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.
“Will you be in heaven with me, Grandpa?”
That’s what I asked my Grandpa when I was just 3 years old. The story goes that from that moment on, he never touched another drop of alcohol (he was an alcoholic) and he asked Jesus into his heart. He started going to church every Sunday. The idea of not being in heaven with his first Grandchild was his Come to Jesus Moment.
I’ve heard that story since I was a little girl. It’s always been one of the most cherished memories.
But ever since my Grandpa passed away, I feel in some ways that my Grandma has used what was once a treasured memory against me. She asks me often why I don’t go to church. “You’re the reason your Grandpa came to know Jesus. And now you won’t go to church!” She’ll say. (Often.) I have felt so judged
On Christmas, she gave my daughter a bible. Inside was a handwritten note from her.
“I want you to read that letter in front of the family.” She said. I felt angry with her. I assumed she was trying to shame me publicly in front of my family for not going to church.
I asked my sister to sneak the letter into my bedroom so I could read it privately before reading it in front of the entire family as my Grandma had requested.
As I read, I felt the anger melt away.
I may not agree with the things she says, but for the first time since my Grandpa passed away, I am at least able to understand where she is coming from.
Sometimes I feel silly that I’m still talking about the loss of my Grandpa. Grandpas are supposed to die! It’s part of life. I imagine somewhere, someone is reading and thinking “get over it! At LEAST YOU HAD A GRANDPA!”
I knew that he’d not be around forever, I knew one day I’d have to say good bye. But I had no idea how profound the loss of his presence in my life would be. There was no way to grasp how deeply it would hurt until he was gone.
This was our second Thanksgiving without my Grandfather.
Last year was hard. I was still very much grieving his death as he had only passed away a month earlier. It was the first time in my entire adult life that his chair was empty at the dinner table. It was the first time there wasn’t anyone screaming “where’s the turkey neck?” It was the first time I didn’t get to wrap my arms around his neck and tell him Happy Thanksgiving.
This Thanksgiving, I didn’t cry. Not a single tear was shed. Didn’t mean that I missed him any less than I did last year. Last Thanksgiving I was too caught up in the grief of the loss to feel anything other than sadness. This year the finality of his absence in my life smacked me straight in the heart. But so did the gratitude for having been blessed with 37 wonderful years with my him in my life.
How lucky I was.
How lucky I continue to be.
I may not ever hear his laughter again, I may not ever hug him again. I may never see his smile again. But I understand now that I can still carry the memories, the love, the laughter with me throughout the rest of my life. It’s different not having him around to share those things with, but the memories are magical in their own way.
I’ve have finally come to peace with his death and for that, I am truly grateful.
The Family, Thanksgiving, 2009
I had a wonderful relationship with my Grandpa. I have vivid memories of the times that I spent with my him as a child. There is one in particular that I think back on when I start to miss him.
We’re driving down the street in his car. I’m in the backseat, standing up. I have my arms around his neck. “I love you Grandpa” I say, as he’s cruising down the street. “I love you too, Y.” He says back. The wind is blowing my hair all over the place. If I close my eyes, I can feel the wind on my face. I’m smiling from ear to ear as we talk and sing and laugh.
That memory is in stark contrast to the last one that I have of my Grandpa.
I walk down the hall and see him laying on his side on his bed. His belly is hanging over the bed, filled with fluid that his heart could no longer pump through his body. His face is swollen to the point of being unrecognizable. His entire body was blue and he was talking short, labored, quick breaths. It took my brain a minute to process the magnitude of what my eyes had just seen. My Grandpa, a man once so full of life, love and laughter, was slowly suffocating before my eyes.
My knees got weak, my heart started to pound as I glanced around the room. My aunt, grandma and brother were all there in the room.
Finally, I was able to speak.
“OH MY GOD.” I screamed.
“He’s FINE.” My aunt said with this smirk on her face, insinuating that I was overreacting. I wanted to punch her in the face. I literally had to refrain from physically attacking her because clearly, he was NOT fine. And clearly, she wanted him to die. She didn’t want me acting up and doing something crazy, like, you know, call 911 for help. Because then they may try to do something crazy, like, you know, KEEP HIM FROM DYING.
I knew in that moment that would be the last time I’d see my Grandpa alive. I knew that my Grandma (and my Aunt) had made the decision that this was it. That all of his suffering would soon be over if we just all stood there and watched him die from lack of oxygen to the brain. (what had happened was my grandma had given him pain medication for a fall he had a few days earlier. She gave him the pills every 4 hours as the doctor had instructed, but his kidneys had given out and wasn’t able to process the medication. He wasn’t getting oxygen to his brain the way he should have been. So maybe using the term “suffocating” isn’t medically the correct term. BUT HE WAS BLUE. AND WASN’T GETTING ENOUGH OXYGEN TO HIS BRAIN. NOT OKAY.)
