share memories but hardly anyone did and it seemed then that the moment for such sharing was gone and that by then, in the heat of a summer afternoon, we were all weary, full of church lady luncheon food, and ready to just stop feeling. I was grateful to those who did share kindnesses, wished more had.

I saw where his ashes would be interred. I was given a rose from the floral arrangement.

My grandmother is lonely. My sister and I took my daughters to visit last night and my grandmother is lonely. “We had no happy memories of this place,” she told us. “He’s not here. I don’t feel him.”

I had never given much thought to her beliefs beyond the fact that she, like my grandfather was, is strongly rooted in her faith and that she believes in heaven and believed there would be something…more. I didn’t realize she was expecting his presence, or that she’d be so profoundly disappointed when his presence couldn’t be felt.

“He went back to the house,” she said, referring to the home she and my grandpa purchased what was probably light years ago for $10,000 and a mortgage payment of $75 a month. They raised four children in that house. Grandchildren spent time under that roof. That’s where the memories are and so, says my grandma, that is where grandpa is – his spirit is in the home he loved and not the nursing home he hated.

My mom says we need to tell her that she carries him in her heart always – that he’s there whether she can feel it or not.

Who am I to say?

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I was worried about how it’d look when I left town Friday afternoon after the funeral, as though I was fleeing for some umbrella-drink vacation where I would be kicking up my heels and celebrating and disrespecting so soon the loss that I have been feeling.

I am grateful, though, to have been taken away for the weekend. To be wrapped in hugs and warmth and love and to be shown peace and glimpses of normalcy away from the scene of such recent loss. To be in a place with no memories attached gave me a chance to let go of some of my grief for a few days – to breathe in air, to watch sunsets, to spy on deer playing in a field, to pet dogs, cook tacos, spend time on a lake with sun smiling on my face, drink wine from red Solo cups. I am glad that I didn’t surrender to the guilt telling me I shouldn’t go.

And when I came home and walked into my house, the sadness hit me in the face once more, still like a ton of bricks.

I am loved. I love.

And those are things that are helpful to me when I am hurting.

“I love you as much as he did, you know?” my grandma said last night.

There are moments when I feel completely normal and I can lose myself in HGTV or lament the 80 degree weather with 90% humidity. Where I can watch my daughter touring middle school for the first time and meet teachers and try to remember to pick up dog food on the way home.

And it makes me sad but this is a new normal and this is how it will be and he’s not going to be here again and I’ll never hear his voice again and why didn’t we make video of him talking, why didn’t we? We could have, it’d have been so easy. And I don’t expect his presence, I can’t imagine a tangible feeling that he’s there, but I do carry him in my heart and I will always and it’s really an awful thing, grief. But I know he’d hate it.

My cousin posted a picture on Facebook – a cabinet front and duct tape – “Grandpa approved!” he said. And I laughed, how I laughed. I need more of those moments, the moments of celebration. Joy in what was amazing will be what gets us all through this.

Thursday Ten: This Week. Sigh. This Week. edition

1. I promise this won’t become a grief blog to the exclusion of all else that is ever going on in my world, but right now, man. Dang. I cannot believe this week. It was a week ago, y’know, that we started this process of saying goodbye. All other time seems to move so slowly, except this week went by too quickly.

2. My threshold for stress may be lower than usual right now.

3. I have leftovers in my refrigerator that I can no longer identify and two baskets of clothes that need to be put away. I should maybe get on that, eh?

4. Most of you live in places where your kids have already started school. We’ve got another week and a half here until the kiddos go back. Third grade and sixth grade. Sheesh, where does time go? Just got class schedules and teacher assignments. Home stretch of summer, y’all.

5. I got into my car after work yesterday and nearly passed out from the smell. Thank you, darling children for leaving your nearly full Frappucino cup in my car. Rancid Frappuccino is the name of my new Bob Marley tribute band.

