Birth and Death


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This is not going to be a very deep or philosophical post.  I put the picture of seashells in there just because they’re pretty, and if I don’t put a picture in my posts, it looks funny on Facebook.

I am very groggy.  Not quite “new mom” groggy, but definitely “new grandmother” groggy.  I can’t seem to concentrate on anything.  I try to do things like pay my bills, but my brain won’t function normally.

All I can think about is our little Ellie.  Her fingers. Her eyelashes. Her lips.  Her sweet little round belly, that fits perfectly in my cupped palm.

I tried to do some errands yesterday, walking through the grocery store with my shopping list in hand. I walked out without half of what I needed. I forgot to buy the orange juice that I get every single week.

I looked at the people moving around me in the store, putting things in their cars in the lot, driving on the highway.

How could they be acting as if nothing had happened?  It literally seemed unfathomable to me that the world could just be moving along in its normal path when for me, everything had changed.

And I was suddenly and sharply reminded of the weeks after my father’s death.  I was in a daze, foggy and numb.  I remember being in the same grocery store and feeling a spurt of anger at the people who were acting as if everything was just fine.

“Everything has changed!”, I wanted to scream at them. “Dad is gone! The universe will never be the same.”

I feel the same way now, almost.

Everything has changed.  Ellie is here! The universe will never be the same.

That Perfect Gift for Mom


This post is for all of those lovely young women who are considering pregnancy/dreaming of pregnancy/in the middle of pregnancy.

You know those pesky gift giving days (Christmas, Mother’s Day, Mom’s Birthday….) when you just can’t figure out what to give your Mom? Those relentlessly repeating days when you are supposed to present your mom with a lovely gift, all tastefully wrapped and accompanied by a ridiculously drippy card all about love and flowers and dancing angels…..You know what I’m talking about! I know you do!

Well, here’s the secret that they don’t tell you in the “how to please your Momma” textbook.

Your  Momma doesn’t actually need another #1 Mom coffee mug, or another pair of Ultra Comfy Slipper Socks.  Or a gift certificate to the local grocery store.

Nope. She doesn’t.

If you really want to make your Momma happy, and fill her heart with love and gratitude and joy and hot chicken soup, this is what you should do.  I promise you, this is a fail-safe, guaranteed Make-your-Momma-happy plan.

Here’s what you do:

You go into labor, and you insist that your Mom be in the room with you. You labor for hours with your Mom in the room.  You let her sit back and watch as your husband, her “you’re not my real kid” son-in-law strokes your forehead and whispers how much he loves you. You allow your Mom to rub your back when the pain hits, and you let her run down to the cafeteria when you crave a treat.

If you really want to give your Mom the ultimate gift, you let her stay up all night with you as you labor. You let her sleep in a chair so that she can watch over you as you sleep.  You let her reassure you in the deepest part of the night, when you are Googling “Epidurals and Hard Labor”.  You allow her to refill your ice and water cup. You let her share the “breathe” routine with your husband.

When its time for the doctor to come and check your progress, you reach for your Mom’s hand, and the two of you think together “please, please, please, please say 6 centimeters!”   When the doctor looks up with a surprised grin, you let your Momma yell to your showering husband, “Honey, hurry up! It’s time to push!!!!”

You let your Momma stand there and watch you as you do the hardest work of your life. You let her cheer you on as you push and breathe and growl.  You hold the hand of the man you love best in all the world, and you let your Momma watch you.

And when at last that beautiful baby is born, you let your Mom and her “You are really one of mine” son-in-law embrace and shed a few tears together.  You let her watch as that young man cuts the cord and you allow her to watch that very first moment, when you snuggle your little one on her chest.

THAT my friends, is the ultimate, not to be beaten, never forgotten gift to a Momma. After this, you’ll never ever need to buy another coffee cup in your life.

Thank you, thank you, Katie and Sam!!!!  I love you!

Ellie


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It was all so perfect.  So beautiful.

It has been the most exciting, scary, thrilling, exhausting, confusing, uplifting, life changing weekend of my life.

