Jake is out of town this evening. I got home right around seven because of a track meet. I put my girls in the bath and started dinner. They went to the meet with me because I wouldn't have been able to make it back to school in time before the after school program closed. They enjoyed it. It rained in various intensities the whole time. They also got to hang out with some of my students, which they loved. After dinner, we got in an episode of The Magic School Bus, and they were off to bed.

As I ran around putting food away, cleaning out lunch boxes, doing dishes, and preparing a few things for tomorrow, a wave of nostalgia come over me. Sometimes I'm caught off guard by the fact that I am the adult in the room. There's no one here to put me to bed or make sure the dishes are done. It's me. How does this happen? I'm a grown up but still feel like a child. I've been a mom for nine years now, but there are moments when I can't believe that another human being is depending on me for pretty much everything. Jake and I still have moments of bewilderment when we look around and say "Two little people live with us."

We pay bills and make weird plans and are pretty exceptionally responsible people. I get caught up in the idea that time never moves backwards. I'll never be in my twenties again. I'll never be seventeen again. I'll never again be a nine year old riding her bike through alleyways in Mesa, nor the high schooler who did her homework on the roof. I'll never be so many of those things again, yet I'll always be all of them.

And all of those things can come rushing back when I least expect it. When I'm the one putting myself to bed. Staring out the window, with the curtains that are always open when my husband is gone, at the night lights of Los Angeles. This city I used to dream about and is now my reality in a way the younger dreamers in me could have never imagined.

Phone Numbers. Sort of.

I've been laying in my bed crying for a while now. They recently moved my Grammy from California to Arizona to live in assisted living. I don't think that was the wrong decision as the care she now requires is more than a one person job. It dawned on me that this is the first time in my life when I don't know her phone number. It was a bit startling. I don't know a lot of things about her new home, but I'm sure she's probably laying in bed right now, too, thinking about her change of scenery and all the people she loves, and I hope her heart is full of peace.

I'm trying to write myself into feeling better.

I listened to a song my cousin Kiersty sent me a few days ago. When I got the link, I couldn't listen to it right away, but I'm glad it was unintentionally saved until tonight. I'm so sad in this very moment, and the song made me cry even more, but one of the lines was perfect:
A heart that's broke[n] is a heart that's been loved.
Yes. Sometimes things hurt so much because of how much love is involved. And where uncertainty and love meet...

My grandpa moved on from this life peacefully in his sleep sixteen years ago. It's strange to think about this year marking more of my life having been lived with him being gone than when he was alive. It doesn't feel possible. That's love, too. That's a form of eternal life.

Dying in one's sleep at home in bed after a long life seems perfect. When I got to their house the morning that he died, I walked into his room to see Grammy holding up his shirt that she'd hung across his walker the night before. She brought it close to her face and cried. She didn't know I was there, and I didn't want to interrupt that moment of grief, so I quickly stepped out and gave her a minute before walking back in.

I'm thinking of my time in Chicago, when me and Beatrice were Hattie's visiting teachers and we went to visit her in the hospital in South Shore. She'd had several strokes in the years prior. Her body was frail and her speech was incomprehensible. She cried like a child when doctors came to adjust something with her PICC line, and in removing the tape, they removed a good layer of her paper skin. I understood that cry. That cry out in pain juxtaposed with her smile at seeing us. When everyone was gone, Bea and I sat and held her hand and sang "I Am a Child of God."

On the way home, Bea and I talked about our lack of understanding about why people have to suffer in old age. Strokes, heart attacks, cancer - Hattie had been through them all, why couldn't one of them take her before it got to this?

Grammy isn't suffering like Hattie. And I'm grateful for that. But I don't ever want her to. The end is dragging out, and Grammy's hope is to endure well until it comes. She's working at being brave. She is brave. I'm trying to be too. But tonight I'm giving into grief. Getting it out of my system for a moment. Giving myself a moment.
And I'll sing Hallelujah
You [are] an angel in the shape of my [Grammy]
When I fell down you'd be there holding me up
Spread your wings as you go
And when God takes you back we'll say Hallelujah
You're home

Grammy and Love are the First Thing I Recall

There was a collection of her jewelry on the table this afternoon. She's laying twenty feet away, and we're browsing through her accessories trying to decide what the take - there's enough for something for each of her granddaughters. There are twenty of us, eighteen living. I looked in a box and saw her "cornflake" earrings. They're the ones I most remember her wearing throughout my childhood. They're the ones she's putting on in my very first memory. I wrote a poem about it in college: "Grammy and Love are the First Thing I Recall." 