6. I haven’t watched a single episode of Project Runway this season. I don’t know why. I guess I don’t think of it. Summer is not usually the time where I control the television – kids have later bedtimes, and tend to watch later, and then I just turn on HGTV in the background as noise… I’ve missed Tim Gunn though. Have I missed anything?

7. Home improvement shows always make it look so easy. Oh, I could tile a kitchen backsplash and install hardwood flooring. (Television also makes me believe I could intubate someone if they needed it – thanks to medical dramas!)

8. It’s really hard to come up with ten things when you’re trying to not be mopey.

9. This was supposed to be the week I was going to start reading more. Whoops.

10. The Princess sent me a voice memo of herself singing this for me to play for my grandpa last week. It’s been in my head since. Mostly because my daughter sang it so sweetly and so lovely that I was pretty sure it was a professional singer doing it — upon closer listen, I can tell it’s her, of course. Still lovely and sweet, but sniffing because she’d been crying. My heart. Boom. But I do love this song.

On Goodbyes and Hearts Full of Sad

it's 20/20

Sunday morning, we sat at my grandpa’s bedside and we sang happy birthday to him. We sang softly. There was no cake, no ice cream. There was no joyful exuberance, except (oh bless her) The Princess when we finished singing, who added some lightness by starting in with the, “Are ya one? Are ya two? Are ya three?”

We didn’t let her get to 87, but it made us smile.

We’d been preparing ourselves since last Wednesday when hospice said they didn’t think he would make it until his birthday – and then the morning of his birthday we were told, “This is it. Gather around. Say your goodbyes.”

There were so many tears that day.

We’d had a lot of negativity over the weekend, bickering, family fighting – he said, she said. I guess that’s normal in times of stress. I hadn’t expected it. I thought we’d all pull together, stay together and not resort to pettiness. Except, that’s just what people do.

Sunday, though, we cried together. We wrapped each other in tight hugs. We came into and out of his room as we needed – sadness gets overwhelming, as does the need for air and sunlight to remind you that yes, it’s a circle and there’s a world that is going on, even when it feels like your life is on pause.

I said goodbye, kissed him, knowing it would be the last time I saw him.

And it broke my heart to walk out that door.

And then he hung on and it was Monday. I should be there, I thought. But I knew I couldn’t bear saying goodbye again. And what if he lived through another day? I’d say goodbye again? And again? I felt I should, but I also didn’t know if I could.

I didn’t.

He died Monday evening. My mom, my aunts and uncles had gone home. It was just my grandmother and some nurses.

He died like he lived – he dug his heels in and got stubborn, refusing to give up. And his strong heart held on as long as it could.

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I am glad that he’s no longer suffering and that he’s not in pain. I guess it was far too easy to believe for too long that he was invincible, that he wouldn’t be here forever. It hasn’t even been 48 hours and there’s a hole in the world where he belongs. I’m doing my best to fill it with memories, but I’d rather he were still here.

He was such a loving man and I am comforted by the knowledge that he loved me, he loved my children. I don’t wonder at all how he felt because he told me every time he saw me. I don’t have to wonder if he was proud of my kids because complete strangers would walk into his room last week, and they’d know me by my daughters (he often described my kids as “the gymnast” and “the funny one”). And every time I’d leave he’d tell me, “That’s a beautiful family you have there, Sarah.”

Grief is a strange thing – because it seems like you anticipate it, you know you’re going to be sad, you know you’re going to miss someone, but you don’t really expect that you’ll start crying driving down the highway because a line in a song – a song you never heard with the person who’s gone, a song that’s not even in any way associated with that person – hits you in just the “right” way and sets you off.

Life will go on because he’d have wanted it to.

I find that even though I don’t really know what my beliefs are, it brings me great comfort to imagine him sitting somewhere, watching over me. I imagine he’ll soon exert some pull and fix the things that need fixing (some heavenly duct tape on the parts of my life that need patching). And maybe it’s ridiculous to think so, but it brings a smile to my face, so I’ll take it.

