phases of normal

Years ago the refrigerator was always open.  As was the pantry door, and usually the snack cabinet.  With three kids, and their waves of friends, someone was always hungry.

The grew up and for a while I kept things like stuffed olives and spinach bread in the refrigerator and we changed from kraft cheese blocks to artisanal offerings laid out on a bamboo cutting board with matching slicer.

Grandkids came  and we reopened the snack cabinet and laughed as subsequent 2 year olds made their way to the cheese balls and gushers…the pantry found itself loaded with teething biscuits and oddly orange cheese noodles.  Lucky to have all of our kids live within 10 minutes distance, we went through packing lunch for one of them to pick up on his way to work, setting two extra places at the table, just in case, and dropping coffee and protein boxes off to our daughters job.

We moved, only 30 minutes down the road, to a smaller house.  Not “on the way” to anyones normal destinations, and it took me a while to realize I didnt need to buy frozen waffles, oreo cookies or boxes of pizza.  Fruit snacks and yogurt sticks passed their expiration dates before they were tossed and I realized I missed feeding them all…

The nor’easter brought 3 snow days to our area.  We drove home from our beach place in case we were needed for emergency childcare.  Late yesterday afternoon the youngest came to pick up her 2 and headed for the kitchen.  “Wheres the leftover brisket?”  Her husband turned on the coffee pot and she pulled the provolone cheese from the refrigerator.  Today my son came to pick up his 2, said hello, went straight to the kitchen, opened the nacho chips and new jar of salsa, sat in his dads chair and enjoyed an afternoon snack.  I sat, amazed and humbled that they still know they are “home” when they walk in the door.  Doors slam, cupboards open and years of memories rush back.  Life is good.


keeping it real

Last night I watched one of those shows where they renovate a house.  This lady was moving to a new state to have her dad come live with her and her husband.  This state was half a country away from her original home.  So, anyway, they obviously had a ton of money and were renovating a beautiful big house, putting in handrails for dad, building him his own suite….adding great decorator touches to the whole home.  beautiful.

But, the lady kept going on about “I need a huge island so when the family comes to visit there will be room for us to gather around the island”  She went on and on about how when the “whole” family is here it will be so relaxing and so family…..Sunday breakfasts and chats on the back porch….

I was like, whoa mom, wake up!  Those young men you raised are not planning on jumping on a plane every weekend and having breakfast with the rents….All those cousins and siblings and extended family members are staying put — your’e the one leaving, setting up shop half a country away.

Cynical much? maybe.  Realistic?  yah.  Of course I may be wrong, but I just kind of felt sorry for her, she was building this huge home with the expectation that they all would have home time like when she was living nearby…..I doubt it.

A little visit…

Gonna put this out there, call me crazy if you want, but….
two weeks ago I lost my wedding ring. Not my original wedding ring but the diamond one George gave me on our 5th. married Christmas, the one he saved a year for and he and dad went to Philly to find. Special, beyond measure.
We tore the house apart. I cried, like a baby. Went to grandson  Jackson’s birthday party and the first thing Valerie said when she saw me was “Whats wrong”.
Spent the last 2 weeks sad. Looked at work, all over the house, the beach house. Its gone. My ring is gone.
Today is the 6th. anniversary of the last meal we all shared as a family before my dad passed. He and mom were staying at our house and I made brisket and all the fixings and we have pictures of all of us, kids, grandkids, all of us, eating, smiling, gathered around his hospital bed in the living room…
I mentioned that to George this morning. How much I still miss dad. How much he loved that brisket. 85 pounds, 3 weeks before his death, he ate two helpings of brisket….

And then, after putting this year’s 20 pounds of brisket in the pot I went in and started to clean up our room. I looked, one more time, on the dresser. Picked up my vanity tray, looked under it. Looked in the closet floor. No, its gone.
And then, I walked in the room an hour later, looked at the tray again, and there it was. Just laying there. It took me a few seconds to realize, but its my ring. The one diamond is slightly bigger than the others. The one prong is twisted a bit. Its my ring. I Yelled for George — and then thanked dad for bringing it back to me. And for visiting  me on the anniversary of a wonderful memory. I watched as George stood at the front door, looking out, giving thanks, I think, in his own special way.  I felt the ring slide into the familiar notch on the side of my finger.  I prayed and thanked and tried to figure out why today was the day dad decided to bring it back to me.  Did he remember that meal that day with the kids?  and was he happy that we continue the tradition?  Was he telling me he knew I was doing the best I can with mom…..

The Bible says not to question. I’m good with that.  I’m just happy to know that dad is still here, that he can visit, that he watches over us.  That he sits at the right hand of God.
I mean seriously, God is at work, isn’t he?


tossin this out there

Why is it that my grown daughter feels it is ok to ignore my phone calls?  I know cell phones are invasive, and that you dont HAVE to answer them, but its her mother for God’s sake, wouldnt you think she’d pick up just to make sure everything is ok?????  When she calls me, I answer.  When her dad calls, 99% of the time, she answers.  When I call?  its a 50/50 chance she will pick up.  Seriously.

