Thankful Everyday – Twenty-Three

23.  I’m thankful for my grandparents.  Bill and Martha were the best.  They gave us all, and there are a lot of us, such a great sense of family and fun and strength and curiosity and acceptance and love.  I’ve written about them here and here and here and so many other times on this blog before, but I can’t say enough about how thankful I am to have come from, and been able to spend time with, such amazing people.  I see them everyday in my Mom, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, and myself.   We are their legacy, and if you ask me, they did good.  I feel them every day and I’m so thankful for that.

The photo below is courtesy of my uncle, Tom.

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Missing People Just Plain Sucks

Missing people just plain sucks.

I’m sad.  I just finished watching a video about the School of Piano Technology in Vancouver, Washington.  And no, pianos themselves don’t make me sad, just in case you were wondering.  What just made me sad was missing my dad.

My relationship with my dad was… complicated.  My parents divorced when I was a young pup.  Knee high to a grasshopper.  My dad, who didn’t want it, didn’t handle it well.  My mom, for her part, wishes she would’ve done the whole thing differently, but we’re human, and we handle things the way we do.  Better or worse.  Life is messy, and so was this.

After the divorce my brother and I lived with Mom full-time.  Dad had visitation and Mom, who still thought he was a great guy, wanted us to have him in our lives.  She talked kindly and fondly of him and often encouraged us to call him.  Dad, who was a person filled with light and joy by nature, couldn’t handle the separation and his best defense was to ignore that it happened, and consequently, to ignore my brother and I.  Simply put it was easier for him to pretend we didn’t exist than it was to actually be engaged with us on a part-time basis.  The whole situation was made more difficult by the fact that he remarried and after a few short years together they moved to Montana.  Being so far away just put further distance between us.  My dad had a great life there.  He and my step-mom had five children together and were happy.  It was good for them, for him.  But he was still my dad and though I loved him, and knew he loved me, he dropped the ball in the being a parent to my brother and I department.  He dropped it big time.

Missing people just plain sucks.

There were hardly any calls to us, and when we did talk to him it was because Mom had asked if we wanted to call him.  And when, finally, we were on the phone with him, after we’d made the call, he would cry, say he missed us so much, and ask how come we didn’t call more.  We were pre-teens, he was the grown up.  Who should have been responsible for keeping in touch?  Apparently, according to my dad, the pre-teens.  I think I only ever got one or two birthday cards from him.  He never wrote a letter.

Missing people just plain sucks.

When he first moved to Montana we didn’t see him for four years.  Not because Mom stopped us from going, but because Dad didn’t ask us to come.  I remember our first visit there, I was 12 when he moved and 16 when we went for the first time.  My brother and I went by train.  It was strange suddenly being with him, with his new family, and feeling outside of it all.  Feeling apart.  He tried to make us feel like part of the family, but he was a tad clumsy with those things.  I have memories from that visit all clouded by this feeling of us all being a bit uncomfortable.  The weird thing is that when we were with him we were his everything.  In person he was fantastic.  Showered us with attention, talked as if nothing was off, as if we hadn’t just spent four years not really communicating at all.  We were his light, when we were there with him.  I’m sure that then made it strange for my step-mom and for my younger siblings.  Suddenly he was all about us.  Wanting to introduce us around town, spend all his time with my brother and I.  He would say things to us like, take this to your mom, referring to our step-mom as our mom.  It didn’t feel right, to us or to her.  He wanted one big happy family when we were there.  Like I said, he was awkward with things like that.  Then, when we weren’t with him, when we were back in Oregon, it was as if all the lights shut off.  All communication once again stopped.  Like a switch.  A switch I wasn’t very good at understanding for a long long time.

Missing people just plain sucks.

This happened every time we went to Montana to visit, or my dad and all came to Oregon, which wasn’t a lot.  After I was a bit older I drove out for my little sister’s high school graduation and then for my younger brother’s high school graduation.  Same thing.  Switch on.  Switch off.  It’s something K saw first hand a few times after we got together and she never understood it.  She always said it was so strange that he didn’t communicate at all with me and then when I was with him he couldn’t get enough of me, showered me with attention and affection.  Switch on…. switch off.  It was actually kind of nice to get her opinion about it.  All those years feeling that way, to then have her confirm how odd it was, was comforting.  Made me feel a little less off kilter where the Dad situation was concerned.

My brother and I handled this whole switch scenario very differently.  When we were younger my brother had Dad on a pedestal, way up high, something porcelain and delicate and beautiful and not to be disparaged or messed with.  Dad was the end all and be all to him.  For me that wasn’t the case.  I was angry.  I remember my brother and I having big yelling matches about Dad.  He defending him as I screamed about what an ass he was for not caring, for not talking, for not being there, for basically abandoning us.  I wrote Dad letters I didn’t send.  Made mixed tapes for Dad that, unfortunately, I think I did send.  Embarrassing, and yet not embarrassing.  I was a teenager who desperately wanted her father to love her.  To acknowledge me when he wasn’t right there looking at me.  To be my father, my dad, whether or not he was standing in the room with me.  Because honestly, I adored him too.  I wanted desperately to have his attention.  After we were adults, my brother and I did a swap in this regard.  Me, having come to grips with who Dad was as a person and who he would always be, and my brother having an experience with Dad in regards to my brother’s wife at the time that would make him so angry he didn’t see or speak to Dad for six years after.  Dad didn’t really do anything, but he didn’t stand up for my brother or his wife and my brother couldn’t make excuses for him anymore.  I think all the anger he hadn’t allowed himself to feel over the years came out because of this incident.  And I think the amount we love and adore someone informs the amount of anger we can feel for that same person.  He was bitter and enraged.  For a long time.  Just as I had been bitter and enraged for a long time.

Missing people just plain sucks.

Later, after we got older and Dad and his second family moved back to Oregon, it was really too late.  They lived not far from Mom, probably only 20 minutes or so, but I never thought of visiting him.  It wasn’t a vindictive thing, it was just that it didn’t occur to me.  He had made himself so absent in my life that he was absent in my thoughts.  By then I would see him every couple of years and that was about all.  I didn’t even think of seeing him.  Didn’t think of making that effort.  Strange.  It’s amazing how someone can be gone from your life for so long that they are no longer a part of the every day culture of it.  You think of them sometimes, and those thoughts and feelings are usually warm and tender and genuine, but during the course of a normal day they don’t even enter your mind.   It’s sad, but that’s what happened with Dad.

