March 31, 2012

Trash: it's what's for dinner

My grandpa, Poppy,* was a Dumpster diver when I was a teenager.  I was totally embarrassed at the time, of course, but now I appreciate his resourcefulness. 

It started when he took a part-time greeter/bagger job at a grocery store after he retired.  He discovered that grocery stores throw (literally) tons of perfectly good food away everyday.  Some food (mostly bread and canned goods) nearing expiration gets donated to food pantries, but a staggering amount of fresh produce, milk, and meat gets wasted.

My grandpa also volunteered at a food pantry.  The juxtaposition of grocery store waste and food pantry need bothered him.

Why did these grocery stores waste so much food when there were families going hungry?

They were afraid to get sued should their food donations inadvertently cause someone to get sick.

Prior to the fall of 1996, grocery stores had little protection against lawsuits from consumers of their donated goods.  On October 1, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.  This act was designed to encourage stores to donate food to non-profit programs for distribution to those in need.  It protects them from "criminal and civil liability should the product donated in good faith later cause harm to the recipient."

But there was no such act when I was growing up.   

I was embarrassed about my grandpa's Dumpster diving, but it didn't stop me from eating the food he brought home.  I was just afraid someone I knew would recognize my Dumpster-gatherer grandpa and then tell all the kids at school that we were too poor to afford food. 

And we weren't.  Dumpster diving wasn't about poverty for us; it was about avoiding waste.

My grandpa had grown up poor during the Great Depression.  His father died when he was 5, and his mother raised 5 kids alone.  They often didn't have enough to eat.  As a result, it was important to my grandpa to always have plenty of food in the house.  And he always had a vegetable garden.  Even in the suburbs.  He grew amazing tomatoes. 

Poppy and Tree Guy in the garden

Poppy made sure to only bring home still-cold perishables, so we never got sick from any of the Dumpster food.  I went on to work at that same grocery store when I was 15.  I too saw the waste firsthand.  I also discovered that there were other Dumpster divers.  These people knew when the grocery stores around town threw out their expired food, and they shopped the Dumpsters like most of us shop at Walmart.  That normalized it for me somewhat. 

Besides, if you think about it, the difference between a grocery store sale rack and the Dumpster is only about 50 feet.

For more about dumpster diving, check out Dive!

Have you ever Dumpster dived?  Would you eat food from a grocery store Dumpster?


*On a side note, this poppy tattoo on my back is in honor of my grandpa.

The BFF portrait: a progression

In case I haven't bombarded you with enough pictures recently, here, by popular request, is the progression of The BFF Portrait.

And by popular request I mean that one person asked me to post this.

After we'd looked at all the museum exhibits, Shrinky Dink's eldest daughter offered to take some pictures of the two of us.  Usually moms are behind the camera, leaving photo albums and scrapbooks looking like they belong to orphans.  We figured a mom-centric photo shoot would help balance that out.   

Dinky Daughter #1 snapped away while we made faces--having no idea that the other one of us was doing the same.

Here are the results.

It takes a special person to be my friend, y'all.

March 26, 2012

Day at the museum - part II

Part I is here.

The cool thing about this particular museum is that there are tons of dinosaur skeletons on display.  Many of them are cast, life-size replicas, but some of them are actual dinosaur bones found in our state or region.  There's a giant fossilized femur from an actual dinosaur that visitors can touch!  (Or bite, as the case may be.)

Somebody should really teach that child how to behave in public...

And while I'm on that topic, here are a couple photos that perfectly encapsulate the ridiculous notions siblings seem to hold about fairness. 

Here are some cool dinosaur pictures.  The first one illustrates why I don't swim in natural bodies of water.  You never know what might be lurking down there! 

This one is a prehistoric bear.  Which illustrates why I don't go walking in the woods alone.

There were other exhibits, but they weren't as cool as the Hall of Ancient Life. So we had to entertain ourselves. The kids were (predictably) fascinated with the mammoth statue's giant penis. Particularly when other, smaller kids mistook it for an udder...

In this next one, Shrinky Dink and I are fixing our hair so we can look hot in our BFF portrait.

