Thinking about death on a jumbo jet

Today I can’t go to school, you tell each person you see, because I have to go on a jumbo jet to Oregon.  Who are we going to visit?  I forgot.  We are visiting Grandpa’s mommy, your great grandma Janice, I tell you. She’s really really old and in two more months she will die, right? No, not right. And you will die, too.  Right? Hmmm.

Really old can be a physical state, but also a state of mind.  And in your life’s experience when things get old, they break, they need batteries, we may toss them out, or give them to sissy because they don’t fit.  When things are really old, Rocky comes and takes them to the dump, or Geoff knocks old stuff down with his dozer and hauls it away.  We demolish, crush and take away the old and make room for new. Old, sick horses die, so do old dogs, old parakeets, fish and old people.

But no need to worry.  We are not calling ourselves really old yet.  And neither does Grammie in Santa Cruz, nor does Janice, Grandpa’s mom.  Old people like to decide when they are old; like Hal Holbrook in the movie before sunset (or close to that) And we are not really old, just a little old.  I told you what Grammie said, that she will be really old in eleven years; when you are fifteen, ready to learn to drive and growing soft whiskers on your face. That’s far away. But, you firmly remind me, “You are still gonna die in twenty two months. And then you will be dead.  And you’ll miss me”, you surmise.  If I was dead, you’d miss me, too. I suggest. “Yes.  I will be sad.  But not yet.”  Let’s say that I will die someday; maybe even five hundred months from now.  And that is so, so many pieces of time. So so far away.  You’ll be a man and maybe have your own children by then. No-o-o-o.

Great Grandma Brown is happy in her apartment with her collections surrounding her. She has carved chickens, turkeys, cows, nests and many decorative boxes to play with.  She has leaves that she stitched from cloth to place around the nest for your stuffed little owlets.  She has buttons for assistance devices galore to push and switch and click.  Sissy went nuts pushing, clicking and snapping things on and off.  The rising chair goes back, vibrates, warms and goes up and down.  The bed lifts at the head, the feet and in the middle, the chair zooms, stops, blinks, beeps and reverses, the low TV, clocks, remotes and light switches are just irresistible.  You two worked on every automatic appliance in her place; checking what each could do, finding the limits, changing settings, squeaking them as far as they could go and finally (never tiring) we went back to the motel so your carpal tunnel wouldn’t act up again and also to give Uncle Mark a chance to reset it all.

Great Grandma makes quilts, prize winning, gorgeous, heirloom quilts that are valuable art pieces and each special to all of us in the family.  We are so happy that she gave us one made in Bonny Doon to hang on a protected wall in our new bedroom.  It has chickens, trees, ocean, ducks, plants, and all of them her own designs. We rolled it into a pillowcase, a special treasure, and can hardly wait to hang it on the finished wall.

You and Liza did so well on the trip.  Lots of time on laps, snuggled into seats and being asked to try to stay out of mischief.  You are amazing.  The motel with the suite’s extra room proved invaluable so Liza could get to sleep by 6:30 or 7, you around 8 and Grandpa and I could have some quiet time alone before our own bedtime. (around 8:05) ha.

We sang in the rental car from Portland to Eugene, La, la, la, la, Lo-la, E-I-E-I-O and Mellow Yellow.  Because Liza likes repetition most of all.  She started singing ABCs with you and ended with e-i-o.  Then every song you started she ended with e-i-o, and we all laughed.  Oh mister sun, sun, mister golden sun, shine your light on me. e-i-e-i-o.  Row, Row, Row your boat gently down the stream-e-i-e-i-o.  There once was a man named Michael Finnegan, he had whiskers on his chin-again, the wind came along and blew them in again, poor old Michael Finnegan, begin again.  e-i-e-o. Great Grandma’s legs are really swollen, e-i-e-i-o.  Metro pees on boots and shoes, e-i-e-i-o. I have to poop so can we stop, e-i-e-i-o. We are so clever at singing!

