Tag Archives: life

Round and round

“You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster. Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride! I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”

—Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel, Character of Grandma, Parenthood (1989)

I love this quote from the movie “Parenthood”. There’s a scene at the end of the movie that puts the pieces of the puzzle that are parenthood and roller coasters together most effectively. If you’ve seen the movie, then you know what I’m talking about.

Kate provided us with one of those moments when she was about 5. It was during the annual children’s Christmas program at church. Most of the kids played the animals living in the stable where Jesus was born. Kate was one of the sheep. Her costume consisted of a headband with little sheepy ears, white tights and a large white sweatshirt with a fluff of cotton for a sheep tail on the back. The sheep were supposed to gather around the manger to admire baby Jesus, and most of the sheep did just that.

Except for Kate. She sort of crawl-hopped to center stage. I guess the crawl-hopping movements made sense to her: in Kate-world sheep and bunnies were both white with fluffy tails; sheep walk around on all-fours and bunnies hop. She was supposed to crawl-hop around the manger. But, there she was, center stage, with her back to the audience, wiggling her fluffy tail for all to admire.

One of many of the heady, unforgettable moments of being a parent. Not a milestone event like graduating from high school or college, making the football team or the cheer leading squad or going to the prom. Just an ordinary day that became an extraordinary memory of Kate as a child.

We weren’t “video camera” parents. I remember watching a young family on the beach one summer afternoon. They had a toddler, cute as a button. She must have done some adorable little thing that toddlers usually do at the beach (like eat sand maybe), and I heard her mother say, “Baby, can you do that again for the video camera?” I guess it’s like choosing to ride the coaster, have the experience, or watch someone else’s video tape of it.

Kate is on the roller coaster right now. She misses Big Sister, but continues to protect herself from any further heartache that Big Sister is so adept at handing out. Good for Kate in that she’s learning to shelter herself from abusive people and toxic relationships; not so good for Kate as far as coming out of her shell and building new relationships. It’s going to take a while, but the wounds will heal, and hopefully not scar too badly. I ordered her prom dress yesterday; how can that be? Last week she was the mischievous little sheep that stole the show at the Christmas pageant.

Sometimes even roller coasters have sections that go around and around, and in my experience with coasters those sections are usually at the bottom of a drop. Wubby has been riding that section of the coaster for at least two years, actually more like three.  It’s been frustrating for all of us. But, in the last few weeks, Wubby has started to move past that round-and-round section and into some direction, which will most likely change, but at least it’s a direction.

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Seen this? A “new”‘ Van Gogh. What fascinates me about this story is the process used to authenticate the painting. One would think that you authenticate something by examining that something and comparing it to other examples of what that something is. In this case, a floral still life that, to me anyway, is almost painfully exquisite in its beauty.

No. There’s another painting underneath this one, of two wrestlers, that was discovered by x-ray several years ago. And it was that painting, the one underneath, that authenticated the visible one.

What on earth am I trying to say? These thoughts have been chasing themselves around inside my head for days. We have three cats that all chase their tails, but are rarely successful at catching them. It happens now and again, and I love to see one of the cats actually catch its tail. The surprise of success causes the poor kitty to let go of her tail, and the process starts all over again.

Roller coasters and merry-go-rounds.

Extraordinary and routine.

Funny thing about roller coasters and merry-go-rounds: they both travel in never-ending circles. The ride starts; the ride ends and another one begins.

And extraordinary vs. routine: how do you know something is extraordinary without having experienced the routine, the mundane, that makes the extraordinary what it is?

Extraordinary

homework

Baby Girl had a homework assignment to complete on the first day of school this year.  She had to write a poem about herself, about “where she’s from.” She didn’t ask for help, and I didn’t offer any. I think she got it just right.

Where I’m From

I am from long afternoons at the barn. Pastures sprawled out in all directions and the whinnies of horses. The sweet smell of hay and the feel of rough mane through my fingers. The taste of dirt after falling off.

I am from the days of watching Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon. Dragon Tails, Arthur, and My Little Pony. Singing along with Barney & Friends and the Sesame Street show. Telling Dora where to go and what to do.

I am from Scottish ancestry. The land of haggis, kilts and the sound of bagpipes. A land that fought valiantly for its independence, but lost. The same land where Nessie resides, making lake Loch Ness her home.

I am from two brave soldiers, both of whom fought in World War II. Overseas in a land unfamiliar, fighting a powerful enemy. Bearing the weight of war on their shoulders. Writing letters to loved ones back home, thankful that they are safe.

I am from weeks at the lake. Jumping off the dock, going out for boat rides. Watching movies and playing games with cousins. Spending time with the two neighborhood dogs. Fishing and eating dinner on the deck. Watching storms pass by.

