My grandmother passed away early Monday morning. I have so much to say about the experience of losing her, but I’m having a hard time putting those thoughts into the written word at the moment. So for now, I listen to her sweet voice, just days before she died, and my heart breaks and rejoices at the same time. She is gone from this earth, but she is exactly where she wanted to be.
Rest in peace, dear Grandma.
(The voice recording was taken just a couple of weeks before she passed away– she knew she was dying of cancer.)
In July, my beautiful, vibrant, independent, strong, mentally sharp Grandmother was diagnosed with colon cancer that had spread to her liver.
In August, she was put on hospice care and took her off of all of her medications for diabetes and other health issues.
In September, a hospital bed was delivered to my mom’s house. The goal is to make sure she’s as comfortable as possible in her last days.
She now spends her days sleeping, unable to walk without assistance. She coughs all day, a constant reminder that her liver has enlarged and things are going downhill quickly.
The other day I went to visit her. I sat on her bed while she sang hymns and told me she’s unafraid of death. I fought back the tears as she spoke. Until she said this.
“I haven’t missed your Grandfather much since he passed away, but lately, I’ve been missing him. And when I go to sleep at night, I feel his arms wrapped tightly around me.”
Those words were too much for my heart to handle.
My Grandparents were everything to me when I was a child and continued to be a strong and meaningful presence in my life in adulthood. Three years ago I lost my Grandfather and very soon, I will lose my Grandmother. I will be left on this earth without my Grandpa, without my Grandma. I know that’s how life works, but it’s still difficult. And I hate that my Grandma is losing her life in this awful, cruel way.
Earlier this week, I had the honor of witnessing Grandma meet her Great- Grandson. She held him in her arms and spoke words of love and wisdom to him. She could only hold him for a brief moment due to her weakness and pain, but that moment will live in my heart for the rest of my life.
I can’t wait to show this photo to my nephew when he’s old enough and tell him the story of this moment.
Last night me and my husband were sitting on the couch having a conversation. It was a normal conversation about normal things that married people talk about when out of nowhere, he used the world “swagger” (in the way the kids do, I might add.) I looked at him in the way that one looks at her husband when unexpectedly uses the word “swagger.”The Middle Child overheard this part of the conversation and piped in.
“Dad, please don’t ever use that word again.” He continued. “I mean, seriously, dad. SWAGGER? How old are you?”
Apparently, the idea that he is too old to use a word like “swagger” hurt my husband just a little bit. So, he started talking about all of the things that he used to be able to do, things like “100 push ups.. NO PROBLEM!”
The oldest child said something about Dad “wanting to relive his Glory Days.” which prompted my husband to blurt out “GLORY DAYS? What are you talking about? I can do 50 right now and not even sweat it!”
I instantly felt weak in my vagina for him because no he can not. He was going to lose so hard at push ups. But I had to be the supportive wife because this was definitely an Us against Them situation. Us being the Old, Nerdy Parents. Them being The Superior Teenagers who suddenly think of their parents as Old and Nerdy.
“You can do it, babe!” I shouted as I watched him assume the push up position on the floor.
He got down on the ground and BAM! He was doing push ups. But, like, LIGHTENING FAST push ups. I can’t even explain it except that maybe his (ego)adrenalin was pumping super hard and he couldn’t help himself.
Me: OMG, you’re going to fast, slow down!
Ethan: I bet that what you looked like on your wedding night, Dad!
Me: OH MY GOD DID YOU JUST HEAR YOUR SON? ETHANMICHAEL!
Andrew: HA HA HA HA. High Five, brother!
By the 12th push up, PigHunter started to slow down. Big time.
Me: Keep going! Don’t give up!
Ethan: Look at you, already slowing down. Just admit it, you can’t do 50!
Andrew: Listen to how hard he’s breathing.
PigHunter: breathing super hard while counting out loud and trying not to pass out from pain.
He got to 40 and I was ready to be all “IN YOUR FACE, TEENAGERS!” But then, at 47, he just gave up. He hit the floor and said “I can’t do it.”
He got up slowly while I said things like “you basically did it! You were only 3 away!” and the boys said things like “FAIL!”