So how do I write about all that?  Where do I begin?

She’s here: Our granddaughter is here!

Two and a half weeks early, she made her appearance this past weekend, in the middle of our annual huge family reunion camping trip.

Yep. You got that right: her parents were camping when she decided to begin her journey into the world.  At the same campground were her grampa and about 50 other close relatives. All sound asleep after a wonderful evening of celebratory eating and drinking.  Her Nonni (me) was about fifteen minutes away in a nice dry, clean motel.

I can’t write it all down here; I am still too filled with bubbles of joy and shivers of nerves and a huge fog of fatigue.  I can’t write it all down.

But I can tell you this:

When I held her this afternoon, one day after her birth, I felt a wave of love as deep as that I feel for her Mom. Just as deep and just as sharp.  Baby Ellie, I would do anything in the world to keep you safe. I would die for you. I would give you my last bite of food, my last nickel, my very last breath.   My love for you is just as deep as my love for my own children.

But its wider. Its broader. It covers more of the terrain of my heart.  Baby Ellie, when I look at your perfect pink shell fingernails, I know that I am seeing my firstborn child in you.  I am seeing the only man I’ve ever loved, your Grampa.  I am seeing my mother, and my sisters and my brothers. I am seeing my Nana, and my MammaNonni and my cousins and my aunts and uncles.  When I look at your sweet silken eyebrows, I am seeing your Daddy, and his Daddy and his.  I am seeing all of the aunts and uncles and cousins that I have yet to meet.  My love for you is a giant circle, pulling in everyone who has given you a piece of what is now you.

Baby Ellie, my life will never ever be the same again.  You don’t know any of this yet.  All you know is that you are surprised to find that you suddenly have to actually work for food.  You only know that you recognize the sound of your parents voices, so you open those milky blue eyes whenever they speak.  You only know the feel of their skin, the comfort of their hands.  You don’t realize that just by being born, too early but at the perfect time, you have given the greatest gift to the people who love you.  You don’t understand that by arriving far from home, but in the most perfect and wonderful place, you have cemented your place in your family’s history and lore.

I can’t write down the details yet. Not yet. They are too fresh and too precious.  But these few things I do know, and will share.

You really can surprise yourself with how much love is being stored in your heart.

The human body is an amazing and gorgeous creation; birth is a perfectly synchronized dance between mother and child.

Twenty Nine years ago, although I didn’t realize it at the time, I gave birth to a goddess.

Here we go again….


“We are a strong community.” “We will get through this.”  “We ask the public to pray for us.” “Law enforcement is doing an amazing job.”

Holy crap.

Are you serious?

Here we go again.

Can you even begin to identify the local law enforcement person who just made the above statements?

I bet you can’t.

“We need to pray for those who have been killed or injured.”   And , “We are a strong community.  We will come together in the face of this terrible tragedy.”

Name that town.

Name that tragedy.

Go ahead. I dare ya.

Cuz here’s what I think:  It could be any angry/depressed/frustrated/thwarted person in your community.   And it could be any mayor/representative/town council/selectboard expressing its shock/horror/outrage at the terrible events that have just unfolded in the happy/calm/quiet/small/local community where the shooter lived.

We are ALL a part of this world. We are ALL liable for the guns/anger/frustration that leads to this type of horrifying event in our local communities.

We are ALL liable for the fact that increasing numbers of disenfranchised young people have decided to shoot their way out of their depressing lives.

We are ALL responsible for the fact that this country allows everyone who wants a gun to buy that gun. We are ALL responsible for the senseless, pointless, meaningless deaths that continue to occur every single day in this lawless jungle that we so foolishly refer to as our “nation.”

Sadie, you old phony……..


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I may not be the smartest person in the world, but I certainly never thought I’d be outwitted by a dog.

Huh.

Miss Sadie, I’ve got your number now, you old fake.

Yesterday I woke up on the late side.  My old girl, Miss Sadie, was sound asleep on the floor by my bed.  This is not unusual; she seems to consider herself my elderly bodyguard and she usually sleeps next to me.  What happened next, though, was definitely out of character.

