When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

Last month, I lost my maternal grandmother, less than three months after losing my paternal grandfather. Where once there were four, and then three, there is quite suddenly now only one: my paternal grandmother. I count myself so very lucky to have had all four of my grandparents into adulthood. In a way, it feels selfish to be upset about having to let them go. But the most extraordinary thing about knowing your grandparents as an adult is that you come to know them as people. They aren’t just the ones who let you eat cookies past your bedtime or think you played the recorder the best during the school performance. You are able to see their complexities of character, understand sacrifices they made, and come to appreciate them as the people everyone else around you knows them as. I was blessed to find out that not only were all my grandparents extraordinary grandmothers and grandfathers, but they were also extraordinary people. Because of this, I wanted to share the eulogy I read for my grandmother at her funeral. I’ve written about her before on this blog…about the memories that were stirred up when I had the chance to revisit her old home, and about her battle with Alzheimer’s. But she was more than that. So very much more… Continue reading “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”

Coupons from Heaven: A Eulogy

Almost every week for I don’t know how many years, an envelope would land in my mailbox, my typewritten address perfectly stamped out directly in the center. I never needed to look at the return address to know exactly who had sent it or what I would find inside. There was rarely a note…just a handful of meticulously clipped coupons from the current week’s mailer. And every time, it made me smile. I could hear my Grandpa’s voice saying, “Well, I don’t know if you can use any of these, but just throw them away if you can’t.” Continue reading “Coupons from Heaven: A Eulogy”

Fourteen Years, And Just Another Day

What does a 14th wedding anniversary look like?

It starts with a 5:30 a.m. bootcamp class. When you get home, you spend 15 minutes with your husband before he heads out to work. It’s the only 15 minutes you will see him all day, but you’re a sweaty mess from bootcamp, and he is dividing his time between talking with you and finishing up his morning routine before walking out the door. You’ll spend the rest of the day doing laundry, running errands, then heading off to spend the night with your daughter’s girl scout troop before your husband even gets home from work. You’re the troop leader, and tonight was the only night that all the girls would be in town to have their final field trip. So 15 minutes with your husband on your anniversary will have to do. Continue reading “Fourteen Years, And Just Another Day”

This Mom Thought About Having a Third Kid. See What Changed Her Mind!

“Provided the test comes back fine, I’ll plan to see you back here in, let’s see…maybe June.” My OBGYN gave me a little smirk on his way towards the door.

“June? You mean next Feb– oh. You’re funny.”

It wouldn’t be an annual womanly checkup if Dr. H didn’t joke with me about trying for a third kid. I’d like to think it’s because I’m his favorite patient, and it’s just his way of saying he would like to hang out with me more often. (Is that a weird thing to say about your OBGYN? Because I feel like it might be weird. Even though I don’t mean it to be. It’s just that Dr. H is kind of the bomb – and a great conversationalist, considering the circumstances surrounding our interaction. Like, I’d totally go have a few beers with him…if he wasn’t checking up on the health and wellness of my lady bits.) However, as the father of seven or so children himself, I think his enthusiasm for me getting pregnant again simply comes from him being pro-baby…and pro-more income to pay for seven college tuitions. I also *may* have told him I would name the next kid after him. Continue reading “This Mom Thought About Having a Third Kid. See What Changed Her Mind!”

To My Children’s Grandparents

You are not who you used to be. The moment my husband entered the waiting room and smiled the words, “It’s a girl,” you became something new and different, while being altogether exactly the people we had grown up with. Before that moment, you were our parents. Nothing more. Nothing less. You were the ones who provided for us, comforted us, bailed us out, held us to consequences, and loved us unconditionally, whether we cared or not (though we usually did). You were either the gateway or the obstruction to everything we wanted to do and be…depending on the day. It was easy for us to find you annoying, or call you unfair, or roll our eyes, or take you for granted. Because we were your kids, and you were our parents. Nothing more. Nothing less. Continue reading “To My Children’s Grandparents”

The Brother Jackpot

He entered the world as the resolution to a hotly contended bet in a third grade gambling ring.

I was sitting in Sr. Marilyn’s classroom when the school secretary came to the door.

“Kelly, there is a phone call for you in the office.”

