Adventure: Run-of-the-mill Edition (Part 2)

As mentioned in my previous post, adventure comes in many forms – not always requiring money or travel or high risk activities. The second recent example? Came at me like a spider monkey, with an infectious giggle, knocking me over and completely taking me by surprise.

Exhibit B: The Girl came home earlier this month, flying through Ataturk airport a day after the bombs went off. She and her husband both made it, with only a few minor travel complications. A travel annoyance for us, but no complaints given what some were dealing with at the time…

The Girl will be here for a month, but her husband, Metin, could only take two weeks vacation. Since The Boy couldn’t take time off before his block leave starts at the end of the month, the only way for the two of them to meet? Go west! Bought tickets, and launched a family road trip for me, Studley, The Girl and Metin.

Travel logistics were challenging, but we made it work, and arrived for the 4th of July weekend. New this visit? The Boy has a girlfriend. A Serious Girlfriend… and she has a baby. Max is a little over a year old. Part of this visit was to meet Serious Girlfriend and Max, while getting The Boy together with the brother-in-law he had yet to meet.

We were on the move most of the weekend, planning to spend the night of the 3rd in a small western town in Colorado. They do the 4th in a big way, and The Boy was marching as part of the color guard with some of his mates from Ft. Courage. The plan was to have the four of us – The Girl, her husband, Studley and i get hotel rooms, and The Boy was to travel with his battle buddies, and stay with the parents of a friend.

Getting a room in town proved difficult, but i snagged two rooms at a historic boarding house. And by ‘historic’ i mean shared bathrooms, original wall décor, original dust, paper-thin walls and no amenities. Partway through the weekend, The Boy asked if it would be ok to have Serious Girlfriend and Max join us for the overnight excursion.

“Sure! We’ll make it work!” i tried finding another room, but no luck. The Boy said they could probably crash at the home of his friend. i offered that we could stick three in a room if needed. Lodgings for The Boy and Serious Girlfriend were somewhat in flux, but he was pretty sure they’d be able to find a place…

And that’s when it happened… The following words escaped my face: “Studley and i can keep Max in our room. You two can just go hang out with your buds and we’ll figure it out…”

A baby. It has been 25 years since i have changed a diaper. i generally don’t like babies. If anyone asks me “Would you like to hold the baby?” i say “Not really! i’m good.” i did ok with mine when they were small, but enjoyed them far more when they became toddler/pre-schoolers…

So what the fuck was i thinking?

Max is a pretty cute kid, and Serious Girlfriend a good mother. When i first met them, The Boy started cracking up when i got into a prolonged Peek-A-Boo game with the giggling boy. “Look at that! She’s gone into Hyper-Grandma Mode!”

We set up a portable playpen in our tiny boarding house room. Serious Girlfriend got Max settled, and they were off. Studley and i looked at the sleeping boy. Looked at each other. “What the fuck are we doing? Is it like riding a bike?” Turns out it is, but there’s slightly less risk of getting a concussion, or ending up with gravel embedded in your knees…

Studley and i slept lightly – both of us a little unnerved at the responsibility of a baby. A baby we just met a couple of days before! Max woke up a few times and mostly got himself back to sleep, requiring only a little pat on the back and a fresh diaper…

Other than catching myself talking to him like i would talk to my dog (“Who’s a good boy?”), it went well. A sign of a happy kid? He woke up in the morning, and just started rolling around, chattering happy chatter to himself, while playing with his sleepy toy.

i’m proud of my children – both living lives of deliberate choice and handling their own shit. As fun as it was to visit with a little critter, i’d probably consider myself a failure as a parent if my children expected me to raise their spawn.

Not quite “Hyper Grandma Mode”, but i did really enjoy it. It was definitely a stretch for me – WELL outside my comfort zone. Since heading home, i have caught myself looking forward to seeing Max again. The Boy and Serious Girlfriend, too, of course…

Me and Max

Adventure takes many forms – be willing to venture into new territory…. Even if it’s a trip that isn’t on your bucket list.

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Harder to Kill: 2nd Quarter Already?

It’s true, you know. Time DOES go by faster when you’re old. Well, each day is a smaller percentage of the days you’ve lived, so if it feels that time is accelerating with the passing years, there’s good reason for that.