Did it work?

That one illustrates why our children don't know how to behave in public.

I will leave you with this picture of Shrinky Dink in mid-laugh.  I love this one.  It totally cracks me up.  And I think it's a good accompaniment for her quote of the day.

"The older I get, the more I look like Ms. Frizzle."
~Shrinky Dink

March 24, 2012

Day at the museum - part I

Since the whole McDonald's Playplace thing didn't go so well, Shrinky Dink and I decided to cap off our kids' Spring Break with a road trip to a really cool natural history museum.  The morning started with the usual goofiness from me:

The usual crazybusy multi-tasking from Shrinky Dink:

And the usual happy road trip anticipation from the kids:

What was mercifully absent from the drive to the museum was the usual arguing, kicking, slapping, I'm-not-touching-you, are-we-there-yet, toy-snatching, and food-begging from the kids.

It was awesome.

We stopped for lunch, and amazingly, no food fights erupted.

Since it's Spring Break, the museum had some special activities planned. Like face painting. Only, no one was actually painting faces. They just set the grease paint nubs out and let moms, dads, and grandparents go to town. Fortunately for Shrinky Dink's shorties, their mom is quite the artist. (For real. You should see her paintings.) She spent 348656 hours painting the faces of her 3 girls while Nature Boy complained about having to wait around for them.

Stay tuned for Part II (wherein we actually--finally--get our museum on).

March 22, 2012

McDonald's Playplace: a good place to catch some Zs

Last night Shrinky Dink and I took the kids to get some grub at McDonald's.  Like anyone who values her sense of hearing (and sanity!), we opted for a table outside of the playroom.  Our kids ran through the place emitting girly shrieks here and manly sonic booms there.  But we were cool with that because we were safely out of hearing range. 

As parents should be.

We were digging into our Angus burgers when we were irritatingly interrupted by another mom.  She asked us if the girl with the purple striped shirt belonged to either of us.  Shrinky Dink owned up and the lady said, "I was wondering if you could ask your daughter to be quieter.  She's run by several times screaming and I have a 10-day-old baby."  Then she looked at us all smarmily--as if to say, I have given birth to the Christ Child, ladies.  It is right and good that I am addressing you.  Surely you agree that concessions must be made and obeisance is owed.

I'm pretty sure I looked like this at the time.

Now I understand the whole sleeping baby thing, and if this was the library, I'd also understand this woman's request.  However.  This was a McDonald's Playplace at 8 o'clock at night.  On Spring Break.  And she wants it to be quiet so her baby can sleep?  Girl, please.  She could have walked the 10 feet to the room where Shrinky Dink and I were sitting and still had a full view of everything going on in the playroom. 

I ask you, dear readers, what kind of person goes to a McDonald's Playplace and asks other parents to tell their kids to be quiet so her baby can sleep?!

Now, you might be thinking, A desperate postpartum woman who wants her baby to sleep more than 5 minutes at a time, that's who!

Okay, I'll grant you that.  But who chooses a McDonald's Playplace as the location for said nap?  And furthermore, does her desire for a public baby nap outweigh Shrinky Dink's kids' need for some boisterous, kid-centric play after a very rainy Spring Break spent indoors?  Or more importantly, our need for a little adult conversation after such a week?

Shrinky Dink has a higher tolerance for bullshit than I do, so she was all classy and agreed to ask her daughter to tone it down.  I don't blame her.  Somebody's gotta be the level-headed one.  My (internal) response was, "If you don't like noise, get out of the playroom, beeotch!"  But I didn't say that.  Because I'm on medication that helps with such things. 

And I was really into that Angus burger.

March 17, 2012

Freakville is over the hill

When I was a youngster newly fledged from the nest, I thought middle-aged people were pervs.  I'd started a summer job working as a receptionist in an engine repair shop.  I liked the job because I enjoyed all the face time with customers (hard to believe, I know), and because office work provides lots of organization and task completion opportunities (perfect for someone with OCD). 

