The new old house

I think of you as I consider moving out of our little house that we have lived in your whole life.  To do our remodel this summer, (fix up some yucky parts, and make some beautiful new parts) we have to move out and live in your “new, old house” as you call it.  It may be odd to you, and it might be unsettling, but wait til you see the upstairs of the garage where all of our things will be stored!  I have toys, art, lamps, pictures and decorations and stuff…, UGH too much of that. Grandpa put up an electric winch with a box hooked to ropes, so I don’t have to carry heavy things up and down the stairs.  You’d like it.  If you were here I’d have you operate it for me.  But I’d tell you never to get in it and take a ride. That wouldn’t be safe, and probably not fun either.  I just started the real move yesterday, because the stairs were installed this week.  (Can you see grandpa standing there?) I expect to take almost all of April.I’ll show you the new old house pictures another day. We painted it golden, sage and blue with creamy trim.  Jim’s woodwork looks so good!

But for today all I can think about is stuff that has to be moved and that you and your family might come back to Santa Cruz.  I am waiting to hear how that came to be, if it’s true and when it might happen.  I did suggest that you and daddy come in the car, find a job and rental (because we will be living in the one you used to live in) and then have daddy go back to get Ellie and Mommy.  I can hardly wait to see Liza; just look at her and of course hold her and play with her, too.  Maybe your mommy will get a job or go to school and I will have you and Liza up here for a couple of days a week.  I think I’d like that. I hope Mommy sees that as helpful.

Today I was working hard, sorting and packing, but got tired of the hard work it takes to choose what to keep, sell, donate and toss away. I have three rooms to use; the guest bedroom will be for donations, AJ’s old room will be for things that we are packing to put into the garage and the library will stay empty. Trash and unwanted junky things will be tossed right away.  But then there’s the unpacked items that we will take to the rental.  Those are last.  I have a great plan.

But I get in the way of it. I intrude in my own progress.  Not my brain-I love sorting and cleaning; it’s the emotional me.  Not “memory lane” I don’t think, but something makes me put things in boxes, nice and tidy, (mindlessly) even if I haven’t used it in two years. That’s my rule. If I haven’t seen it or used it in two years-then, bye-bye.  For some reason that is not working. I think my secret trick is to take breaks.  Take breaks and talk to you or read a book or nap.  So I stay conscious and intentional.  Kind of like when I used to read student papers and somehow I’d read and not take it in, I’d grade and not use my rubric, or whatever, anyway….  Staying attentive is the only way I can be successful. There’s a lesson here, but it’s for me right now and I’ll re-calibrate it for you later.  I’m going back to sort all my holiday items. ugh

I love you, gma

A Decision

I called to say hi and you were asleep.  It was nearly noon your time and you already had slept 15 hours.  Mommy said you were just sleepy.  That is worrisome. Are you okay?  Mommy was tense and worried about Daddy.  She is worried about what to do.  She wants to find a house, a job and wishes she could grow new teeth.  She sounded tired of not deciding.

Deciding is a positive thing, I told Mommy this morning.  It can relieve tension that builds and colors your mood, thinking and reactions. During times when the dark , worrisome cloud of “not knowing” lurks overhead and underfoot, every moment; people get cranky. Daddy is particularly cranky, Mommy says, your trailer grandma is cranky and so mommy is, too.  How about you? Indecisiveness leaves us anxious, powerless and spreads like stinky air touching everything and everyone nearby. Simply making a decision can relieve us.

Your Mommy has been busy with two children under 3, you and Liza, her mom, her brother, his kids, his girlfriend, trailer life in a Billings winter and extraction after extraction of unhealthy teeth.  She has five left before dentures. She is busy, occupied, yet still remains hopeful.  Daddy is working now, but he says that he is unhappy every day.

Do you find some fun anyway? I think mommy is not realistic in her expectations.  I don’t see you guys getting a rental there that will be a successful.  Mommy and daddy can’t pay rent every month.  They never have kept that agreement.  This is hard grown up stuff, but you should know that mommy and daddy aren’t very grown up about these kind of things yet. That’s why you live with that Grandma after this Grandma.  They need help to keep you all safe and well. They need one of their mommies or the other; probably both.  I think Mommy would feel better if she and Daddy would make a decision. And an agreement and keep it.