A collective gasp, like the opening of a soda can under pressure, filled the room, followed by twitterings of “This is it,” and “It’s happening.” We all knew the call could be coming today, and every time I heard footsteps in the hall I wondered if it would be for me. Now it was. I felt the excited eyes on my back as I headed toward the office. When I returned I would have what they were all looking for: the answer to whether they had placed their bets wisely…and the more subtle yet implied declared victor in the battle of the sexes.
Continue reading “The Brother Jackpot”

Homemade Ice Cream + Grandma = Love

There were three things I was taught to love fiercely growing up: God, family, and homemade ice cream. About everything else I could form my own opinion; but there was this unwritten, unsaid expectation that I would hold these three particular things in unconditional favor. Continue reading “Homemade Ice Cream + Grandma = Love”

Radio Roulette

rouletteWhen I was growing up, listening to the radio in the car with my dad followed one rule: his car, his choice. But I never knew where exactly that choice was going to land as a cacophony of song snippets whirled in and out of my ears. My dad worked the car radio (and the television, for that matter) like a roulette wheel Continue reading “Radio Roulette”

Hallmark, Shmallmark. I Got Your Real Valentines Right Here

I just spent a mind-numbing half hour helping my son sign eighteen valentine cards for his classmates. Even he was getting bored, evident by his increasingly lax standards of how to make the letters in his name: “This is a different way to make a ‘C,’ Mom.” Looks good to me, buddy. No one is going to pay much attention to your valentine anyway since mom here went the cheap-o route this year and got the ones that don’t come with any candy.

kids valentine cards
The slow deterioration of good penmanship

who is the fifth guy in nsyncI don’t care much about Valentine’s Day. It’s not that I dislike it; I am just completely apathetic toward it. Valentine’s Day is like the fifth guy from *NSync in the world of holidays…you know, the one that’s not Justin Timberlake, Joey Fatone, Lance Bass, or JC Chavez. You don’t mind that it’s there, but you also wouldn’t really notice if it wasn’t. (And since I spent a ridiculous amount of time deciding which holidays the other guys would be, please indulge this small tangent: Timberlake is totally the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s triplet threat. Fatone is Halloween; goofy, fun, and you know he has some mad skills for trading bad jokes for candy. Bass, he’s a firework who lets his colors burst like the Fourth of July. And just like the Easter Bunny tries to be as cool as Santa, Chavez ain’t no Timberlake. Now back to the point.)

I am not the only one in my house who feels this way about Valentine’s day. My husband has made a declaration that I never have to buy him a card as long as we live. He thinks they are a racket. In fact, he doesn’t want me to get him anything for Valentine’s day…well, anything that costs money. Wink, wink. (*eye roll*) But we always feel the need to help the kids put something together for one another. I have to be honest. Despite the fact that we know we all love each other, these little tokens of Cupid feel a little forced and trite. For example, my daughter informed me today that she was going to write a poem for everyone in our family: “Roses are red, Violets are blue, Happy Valentine’s Day, I love you.” (Members of our family, I am so sorry to ruin the surprise.) Forced. Trite.

What my kids don’t know is that they give me little valentines all year long. And this is what they look like in my head:

real valentines
AHA! They DO really love each other!
kids valentines
I adore the little notes Grace leaves for me all the time
kids valentines
True stories.
kids valentines
I die from cuteness.
kids valentines
I will mold her into my tiny clone. *maniacal laugh*
kids valentines
He also realized we don’t live in a barn and actually closed the door.
kids valentines
No words necessary

That means the pressure is off for Valentine’s Day. I already have everything I need; and I am pretty sure the rest of my family does, too. So we can instead enjoy the fun of Mardi Gras today and properly stuff our faces for Fat Tuesday. And then tomorrow on Ash Wednesday we can realize that all the crap we ate today might lead to that whole “to dust you shall return” thing happening just a wee bit sooner than later. But at least we won’t have to worry about last-minute Valentine gifts.

However,  maybe someone should send something to that fifth guy from *NSync. This is his holiday after all.


There You Go, Mom…Making Me Learn Stuff Again

My parents did a very convenient thing: they were born four days apart from each other. Needless to say, when they hit those important milestone birthdays, it makes things easier on me and my siblings. One giant bang of a celebration, and we are good. That is exactly what we did this past weekend. I am still exhausted.

Do I really have parents this old?

My dad welcomed his sixth decade on earth last week, and today it is my mom’s turn. But today is a little more than just a birthday; it is a celebration of second chances. As my dad tearfully admitted at their party, there were two times in his life when he didn’t think he would live to see 60: when he almost fell from a jerry-rigged rope bridge between two fly ash electrostatic precipitators (…um, no clue. That is total enginerd territory), and when he was being wheeled down a hospital corridor on his way to a quadruple bypass surgery. And there was one time, much more recently, when he was afraid my mom wouldn’t make it to 60, either (cue the tears from the entire room, the resulting red eyes ruining all good photo ops during the “Happy Birthday” song…thanks, Dad). 