I was 19 and good-looking.  I was open-minded and rebellious and ballsy.  This must have been a recipe for middle-aged lust, because I had to fend off multiple amorous advances from people my parents' age that summer.  First there were the married mechanics.  Miguel had a big family back in Mexico.  He was the best mechanic we had, and he sent most of his money home to his wife.  He wanted a gringa girlfriend and he decided that that gringa would be me.

Then there was Ernie.  He was married with kids too, and his family was local.  He told me he wanted to have gringitos with me.  A guy from Guatemala asked me to marry him.  He was my age, but shorter than my 5-foot-3-inch self.  (5'5" if you count my early 90s hair.)  The gray-haired tow truck guy asked me to lunch one afternoon.  And I was actually kissed by an old family friend.  He was married too, but said he couldn't help himself because he'd always wanted to be with a curvy, white woman with blond hair and blue eyes.  Yuck. 

All of this attention was creepy enough.  But the freakiest advance was to come.  The general manager of the shop and his secretary were having an affair, and they asked me to er, join them, for a birthday celebration.  Like I was a present for turning 40 or something.  I said no, of course, and he wasn't all, "If you don't party with us, you're fired," or anything, but it made for an uncomfortable work environment.

Working that summer job made the guys at college seem like featherweights.  I went back to school for the fall semester grateful for the relative ordinariness of slurring frat boys and dance club gropings.

Growing up a girl is hard.

Now that I'm approaching middle age, my perspective on the Over the Hill Club has changed.  It is now my belief that being a perv was a job requirement for anyone applying to work in that shop.  In other words, it was location-specific, not age-specific.  Which is good news for the middle-aged men of today. 

Because I've been working on my ninja skills.             

March 16, 2012

The irony

There has been a bit o' blog-related drama in my 'hood this week, y'all.  A post I wrote about a certain rock-throwing neighborhood kid was read by several giggly neighborhood girls--and promptly used against him in a school bus of law. 

I didn't show these kids the post, mind.  (This isn't a children's blog!)  But read it they did.  As soon as I found out about it, I deleted the post.  And I'm glad I did, because the next day, one or more (no one is fessing up) of these drama-magnets middle school girls told the rock-throwing kid--with much laughter at his expense, I'm sure--all about my blog post.  Including the Harry Potter reference. 

I guess he's not a Potter fan, because he showed up at my door yesterday after school.


He wasn't disrespectful to me, but he did imply that I am not the boss of him, to which I replied, "When you're doing something dangerous around my kid or Shrinky Dink's kids, yes. I. am."  I apologized to him about the blog post though, because that mess shouldn't have happened.  Those girls never should have been shown the post.  He never should have known about it.

The irony is that a post about bullying became a tool to bully the kid himself.  And that was not my intention.

One of the best parts of blogging is the freedom that comes with relative anonymity. The ability to speak your truths and process away without fear. I don't use real names or locations to protect the innocent as well as the not-so-innocent. And I thought it was enough.

I was wrong.

I really don't want to block IP addresses or make this a private, subscription-only blog, but I'm a bit concerned about maintaining my anonymity now.  I don't want to have to censor myself.  That takes the fun out of blogging.

And let's face it.  What would this blog be without all the making fun of people*?!


*And now my Catholic guilt is kicking in, telling me, Maybe this happened for a reason.  Maybe you shouldn't be making fun of people in the first place.  Maybe you should actually be doing something beneficial for the world--or at least for your own family--instead of kvetching all the time.


March 12, 2012

Balto: sins of exuberance

My BFF, Shrinky Dink, adopted a husky/pit mix puppy named Balto last fall because her life is not chaotic enough.

She snubs her nose at the challenges of raising her 3, um...exuberant girls, working as a full-time therapist, restraining herself from putting out a hit on her jerk of an ex, dating her Schwann's-loving, hilariously smartass (except when he directs it toward me) boyfriend of a year, and learning how to pay all the bills and maintain a house as a first-time single mom--all while managing her ADHD and worrying about ailing family members.

With this much going on, the OBVIOUS next step is to adopt a puppy!