In my quest at self-improvement, i’ve tackled another round of resolutions and accountability. This year, focusing on becoming harder to kill, while preparing to die. After a reasonable start in the first quarter, including a micro-backslide, i’ve continued the quest.

Blogging? There’s so much i want need to write – a three part series in draft from another round of festivities in the Trailer Park, a postscript to last years ‘bridges’ that came at me out of the blue, new volunteer work that has changed my life, and wrenches in my plan to simply tumble toward retirement without working too hard… A visit from a blogmate reminded me that the connections developed over the past 8 years are deep and meaningful, and i’m a fool if i let these friendships slide into the superficial realm of “Facebook likes”.

But i’m living hard, taking care of what needs to be cared for, so for the moment, i’ll likely stay on blog hiatus until i have a chance to come up for a little more oxygen.

The TL:DR version – Still fat. Not dead. If you’ve got a short attention span, don’t bother to read the rest of this post…If you’re having trouble sleeping? Feel free to tough it out!

Harder to kill: My weight is mostly stable, down about 15 pounds for the year, with no additional significant loss this quarter. But i’m working out a lot and seeing muscles i had forgotten i had… Added some bicycling to the mix, as Studley and i are training for a 2 week European ride in the fall. i’ve finally realized that even if i’m not in optimal cycling shape when we start the tour, i will certainly be in decent shape at the end of the holiday. Probably one of the few vacations where i don’t gain weight, since we’ll be riding 30-50 miles each day.

Preparing to die: Minor progress in getting rid of things and getting organized. Continued conversations with my children regarding the future of my old doggie, who is doing pretty well considering he’s about 100 in dog years, with an over sized heart and debilitating arthritis.

Keeping him comfortable so that the kids can visit with him again when they’re home in July has taken a good deal of my energy. He’s got some gastric issues and i am spending more time than i’d like cleaning up his accidents. Continually thankful that i decided to put in vinyl plank flooring during the kitchen renovation last year, i’m in a constant state of angst, trying to get him out before he explodes with another canine Jackson Pollak piece. If he had thumbs? He’d do the same for me, so i soldier on with a case of paper towels and bleach…

i found a decent reference piece to help guide me. Assessing the HHHHHMM Quality of Life scale is a means to quantify quality of life for a pet… or i suppose any creature. Hurt, Hunger, Hygiene, Hydration, Happiness, Mobility and More good days than bad. i’ve not gone off the deep end charting these items, but i am increasingly mindful of them. It has also forced me to crawl inside his little doggie brain, and consider it from how HE is doing, not how I am doing…

For the moment? He’s wagging his tail, plays with toys, is eating and drinking, and can get around reasonably well on his own. Pain is managed through medication and massage (yes, i’m massaging those bony old hips… it seems to help).

The month ahead of me will be a blur – my daughter arrives soon, her husband to follow, and then a whirl of travels, and visits begins. We’re going to see The Boy for the long holiday weekend, and he will then come back to the roost for a few days before the end of the month. Throw in a west coast business trip for bonus miles. i’ve had to post a calendar to track all of the airline connections – not that i’m counting, but there are 32 flight segments for six people to manage in just about 30 days.

My exercise (and diet) are likely to suffer significant set backs for this month, but i’ve got August and September to get back on track before the next report at the end of the 3rd quarter.

Hope you all have been well – i’ll be out and about trying to catch up some as time permits. In the meantime? Onward!

 

Soldier on…

i couldn’t sleep…on a night when i really needed to be sleeping. Thinking about a woman named Doris. A woman i’d never met. Somewhere out there, she was also not sleeping when she should be sleeping.

Making plans for a trip that she didn’t want to take. A trip to a hospital in California… to see her brain-dead son before the machines keeping his body alive were disconnected, one by one…

When The Boy joined the Army, i also joined an ancient club – Mothers of Soldiers*. Since humans organized to fight, we’ve shared that feeling of pride and terror in our militarized progeny. Proud that they are willing to fight and die, at the behest of chieftains who don’t know their name… for causes that they may not believe in… But simultaneously terrified at the thought of outliving a child… Staring directly at The Very Real Risk of Horrible, Painful, Bloody Death.

They train as they fight. Not quite as dangerous as Real War, but… shit happens. When he shipped out to field training earlier this year, i knew he’d be off-grid for about a month. i also know enough about his line of work that my blood pressure jumped a few points thinking about possibilities.