In figuring out that decision, mommy and daddy would have to talk about their dreams, their ideas about how to reach them together and how to raise you guys in the way they envision.  Do they want to rent a place in Montana or try California again.  They haven’t agreed yet, so they can’t decide.  But the talking about their ideas and preferences, deadlines on the calendar or turning points in events, they will be better able to decide.  I think each of them already decided inside their heads.  (Behind their eyes, like you said). I cannot decide for them, but I think I helped mommy understand her part in setting up the conversation.  I think she expects more of your Daddy than he has to offer in terms of sharing his feelings and ideas.

Counselors are people that help with this kind of thing.  You tell them this, maybe they will go.  Actually, I think Mommy is more ready to begin the talk with Daddy.  I imagine in the next few days I will hear about it.   You trailer grandma has had it.  Actually, I don’t know how she tolerates all that goes on everyday.  I couldn’t do it.  I’d have to decide some hard things if I were her. But I am grateful that she is tolerant for a while longer, so daddy doesn’t get his family “booted out” before he’s ready to take charge.  That’s what I hope happens.  Make them stronger. It would be good for you and Liza.  Even if its hard for one of your Grandma’s-her or me.

You know what I am rooting for, right? Both of us win if you are safe, developing and find joy each day.  Not too much to ask, right?

As for me, I am supposed to be working to clean out the entire house and move out….and after talking to Mommy, I realized I was stuck -unable to begin.  So I called Rocky to help.  He and his brother will arrive on Sunday, take whatever I ask to the garage, out to the barn or to the trash.  I will have him come once a week every week until I am done.  Now that’s the plan.  I am so relieved I made a decision.  I feel in charge! (and charged with being ready for Rocky) We’ll see how it goes…I’ll get back to you later.  love gma

Warm, floppy, precarious

You tell me on the phone, after Nathaniel grabbed it away, you screamed and sobbed practicing the lines I provided, “I am talking to my Grandma right now.  Please move back.  I want some privacy.” “Privacy” you say again in a loud voice. Gulp, gasp, cough. The phone is interesting to Nathaniel.  You are.

I want to come there and see my grandpa ,okay? On the airplane, please. That would be fun.  Maybe after awhile.  Awhile?  Then you tell me Liza’s crying.  I kiss her, you say. After a few minutes of talking about Liza and Georgia, I ask to talk to daddy.

He started his new job today.  I tell him I want to see you.  Bring you here again. He says when?  I have so much to do for work for this month.  We have to wait a bit. Unless daddy doesn’t stay there and he drives you out in the car. Maybe, he says.

I want to be your stuffed monkey.  You snuggle into your neck, along the edges of your face and push up to your nose. You’d tuck me under one arm and carry me around. My heart squeezed there warm, floppy, precarious.

I miss you, Buddy. gma

Witness Someone Adoring You

Daddy starts at Home Depot this week 40 hours a week, he says.  That means you’ll be with mommy a lot.  I reminded daddy to find you daycare program so you could play a couple of times a week with kids and get out of the house. It’s free, mommy told me, they just have to sign up.  I told him it would be good for mommy, too.  With daddy focused on a new job, I worry about you.  Last week your mommy told me she doesn’t know you.  She isn’t close, she said, to you like she is to Liza. “I just don’t understand how he operates,” she complained, with an impressive amount of self-awareness.  I heard a call for help.  The root of the behavior issues are here.  Mommy needs to witness someone adoring you.  I’ll do that.  But she has to see me.  Not hear about it. Maybe a good teacher in Billings could fall for you.  Can we find one?  I’ll work on it.  I love you, buddy.  And I totally get you.  gma

Each Morning

Each morning I sit with freshly brewed coffee, a blanket piled on my lap, then Metro and the remote TV controller.  Georgia has her snout propped on my ankles and I stare at DIY shows.  Kitchens shiny with stainless, granite, toilets with warm seats that automatically lift, yards transformed in a day to take us to Bali or Arizona, if you prefer. I sit passively as they dig, hammer, drag and construct.  Waking up, getting ready for work.  Sometimes I sit that way for an hour.  Refilling my coffee, Metro rolls to one side, still asleep, and Georgia pads into the kitchen with me and returns nose snapped to my thigh. Metro and I resettle, Georgia hops up and I look for this particular day to unfold.  Grandpa sleeps through it all. Today I told him this hour used to be my favorite part of each day.  It started when Mia was ill.  After she died, I needed comforting for a long while, and without her warming my lap, at the start of each day, Metro filled in. But, I told Grandpa today, this isn’t my favorite thing anymore.  It’s when you’d join us. Grandpa, told me that he didn’t ever see this happen.  He was sleeping.