Missing people just plain sucks.

Several years ago now I got a call from one of my younger sisters.  She told me Dad had had back pain and had gone into the hospital.  Everyone always teased him about how he whined about his pain or an injury, or whatever.  This time he wasn’t whining.  He went into the hospital and 11 days later, having gotten out and been sent home on hospice, he died in that house 20 minutes from my mom’s place.  I was there.  During those last few days I spent time with him at the hospital, listening to him writhe in pain as the cancer that was attached to his spine grew so quickly it broke his back.  I was there telling stories from my childhood with him and our visits together over the years.  I asked him questions, he asked me questions.  I was there at their house, one that had never been mine, watching the stream of well wishers from their church who brought food and spoke so fondly of him.  I was there to talk to him about music, which was his life’s blood, and laugh with him about some silly thing or another.  I was there standing by his bedside with my brother when our dad apologized to us for not being the father he should have been.  I was there to forgive him and to tell him I loved him.  I was there when his breathing slowed and then stopped for the last time.

Missing people just plain sucks.

I’ve been thinking about Dad a lot after watching the piano hospital video, which made me cry and cry.  I was thinking he was such a joy-filled, emotional man, and here I am, a joy-filled and emotional woman.  I’m blessed to have been his daughter.  He didn’t always do it well, being my dad I mean, but he did do some things right.  Most especially when I was with him.  In person he was awesome.  He was passionate and joyful and silly and fun and so warm.  He was one of the most genuine people I’ve ever known.  Honestly himself regardless of the situation.  He loved to laugh, and that laugh was so infectious anyone hearing it had to laugh right along with him.  He had music in his blood.  So talented and effortless, able to play pretty much any instrument, though he stuck with the pedal steel guitar because it was the hardest thing to play and he loved that about it.  I loved to listen to him play.  Loved it.  I loved watching his face when he was playing and singing.  I swear light shot out of him in all directions when he was sitting at that guitar.  Getting to see he and his band play together, live, was always awesome.  I loved his mis-matched outfits and his love of sweets and his gray hair and how when he walked places he moved fast.  He never moseyed.  He was blind, but that guy could move.  I remember watching him do single axle jumps while Ice skating and can picture him floating the river with us.  I can see him playing frisbee at my step-grandparent’s house, leaping in the air, and I remember fishing his glasses out of the river after he, my brother, and I went into the water when the raft ripped down the middle.  I love how he loved his coffee, with loads of sugar and cream, and how he was always the first to lend a hand when someone needed it.  I loved how he smiled and I loved his laugh.  I remember being a tiny girl visiting him one night at the gas station he worked at at that time, and how he walked over and bought us hot chocolates at this diner next door, and then lifted me up so I could clean someone’s windshield.  He made things an adventure.  I remember feeling like I was having an adventure almost every time I was with him.  Not many people do that, give that feeling.  He did.  It was a gift.

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Missing people just plain sucks.

Now, thinking about him, the all of him, I’m proud to be his daughter.  I had, long before he died, come to grips with who he was.  The guy who wasn’t the greatest of dads, yet was.  I’d wrapped my head around the fact that he was who he was, and that he would never change.  He wasn’t emotionally mature where my brother and I were concerned, but that was what it was, and it was OK.  I came to a place of accepting him for him and accepting and forgiving myself for putting him in the place I ended up putting him in my life, which was sort of on the side, just out of reach.  And I learned a great lesson from him.  I learned to be there for the people I love.  I learned that the hard way from him, but I learned it.  I think he’d be proud he taught me that lesson, even though I know he wasn’t proud of the way he taught me.  I’m also proud that he passed on his dorky sense of humor, his ability to be light and silly, and his love of all things coffee.  I’m grateful for those gifts, and for the gift of having had him in my life, even the little amount I did.  I’m grateful he gave me my younger siblings; my brother from our mother, and the younger five he had with my step-mom.  They are fantastic, and even though we don’t spend loads of time together, not nearly as much as I’d like, when we do it’s wonderful.   They are, simply, great people.   Each with a great smile.  I have a great smile too.  My smile came from both of my parents.  They both, Mom and Dad, have and had great ones.  Smiles from the inside.  Smiles that light the eyes.  It’s the thing most people notice about me, and it comes from them.

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Missing people just plain sucks.

It just does.

I miss Dad, and I love him, and sometimes, when the light is just right or my mood is, I see him in me.  Smiling.

Fathers

I started writing this on Father’s Day and was, as can happen, distracted by actual life events.  Visits from family and then traveling can do that.  I had nearly forgotten about this post until I noticed it idling there, the red “draft” sitting beside it in my post queue.  It was important to me to get this piece of writing out there, so here it is… late, but no less important to me.

