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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

One Year Later

It’s strange how a moment in time can both seem like yesterday, and like a lifetime ago. That’s how I feel about my grandpa’s passing. He died exactly one year ago on the 27th, when baby D was just 4 weeks old, and our lives have changed so much since then that it seems like a decade since I spent the days after his passing going through pictures and making the poster boards to display at his funeral.

I hate that he’s not here. To see D grow and develop into a little human with his own personality. To hear about my promotion to Vice President, a day he really wanted to see and said he’d even throw a party for me. To send me emails of whatever joke, photo, or interesting video he came across on the Internet. I still have several unread emails in my inbox of the hundreds he sent me the last few years he was alive.

I hate that he’s not here for the rest of my family. I’d by lying if I said everyone was doing ok. Of his four children, two of them haven’t stepped foot inside my grandparents’ house since before he died. They can’t. Or won’t, rather. My mom and my aunt won’t speak to each other, and each of them have had what I would classify as nervous breakdowns at one point or another, and they still haven’t dealt with his death. One cousin is battling depression while the other is holding it together physically, but is an emotional wreck whenever he’s mentioned. And my grandma, well, she’s fine most days but she still has her moments. And she’s lonely. I sent her flowers to help make this anniversary a little less painful. I don’t know if it helped.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. Having a baby saved my sanity and brought more happiness into my life just when I needed it most.

As anyone who knows how difficult those first few months with a newborn can be, I never felt like caring for a newborn was all that bad. It’s not that we didn’t have a baby that we needed to feed every two hours, or that my nipples weren’t bleeding from pumping, or that my body bounced back quickly from the labor and c-section (it didn’t and I still can’t wear my pre-pregnancy jeans). But it seemed that way, and at many times, it felt that way. And now, looking back, I know why.

Because I was dealing with something much harder, and much more emotionally exhausting than anything those newborn months could bring. It’s hard to complain about things like sleeplessness and engorgement when you’re watching someone you love turn yellow with jaundice, unable to swallow, let alone eat (his last food intake was at least 2 weeks before he finally died). When you’re praying that his heart gives out so that the suffering can end, that’s when all the complaints about caring for a newborn just seem so insignificant, even though most people claim it’s the absolute hardest period of their lives. I say those first few months were the hardest for me too, but not because I had a newborn.

When someone is sick for a very long time, it’s hard not to look back and just recall those last few weeks and months when they were ill. It’s hard to force myself to remember the happy memories that filled my 30 years with him, before the cancer was terminal. But I try, and with a little concentration, I remember the jokes, the laughs, the stories, the singing, the phone calls, the emails, the birthdays, the Christmases, the dinners, the trips, the games and the puzzles and the nights playing cards. I wish I could remember more. I wish I had more pictures. I wish he was still here. I wish I didn’t have to wish for these things.

But this is life. A year later. And if this last year has taught me anything, it’s that life is precious and it doesn’t last. So make good memories while you can because when you’re gone, memories are all that’s left.

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Think about where you live right now. The house or apartment. The street. The city. The state. Is it where you thought you’d be at this point in your life? Is it where you want to be next year? Five years from now? How about 20?

We bought our home a month before we got married in 2006. In just a couple of weeks, we will celebrate our 7 year anniversary of living in this house. SEVEN. YEARS.

I thought we’d be here five, max.

I’ve talked about how we tried to move to Charlotte a couple of years ago, perhaps only vaguely. It was so horrible that neither of us want to move to Charlotte ever again. Not because we hate Charlotte; it’s a lovely place. We just don’t want to go through that heartbreak again.

But sometimes, just sometimes, I think we should try again. Maybe not Charlotte, no. But somewhere. Somewhere closer to my husband’s family. (Though not TOO close, considering they live in the unhealthiest and saddest city in the country.) Someplace where the housing market isn’t quite as screwed up as it is in St. Louis. Where we can get a nice home in a nice school district that isn’t five times the price of our current home.

But is that all it takes? Being closer to family in a semi-decent job and housing market? Shouldn’t we be dreaming a little…bigger?

Last Sunday the hubs and I (and the baby) drove back from my grandma’s 91st birthday party. A 2.5 hour drive. I brought up moving and threw out terms like “five year plan.” Then I said, “How about San Diego?” and soon we were down a rabbit hole of hypotheticals. The hubs started surfing realtor.com, pointing out this home or that. We talked about the pros and cons, making a verbal list of each. Wouldn’t it be great to live near the beach? In a warmer climate? But could we stand being so far away from family. In order to live in paradise, we’d have to leave everyone behind and spend whatever vacation time we had visiting them. Several flights a year. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

After we got home, we did our bedtime routine and climbed into bed. The hubs got out the iPad to continue exploring this California dream, but for me, something just didn’t feel right and I no longer felt like daydreaming.

Making a pros and cons list only helps with the criteria are of equal importance. But when you’re comparing being within driving distance of LegoLand or your entire family, it’s hard to give the former top billing.

And with that, he put away the iPad.