I got up, as usual, and creaked and groaned my way into the bathroom.  Now, the usual routine is that once I get in there, I hear Sadie’s long black toenails clicking their way toward me, followed by a long sigh and a “whump” as her big old butt hits the closed door.  This time, I went through my morning ablutions (great word, huh?) and showered.  When I came out, my old girl was still sound asleep beside the bed.

Odd.

I went into the kitchen to make breakfast.  I usually have to scoot both of my dogs out of the kitchen at least three times while the coffee drips and the toast pops. Not today.  Tucker hovered around, hinting about how delicious that rye bread smelled, but there was no sign of Sadie.  I went to look for her, and found her curled up behind the end table in the living room.

Very odd.

Now I was getting worried.   I coaxed her out with a piece of cheese, and stroked her warm fur.  “You OK, sweet pea?”, I cooed. “You feeling alright, old girl?”  She licked my fingers and looked up at me with her huge brown eyes.  Poor old doggie, poor old girl!  Her big fluffy tail thumped a few times on the floor, but she quickly laid herself back down.

I thought maybe her arthritic leg might be hurting her.  Maybe it would be a good idea to take a short walk?

Gently, kindly, I put the leashes on both dogs, and walked them very slowly down the front steps.  Sadie walked sedately by my side down the walk and onto the driveway.  She followed along all the way down the street, not pulling on the leash or trying to chase squirrels.

Wicked odd.  My worry increased, my heart sank.

Dogs don’t have very long lives; I know this.   I know that mine are getting old, but it breaks my heart to even think about that fact.  Tucker doesn’t see well any more.  He has back cramps and weak back legs.  He goes for acupuncture.  Really.

Sadie doesn’t hear well any more.  She doesn’t notice visitors until they get right to the door and knock.  She jumps up and barks if I drop a book.   She moves slowly around the house.  She rolls onto her side to show her belly if you try to pat her.

In short, I have begun to see myself as living with two elderly and slightly pitiful old canines companions.  I am very tender with them. I don’t make many demands. I feed them glucosamine and fish oil tablets wrapped in American cheese.  I swab their ears to keep them clean.  Every night I gently brush their teeth and massage their gums.

So when Sadie seemed particularly pitiful yesterday, I chalked it up to her advanced age.  We walked around the neighborhood, slowly, enjoying the warm air and birdsong.  I was heading back toward home when I realized that Tucker had “done his business” but Sadie still hadn’t.  H’mmmmm.   Maybe the problem was constipation?  It can happen to older people.  I mean, “older dogs”.

Anyway.   I decided to let Sadie off the leash so that she could rustle around in her favorite spot in the woods for a few minutes. Maybe she’d feel better, poor old thing.  I leaned down and unclipped her leash.  She raised her head slowly. Her tail swished once. “Thanks, Mom.”, she seemed to say.  Then she slowly and unsteadily made her way into the woods.

Tucker and I headed toward home, knowing that the old girl would catch up to us once her job was done.  We walked along the street, then headed down the driveway.  Slowly.

No Sadie yet.

I got all the way to the end of my driveway, ready to start up the walk toward the front door.  I looked across the yard, but didn’t see my poor old girl.

“Sadie!”, I called. “Come on, Miss Sadie!”

I waited for a moment.

And here she came!  Running full speed across the yard, her big plume of a tail arched gracefully behind her.  She leapt over the tiger lillies, arched over the irises, sped across the grass. He eyes were shining, her mouth was open in a wide doggie grin. She came on full speed, and when she got to us, she ran a full circle around Tucker and me, barking and leaping.  Dancing.

Laughing at me and my worries.

I’ve got your number now, you old fake of a guard dog.

Either all that moping around is a total act, or that was one hell of a restorative poop.

It seems to me…..


Have you ever had a word just strike you as funny?  Just the way it sounds, not its actual meaning.

“Seem”.  “Seems”.  “Seemed.”

Its just a funny word.

Sometimes I wonder how I “seem” to others.  You know what I mean?  Like, do I seem as cranky as I sometimes feel? Do I seem old? Do I seem happy?