I’d hear a click of the guest bedroom door and you’d dash out, running at full speed pounding along the carpeted hall. “I up!” you’d exclaim.  And clamor up my legs into the blanket, fur, claws and wet noses to join us. I pull the covers up, roll Metro to the side, hold each of your small feet in my hands to warm them (warm me) gather up your legs and inhale the scent of your hair, cheek and neck. This is my favorite, most delicious and wonderful time.  I long for it.  Grandpa and I said this morning that we hope  someone in your little trailer home enjoys this moment with you each morning.  Grandpa went back into the bedroom, came out running and called, “I up.”  He makes us happy, too. Doesn’t he? gma

Sharing with rats

Today is a rainy day.  I pulled up my hood to stand outside on the driveway and watch Geoff from next door pull out the snaggled branches from the downed pine tree.  He cut the tree, dropped it across the driveway and hauled out a few truckloads of green debris yesterday. Today is clean-up and tonight a burn pile.  He’ll have a burn party with appetizers and wine. Parts of the tree snapped off some fir branches on an ancient and lovely tree as it fell.  It was bound to happen. The lower branches need to be removed anyway, don’t they?

But the beautiful, spreading, lightly-framed ceanothus in full bloom stands arms spread wide, untouched in its indigo splendor. The empty space where the tree stood just yesterday noon confuses me each time I step outside.  Like when daddy shaved off his mustache and you knew something was different.  Its a thing gone.  Like every day you are gone and I don’t see you gone.  I feel it. Something that you don’t see is different than something new to notice (like when you came to visit after a long time gone).  Remember last week when you and I walked into the garden, the same garden that I’d been checking on a regular basis for months-Hey, you said, where’s the birdies water? The birdbath had tipped over in the soft, damp earth. We picked it up, placed it upright and you swished it clean and added fresh water while I propped it with a hand-built foundation of salvaged bricks and stones.  There, you said.  And looked back to check it. Come on birdies.  I saw birds in it yesterday.

My fruit trees bloom in the same sequence each season, reminding us that harvest time is near as we watch and count the blossoms on the youngest of our trees.  First the almonds, closely followed by the apricots and plums and cherries then nectarines and finally later in March the pears and apples begin. This will be a good year for apricots and plums, I tell you.  So come back to visit in June and July. The almonds come early and often lose blooms in the hard rains of March. Did you know that the clipped branches, called “pruned” twigs and branches of these trees can be brought in to flower in a water jar on the table? I had to tell Salvador not to toss them into the green-waste pile.  He was so pleased when he saw them opening and fragrant in my warm sunny kitchen. He smiled and shook his head in disbelief.

Today I noticed that the lemon tree has been damaged as it has been every year around this time.  I asked my friend and yours, “Guy Jim”, and he says that rats love citrus leaves.  I can see where the leaves and small branches have been snipped right off. 6 ft. fencing around the garden perimeter protects it from deer. Rabbits can’t reach as high as the chewing has occurred, so I think Guy Jim is right! Maybe I can put something snaggly on the ground, something sticky and gooey on the trunks or maybe I’ll have to get some electronic device-like a motion-activated sprinkler. What do you think I should do?  We have to protect our lemons and limes and oranges and the beautiful leaves that are useful to protect the fruit.

I think its funny to think about the rats coming into the garden at night, sneaking toward my trees and getting surprised by a sprinkler!  They’d drag their little drenched, furry bodies away, tail sticky with mud, back into the brush.  They’d work for hours licking themselves clean, fluffing dry and building up their courage before trying it again. How many times will it take before they stop trying?  Hmm. Maybe they’d get swim pants on and play in the water, dance and sing and hide whern the sun comes out again.  I’d better go set up a video camera and wait.  You tube, here we come; Grandma and the Rats.

On second thought, maybe those rats can have the lower leaves and I’ll try some tree netting on the upper part!  We’ll share the trees!  Like we did last year and all the years before. Sharing is good.  Isn’t it little buddy, even if you are sharing with rats! gma

Really special moments

Your bright blue kid-sized teapot sits in front of you, steaming with chamomile tea, a miniature cup pinched in your fingers. MMM, you close your eyes and sip. Can my friend have some? Sure I say, handing you a cup.  No grandma, its pwetend, you explain.  Oh, I get it, and hand you nothing.  Thank you.  And you slide a pretend cup to your nobody.  Does she like it?  Its a guy, grandma. And he doesn’t have tea yet.  Oh.  I wait for a pretend pour, but you pick up the small pot, pour til empty, all over the table, the floor then look at me. Hey, I say, that was real tea.  No, its real spilling, though. You explain.  And we wipe it up with a real towel or two.

Slippers or Boots?

