Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Sad Day.

Yesterday morning, in what seemed like only minutes before Jakie woke me up screaming for GOD KNOWS WHAT at 6:30 am, I had a dream about my Grandma. In it, I was packing up at the end of the semester to head home to Tahoe for the summer. But I was in Tahoe. But I was in College. But I was in Novato. But I was me. Now. Not college-aged me.

Well, you know how dreams are.

So I was packing up and heading out the door when my Grandma caught my arm. She was sitting right there by the door, in the same position I've watched her sit for years (even after the stroke. even after the broken neck). She grabbed my arm so that I wouldn't leave without saying goodbye. When I leaned down to kiss her, I noticed that her legs weren't quite as thin anymore. That her hair, though showing more grey, was perfectly coiffed. That she looked well. Strong. Healthy. As I was saying goodbye to her, I thought in my head that I wouldn't get to see her as often because I'd be further away, but that I'd still be coming down every week or so with my Dad. I thought to myself, "say that to her," but I did not say that. Rather, I said, "I love you Grandma." She kissed me and told me that she loved me.

And then Jakie woke me up. So, per my usual, I stumbled into his room to scoop him out of his bed. Just as I plopped myself down in his rocking chair, our telephone rang.

It's never good when your phone rings that early in the morning. It's also never good when your phone rings that early in the morning and the upstairs receiver is broken.

My poor little Jakie must have gotten really shaken up as we trotted down the stairs, getting to the phone just in time to miss my mom's message. The message that said, "I'm so sorry to leave this on your machine, but Grandma died last night. Please call me."

The next few minutes were a blur of activity as I rushed back upstairs, grabbed the cell phone, and alternated frustrations as my mom and I were both trying to call each other at the same time and kept getting each other's voicemail. While I got, at the very least, a sympathetic voice on my answering machine, my poor husband got the news from his harried wife who barely had her head on straight.

"Who was that? What happened?"

"Mom. Grandma died last night."

I've never seen him shoot out of bed so quickly. I think that part of me has been expecting this for so long now that I was ready for it and ready to get down to business and take care of whatever needed to be taken care of. Then there was the other part of me was so shocked and caught off-guard about it that emotion got pushed out of the way while I tried to figure out what to do and what to make of it.

Perhaps it was an up to an hour later when that emotion finally found it's way out, and a 30-year old mommy, reading to her toddler who awoke from all of the activity, started sobbing during that part in "The Little Engine That Could" when the train "all of a sudden stopped with a jerk. She simply could not go another inch." It was then that Tim and I sat on my bed, embracing. Sobbing. What a ridiculously strange moment - to be expecting something for so even be praying for it... and yet to be caught so off guard by it.

I had just sat with her last week. The day after her appointment with her doctor in which he informed her that "everything checks out. We'll see you in 6 months." I had just laughed with her while sharing the story of how Christopher walked into the pole. I had just sympathized with her while listening again to her saga of being kidnapped, always waking up in a new bed or a new hospital, and wondering how it was that I always seemed to find her no matter where they'd taken her. I had just kissed her on the forehead and told her that I'd be back to see her again next week.

And then Monday night, she drank her six o'clock coffee and went to sleep. No more stories about Chris and Jake. No more worries about getting kidnapped or running away or suing the nursing home over her broken legs (all of which, of course, never happened). No more visit next week. Instead, I will make my weekly visit to the nursing home tomorrow morning, and when I walk out the door, I'll be carrying her purse. Her clothing. Her TV. And her big, warm, beautiful blanket that my brother and his wife had just brought her for Christmas - a blanket which she always commented on. "Isn't it beautiful? It's SO WARM." When I walk out that door tomorrow, there will be no, "I'll see you next week." There will be no return to 265 Acacia Ave. - the home where she only lived for two weeks.

These past four months have been exhausting. They have been challenging in ways I could not anticipate, and have been SO JOYFUL, SO FUN, in others. During this time, I have not only learned how to love my Grandma (hopefully a lesson that I'll carry into my other relationships) but I have learned WHO SHE IS. I met a woman who, on a good day, had the biggest, brightest, most childlike smile you have ever seen - a woman who could spit nails on a bad one. Without this time - without these challenges - I know that the memories that would be pervading my mind today would be of those shooting nails. No smile. No joy. Just drama and anger that had developed over years and years of family discord. Without this time, though it seems awful to say, I would not miss my grandma.

But we did have this time. I did get to stand by her bedside three months ago while she was suffering that awful stroke. I did get to hold her hand and sit next to her while she told me that she "had a terrible dream last night. And you know, nightmares are supposed to be over by midnight...but this one was so bad that it just kept going." I did get to sit with her and my dad as they had two very peaceful, dare I say, joyful visits - two of only a handful of visits over the last twenty years. I did get to pray with her and for her, even though I don't think she was conscious of it. And I did get to introduce her to her second great-grandson and sit with her while she held my Jacob on her lab and gave Christopher a high-five.

These are the things I will remember about my Grandmother. She told me once, when talking about her husband and how sick he was when he died, "I have only good memories." How grateful am I to be able to say the same.

Lillian Julia Quinn
March 9, 1921 ~ January 20, 2009
Eternal Rest, grant unto her, Oh Lord.
And may Perpetual Light Shine upon her.
May she rest in peace.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Seven Quick Takes...

Ha. November 12th. I suppose it's about time I got back down to business. To be honest, the thought of updating the blog has been a constant in my mind, but with each day that has passed it seemed like more and more of a challenge. The more thoughts of "oooh, I should write about this," the more daunting of a task it became. So, following the lead of some others I've been enjoying...