A few weeks after they were packed up, i was working a volunteer gig at a local festival. i got a call from an unrecognized number. Excusing myself from my booth-mate, i took the call…

Caller: Hi, this is Ashley, from mumble, mumble, grrrble, ramblefloxen…. Are you The Boy Fae’s next of kin?

daisyfae [wide the fuck awake]: Yes! What? What happened?!?!

Ashley: He’s fine! Oh, god, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you…

daisyfae [not. fucking. breathing.]: Holy shit, child… Give me a second…

Ashley: I’m SO sorry! I’m with the family support network, and now that your soldier is without his phone, we are supposed to call everyone to check in. I guess I should have started with that…

daisyfae [air returning to lungs]: Yeah… So, i’m your first call? OK… what’s up?

It was just a courtesy call to give us a point of contact for non-emergency communications. The family support network has to train as well. Turns out, Ashley is a good friend of The Boy – married to one of his platoon-mates, and is a lovely young woman. Before hanging up, i schooled her with a suggestion on how to handle such calls more effectively…

daisyfae: Next call? How about you start with “I’m Ashley with the family support network at Ft. Courage, and your soldier is FINE!” Let that sink in for a few seconds before saying another word…

My heart rate and blood pressure eventually returned to something approximating normal, but as long as The Boy was training, i was edgy. Two weeks later, around the time they were to be packing up and heading back to Ft. Courage, i had a voicemail after returning from a bike ride.

VM: This is Faith, part of the family support network at Ft. Courage. Your soldier was not involved, but there was a serious incident in his platoon during training. If you’d like more information, call me back at…

Immediately returning the call, Faith read a prepared statement from the commanding officer. There had been a vehicle accident, and a platoon sergeant was critically wounded – he would not survive. We were asked to “Please keep his mother, Doris, and his children, in your thoughts and prayers through this difficult time…”

No shit.

i still can’t get Doris and those kids out of my thoughts…

CPL Fae

The Boy will pin on his first Non-Commissioned Officer stripes soon. Corporal Fae. The bottom rung NCO, but i’m still incredibly proud… and still incredibly terrified.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

* It could be “Parents of Soldiers”… not really any difference in the way a mother or a father feels about this…

Wings (A Wedding, Part 2)

With the Islamic Marriage Ceremony and the Henna Party, two important Turkish wedding traditions had been celebrated. The wedding, as planned by The Girl and Metin, was to be a blend of cultures and traditions.

A traditional Turkish wedding can have as many as 1,000 guests – and is often a simple “Cake and Cola” event held in a salon for an afternoon. They wanted a beach wedding – and wanted to be quick with the formalities, and then on with dinner and dancing!

While she was home in July, we went shopping for a wedding dress. She had been absolutely terrified of getting a dress in Turkey, as the more modern Turkish brides are apparently fond of bejeweled bodices, massive piles of lace and tulle, and all manner of extreme glamour*. “I don’t want to look like a fucking cupcake!”

The dress found her. At a discount bridal shop, the third dress pulled from the rack fit nearly perfectly, and was beyond stunning on her. We had invited her father’s wife, Fahima, to join us for the dress shopping day.  Perhaps the main reason my ex and i have been able to connect well enough to strongly support our kid? This woman has a huge heart, and bubbly personality – and both of my kids adore her! Deciding that the term “Step Mother” has too many harsh implications, she’s been christened their “Bonus Mom”… a bit more appropriate in this case!

The minor alterations were completed just under the wire, and The Girl was able to get everything she needed packed up and headed home. Invariably, the luggage was lost for a few days – “If that dress is lost and I have to go out and buy another one here? AAAAAAAAARGH!” – but arrived intact a few days later.

We also learned that “RSVP” is sort of an alien concept regarding Turkish weddings. They had planned for about 150 people, but the final count was closer to 200. Since it is still somewhat unusual to have a formal sit down dinner at a wedding, i guess it doesn’t seem to be a big deal… i’d have been ripping my hair out, but The Girl and Metin seemed to roll with it…

Metin’s family comes from central Turkey, and over two dozen family members made the trek – at least 20 hours by bus – to get to Izmir for the wedding! He arranged for two tour buses to transport his family, and neighbors, from the city to the beach.