I’ve never been very good with staying content for very long, so it goes against my nature to admit that things are pretty comfortable right now and that maybe we should just continue to let fate run its course for awhile. So what if that means staying in our house for another 2, 3, 4 years. So what if that means staying in St. Louis for another 2, 10, or 20 years. Life is pretty good right now, and St. Louis truly is a great place to raise a family. I know this. But it’s just so hard to look at someone else’s grass and not think to myself “Is it greener over there?” Especially if that grass is in California, because with average temps in the mid 70s year round, it’s definitely greener.

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Growth Spurts

Every time we cross another month off the calendar, it seems baby D hits a new major milestone. Month 8 has been no different. In just one 48-hour period, we’ve had FOUR big milestones, although I guess only two are really “growth” related.

1. First tooth! His bottom right front tooth is just barely peeking through the gums. We can feel it more than we can see it. Baby D doesn’t seem the least bit phased, though I did notice him chewing on his paci more than sucking it last night.

2. Clapping!! I’ve been trying to get him to clap for about a week now, and on Saturday, I noticed him trying to do it by himself while playing on the floor. Usually, he’ll grab a couple of blocks or other toys and bang them together to make the clapping noise, but this was the first time I really noticed him trying to do it with just his hands. He did it all evening on Sunday when we were at a friend’s house watching the Super Bowl. It’s just the cutest thing ever. I’ll have to try to get it on video soon.

I tend to cheer for him a lot when we play on the floor, especially when passing his plush basketball back and forth, and the look on his face shows he’s super excited to have a cheering audience. He also tends to look at the TV whenever he hears clapping too.

3. First snow! I don’t usually pay much attention to the weather forecasts, so I was a bit surprised to see the snow coming down on Saturday night. On Sunday afternoon, we bundled the little dude up and took him out for his first snow experience. He couldn’t move much in his little cocoon so he mostly just sat there and looked around. I put his little hand in the snow and he immediately pulled it away, unimpressed. His daddy tried to entertain him by snowballs at mommy. This was not fun for mommy, ahem. Then he threw one in baby D’s direction, and it landed right on top of his tiny little head! What a mean old daddy. He cried, of course, but only for a second. Then we all went back inside to warm up.

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Looking adorbs in his snow suit. I put him on his big boy coat since his little fleece suit wasn’t water-resistant.

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Love that little half-smile! This is obviously BEFORE daddy pegged him in the head with a snowball.

4. First Super Bowl! I have conflicted feelings about the Super Bowl. For the Super Bowl last year, my grandparents and a friend of ours came over to watch the game. I made pepperoni and roast beef roll-ups with pizza sauce and au jus for dipping. It was the last time my grandpa was ever at my house. We live about 45 minutes away and he really wasn’t supposed to be driving. It wasn’t easy for him to lug around his oxygen tank and he’d been sick since Christmas so he really hadn’t been feeling very well and was taking a lot of naps most days. Still, he came over for the game and was teasing our friend, who’s a big Patriots fan, about how he needed to call all his buddies and apologize for saying the Patriots were going to win (our friend did no such trash talking anyway, but it was funny to hear my grandpa tease him). It’s a great memory, but I didn’t want to spend this year sitting at home missing my grandpa so I pretty much invited myself over to my friend’s house about a week before the game, even though she had no intentions of having a Super Bowl party. We ended up all going over to her brother-in-law’s to watch the game, which worked out perfectly. We’ve hung out with them several times now and they’re a super fun couple (with two adorable kiddos). We pigged out on wings, brisket, pulled pork, stuffed jalapenos, chocolate chip cookies, mac & cheese, salad, bacon cheese dip, and of course, the beer and wine was a-flowin’. (Which is why you won’t be seeing a weigh-in post this week. I just couldn’t help myself!) We had a great time. And even though I wish more than anything we were spending D’s first Super Bowl with my grandparents again, this wasn’t such a bad alternative.

The game itself was fantastic, though I really only saw about half of the game and half of the commercials due to all the baby-wrangling, but still. So fun! And speaking of D, he was a little angel the entire time. Zero crying, and even when it was past his bedtime, he just fell asleep in my arms around 8:30 while I carried him around the house. Eventually I just put him in his car seat to snooze until the game was over.

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Just because my husband and I now answer to “mommy” and “daddy” doesn’t mean we can’t be spontaneous.

At 10am Friday morning, my husband texted me to ask about our plans for the weekend. Of course, we didn’t have any. Well, that’s not completely true. I had grand plans of sleeping, cleaning, and organizing. But no major commitments otherwise. Plus, my office closed early at 3pm and we had MLK Jr. Day off so we were staring down the barrel of a nice, long, peaceful weekend.

He texted again: “Want to go to Louisville?”

Not the question I was expecting, and definitely not my idea of a vacation destination, but apparently there was a big basketball game happening on Saturday and the hubs wanted to go, and possibly have my step-dad and his dad meet us there. After a few phone calls, some logistics planning and ticket pricing, the basketball game plans quickly dissolved. But you know what you can’t do? You can’t dangle the possibility of seeing your family in front of them, especially when it includes the possibility of them seeing their youngest grandson, and expect them to not be disappointed if you change your mind.  It’s just cruel and virtually impossible to shake the guilt of getting their hopes up. So the plans went from hanging out in Louisville to just passing through Louisville on our way to my in-laws’ house. A 9-hour drive, just like we did on Thanksgiving and for Christmas, with a 7 month old. So that’s 3 times in just 2 months – the most we’ve EVER seen them in the 8+ years we’ve been together.