Grammy and Love are inseparable in my mind and memory and being. The two were born together in my awareness and became a force in my life - a force that simultaneously propels me forward and lifts me up. 

She's in what I can only hope are her last days. I don't know how many tears I've cried throughout my life at the thought of her passing - of living my life without her. Buckets of tears. Late night, waking up from dreams, gasping for air because she was gone tears. About two years ago, I made my peace with what would be her eventual death. She had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and when I got to see her a few days after she'd been released from the hospital, I was finally able to say "It's okay for her to go."

She recently had emergency surgery to remove a bowel obstruction. The surgery was successful, but the incision wasn't healing as it should. She didn't want any more interventions to fix it. She came home earlier this week on hospice. Family has gathered and is gathering. No one knows when she will leave us, but I know she's ready.

I don't know what lessons are left to learn, and while I hope the end is peaceful and comes soon for her, I know that there is a timing that works out perfectly for each of us. I almost never listen to contemporary Christian radio stations, but I happened to tune to one on my drive to Fresno today, and this line caught me: "I can say God is good, even when He's not understood."

God is so good. Always. He gave me her, and he gave her me. We needed one another. And we'll keep growing to and from each other forever.

Grammy and Love are the First Thing I Recall

The middle of the bed
lumped up as she sat on the edge.
Hazy eyelashes, intertwined,
distorted my first morning view.

The mirror was in front of her,
to our side, the window.
Sun filtered through long lace curtains
that were floating on the morning breeze. 

I rolled over and watched her
pick her jewelry as I have always known her to,
holding up one earring and then another.
She is getting ready to go to work.

Final adjustments are made.
She fluffs her hair between her hands 
and looks on.
Her day outside of herself will soon begin.

She turns to me and leans down.
I feel her kiss on my forehead
and then she whispers,
"I love you" in my ear.

Mammy and Family and Ornaments

Jake's Mammy used to work at a Hallmark store, and every year she gave her grandchildren a new ornament for Christmas. She passed away two years ago, right before Christmas.

Admittedly, when I was 19, and Jake and I were decorating our first Christmas tree together, and I was pulling out the Bat Mobile and Shaquille O'Neal ornaments, my dreams of a gorgeous, ribbon-wrapped tree trimmed to the nines were dashed. I tolerated the ornaments that so perfectly represented a boy's childhood and threw every sort of color on a tree that I'd envisioned as having silver, gold, and red. And green, but only because of the tree.

Our collection grew. She and Meemaw (Jake's other grandma) and Jake's mom added for big life events, and all of a sudden they weren't just his, they were ours. Ornaments commemorating our wedding, our children, our lives.

And now I'm just sitting here in a puddly crying mess looking at our tree and not being able to imagine any other trimming meaning as much.

I'm looking at the ornament we got in 2006. Two days before Thanksgiving, we received the results of a blood test confirming we were six weeks and some change along with our first baby. We told Mammy the day before Thanksgiving at Pizza Hut in Holdenville; she'd taken all of her grandkids who were available out to lunch. We passed a napkin down to her with a little message breaking the news. She was so excited. She showed up the next morning with the napkin pinned to her lapel - proud as proud can be.

I ended up starting the miscarrying process on New Years Day when we were twelve weeks along. The ornament for 2006 is a hen sitting on an egg while knitting and a rooster reading a book on parenting. Her excitement, and the ornament tradition she started in her family that allowed us to keep a sweet reminder of a sweet time, that didn't quite turn out as planned, are so special to me.

This year, we decided to keep the tradition going with our girls. We took them to a Hallmark store and let them pick whatever ornament they wanted. We hung them up this morning before Jake took them to see The Nutcracker.

Someday when they're putting up their own trees, I want their significant other to open up a Frozen ornament that sings "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" and not quite know what to do with it. Or the teddy bear drinking hot cocoa that Cora picked. And then over the years, as the future S.O. is included in the tradition, I hope they find themselves all choked up looking through years of ornaments that were thoughtfully chosen and excitedly received. With the addition of popsicle stick reindeer and toilet paper roll Christmas tree ornaments, our tree is full of loving gestures and fond memories.

I couldn't love it more.
Jake picked out a family ornament this year. Yes, Batman, Shaq, AND Clark Griswold are on our tree.


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