During the reception, Mehmet (Metin’s father) went to find a translator. He returned to our table with The Girl’s friend, Beth, and was enthusiastically asking her to translate something to us. Mehmet let us know that it is Turkish tradition for the parents of the bride and the parents of the groom to personally welcome each guest at the wedding – and he was inviting us to join them in this tradition.  With Beth’s help, my ex-husband EJ and i were schooled in the proper pronunciation of “Hoşgeldiniz!”

greeting

We agreed, despite being absolutely terrified of screwing this up! Trying not to look as mortified as we felt, we joined Mehmet and Haava and began greeting guests – and i can personally attest to the fact that there were at least 190 people in attendance! It seemed to take forever, but Studley assures me it only took about 30 minutes for us to make the circuit.

dancing

And then we danced. We danced and laughed and danced some more! The newlyweds had pulled together a playlist of both Turkish and English dance tunes. Balancing cultures, they had arranged for each guest to have two drinks – either beer or wine – during dinner. i wanted to be respectful to his family, so it wasn’t until those two tour buses headed back to the city around midnight that i felt comfortable enough to grab a drink…  and have a proper toast with the newlyweds!somewhat staged

i thought we’d danced ourselves out BEFORE midnight, but i was wrong! The DJ kept going, and so did we! Much relief for all that the formalities were over, and we threw it down hard! Many of their friends had booked rooms at the beach resort, so we didn’t clear that beach until somewhere around 4am. Vague memories of dancing salsa with a pretty Colombian ex-pat, and lying in the grass making friends with a stray dog are also in the mix…

It was a great party… And a beautiful wedding… Celebrating my kid and her husband! Merging two families and two cultures – across the old and new generations – as we cheer them onward! i am delighted that she has put down roots. She has a bigger family! And so do i…

new family

* Some examples can be found here… She made a good call!

Wings (A Wedding, Part 1)

They got married, then engaged, and then had a wedding – schedule flexibility was required to accommodate the bride’s family coming from the United States.

When The Girl left for Turkey back in 2011, none of us really knew what to expect – other than that she was embarking on a tremendous, brave and life changing personal adventure. She built a network, found her tribe. She grew professionally. She found love… and a partner… and now a husband.

Studley accompanied me, and my ex-husband EJ was joined by his wife, Fahima and her daughter Alexandra. We traveled and worked as a cohesive team, supporting the couple, and sharing expenses along the way. If you had asked me after the divorce if this would be possible, i’d have put it in the realm of “plausible, but unlikely”. But it worked…

i’d met Metin, my daughter’s fiancé, several times – and have shared many silly moments with him on Skype. We didn’t meet his family until we arrived for the marriage, performed at their home by the Imam. Still a bit jet-lagged, I managed to hoark up a few words in Turkish*“Oğlunuz çok iyi bir adam!” (Your son is a very good man!) and “Çok memnun oldum!” (Nice to meet you!)

His parents were warm and welcoming, and as soon as the Imam arrived, the service began. It was fast, and in Arabic, and just like that, they were married. Happy tears and smiles… and then it was time forthe engagement party.

The engagement – Henna Night (Kına Gecesi) – is traditionally hosted by the bride’s family. Under the circumstances, Metin’s family stepped up and handled all arrangements! A glorious meal, served to the families and a few friends on their terrace as the sun set. My daughter had placed several of her bilingual friends strategically around the table to serve as translators.

Metin’s mother, Haava, sat across from me – and most of our communication took place via smiles and pantomime. She is all of four feet tall and spends a lot of her time hugging and kissing everyone within reach! She assured me that The Girl would be loved and cared for as their own daughter. i thanked her for loving my daughter as her own.

When the engagement ceremony started, i got a bit of a surprise. As dictated by tradition, the groom’s father asked my ex-husband if he consented to give his daughter to their family. Feeling the hairs on my neck stand up, i smiled and shot a glance at my daughter. She smiled and shrugged and whispered “whatever…” and the celebration rolled onward as her father said “Evet!” (Yes!)

The women disappeared to the other side of the terrace, lighting candles and sparklers, and The Girl was given a black lace robe and a red veil. She and Metin were seated in the center of the terrace. Music started, and the girls danced in a circle, singing along… The words passed down through centuries.