Basically, we’re spoiling them and I hope they don’t come to expect these visits every month. Because WOW is it hard. Between the packing and unpacking of all the stuff, the cost of boarding our dog, the cost of gas and food on the road, and the inconvenience of messing with the baby’s schedule – it’s just a lot of work. To hang out with my inlaws for the 3rd time in two months, meaning we’ve spent 10 overnights with them out of the last 50 days. VOLUNTARILY.

Do you see where I’m going this? I mean, are my qualifications for Wife of the Year not clear yet? I didn’t even protest this trip in the slightest. That’s just how awesome I am. (Kidding.) (Not really.)

So that’s what we did. Our wild and crazy spontaneous weekend getaway was an impromptu trip to my inlaws. And the highlight? Watching a bunch of 2nd and 3rd graders play basketball. Although, it was their “championship” game, so I guess that’s sort of a big deal.

So all you childless folks, take note. Even after you have kids, you can still pack up your (many, many) bags, and head out of town at a few hours moment’s notice, straight across the country to a relative’s house where you spend your days watching little league and your nights blowing your Weight Watchers points on pizza and chocolate chip cookies because no one else is on a diet or concerned about diabetes. Welcome to your future.

 

 

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One hour. That’s all I needed. Just one hour to wander aimlessly around Walmart to peruse the aisles, pick up some essentials, and finish my Christmas shopping. I left the baby and husband at home so I could take my time and actually enjoy this little shopping excursion. Plus, I had a lot of stuff to buy. Now that my grandpa is gone, I feel an even greater responsibility to do things to keep my family together. So next weekend, my cousin and I are hosting our first family Christmas gathering. The two of us will fix all the food and I’m making it my job to ensure there are games and prizes to keep everyone entertained. We’ve never been the game playing kind of family before, so this is new for us, and for me.  I also picked up a few extra items for my other cousins and their kids. Both of them are on government assistance so I know they won’t be giving or getting much this year.

Money is tight though. Since my husband left his corporate job to work for himself and also watch the baby full-time, we’ve had to make some cutbacks. We refinanced our mortgage, we put off getting new cars (both of our cars are 7 and 8 years old, but totally paid off), we dropped our gym membership, movie rental membership, and other things that were a bit unnecessary. We’ve tried cutting back on our Christmas spending too, but that’s been difficult. When you buy for 42 people (Seriously. Forty. Two. And that doesn’t include gifts to each other or the baby. So 45. Or the money we donate to our favorite charities every year.) and spend anywhere from $20-$100 per person, it gets kind of crazy. And I can’t NOT give gifts to some of these people. Even though I receive less than half that number of gifts in return, that’s not the point. Instead, I’m just trying to find better gifts for my smaller budget. Hence my trip to Walmart. And for the most part, I feel like I did pretty well this year. $3 fleece blankets for my cousins? YES! $5 slippers for my aunt? You betcha. Time to check out!

If you have ever gone shopping at Walmart on a weekend in December, you know the checkout line is HELL. I don’t know why a store has 35 checkout lines but only has 6 of them open at any given time. It’s infuriating. Kind of like getting behind that person with a million coupons or the person that needs a price check because the tag is missing. And it’s always an item from the farthest end of the store. So the cashier flips her little flashing light and your head explodes while everyone else in line does a collective sigh because we all know, this is going to take awhile.

The odds I will be right behind someone like this is about 1 in 3. So when I pulled my cart up to lane 16 and noticed the woman in front of me unloading her SECOND cart full of stuff, I knew this might take some time. But I was in a good mood, mentally checking off the things from my list and hoping the baby would still be awake when I got home. That’s when the pink and purple slippers on the checkout belt caught my eye. And the mini-yoga pants with a hot-pink band around the waist. The woman was buying girls clothes. Possibly for Christmas.

I looked at the woman, and she was exactly the type of customer you would expect to see in a Walmart. Tattered jeans, grungy sweatshirt, no makeup, unkempt hair pulled back in a messy ponytail, and skin that looks like she’s spent her fair share of time in a smokey bar. I watched her ask the cashier if she could stop ringing her out and tell her the current total. With tax, please. The cashier looked up at her, slightly annoyed, and said, “$211 and 36 cents.”

“Is that with tax?”

Another worker came over to help figure the tax. Two more people got in line behind me.

A new total. $240-something.