I am from the love of history. The times of kings and queens. Of Tsars and Tsarinas. Guards standing watch outside palaces and castles. Times where sickness and plague ran rampant. And war was at every corner.

I am from the best family anyone could ask for. A mother, father and brother. Loving, caring, always there when you need them. People that could never be replaced. People that will always be remembered, their faces and names forever in my heart and mind.

She says she isn’t a writer.

the ghost on memory lane

OK, so over in the “real” world that is Facebook, the current all-consuming fad seems to be creating groups based on where you grew up. Well, isn’t that special? I “grew up” all over southwest Virginia, so there are several of those groups I could contribute to, but I landed in the one corresponding to where I, myself, landed and finally settled into in 1974. It is also the town where Hubby was born and grew up, and where most of his family still resides.

Yesterday, someone in the group was posting tons of pictures, old postcards from the early 20th century, through the heady days of Lakeside Amusement Park (yeah, you remember it, don’t you?), the cross-town rival high schools that were merged into one school my junior year, the subsequent re-emergence of my original high school in a much smaller form, right on through current day. And there must be over one hundred pictures on there now.

While it is true that I don’t recognize many of the faces, other than some career teachers from both high schools, there was one face that, when it scrolled across my computer screen, took my breath away. This picture:

The caption underneath the picture was no surprise to me, either:

R.I.P. Bobby…..

Then there was some discussion as to who this really was, because there was a Bobby X that graduated from high school in ’69, and another Bobby X that attended the same high school 20 years later. The ’69 folks were surprised to learn that their classmate had died, only this wasn’t their classmate.

He was their classmate’s son.

And our nephew.

I grabbed the phone and called Hubby at work to warn him, so he wouldn’t stumble across the picture himself and have the same visceral reaction I had. We talked on the phone a few minutes, both of us looking at the picture, peering into this young man’s eyes, thinking the same though: “Oh Bobby, what were you thinking?” Because, on March 4, 1994, just before dawn,  Bobby put a bullet into his head. He was 22 years old.

The memories of that day and the days following started flooding into my head. It was a warm, early spring Friday. Hubby and I both worked downtown. We met my dad in the church parking lot during lunch, as he had driven down from Virginia to pick up our 4-year-old Wubby to take him home for the weekend. The plan was for Hubby and me to have a quiet weekend at home. I was about 7 months pregnant with Baby Girl, and it had been a difficult pregnancy. Hubby’s father had suffered a massive stroke back in October that left him seriously  debilitated. The family had spent the winter trying to decide how best to take care of Granddaddy, the consensus being to place him in a veteran’s long-term care facility. It was a brutal experience.

But on this warm summer afternoon, our spirits were high. Wubby and my dad headed for the northern border, Hubby and I enjoyed a leisurely lunch at Taco Bell, and he dropped me off back at my office before heading back to his own. I stepped off the elevator on the 17th floor, where an admin assistant handed me a yellow post-it note. “Sister called. Bobby dead. Find Renee asap.” Renee was my boss. I walked down the hallway to the other side of the building where my office was, staring at the note in my hand and thinking to myself, “What kind of horrible joke is this?” As I turned the corner onto our wing and saw the faces looking at me, I realized that this was no joke. This was serious. Deadly serious. I went into my office and closed the door, collapsed into my chair and tried to call my husband, but got no answer because he hadn’t had time to get back to his office where I knew now there was a yellow post-it note waiting for him. I looked at my shaking hands. I put the note on my desk and stared at it. Someone knocked on my door, very quietly. One of my co-workers stuck his head in the door and asked if he could come in. I said sure, I was fine, really. He sat down and held my hand. We said nothing.

About five minutes later there was another knock on the door. It was my husband. I had kept my composure until I saw his face, the pain and confusion in his eyes. And down I went. He rushed over to my desk just in time to catch me, my co-worker quietly bowed out and left the two of us alone to try and comprehend what had just happened, and what was going to happen.

When I was calm again, we left and came home, threw stuff in a suitcase. I called my OB and asked him for xanax. We picked it up, and then we headed for the northern border. I think we stopped a couple of times because my husband couldn’t see through the tears to drive. The car radio was blaring about the untimely death of John Candy, about Hollywood’s tragic loss of a “comic genius.”

Here’s what we lost: a son, a husband, a father (he had an 18-month-old daughter), a nephew, a cousin, a friend, a landscaping master, a Civil War re-enactor, a caring heart, a loving smile.

And the last of our innocence, crushed by the realization that life was unpredictable, that bad things, unthinkable things, would happen and there would be nothing we could do but watch the horror unfold and hold each other.

