Betty Jane

My grandmother died. It wasn’t unexpected. We all knew it was coming. After a major stroke in October, she was never herself again. Her health would wax and wane. We’d all prepare for the worst and then she’d make a comeback of sorts and we all breathed a sigh of relief. She was our grand matriarch. The glue that help this big family together, despite the miles-and sometimes, fights, between us. Yet no matter how prepared, our hearts have all been ripped out and shattered.

There are the placating ‘she’s in a better place’ condolences. Which I suppose is true, but as far as I am concerned here with ME is the better place. Not gone. Gone forever.

My gram was a one of a kind lady. She was tough, stubborn and had the biggest heart. There was always room for one more at her table. Literally. As we’d all bring home straggling friends from time to time, and they always found a place to stay and a place at the table with her.

She loved her family. Fiercely. Generously. She loved having them close. Before she had her stroke, when I was visiting with her, I was joking about the fact that my kids (18 and 20) were never leaving home. She just smiled and said ‘I always liked having my family close. It always made me happy’. And it did. She was never happier then when her house was bursting with energy. Kids, grand-kids, great grand-kids, all around and underfoot. In and out the door a hundred times a day. There was always coffee on and she was always ready to sit and chat if you needed her.

She was a bargain shopper. She loved going to the Salvation Army (or the ‘Boutique’ as she called it) and filling her cart with anything she thought she could find useful. Or eventually useful. She had a collection of curtains that would astound some people. And damn if I didn’t go to her on more than one occasion and she would pull out the perfect curtain I needed.

She loved animals. All animals. Big, small, wild, domestic. Once when I was little, my grandfather brought home a baby hawk (yes a bird) who had been orphaned after it’s mother was killed. She raised it. His name was Hunter and he would sit on the top of the floor lap behind my grandfather’s chair. When he got big enough, we set him free. A random box of baby raccoons once showed up at our house. The were taken care of until we could find someone more skilled to help. Baby rabbits were often found, half a live after a cat attack. We’d try to nurse them back to health and if we couldn’t, they received a proper burial in the back yard.

She loved beautiful things and saw the beauty in everything. Flowers, trees….anything. She had room in her heart to find the beauty and hold onto it.

She never judged you. No matter you mistakes or missteps. One of her favorite sayings was ‘You burned your ass, now you have to sit on the blister’…meaning you got yourself into this, now you deal with it. But with her help, of course.

She brought me home from the hospital after I had my daughter. At 20, I was a terrified young mother. When we got to her house, the first thing she did was lay my daughter out on her dining room table and strip her to her diaper. Then she counted each little toe and kissed them. She ‘oohed’ and ‘ah’ed’ over her tiny little body. It was clear she was in love.

When I went back to college when my daughter was just a few months old, it was my grandmother who watched her. I’d take her there in the morning and my gram would be awake in bed waiting. She’d cuddle my little one in next to her and talk to her. I knew with a doubt, my baby could not be in any better hands.

When my son came along, she fell in love again. With his bald head and chubby legs. She would sit and just hold him and look into his eyes. They would share a magical and special bond for the rest of her life.

She wasn’t your typical grandmother in most regards. She didn’t bake. Ever. She rather hated cooking (it was a good thing my grandfather liked to cook!). She wore high top sneakers (she stole my black high tops when I was in high school and I couldn’t even be mad, because she looked so darn cute in them!).

She worked the night shift before she retired and every night when she got up for work, the house would smell like Estee Lauder Youth Dew. That was her scent. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I miss that smell. To be held tight by those arms and breathe deep that scent.

She won’t be here to see the birth of her first great-great granddaughter. My first granddaughter. That March day will be full of excitement and love, and tinged with sadness that she won’t get those sweet toe kisses.

I loved her. I love her. I miss her. Every second of every day. My green-eyed sparing partner who loved to argue with me for fun. Who loved me from the moment I came into this world and the moment she left it. And I never doubted it.

Betty Jane had a life well lived. Well loved. And when I look into my granddaughter’s eyes when she’s born, I know that I will see that special twinkle and I’ll know that my grams was taking good care of her before her arrival.

