Grandma’s rocking chair

My eye hurts really bad. It feels like it is on fire as the tears roll down my face.

Matt is screaming again. He poked me in the eye on purpose. We are both screaming now.

I told Grandma that I hate Matt.

She didn’t tell me that I should feel lucky that I am normal. Nor did she say that I shouldn’t be upset since Matt can’t help it. She didn’t tell me that Matt has it harder either. Those were the things that Mommy and Aunt Grace said.

She didn’t push me away to comfort Matt.

Instead, Grandma picked me up and rocked me in her gentle arms. She sang me beautiful songs until my tears dried and I fell asleep.

What I truly want for Mother’s Day

What I truly want for Mother’s Day…

Baby, I want to hold your tiny hand in mine one more time.

I want to gather you back into the safety of my nest.

I want to be able to kiss your owwies and take away your pain.

I want you to still think that I have all of the answers and that the world is a good and magical place.

I want to sit you on my lap and read your favorite stories…I can’t seem to remember the day it all ended.

I want to laugh off the people that say it goes by so fast as I hold a crying baby in my arms.

What I truly want for Mother’s Day…

Mother, I want to see the excitement in your eyes as I give you my scribbles on a piece of pink construction paper.

I want to see the beauty of your young face and the natural color of your hair. I don’t want to see signs of you slipping away from me.

I don’t want to think that this could be our last year together like last year was for my husband’s mother.

I want to think that the little things I do or say give you lasting happiness more than flowers or a card someone else wrote on this one day of the year.

What I truly want for Mother’s Day…

Grandma, how I long to hear your voice again…to hear you sing like a bird…to tell you that you gave my daughter your gift. I want you to fully understand the influence you have had on my life and how that impacted my children.

I want to smell fresh cookies as I walk into your house and know that you made a special batch just for me.

I want you to answer the phone when I call.

I long to see your house again, the way it was before the new people moved in.

I want to smell your sweet perfume, even the scent that remains in the half empty bottle is beginning to fade.

I wish you could walk alongside of me on this journey again..

This is what I truly want for Mother’s Day.

On a day like today

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It happened on a cold December day like today.

It happened to a woman my age who had children the ages of some of my children.

I wonder what it would be like..to find out that I was pregnant unexpectedly. She was worried that her husband would be upset when she suspected. She told my mother that.

Her oldest child was already married and out of the house. Her youngest child was 8.

For a couple of months, her oldest child and her were pregnant at the same time.

It was in December many decades ago that her last child, a healthy baby girl was born.

My mom who was the second oldest, called her older sister the day after the baby was born.

“She’s dead”, my mom said. “The baby?”, asked her sister. “No, mom”.

Many decades, years, minutes, and seconds have passed since that cold December day. The oldest daughter has already passed away. Most of my aunts and uncles are reaching retirement age. But I still see them long for the mother that left them too soon. When they get together they still read the old letters she wrote. Tales of what was made for dinner the evening before. Stories about nothing important that makes the siblings laugh and cry.

I feel very thankful that I have had my mother in my life so long.

Paul and I are now approaching the loss of our first parent. It really forces us to face death. I thought about it a lot over the trip to Door County last month with my mother and a few of her siblings, especially when they spoke of the loss of their mother. (The picture above is of my mom and her sister).

My mother’s youngest brother, the 8 year old boy at the time of his mother’s death, said in Door County that some of his favorite movies today are the ones that his mother took him to see right before she died. It was really touching.

My oldest uncle was 16 when his mom passed away. I have a 16 year old son. He would be mortified if I told him I was pregnant. It is the age that most teenage boys don’t want anything to do with their mother. I suspect that my uncle felt the same way and felt guilty for wanting to separate from his mother especially after she passed away unexpectedly. He is currently going through a nasty divorce from a woman that I knew for my whole life to be my aunt. At this hard time, he yearns for his mother so much that he has been visiting a medium just to try to talk to her again. It is terribly sad.

My mother said to me many times growing up that she wished her mother was there. She knew that her mother would have helped her raise an autistic child.

I never met my grandma. I have only seen the impact she has had on her children. From this, I know that she was a good person.

I am so blessed to have my mother in my life for this long..

Back to the present

Today I struggled with what to write. I want to go back to my autism series that I started earlier this month but so much is happening in my life right now. How can I talk about the past when the present is exciting, here, and almost gone?? I will finish it though. With the marathon last weekend and my first child’s graduation this weekend, I have a thousand thoughts and emotions running through my head. And it all has to fit into one post per day that should contain an average of 500 words. Lol.