I was dozing on my flight back to the San Jose airport, in unsettling bumpy air, imaging Echo Lake Boat bumping over the waves.  Potatoes, I think, air bumps like potatoes, not big as pumpkins or small as ping pong balls.  I watched you behind my closed eyes, scuttling down the airway to your plane.  You ran along pulling your roller case, your daddy up ahead.  Now I am sad.  Just now it overtakes me.

In the plane you next me me you said, “I have ticks,” and pulled off your shirt. Itchy? I asked.  One time I told you that after a hike you might feel tickly, a little itchy, please tell me because it could be a tick.  Now whenever you want your back scratched you say, “O-o-o, I feel ticks.” and pull off your shirt. Other times I ask if I can do finger walking on your back.  Slippers or boots? I ask.  You nearly always ask for the deep pressure of finger-boots. “Boots it is”, I respond as you writhe with the pleasure of it.

I allowed myself to believe that in two weeks you were filled to the brim with lasting good things.  Not special, but ordinary things. A bathtub gone chilly, refilled with hot water.  Just right for a few more minutes of comfy soaking. That warm water, I imagined, soaked into your little worried, depleted cells inflating you with a sense of well-being. Knowing you are deeply loved.  Attention, was all it was; fun, easy, relaxed, unconditional from the more grown-up and content branch of your family.  Steeping you in the salts of our devotion to your well-being, steaming your skin pink, softening bones and wrinkling your toes into washboards with love.  I thought that would be good enough.

But watching you go, I changed my mind.  I was fooling myself. Lifted beyond reason by our absolutely lovely two weeks. Your daddy told me that your mommy was just lazy and that she hadn’t changed a bit and was doped up again on pain pills and that you were not being treated well at all. He spilled it all out at a table, sticky with other peoples’ Nachos and beer next to Gate B45.  You climbed into the window to watch planes and your daddy talked to me for the first time in months.  He wanted everything to be nice and so it seemed it was, but, like one 45 degree day in the winter in Billings, its still really wintertime.  He kept telling, dumping, ranting and throwing up his hands and swearing.  But we had to rush to your departure, I didn’t ask him what he thought might happen, what he wanted.  I didn’t kiss you guys good-bye. And he was empty, lost and supposed to be in charge of you.  He dashed up the ramp ahead of you.  Parents let their kids go first, don’t they?  Bumping along with your little roller case. Worriedly chasing your daddy.  Your vacation abruptly over.

Filled with the warm, fragrant oils of our time together made me sleepy-content. I was full of you and I would not let daddy’s story disturb the wash of sweet memories.  I protected my heart from daddy’s stories, and stayed on our sandy hiking trail with you. Friday afternoon we made roads with sticks and at night went to the Mexican restaurant, El Palomar with your aunt and uncle where the musicians let you play their maracas. I let myself hold tight that moment when you said to my mother, your Grammie, “you gots a cold, Grammie? A birfday? I gonna’ sing you a song.”  And you did. “Twinkle, Twinkle little dar…” from your carseat and gave her the clay circle you rolled and painted for her.  I’m hugging that precious moment close.  It’s every moment we had.  It filled me with joy. Yours and mine.

Then daddy wecked it.  That’s why I broke down.  I realized I was full….me, not you, and certainly not Daddy. I got a gift, but you got what you came here for, what you have a right to, precious one. Going to Montana with Daddy, full of your own preciousness, seeing yourself as lovable, interesting and worthy of devoted attention..will that put you at risk?  At risk with Mommy?  I wonder if mommy knows what you have to offer her? and sister Liza?  Even if she and daddy are not happy now. Maybe I can help Mommy fall in love with you.  Daddy, too.  I’ll try to figure something out; I’ll work on it. I’ll keep working on it. It may turn out to be, once again, more for me. Oh, well. That happens sometimes.

Hey, Buddy. Hold on, there may be some grapefruit or pumpkins up ahead; the air’s pretty unstable over the mountains! I love you. gma

I dreamed one time

You are asleep; its your nap time.  I’m a little swimmy from my own overtired state.  Each day you sleep at least 2 hours after choosing a book or two, snuggling in, listening to me read and then you want to read it by yourself, please.  I make calls, do email, write for work, coordinate construction crews, ck in on their progress and problem solve.  Today you and the dogs played together- running, throwing balls, skidding to a stop (each of you) screaming and barking.  It was a house full of noise, laughter and silliness.  I had so much fun watching you all.  The dogs would bite and snap at one another, but reach their paws out toward you to engage, whine, squeal and bark.  They haven’t had so much fun in a long time.  You said “These dogs are my family, aren’t they?”  You painted with a small roller today, paving a road, making a landing strip, the hills and a map.  Your rich imagination continued to enchant you as you drew on the fresh rolled out colors with a crayon, with your fingers and then stuck some cut outs we made a few days ago for collage into the wet paint.  You poked them on, then pressed your index finger firmly around all of the edges, flattening them.  The shape of your grandpa’s truck, a moon and some stop signs dotted across the page, then many moons. Its art, you tell me.  Save it. And I do.