These are songs signifying the bride leaving her family for a new family. Ages old, going back to the tradition of arranged marriages, these songs are designed to make the bride cry. İ might have shed a few tears myself that night…

YÜKSEK YÜKSEK TEPELERE – HIGH HIGH MOUNTAIN TOPS

Yüksek yüksek tepelere ev kurmasınlar – They shouldn’t build homes high up on the mountain tops

Aşrı aşrı memlekete kız vermesinler – They shouldn’t give girls to faraway lands

Annesinin bir tanesini hor görmesinler – They shouldn’t neglect the mother’s one and only

Babamın bir atı olsa binse de gelse – If my father had a horse, he could jump on it and come

Annemin yelkeni olsa açsa da gelse – If my mother had a sail, she could open it and come

Kardeşlerim yollarımı bilse de gelse – If my siblings knew the way, they could come

Uçan da kuşlara malum olsun – May the birds carry the message

Ben annemi özledim – I miss my mother

Hem annemi hem babamı – Both my mother and father

Ben köyümü özledim – I miss my village

Henna

*As any traveler trying to get by, i have managed to learn a few words and phrases in Turkish – but mostly related to food and beverage. For this trip? It was absolutely necessary to move beyond ordering beer!

As the Dust Settles…

Coming up for air as things settle into transient equilibrium in my inconsequential corner of the universe… Sharing a few observations, lessons, and a glimpse of ‘scores and highlights’ from the past few weeks… Not writing. Just reporting.

Wedding: My sister T’s wedding earlier this month went off with only one hitch – and that ‘hitch’ was to her partner! i was anxious regarding the coalescence of family around an emotionally charged event. Whether they all buried their respective shit out of respect for my sister, or because of my pointed directive prior to travel simply doesn’t matter – all went well, and it was a celebration!

My anxiety was driven by a series of messages and e-mails the week prior to the wedding. My brother couldn’t understand why my niece was invited, and he couldn’t stand being in the same room with her. My niece, and sister S, were both barking because my brother would be there. In a group e-mail to the clan sharing logistics and plans for the weekend, i added the following line: “There will be no drama.  i will drown the first person to be rude.” Regardless of the reason, everyone was cordial and nobody got drunk and stupid… Well, i might have had a few too many once i got on a plane toward home…

And then there was the suggested dress for the wedding – “Nautical Chic”… Us ‘Trailer Park People’ had to request clarification on this one. In southern Ohio, “Nautical Chic” means “Dress for a day of boatin’ on the Ohio River”, and would lead us toward cut off blue jeans and flip flops. i suggested Khaki trousers, polo shirt, or if going more “yacht club”, wearing the khaki’s with a light blue oxford and a blue blazer. Boat shoes for the gents, of course. My sister S’s husband J won the prize by asking if his old pair of disco shoes would be ok…

disco shoes

Kitchen Remodel: Today is the ninth day with skilled laborers in my home. Tear out began on 27 April, and there has been a tremendous amount of work done – making my new space look like a real kitchen again. A dream kitchen, in fact. Fortunately, my boss and the nature of my work has allowed me to work from home while construction is underway.

i sit in my home office, dog at my feet, bashing through e-mail, documents, presentations and conference calls. They tear out walls, install wiring, plumb gas lines, place flooring and trim, make all things perfectly flush and level, and haul a 10′ 6″ long slab of manufactured quartz that weighs 830 pounds into place on top of the new kitchen island.

In awe of their knowledge and skill, I’ve tried to stay out of the way – but have bootlegged the chance to learn something. What have i learned? We need to send fewer people to universities and instead develop more skilled tradesmen. They don’t need to leave at lunch to go to the gym to get exercise – they use their lunch breaks to rest.

Working with my designer, and lead contractor, i’ve also had to do some juggling and dancing to keep the project on track as various components were damaged or delayed. This morning? Flooring contractors were finishing up as the plumbers arrived. They were mostly finished by the time the refrigerator was delivered and installed. i really need to have the kitchen operational soon, because…

Adventure: There is a cruise in my immediate future. Not the type of holiday we usually take, this one is special for two reasons. The first? A former boss organizes an annual family and friends cruise to celebrate remission from brain cancer. Seven years ago he was given a 20% chance of getting on the other side of an aggressive tumor.  He did it.