He will be missed. He will be so missed. He already is.

Thursday Ten Which Is Not Ten But Only One And Also It’s Wednesday

After I wrote this morning’s post, I received an email from my mother that hospice doesn’t think my grandpa will make it until his birthday. I was at work when I got her email, and tears instantly rushed into my eyes and my brain kind of went on auto-pilot sorting through the things I needed to do so I could be with my family. I checked with HR, do I have any PTO? Yes, they confirmed that I did.

I quickly went through my to-do list, completing urgent tasks, sending an email to the department letting them know I’d be out.

I hit the drive through of an atrocious fast food restaurant, picked up a bucket of diet Coke and went to the nursing home. I sat in the parking lot for over five minutes, steeling myself to walk in, to keep my face calm, to not cry.

My grandmother and I were in tears together within five minutes of my walking in the room.

At first, it was just me and my grandmother. Then my aunt arrived. Then my sister and my niece. Then my mother. Later a neighbor. My uncle and cousin. My aunt. Another uncle. It was a full house.

We’ve cried a lot today. Grandpa’s done a lot of sleeping. I’m grateful that he woke up enough when the nurses moved him to a hospital bed in his living room to say my name and to respond, “Love you, too,” when I told him I love him.

We all want a piece of this, the recognition, the seeing him see us. We want more of it, because if it doesn’t happen now, how will we ever remember just what it was that he said when he spoke to us for the last time? It’s selfish, I know, and my dad said to me tonight, “Sarah, he’s tired. Let him sleep.” But the family – myself included – just want a glimpse of the man he was, the one who loves us, the one who sees us, the one we know.

My grandpa has always been the king of “I booped your nose” – touching a great-grandkid’s nose with his pointer finger. My niece, wrapped in my sister’s arms, leaned to touch my grandpa’s nose. “Boop!” she said. He lifted his hand, shaking and unprecise, eventually finding her nose with his finger to boop back.

And then he fell asleep and mostly stayed asleep. We encouraged grandma to sit by him – “But he won’t know I’m here!” she argued. He will, we said. And he did. Though he didn’t speak, you could see his face react when she spoke. She leaned closely, her forehead pressed to his, saying things we could not hear.

My heart is breaking, it is. All of us are having a hard time. We know his body is tired. We know, we know, we know. But we’re going to miss him so much that letting go feels impossible.

When Birthdays Aren’t Easy

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My grandpa’s birthday is on Sunday. I’ve been watching the calendar and watching the date come closer and have been wondering how, how we recognize this day. It is, most likely, going to be his last birthday.

I wonder how often it is that you know that everything is the “last” of something. As much as I hate it, as difficult as it is to see his health and mental facilities decline, I often feel that our family is lucky to know that this time is finite. We’re coming to an end. We need to embrace the time we have and do our best to make it special.

Some people don’t have that opportunity.

People walk out of their houses on seemingly normal days and get hit by buses and it’s over. They never see it coming. No one gets a chance to say goodbye. It’s just…over.

But we see it coming and I guess there’s something to be said for that, having the opportunity to brace ourselves.

The other day, my dad was telling me about his mother’s death. She had lived in Florida and so I wasn’t close to her. My dad tells me that he’d read articles about hospice and the last days of the dying, and was grateful for how it prepared him to deal with things in my grandmother’s final days, things he’d have never expected and wouldn’t have known how to handle. He tells me we should read these articles.
Maybe we should.

My grandmother is acting out, being quite awful to people. She’s scared and you can tell. I could see that fear when my grandpa got confused and insisted I was Kathleen, the nurse. After a few minutes that felt like hours he called me by my name. Was a relief to hear “Sarah.”