Thanks for helping us have so much fun on our trip.  Grandpa and Liza really got to know each other.  Wheeeeee on the roller bag. Hold my hand. Take a bite of this. Here want a drink? Let me hold you, munchkin.  Tired backs and tired kids.

love gma, (who isomicrophone not dying for hundreds of months-e-i-e-i-o.)

Finding places to rest with each other

Backrest?  Okay, says Georgia.  Better than stepping on my outstretched legs, clamoring over my tender belly, pushing fingers into my nose.  I actually like this.

We pretend we know what Georgia says.  We actually pretend what people are saying as we see them drive by and walk past us.  “Excuse me”, you say in jest, “I just peed my skivies.” This one was scripted for a lady who walked by frowning.  We laughed after she turned down the other aisle. The baby diaper aisle. Silliness is fun.

You and Liza are with Gina right now.  Its a short week because on Friday we fly to Portland for the weekend.  Liza feels better after her 4 shots, one in each arm and one in each thigh.  She only has two more to be caught up. Your immunization record card is missing and no one seems to know what shots you have had and haven’t had.  We’re figuring it all out.  Liza had a fever, runny nose and stayed up most nights irritated after the shots.  She seems better now. Me, too.

Happy Birthday week, Gina. Mommy’s stitches are healing (staples and glue actually) and daddy is still busy pulling wires for grandpa.  They don’t seem to be talking about important things.  Or much of anything. Mommy told me she found an affordable rental.  Affordable begs definition.  She says she has a campus job starting in February.  I say that is very good news.

All in all things are busy, humming away and days fly by like pages in the wind. love to all of us, gma

No Playing Chase

Toddlers can run away, giggle, look back and take off.  Just because they can.  You can run fast now.  You are so capable and so is your sister.  She runs past the car as I open the door and heads for the steep downhill driveway.  She’s fallen several times, skinned knees, hands, bumped head.  OUCH.  I remind her.  Stop.  What am I thinking …Toddlers cannot stop.  They only “go”.  My arms are full of diaper bags, lunch box and the car seat isn’t in the car Gina forgot it.  There you go. What is it about this behavior that shoves me to the edge, pushes me toward frustration, anger and a little mean wish that you’ll trip and fall before you get to the steep part?  I toss everything on the gravel, don’t want to chase, so I keep my face calm, take three huge steps and grab your hooded sweatshirt.  It yanks you to a stop.  No skinned knees today.  Strangulation instead. “Stop.  Ouch, you stopped.  Grandma held your shirt so you wouldn’t go kaboom.  Ouchie.  You stopped.”  I peek at her neck to assure myself that she’s not harmed.  Just shocked and frightened.  Stop, Ellie, I repeat.  Stop it grandma, my inside voice says.

This morning I found myself trapped in a mommy conundrum, a “Get-ready-to-go!” bad cycle that I can change, but tired, rushed and pissed off I peck at it, a cranky old hen.  I tell you at least fifteen times to get dressed.  The right sock, the heel down, stretch the neck of the sock.  Left sock now, please. Skivies, please.  I walk in and out of the room.  “Please” sounds threatening, so I drop it.  You lay on the couch your legs sailing around in the air, feet pointy and singing. Skivies, right now!  Who is this screeching old bat? I wonder.  You look confused and a little worried.

The other day we went see about getting you a toy that you wanted for Christmas.  It was from a movie that you and mom and dad watch over and over, Toy Story.  The robot space guy, I forget his name, was your favorite and you open your leather turtle that you keep your change in and cry that Santa needs this money for a present for you.  So we take your turtle money and go to the store and as I locate the toy on the shelf, realize that it costs about 50 dollars more than I want to spend (way more that your turtle change) and also is not a fantasy, soft, open-ended toy that I can imagine you using for long.  It is hard plastic, buttons, programmable and…. then you come round the corner, see it and back away.  You stop frozen to the spot.