And Balto's not just any puppy.  He's hell on wheels of the Marley and Me variety.  He literally eats sofa cushions.  I once had to pull a 24-inch long amalgam of sofa remnants out of his gullet.  It was like that magic trick with the scarves up the sleeve.  (I was like, When is it going to STOP?!)  He's also a sock and pajama thief.  He gets all Agent 007 and sneaks into the girls' rooms to snatch a delicious-smelling sock or pajama pant.  He creeps out into the living room and french kisses it until he's caught.

Which happens pretty quickly.  Because Furry Einstein brings his verboten booty into the living room!  Where everyone else is!  He goes through all those tactical maneuvers just to eat their laundry in plain sight.

Balto is not the sharpest tool in the shed.

He's lovable though.  And fortunately for Shrinky Dink, he's very tolerant of her uh...lively children.  No matter what they do to him (and as the self-designated Pet Police, I have intervened many a time), he just keeps his happy grin and friendly demeanor. 

He loves him some people. 

This is Tree Guy and me trying to have a nice New Years Eve at Shrinky Dink's house. 
Balto got all up in our business.

This is Balto trying to mooch some cheesecake from Shrinky Dink and her man (who has yet to grant me clearance to use his picture on my blog, so...) 

One day, Nature Boy had the bone-headed idea to test Balto's pulling skills.  He put the dog on a leash and got on his scooter.  Balto pulled him up and down the street until they both got tired.  Shrinky Dink and I were chillin' at her house as is our wont, when one of her girls saw the "sled team" coming toward the porch and helpfully opened the front door. 

That was not part of Nature Boy's plan. 

In his excitement to be reunited with his family, Balto bolted through the door--bringing both Nature Boy and the scooter with him.  The scooter hit the door frame, which propelled Nature Boy in an arc across the living room.  He flew through the air with the greatest of ease and then, THUD.  Right on his pinky toe.

Yep, it was broken. 

And I'm pretty sure that somehow, it's all Shrinky Dink's fault.

March 09, 2012

Just doing my part for mankind

I think I'm over my pensive mood.


At least this time.

(ponderous attempt at levity...)

A bipolar's blog is like a box of chocolates.

(PMS-fueled sidetrack...)

Mmmm, chocolate.



(ponderous attempt at levity #2...)

A bipolar woman's blog is like muthaforkin' chocolate FACTORY, y'all. 

(pathetic attempt at a segue...)

And speaking of therapeutic things, it was healing for me to write about my grandparents.  I needed to think these things "out loud", and it feels good to have honored my grand-peeps this way.  Thanks for hanging in there with me.

And now back to making fun of people.

I strolled around Ross yesterday, looking for a new pair of shoes for Nature Boy.  My cheap ass doesn't want to pay more than $20 for a pair of shoes, but the menfolk in my family have high maintenance feet, so I have to fork over the big bucks. 

Which means $35--max.  Which also means that I don't buy my husband shoes at all.  Because he will only wear $85 shoes.  And that's like, twice my entire shoe wardrobe!

Our son is more reasonable.  He likes Sketchers.  With the Velcro straps, please.  In black.  These shoes normally cost about $40 or $45.  Which is still more than $35.  Hence my bargain store trolling.

I didn't find any shoes this go round.  (Strangely, now that Nature Boy's wearing a men's size, it's getting near-impossible to find Velcro shoes.  Don't grown men still enjoy ease in their shoe fastening endeavors?  Don't folks with man feet forget how to tie their shoes sometimes?)

But I did find this door mat for my BFF, Shrinky Dink.   

At first I tried to play it off like I was simply saying her girls tend to track mud in, when really I was implying that folks need to gird their loins before entering the Shrinky Dink and Co. household. But Shrinky Dink got the "joke" immediately, cracked up harder than I did, and ran out of the house to install this Public Service Announcement by the front door.

And she even took this picture for you.

Love that girl.

Her mini-me middle child did not take as kindly to the new welcome mat.  She got off the school bus, took one look at my generous gift, and proceeded to roll it up and hide it in the garage. 