Two weeks later, and 8 weeks earlier that expected, our Baby Girl came into this world, screaming, refusing to eat for 10 days, and expecting the world to spin in her direction. She has his eyes, the look of his mother, just like the cousin she never met, the cousin whose name  had some influence over her own.

Yesterday I watched her look into his eyes, and I wonder what she was thinking.

My so-called life

Wasn’t that a movie or something? Doesn’t really matter….

Where to start: I was thinking about taking down this blog, mainly because most of what I have to say about the state of the world right now is EXTREMELY politically incorrect, and while I stick by my opinions I’m really not in the mood to piss anyone off. Life is interesting enough.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I got a “comment awaiting approval” message, which means it a. isn’t spam, and b. isn’t from someone this blog recognizes. So I checked it out. Hans, you’re PhD dissertation topic and title are freakin’ AWESOME, and best of luck to you.

Yes, I watched the big wedding with my Anglophile daughter, live at o’dark-thirty in the morning. It was refreshing to see something, anything, positive on the tube for a change. The thing that struck me hardest was the music. Oh, how I miss music….GOOD music. The choral anthem by John Rutter, “This is the Day”, was amazing. I had forgotten how beautiful his music is, simultaneously medieval and modern. I’ll leave a sample for you.

Just finished up a 5 credit hour Anatomy and Physiology class. It was hard, and I loved it. Didn’t really realize how consuming it had been until today, first day post-class that I had no place to be and nothing pressing to do. I crashed, and crashed hard. At any rate, now when I watch “Bones” I understand the medical squint-speak. I’m such a geek.

Wubby has been pushing and shoving his way out of the nest, which really wasn’t necessary because he’s been free to go. He made a rather unfortunate mistake that is keeping him from leaving until all debts are paid in full to all injured parties. Bless his little heart, he needs to sprout wings, and pronto. Funny, I went back and read my last post. When I got to the quoted part my first thought was, “Where did I copy that from? I can’t remember…”. Then I remembered, I wrote that. Duh! I really miss my brain.

My anglophile baby girl went to school dressed as….a GIRL today. She cleans up nicely, and is coming into her own. She’s developed quite a wanderlust, which surprises the heck out of me since, a year ago, she wouldn’t accept a gift week to adventure camp 2 hours away because she was “afraid she’d get homesick.” Now she wants to travel Europe w/ a backpack. I like this girl.

For some reason that I can’t put my finger on, I feel like I’m losing my best friend and I don’t know why. I know exactly what that feels like, because I lived through it several times, to the point where I quit trying to make friends because I didn’t want the pain of leaving them behind as would invariably happen. Maybe it’s the “facing the reality of being 50”.

Then again, maybe not. Maybe it’s nothing. I’m hyper-sensitive to everything right now, physical, mental and spiritual.

Anyway, here’s the John Rutter I promised. The lyrics are a prayer from the “Sarum Book of Hours, 1514”:

God be in my head and in my understanding.

God be in my eyes and in my looking.

God be in my mouth and in my speaking.

God be in my heart and in my thinking.

God be at my end and at my departing.

a formerly competant woman looks at 50

 

So it’s December 31st, again, and according to the rules in Blogohstan we’re all supposed to sum up our year in nifty little snippets, yadda yadda sis boom bah and all that jazz.

Truth is, I haven’t been feeling much like being a proper citizen of Blogohstan because I woke up one morning in 2010, don’t remember which one, looked at myself in the mirror, and said to the face staring back at me, “GRANDMA! How did you get in my mirror?” followed by “However you managed it, GET OUT! NOW, WOMAN!!”

But, she’s not leaving. She lives in there now. I think I went into a coma or something around 1985 and came out of it in 2010 wondering “what the hell happened to that person that used to be me?” Yep, that’s got to be it.

Counting today, I have 19 more days before TEOTWAIKI and frankly I am scared to death.

So it’s time to put on my Scarlet O’Hara and say “I can’t think about that right now. I’ll think about it tomorrow.”

Today I remember:

  • Finding out, the hard way, that Hubby can no longer consume shellfish, and that if you want emergency room service FAST, have an serious allergic reaction to something.
  • The absolute coldest weekend in Valle Crucis, ever.
  • Not going to  Cielo.
  • Wubby flunking out of community college while his little sister overcame her fear of all things academic and became a learning sponge.
  • Reading Atlas Shrugged at the beach and thinking, Now it all makes sense.
  • Wubby moving out to try life on his own.
  • Riding in my first horse show.
  • Falling off several horses and living to get on and ride again. Except for Chick-horse; we broke up.
  • Bikram
  • Knitting enough socks to keep a centipede’s little feet warm all winter long.
  • Hillbilly time and feeling absolutely loved, no words required from anyone to prove it.
  • Taking Wubby to Metropolis in hopes that his eyes would be opened. Not so much.
  • Wubby moving back home.
  • Losing two feline friends, and gaining two new feline friends.
  • The Christmas that wasn’t quite, and the day after that flat out wasn’t. (There’s something insipid about December 26th, isn’t there?)