The End

The end of another year. Where did it go? Weeks slid into months and it’s over. 2014 was a year full of accomplishments for my family. My husband earned his doctorate in May and I earned my EMT certification this month. We finally got the house sided, a deck put on. In July I found out my daughter was making me a grandmother. Unexpected and surprising, we are eagerly anticipating the arrival of our newest Princess.  Life is what you make of it. The unexpected can turn joyous if you open your heart to it.

For me, this year was a lot about me. Shallow as it sounds, it was. I turned 40 this year. It’s a big number for any woman. I joined the ambulance crew and met new people, made new friends. I finally felt like I was coming into my own. Like for the first time in a long time, I was free to do what and be who I wanted. And it was hard! The studying and hours of class time put into becoming an EMT was at first a trial, but soon became something I truly enjoyed. My husband was home taking care of the family, so I had no worries about home as I trudged to class three days a week, often logging a 16-hour day between work and school. But I did it! the thrill of passing that state exam was like nothing I can explain.

The year was not without its sadness. We lost sweet Taylor in May. Such a tragedy. The loss of a young, promising life. Everyone who loved her grieves everyday, missing her spirit.

My dear, beloved grams suffered a major stroke in October. That night was one of the worst in my life. To see the woman who had helped raise me, so spunky and tough, lying in a hospital as her life seemed to ebb out of her. She held on, and continues to. But so much of her was lost. My heart breaks every time I see her and a little more has slipped away. All I can do is pray and hope she is at peace.

I expect 2015 will lead to bigger and brighter. Maybe I will find work as an EMT and quit my job. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll finally finish the novel I’ve been writing for years. Maybe I won’t. But I do know this, I am ready for whatever comes my way.

If I’ve learned anything this year, I’ve learned one thing. I’ve got this.

Happy New Year everyone.

Eight Days

It’s been eight days. Just a little over a week. Since we lost her. Since we lost Taylor. A sweet, funny 19-year-old girl so full of life and promise. She was nearing the end of LPN school. Her future was bright. But that light was extinguished. A life long illness that had seemed so benign, an afterthought really, reared its ugly head and she was gone. Slipped through the fingers of her family and friends. Leaving behind confusion, devastation.

I have known Tay (as we all called her) since she was in cheer leading with my daughter in the 7th grade. They became fast and close friends. They cheered together, played volleyball together, cried over boys together, fought over boys together. She was one of us. She was part of our family. She would come into the house, rummage through the fridge before finding us in the living room and flopping on the couch with a ‘Heeeey guys!’ and big smile as she munched on whatever food she found.

I am having a hard time wrapping my head around her death. I hadn’t seen much of her since she and my daughter graduated in 2012. I would see her around and always got a cheerful wave. She was my friend on Facebook so I could keep up with her blooming life. To acknowledge she is gone, is like letting your heart shatter. I can’t seem to manage to accept it. I have so many pictures of her and my daughter on Facebook and on my walls. All of them with her bright smile, that devilish twinkle in her eye.

While she was one of my daughter’s best friends, I had my own special bond with her. She became my second daughter. She was at our house all the time. It was always ‘the girls’. Taking ‘the girls’ somewhere, or ‘the girls want pizza’. She shared with me details of her life she hadn’t even shared with her own mother yet. Because she needed someone who loved her unconditionally to let her know that she was going to be all right. I remember one night in particular, she and my daughter had been at a friend’s house in a hot tub. It was cold out. The girls came home and Taylor came over and knelt beside the couch and put her head on my chest. Her hair was frozen. I asked her what was wrong, and she just shook her head. She just wanted comfort. Comfort over some boy problem. Comfort I was happy to provide.

I could not bring myself to go to the calling hours. My daughter went with a group of friends, for which I am grateful. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t see her parents and see their pain and feel it. I was having a hard enough time helping my daughter manage her own grief, how could I manage my own?

Her dad dropped off flowers at our house from the calling hours. Beautiful arrangements. With all colors of purple. Purple was her color.

Summer will be hard. It was when she would post pictures from concerts and bonfires and I would know that even though I wasn’t a part of her everyday life. She was OK. She was living life. No, she was more than just living life, she was getting ready to take the world by storm.