I went outside and called my sister, who was on her way to his house. “We have to do something to help Grandpa.” I said. “This isn’t right.”
As soon as my sister arrived, she made it clear that we were going to call 911 and we did. Honestly? I can’t remember who called, but I can remember the HELL that broke out after the phone call was made.
My aunt was upset that we called.
And so she lashed out at all of us. She accused us of not loving him because we didn’t visit him as often as she did. Keep in mind, she lived 5 minutes away. We lived more than an hour a day. She could walk to his house if she wanted to. She screamed and shouted at us. And we screamed and shouted back. “How DARE YOU SAY I DON’T LOVE MY GRANDPA.” I shouted. “SHUT UP, SHUT UP RIGHT NOW.” My sister shouted.
It was ugly, probably the most ugly thing I’ve witnessed in my entire life. There was my beautiful grandfather, laying on his bed dying. And those he loved the most were throwing around accusations and screaming at each other. How awful of her. How awful of all of us.
I’ll never forget the sight of my grandfather, strapped half naked to the gurney being carried out the door of his mobile home. I’ll never forget how I wanted to turn away because it was too painful, but couldn’t because I knew it would probably be the last time I’d see him alive.
I saw him again at the hospital. After they had given him the oxygen he desperately needed. He was no longer blue, his color had returned to normal, as had his heart rate. But his brain had been damaged.
I held his hand, squeezed it tight and said “I love you, Grandpa. I love you so much. Thank you for being my Grandpa. I love you. I love you.”
He tried to respond. He did. He muttered, but he couldn’t form the words. I like to think I know what he was saying. “I love you too.”
I never wanted my last memories of him to be what they are.
I wish more than anything that my last memory could have been the week before, when I kissed him goodbye after spending the day with him for his birthday.
“I have to go now, Grandpa” I said, as I leaned in to kiss him.
“Already?” he said.
“Yes. I have to get things ready for tomorrow. The kids have school and I have to work.”
“Oh, I understand how that is.” He responded.
“I love you, Grandpa. Happy Birthday.”
“I love you.” He said, in the precious way he always did.
I kissed him, had the kids say their goodbyes and I walked out the door. I thought it may be the last time I’d see him alive, but I suppose I had hope that it wouldn’t. I do wonder, if I had even thought it would be the last time, why I didn’t say more? Why I didn’t stay longer? Why I didn’t hug him tighter? Why I didn’t kiss him a thousand times over?
It wasn’t the last time I saw him alive and yet it was. Because the last time I saw him alive he was brain damaged, he was unable to talk. He was unable to return my hugs and my kisses.
And I’m still sad about it. I’m still angry about it.
But I’m not the only one who’s angry. My grandma is angry too. She’s angry that we called 911. She told me this the other day. “Grandpa didn’t want to die in a hospital.” she said. “But Grandma! He was suffocating! It wasn’t fair to let him die in pain like that.” She snapped back with something about how awful that hospital was and how the bed they put him in was too small for him and if we had just “let him be.” he could have died in peace in his own home.
I haven’t been able to process her anger about this. It was the first time she’s said it to me and my God, it hurt. I never meant to go against my Grandpa’s wishes, but I also never wanted to see him suffering. I’ve always thought we did the right thing in calling for help that day. But what if I was wrong? What if he wasn’t telling me he loved me in those last moments I had with him in the hospital? What if he was asking why I didn’t just leave him be to die there in his bed?
I can only remember ONE TIME in my entire life that my Grandpa got angry with me. It was when I dared to wear jeans to church. “That’s disrespectful!” He shouted. “Go change into a dress!” I still remember how devastating it was to my little self. This man adored me, I could never do any wrong in his eyes. Until that moment. I had done something that angered him and I never wanted to do it again. And I never did.
Or did I? Was he angry with me on the day he did for what I had done?
I’ll never know the answer to that and it is killing me today.
I walked past her room to put a load of laundry in the washer.
She was sitting at her desk, writing something on a piece of paper. She had a Very Serious Look on her face as her hand moved quickly across the paper.
It’s not uncommon for her to sit quietly at her desk and write things or color. But I could tell that was she was doing was important. I walked into her room, knelt down by her desk.
“What are you writing, Mija?”
“I’m writing a letter to Opa, even though I know he’s already dead.”
Even though it’s been 10 months since he died, it still feels like a punch to the gut to hear the words spoken out loud. He’s dead. My Grandpa is dead..
“What does the letter say?” I asked.
She looked directly in my eyes and said “thank you for loving me while you were alive, Opa.”
I was speechless. One of the things that I worried most about after he died was that she would forget him. That she would grow up not knowing how much he loved and adored her. I didn’t worry about my boys, they are old enough to remember. They had so many more years with him than she did. They KNOW without a shadow of a doubt how much he loved that and what an amazing man he was. I am grateful for that. But I was sure she’d forget him, being only 4 years old when he passed.