Is this the one?  I ask.  No, this isn’t it.  I wonder.  Okay.  We walk along the aisle, you return twice to face the toy we’d planned on getting.  And finally you say, I see Jesse.  She’s happy.  Can I have her instead? Of course. I got to the car and heard you talking to Jesse as you untwisted each of the twenty or more wires twists holding her to her display box. You said, Grandma he was a mean guy.  We don’t like that mean kind of toy.  Grandpa told me he saw the character and thought the same thing, that the eyebrows slanted downward and the expression did look a little mean.  In all of that you still have your money turtle.  We forgot to spend it.  Something else will come up.  And you are a very wise shopper. ha.

I am learning so much about all of us.  Some are things I don’t want to know or think about.  But they dribble out all over me anyway, like your pee soaked night-night diaper, like Liza’s morning change. I don’t want to think about how mad I am at the end of the day, impatient, rude to Metro, even Grandpa, you and sissy.  I am mostly furious at Metro and tired, so tired. In his old age, he is a real pain in the butt.  He still awakens throughout the night needing to pee, thinks he wants to eat and often demands with a yip, howl or bark.  Ellie awakens.  I do.  Grandpa does.  UGH.  His stupid fricken toenails tapping on the bamboo flooring, and back across, and overlap and around and the sniffing nose, and he tries to jump onto the couch(?), but misses, slips and crashes then has a sneezing fit.

I listen before I can fall into sleep to not miss a leg lift and catch him in the act.  He just went out. He wanders around.  Dizzy and confused.  12 am, 2 am, 3 then 4 and 5 am.  In and out. The Ellie awakens for real at 5:12 or 5:24am.  The endless night travels and in and out of this dog is making me nuts! He barks for food.  I can’t bend this early; back still tight, so I lift him with my foot in the direction of his dog bed.  A foot lift is actually a kind of kick.  The kids mustn’t see me do this to our dog.  I am a little mean when tired.  A little mean when pushed.  I am a little mean.  Sorry buddy.  I didn’t tell you, because I never knew.  Or maybe I did and forgot.  I’ll work on finding my nice grandma self.  Maybe Metro needs to go and live with someone else, or maybe not.  I need a little nap and then some food and I’ll be just fine.  Like a baby, like you and Liza.  Simple as that.  Read and snooze,

love you, gma

This is it

Jan 9, 2012 next court date.  We are it.  This a new family.  This is it. OMG.  I can’t believe this happened to us, happened in our family.  I look in the mirror- brief glimpse, and think, I’m a guardian.  These are my kids.  This is different.  For at least a year.  The judge swears, signs and makes it so.  What we requested.  What is good for you.  Good for our family.  Its very hard for us all, too.  It really is.  Even in the sandbox, during our raucus laughter, our shared funny thing that you did, I can’t go home.  I can’t go back and be the grandma.  I stay the mom.  All day long.  Okay.  I know you have heard this, but it sinks in, its like lavender hand cream, handmade in Bonny Doon, it smells nice in the bottle, lovely going on and then in the middle of the night, there it is again, surprisingly lovely, pleasant, still lavender on the pillow.  Shouldn’t be a surprise, but it is.

Mom got into a class she was on the wait list for.  She wants to go to college, work and become ready to take you back in a year.  She has three courses, art and journalism.  She seems excited about it.  Seems happy to be going to school.  The cost of art classes may be hard to manage.  The two days and one night of courses means lots of bus and car rides.  May be better for them to be in town. The little house here will require a lot of them- like upkeep and rent.  Today I told them about the readiness criteria for taking over this house.  The rent, the utilities, the ability to take care and be responsible for the long term for it.  And that they may not be ready when the time comes.  I invited mom and dad to talk about budget, strategies and alternatives.  They were unhappy.  I was relieved to have restarted our conversation.  To not worry about you being taken away, not losing out because of your mommy and daddy having grown-up trouble.  Trouble being grown-ups.