The second reason? A friend, who has attached to us because she wants to be more adventurous, invited us along – with a request: “Please come on this cruise – I want to go diving with you guys in the Mediterranean!”  So we plan to be diving ruins in Naples along with a few other adventures – a bit more aggressive than typical shore excursions.

Studley had to carry the football on this trip because i handled travel logistics for the wedding, and am working logistics on a late summer trip to see The Girl in Turkey. So much to look forward to… but i am a bit overwhelmed.

This arrived today – i have a luggage fetish and am smitten with Samsonite Fiero. A new mid-sized piece for the collection. Time to get the kitchen re-organized and start loading this baby…

packing

Life is short. Don’t postpone joy…

Cannot be unseen…

We needed to go through Mom’s office. Because she valued everything she saved, we felt compelled to touch everything before determining disposition – we owe her that. Spending a Sunday morning at the homestead, my niece DQ, sister S, and i plowed into the task at hand.

We created piles – “Save”, “Trash”, “Donate” and got to work, each of us grabbing a box of stuff for excavation. The first box i grabbed came from the file cabinet. Reaching in, i pulled a worn envelope, stuffed full of aged, brown papers. Naked lady playing cards, purple mimeographed ‘office jokes’, and a stack of typewritten stories.

the collection

There was a two page “diary” entry, dated 3 November 1952, Avonmouth, Bristol, England…

Dear Diary:

I had a date with Ted last night and we drove along for about an hour or so until we came to a small house beside the road in the woods. Ted drove the car behind the house and we got out and knocked at the door, a girl came to the door and opened it. She was perfectly formed, having a beautiful body and legs. The rich crop of black hair at her cunt made me envious immediately.

Well… that escalated quickly, didn’t it?  Apparently Betty, and her boyfriend, Bob, were expecting company. Then the orgy commenced… Lots of poorly-written, detailed exploits for these two couples.  Criminal abuse of the words “juice”,  “moist”, and “moans of ecstasy”.

“Holy shit! i found Mom’s porn collection!”

Although badly written hard core erotica, i was delightfully surprised with the degree of sexual adventure it captured… Who knew grandma could get her freak on with another woman?

to be...

As traumatic as it was to find this gem in the stack of fragile papers, it was this one that makes me want to take a cheese grater to the memory lobes of my brain… In complete shock, i read it to my sister and my niece…

A True Dog Story

I was married when I was 16, younger than most girls nowadays. I had a good husband and life ran smoothly for me until I was 20, then my husband died. After I had been a widow about two years, there was a burglar scare in our neighborhood and my friends advised me to get a watch dog to keep strangers away.

Well. Can anyone else see where this is going?  After our heroine has to rush from the bathtub to see who is knocking on her front door, the new watch dog decides to get frisky… i cannot retype the entire text because i will end up stark raving mad. There are gems like this “He finally managed to lift my hips with his front paws…”and “After a short struggle, I fainted.”

As you can imagine, my sister and niece were both screaming at me, “STOP!  PLEASE!” but one must share such horror. It was a train wreck – i couldn’t make myself stop.

The lady and her dog apparently continued hot and heavy for a few months, until invariably a neighbor lady caught them. “You should have seen her eyes stick out when she saw that the dog had me pinned to the bed, screwing to beat hell”.

So what the hell am i supposed to do with this stuff? Trash it? Burn it? There is only one answer, at least now that i have been permanently scarred by this discovery…

Put it in a storage case and forget about it. Let my children find it after i’m dead. It’s only fair…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

UPDATE:  Added this image for Ms. Texas Trailer Park Trash!  Apparently she found this in her Father’s stash when she was a child!  Since this was the least freaky of the things i found, i kept it and will likely use this for notes!

things to do today notepad

Trailer Park Family Values

With the passage of a law in the state of Florida, my sister, T and her partner, T* are free to marry! They’ve been together for nine years and have built a home – and a life – together. This is grand news, and plans for their celebration are underway!

T called me early last month to share the news, and check schedules. Studley, who is ordained as a minister in the Church of our Lady of Perpetual Motion**, will be performing the ceremony. The celebration will take place on a fabulous chartered yacht in Biscayne Bay at sunset! i will serve as MC for the reception! We are so very excited for them!