My aunt says that my grandmother is already grieving him as he slips away and that’s why she’s behaving this way. It’s taken her awhile to see this, though my sister and I have been telling our mom this for awhile. She’s SCARED. He’s NOT who he was. So, in a sense, she’s already grieving in anticipation, but she’s also grieving the parts of him that are gone already. He’s not the man she’s spent over sixty years of her life married to.

On Sunday we will gather for my grandpa’s birthday in a two hour celebration on the patio of his nursing home. We will likely be eating Costco cake and I can’t imagine what the mood will be like. His nurse has said that he’s getting weaker, that he may not be able to sit through the entire two hours. I’m pretty sure they’re underestimating his determination – but we’ll see.

I don’t know what the day will be like, only that I hope if anything, he realizes just how loved he is. That we’re all grateful for all of his years with us and that his birthday, even in this sadness, is a celebration of the day that someone we love so much was born.

Thursday Ten: I’m A Lackadaisical Blogger edition

1. The thing is, it’s not that I don’t have plenty of stuff to say – I do! I have plenty to say! I have just been in such a BLAH mood. I am doing my best (really! I mean it!) to not just mope, spectacularly all over the internet while I deal with work stuffs, and so sometimes it’s easier to just follow the old, “If you don’t have anything nice to say” rule. There are plenty of bloggers who get a lot of post mileage out of their struggles but I’m not super comfortable with it. So, you know, it’s HARD.

2. Having said that, I’m midway through my second month of working only part time and it’s every bit as stressful as you’d think. As I was leaving work yesterday, someone asked if I was on my way to do anything fun this weekend (because why else would one start her weekend on WEDNESDAY?) and the words slipped out, “I’m not going on vacation, my job was made part time, it wasn’t my choice. I can’t really afford to do anything fun but my house is a lot cleaner.” Immediately I wanted to swoop the words up and put them back, take them away, because UGH, who just spews that stuff? Not me, not usually. Buuuuuuut, you know, I guess it was just bubbling under the surface. You know, it just is what it is, I guess. Gonna chalk that moment up to some built up stress and move on. Annnnd, hope it doesn’t bite me in the bum later.

3. My dad called me last night to tell me how much he thinks Pumpkin is starting to look like me. He’s kind of right. The thing is, my children are these light haired, blue eyed kiddos – it’s easy to overlook any features that might be similar to mine, but yeah… Pumpkin has some of my features. Hope that poor thing doesn’t end up with a nose like mine.

4. It’s not all gloom and doom here, though. I mean, LOOK AT THAT SKY.
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5. And next week? For the first time in OVER A YEAR, I’ll be attending book club. The thing about this whole single mom-thang is that I can’t necessarily just go out mid week to book club. And though the kids are with their dad every other week in the summer, that doesn’t help if book club is scheduled on the “wrong week.” Next week, the stars aligned just so – and they’ll be discussing Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild.” Which I actually read. And liked.

6. Other schools, not in Michigan, are starting back up but my kids have a little less than a month of summer left. Summer isn’t even fun anymore – they’re bored and the days meld together. Last night, I came home and Pumpkin was telling the dog how hard it was to be a person. Stupid Michigan tourism law. We’re at the point of the summer where I start thinking year round school would be a good idea for these kids.

7. BREAKING BAD is back on Sunday, y’all! CanNOT wait to see where it goes from here. Who’s watching?

8. Oh, and speaking of TV, finished season one of “Orange Is The New Black,” I did end up watching the whole season. Annnnd, I really enjoyed it. Those first few episodes were tough to slog through but in the end, I was pretty impressed. It was a well done series. Can’t imagine where Season Two will go. Suppose I should read the book?

9. Yesterday, The Princess iMessaged me while I was at work. She sent a video of her doing a back tuck off the beam. Blew my mind. She makes it look so easy. I get nervous just lookin’ at it.