1.) I decided to take some time off from the blog so that I could devote my much needed minutes to finishing Jacob's stocking. In all, it took 36+ hours. Good thing I started as early as I did. And boy did it come out cute, if I do say so myself. It was a really fun project, and I'm so glad to have this Christmas keepsake for my boys to use every year and to eventually take into their own homes with their own families. My mom made our stockings when we were babies, and I've always loved how creative and beautiful they were. Little did I know how HUGE of a project it was! To be honest, I'm very proud of the finished product and it feels so good to be able to display it in our home - especially during those years, such as this one, that will be a bit more modest and understated in terms of Christmas decorating.

2.) My Grandma is beginning to lose track of who I am. Not really, but a little. The thoughts I'd like to share on this issue range for heart-wrenching to knee-slapping, but the gist of it is that the past few months have been a roller-coaster ride between hospitals and nursing homes, laughter and tears, navigating social services, meeting new doctors, and accepting the fact that Being There means being loved and appreciated one day, despised and yelled at the next. Starting with her fall in mid-august, to the first senior home, through standing by her bed in the ER for HOURS ON END during her stroke, to the second fall and resulting hospital stay due to her broken neck AND back, back to the senior home, back to the hospital (because she was being so mean to everyone) and now to a new senior home - these months have been only manageable because of the strength and encouragement of my beloved husband who has gone with me on nearly every single visit, and has (somehow) been able to talk some sense into Grandma when necessary. He has stood by me and held me up through her anger and my tears. The Grandma who is ill is not the one who I've been close with all these years - she is the one with whom I have had many challenging moments. While there's a much bigger blog post brewing about this, what I can say now is that I have truly learned what it means to be family through all of this. I have learned what it means to love - not just to love her, but to love my dad and serve him through the care that I can extend to her. It's not even an issue of what it will be like to look back - I can say now, as we're in it, with certainty that I can see the grace in these moments and the blessing of what this time means for all of us. Relationships are being mended. Hearts are healing. And finally, after 30 years of being her granddaughter, I am getting to know my grandmother.

3.) Speaking of 30 years, another development since my last post? I TURNED THIRTY. And it was AWESOME! Not because I had this huge party with all of my family and friends. Not because I received awesome and expensive and meaningful gifts...but because, in what has been an incredibly challenging year, I was loved on my birthday. Truly loved. That probably comes off sounding really cheesy, but it's true. There's no other way to explain the joy that I felt through the blessings I received this year - starting with my awesome visit with my girlfriends in the spring, to a surprise visit from my buddy on my birthday weekend. And, lest I forget, my mom's surprise gift of the new stroller I had been eyeing for the boys. The stroller that I'd been saving and saving for, but whose fund kept ending up getting swallowed into the "needs" part of the budget because it really did fall under the "want" category. The gifts that I received for my birthday were all things that I truly needed at each moment that they were received - down to the gift certificate to a restaurant in the city from my brother and sister-in-law, on the very day that I sat venting to my husband about how "when we get back on track, all I want to do is go out to dinner. Just once. Just to feel 'normal' again." Even remembering it now makes my eyes fill up. I will always remember the year I turned 30 as the year I not only truly learned to love, but also truly learned how to receive it.

4.) Yesterday, Christopher ran into a pole. Yup, he got off the slide and took off full speed ahead, looking down, until that mean old pole got in his way. The way the metal made that "BONG" sound would make anyone think we were headed to the ER, but I'm telling you, that kid has the hardest head you've ever seen. He's a tough kid with a tough head - and lately, a pretty rock-star vocabulary. My favorite of his many words, these days, is "Hoop." (For the uninitiated, "Help.") "Mommy, Hoop." It's so cute. Everything he says, of course, is at a decibel level that can't be good for anyone's hearing - volume control is not something we're interested in around here. So, it's really, "HOOP!" or "BYE-BYEEE MOMMY! BYE!!!" or "NIGHT NIGHT YAYAAA!" to the sleeping baby in the next room. Each new word makes my pride swell and, of course (you know me...) my eyes well up.

5.) Thankfully, his brother is so chill that the volume doesn't bother him much. But the teeth are making that kid crazy....and having the same effect on his mommy. I don't remember Christopher having NEARLY this much trouble with his teeth. I don't remember because HE DIDN'T. One night last week, Jacob SCREAMED. ALL. NIGHT. LONG. Really. I'm not exaggerating. For a little boy who hardly ever cries, this was bordering on the ridiculous. Tylenol didn't touch it. Watching mommy cry didn't touch it. Watching Daddy sleep didn't even touch it. Just kidding. Well, only a little. In the last couple of days, though, Jakie has really taken to the Two Nap Schedule, and as a result, has been sleeping better at night. THANK GOD FOR SLEEP BREEDS SLEEP.

6.) On an unrelated note, Twitter is my new favorite website. This surprises me because, seriously? WHO CARES WHAT I'M DOING EVERY SECOND OF THE DAY? But, honestly, it's FABULOUS. And it's also partially to blame for the fact that I have not updated my blog - everything that has seemed like too big of a post to take the time to write out has been whittled down to 140 characters or less. If you don't know Twitter, you should get acquainted. After all, don't YOU want to know what I was thinking at 3:02pm yesterday? Of COURSE you do!

7.) So, for my New Year's Resolution, I'll really make a point to get back to the blog and to be consistent. It will be taking second place, though, to our family resolution which is....LEARNING TO ROSARY IN LATIN. Really. I know. We should have it down by 2010.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, dominus tecum. Benedicta tu....