Last night, Paul and I decided to call our parents to try to convince them into going to Angel’s graduation. I called my dad and asked him directly if he was going. Now I typically call my dad twice a year, on his birthday and on Father’s Day. So it was a big deal that I was calling him. He seemed happy to hear from me. He told me that Angel was a nice and good girl. He said that he was planning on going to her graduation. I was floored. Then he even asked me how my marathon went. I was shocked that the whole conversation was very positive.

Then I walked out of my bedroom to find that things didn’t go quite as well with Paul and his mom. Martha was on the phone with Angel saying that she wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t be able to make it. But this time she is really sick. So sick that she couldn’t make it in to her chemo appointment yesterday. I believe that she is really sick this time. But I liken it to the story of the boy that called wolf. Martha has been calling wolf so many times over the past several years that now my mind finds it had to believe that there is a wolf.

But there is a wolf. Martha has terminal cancer, the big devouring wolf. A few weeks ago, Martha was going to go with me to see Angel perform her solo and ensemble pieces at state. Martha was supposed to be at my house by nine. I waited around until 11:00, Martha didn’t show up or call. By that time I had already missed half of Angel’s performances. At 11, Paul called his mom and she was still at home an hour away from our house. She wasn’t feeling good enough to go but didn’t bother to call. She was going to try to make it out to eat with us later that evening for Mother’s Day.

I knew that Martha was sick. But it still brought up all of those old feelings that I had towards her for standing up my kids. I was very angry and hurt. I drove fast to get to the remainder of Angel’s events. I was pissed that I wasn’t there to support Angel when I told her I would be there to watch her. Then I even started to feel a little guilty that I was angry with my mother-in-law who is dying. So I have become tolerant. I have repressed the years of resentment, hurt, and anger.

It is hard because now I think that Martha might want to go to Angel’s graduation. But it is too late now. She should have gone to more things when she was able to. She should have been the involved grandparent then. Now it is much too late.

 

Until we meet again

Grandma, I know you said it was your time to leave. I want you to come back. I long to hear your voice. We should be sitting in a small town restaurant celebrating your birthday today.

Remember the time that Matt poked me in the eye? I cried and cried. You rocked me in your arms and sang to me. I wanted to hurt Matt back. You held Matt tight in your embrace. You comforted him. You taught me to love when I wanted to hate.

Remember the night that baby Luke was born? I was 4. You put the straight section of the circular green Davenport, as you called it, against the wall for me to sleep on. I told you that I was going to sleep with gum in my mouth. You told me it was a bad idea, but you didn’t stop me. I woke up with sticky gum all over my face and in my hair. You were right. Then you slept on the other part of the couch. The street light shining in on us through the window. Grandpa loudly snoring upstairs. 

Remember the doll house you made for me? You painted the walls, made curtains out of old lace that you thumb tacked to the walls, and used buttons as light fixtures. You squeezed your big fingers in the little material to make my doll clothes. Remember my doll stroller? Remember the doll that had buttons, zippers, and ties that would help me learn how to dress myself? Or giving me your hand towels for blankets when my dolls got cold? 

Remember cooking for me? You would send me off with a jar of cookies. You would prepare a feast when I visited. Remember me asking if my stomach would explode after eating too much of my favorite soup? Then when my kids were little, you gave them a tea party with juice in little tea cups. You had little plates of cheese and grapes for them. They were so excited.

Where would I be without you? You brought peace, comfort, and stability into my chaotic life. 

I will think of you today and remember all that you have done for me. I will celebrate your life! The candles are lit without a cake. I look at your picture as I smell the sweet fragrance of your favorite perfume. It is my ritual every year. For a brief second, I pretend that you are still here. I will never forget you.  

Happy birthday, Grandma! Until we meet again…

Grace uncommon, part 4

After the war, Aunt Grace and her brothers all returned home to help run the family business. Uncle Harold finished high school. My grandpa and Uncle Kenny got married. Aunt Grace and Uncle Harold moved back home with their parents where they lived for the rest of their lives. Grandpa and Uncle Kenny lived down the road. My grandparents had their only child, my dad.

Uncle Kenny and his wife were unable to have children. During the war, Uncle Kenny watched the bombing of Hiroshima along with other service men aboard a Navy ship. The exposure rendered him sterile. He passed  away from skin cancer a few years before I was born.