I have only mentioned my mom’s accident once in this blog, for a few reasons. I try to keep this space fairly light-hearted, mostly because I don’t like reading stuff from negative nancies, so why would I expect other people to be interested in reading about my woes? Second, facing things like the mortality of your parents is pretty heavy and emotional stuff and, well, I have a good dose of German blood running through my veins. We don’t always deal with that stuff very well. We like to bottle it up; and when we do let it out, it usually results in a rather uncontrollable “ugly cry” and virtually indecipherable words between sobs.

But let me give you the Cliff’s Notes version of everything that has happened the last five or so months: My mom had been having these spells where she would pass out, and the doctors were not sure what was causing them. Before they could figure it out, she unfortunately fainted and fell one morning, landing on her head. She fractured her neck and bruised her spinal cord, an injury that could have very well left her completely paralyzed or dead. There was quite a long time of uncertainty about how my mom’s body would heal. The doctors said she would regain feeling and mobility in her hands and feet, but they could not say how much or how quickly. And they still couldn’t figure out what was making her pass out, which put her in danger of the same thing happening again. After weeks in the hospital, dealings with blood clots, months at a rehab facility, and even more months in outpatient therapy, my mom has persevered and is able to walk on her own again. The cause of the fainting spells has been found to be seizures, and she is now on the appropriate medication to (hopefully) keep this from happening again. She is still not back to where she was pre-accident, and probably never will be. But considering the alternatives, I don’t think I would have it any other way.

So today, my mom has made 60 even more fabulous than it would have been. And to celebrate, I would like to share six things I have learned from my mom’s accident.

Sexy. (*not my mom's legs) via Wikipedia licensed under CC BY 2.0
Sexy. (*not my mom’s legs) via Wikipedia licensed under CC BY 2.0

1. My mom can rock a pair of TED hose compression stockings like nobody’s business. She even pulled them off with formal wear at two weddings this summer. Who needs fish nets?

2. I am apparently of the age where doctors seem to feel I am the keeper of and the person whom should be consulted about my parents’ health history and concerns as well as the medications they are on. And I am absolutely not comfortable with that. When my mom was in the hospital, her neurosurgeon (who was quickly dubbed as being “my buddy”) would direct all conversation about my mom’s condition to ME…despite the fact that my father, the patient’s HUSBAND, who is of sound mind and body, was also in the room. Dude, my parents are just turning 60. They aren’t that old. I’m not committing them to the nursing home quite yet. I still refuse to believe I am old enough to be the mother of a seven-year-old, let alone keep track of the bazillion and one medications you are about to put my mother on. Give me a few more years to defer all important decisions to my parents. I’m not the matriarch yet. Geez.

The infamous Aunt Ginny

3. No matter how young you are, everyone who uses a walker ends up looking like my Great Aunt Ginny, God rest her soul. Sorry, Mom. You were totally doing the Aunt Ginny shuffle.

4. The best motivation for not having to be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of your life is to order your wheelchair from a company who never actually delivers said wheelchair. It’s a long and ridiculous story (as are most things health insurance related), but basically, my mom never got the wheelchair they ordered. So it’s a good thing she’s walking now.

5. When the going gets tough, you realize how amazing your friends and family are. My mom is lucky to have so many people who care about her. The outpouring of prayers and support was vast. Even better was the number of friends and family who were literally at my mom’s side; bringing dinners, driving her to therapy, keeping her company at home before she got the green light to be by herself, and taking her to the store or just out to lunch. That did wonders for my mom’s spirit. But it also put my dad at ease as he went back to work, enabled my sister and I to keep our own households running, and helped my brother deal with being in another city, knowing that mom was cared for.  We are all so grateful for this band of generous souls.

6. My mom is pretty bad ass. If you would have asked me that day in the emergency room if I thought my mom would be where she is today, doing what she is doing less than six months from the accident, I probably would have said no. Not because I didn’t have any faith in my mom, but simply because everything was so unknown and, frankly, scary. But my mom did not let that get the better of her. And I know that she is doing as well as she is today not only because of the miraculous way the body can heal itself, but mostly because my mom decided on how she wanted things to be. And she made it so.

So Happy 60th Birthday, Mom! Welcome to the decade of second chances, you compression stocking fashionista, you. Love you.