As T was working through details, she was wondering how to handle invitations to the members of the Trailer Park. Relationships were strained for the past few decades years. Like me, T was at odds with Mom’s living arrangements and choices. There had been scuffles – direct and indirect – that led T to take some time to decide whether she’d invite the rest of the family, or keep it fairly small.

With Mom’s death in September, i would have predicted that the entire clan would have imploded by now, and this would never be an issue. i fully expected to wander off from most of the rest of them after Mom was in the ground. T, already living a thousand miles away from The Park, had placed great geographic distance between her and the rest of the clan.

Yet it was my sister, T, who articulated the words that brought peace to most of the clan. In a conversation with my niece, DQ, T said “We all wanted what was best for Mom, we just didn’t agree on what that was… Now that she’s dead, none of that really matters.”

After deliberations, T decided to invite the entire clan, with some concerns about drunken drama and bad behavior causing disruptions. i assured her that i would manage the family dynamic, and promised to contain bullshit on her wedding day.

The curve ball in planning came from elsewhere. My sister’s partner comes from a family of means, politically visible and very well known in their hometown. Despite the fact that her mother shared a champagne toast to celebrate their engagement, she let it be known that she could not attend the wedding. T’s brother, also felt that a public wedding was not something he could support, and declined the invitation.

This was unexpected and heart-breaking for both my sister and her partner. Her brother had been with his wife for a mere two years before marriage – a fraction of the nine years T and T have been together. It seems they are more concerned about appearances than they are about the happiness of a daughter, and sister.

Fortunately, T’s sister will buck the family position, and is going to be there to celebrate.  As will the entire Trailer Park clan… Words i would never have expected to hear from my sister – “Our family is pretty fucked up, and we’ve certainly got our warts, but at this moment I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”

let them eat cake

* i know this is confusing.  i should use names… i’ll figure something out. It’s only been 7 years out here… Give me a break!

** Not a real church, but neither is the one that grants on-line ordinations!

Out to lunch…

“My Momma made my lunch for me today. It’s in a big white bag with “Keith” written on it. It’s a tuna fish sandwich, potato chips, and cookies. I’d say that’s pretty lucky; I have lots of friends who would give anything to have their Mom make their lunch again.” – Uncle Keith*

This paragraph rolled through my facebook feed today.  It made me cry.

It also took me on a romp through some very wonderful memories…

There were two groups of kids when it came to school lunches – Packers and Buyers. As a wee lass, i remember feeling quite special because my mother loved me enough to pack my lunch for school every day.  A sandwich, fruit cocktail in Tupperware, and a Little Debbie Snack Cake were pretty standard fare.

School lunches were available, and the majority of students bought whatever was offered – “Pizza, corn, jello” on Fridays as the highlight of the week.  It cost $0.10 more if you wanted ice cream, and some of the lucky kids got ice cream, but that was a pretty extravagant item in our world.

Before leaving the classroom, the teachers would line us up by the blackboard – Packers first, then Packers who needed to just buy milk, and then Buyers. i was a bit cocky every day knowing that my lunch had been prepared for me, and was neatly packaged in my groovy lunch box.

ohmygod

i had this lunchbox.  i shit you not…

Shopping for a new lunch box was part of the ‘back-to-school’ ritual!  It couldn’t be taken lightly – you were judged by what was on your lunchbox.  Carrying that really cool “school bus” lunchbox might be ok in 2nd grade, but you’d be called a baby by the start of your 3rd grade year.

disney box

i tended to be somewhat conservative with my choices, going with bright designs rather than cartoon characters, or television shows.  i do remember being tempted by a sweet “Partridge Family” box, but opted for something less likely to get me verbally abused.

and this one

By the time i was about 10 years old, the lunch box thing wasn’t cool, but it was still preferable to pack a lunch and i ditched the lunchbox for a brown bag.  Still felt damn special, though. Eventually, i got fussier about what was going in that bag, and started packing my own lunches.

Thanks to Uncle Keith, i had a happy wander down memory lane today.  With a simultaneous ache of missing my mother… It would be wonderful to have her make me a bologna and cheese sandwich on white bread, some syrupy fruit cocktail and a Little Debbie Nutty Bar again…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*Some of my older blogmates may remember Uncle Keith from a few years back. As the founder of his own religion, Keitholicism, and leader of The Riot Squad, he always brought insights and smiles.