Out of the four siblings, my dad was the only child. I would like to say that after the war there was a time of peace and serenity. Perhaps there was for a period of time. My great-grandma was a very forceful woman. Before my great grandparents started a successful automotive company, my great-grandma was a school teacher. I suspect that she very easily put the fear of God into disobedient children. She put the fear of God into her own children. Aunt Grace and her siblings (my grandpa especially) spent a lot of time being disciplined out it the wood shed. My great-grandma was the family matriarch. When she passed away, she passed the baton to Aunt Grace.

My Aunt Grace and great-grandma were such a strong overbearing force not to be reckoned with. Grace not only had a strong personality, but she was physically taller than her brothers as well. She was about 5’9″ and her brothers were all barely 5 ft tall. There was a bit of fighting over my dad. Aunt Grace and her mother wanted to raise my dad. So one day my dad stayed overnight by his grandma’s and didn’t come back home. Days at grandma’s turned into weeks which turned into months which turned into a year. The only fault I could find in my grandma was that she was too submissive. She never stood up for herself. But after a year, she told my grandpa that he needed to bring their son back home where he belonged. This created a rift between my grandma and Aunt Grace.

Time trickled by like it tends to do. My mom and Aunt Grace became best friends. My mom viewed Aunt Grace as a mother since her own mother passed away while she was a teenager. My mom’s family was very large and lived far away. So Aunt Grace and Uncle Harold became “grandma” and “grandpa” to us.  They helped raise us. Aunt Grace favored my brothers Luke and Matt. My grandparents favored Mark and I. As a group, they helped my parents through some very difficult times. 

Bon voyage on life’s next journey

Writing has finally paid off for me. Literally. A week or so back I wrote a post about my bad travel experience with Delta airlines. I decided to go ahead and write them a very detailed complaint letter. What would it hurt? Maybe I would feel better if nothing else. I never had any problems with the airline before. I have never written a complaint letter before either. Today I received an apology letter from Delta along with a $200 gift card. I believe that this rectifies the situation. I wanted to share this response with you because a kind apology goes a long way with me if I feel wronged. It is fair. Ah, redemption and not just redeaming a gift card.

Today I received this gift on the 7th anniversary of my grandma’s death. I know what you are thinking…what does this have to do with flying?? In a weird twisted way, a lot. I planned our first family vacation to Disney a little over 7 years ago. I had planned the whole vacation, made reservations for meals, and purchased airline tickets to be called in a few days before our vacation to see my grandma on her death bed. I didn’t know what to do. I never traveled with the children before. I didn’t buy the extra insurance that allowed me to cancel the trip. And one of the closest people to me in the whole world was leaving it.

The family was called in to say good bye a few days before we were scheduled to leave. My grandma was delirious on Morphine. She spent a lot of time sleeping when we were there. She muttered and cried out, but was not aware of our presence. The following day I went to visit my grandma by myself for a little while. She refused the Morphine so she could be awake to talk to me. She told me that she wanted me to go on vacation. She told me that she was ready to see grandpa and her parents again. She said that I needed to let her go to be with those that passed before her. She said that I would be ok and that someday that the pain of her memory would fade. She lived a long full happy life and was ready for her final journey. 

So we went on our vacation. While we were gone, I called home frequently to be told that grandma was doing good. We got home from our trip Saturday night. When I called my mom, she told me that grandma was doing really well so well that she might be able to come back home. I didn’t need to rush out and visit her right away that night. The next morning I received a call that grandma passed away peacefully less than 24 hours after she knew I got home. 

I was very sad for a long time. I thought of her every single day that first year. I cried a long time the first anniversary of her death. Then it seemed like I didn’t think of her as much anymore. The pain faded and memories bloomed. I tried to remember the good days. 

My grandma once bought me a bright colored umbrella. She told me that she never wanted me to be sad on a rainy day. So I think of the happy days. The puzzles that we worked on together. Our love of mystery, thriller, suspense books. The time spent researching the family tree. Drinking tea together in our special mugs. The beautiful songs that she would sing to soothe my childhood tears. The jar of cookies she would send me home with. 

Today I am wearing one of the matching shirts she bought for us. We were best friends. She helped me through the hardest days of my life. Then she gently let go of my hand. 

Living on video

Today I saw my whole life pass before my eyes. No, I didn’t have a near death experience. I sat and watched my past fly by in fast forward as I was sitting with someone going through the old family videos. I started the project of converting those old videos onto hard drive.

I saw my grandma today. It was just a fleeting glimpse. She was living on video, beautiful and younger than my parents are now. Someday I will see her again. Until then, I will have to be satified seeing her at birthdays, concerts, and weddings living on video.