Maybe the tent won’t look so bad after they think about another life in Santa Cruz.  Maybe lots of things.  But, buddy, life is really hard to manage sometimes.  Stay in school, make long lasting friends and work hard.  I feel sad today.  Sad for your mommy and daddy.  But you are okay.  You are a wonderful interested, loving and deserving fellow.  You are our little boy, buddy.  And your sister our little girl.  Safe and secure here in Bonny Doon.

Grandpa’s truck broke down, we drove him to the airport and you pointed off at the east bay mountains and asked me to please go that way past the windmills and to Echo Lake cabin.  And cried when we turned back to Bonny Doon.  You’ll fly with us in two weeks to go visit Great Grandma Brown in Eugene. All of us will go.  It will be fun.  Not Echo, but a fun journey to visit Grandpa’s mom, Janice.  Grandpa will take you, too.  All of us. off to bed, tomorrow a Gina Day….gma


100_3927The cottage has bamboo flooring throughout.  I used a few fuzzy tabs (like the receptive side of Velcro) on the bottoms of the furniture to keep from scratching the perfect finish when we moved in.  The bar stools would have scribbled a permanent mess around the counter in the kitchen.  We have lots of dirt, sand and sometimes pea gravel lodges itself in rubber boot soles from the driveway.  But we’ve managed it pretty well.  There is a patina of wear from us.  But pretty evenly distributed for the most part. The old house had carpet; quiet, forgiving and nastily filthy after all the years shedding on it-corn flakes of skin and debris from everyday life.  The remodeled house will have wooden flooring, too.  Toddler proofing included… the standard, cupboard clips (that had to be tested first on old, arthritic hands) after-all, we had to be able to open the cupboards unassisted by you.  What if you weren’t home and I wanted to scrub the sink, eat some canned soup?

I invested (really) in several little packages of the fuzzy tabs at IKEA, then again at Home Depot and again at Ace.  I finally found a big sheet of it with sticky backing at the fabric store for cutting custom sizes.  Originally, I clipped the rounds in half and placed them on tiny-legged things, (not you guys), like end tables, kid chairs and wheel-less wooden toys that might be pushed around. (I don’t know if you knew about my thriftiness.  Ever seen my notes and grocery lists on scraps from envelopes, paper towels that have the option to split into thirds of regular size and washed plastic wrap hanging for re-use? Some of these habits I am letting go of, just too time consuming.)  Anyway, all the chairs, the tables, the trash cans, stools, Ellie’s eating chair all have slippery bottoms.  And Liza tests each thing, like the laundry basket she uses as a push toy to remind me in case I forgot something.  Now we have to be careful, because when you lean down at our house to adjust your shoe, scratch a foot or put on a boot, placing your hand on a table of stool for support, it slips away from you, leaving you flat.

The dishwasher is an interesting place for Liza.  So when she’s in her eating chair I try to open and put away or re-stack the dishes.  I have learned that even when she’s busy elsewhere in the house, once she hears the clank of pans or dishes, her little claws appear to pluck out then drop every item in reach. Now I put only plastic items, kids plates, cups, Tupperware in the front and she can pick and drop and put back to her heart’s (and hands) desire.

The toilet is Liza’s number one favorite.  It has everything she desires; open close lid, a container to drop and take out from, sensory appeal of chilly water and sometimes an added and curious floating things, oops.  It has a mechanical flusher, noise, smell, slam, swish and paper right next to it that seems to go on forever.  A most perfect toddler toy.  So we gave it to her.  Its hers now.  We all go outdoors to pee.  Actually, I forgot the most important element, “No, Liza.”  Get out of here, you say.  I need privacy.  Yucky, we say. Sucio.  Dirty. Let’s go find you a pan of water in the kitchen.  The activity, the hullaballoo and interest of every person who catches her at it.  Our bathroom, chilly and unheated stays closed, unless we forget.  She lies in wait. It’s a seasonal amusement park that opens only every other Tuesday for locals.  She keeps checking. And in a pinch, the dogs water dish will do.

