The search for normal

We drive our grandkids to the boardwalk.  Lights and rides and cheap stuffed animals surround us — then a young man runs out of a storefront — “Stay the F— out of my store, you hear?”

We search for normal.

We sit poolside, toucan floats and cheesy pizza at our side.  I check twitter, only to learn of another shooting in our home town.

We reach for normal.

We run to the ocean edge, scooping shells and searching for sand crabs for bait.  I hear an elderly couple speaking of the newest health care changes being considered.

We yearn for normal.

I can not help but worry that my grandchildren, aged 8 to 2, will never really understand this normal that I look for.  They are growing up without peaches with a quarter inch of fuzz, without open doors and barbecues.  They hear of shootings and presidential “tweets”.  Will they be able to sit on their front step, a half hour before sunrise and smell that sweet morning nectar, see the golden rays jump up behind the neighbors house?  More and more I doubt it.  And more and more I search for pieces of light to share with them, pictures and memories of days gone by when the ocean was clean, the rivers and creeks safe to swim in, woods were for exploring and friends spent the night.

I cry for normal.

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.

hell week…

I should not complain.

Seriously should not. But, whatever, here it comes.  A couple weeks ago our daughter confirmed that she needed to have minor surgery.  Now, “minor” is a relative  term.  My.Daughter.Surgery.  Those words do not blend well, so I had to go into mom mode, reminding myself that it was NOT about me, that I needed to be a resource and a source of strength.  That I had to pray and accept the healing even before I saw it manifested.  That I had to eat and sleep and not hover.  That 3 phone calls a day with “how are you feeling?” is not appropriate or acceptable. I bought her new pajamas and slippers, made a casserole, took the day off work.  “Why mom?  Why are you taking off work?”  Oh, I don’t know…..maybe because MY DAUGHTER IS HAVING SURGERY.  “Just in case you need me for something that day”.  “No, I’ll be fine”.  Turns out her husband couldn’t get off that day and I was needed to do transport, sit in the waiting room drinking nasty coffee == but I was also afforded the wonderful sight of the doctor telling me that everything went well, everything looked great.  Score!

Which would have been enough to make it a rough week, right? Wait for it, it gets better…

3 days before surgery we had our first snow storm of the season.  Husband and son in law decided it was a good day to chop wood.  (You can imagine what is coming, right?).  Off they went.  I did the grocery store run, stocked up on soup and chili ingredients, came home and cuddled up on the couch with coffee and my knitting.  It occurred to me around noon, when there were 3 inches of snow on the  ground and wicked cold, that I hadn’t heard anything.  So I called.  Husband assured me that they were loading the last truck and he would be home for lunch……. 2 hours later I tried his phone and the son in law….no answer… another hour passed, I finished knitting the mittens, and I tried him again.  “Yeah, Im getting some xrays done”.  WTF?  “I fell, I think I broke a rib”.  Truth is, he broke  two, and had been in the ER for 3 hours, I mean, why call me?  Why should I know my husband of 38 years and one day ( don’t even ask about the missed steak dinner reservations for that evening ) was in the ER?

And so began hell week. A week of cooking, shifting blankets, propping pillows, buying coffee, hugging babies, heating casseroles, handing out medicines….worrying.  Scolding.  Threatening to call an ambulance on Wednesday when he had decided he could sleep in the bed and then we couldn’t get him out of it.  45 hour work week…

So, last night I fell asleep at 7:00 pm.  exhausted.  And, of course I awoke at 3 am.  I’m gonna need a nap.

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.

 

oh hell

The mother in law has lung cancer.  So far all we know is that its slow growing — theres been “something” in her lung for seven years, theyve been “watching” it. Two weeks ago someone decided it was time to poke it and see what it was.  cancer.  Oh hell.  the mother in law and I, shall we say, have an interesting relationship.  I am the furthest thing from what she thought her son, her precious, oldest child, her ONLY son, would marry.  Truth be told, he wasnt supposed to marry at all — he was supposed to live upstairs and fawn over her throughout her life –like her brother Michael did for her mom — but thats another story for another post.  At any rate, I am the antithesis for her dream daughter- in law:  Irish ( she is italian and polish), independent ( she wanted ” yes mom, no mom”), employed ( perish the thought, she never worked outside the home, how you supposed to work and still have dinner on the table at 4:30).  I was raised in a small family where it was rare  to get everyone together.  My husband’s family gathers for a hang nail removal — every chance for a dinner, a party, a raucous group of loud italians crammed into a porch or room loaded with fried food and pasta.  She plays cards  and tells raunchy stories on Saturday nights with her daughter and as many men as she can guilt into coming to her house, I dont know pinochile from popcorn….