I had a funny experience today, and I got a glimpse into the image that I project to strangers.  It made me laugh.

I was meeting a friend at a small state park. I had never been to this particular park, so I was driving along slowly, trying to find the entrance.  I saw a sign that looked right, and pulled slowly into the parking lot.  There was a little wooden building there, like you’d find at the entrance to a beach or a campground, and a pretty young girl was standing in the doorway.  She raised her hand in a wave, and I waved back.

“Good morning”, she said, approaching my window.

“Good morning!  I’m supposed to be meeting a friend, and I’m hoping that this is the right place. Is this the main entrance?”

“Yes”, she smiled and nodded, her shiny auburn hair glinting in the morning sunlight. “This is where you park to enjoy the lake, the picnic area or any of the trails.”

I had noticed a sign on the door of the little ticket booth.  It said, “Full day fee: $8:00″  I had my right hand in my purse as I chatted with the young lady, but it was coming up sadly empty.

“Oh, dear”, I told her with some embarrassment, “I don’t think I brought any cash.”

She looked at me with sympathy in her brown eyes. “Oh, I’m sorry….I…..”

I found my check book in the front pocket of my bag, and held it up to her. “Can I write a check?”

“Yes!”, she was clearly relieved that she wasn’t going to have to kick me out of the park on this hot summer day. “But…….”  She was looking at me closely now, and I saw that she was biting her lip.  “I’m not sure how to ask this. It’s tricky.  Um…..”

Her words trailed off, but I held my smile as I waited for her to gather her nerve.  What on earth was she planning to ask me? Did she want to search the trunk?  Was she worried that the clear liquid in my bottle was vodka instead of water? Was this part of some anti-terrorism measure or something?  What could it possibly be?

I saw her take a deep breath, and she knotted her hands in front of her.  “OK”, she stood up straighter, “I’m just going to come right out and ask.  Are you 65 or older?”

I couldn’t help it.  I burst out laughing.  THAT’S what all the stammering and ahemming was about?     Here I was, afraid that I looked like a shady character or a terrorist or a pervert of some kind.  And she was wondering if she could charge me the Senior Citizen rate!

“No,” I answered, through my giggles.  “But thanks for asking me that! I know I have white hair, but I’m only 59.”

“And your hair is beautiful!”, she gushed immediately.  “I mean, I didn’t think you looked 65, but…..”  I interrupted her with another laugh.  “Don’t worry!  I’m not insulted!  I guess it takes some nerve to ask that question, doesn’t it?”

She grinned back at me, relief all over her pretty face.  “Some people get really upset if we ask.  But you just seem so friendly, I figured I’d give it a shot and see if I could save you some money!”

I wrote out my check,  handed it to her with another round of thanks, and headed into the park to meet my friend for a morning walk.

I guess I “seem” different on the outside than I “seem” to myself!

And that’s probably a good thing.

Do I seem friendly or scary in this picture?

Do I seem friendly or scary in this picture?

It all comes down to this


Today was a very special day in the life of my family.  It was a huge day in my life.

It was a big deal.

A very big deal!

Tonight, after all the guests have gone, and the last plate has been washed and put away, I finally find myself alone with my thoughts.

And I can’t seem to catch them, or hold them. I can’t seem to put them into words.

But I’m supposed to be a writer of sorts, aren’t I?  Don’t I have this blog, and some tender aspirations of one day seeing my words in print?

So how can it be that I have failed to cast a net of words around my emotions, so that I can keep them close?

I don’t understand.

Today we hosted a baby shower for our daughter, who is soon to become the mother of our very first grandchild.   I cooked, I cleaned, I decorated the house, I did what I have done a hundred times before.   It was fun. It was tasty.  It was filled with laughter.

It was so much more than any of that!!!!

It was surreal, but how can I write about that part? I don’t know.