Metro and Georgia had become accustomed to our quiet evenings (translation: boring).  The each lay in the same spot, doggie bed or foot stool- claiming it for hours at a time.  But not anymore.  Liza demands her right to the best spot.  Wherever Metro is-that’s best.  And when he gives up and goes outside to lay on the porch, Georgia’s her victim.  So, we got her a dog bed for Christmas.  And now when Metro sneaks into it, she tips him out, snuggles in and sits up victorious; dog hair glued to her mucous-y nose and grinning lips.

I forgot how a toddler sucks all the air out of room and warms it right back up.  How she can use each of us up and also inflate us with joy.  You claim a small space to play uninterrupted, Georgia, eating her food with hands slipping in vying for the best morsels, from the right then the left. A beer up-ended, hands in ice filled tumblers just wanting one sliver of ice to crack her teeth on.  Squealing for everything she just realized she wants, used to want or may someday want.  Laying flat throughout the day in protest.  But more carefully now, so she doesn’t bump her head.  It looks like you want some juice, too.  Each of us talk like this to your sister.  You can say, juice, you tell her.  We show her the sign for drink.  She is fully entertained, laying on her back on the bamboo floor, we scurry about, signaling for juice, trying to get the lower cupboard open calmly. Those dang clips! We pick up the dog water again, close the refrigerator really fast, or the mustard appears in the toilet.  No wonder she goes to bed early.  She’s exhausted. And us?  We are by then a little tired of making adaptations for every single little movement we make. So we stay up awhile just for the peace. Usually that lasts a half an hour and then I doze off.

Ah.  Napping now.  Floor is clean, toys picked up, bathroom door closed.  Next house it will be the door handles that let her in and out when she can reach them. The bar type.  Maybe we have a week or two before that adaptation has to be made.  If she was a raccoon, I’d use clips, hasps and chain.  But on the front door?  Friday we are your permanent guardians.  It will last for at least a year, if not for life.  Adaptations.  That’s what life is.  We adapt and accommodate over and over and over til the end, I imagine.  Til the end.  love you, gma. The end, by the way, is far far off. Thousands. (of days, anyway)

wuz gonna’

I was going to post a  blog, but Liza needed a diaper change; no delay.  I was going to post a blog, but Georgia barked at metro who whined at the door for the UPS driver’s cookie treats and woke up the kids.  I was going to post, but my own voice depressed me.  I was going to post, but my sister stopped by and we had tea and a sweet adult conversation for a few minutes.  It is her birthday.  I was going to post a blog, talk to my imaginary friends, but the toilet was being flushed repeatedly until only air bubbles gurgled and then emitted a groan, making sissy cry. I was going to blog, but you had the idea to go get his electric box slug collection over at the worksite.  It was 9 pm. I was going to post a blog, but Liza took off all her clothes and diaper for the third time and her feet were turning purple on the bare floor. I was going to post, but needed to stop for a quick pee, found the black stallion in the toilet but I couldn’t stop to get it first, its legs sticking straight up; kinda scary. I was going to post but in this light, I noticed a smear of boogies on my black shirt, and remembered I’d seen the same smear two days ago.  I took a shower and changed my clothes instead.  I was going to post to my blog, but had to lay flat and stretch instead.  My back aches, but has little pain.  I was going to post, but the warming milk boiled over and crusted over the pan, the burner and the stove top.

I was going to have sex, kissing and smoothing back our sweaty hair from our foreheads, smiling and slippery, kissing again and falling asleep, but decided to post a blog.

The black stallion has been rescued from the toilet six times, the trash has to be checked each time we dump it for keys, my wallet, pens, sox, skivies, and once a spoon and bowl.  I can’t even think about what I have already unknowingly sent to the dump.  The bathroom door was open, Liza heading that way and  you scream for me to build with you.