Originally, like most people, I started out with a Dad.  One.  He was full of life, fun loving, sporty, loved his coffee, loved to laugh and laughed a lot, went gray early, had false teeth, played the pedal steel guitar better than I’ve heard anyone else play it, had a major sweet tooth, was legally blind, and smiled with his eyes… Warm and full of love.  My Dad was a dork, which I inherited.  Totally goofy with a dork’s sense of humor.  I’m honored to carry that on.  I’m also so happy to have his sense of joy.  It’s the best gift he passed on to me.  That and his sense of play… and awe.
When I was a tad older, and not much mind you, Mom married Bill and brought another dad into my life.  For 33 years he was the man of our house.  Bill had a sly sense of humor, often a mischievous twinkle in his eye, a love of science and the PBS shows Nova and In Search Of, could fix nearly anything, was the best BS’er I’ve ever seen, adored his tractor, loved a good pancake breakfast, and loved my Mom.  Bill taught me to love learning, whether he knew it or not.  He had a keen and curious mind.  Always reading National Geographic, Scientific American, and the like, he was interested in how things worked. And even though he wasn’t much of a traveler he wanted to know about the world.  He was a guy who didn’t have a large formal education, but he was a very educated and very intelligent man.  Bill, or Billbsy, as Kev and I called him when we were younger, was a guy of deep feelings and strong opinions.  I didn’t often agree with his politics, but that was OK too.  Bill had the ability to talk to anyone, and did.  I was always amazed at how he just struck up conversation with the people he was around, whoever they were.  He taught me to fly fish, to love small Mom and Pop motels and car trips, and passed on to me a great appreciation for the mysteries of the larger world.  I am oh so grateful for those gifts and for the gift of seeing my Mom love and be loved so well.
A few years after Bill passed Mom met and married Don.  I recently, after Don’s passing, wrote a blog post about him so I won’t go into all the things about Don that impressed and amazed me, but I will say that after just having attended his celebration of life I was so awed by the number of people he effected in such a positive way.  He was an amazing father and grandfather.  He lived an amazing life and I was so honored to have had him in mine for a time.
I gained yet another dad when I married Karen and met her dad, Don.  From the beginning, even though Karen’s parents tend toward the very conservative, they accepted me, and our relationship.  I knew I was in when Don, one day, put his arm around me, called me kid, gave me a little squeeze, and smiled at me.  That small gesture meant more to me than I can express.  He has been strong, and wise, and has shown me love from the start.  I  also, see an earlier blog, had the honor of being chosen by him as the forker during a new in our relationship Thanksgiving dinner.  I won’t explain here, but needless to say I was thrilled to get the job.  Don is steadfast, opinionated, warm, curious, and can, even still, move fast when he’s headed somewhere with a purpose.  He has a fantastic laugh and does it with a great twinkle in his eye.  He gets joy from small things, which has been a great lesson for me because when it comes down to it it’s the small things that matter.  He’s quiet, reads voraciously, loves his family and extended family with a passion, and  is a solid rock of support and strength.  I appreciate his presence in my life every day.  And like I told him this Father’s Day, privately with a little kiss on his cheek, he is the only dad I have left and I love him so.
Lastly, when talking about Dad’s, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about my Grandpa, my Mom’s dad.  Grandpa, who I also wrote about in a couple of previous posts, was the epitome of a fantastic father and grandfather.  I learned so much from him… how to play cribbage and backgammon, how to tie my shoes, what a good person should be.  He had a love for life, an adoration of family, and a playfulness and sense of joy that was so strong it still flows through our family.  I was with some of the family this last weekend and I could see him in all of us.  Those were some amazing genes he passed on.  He is the father of my Mom and so through her he also gave me so many gifts.  I was blessed to have him in my life for so long and am so lucky to be a part of him.

 

As I look back at this list of fathers, my list of dads, I am amazed at the quality of the men here.  They were nothing like each other, and yet the most important thing about them, their ability to love well, is shared by all of them.  Most people get one dad and I have been fortunate enough to have four.  They have been, and are all, each one, a blessing to me and my life.  Men, who might be reading this, and I know a few uncles, brothers, brothers in law, a son in law, friends, and cousins who might, you should know you are valued.  You, as fathers, are priceless.  You bring so much love, joy, strength, and happiness to the children in your life.  You might not know this, or be aware all the time, but you are so loved.  What you do, what you provide, is invaluable, and I, for one, am so thankful and grateful for you.  Watching you dads be dads is an amazing thing.  It’s a joyous thing.  So thank you fathers, mine and the dads I get to watch every day being fathers to their daughters and sons.  Thank you, and happy Father’s Day.

Our House Was A Home

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I’d never owned a house.  I was, until I met Karen, a gypsy of sorts.  I moved and moved all up and down the valley, over to the beach, down to Southern Oregon, and back to the valley.  When a person moves so much they tend to pare down.  Meaning I also didn’t have much in the way of stuff.  Some books and music, of course, and same old boxes of papers and some memorabilia from childhood, but otherwise not much.  What I owned fit into a small Uhaul.

My life was, to a certain point, about movement, change, experience.  The places I lived were weigh stations and spots to put my head at night, places to keep my CD’s and my stereo.  They were not home.

Then she walked in.  She walked in and some months later we bought a house.  We owned a house.  It was my first one.  More than that though, we made a life there.  The house was home for me, really, from the moment I stood on the front deck that hot summer day, wind moving through the trees, peace… quiet.  I can’t explain that feeling, though I’m sure many reading this have had it.  It felt right.  Puzzle pieces moving, click, into place.  The sound of that wind in the trees, a bit like the sound of the ocean, eyes closed listening, and instantly a house suddenly became a home.

We moved each of our things in, things that had been separate but were then combined.  Things which had been mine and hers, but  were then ours.  We bought furniture together to fill the rooms and pots and pans and silverware to fill the kitchen.  We bought art, oh how we love our art, and TV’s, cool bookends, and shampoo.  We worked on the yard, planting flowers we chose, and putting up hanging baskets.  We got wind chimes and hand blown glass hummingbird feeders, had decks, a paved driveway, and fences put in.  Karen built tables and things in the shop, I took photo after photo after photo of the flowers in the yard.  I trimmed trees, she weeded, I worked on the Japanese Garden, she mowed.  We hauled in loads of topsoil, spread a bit of bark dust, and moved tons of rainbow rock.  We lived.

Karen and I both got sick in the house, but we also recovered there.  We added on a master bathroom and painted some of the rooms.  Mom got married there, we threw big and small get togethers, we brought home both our babies, Weston and Riley, who loved it and called it there own, relishing the use of their doggie door and playing Chuckie in the yard.  We sat in the hot tub at night, stars all around, and listened to the deer walking on the hillside.  We even had a mountain lion living at the house for a time.

In our house we laughed, and danced, and cried, and hugged, and  sometimes yelled.  In our house we ate, watched TV, played cards, got snowed in, had visits from mostly everyone we love, watched the deer, and tasted good wine.  In our house we loved each other.

A house is just a house, until suddenly it becomes a home.  We poured our lives and love and heart and our souls into it and it gave back in kind.  It is a reflection of the life being lived in it and ours was beautiful.  That house, our first house, was not just a house to us, it was our home.  A home we both loved… and love still.