The woman looked at the rest of her items on the belt, looked at the cash in her wallet, grabbed the giant tube of ground chuck (the cheapest kind you can buy) off the belt and asked her to add that to the total but then stop, because she didn’t have enough money to buy the rest of the items. In her hand, I could see the Missouri EBT logo. Welfare money. She swiped her card. It covered the majority, but she still owed around $40, not including the stuff that had to be put back. She counted her tiny bit of cash and started looking at what else she could take off the bill so she could afford everything. She apologized for the inconvenience and asked if she needed to go put those items back for them. I looked at the items already in her cart. Palettes of can goods. Kitty litter. A bag of onions. This wasn’t her weekly shopping trip. This was her MONTHLY shopping trip. I looked at the rest of the items on the belt. The items she couldn’t afford to buy. Eggs. Coffee. A piece of chocolate cake. A couple cans of soup. Apples. And of course, the slippers and yoga pants.

Another worker came over to put the items into an empty cart and haul them away. She apologized again for the inconvenience. I looked at my wallet. $20 was the only cash I had on me and I started to pull it out to hand it to her, but I wasn’t sure if it would cover the total. I didn’t want this lady to have to agonize over what to buy for another minute. The line was already getting pretty long behind me. Impatient sighs, toe-tapping, and weight shifting from leg to leg as people peered around to see why the hold up. So I did the next best thing.

I grabbed the worker’s arm and quietly said to her, “You don’t have to put that stuff back. I’ll buy these items for her.”

“All of it?” She asked.

“All of it.”

The woman turned toward me before my words had registered. I watched her face turn from embarrassment to shock and then to thankfulness.

“You don’t have to do this,” she said. “Do you want my phone number or can I get your address to pay you back? My husband and I know how to do home repairs, so if you need some work done to your house, I’d be happy to do it?”

“No, that’s ok. I just noticed it looked like you were Christmas shopping,” I said, as I pointed to the slippers.

The cashier finished. “Your total is $42.65.” I swiped my card and was glad I didn’t just hand her the $20. It wouldn’t have covered it.

“Yes, for my little girl.” I could hear her words getting caught in her throat.

“Those slippers are very cute. I hope she has a nice Christmas.”

“She will now…”

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Mold Advice

Friends, I need advice.

You ever walk into someone’s home that has a really distinct odor to it? Maybe it’s a good one, like your parent’s house that reminds you of your childhood, or a bad one like an old aunt who’s forgotten to change the kitty litter one too many times.

My grandparent’s house smells like mildew. It’s smelled that way for as long as I can remember, although in the last several years, I’ve noticed that smell follows me home when I leave. If I spend more than a half an hour there, my hair, my clothes, my purse – everything smells like their house. While I understand that everyone’s home has an odor, it’s very rare that the odor follows me on my 45 min. drive home, and for however long it takes me to wash my hair or my clothes (which means, not very long because I can’t stand the smell). My grandparents admitted to a mildew problem years ago, and so they bought a dehumidifier, put it in the back bedroom, and felt like the problem was solved.

Except it wasn’t. In fact, I think it’s gotten worse over the years. Lately, when we visit, if we spend longer than a half an hour in the house, we develop headaches when we leave and my throat gets sore. For years, we’ve chalked this up to me being one of those people who just has bad allergies. Never did we think that hey, mold is bad to breathe in, not just for allergy suffers – but for everyone!

And now we have a baby. And I like to take this baby to visit my grandma but it’s a pain. It’s a pain to wash his clothes and blankets when we get home, and a pain to give him a bath at 9:30 at night instead of just putting him to bed because I don’t want to put him to bed smelling like mildew.

And then last night, after we spent two and half hours there for dinner and putting up the tree, my husband turns to me on the drive home and asks, “Do you ever feel nauseous when you leave there? Because I do. And do you get a slight headache?”

I do. Always.

CLICK.

I think she’s got a black mold problem. And after doing a little research on it, a mold problem is a VERY big problem. If left untreated (like say, oh, 30 years probably) it can spread through the entire house and cost upwards of THIRTY THOUSAND DOLLARS. And her house is not worth $30K.

The first step is to get it inspected so you can determine mold presence and severity.

Then comes the remediation process. If you’ve ever seen instances of guys in space-suits, cleaning mold from the walls and wood beams, that would be this.

So here’s the predicament: If I can get grandma to let me have an inspector come in, a couple of things could happen.

1) no mold – this is highly unlikely. In fact, I’d bet anyone $1,000 right now that there is mold. So this is out.

2) Mold is there, but most of it isn’t harmful and it’s not severe. Also unlikely, but it’s possible I suppose.

3) Severe mold problem. Will cost thousands to fix. My grandma cannot afford thousands.

4) Severe mold problem. So bad that the house will be declared unlivable by the health department, which means grandma has to move, at least temporarily, if not permanently.

So knowing that the likelihood is going to be either #3 or #4, do I open this can of worms?

Just to throw another wrench in things, my grandma has been battling some pretty severe IBS for the last two years. It’s so bad that most days, she can’t leave the house. We’ve attributed it to ulcers and nerves. She’s always been a very nervous person. But what if it’s linked to the mold problem? I think it might be.

My 17 yr old cousin moved in with her a few weeks ago. His room is the only one with a dehumidifier so I don’t think he’s as bothered, but his health is a concern too.

So on one hand, I can start pushing the issue to get it inspected and risk the potential of a huge bill to clean it, or possibly force her into moving (which isn’t totally a bad thing, in my opinion, but maybe in hers) or I can do nothing and stop coming around as often and worry about her health.