10. You know what would be nice? That whole job thing falling into place. It’s amazing how one thing could be so huge, affect so many areas of your life and stress a person out. I know, I said I wasn’t going to complain. I’m not really complaining…this time. Just putting it out there in the world. Life is good, for the most part, I love and I am loved and that makes me luckier than many. I’d just like to be able to let go of some worry. Yeah, that’d be nice.

Thursday Ten: Where Did July Even GO? edition

1. I cannot believe it’s August. Time flies – when you’re having fun and when you’re not – and I’ve had a mixture of both the past month. This summer has gone by faster than any other in recent memory and I blink and another week has gone by. I am guessing that it’s the schedule with the girls home and when they’re with their dad that is part of it. Time literally is week to week for me this summer. It hasn’t been completely easy, that’s for sure.

2. Last night, I was getting ready to let my dog in from a trip through the backyard to discover…he’d left a dead baby bunny on the deck. He’s a labradoodle, so he’s got that retriever side of him, but oooof. Gross. I thought I’d pick it up (not with my bare hands, mind you, I was going to scoop it into a plastic bag using a paper plate as a shovel of sorts), but… I couldn’t. It was just TOO much for me. I called my brother-in-law to get rid of it. I guess there are limits to my bad-assery.

3. I read a story the other day about a reporter in Alabama who was fired for a blog post and I think of that sometimes, wonder how often that happens. While it wasn’t a post that put her in the best light, it seems an over-reaction on the part of her employer. I don’t know, when I’m so grouchy about my work situation, I still censor quite a bit because I think of people like that reporter and I figure, you just hit the wrong person on the wrong day, and bleh. It’s tricky to navigate sometimes.

4. So without griping about my job or my employer, I will say that this whole working part time thing isn’t really getting any easier. I’m sad to have let go of some of the parts of my job that I really loved and that I was really good at – it’s a tough adjustment and it’s less than ideal right now, and I’m trying to get passed stress and just find solutions… but it’s not easy.

5. Spending time with a camera helps my mood.
sun setting on his garden, a series

6. As part of my efforts to deal with a part time paycheck thing, I decided to google some tips on saving money. One of the first hits was a Martha Stewart article – 50 Ways to save money around the house. Martha suggests we all make our own decorative vases instead of buying them. That’s helpful, Martha. SUPER HELPFUL. The vases clearly are what’s been killing my budget.

7. BUT SERIOUSLY – I don’t see myself becoming an extreme couponer (“Ain’t nobody got time for that!”) but, what are some ways you save around the house – real world, down to earth style and not “chill your wine in the cellar and not buy a pricey wine fridge” Martha-style. I find menu-planning helps me save a bit of cash at the grocery store – but what else is working for y’all?  (Man, I feel like I’m one step away from asking if I should rinse and reuse my plastic sandwich bags – but I’m not there yet – or ever). The thing is, I really haven’t ever been the type to splurge on too many extras – save for coffee – so it’s not like it’s a matter of kicking a shopping habit. That’d be way easier.

8. The other day, Pumpkin and I accidentally bumped heads so hard I could have sworn I saw stars. Buuuut, I didn’t have any ice packs. Good thing I have a tendency to freeze random stuff. I nursed the bump on my eyebrow with a frozen Gogurt, while she soothed the back of her head with a frozen Capri Sun. Both pretty effective ice packs, actually.

9. A friend posted a link to “40 Days of Dating” and now I’m in catch up mode trying to read it all. Not only is it an interesting concept/project, but the website is pretty amazing to look at. I love some good design.

10. I’m always amazed that there are people so willing to air their dirty laundry on Facebook and am ready to institute a new rule: if you’re going to bring on the drama, you best give us all popcorn first. Saw a husband and wife argue with each other via Facebook status and I sat there drawn to it like I was passing a train wreck, watching as their comments volleyed back and forth and then as their friends and family chimed in. Here’s a bit of advice: Just… don’t do that. It’s really yucky and pretty uncomfortable. Both halves of that couple ended up looking pretty bad, when all was said and done.