Giving Thanks

Wow…  Thanksgiving is tomorrow.  Can’t believe it.  Sometimes these things sneak up on us.  Not that we aren’t prepared, we are.  It’s just that I can’t believe it’s already that time of year.  We have entered the holiday season.  And again I’ll say… wow.

Now that I’m getting over my shock at the time of year it is, I want to give some thanks, as has become my tradition here at the think tank every year.  I am thankful for so many things….

First, as always, I’m thankful for my honey.  I just spent a couple of weeks away from her and let me tell you, I’m no good without her.  I mean this in a metaphorical sense people so don’t go making assumptions about my lack of self esteem… my self esteem is in tact.  It’s just that I don’t like being without her.  As I explained to my Mom and my brother, Karen is my home.  A house is a structure that, if done correctly, reflects who we are, feels cozy to that end, and shelters us from the elements.  A home, on the other hand, is where our heart lives.  Mine lives with Karen.  Hers with me.  We are simpatico in this.  Which makes it all the more real and heartfelt.  My home is with her, no matter where we live, and I am beyond thankful for that.  I’m blessed to have met her, lucky to have snagged her, and honored and humbled by the fact that she continues to love me, and love me more every day.  I can’t begin to express what this means to me, and really I don’t think there are words to describe it.  She is my breath, my light, my warmth, my love.  She is my split apart, and I am hers.  I whisper, thank you thank you thank you, out to the universe every day for her.

Mom and Kev… We are, and have been for a long long time, the three amigos.  Having spent time with you these least three weeks (one here and two there), I appreciate you even more, if that’s even possible.  There is a magic that happens when we are all in the same room.  I’m so lucky to be a part of that.  So lucky to have you… I feel love and gratitude for you every day.

Mary, Martin, and our little man… Thank you.  Thank you for allowing me into your lives, into your family.  As I’ve said before, I never had my own children, but nevertheless I consider you mine.  I feel a part of a family, with children, and grandchildren, that I would never have without you and your acceptance and love of me.  I love you guys and am so very grateful for you every day.

My family and friends… I tear up thinking about all of you, near and far.  For one person to be blessed with such an outstanding group of people in my life… I am so humbled.  You bring the zest, the encouragement, the support, the fun, and more love than I thought possible.  I’m amazed every day by the depth and quality of the people in my life.  Not only the sheer numbers of you, but by the people you are.  Each and every one of you is a stellar human.  I mean this.  Family to friends, each of you brings something so uniquely you to my life.  I treasure that.  I treasure how individual you are, how loving you are, how fun you are, how many smiles and laughs you’ve given me over the years, and I feel so fortunate to have all of that with you.  I am blessed beyond measure for knowing you, for having you in my life, and for continuing to get to spend time with you when I can.    No matter the distance it seems we always manage to pick up where we left off, be that a year ago or yesterday, and I am honored by that, by your presence in my life.  I feel you with me every day and I’m so very thankful for you.

The pups… I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but they are so important to me and every day I’m so loved by them, and grateful to them for their little selves in my life.  They are my home as well, and I am so lucky to have them.  They love without condition, without pretense, without judgement or agenda.  They’re always excited to see me, even if I’ve only been outside for a moment, and they are always completely genuine.  I love them more than I can measure, and am so very thankful for them.  They bring a joy to my life, our lives, that can’t be measured.

I always say the only thing in life that truly matters are the people we love and who love us.  I mean this.  Everything else is set dressing, though nature, in all it’s glory, is a wonder and something I’m also grateful for every day.   To that end I’d like to include the following poem by e.e. cummings.  He’s my favorite poet, and I’m humbled by and grateful for his words, words that have helped, at times, me to get through periods of struggle.  Words that have at times helped me to better explain the world to myself.  This is one of my favorites of his… and it pretty much sums up the rest of it, the rest of what I’m grateful for…

i thank You God for most this amazing

by e. e. cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing

day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

A Look Back

 

I just realized that it’s the beginning of October.  I started blogging the beginning of October 2005.  Yes folks… I’ve been at this a long long time.  Sometimes I haven’t been the most consistent, going days or even a couple of weeks without a word, and truthfully this is the third blogging platform I’ve used.  Started with Livejournal, then Blogger, and finally WordPress, where I found a permanent home.  Luckily each time I moved platforms I was able to import my old blog posts to this blog you’re reading right now which, thankfully, has it all.  Start to finish.  Pretty cool.  It’s been quite a journey since 2005.

As I re-read these first two entries I had to smile, and be a little sad.  The first entry was after a visit to Karen’s parents place in San Jose.  I had been there before, but not many times at that point so I was still getting to know all of them and they me.  Charles, our nephew, was only 16.  He’s in grad school now at Columbia in NY studying film.  I was smiling reading my entry as I described him as a kid who is passionate about film.  I guess that part stuck.  The second entry was written the morning after my grandmother passed away.  It’s been 8 years and I still cried when I read it.  She was an amazing woman and I see her still in my Mom, my aunts, and in myself.  I’m so proud to be her granddaughter and proud to be a part of the family.

So here they are, the first couple of entries written October 3 and 4, 2005.  I can’t believe I’m still doing this, and still loving it.  Thanks to everyone who’s been reading these little missives of mine since the beginning and stuck with me and also thanks to everyone who’s decided to stop by during that time and especially to those new readers who drop in from time to time, sometimes deciding to stay.  I appreciate you all more than I can say.

I love this blogging thing… a way to express, to write, to share, to throw some of my thoughts out into the world in a real concrete kind of way.  I’ve loved it from the beginning and still do.  Here’s to the next 8 or 16 or 50 years blogging.  I’ll probably still be here.

 

Tuesday, October 4th, 2005
12:10 pm
A life… Beautiful
My grandmother passed away early this morning. I got the call from my mom some time around 6:30, though now it’s hard to remember just when. I drove to work, not really remembering the drive, and have found myself sitting here, not able to concentrate on whatever task it is I’ve had at hand. And that much, I’m sure, is to be expected. I’m working today because, I think, if I didn’t, I’d just be sitting at home, restless… thinking. Instead, I sit here… restless, interrupted at times by a phone call or email I have to answer, and thinking. 