These are not good options, folks. What do I do?

 

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Holidaze

So much for my 30 Days of Thankful series, huh? Sheesh. Blogging every day is way harder than I thought it would be. Even with my WordPress app on my phone, I still couldn’t bring myself to write an actual post every day. Maybe I’ll cram it all in over the next few days or something.

Anyway, Thanksgiving happened. In the blink of an eye – SWOOSH – November is almost over.  It feels like just the other day I was silently judging people on Facebook for putting up their Christmas tree on Nov. 17th. “It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, people! What are you doing?!” And now? I wish I’d put my tree up that weekend too. If we get it up on Dec. 1, it’ll be a miracle. There’s just so much to do – between holiday parties, meals, baking, shopping, wrapping, gift giving, photo taking, card-sending, etc – I forget how overwhelming December becomes and I regret not starting my shopping or decorating sooner so I could just sit around, sipping my hot cocoa, oohing and ahhing at lights, and watch some classic Christmas movies. Instead, it’ll be rush-rush-rush with all the other yahoos that waited until the last minute, like me. But then again, maybe not. Maybe I can get my act together, wrap up all my shopping online after the babe goes to bed. I do have several vacation days left to use in December so maybe I’ll be able to spend a few of those days relaxing and enjoying the season.

Thanksgiving is usually a pretty hectic holiday for me too. Every year since we moved into our house in 2006, we’ve hosted Thanksgiving at my house. And every year, my mom and I cooked while my grandparents came over for our one and only holiday gathering (we’re always at my in-laws on Christmas). Since this is the first year without my grandpa, we had intended to let my mom host at her house in Kentucky. Believe it or not, she is STILL battling some obscure mite problem so Thanksgiving was cancelled and we went to my in-laws, which is nothing but craziness when you put 9 adults and 8 kids together under one roof. It was a nice distraction when the alternative was sitting at home or going to my grandma’s sad little house, and crying into my sweet potatoes. But it was still hard, being away from my family, when that was our only holiday together. It feels as if my side of the family is crumbling apart, and my cousin and I are the only two who care enough to try to hold it together.

I guess every family goes through this though – dealing with death and changing the family dynamic. At some point, the kids become the parents, and then the grandparents, and each life stage has its own time and traditions and this is just the way life goes. But in all my 30 short years, my family has been the same. So dealing with this change now, so late in life, has turned my little world upside down and it’s hard, yo. I feel a little lost, like our little family of four (dog included) is still trying to figure out our place, our traditions. Will we always travel for both holidays? Once my grandma is gone, will I ever see that side of my family again? Why is this all so complicated?

Does anyone else feel like they’re still struggling to figure out how you spend time with family over the holidays? Or is this just us?

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Happy Birthday,Grandpa!

I knew this week was going to be tough. Grandparent’s Day was yesterday and today is my grandpa’s birthday. He would’ve been 78.

Last year at this time I was working my tail feathers off to orchestrate a surprise birthday party for his 77th birthday. It was my idea, which occurred to me months before (I think around June, after reading this post about a blogger throwing her dad a 60 Years of Memories birthday party). Even though he was doing alright, I think deep down I knew that this could be his last birthday. I hate that I was right, but I’m glad we spent his last birthday surrounding him with love and memories. My mom, cousin, aunt and I all worked hard to get as many family members and friends from his past together in one place to celebrate the day. Do you know how hard it is to track down a bunch of seniors when none of them are on Facebook? In fact, my grandpa was the only one with a Facebook page. (side note: He was always trying to learn new things, never content with just “the way things are”. He was the only grandpa I knew that played Nintendo or used a computer regularly, emailing his friends jokes and sending forwards of pretty pictures and inspirational messages. I never realized just how exceptional this was until I learned just how few older folks embrace technology the way he did.)

Anyway, we spent weeks tracking people down, researching venues and planning the menu, ordering cakes (one for his birthday and one for his/my grandma’s anniversary which is Sept. 14), and best of all, collecting memories. We had 77 in all, and it was so fun reading all the memories from people – especially people that knew him long before I was ever born.

My favorite memory wasn’t written down on a piece of paper or emailed in on a FB message. It was a video, from one of my grandpa’s best friends, Wild Bill, who lives in Florida and couldn’t make the party.

We didn’t go through each of the written-in messages during the party. (A few of us went back to his house to open them and read them out loud around the kitchen table.) But I brought our iPad and played the video message from Wild Bill. My grandpa’s reaction to the video, the party, everything – was priceless. He always acted like he hated the attention, but I know that he had a blast. In fact I think I recall him saying something about the day going by too fast. There were just so many people he wanted to sit and talk with and we only had a few hours.

Here he is listening to the video message from Bill:

I wish I could relive that day all over again. A thousand times. It was so much work, but so very worth it. Instead, I have to spend this day at work, missing him and wishing I didn’t have to visit him at a cemetery like I did yesterday.