Shrinky Dink, being a child therapist and all, did the healthy, sensible thing: she made her daughter retrieve the mat and put it back in its rightful place.  (She didn't make her thank me or anything, but I was in a good mood today, so I took the high road and overlooked that breach of etiquette.)  Daughter #2 was still peeved about the offending decor, so I helpfully drank her mom's coffee and attempted to remedy the situation.

I kindly said, "I just meant that you guys come in the house with muddy feet all the time."

She didn't buy it.

9-year-olds suck.  They are too young to appreciate my hilarious sense of humor, but too old to fall for my BS.

I was bored of the whole thing by then, so I helped Shrinky Dink get rid of some of her hummus and talked at length about my new lipstick purchases. 

Which I didn't buy, of course.  I did what any penny-pinching makeup flake would do:  I returned the last impulsive lipsticks I bought and don't wear, and used the store credit to get two new ones.

What?  How else could I afford that $5 door mat?

March 07, 2012

My grandpa. Like Meemaw, but without all the cussing.

If you've been here awhile, you are well acquainted with my wonderful, complicated, loving, stubborn, feisty grandma, Meemaw. You know that I took care of her for 2 of the last 3 years of her life. You also know that she passed away from lung cancer this past December.

I've mentioned her husband, my Poppy, before, but he deserves more than a mention. A girl couldn't ask for a better grandpa than mine was. Everyone liked Poppy. He was kind and generous and trustworthy. He really valued integrity and honesty. More than anyone else in my life, he took the time to talk about the choices we make and how those choices make us. He taught me about character, something I desperately needed more of as a young adult.

He was a "face-time" grandpa. He liked puttering around outside with his grandkids. We worked with him in his tool shed, fed the chickens together, tended to his garden, rode shotgun to the feed store and town, and laughed and sang with him at the dinner table. (I have a cassette recording of Poppy and 2-year-old me singing Ain't She Sweet? together.) He was a champion letter writer.  He wrote letters to us all up until a few months before he died.

My brother Collin and me barbecuing with Poppy in 1983.
How cute was Collin?!     

Bonding with a new generation. 
Nature Boy and Poppy puttering around outside, supervised by Raven and Meemaw and Poppy's sweet chow mix, Sadie.

He understood that we needed that time. He knew that the time with him could fill some of the space left by absent fathers, by troubled mothers. He made each of us feel really and truly loved. And having the Poppy Seal of Approval meant more to me than most people's acceptance. If someone as awesome as Poppy liked and approved of me, I figured I must not be all that bad.

He was my hero.

I lost my grandpa in September of 2008 after a short battle with lung cancer.  His doctor found a shadow on his chest x-ray and referred him to a hospital an hour and a half away for a lung biopsy and a PET scan.  I drove to Texas to take him for his tests.  (The hospital was too far away for my grandma to drive him.) 

Poppy was exposed to asbestos as a young man.*  Doctors had been monitoring spots on his lungs for decades.  He started smoking cigarettes in mid-life, and he always regretted it.  He tried to quit smoking several times, and was finally successful 6 months before he died.  He wanted to be a better example for my then 8-year-old son who had said, "When I grow up, I want to be just like Poppy.  Except I won't smoke." 

A couple weeks after the biopsy, I returned to Texas to take my grandparents to the hospital for the results.  The pulmonologist was very soft-spoken and my grandpa wore hearing aids.  He couldn't hear what the doctor said, so I had to repeat everything to him.  Which means, I was the one who told my grandfather that he had inoperable lung cancer that had spread to his bones.  I had to tell this wonderful man that his doctor believed he had about a year to live.  It was devastating. 

Not only that, but the doctor told us it would no longer be possible for my grandparents to live alone in their home.  He said my grandma would not be able to handle her husband's care by herself and that they needed to choose:  moving in with a relative or moving into a nursing home.

Three weeks later, my grandparents left their home, left most of their belongings, and moved in with me and my family in a tiny 3-bedroom house in another state.  It happened so quickly that there was no time to sell their house.  There was no space for extra furniture.  No room for their many dogs.  (All of their dogs went to live with their youngest son, except for one: their little one-eyed terrier mix, Tina.  She lost her eye in a turf war with a pack of redneck pomeranians.  True story.)