While PigHunter picked himself up off the floor and tried to catch his breath, we laughed so hard that I may have “leaked a little” because, you know, OLD LADY. And as we laughed (and I leaked) I thought to myself, “I love this family of mine so much.” And also “I hope my Andrew- who is going to be 18 in March- never moves out because I never want him to NOT be here to make me laugh every single day” But that’s a story for another day.
The boys teased Tony for the next 10 minutes “You’re going to regret that in the morning, Dad.” Ethan said. “I already do. My arms are KILLING ME.” Such a good sport, such a good dad, that PigHunter.
I’m pretty sure my husband is never going to use the word “swagger” again.
Last night was Tree Decorating Night.
The fantasy went like this: We would eat a delicious sirloin steak dinner. After we finished our dinner, the kids would clear the dinner table while I loaded the dishwasher while Christmas music played in the background. Everyone would be smiling and happy because soon we would be eating freshly baked cookies while sipping on hot chocolate while dancing around the Christmas tree that we would be decorating with the most beautiful ornaments!
The reality went like this: I was crying in the first 5 minutes because the red beads were not spaced properly and proper spacing IS EVERYTHING! (Also- see: PMS) The Teenager sat on his butt, making comments like “next year I won’t have to do this because I’ll be 18 and probably won’t even be living here.” G and The Middle Child argued over stupid things like “why does HE always get to put up the big ornaments?”
It wasn’t ALL bad. There were some wonderful moments. When we weren’t arguing/crying/almost breaking each other’s phones– we were laughing, sometimes until we cried and/or farted. We sang Christmas songs. We talked about our favorite Christmas memories.
However, the Christmas Joy Jesus Is The Reason For The Season Silent Night Peace On Earth moments didn’t last for long. By the end of the night, the kids were fighting over a blinking red nose while I took pictures with one hand and ate lots of cookies with the other hand.
JOY TO THE WORLD!
So, the Decorating of The Tree didn’t go quite as I had planned (and our tree looks like a-s-s) but no one killed anyone and we still all love each other, so I say SUCCESS! Also? damn, the cookies were GREAT. All 7 of them. (Just kidding. I only ate 5.)
When I was in kindergarten, my grandpa would pick me up from school every Wednesday to spend the afternoon with me. He would take me miniature golfing, or sometimes to go on the trampolines. He’d take me out to lunch, usually to get a hamburger. I remember those days– I remember how happy I felt to be with him. I remember how much fun I had riding around town with him. I remember how special he made me feel.
My grandpa was extremely proud of me. He thought I was the most beautiful, talented little girl and he made sure that everyone in his life knew how wonderful he thought I was.
When I lost my grandpa, I lost the one person who truly loved me for who I was, unconditionally, no matter how badly I had behaved or failed him. He never got angry with me or said unkind words to me. He was protective of me, he was proud of me, he genuinely loved to spend time with me.
His departure from this world has left a deep void in my soul.
There’s a story I love to tell my kids about my Grandpa that I want to share with you.
It was a cold, rainy day. I was on restriction– for what? I can’t remember. All of the neighborhood kids were outside playing in the rain in our driveway. I was sitting by the window, looking outside at everyone having a good time. I was upset that I was missing out on the fun. As I was watching and dying a little on the inside, I saw my grandpa’s car pull up.
I made my face just a little bit sadder as he walked up the driveway, knowing he’d see me and wonder why I was sad.
When he walked in the door, he immediately asked me why I was sitting inside instead of playing with the kids outside.
“I’m on restriction!” I whined, tears welling up in my eyes. “I’m not allowed to go outside.”
My grandpa looked at me and said “Oh, fer crying out loud. Get out there and play!”
I was tempted, but there was no way I was going to disobey my parents. I would get SO BUSTED the minute my grandpa left if I tried that.
He could see the fear in my eyes.
“Just go! Don’t worry about your parents, I’ll take care of them!”
That was all the reassurance I needed.
I wiped the tears from my eyes, skipped outside and joined the kids.
As a parent, this story makes me cringe a little. I would be angry if my parents undermined my parental authority in that manner.
But the child in me looks back on that and remembers a man who just wanted me to be happy. A man who was willing to stand up, speak up for me.
He continued to be that person for me when I needed him most– my teenage years.
When my parents got caught up on a cult-like, legalistic view of Christianity, my grandpa (and grandma) tried to speak up on my behalf– even covering for me when I wanted to go on dates with my future husband. (No, I was not allowed to be alone with MY FUTURE HUSBAND. But that’s another story for another day.)