Grandpa says he’s gonna miss you.  I think that’s true, but he’s mostly working, reading at night and spends a few minutes actually with you.  I think he’s gonna miss seeing me with you, listening to me report what you did and fill the house with messy art, play scenes in unlikely locations and the yummy food we make for dinner. And maybe he’ll miss who he and I are when your are here. I told you today that you will fly on a airplane in two more days.  You will go to your home with mommy and daddy and Liza in Montana. You stared at me, then really looked at me closely, mumbling passively, “Montana..” but what you were paying attention to became evident when you said, Gramma, you have blood.  Blood in your eyes.  Its all over your eyes right there.  You lean in and kiss my eye, then the other.  Are you okay?  I’m just fine, buddy.  My eyes do a lot of thinking at night and get red.

My eyes think too, you tell me, cuz’ I dreamed one time.

Sleep soundly, precious one.  I’m going to slip out and check with the sheet rockers. By the way, you told me about that dream.  You said that you were grandpa and getted to sleep with grandma in grandma’s bed.   gma

Night, night

You got a cough, have a runny nose and a bit of a fever.  You just headed off to bed with those sick-kid, fever-rosy cheeks that I’d almost forgotten about. Snot, pee in pants, plops of poo dropped near the toilet, skidded across the seat and explosion sneezes on the fresh shirt I just put on. A 3 year old’s body slime.  No different to you than jam on your chin, sandy, muddy shoes and dirt caked knees.  Debris, goo and ga-ga packaged in warm, reaching, sticky snuggles.  Different activities; one thing after another, a sequence of everything I know that a little kid likes all within the first few hours of the day.  He’s an explorer, this one.  Like his Daddy.  But who remembers 28 years ago? memememe

You enjoy interactions with people who drop by and ask for them to come by again-wanting me to invite them back at meal times.  There’s some fun living in a crowded place, isn’t there buddy?.  Lots of people to talk to, play with and when one doesn’t work out, you can move on to another.  I must seem so uninteresting, even though I really give it my all and sing, run around, fall in the wet grass and I walk with you whenever you want (3 or 4 times a day) to see your “new house” as you call it.  I continue to refer to it as your old house.  I have to keep saying that you that you are in Bonny Doon on vacation.

Mom asked me if I thought they should come back.  I was stricken with dry mouth, stuck to the roof, my thickened tongue locked against wordless teeth.  She went on, “We’ll give it our all but if we can’t make it we’ll have to swallow our pride and come back, I guess.”  I managed one word, “Teeth.” What? she asked.  You’ll have your teeth fixed, and continues, learn to drive, stop smoking and be sure you have income before you consider returning, right?  Really.  And besides, I said, there’s no house for you.  We are living in the rental until our remodel is done.  Well, we’ll hold out until summer, she offers. Keep thinking about what you wanted to accomplish, I suggest and change the subject. There’s no house until the end of the year, realistically, but I feel protective of it and worry about the stress of the proximity.  Don’t think about it, I decide.

I’m sure enjoying hanging out with you.  I tell Mom, you put on a bit of weight since I saw you in January.  Foodstamps, she suggests. He’s very relaxed, sleeps well and is a delight to chat with about what interests him. ( machinery, nature, the sky, moon and clouds, bugs, Metro, tools and the car and truck) You waited for the jumper cables to start the car after you left the door open with the light on  in the Prius. You sense of humor is wonderful (mine has to be too), your way of expressing yourself sounds so familiar like Daddy.  “The battery went out, you have to jump it, okay.  Its too big to jump grandma, but you should buy a new battery though.” hahaha

Grandpa had you helping with carpentry today and as you handed over a screw, you cover your ears ready for the sound of the drill.  Each time, you reach for a screw, hold it out, “Here, grandpa,” hands fly up over each ear. Finally you said, “I’m sick of all this noise.”

Okay, little guy, there might some lessons here about change, expectations and making plans. I have some thinking to do.  I was just beginning to like our visiting relationship. Tell your daddy and mommy: Where ever we go you take ourselves. That can be tough, and its the good part, too. gma