Christmas true

When you parent you always wonder….will IT matter…?  IT can be anything from using the time out chair to a trip to the beach to an extra story at night… to any of a multitude of moments that wrap themselves into the bundle that is parenting.  Will IT matter?

This Christmas has been  a mix of memories and precursors,  misplaced Christmas dishes and a house too small to decorate the way I like to … which got me to thinking, will it matter?

Last week, I took my oldest grandchild ( 7 years old ) Christmas shopping.  We’ve done it every year since she was born.  Our son raised her alone the first 3 1/2 years of her life, mom walked out when she was 5 months old and left him with a mortgage, a dog she had to “rescue” and this precious little girl.  So when Christmas came that first year, she was 10 months old and her daddy had done everything he could to make it a Christmas like he had always imagined he would have when he became a father.  But, there was no one to buy him gifts so baby Ava and I went shopping.  Everything she touched or smiled at I bought.  He got a lego set, a pink polo shirt and, if I remember correctly , a gazing ball for the back yard.  And so it began, the yearly Christmas shopping trip with our girl.  When we went back  to her house last week to wrap the presents she wrapped and bagged and wrote the tags. She looked at me and said, “so which of these are you taking to your house?” and I explained that they were staying at her house for her to give to family.  Her face broke a bit when she looked at me and said “wait, we’re not going to your house this year , you know to open all the presents and eat and everything??  the whole family?”  As I explained to her that “Yes, of course you will all come to my house, you will bring your presents then, everyone will be there” — she smiled and continued her task.  And I knew, without a doubt, that IT mattered, the yearly Christmas traditions that are so much work and go way too fast, that result in huge piles of paper and misplaced pieces — that I always wonder if the kids are coming to just to appease me — they matter to Ava, and probably to all of them.

This morning my son came to pick up a gift for Ava that had been delivered here.He walked in and surveyed the piles of gifts under the tree.  He smiled and said, “All red and white paper this year!  It looks like a giant candy cane, awesome.”  And, again, IT mattered.  The buying and wrapping, the clutter and  ribbons, matter.  A candy cane.  35 years old and he sees the Candy cane in a pile of Christmas gifts.  It matters.

Two weeks ago the youngest, 30 years old, called to ask me what I was doing on Christmas Eve.  Our Christmas celebrations depend on when Ava is in town and what years the oldest daughter has to go to New Jersey to celebrate with inlaws….so it was a fair question.  I said “not sure, hanging out, maybe church.”  She immediately suggested a “7 fishes” celebration at her house — just us and my mom , everyone else had plans.  She and her husband could have planned any number of parties or events for them and their kids, but they chose to spend Christmas Eve with us, her parents.  It matters.  All the years of gathering the family together at our house to play Christmas carols and open gifts, to eat and sometimes drink too much…matter.  And, when it came to be her turn and she finally had a house big enough to feel comfortable entertaining in — It mattered. Then when her brother called to tell us what time his Christmas Eve celebration was starting, we all adjusted times so we could do both.  and the traditions will continue.   IT matters.

On the 18th.  all the kids and all the spouses and all 7 grandchildren gathered at oldest daughter’s house to bake cookies.  They do it every year, sometimes not everyone can make it, but this year it was full out everyone.  Sprinkles and dough, ovens dinging and me and George just standing there grinning.  It matters.  All the years of gathering them in the kitchen and baking cookies and breads matter.  And now, they continue it with their children, and since they are lucky enough to have siblings that they love, they do it together, bringing those cousins together to build memories.

I wonder sometimes if their dad and I are burdens, or insignificant in their lives, but this season has reminded me that it matters.  We matter.

Merry Christmas everyone.


This day…

this morning I overslept.  missed the registration for a 5 k I wanted to walk/run for work.  Bummer.

But, then I went to the park and walk/ran my fastest 1k and fastest mile ever.  Redemption, almost.

After deciding I couldnt deal with my husband’s family this afternoon I went to the craft store, bought a bunch of Fall stuff and visited my dads grave.  And it hit me, all over again, I miss him so much. i valued his opinion more than almost anyones, even when I disagreed, even when the dementia was taking over and moments of lucidity were few and far between, I valued what he had to say.  I can still, if I sit very still, hear his voice, his laughter, his whistle.  Whenever he wanted me, whether I was 100 yards down the beach or on the neighbors porch, he would whistle.  And, I would come home.

Today I sat at his grave and discussed these health issues that are raising their head.  Since they mirror the conditions he dealt with, I asked for his guidance, his help, a little intervention — to get me through.  I hung his new flag, I straightened the flowers, kissed his stone, and left.  I cant say I felt better.  But I felt that he had been there with me.  And I know he knows I miss him.