So, suffice it to say, it has been, ah , strained.  Once when a friend said “oh, you’re Cindy’s mom?” she huffed and replied “Oh, no, I am most certainly NOT Cindy’s mom”.  we have argued over everything from  my son’s name to the color of a sweater she wore one year.  I have been left out of family events and expected to attend things that make me squirm.  She has ignored my children and lavished attention on her other grandchildren.

But, she taught me how to make homemade pasta.  She sat in my family room and told me I was the best mother she knew when I was struggling with guilt  over  my daughter’s eating disorder diagnosis.  She tells everyone that her son loves me and she calls me when she needs something researched on the internet or someone to speak in a professional manner .  She always has asti at Christmas and a bottle of Baileys under the sink, just in case.  She keeps the pink blanket I made her at the beginning of her last cancer battle over her chair and takes it everywhere with her. She didnt want me to ride in the limo when her mom died, but she had me speak at the funeral because she knew I could.

So, now its lung cancer.  damn it.  Shes scared.  She wont bring the paperwork in from the car because she doesnt want to “forget to bring it to the next appointment”.  Now we begin the tests, the scans, the decisions that will get her through this battle.  My husbands forehead is creased, my children, who love her with all they are worth but dont understand or tolerate her treatment of me over the years OR her ignoring of them ( although she brags on their accomplishments) are worried.  And I am faced with the see saw that is our relationship — how do I help her without patronizing.  how do I be the daughter in law she needs?  Oh hell.

 

last talk with dad

I just read a little blog post about someone’s “gram” and it brought clearly back my last talk with dad.  It wasnt the day he passed, and it wasnt really the last time we talked, but it was the last time that his eyes looked at me clearly, the last time we had a conversation, and I am saddened and a little ashamed to say, the last time he comforted me .  Here was my dad, MY DAD, frail and brittle, hair askew, sweater buttoned wrong, sitting in his chair at that damned nursing home that my mother made me return him to — comforting me.  In all the sludge that was dimming his brain, through pain and fear and dementia that caused him to lose touch with all of us — he pulled out the strength and love to say to me that night ” It’ll be alright Cindy.  I love you , I love you Cindy”  and when I lay my head on his shoulder and felt those bones where there used to be strong muscle, I cried like a baby.  And, good God, so did he. 

I had gotten up from the table at home, announcing I was going to see dad.  Mom had made me take him back to the nursing home a few days before and i knew she hadnt been to see him that day ” Oh Cindy, he just sits there, he doesnt know if Im there or not” and I wanted to see him .  My oldest and her family were there for dinner, she offered to come with me but I said, no, he’ll be tired, Ill just go in, talk a bit and help him get to bed.

When I walked into the TV room, there he sat, uneaten dinner on the tray, swollen arm resting at his side.  “Hi honey, wheres your mother?”  I sat and we talked.  dad began to cry ” what did I do to deserve this?  Im not a bad person, I did bad things, I shouldnt be here…” On and on.  I didnt know if he was in 2011 in the nursing home or 1946 in the Navy.  I didnt know what era or decade or what it was he thought he had done, but I told him over and over, “daddy you did everything right.  God forgives you for every mistake you ever made. its ok. its ok.”.  His hands were cold, and as I wrapped his sweater closer around him I remembered Taresa had made pie.”  I brought you pie dad”. he devoured it.  And then he cried again.  No more than 2 weeks before his death, small and rattled, sad and so sick, he cried out.  I couldnt take it.  I said “Im sorry daddy, Im so sorry” and he looked at me, eyes clearer and said “Its alright Cindy, its alright.  I love you”.

I called for Taresa and  my husband to come to the nursing home.  I couldnt put my dad in that bed in that corner of that room.  I couldnt.  But I wasnt strong or determined enough to pick him up and put him in my car and bring him home.  Home to die surrounded by things he loved and people he loved.  They came, and dad cried some more, and Taresa looked into those eyes and knew that her pop was still in there.

So many regrets.  Why didnt I take a leave from work to care for him?  mom said she couldnt, said physically she couldnt and ‘would you want to be here all day with a man?” which tells me something of her mental state….Why did I let her call that ambulance and take him  back there?  Why didnt I make them take the damn stent out of his arm, the one that “made him ready for when he needs dialysis” which he never needed….why did I not question the care, the bandages, the rapid decline.  I wasnt in denial, I knew my dad was dying fast, but I couldnt make it right. So many regrets.  I wish he was here now to tell me one more time that it would be alright.