Oh, Brother…

My brother arrived at the hospital before i did.  Mom had gone into respiratory arrest, was intubated and moved to the Intensive Care Unit.  It was the third time Tim had visited with Mom in nine months – and this visit was triggered by – and shortened by – a medical emergency.

When Dad was diagnosed with colon cancer, Tim lived in a house about a mile away*.  He didn’t visit much – “I just can’t bear to see him this way…” being the main excuse.  Apparently he couldn’t bear to hear him that way either, as he rarely called.

When Dad started his final lap, Tim showed up at the hospital.  Tears and apologies.  Seeking forgiveness and absolution from his dying father.  Dad gave him that… Tim promised to spend more time with Mom, and not repeat the same mistake.

No one was entirely shocked when he failed to keep that promise.  His third wife made a concerted effort to visit, but Tim would usually bail out – citing a ‘stomach bug’ or other obligations.  After Wife #3 took a walk, there were no more attempts.

Twelve years (and one wife) later, he was a fixture at Mom’s hospital bedside.  He was attentive during the week – many tears, many apologies.  On the days when Mom was somewhat cognizant, she would become agitated whenever he spoke to her.  She had unfinished business with him – and that had become apparent to me as she made adjustments to her beneficiaries while we tackled her estate planning.

Needless to say, it irritated the shit out of the rest of us.  Reminding my sisters and niece that there was nothing we could say or do to take away the hurt Mom carried.  There was nothing we could say or do to change what had, or hadn’t, happened.  “Be kinder than you feel” became our mantra, and we kept our mouths shut to maintain peace, and avoid drama.

After Mom died, Tim asked to be involved with planning the funeral.  He joined us at the church when we met with the minister to plan the service.  My niece sent an e-mail to all, asking for any ‘recent photos of you, or your children’ with Mom.  Tim, of course, had none to provide.  Mom had given me envelopes of cash to deliver to her children and select grandchildren.  Tim’s envelope was a little lighter than the others, and had been marked with a $3,000 withdrawal – a loan he’d received from her to buy Wife #3 an engagement ring.

He asked me about some of the things from her home… Old jewelry… The coin collection… Some collectible items… “We’re not ready to deal with that just yet”, with the mantra “Be kinder than you feel” scrolling on continuous loop in my head.

Several cousins came for the funeral, but my cousin Penny and her family hadn’t been able to attend.  She still wanted to visit and pay respects.  We arranged for Penny and her clan to attend the annual “Remembrance” service at Mom’s church last weekend.  Inviting the entire local family, i offered to take everyone out for lunch afterwards to give us time to visit.

With a group of 18, we had to wait in the bar until our tables were ready.  i had Bailey’s and coffee, and bought my niece a mimosa.  Others had coffee or soda.  When Tim and his wife arrived, they ordered bourbon.  i was a bit surprised that they got through two rounds each before we were seated.

Over the course of the next two hours, they drank a lot of bourbon – ordering another drink before finishing the one in hand.  Tim’s wife seems able to hold her liquor, but Tim became loud and obnoxious.  As i chased down our server to get the check, Tim pulled out his phone to share a picture.

“I need to show you something.  If anyone ever thinks I didn’t love Mom and Dad…. This is something I built on my porch… It’s my shrine to them.”

The photo showed a fountain with an integrated propane torch.  “I have a ritual.  Every night, I light the torch and turn on the fountain.  I talk to them.  They know I love them.”

My cousin commented “It’s very nice…” and looked my way with a gently furrowed brow.

My intra-cranial chant was momentarily drowned out by a scream.

“WHY THE FUCK COULDN’T YOU TALK TO THEM WHEN THEY WERE ALIVE?!?!?”

“i like the combination of fire and water…” 

He is doing what he has always done… what he has to do to survive.  Revising history.  He is creating a relationship that was never there.  There is nothing to be gained by calling him out on this.  Nothing can change the hurt Mom carried… The one thing she couldn’t resolve before she died.

“Be kinder than you feel…” and move the fuck on.

The only rule

* When he divorced Wife #2, i loaned him money and cosigned a loan so he could keep the house.  It provided a home for him and his three sons, but it was also close to Mom and Dad.  In theory, it would be easy to visit them…