A week after the move, my grandpa was placed on hospice.  And a week after that, he was gone.

Following is the eulogy I wrote for Poppy's funeral.

William Henry Lambert
November 17, 1920-September 21, 2008

“Bill” Lambert was born in California in 1920. He was the youngest of five children. Bill’s father died when he was five, and his mother and the children moved from place to place struggling to make it through the Great Depression. Sometimes they only had potatoes to eat.

Bill voluntarily enlisted in the Army during WWII and served on the U.S. coastal defense until 1944 when he went to Europe to serve under General Patton. Bill was given the chance to go to officer’s training school, but he chose instead to work his way up through the ranks. He made this decision because he saw that officers who hadn’t gone through the ranks weren’t respected like those who had. During his enlistment, Bill attained the rank of Tech Sergeant and was a rifle sharpshooter. He earned several medals including the Bronze Star. He was honorably discharged in November of 1945.

In January 1944, Bill met a fellow soldier’s sister, Dorothy. Nine days later they married. After the war, the Lamberts settled in Illinois near Dorothy’s family. Bill got a job at the Alton & Southern Railroad. He worked as a switchman and union officer, helping workers and management find common ground. He advocated for black men to have the right to apply for railroad jobs, and for testing to be the criteria for hiring decisions. It was his job to notify wives when their husbands were accidentally killed on the tracks, and he worked to get the men's families the largest pensions he could. Bill worked there for 30 years before retiring and moving to Texas.

Bill and Dorothy have four children, five grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. They were married for 64 years. “Poppy” loved horse racing, the Dallas Cowboys, Bill O’Reilly, vegetable gardening, being outside, writing, musicals, and westerns—especially John Wayne movies. His greatest dream was to have his entire family close and provided for. He loved to tell stories and jokes. Sometimes multiple times…

Everyone who knew Bill liked and respected him. He was a true patriot. He had a strong faith in God. He was a man who took his responsibilities seriously, and he did his best to live an honest, virtuous life. He was a wonderful example of the Greatest Generation.

If you knew Poppy, please leave a comment below sharing a favorite memory of him.


*My grandpa wasn't diagnosed with mesothelioma (exposure to asbestos is the primary risk factor), but it's possible that he had it.  His cancer was so advanced when it was found that further testing was unnecessary and it wouldn't have been particularly helpful.  Please check out mesothelioma survivor Heather Von St. James's blog.  She's inspiring!

Heather Von St. James - Mesothelioma Survivor        Blog

March 06, 2012

My grandparents: a love story

Have you ever wondered how I ended up living with my grandparents when my parents are very much alive and in my life?  (Surely you sit around pondering how someone as fascinating and together as I am could have had anything but a Cosby-like family growing up, right?  Totally understandable.)

My bond with Meemaw and Poppy started really early.  When I was 5 weeks old, my mom hurt her back while trying to get in shape for boot camp.  Her doctor said no lifting, so she stayed at home and I moved in with her parents.  I lived with Meemaw and Poppy until I was 5 months old.  That's prime bonding time, y'all.  My grandpa still worked long hours at the railroad back then, so I had months of concentrated Meemaw time.

And this is the only time my naked butt will ever be online. Meemaw always said she was going to show this picture at my wedding reception. She didn't do it, but I will in her memory. (*Raises glass*) Two cheeks for Meemaw!

Soooo big!  And back with Mom.

I lived with my grandparents off and on for most of my childhood.  For as long as I can remember, home was always wherever they were.  Sometimes I'd visit for extended periods, and sometimes, when times were tough, my mom, my brother, and I would all move in for awhile.  When it was time to move out on our own, I never wanted to go.  My mom wanted me with her, but I resented her for taking me away from Meemaw and Poppy.  I moved 11 times in 11 years.

I was 2 years old when this photo was taken at my grandparents' farm. My grandma wrote this on the back of it: "I love this picture. Isn't it cute? One sock up & one down."