And now. She’s gone. The girl who went to the Yankees game with us and yelled out the outfielders. The girl who camped with us in a cabin with broken hot water. The girl who called me Mom.

In my kitchen I have a doorway, where over the years, I have measured my kids heights. Somewhere along the line, friends would also get their height measured. Taylor’s is there. Marked twice. Just a month ago I was considering painting over those marks. Now, they will stay just as they are forever. A permanent reminder of a girl, with the cowboy boots, who left us all behind.

I won’t propose to understand the greater plan in all this. My mind knows she is no longer in pain, no longer sick. My heart, my heart is just angry. And I don’t even know who to be angry at. God? Doctors? The world? Myself for not keeping in touch?

Fly high, sweet girl. I hope you are at peace.

Just know that I will always miss you.

Dear Dad….

I turn 40 this month. And for a large majority of my life, I believed my biological father was dead. The details were hazy, the story somewhat off. It wasn’t a story my mother wanted to share with me. She was raising me as a single mom with a strong assist from her family, and I could tell that my queries into my paternity weren’t really something she was eager to share. So I just accepted that I was fatherless. I let go of the idea of someday finding the man who gave me half my genes. I would never know where I got my oddly shaped nose, or why I am tall while the family I grew up in were all lacking in height.

But the questions always lingered, there in the back of my mind. What if he were alive? Could I find him? Would he want me to? Would he want to know he had grandkids? I had medical questions as situations in my life came up and I wondered if they were genetic.

A few Sunday’s ago, on a lark, I went to psychic party. You know the kind, a psychic is hired to do readings for everyone who comes to the party at a reduced rate. So I went, paid my $30 and sat for my reading.

I got some vague information about my spirit animal and my personality traits. She asked if I had questions. I asked about my father. She sat there a minute and looked at me intently and then said, ‘I don’t think he’s on the other side. I think he’s alive’. A little spark jumped to life inside me. Could that be true?

I pondered this that evening. I decided that I’d fire up the Google and do some investigating. I hadn’t done it before, because, well I thought he was gone.

BAM! There he was. Alive. Living within 50 miles. And I possibly have some younger siblings.

And I am terrified. I don’t know what to do. I have so many questions. None about why he wasn’t a part of my life, but just about his life. His family, his ancestry. I want nothing. Just information. I don’t even necessarily want a relationship. Just a conversation. But I don’t know what to do. Do I send a letter, explaining that I just want a conversation?

And what if I do meet him and he’s a total D-bag and I spend the rest of my life kicking myself for being curious?

I don’t anyone to get hurt. I don’t want to drudge up anyone’s past that they’d rather forget. But sometimes, there are questions that need answers. And sometimes, only one person can answer them.

I’m Concerned

Today, while flipping channels, I happened to land on Nancy Grace. Always up for some entertainment I thought I’d see what she had to say. Would she talk about the chemical spill in West Virginia that is leaving 300,000 people without water? Or the latest school shooting that took place in New Mexico? What did she start off with? Polygamy. Yup, she was outraged that a federal judge had determined that polygamy wasn’t illegal. I was dumbfounded. She was going on and on about how polygamist all marry really young woman and abuse them. Well, actually, that is not accurate of ALL polygamist. She wasn’t questioning the legality of the marriages and if the wives collect any kind of benefits for the children they have. And she was outraged. Now myself, I don’t care about polygamy (with consenting adults). If a guy wants a few wives and can find women who are willing to buy into it, then more power to them. Put the lead story? REALLY?

At that point, I just flipped the channel. I am puzzled at mainstream media. When the news broke about the chemical spill in West Virginia, it wasn’t even front page news. The Huffington Post had the story about A-Rod on it’s front page. (does anyone care about this guy anymore?) I mean, 300,000 AMERICANS are without water because of a chemical spill. And no one raises an eyebrow?

Another school shooting today. This one in New Mexico. Two children were injured. I barely heard about it. Is it because we are becoming so desensitized to this kind of thing that it’s no longer a big deal? How can it not be news? Is it because no one died? EVERY TIME IT HAPPENS IT’S A BIG DEAL.