He’s buried at Jefferson Barracks which is the second largest cemetery for veterans, next to Arlington National. Because it’s so busy, headstones typically take a few months to come in. We were told grandpa’s headstone wouldn’t be in until October so I expected to visit him yesterday and just see a little marker. Instead, we saw a brand new headstone. My grandma didn’t even know it was there. She’ll get to see it today when she visits, but I’m so glad it’s in already. Just in time for his birthday.

I miss him so much. Of course, it’s a gorgeous day today too. Not a cloud in the sky, high 70’s, and just….beautiful. I know he would’ve enjoyed today. And tonight I would’ve ran home after work, loaded up the babe and the hubs, and headed down to his house for dinner and cake. Instead, I’ll be running home, fixing dinner, and watching a movie he told me to rent and watch probably about a month or two before he died called Pharlap. It’s been out of print for awhile so I couldn’t rent it, but I could buy it and so I did. I just haven’t watched it yet.

And maybe, if I can bring myself to do it, I’ll go through and read some of the 170+ emails he’s sent to me in the last year that I’ve left unread. He’d send so many forwarded jokes, videos, photos, etc that I just didn’t have the time read them. I never deleted them, but I didn’t read a lot of them either, so they’ve sat in my inbox since last year. Now I can barely bring myself to read any of them without breaking down, so I’m going through them in very small doses. I kind of like it that way though because it’s like I’m reading a new message from him once in awhile.

I’ll leave you with one that I just read that I thought was fitting for today:

Subject: Will I Live to see 80?

Here’s something to think about.

I recently picked a new primary care doctor. After two visits and exhaustive Lab tests, he said I was doing ‘fairly well’ for my age. (I just turned fifty-five).

A little concerned about that comment, I couldn’t resist asking him, ‘Do you think I’ll live to be 80?’

He asked, ‘Do you smoke tobacco, or drink beer, wine or hard liquor?

‘Oh no,’ I replied. ‘I’m not doing drugs, either!’

Then he asked, ‘Do you eat rib-eye steaks and barbecued Ribs?

‘I said, ‘Not much… my former doctor said that all red meat is very unhealthy!’

‘Do you spend a lot of time in the sun, like playing golf, boating, sailing, hiking, or bicycling?’

‘No, I don’t,’ I said.

He asked, ‘Do you gamble, drive fast cars, or have a lots of sex?’

‘No,’ I said…

He looked at me and said,.. “‘Then, why do you even give a shit?”

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Saying Goodbye

I hope everyone had a better 4th than we did.

On July 2, my grandmother’s birthday, we buried my grandpa. At first, we (meaning my mom and our husbands) were concerned about burying him that day and how it would affect her, but when we asked her if this would be okay she simply said, “He never really did anything special for my birthday. Now he has.”

Well okay then. (Gotta love grandma’s spunk!)

My mom, cousin and I all worked on gathering pictures for the funeral services. I spent hours upon hours going through photos, printing the digital ones from my laptop, and putting together four photo boards. It was definitely therapeutic for all of us and gave us something to do with our hands to keep our minds from going crazy.

Grandpa meets Desmond. This is the last photo of my grandpa. 

The visitation on Sunday was lovely, other than the fact that my grandpa didn’t look anything like himself. We dressed him in the suit he wore to my wedding, which was apparently the last time he wore that suit because we found three copies of my wedding program in the jacket pocket. My mom and I handled the food, serving sandwiches, chips, drinks, cupcakes, and a big ‘ole cookie cake from Sam’s Club (which was delicious). We also put out a few varieties of chocolate (M&Ms, Reese’s mini cups, peppermint patties) because I hear chocolate is a natural mood booster. Personally, I would’ve rather handed out Zoloft but I’m told that’s not legal.

The flowers people sent were all gorgeous. My grandpa would’ve complained that they were a waste of money and would’ve rather had the money go to my grandma, but deep down I think he would’ve really liked them. My aunt on my father’s side sent a nice memory stone for either me or my mom to take with us. I let my mom have it since she mentioned building a memory garden for grandpa in her backyard.

Several of my friends came to the visitation, unexpectedly. I had made a general Facebook posting about the times so that extended family would have the details, but I didn’t expect so many of my friends to show up. It was definitely nice and appreciated. My entire husband’s family also came into town that day. Their visit had been planned for a couple of months already, so it was just unfortunate that the timing happened the way that it did. Or maybe it was fortunate since having them there was comforting to my husband. My FIL and MIL had met my grandpa a few times before, so they wanted to come to the services anyway, which was nice.

The visitation was from 4-8pm and I can’t believe how quickly the time flew. So many friends and family members came to pay their respects and I felt bad for not being able to visit more with each of them. I worried that not everyone would’ve been informed in time since the funeral notice didn’t run in the paper until that morning, but it seems my aunt did a pretty good job of calling everyone she could. There was one friend of my grandpa’s that I knew couldn’t make the services. He lives in Florida and is fighting his own horrible battle with cancer. “Wild Bill” is what my grandpa always called him and he used to manage the merchandise sales for the St. Louis Cardinals. When I was little, grandpa would take me down to the stadium and Wild Bill would let me pick out a souvenir. Last year for my grandpa’s surprise birthday party, I was able to get Bill to record a video sharing some memories of my grandpa. It’s truly my favorite video and if you have four minutes, it’s worth watching for a good laugh.