I saw my grandmother three weeks ago. Frail…yes. Tired… absolutely. Full of life… always. She was an amazing woman. Had an amazing life. I walked around my grandparents house three weeks ago in wonder. Slowly passing by photographs of a positively amazing history… awe struck. Phenomenal. 64 years with my grandfather. 64 years of love, of life. A life so rich, so beautiful, that wandering around looking at the record of it, I could feel it’s texture. There were books and drawings, copies of marriage licenses, and picture after picture of a life so full it spilled from those photographs out into the living room, where the miracle of that life sat manifest… in children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. The legacy that’s been left is not just that these people all exist because of her, but that they are all, every last one of them, stellar. Magnificent. They are the best people I know. Intelligent, kind, loving, curious, full of laughter, accepting, driven, artistic, educated, musical, good to the core people. There is never judgment, never an unkind word, ever. They rejoice with each other, celebrate each other, comfort each other… all of them. All the time. There is never a criticism, even a hint of should or shouldn’t… always, in the truest sense of the word, there for each other. My grandparents had seven children, who themselves had 19 children, who themselves have starting bringing many more into the fold. And in the bunch of us, there is not one who is not, in his or her own way, an outstanding human being. All of this, for me, started with my grandparents… the people that they were… are… have been to us. Those two people created the beautiful tapestry that is our family. Those two people created something rare. And we, who are lucky enough to be part of it, know it. It is not, and has never been, taken for granted.

There was a lot of laughter that weekend, three weeks ago, as there always is with this family. My grandmother, central to the scene, as she has always been, involved in it all. I thought to myself, sitting with them that day, what an honor it was, and is, to be a part of it. The luck of my draw. I often wonder how it happened, that I ended up a part of this history, a link in this beautiful chain. I am thankful, every day, for my fortune. I am grateful every day, for the honor of it. And from now, until the end of my days, I will be celebrating my grandmother’s life, as she would’ve wanted me to… by living my life in the best way I can. With joy, love, peace, and happiness, amidst the family… that she made.

Monday, October 3rd, 2005
1:37 pm
Three days in San Jose
Just got home from hanging with the in laws. It was a good trip. Karen’s parents seem to have accepted me, and better yet, they really like me. I think it’s nice for her. All the years of not really being able to be herself, and now she can just be. They are obviously happy she is happy, which is really the important thing anyway. We didn’t do much while we were there, other than hang around chatting, but that was nice. Every time I’m with them I like them more. 

We did go to a movie one night with her sister, Cathy, and her nephew, Charles. I really like that kid. He’s 16 and sort of quirky, and it’s that great kind of quirky. He’s smart, has a great off beat sense of humor, and he doesn’t feel the need to conform to what’s hip. He’s a kid who absolutely loves movies. Old and new, it doesn’t matter. Plus, he knows about them… technique, directors, cast, etc. He’s passionate about it, and that, in anyone, is very attractive. We saw the movie Serenity. Good movie even if you’ve never seen the tv show. There were a lot of people there who obviously had not just watched the tv show, but have gotten into it so much they dress the part. There are clubs for browncoats. Who knew. Not I, but it was pretty entertaining watching them. It was premiere weekend for this particular film and since there’s such a huge cult following, which I also was unaware of, there was a line, the people in costume as I mentioned before, and pre-show trivia complete with prizes for those who knew obscure tidbits about the characters, etc. Needless to say, I didn’t win anything. I did, however, come home with a key chain, thanks to Cathy’s quick grab of a flying key chain after the trivia was over.

Karen’s parents made a full on turkey dinner Saturday night. I guess they figure that they don’t get their kids together very often and since all three were there, it was a time to celebrate. I got the honor of being the forker. When Karen’s dad carves the turkey a person stands there and forks the carved turkey onto the platter. I was told that not everyone gets to be a forker so I was touched he asked me. Standing there, forks at the ready, I felt the pressure to perform and live up to my new post and title. He said I did well, so I might, if I’m lucky, be asked to fork again.

Today I’m lucky enough to be able to hang at home. Relax after traveling. Karen, busy as she is, had to go in to work today. A perk of my job is getting to take off quite a bit of time. I’m fortunate enough to earn comp time on top of my accrued vacation time, so that helps. I slept in today. What a luxury. Sitting here sipping on green tea, still wearing pajamas that I know I won’t change out of, looking outside at the forest and the rain, I think it’s time to head in and see what movie I can find to watch. It’s Monday, and I’m home. How lucky am I?

 

Oregon My Oregon

We have been here, the Northwest I mean, for 12 days.  I really didn’t realize how much I love it.

When a person grows up in a place and spends their whole life in that place, I think they don’t really realize how much they love it.  If they do love it that is.  I’ve traveled a lot and I’ve always said no matter where I’ve been, and I’ve been a few places, the Northwest is/was the most pretty.  I said that, and meant it.  It’s just that I don’t think I realized the depth of the statement, of my feeling for it, until I moved away.  I realize it now.

We have walked the streets of the city we love the most, spent time in the woods, helped to scatter my grandparents ashes, walked on the beach, spent time with family and friends, and slept in my childhood room so far during this visit.   All of that in less than two weeks.  I guess we’ve packed it in. Everything we’ve done, everyone we’ve spent time with, everywhere we’ve been has reminded me, further instilled in me, how much I love this place.  How much it is in me, a part of me.  How much I am, we are, of this place.  It’s in our cells.  I feel that.  And it makes me know that I will never take this place for granted again.  It makes me appreciate, even more, what the Northwest means to me.

Oh Oregon my Oregon… I do love you so.

Fried Egg Sandwiches, Steel Guitar, and Dad

I had a fried egg sandwich the other day. It sounds exactly like what it is… hard fried egg, two pieces of bread, loads of mayo. Yum. I don’t do this often, maybe a couple times a year, but every time I do I think of my dad. He loved them.

Forrest Gilfred Parker…. born April 17, 1943, died June 14, 2006. Dad’s would’ve turned 69 three weeks ago. Seems weird that he’s already been gone 6 years. I’ve been thinking about him on and off since his birthday, culminating in the eating of aforementioned fried egg sandwich.