I’m concerned because there is more coverage of the Golden Globes then there was of real, actual issues. I have a police scanner on my cell phone and gives me broadcast alerts when something is going on anywhere in the country that’s a big deal. I get stuff on there all the time that I would never know about (plane crashes, gang violence–what the hell is going on in Chicago??, etc).

Maybe we are all just numb. Numb because social media is constantly throwing data at us and we just have gotten to a point where we can’t process everything?

I still care, I still want to know the important things going on in the world. Not what a Kardashi-whatever did at a basketball game. Entertainment news has it’s place, but it shouldn’t be on the front page. We need to be an informed society. If we aren’t, we are weak and easily manipulated.

Maybe that’s exactly how they want us to be.

What About the Children?

I live in a small community, about 3000 people, maybe less. Our school is small. My daughters graduating class had about 60 kids in it. My son has about 70 in his. So when I say small, I mean small. This year the school decided they were cutting all the arts programs. Not just studio art and ceramics (both popular classes), but also the Newspaper, the drama club, and most of the music program. But the sports teams (all of the girls teams won sectional titles last year), continue to get full funding. Paying to send them to scrimmages as far as 50+ miles away.

My son is not athletic. He is artistic. He writes. He was the youngest kid on the newspaper when he started on it in the 8th grade. Last year he was co-editor, had his own column and he loved it and thrived in it. His favorite teacher was his art teacher, who also ran the yearbook and newspaper. She lost her job in the funding cuts. This teacher was so amazing when dealing with my son. She helped him come out of his shell, encouraged him, edited the stories he wrote and was a mentor. She was many things to many students, but because it didn’t involve sports, well, then that isn’t important.

What really blows my mind is the capital budget project that they are working on. Re-roofing the buildings and putting in new windows BECAUSE THEY SCREWED IT UP THE FIRST TIME. Yeah, that’s right. The roof was put on 10 years ago and they didn’t get the right warranty and now they have to replace it. Because they cheaped out when putting in windows in a new addition, they have to replace them all because they randomly fall down when they are opened. It’s a freaking disaster.

So what about these kids who are artistic? The ones who aren’t into sports? Well, my son is going into a culinary program at a BOCES next year because he can’t take the classes he wanted here. These kids are going to be left in the wind, because they aren’t athletic.

I would like to be able to say that the saving grace in all this is that it is a good school. But in actuality, it really isn’t. When I graduated from it 20 years ago, it was the best in the county. People MOVED here because of the school. Now? Well, let’s just say if my son didn’t have only two years left, we’d look to move. Not just BECAUSE of the school, but because of the deterioration of the town itself. (that’s a story for another day).

It just makes me sad that one group of students can get all the attention and funding while another goes without. It doesn’t seem fair. It’s not like winning sectional titles brings more money into the school. It doesn’t. If anything, I think it cost the school because of the busing of students to far off places to play in sectional games.

My daughter was a cheerleader all through school. I understand that some kids are really into sports. She was, she loved it. And that’s fine. Have a great sports program, but not at the expense of those other students are are differently talented. It’s unfair.

Random Thoughts

So I have decided that this blog would be best served if I just weekly, spit out all my random thoughts. Empties my head. Entertains you. Hopefully. Once in a while I’ll try to throw in something meaningful.

** when you go to the chiropractor and he throws up his hands and says ‘I’m out!’, you know your back is messed up.

** Even though my oldest is 18 years old, I still have moments where I am like ‘holy crap! I’m someones mom!’

**Sometime when I am at home, I think “wow, this place really needs to be cleaned’….then I realize that it’s MY house and I am the person who needs to clean it.

**There is only a certain degree of stress a person can take before something snaps. Your sanity, your body….something has to give.

**I can’t remember a time I wasn’t married to my husband. That makes me feel warm and fuzzy and scared to death at the same time.

**I sing in my car. Really, really loud. And I imagine what it’d be like to be on stage singing.

**If an elderly woman is in a nursing home with dementia, should it be legal for her husband to vote for her because he knows ‘who she would want to vote for’??

**Trying to lose weight by drinking detox tea leaves you with nothing but a lighter wallet and a really nasty taste in your mouth.

So…that’s it for this week. I’ll try to write my random tidbits down so they make more sense next week. Maybe.