So now what?

I think Grandma knows, but she’s not telling. She just looks at me and gives me her best wicked little grin, that one that always said “I’ve got a secret!”

when the colors change

My intentions were good; perhaps even noble. For me, anyway.

This post was supposed to be about Wubby’s first adventure into the big city: the train into Grand Central, the subway entertainment, the busy streets on the west side, the intimate nature of the Frick Gallery, dinner in Grand Central complete with white linen tablecloths, my fascination with wine served in delicate glass pitchers….

But the colors changed.

Five days after we returned home, I was traveling again, this time to help a friend complete a task she should not have even considered doing, but was determined to complete, with or without help. And she needed help. It started out innocently enough. The golds and oranges and reds of Northern Virginia and Pennsylvania quickly changed to angry reds, dusky grays, oppressive blues and purples.

Fading to black.

I’m home now, a little worse for wear. Exhausted. Confused. Questioning my judgment, maybe even my sanity.

The colors of home are varied and comforting: the vibrant red of the roses Hubby had waiting for me; the hazel of my daughter’s eyes as she focused on the three-foot jump ahead of her as she urged her horse over it; the rainbow of colors and emotions that are Wubby; the black and white of Bella the kitten, who brings me socks and begs to play fetch; the pinks and grays of the socks I’m knitting.

The autumn colors here in the NC Piedmont haven’t quite peaked, and the rain is coming, determined to bring the leaves down.

Sigh.

symptoms in some cephalopoda approximating apoplexy

Don’t you love that quote? It’s from “Cannery Row”.

However….

Hubby now has issues with Cephalopods, Gastropods, Bivalves and Crustaceans that caused him to approximate apoplexy yesterday. Darn it.

The culprit was shrimp. Never had a problem eating shrimp before. In fact, one of his family’s Christmas traditions has always been the boiling and consumption of large quantities of them, w/ his dad’s homemade shrimp cocktail sauce. And his dad’s shrimp salad recipe still rates pretty high among the clan.

Saturday he boiled some shrimp and we had shrimp alfredo. Yesterday after church he consumed a few more–I went for the leftover Brunswick stew he made on New Year’s Day, which was delicious BTW. Ever seen the movie “Hitch” with Will Smith? There’s a really funny scene where he has an allergic reaction to shrimp. It was sort of like that, only not as amusing. First he said his throat felt “funny” and thought he was coming down w/ something. Then he started itching a little, and noticed a few hives. In about thirty minutes time the hives were popping up everywhere. We debated waiting it out vs. going out in search of medical attention, and opted for door number 2. There’s an urgent care place not far from the hospital, so we went there. It was closed. Apparently you can only need urgent care on Sunday from 7:00 AM to 12:30 PM.

So, again, door number 2….ER. Fortunately, they take shellfish allergies pretty seriously. Had him in triage in about 20 minutes, then in the “red zone”. They started IV fluids and gave him some heavy-duty steroid something-or-other. It was amazing how quickly his BP dropped to something scary like 65/43 and he was bright red and itching like crazy, constantly trying to “clear” his throat. Then, magic. Steroids went in, and the hives visibly faded. Oh yeah, and Benadryl, lots of it. And an EKG, and oxygen.

Then we waited for a couple of hours to make sure it didn’t come back.

I remember having a nasty case of hives when I was about 5. I don’t remember itching, but I do remember these white blister-looking things, on my arms maybe. He had some on his back that were the size of my hand.

He’s home from work today–supposed to be home until Thursday according to the doctor, but Ron, the amazing nurse that took care of him, said that if he felt better to use his own judgment. He’ll go back tomorrow, probably.

So…no more shellfish, cephalopods or otherwise.

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Love is an amazing thing. Yesterday I spent two hours in the ER, watching the one I love get pretty sick, pretty quick, receive amazing medical care and treatment, and recover very nicely. I fed him ice chips, and watched him sleep. Just looked at him, totally focused on him. I haven’t done that in a while, to my discredit.

We were lucky yesterday. Living where we do, with quick access to excellent medical care. We learned something new, something we’ll have to be careful about from now on. If it ever happens again, don’t mess with it. Go straight to ER, or call 911.

And I was reminded, again, of the power, the intensity, of love. How deep, how profound it is.

And how lucky I am to have him.