I loved my dad and still do. Our relationship, for those of you who know us, or me, or him, was complicated. A lot of time spent apart, a lot of time not communicating, but also a lot of love. He was a great kid of a man. I say this because he had, all his life I’m sure, the joy of a kid. He never lost it as he aged. It was fantastic. He wasn’t dealt the best of hands, legally blind, high school at the Montana School for the Blind and Deaf, a father who died when my dad was 16, but he never lost that joy. Amazing.

The thing is, what dad didn’t have in eye sight he made up for in musical talent. My dad was a musical phenomena. Able to play nearly any instrument he picked up, he chose the pedal steel guitar as his baby because it was the hardest to play. Everything else kind of came easy to him. He never became famous, though he played nearly as well as Buddy Emmons, his idol, but that didn’t stop him from playing in all kinds of bands in all sorts of venues. He played music his whole life as well. Famous didn’t matter, the music did. I loved that baby blue double neck. It was probably as big a part of him as his seven children were, and the sight of it always made me smile. I have great memories of listening to him play, laughing and smiling when all the right notes went all the right ways. He could riff with the best of them. Talented.

I also loved the way he ate, or enjoyed food I should say. He seemed to be in constant perpetual motion. He wasn’t a sit around and relax kind of guy. Projects and doing this and that. His blindness progressed to the point he couldn’t work, but that didn’t seem to stop or slow him down. He couldn’t see well, but he moved around a lot. All the time. I was always amazed how he did it without slamming into things more often. He also helped his friends a lot, like helping to put a new roof on the church he and my step mom attended. A roofing blind guy. We, all of his kids, teased him. He was a tease himself. And his laugh… oh my lordy. I could laugh just thinking about his laugh. A full blown giggle combined with a deep down in his gut kind of laugh. Uniquely his own and always with that toothy smile. Dad’s face glowed when he smiled. So he moved around a lot, always on the go, and consequently his food often was food he could eat while running around doing this or that. Loads of sandwiches, and always a cup of coffee, cream and sugar. We all drink coffee now I think, and I think it’s probably a genetic thing as drinking it seemed to be in his blood. And even though he was on the go, eating on the go a lot, he enjoyed his food. Fried egg sandwiches, banana milkshakes or better yet, malts, and sweets. I just remember the joy he got from it. The joy he got from most everything he did.

The same complete joy he got from spending time with his kids. Probably his favorite thing to do. And what a crowd we are. All gray haired, except for maybe Ken, the youngest, all with his playful sense of things, all with his corny sense of humor. The lot of us, if I do say so myself, are pretty darn fantastic. He was proud of us. And we, whether we admitted it to each other or ourselves, were all very proud to call him our father. We are still proud. So the other day I had a fried egg sandwich, and I smiled a little thinking how he would like that. He would like that I was eating it and thinking of him. He would like that I got a bit of joy from it. He would like that I ate it while listening to some good music. The whole scene would’ve been music to his heart. And for my dad, that’s about as good as it got. Music, food, and the cup of coffee I had to go with.

I love you dad, and I miss you.

An Open Letter to My Honey

I had the great idea to write this lovely post all about how much you mean to me, have meant to me, and all the ways you continue to be amazing, but now that I’m sitting here at the keyboard I’m a bit lost.

Let’s just start with how much you make me smile… and not at just the obvious times, like when you’re being incredibly funny or cute, which is often, but when you don’t know I’m watching you.  The way you love on the dogs, talking to them in that sweet little kid voice they love, or when you fall asleep with a dog head up against your head, both of you so peaceful, or when you sing to Sebastian or talk to him, and also when you just talk to your daughter on the phone and you are her Mom and you love her very much and I admire that in you, or how you bite out of life all you can every time we go somewhere new, or even to the store.  You make me smile all these times… and so many many more.

This last year and a half has been, shall we say, tough… everyone knows what I’m talking about I’m sure.  But it wasn’t just my health, it was yours before.  You in the hospital before me being in the hospital.  Glad we got all that out of the way… it wasn’t fun.  But even still… there we were, you and me, always you and me, battling it all together, holding each other, encouraging each other, bolstering each other, and loving each other.  I know, with everything that I am, that my journey through all of that would’ve been so much more difficult if I didn’t have you, my little rock, to lean on and lean into.

You understand me…. the me that hides from everyone else.  The me that’s very insecure and stubborn and short tempered and wacko sometimes.  The me that you somehow just get.  I don’t know how you do, but you see me better than anyone has ever seen me, sometimes much better than I see myself.  And, it’s good to be seen.  It’s good to have someone know me this well.  It’s what makes a person not feel alone.  This knowing and the way you love me because and in spite of it all.

You have also let me into your world.  That wonderful wacky place that it can be where joy is king.  Where happiness reigns and where everything is put in the right perspective.  We always say to each other that we see into people.  Which we do and it’s creepy sometimes.  We both get a vibe, a sense, a knowing of where someone’s at just by walking in the room with them.  Well, I’ve always hidden myself well.  I would see, but not be seen.  Unless I wanted to be seen that is.  Then I would let out little bits of things here and there to someone so they would get to know me.  But you… there’s no hiding from you.  Your world, your look, your being… they see me.  You see me and you have let me into that beautiful place where you stand in it.  I mean IN it.  Feet planted firmly, heading in one direction, the us direction.  The us direction… the direction of we, and us, and anything is possible or bearable or fathomable or knowable as long as we stand there holding hands together, looking forward together.  I don’t say this much, but I’m so honored to be standing there next to you.  So proud.

You’ve given me a family I didn’t have on my own.  I have my Mom, who is fantastic (worthy of her own blog post, which I’m sure will be coming), and a brother (who I completely adore), and other siblings I love very much, and a huge huge group of family and friends who I’m blessed to know and love.  But I didn’t have my own family.  It wasn’t in the cards for me.  But then I met you… and now look what I’m lucky enough to have… a daughter, a son in law, a grandson, and a son.  To get to be a part of that… a part of this beautiful fantastic thing every day.  I’m lucky.  And you did that for me… You.

