Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I'm a little lost

It's been two weeks since my Grandma passed away. And I've been able to go about life and do the things that must be done. It's certainly been easier since Doc has picked up the slack and has been working tirelessly around the house (outside and in). But every now and then I dip a toe in the pool of grief and feel the sadness. Sometimes I can withdraw my foot. Sometimes the grief pulls me under.

If you've been a long time visitor here, you know that since this blog started, I've lost my Grandpa, my Aunt Gail, and now Grandma Jean. When I lost Grandpa and Gail, I was working at my old job, which was a nightmare. My previous boss was domineering and manipulative. I basically had to turn off my emotions and go into survival mode to continue to work for her. For four years. The longer I worked there the easier it was not to feel things. This made work easier, but family life...well, I guess it was easier too. I wasn't feeling the pain. Or the joy. But I lost two people who were very dear to me and I couldn't grieve for them. I didn't dare, lest I come completely undone.

Since I've moved to my new job, almost three years ago, I've started to defrost. Here I've discovered I'm able to be myself and react naturally with out running every event through a processor to judge whether or not this reaction or that would cause me more trouble or more work. Over time, I've been able to start feeling things again. This came to a head last month when I got irregular results on an annual exam at the doctor's office.

Of course, I found out about the test a month prior to going back to the doctor to discuss it. So I had a lot of time to really face up to my life and see if it was going in the direction it should be. It wasn't. Inspired by the possibility that I might be seriously ill in the near future and my emotional awakening, I started cleaning my emotional house. As it turns out, the tests results aren't the death sentence I feared. But they were a wake-up call for me.

Since I lost Grandma, I have been feeling the full force of her passing. And it hurts. But I'm ok. I'm a little sensitive about grandma-related topics and sometimes I just want to curl up in one of her blankets and cry my eyes out. But this sensitivity brings about awareness. And it highlights the things about her that I loved and that I will miss. And those things I'm going to pick up and carry with me so that I'll be a bit more like her and then she'll still be with me.

I've started wearing perfume. I cleaned out my purse. Come payday, I'm going to stash a twenty in there and hide it from myself so that I can find it when funds are low. I'm wearing her beautiful nightgowns to bed instead of tee-shirts. I'm paying closer attention to the way my kids act and I want to make sure they are getting enough love and a bit more discipline. I'm standing my ground on personal issues that are important to me. I'm going to be more efficient. And every once in a while, I'm going to call on the river when I've only got three to a straight.

I'm going to do all these things in remembrance of her. I want her memory to be vibrant and three dimensional, close to me. I know she's gone and I'm a little lost without her. But if she were here, she'd tell me to stick close and don't get separated from the family. She'd say, it's ok to be sad but she'd advise that I might want to find something to do to perk me up. And I'll be on the look out for the good stuff while I try to handle the bad. I'll get out of the woods eventually, not as an empty shell, but rather as someone who has fully grieved and has been marked by the experience.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Celebrities Who Appeared in my Dreams: Dale

I was getting ready for some folks to come over for my birthday when Doc popped his head in the bathroom and told me that Dale from Passion of the Dale was here.
"Really?!?" I asked, stunned.
"Yeah," Doc said, "He came all the way from Canada for your bithday."
"Huh," I said and started to put on makeup.
Once I was ready, I tried to decide how to best make my entrance. I went through a couple of ideas in my head before stepping into the garage and declaring, "Wilkommen, bien venue, welcome!"
Dale was sitting on the couch in our garage talking to my Uncle Charlie. He looked up and tipped his beer at me and went back to his conversation. I began to look around the garage and wonder what Dale's impression was. I knew he was judging and that he had an opinion. I was very curious. But this curousity hampered me. I couldn't think of anything to say to him or anyone else in the room. And I felt bad that he had driven all this way to be so underwhelmed. Until, of course the zombies arrived.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Aveatque Vale: Grandma Jean

I’m really glad we are all here together today. More than anything, Grandma Jean wanted us to all be close to her. And never leave. She loved us all so fiercely and wanted to protect us all. She enjoyed our company and never wanted the good times to end. And what she would want, I believe, is for us to be sad today and feel the loss of her and the imprint she leaves in our heart as a remarkable mother, daughter, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend. She would want us to miss her. To remember her and remember what she taught us.

We should also celebrate her life for she accomplished a lot, most times with very limited material resources. Grandma Jean had to grow up fast and she had to learn a lot at a very young age. She was born in Pittsburgh but lived most of her life here in Canton. She told us all of her experiences growing up in a household with, unfortunately, not a lot of adult supervision. It made her tough and independent. It taught her that she had to be responsible and look out for those who couldn’t yet. She told us stories about her rough childhood, but she would tell them in such a way that we could learn from it or be amused. She wouldn’t have wanted us to focus on the heartbreaking parts. She would want us to take away the lesson she shared with us, that we have it in us to overcome adversity and make the world we want to live in. And that we ought to take care of each other.