Anyway, I was worried no one had called Bill so I did. And I could barely get the words out before bawling so my mom had to take the phone and finish telling him. My aunt had already called him a day or two before so he knew, but said that when she told him, he couldn’t talk because he was so sick and depressed over it. He said he was used to being the guy that made everyone laugh, but my grandpa was one of the few people that could make him laugh.

Monday morning was the actual funeral and my husband warned me that the funeral part is always the hardest. I had made it through the visitation with only a couple of crying episodes, so I was hopeful I’d be able to hold it together for the funeral too. Well, let’s just say my husband was right.

My grandpa had requested three songs to be played at his funeral. What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong, Memory by Barbara Streisand, and Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Due to some time constraints with the cemetery, the minister asked that we just pick two songs, so we cut out Memory, since that was grandpa’s least favorite of the three. What a Wonderful World had been grandpa’s favorite song for years, so one year for his birthday I bought him the CD so he could listen to it on his computer whenever he wanted. We played that one first to start the service. Take Me Out to the Ballgame was one of the first songs I ever learned, and grandpa and I used to sing it on the way home whenever he’d pick me up from daycare. We played that one to close the service, and a few of us – those who could anyway – managed to sing it.

After the service, everyone filed out in front of the casket to say their last goodbyes. Two of my younger cousins (Krissy is 26 and Patrick is 17) and myself (the three of us were grandpa’s favorite grandchildren – and we all knew it) were the last, right behind my grandma, and we just stood there – the three of us with arms around each other – and just sobbed until the funeral director had to ask us to wrap it up, in a nice way of course. I don’t have any siblings so those two kids are as close to a brother and sister as I have, but the only thing we’ve ever really had in common is how much we loved our grandpa.

The burial service was sort of a blur. I remember pulling up and seeing a little baby deer laying the grass, just calmly watching us and looking out over the sea of headstones. My grandpa is buried at Jefferson Barracks, which is reserved for former military members and their families. I believe it’s the second largest, next to Arlington National in DC, and therefore very busy. The funeral director said they bury something like 30 people a day, so you’re given a 10 minute window to say goodbye under a little pavilion. Then it’s a few hours before they actually get around to burying him, so you’re asked to come back either later that night or the next day to visit the grave. And headstones take about 60-90 days to come in. Who knew.

It was so very hot that day and my poor husband was a pallbearer. St. Louis had been experiencing 100+ degree heat for days so I guess I’m glad our time slot was from 10:30 – 10:40 that morning. There was a gun salute and the whole flag folding ritual. There’s just something really special about a military burial. And I cried as I watched my entire family cry, and my grandma place a single red rose on my grandpa’s gray cloth casket.

And that was it. The moment Id’ dreaded my entire life finally happened and was over. And yet, the world keeps turning.

It’s been almost a week now since the services and I’m doing okay. I still cry every day, and I probably will for a long time, but I’m okay. I’ve never really suffered a loss like this before so I’m not sure what’s normal or what’s expected or what’s even healthy, but right now I’m just trying to keep myself busy, which is easy to do with an infant. I also find comfort in escapism – watching movies or mindless TV, reading blogs. And there’s also been some family drama that is too long to get into (basically my aunt isn’t coping well and is handling her grief by lashing out at anyone and everyone). So while annoying, that has distracted me a bit from the sadness. And of course I worry about my grandma. She’s always been very dependent on my grandpa for everything so it’s going to take a village to take over all the things he used to do to care for her. And I also worry about my mom, who was always a daddy’s girl, and now that she’s home in Kentucky without family or friends nearby, is on the verge of her own kind of depression. To put it simply, grandpa was the head of the family and without him, we’re not all quite sure what to do with ourselves. But I know that eventually, we’ll be okay. In fact, I’m going to visit my grandma right now and bring her some lunch. And last night I took a few pictures and video of Dez to send to my mom and cheer her up, which I think worked, because she sent me an email back at 2am (she couldn’t sleep) saying how much she liked them.

So that’s where I’m at.

And as if all that weren’t enough, we had a pretty crappy 4th. Originally, my husband’s entire family came from Ohio/KY/WV area to celebrate my FIL’s 60th birthday. So hubby’s aunt offered to host the party at her house, which was great because she has a pool for all the kids to swim in and with all that was going on with us, there’s no way I could’ve hosted it here. The annoying part was that she invited all of her inlaws over too, which would’ve been fine if we’d actually ever met them before. A birthday party for her brother where half the guests are strangers? Just…odd. So the party was scheduled to start at noon, but the hubs and his sister had planned to take their dad to get a new set of golf clubs for his birthday and the place didn’t open until noon. So we were already late for his own party. My MIL hadn’t been feeling well for the last two days (side note for those that don’t know – my MIL has MS and is in a wheelchair with a catheter so these long trips are really hard on her and she gets infections a lot) and with all the heat and running around, she was just exhausted. On top of that, she was battling a UTI and needed antibiotics. About two hours into the party, she ended up having a seizure. This isn’t the first time and she already takes seizure medication, but it’s not exactly common either and was a pretty scary sight. Needless to say, that cut the party short and my inlaws ended up leaving super early the next morning and took her to the hospital as soon as they got home. She’s fine now and should be released from the hospital today, but still, very scary.