I could go on and on about how we are true split-aparts… two who have found the right purchase, the right home, and the right half.  I could also say that we are  complete because we found each other.  Two halves of the same whole.  Not realizing it until that first time we held hands and the world tilted into place.  The feeling of coming home.  Of being home… every day.  I could go on and on about how we are lucky, and what’s so amazing is we both know it.  No matter what we have faced or will face, we are good, we are fine.  Together.  You are more than enough for me honey.  More than.  If we lost everything I would be OK, WE would be OK, because we have each other.  And you, my love, are more than I ever hoped to find, more than I ever dreamed I’d get, and more than enough to keep me happy for the rest of our lives.

I could go on and on… but…

Simply…  I love you with everything that I am, all that I’ve ever been, and all that I ever will be….

First Push, Last Round

We went in today for the first of two pushes in my last consolidation round.  Had to be there at 8:00 this morning, which is tough for a girl who is used to getting up some time between 8:00 and 9:00, but I did it.  Drove in, had the blood draw at 8:00, killed some time for an hour and a half until my appointment with Dr. Bigler at 9:30, he looked me over and the numbers over, said everything was good to go, and we then went over to the chemo area.  I had to wait there for an hour before getting in.  Finally we walked back and I got an IV in… tough, but not too bad, and the saline started.  I then got my pre-meds (some stuff to help me not get nauseas) and about a half an hour later, the push started.  The nurse was great… she pushed a bit slow, making sure it was nice a diluted as it went in (trying to prevent the phlebitis I’ve gotten the last couple of rounds) and then it rinsed through with saline and we were out of there.  I was starving by then… it had been a long time since the morning cheerios, so we went down to the cafeteria in the central office (convenient) and each had a sandwich.  Then home…. Which is the best.  I got to come home.  No hospital stay to get this done.  Just the push… then home.  Nice.  And for dinner tonight?  A salad with chicken, parmesan, eggs, peppers, tomatoes, and blue cheese dressing.  Not to mention a nice piece of toast to go along with it.   I was not neutropenic this morning when my blood draw happened, and we are assuming I am still not neutropenic for at least today and tomorrow.  Probably not until Monday at the earliest… though something we’ve  definitely learned is that each consolidation round is different than the last.  We’re hoping no fevers, no hospitals, no transfusions.  Just a decline during the nadir and then a rise to October 15 and my meeting and start of the maintenance round.  For now though… home sweet home.  It’s nice.

The changes… I got a bit less chemo (they reconfigured because I’m now on outpatient status, based on weight and height… and since I’ve lost 40 pounds the amounts were less) and they also reconfigured the amount of ATRA I’m getting… 9 pills a day instead of 10.  I start that again tonight.  One other thing… I’ll be giving myself a shot every day for a bit starting on Saturday.  It’s called Neupogen… it’s supposed to help my white blood cells recover faster.  My doc is trying to avoid me getting another neutropenic fever.  The shots didn’t seem that bad as I was practicing on a little thing at the chemo center.  We’ll see how it goes as I give them to myself.  I might have to talk Mom into giving me some of them.  We’ll see how it goes.  I don’t know how long I’ll have to do it… probably at least 7 days… but it’s based on my numbers, which the pharmacist (as well as my case manager as usual) will follow them. I might have to go in three days a week instead of the two during this time, we shall see.  Nancy told me to tell the pharmacist that I am already getting my blood draws twice a week.  Maybe that will be good enough… if not, I won’t be doing this too long (hopefully) so it won’t be too bad.  We will do what I have to… as always.  I got refills of zofran (anti nausea med) and a refill on the Ativan ( I was running low). I also got a medicated lozenge for the thrush I’m having after the antibiotics I got in the hospital.  Something I’ve learned with this is that there’s always some little thing.  Part of the process… but hey… we are moving through it.

Taking it day by day… and tomorrow… the last push, which just happens to coincide with my 45th birthday. Two things to celebrate in one day.

Back Home With a New Bed

Yep folks…  came home yesterday, for those who didn’t already see it on Facebook.  Sorry I didn’t blog, but it was sort of a long day and I just wanted to settle in when we got back here.  Now we’re back into the home routine.  Hanging out…

Not feeing too terrible today.  I am having little bouts of queasiness and this nasty mucous thing happening in my throat still, but this all will pass once I get the chemo from this round totally out of my system.   Good news is that when I’m not feeling queasy I’m not feeling too bad.  Karen called Nancy this morning to make sure I didn’t have to go in for my regular Thursday blood draw… I don’t.  They did it yesterday and my numbers were all in the normal range so I’m not neutropenic and my red blood counts are also up and good.  Still feel tired though, which is a side effect of the chemo and having that poison in me.  Again though… it’s just good to be home and it will get better.

Next appointment with my oncologist got set up for September 16.  If all goes as planned I will go into the hospital for the last of the consolidation rounds on Saturday, September 18 and 19.  It’s only a two day deal the last time (yay!) and the chemo med is idarubicin again, the one I have had and know better.  It’s a push again, and back up to the full strength, but again… only two days.  In one, out the next.  I like the sound of that.  This time around, five days was a lot.  Karen and I were both pretty sick of it by the fourth day.  We both just wanted the day to end so we could go to sleep, get up the next day, get my round done, and go.  So two days sounds great to me.

As I know it, after the last consolidation round in September, I will then have to have another bone marrow biopsy after my numbers come up again, and then I will be on two years maintenance.  We believe that involves three months of one kind of drug, then ATRA every three months for 15 days, and also some other drug which in the protocol says a weekly shot.  We will know for sure after the bone marrow biopsy and such. We’re getting there though… one more consolidation round in the hospital.  One more.

Home Sweet Home

Today we are hanging out at home.  It’s nice… watching movies (currently Men in Black), staying cool, etc.  Karen went to get plants for some of our flower pots earlier today (after watering the flower beds and finding the rubber boa) and Kev went to get stain applicators (they are going to stain the front deck later today).  Now Karen is talking to Mary and Martin via Skype (I went in to say hello for a few minutes… it’s hot in the office so I didn’t stay too long, though it was great to see them… and great to see the pregnant belly where Jackson is hanging out).  Not much going on here today… just really nice enjoying being home.  Appreciating it.  Loving it.