Having been in charge of her destiny for most of her childhood, Grandma Jean had very little patience with authority and she didn’t trust authority figures. She knew best. She grew tired of school and decided to hit the road at fourteen and go back to Pennsylvania and get a job. She was stopped, of course, and sent back home. But she was determined make her own way in the world and to do it in her own way. She taught us that sometimes, it’s more important to be true to ourselves than to the status quo. For what could faceless authority know better than we do about how to live this live we’ve been given?

When she met my Grandpa, she knew right away she’d met the love of her life. After a short courtship, they spent over 50 years married to each other. Together they created a family that was tightly bonded. And she was fiercely loyal to us all. How many times has she taken us shopping or helped us spring clean? And as she helped us clean, she shared with us what she knew about running a household. She never refused a cry for help and most times, she could hear the cry for help before we could utter it. She would be at our sides, applying her energies to help us. She showed us how to serve others and that it was just part of the family territory.

There were many good times with Grandma Jean. She was an encyclopedia of card games and never said no to a game. She taught three generations how to play hundreds of card games. And when it came to Black Jack or poker, she’d always be there to coach you or to slide some of her change over to your side of the table when you were running low. She showed us how to think, how to be fair, and how to give someone a boost when they’re down on their luck. And winning wasn’t as important as just being happy together.

And she was a dancer. She and Grandpa loved to dance. They took lessons together at Arthur Murray, went to dances and would cut a rug at home too. Some of my best memories include all of us jumping and dancing in her living room. It was heaven to celebrate and cut loose in that house of hers with so many cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. She helped us be joyful together.

Later in life, she suffered some tough blows. She was heartbroken when her son, Bob, had to leave. He went to Arizona and, for a time, the light left Grandma Jean. But she recovered and we would all get caught up in the excitement of his returns for visits. She lost her sister Donna too soon. But before Donna left us and her health began to decline, Grandma didn’t miss a beat. She helped Donna get around in her wheel chair and made sure she was still enjoying life, even with her disability. She lost Grandpa in 2004 and her daughter Gail in 2006. Heartbroken doesn’t begin to describe the depths of her woe from losing a husband and daughter within two years of each other. But she found joy again with those of us who were still with her. She showed us how to suffer and still live on.

Despite the blows her heart received throughout life, she never missed a chance to love. She doted on her grandchildren and great grandchildren. If you take a look at the memory board, you will see many of the pictures show her with a baby on her lap. I remember her with my children when they were just wee tiny babies and she would hold them, swaddle them, coo to them, dress them up and tell me all she knew about babies. She was a lioness, providing for the young and protecting them with all her strength. She loved us all so much.

Part of her lioness strength meant that she could be confrontational. She stood up for what she believed was right. In particular, she didn’t want us to stray from her and tried to keep us all close. Many of us still remain within a few hundred mile radius from her because life is easier, better with an ally like her in your life. But she would tell you exactly what she thought of your plans to move to New York City or Timbuktu and try to work you over to keep you close. She showed us how independence was good but family was better.

And she watched over her world. I remember her last summer. She was following the story of the sparrows that took up residence on the back porch. She watched them build their nest and told us about how the mother and father birds took turns gathering materials. She let us know when there were eggs and when they hatched. She told us when the couple argued and when the kids were ready to go out on their own. She soaked up the lessons of the creatures around her.

When she did get the blues, they hit her hard. Sometimes a pep talk would help. Often times, she’d have a long bath or go shopping. For sure, a win at bingo would brighten her day. I used to play bingo with her every Tuesday morning at St. Paul’s. I’d get off work at seven a.m. and meet up with her at her house. She’d have had her bath and coffee and was ready to go. We’d go out for breakfast and head over to get the good seats. We’d win here and there but mostly, we’d just enjoy the long mornings together doing something fun. I hope you had the chance to play bingo with her. That was when you got to see her joy and experience her gentle way of showing you how to do things efficiently and easily.

And she was efficient. She worked for years at Nationwide Insurance where she focused on the best and easiest ways to do things. I’ve often heard her speak with fondness of experiences there. There she learned her job and the jobs of her counterparts so they could support each other. She got to travel to Chicago and New York City. She and her sister Donna worked there until retirement, where they received a loving send-off. But Grandma was young yet to retire. She later began helping out at Grandpa’s office, then she took various jobs at Value City and Hills, where she was able to get all the linens she could carry at a discount. She taught us to do what we love and to use our time wisely so that there would be more time for fun, for family.

Grandma Jean had a heart of gold. She was so generous and giving of her time and resources. She wanted to give each of us everything our little hearts’ desired. I’m so sad today that her body wasn’t able to keep up with her heart and mind, because until the very end of her life, she was still worried about us. She still cared how we were and if we’d had success or needed help. Her mind and heart were solid. And she showed us that even bound to a bed; we can still be of use to each other and connected to the world.