That evening we had planned on watching fireworks somewhere with the whole family, but with my MIL’s health, we decided to just go up and visit with them at their hotel so she could rest. On the way there, my stomach started killing me so I had the hubs turn the car around and take me home where I promptly passed out at 9:30pm. I never saw one firework, and frankly, I’m okay with that. But see what I mean about a pretty shitty holiday? So yeah, I really hope yours was better.

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My heart is broken

Just 24 hours ago, my beloved grandpa took his last breath. My mom, step-dad, grandma and uncle were all there with him. My mom held his hand. He was awake, and suffering, and his final moments were exactly the opposite of what we wanted.

And that makes me cry. Hard.

He always said he had a bad heart, and the multiple heart attacks, pace maker, defibrillator, and daily medications would have you believe it. But just like 35 years ago when his doctor told him he’d have less than a year to live with a heart in that condition, he defied the odds. Last Thursday, the hospice nurse said she didn’t think he’d made it to Saturday. And yet? He pushed through until Wednesday, June 27 around 4:10pm. Probably just to prove her wrong.

I always tell people that I never really had a dad growing up. But the truth is, I did. I had my grandpa. I am the woman I am today because of him. Our relationship was stronger than any other grandfather/granddaughter’s I’d ever seen – in real life or in the movies. He was my hero. Still is. He protected me. And when he couldn’t protect me any longer, he taught me how to protect myself. He encouraged me and gave me the drive to be successful in life. And more than that, he taught me to be a good person. Someone who looks out for others. Someone who doesn’t take shit from people. Someone who loves a good joke, and a good laugh. Someone who sees the beauty in life, even when life deals you a bad hand. And someone who, above all else, loves his family more than himself. He would’ve given his own life for any one of his kids or grandkids, and I would gladly trade him places if I could. I would’ve fought the cancer for him. I would’ve taken on all the pain so he wouldn’t have had to feel a thing. I would’ve done anything.

But that’s not how life works. And now the man I loved more than anything has been taken from me. So now the tears I cry aren’t for him, because he’s no longer in pain. He’s with Jesus, just like he prayed for. I cry for me. I cry because I’m so lost without him. I cry because I know I’ll never be as happy as I was when he was alive. I cry because we’ll never play cards again. I cry because we’ll never come over for a pulled pork dinner that he made, even though he hates pulled pork, because he knows my husband likes it. I cry because I’ll never get another forwarded email. I cry because I’ll never get to hear another one of his stories, or listen to another joke. I cry because I’ll never answer the phone and hear his voice on the other line, teasing me about my “boy Pujols and how many home runs has he hit lately?” (Answer: not very many) I cry because my son will never remember him, although I’m grateful they had a chance to meet. My grandpa called him a “dandy” and a “little dumpling.” Even though he was sick and bedridden, seeing my baby boy made his day.

He was my rock and the person whose opinion mattered more than anyones. He was the only person I could never be mad at, even when we disagreed. A couple of years ago we tried to move to North Carolina and my grandpa was so mad at me that he wouldn’t speak to me for nearly two months. He said a lot of not-so-nice things about me to just about anyone that would listen. Everyone thought I’d be angry with him or that I’d yell at him. But I didn’t, because I knew why he was mad. He thought I was leaving him and he was acting out because he didn’t know how to deal with the sadness of me leaving. And the moment we decided not to move anymore, he acted as if those two months didn’t exist. We were right back to regular phone calls, emails, and visits.

I have nearly 200 emails in my inbox – all jokes, poems, photos and other random forwards from my grandpa that I just can’t bring myself to delete. Right now, I can barely bring myself to read them, so I read a couple and then I close the window because it’s too difficult. I also have several old voicemails on my phone from him that I’ve listened to a few times already because I just miss the sound of his voice so much.

I feel like I’ve lost a limb. Like I can’t function right anymore. Like something important to my survival is suddenly missing. I know people say that it gets better with time, but I’m not sure I believe it. I’m so scared of forgetting something about him, that the thought of time passing has me worried I’ll forget something. He used to talk about how he’d eventually be forgotten once he’s gone and I could tell how sad the thought of that made him. But I vowed to not let that happen. I’m going to teach my own kids everything he taught me and I’m going to tell them so many stories about him that they’ll feel like they knew him too.

One of the last things I said to my grandpa was that I would teach Desmond how to sing “Take me out to the ballgame”, because that’s the first song my grandpa taught me. He could barely talk and his eyes were closed but he made a half smile and nodded approvingly.

The next few days are going to be rough. I’ve been crying for nearly 24 hours straight now and I don’t see any end in sight. But I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other because my son needs me. And I need him. Because he’s the only thing that’s helping me cope with this sadness. He’s like a tiny, flickering light in a tunnel of sadness and I cling to him just as much as he clings to me.

 

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