I was going to keep blogging, but I promised to play with you.  First, the little black horse, again.  I used to worry that its fragile legs might break leaving sharp edges.  No more. Maybe if he scratches you, he’ll be safe from your science experiment.  (or is it a social science experiment with me the subject?) Hey,  let’s build a barn with a locked door to contain that wild horse.    Here I come. gma

Its a Gina Day

Get up, eat your eggies, change a diaper, slippies on, brush teeth. Lunch packed, diaper bag refreshed, slippies off, shoes on and you are gone. I am here, the swoosh of the dishwasher, the clank of the overalls in the dryer and the dog snores.

I have scheduled the insulation contractors, found a plumbing error, working on Chuck to stain the ceiling in between insulation, wallboard after windows. The tile designs are nearly done, wainscotting measured for faucet height, switch plates and aesthetics. The stairs and front door are in a design phase, upper lanterns for living room being conceived by Neal and the deck nearly ready for next steps. Its busy around here. And the windows are gorgeous. You and I stood in wonder looking out at the ocean last night before sunset.

Investigator from court spent a few hours with us; interview, chat and a little looking around. You tooted a horn to interrupt us several times (got to listen to what your toots were telling us). The court hearing will not be contested by your mommy and daddy. Mommy seems okay, stuck maybe. Surgery for her hernia on Tuesday, court on Friday. Then does our normal return? Do we have one anymore? This new normal. The one that brings Gina 3 times a week, has you on my lap snuggling with room for your sister each morning while Grandpa sleeps in the next room. The normal that gives me hope. The normal that will change everyday. The one we chose for you.

It was the right choice, buddy. Love and errands, gma

A collection of experiences

We seem to be a unit, a set, a flock, a pack; a new and fully functioning social group.  Its only been a couple of months, but the thousands of hours together, the sticky glue of shared daily activities, straightening out crinkled interactions, and some stressful accommodations; the relationship-building, the making of this family seems to be occurring to us, because of us.

You are in love with your new room, the soft bed, fluffy comforter and the low windows overlooking the garden.  You and your sister sit and play on the warm and radiant flooring.  You seem relaxed. Doing okay.  Your sister sleeps better, awakens at a more reasonable hour and is eating well.  We thrive on routine.

We get up, Liza runs to get her diaper and climbs to the couch and puts up her legs for changing. I pour a dozen Fruitful O’s in a two-handled cup with an owl on it.  “OOOOO” she says each day and munches her O’s under a fuzzy blanket that Grammie made years ago with horses on it.  She lowers her voice to deeply growl, “Hmmmm…Hmmmm”, a horse whinny. I get coffee. “Hot” she says several times.  Often palming the cup to validate her knowing. She still cries and tosses herself on the ground rather than trusts that I will really get her some juice.  Today she began to fuss but pointed instead and I gave her a sippy cup of warm milk.  She wriggled about and said, “Mmmmm.” We’ll do milk from now on.  You and Grandpa are asleep for another hour or so. Liza plays, we read books and fix breakfast.  Sometimes she stands on the stool and works with me at the counter.

I wonder how you really are.  I see you with daddy, removed and vaguely remote.  It takes awhile.  Mommy picks up Liza, hugging and greets you verbally. Daddy twirls her around and kisses her neck vigorously. I ask you to hug them, them to snuggle and squeeze you, too.  We are working on a schedule for quality time, for visitation.  More regular time, longer periods together.  It seems crucial for your relationships and to maintain a warm, trusting and nurturing quality that has a chance to endure.  Mom and Dad are working to develop a schedule for weekly time with you kids. By the hearing we will have agreed to some things.  I’ll be happy when that is over.  Your mommy’s mom is very upset and wants to come tell the judge. I wish she’d come all this way to see you.  Rather than come all this way to ruffle her feathers in public.  I’m not sure how mommy will do with this.

Well, buddy, you look pooped, a day with Gina at the park, at her house and learning new things, meeting new people.  Let’s rest a bit, cook some dinner and read some books.  I love you.  And now that I have a little time on my own, my back is healing, anything seems possible.  And sunny days are nice too.  Gma