So let’s go ahead and cry today. Let’s be sad for our own great loss. Let’s hold hands and embrace. We have lost a teacher, a mother, a grandmother, a great grandmother, an aunt, a friend. In short: We have lost our rock. But what would Grandma do if she saw us so sad? She’d pull us all together at her kitchen table and get us each a pop or a bowl of soup. We could just sit and talk or get a card game going. Without her, we pebbles can band together and be almost as strong as she was. But I believe in my heart, as long as we are together and close, she is with us.

Thank you.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"With the Rich and Mighty, Always a Little Patience" - FFF #31

Submitted for Friday Flash Fiction #31 where the quest was to use the words batch, catch, latch, patch and coriander in the story.


"So, ladies and gentlemen," Mr. Coriander paused to light his pipe. "It has been a long weekend, has it not? And I am sure you are all anxious to depart this terrible place and return home. And all but one or two of us shall be able to do just that."

"One or two of us?" Mrs. Henry asked, her hand fluttering to her locket. "Why not all of us?"

"Surely you have guessed that we have all gathered here in the parlour because I now know who killed Mr. Bentley? And further that I believe one of us here in this very room is the murderer!"

"It can't be one of us!" Mrs. Henry gasped, looking around at her guests in all their finery. They were a cool and reserved batch of old money and good breeding.

"And why not? We are all humans who are, if nothing else, animals. When threatened do we not lash out or flee? Are we not all capable of having our mental strings snagged in a patch of madness where all civilized reason leaves us? And the only sensible way forward is to lay waste to one of our fellows?"

"But we are all civilized individuals of good reputation! We do not murder!" Mrs. Henry cried, reddening. She began to worry harder at her locket until the latch broke and the necklace fell into her hand. She looked at Mr. Coriander, furious.

"Ah, but you are wrong, Mrs. Henry." Mr. Coriander said with some satisfaction. "Do you not now wish to do me in? Your prized locket has been broken. I saw rage in your eyes just now. You'd like to bash me in the head with the fireplace poker, wouldn't you."

"You mock me, Mr. Coriander." Mrs. Henry said quietly turning away.

"See here now, you jerk! You can't talk to my aunt that way!" Paul said and he moved quickly to catch the locket that was slipping from Mrs. Henry's hand.

"I can talk anyway I want, Mr. Henry." Mr. Coriander puffed on his pipe, delighted with himself. "I too am a free man of means."

"But I thought we all agreed that the gardener was responsible for Mr. Bentley's death." Paul whined.

"Perhaps you all agreed on that," Mr. Coriander walked toward the mantel of the grand fireplace so that he could stand in nature's own spotlight shining through the parlour's windows. "But I believe differently and I'm prepared to prove it to you right now as we wait for the police to arrive."

"You called the police?" Mr. Galveston asked, finally looking up from his paper. "How common! Usually we handle this kind of thing quietly."

"Usually?!" Mr. Coriander barked and moved out of his good lighting. "What do you mean, 'usually,' Mr. Galveston? Are you in the habit of pinning murders on servants?"

"Yes, quite." Mr. Galveston stated and looked back at his paper. "Paul, would you mind terribly handling this as you handled Mr. Bentley?"

Mr. Coriander began to sputter. He gasped for breath as his face turned green and he dropped to the floor, dead.

"I anticipated you'd ask, Mr. Galveston." Paul said, picking up Mr. Coriander's pipe. "Right before we met here, I lined the mouthpiece of Mr. Coriander's pipe with poison from Auntie's locket. What shall I tell the Inspector when he arrives?"

"Ah the usual," Mr. Galveston sighed. "One of our guests let his imagination run wild. Fancied himself a kind of Poirot after we played at detective with the local murder mystery drama club. Let him know that all is well and that Mr. Bentley escorted our Mr. Coriander back to the city. And don't forget to tip the Inspector well for his trouble. Later, we'll put them both in Mr. Bentley's car and push them over some cliff or other"

"Yes, sir," said Paul, reaching for his wallet.

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Galveston," Mrs. Henry cooed. "It's so good to have that all cleared up. Tennis anyone?"

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

FFF #30 - Breakfast

"Is it me, or does this coffee taste weird?"

"It's you."


"Pass me the lemons, would you?"

"I don't have the lemons."

"Nevermind, they're right here."

"You're blind without your glasses."

"You're blind without your glasses; I'm wearing mine."

"This toast is burnt."

"It's just dark."

"I like my toast lightly toasted."

"Well put some butter on it, that'll lighten it up."

"Are you trying to kill me? You know I can't have butter."

"Then make some more 'toast' and let's move on with our lives."

"What did you put in these eggs?"

"Eggs, milk, salt and pepper, mustard..."


"Yes, mustard."

"What ever possessed you to put mustard in the scrambled eggs?!?"

"I saw Rachel Ray do it."

"She's crazy."

"I like her."

"That figures."

"Let me have the Life section of the paper."


"Your horoscope: You may be disappointed in the morning, but don't be concerned you won't have to suffer overlong. Your life will flash by your eyes before lunch."

"You really aren't very nice until we start the second pot of coffee."

"I gave up coffee, don't you remember?"

"It's going to be a long day."

"For some of us...drink up."

Posted for Friday Flash Fiction.