Friday

It’s Friday.  What else?  It’s the 9th of July… so big happy birthdays have to go out to two of my favorite guys…  Arnold and Eric.  Happy birthday gents…  you are spectacular men and I love you both.  What else does it being the 9th mean?  It’s the 9th… Karen and my 7 year and 3 month anniversary.  LOL  We used to celebrate every month… in the beginning.  Now we just smile and say happy anniversary.  So, happy anniversary honey… it’s been a magical 7 years and 3 months and I know every month and year that’s ahead of us will be just as magical.  I love you.

Otherwise… I’m hanging out in our coolish family room, Weston is curled up asleep next to me, Karen is working away in the office and the little girlie is curled up asleep in there with her, and I’m watching a continuously changing strange array of television shows.  There are no appointments today, meaning we don’t have to go anywhere if we don’t want to today.  Kind of nice.  I’ve had breakfast, my morning oral chemo with it, and my morning tea.

A nice mellow day so far…. life is good.

Home Again Home Again

June 1 I went into Sunnyside Hospital and July 1 I was finally able to leave.  It was a very rough last couple of weeks there.  I think the chemo finally caught up with me and my system.  My GI tract totally got wiped out.  Meaning…  loads of bad things happening.  I felt terrible and pretty much was handling things hour by hour.  It wasn’t good, but I kept looking at it like along with the feeling so terribly bad the chemo was also taking care of the bad stuff.  That’s the idea.  It’s just tough getting through some of it.  I did though… thanks to Karen and Mom and the nurses at Sunnyside.

Now… home.  And happy to be here.  I feel more rested and stronger.  Finally yesterday and today eating a little more like normal.  For a while at the hospital I wasn’t eating.  I was on a liquid diet hooked directly into my arm because I couldn’t eat.  That ol’ GI Tract thing… couldn’t handle food.

Next steps…. I go for blood tests tomorrow, then have my first outpatient appointment with my oncologist, Dr. Bigler, on Wednesday.  He will go over the blood work and talk about where we are at with everything.  I’m supposed to have my next bone marrow biopsy in the next week.  That will tell us where we are at.  If I am in remission then we move on to the first of three consolidation rounds (three more rounds IV push chemo) all the while taking the oral chemo meds (which I am taking every day).

In other news… my baldness is almost complete.  I’ve been joking about how I’ve been losing it just like male patterned baldness would occur.  Top front first.  Mom gave me another close shave with the clippers.  I still have stubble up there, but it’s going.  And I have to say… I don’t really mind.  Easy to take care of and really not that bad looking.  Who knew I’d make such a good looking bald woman.  LOL

So that’s pretty much it for now.  Karen and Mom continue to take such awesome care of me and thanks to some of our friends who, as a birthday present for Karen, came up and did loads of weeding in our flower beds.  That was the best gift you guys could’ve given her.  We love you very much.  And Don and Mom, thanks for the yard work as well.  You guys have been so great through all of this.  I am just so grateful for all the fantastic people we have in our lives.  Blessed and lucky.  That’s what we are.  Blessed and lucky.

Turn On Your Night Light



Turn On Your Night Light

Originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl

The bowl on the floor is for the dogs. It’s a little bowl of water. Yeah… we are lame. But what can we say… they love having it in the bathroom, easily accessible at night. Since this photo was taken it’s actually been moved to under the bay window next to the tub, out of the walking path. Better spot, and they still love it.

Red Wall

Red Wall

Originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl

Our construction left us with a new wall in our bedroom. We decided to paint the new wall a burgundy-ish color. We like it very much. We also like the built in for the TV and other do-dads. Don’t you just love the word do-dads? Or is that two words. Hmmmm….

Practicing With The Wide Angle

Practicing With The Wide Angle

Originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl

I just recently procured a wide angle lens. I had a professional job as a photographer and needed it to do the shoot I was hired to do. This was me practicing with it at home to see what the scope of it was. Our bookcases… full. Wow… you can tell a lot about our lives from this photo. I’ll leave that to you to decipher…

Chiminea

Chiminea, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

Last weekend, both nights after the work was done, we all (Mom, Don, Kev, Karen, and I) sat around the chiminea chatting. Really nice way to end a hard days work. Love having this outdoor mini fireplace-ish kinda thing. Pretty terrific.

So our project is coming along. After tiling will be finish plumbing and electrical. Once those are done we will have a working bathroom. There will still be finish work, which Kev is doing, to complete. Crown molding, baseboards, building the half wall/shelving unit that will go next to the toilet, installing the linen/water heater closet doors, installing the bathroom door and the walk in closet door, casing the windows, cutting the hole for the light tube in the walk in closet, venting the fan out the end of the house…. and well, I think that’s it. We are going to use metro shelving in our closet. Easy to put in and we both like the metal look of it. Sort of different, and portable so we can move it around in there or use it elsewhere should we decide later to put different shelving in the closet.

We’re getting close… nearing the finish line. It’s pretty exciting. Pretty exciting indeed.

A Dip In The Pool Anyone?

A Dip In The Pool Anyone?, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

Once the inspection is done the shower liner will be drained, the next layer of cement put in over the top of the liner, the wonderboard in the shower can go up, and they are ready to tile. We’re hoping tiling will actually be able to start on Wednesday this week. The tiling guys will finish the prep on Tuesday after the inspection, we hope. We really have no idea how long it will take them to tile since it’s a fairly decent sized shower. After the shower they grout it, which is going to be a huge process in and of itself. Then they’ll do the floor. And after the floor they will put in the sink backsplash.

Wonderboard

Wonderboard, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

The tilers started last Wednesday. Brought all of their supplies out and put them into the bathroom so Thursday they could get started with the shower pan liner and other prep work. That also meant we could put the big window in since we no longer needed to have it out as a way to get the big supplies in. It was nice having our house all buttoned up again.

This is Karen checking out what the tilers had done so far… Thursday night. The wonderboard was all down, the shower pan liner was ready for inspection. The whole shower pan liner thing is quite the process. First a coat of cement… a nice little first layer. Then the liner, which has to be perfectly fit in and water proofed. The liner is filled with water enough to cover the drain and left to show the inspectors it’s sealed properly and not leaking. Unfortunately for us the county had it’s first furlough day on Friday (which should’ve occurred to me since I didn’t work either… duh!) so there were no inspectors. It’s a long weekend as well, with the holiday today, so there will be no inspection until tomorrow (morning we hope).