Handing over the Christmas baton

After decades of Christmas perfection, little tremors needled away at our  family tree structure creating (gulp) change. The Thanksgiving after Paul and I got married, Uncle Harold passed away. A few years after that my grandpa passed away. My brothers grew up and moved away, with the exception of my autistic brother Matt. I started to have children of my own. Grandma struggled more and more as she aged with doing all of the cooking, cleaning, and decorating involved in having a family Christmas party. We tried to help her as much as we could. Then one year it all ended. My grandma had open heart surgery the summer that I had my third child. It was at this time that my grandma handed the Thanksgiving and Christmas baton to me.

At the time, we were having my in-laws over every Christmas Eve. Year after year it was pretty much the same. My in-laws would show up 2 to 3 hours late. The table would be set. The food would be cold. The kids would eat supper at bedtime. The kids were tired and hungry which made them very crabby. They would cry and have meltdowns. This upset my mother-in-law which resulted in an argument between her and my husband over her being late. At this point, Paul’s stepdad and I would look at each other across the table with a knowing look that said “here we go again”. One of two things either happened. Paul’s mother would disown him and take off for awhile. Or Paul’s mom would scream at my husband and he would kick her out of the house. Eventually she would come back in both scenarios, the gifts were opened, and the kids would go to bed.

After receiving the Christmas baton, Paul and I did what most reasonable people do. We combined our families to make one big happy family Christmas. Insert thoughts of the National Lampoon’s Christmas here. It did go pretty good for quite awhile. Whoever showed up, showed up. We ate at 1:00 PM. If you were late, there were leftovers. Things went pretty well, although after awhile it seemed that my mom and mother-in-law started an unspoken “best grandma” competition. My mom won that one hands down because she could afford nicer gifts and spent more time with the kids. Then my in-laws started to find excuses not to come for Christmas. Either someone was sick, or my personal favorite was that Paul’s stepdad scheduled a colonoscopy the day after Christmas. Priceless.

Oh family, you bring laughter and tears but we love you anyway.

Then a couple of years ago, Luke and his family bought a house that was bigger than mine. I handed him the Christmas baton. All problems solved.

Childhood Christmases in a (chest)nut shell

Childhood Christmases in my mind were perfect. Except for that one Christmas that we aren’t going to talk about today. It was as if everyone knew how difficult the rest of the year was so they did everything possible to make two days of the year perfect for my brothers and I, our birthdays and Christmas.

My grandparents had a small Thomas Kincade like house. It was warm and cozy on the inside while cold winter storms raged outside. Icicles hung from the porch and garage roofs dripping droplets of shattered ice onto the walkways, one last obstacle against the warmth that beckoned from within. Upon entrance, steam whisked away into the frigid air from the kettle of boiling potatoes next to the open door. The aroma from the ham cooling on the stove top next to the potatoes was intoxicating. Grandma had a counter full of food, homemade pies and cookies too. Every year grandma had a chest cold. She coughed and coughed though she didn’t seem to mind. Soon Aunt Grace showed up with her brother Harold. Aunt Grace always brought cranberry sauce and the fruitcake that my brothers and I didn’t like to eat.

I was always first to ask if we could open our presents right away. Grandma always said “no”, but we could look inside our stockings that were hung over the fireplace. My brothers and I each had a stocking that contained our favorite candy. There was a tiny stocking for grandpa hanging in the corner that held one peanut. What drew our attention the most though were the boxes of wrapped gifts under the tree. We were always peeking in hopes of finding a big box with our name on it. My grandparents cut their own Christmas tree from their tree farm. It stood on top of a large round end table in front of a big picture window. The tree was always lopsided in some way or another, but we never noticed. Grandma always covered the trees with tinsel and old fashioned ornaments.

After lunch, we all sat in our places that we sat in every year to open gifts. Uncle Harold sat in the rocking chair near the fireplace. He always laughed a lot on Christmas day. We didn’t see him a lot the rest of the year because he was always working. I sat on the love seat near the tree. In my memory, there was always 3 feet of snow on the ground with an inch of playful snow that swirled around in the wind. After we were done opening gifts, we would have a fire in the fireplace. Christmas day was the only day of the year that my grandparents used the fireplace.

We always stayed at my grandparents until it got dark. We played with our new toys. The men slept in their chairs. Aunt Grace always made sure that the dishes were done. Grandma put away the extra food and took down the fancy table with the red tablecloth. It was Christmas perfection in a nutshell. Even if Matt had a meltdown on Christmas day, I never remembered that. I couldn’t remember that. To me it was always perfect and magical.