I was 12 and had been living with my mom and brother for 2 years when I called my grandma to say that I would run away if I couldn't move back in with her and my grandpa.  Things weren't going well at home.  (Did I mention I was 12?)  My mom was a young single mom, and she wasn't receiving child support or parenting help from our dads.  She had to work full-time, and I watched my brother after school and some evenings.  She liked to go out, but my brother and I were scared to be alone at night.  (Back then, the Po Po wouldn't come after you for leaving your kids home alone.)  All in all, it wasn't a hard life.  There were no beatings or neglect.  I believe that my mom did the best she could alone.  But one of the hard truths of life is that sometimes our best isn't enough.  And even if it had been enough, it just wasn't where I felt I belonged. 

Mom and me.  You know this was in the '70s! 
My head looks strangely Oompa Loompa-ish here.

My grandparents were in their 60s when they agreed to take me in permanently.  They became my guardians, and I lived with them until they dropped me off at college.  I was far from a perfect teenager, but I was better for being with them.

I know it was hard for my mom--this bond I shared with Meemaw. But I think she said it best when she told me, "You knew where you needed to be." I've said before that my grandparents saved me. And I mean that.  If mental health care for children had been a common thing in the 80s, I probably would have been diagnosed with a mild attachment disorder.     

Because I'd had a tumultuous childhood, my love for them was the desperate kind. It's why I was so terrified of losing them. There are many benefits to being raised by older and wiser (and more patient!) grandparents. The downside, though, is that these "antique parents" have an expiration date. And it's usually long before most of your peers lose their parents.  I was painfully aware of this, and as they were the constant, the stabilizing force in my life, the thought of living without them was unimaginable.  It still is to an extent. 

But I know how fortunate I am for having had them for as long as I did.  They both lived to 87 years old.  They got to know my son, and he got to know them.

Hard as it was at times, I was blessed to be able to care for them at the end of their lives.  They never made me feel that I owed them.  But I knew that I did.  How do you thank someone for saving your life?    

March 04, 2012

The back-up plan

It's hard to believe it's been over 3 months now since my grandma died.  I still cry when I think of her.  I talk to her just to say, "I miss you, Meemaw.  And I love you.  Thanks for calling me sweetheart."  I'm tearing up just writing this. 

There was a time in my life when I felt so empty and worthless and incapable of facing the realities of life, that I was sure that I'd take my life when my grandparents died.  They were my parents of the heart.  They were who I clung to.  They were the people who accepted me just as I was, and loved me exactly the way I needed to be loved.  I just didn't think I could handle the pain of losing them.  So I had a plan to escape that pain.  A plan I never told anyone about. 

That was before getting married and becoming a mom, of course.  Having a child gave me fresh joy in life and a powerful reason to endure.  It also gave me something new to fear.

I don't feel empty and worthless anymore, but I still feel incapable of handling the pain of loss. Having endured the losses of my brother to suicide and both of my maternal grandparents to lung cancer hasn't made me feel any stronger, any more resilient in the face of loss. 

I told my husband once that I don't think I have that spark for life that so many people have.  That certainty that their lives will go on no matter what happens.  Tragedy knocks people off their feet every day.  I know this.  Some people turn their grief into positive action, lobbying for changes to laws, starting up foundations, counseling others in similar situations.  I don't know what keeps them going when they've lost it all.  I can only surmise that there is some sort of essential survival instinct.  Some inborn resilience that I don't have.

This doesn't take away from my ability to live a joyful life.  But there's always the fear.  Fear is always riding shotgun with me.  It's the counterweight to the humor and joy I find in life.  Fear is my enemy. 

My mom once told me that she resented me for existing when my brother died at the age of 15.  It meant she had to live on.  She couldn't escape the pain through death.  At the time it felt like one more rejection from her, but now I get it.  I could not survive losing my son.  It would be more than I could bear.  I know this at my core.

I believe that God forgives me for my brokenness.  For having a back-up plan.  And I pray that He eases this burden of fear in my life.  I'm tired of the shadow it casts.

A Catholic Mass is being offered for my grandma at church today.  (Which means I can't skip this week like I did last week...)  If you pray, please say a prayer for us.