I don’t know if I would have survived those years without having him (and my grandma) in my corner.
Two years later, I still think about him every day. Some days, I feel guilty. Guilty that I didn’t spend enough time with him. Other days, I’ll feel pure joy when I think back to something he said, or look at a picture of him with my children.
The sadness and ache I felt in my soul when he passed has slowly been replaced with the warmth and the love he left behind in his words- both written and spoken.
I’m grateful for the love he left behind that I can and will carry with me always.
When I came home from the gym tonight, I poured myself a glass of water and sat down to buy some music for my iTouch. The TV was paused– Dancing With the Stars. (I have the timer set on the DVR.) My husband walks into the room, sits down on the couch and goes “hey, your shows on. Are you gonna watch it or what?” I was all “I’m busy. I’ll watch it later.” He became agitated.
He wanted to watch it.
Here’s the thing, you guys.
My husband loves Dancing With the Stars. ALL CAPS LOVES IT.
When he watches it, he gets totally into it.
Like, he claps and cheers. He points at the TV and says things like “that was awesome, he had GREAT hip action!” If someone messes up, he’ll cover his eyes, throw his head back and say things like “OH NO! I’m so embarrassed for her!”
If he thinks someone danced a good dance but they get low scores, he’ll get upset with the judges. “A FIVE?!! You’ve got to be KIDDING ME! His footwork was FLAWLESS!”
He literally never stops talking during the show– spouting off opinions, criticism, words of encouragement, helpful tips for a better performance next time. NOT EVEN MAKING THIS UP. I try to be supportive– I think it’s awesome that he loves to watch people dance and isn’t afraid to express that love so openly. But YOU GUYS. The talking! The clapping! The gasping! FOR THE LOVE OF THE PASODOBLE, I’M TRYING TO HEAR WHAT BRUNO HAS TO SAY.
So, I walk away, put on my headphones and enjoy his Child Like Excitement from across the room. It’s just better for our marriage that way.
I am afraid of many things.
Earthquakes. Bees. Beetles. Porta-potties. Bears. Raw chicken. Flying on airplanes.
And those are just a very few things. My list is long. I am a paranoid, overly cautious person who begs my kids not to dive into pools because I am afraid they will hit their heads on the bottom and paralyze themselves. And that is a true story. Just ask my boys who absolutely HATE when I come out to watch them swim (at other peoples houses because we do not have a pool.)
At the top of my Things I Am Afraid Of list is “Ferris Wheels.”
It’s not the *height* that scares me as much as the thought that the car (box? seat?) that I am in will flip over and because there are NO SEATBELTS (which, WTF, Ferris Wheel Safety Board?) I will fall to a painful, messy death.
On Saturday, my family spent a few hours on the Navy Pier in Chicago. There was no doubt in my mind that the second my daughter saw the ferris wheel she’d want to go on it.
I was right.
“Mommy, can we please go on the ferris wheel?” Is what she said most of the time we were walking around. I finally told her yes, she could go on with her brothers and her daddy because Momma don’t ride ferris wheels.
When I got in line to buy their tickets, the kids started begging me to go on with them. They said things like “it would be so great if the whole family rode it together!” and “we want you to go with us, it won’t be fun without you!”
I kept politely saying NO! WAY! until Ethan said something like “Ohh, you’re the one who forced us to go on roller coasters! You’re the one who said not to be afraid of them and now you’re too chicken to go on a ferris wheel?”
I couldn’t say no after that. I would have looked like a (rhymes with) “wussy.”
So, I said yes.
While we were in line, I made sure that my family was clear on the rules. Basically, the rules were “DO NOT MOVE ANY PART OF YOUR BODY WHATSOEVER IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM.”
I realized .03 seconds into the ride that it was a mistake on my part to make such a big deal about the whole “moving your body thing.” The second they shut the little gate on our car (cart? seat? WHAT IS THAT THING CALLED?) my kids started making Unnecessary Movements. And they continued to do so throughout the entire ride. This prompted me to freak out more than once. Which of course prompted them to laugh at me and say things like “Mom, you’re being too paranoid. Calm down.” And then they’d move their arm again FOR NO GOOD REASON.
The important thing is that I did it, I rode the effing ferris wheel.
But I can promise you this– I will never do it again. It wouldn’t be fair to my vagina.