That little girl hasn’t forgotten her Opa. She still thinks about him, she misses him. But more importantly, she still knows that her Opa loved her. And oh my God, did he ever love her.
He loved us all. We were incredibly blessed to have his love for he was truly the most wonderful man.
Her letter to him gives me hope that even though he is gone, he will ALWAYS be wonderful in the eyes of my children.
My brother had his first child last week.
It’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that my little brother is a dad. Not because I don’t think he’ll be a good Dad– I know he will be. It’s just… my little brother is a dad
I was in the waiting room of the hospital when she was born. My brother sent me a text that said “she looks like she’s going to have a sense of humor” with like, 30 exclamation points. I thought it was an odd thing to say and so I laughed about it.
Then, I saw her. And it I totally got it.
She had this sweet little face, but the look on it was like “You have NO IDEA what you’re in for with The Funny I’m going to bring to this family, guys.”
I instantly fell in love with her. (And quite possibly instantly ached for another one of my own. Why, babies, WHY do you do that to me?) I look forward to watching her grow and getting to know her. And you better believe I’m going to steal her as often as possible.
I can’t help but wonder about one thing… How long until SHE hates my camera?
My family rarely has an opinion about my photography. Well, that’s not true, they often say things like “get that camera out of my face!” Or “Mom! why do you have to take pictures of EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE you go?”
However, comments on my actual photos are few and far between.
On Saturday, I took the kids on the Metrolink out to Olvera Street in Los Angeles. The Teenager had to to a report in which we had to go there, take pictures and learn about it’s history. I was thrilled to be able to help him, it was like a belated Christmas gift! A day alone with my kids AND photography? DOUBLE SCORE.
We had a fabulous day together. Except for the times where they were all “OH MY GOSH STOP TALKING PICTURES OF THINGS AND WALK PLEASE.” I’m not complaining though, one thing that I was reminded of is that I have well behaved children who are a pleasure to be around. Even the 4 year old– I was worried things would get dramatic because she’s have to walk for hours, but… nope. Didn’t happen. Oh, how I love those little people.
Yesterday I had to print out some of the photos that I had taken for The Teenager to use in his report. I printed out a couple that I liked for myself. When my son was going through the photos last night, The middle child saw one laying on the table and said “Mom, is that one you took today? I thought it was a magazine cover!” Then, my husband walked over to look at it and he said “Babe! This looks like a post card. I love it.” THEN! The Teenager was all “That’s cool. Can I have it for my room?”
“Of course you can have it, Son.” I replied.
I walked away with the biggest smile on my face, because for the first time that I can remember, the people who I love the most were excited about a photo that I had taken. And it felt so very sweet.
For the first time in days, the house is completely silent.
Ah, peace and quiet.
Pighunter left with a friend for the afternoon. G is taking her afternoon nap. The boys are in Mexico, playing with a band for a church event.
Did you know that my boys are kick ass musicians? No? Oh, well then watch this.
I told you.
Also, I know. Enough with the videos already, right?
This Christmas is one of the best I’ve ever had. I can’t really explain why– it just was. There was no drama. It was all love, happiness, good food and Wii bowling.
Oh sweet God in Heaven– WII BOWLING!
I have no idea why I had never played it before. I mean, I have a Wii. I love my Wii. And yet I had never attempted to try Wii bowling. I confess, I thought it would be lame. But on Christmas, at my sister’s house, I discovered that it is NOT AT ALL LAME.
I can’t believe how much fun that stupid game is. I didn’t want to stop playing– mostly because I wanted to beat my Mom’s high score of 203 and couldn’t do it no matter how hard I tried. I became so obsessed that I got into it with my niece. I was all “I play winner!” And she was all “No, I do!” And I was all “NO. *I* do” and she was all “you already played, Auntie!” And I was all “So did you, little girl!” And she was all “But you played like 10 times!” And I was all “Oh yeah? Well you played like, 20 times, you big poopyface!”
Not a shining moment in my life, but dudes, have you played Wii bowling? If you have, then I know you understand why it was necessary for me to stoop to that level with an 8 year old.
So, yeah. Christmas was nice.
What about yours?
I opened up the mailbox and peeked inside. I immediately recognized the handwriting on the small white envelope. Normally, I would have tore the envelope open right away and the names written in the shaky handwriting would have brought a smile to my face.
Not today. Today I brought it inside, set it on the counter. I walked past it, glancing it over throughout the day. I couldn’t bring myself to open it.
Until just now.
A single name, written at the bottom of the card.
And it hit me all over again like a fist to the gut.
And for the first time in a long time, I cried. And cried. And still cry even now.
I miss him so much.
I miss my Grandpa.