I could tell you about how sweet it was to watch the group of young mommies shepherd and guard their little children as they played on my lawn.  I could tell you how I shook my head and laughed, and how my husband and our friends swapped memories of those same young women when they were the chatty ten year olds at our daughter’s birthday party.  I could write about that.  I could describe how funny and how awful it was, at the very same time, to stand and watch the very embodiment of time rushing by.  But that would be so trite.

“Of course time goes by,” you would think. “Of course your children’s friends grow up and become parents.  Ho hum.”   It was a thunderbolt of a moment for me, hugging those beautiful young mothers and meeting their wide eyed children.

But its only life.  It is the wheel turning, exactly as it should turn. Exactly as it always has.

I can’t write about that. It doesn’t capture the hugeness of today.

I could tell you about the whimsy of the party that we had.  I could, I suppose, describe how neither my daughter nor I are the cute decorator types.  How we do not do “theme” parties.  But my son-in-law created a fabulous baby shower invitation with a Dr. Suess theme, and we were swept up in the fun. I could tell you how wonderful and how endearing it was to spend the past two days with my twelve year old niece, who helped me cook up “roast beast” and “green eggs and ham” and even a huge pile of “Go, Dogs, Go” for the party.

I could.  I could tell how being with my niece Zena made me realize how much I am going to miss being in the company of children.  How her excitement and enthusiasm melted away every bit of fatigue and let me sing my way through the party preparations.

But that wouldn’t even begin to capture what today meant to me.  It wouldn’t tell you how my eyes kept filling with tears, or how my heart felt like it was going to float away.  It wouldn’t tell you how much I missed my Dad today.  How clearly I could remember him holding my own babies when each was born.

I don’t know how to capture it. I don’t know how to describe the radiance of my daughter, and the magic of feeling that baby move.  There are simply no words for that.

So it all comes down to this.

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This little wooden rocking chair.

I can’t describe today.  But I can tell you that every moment of tenderness and wonder and joy and awe and sadness can be embodied in this little chair.

Many years ago, when my first-born was new, my sister-in-law gave us this chair.  It had been in her family home for years, used by her Mom in her home daycare.  My sister-in-law Chris had taken it when she had children, and they had rocked in it for years.  She then passed it on to us.  We used it lovingly with all three of our kids.  I can picture each of them in it so clearly.

When the time came, and our niece Karrilee was having a baby, we passed the little chair on to her.   Our nest was newly empty, and the passing of the chair was very fraught and poignant for me.  I passed it on with love and pleasure, but I cried all the way home after I did.

Today, our sweet Karrilee gave the little chair back to me.

It will stay in my living room, ready for our not-yet-born baby girl to rock herself gently as Nonni and Grampa read or sing to her.

I still can’t put words around what it means.  I don’t have the talent or the tenderness to tell you how it felt to take that little rocker in my hands once again, to see those crystal clear images of my three little ones, one after the other, rocking in that chair so long ago.

It all comes down to this.

Life goes on.  The circle turns.  Times moves forward and marches along its predestined route.  We can’t go backwards, nor should we if we could.

But sometimes there is a symbol, a memento, an object that holds all of our love and our dreams and our sweetest moments. And sometimes someone is generous enough to let that symbol come back around to us once again.

Thank you, Karrilee!!  We love you!!!!   

Lock and Load……..


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Wow. It was quite a day for national news.

I mean.  Wow.

Yet another young man decided to grab a few guns and kill some random strangers.   So scary!   Four young and innocent Marines went to work this morning and will never come home again.  Another angry young man is dead, having chosen to shoot his way out of this life.

Clearly, say all the pundits on CNN, it is time to place armed guards around military bases and military recruitment offices.

And the angry young man who decided to shoot up a Colorado movie theater a few years ago was found guilty on all charges today.  More deaths, more wasted lives, more horror.

Obviously, it is time to increase armed guards at movie theaters.

As a teacher, I am still grieving over the horrors that unfolded in Newtown on that terrible morning when another angry, sick young man decided to make his exit by taking a whole classroom of babies with him.

We should have armed guards at the front door of every school.  Clearly.

We should have armed men standing in front of churches, too, and attending every Bible study group.Because it is impossible to tell exactly when yet another disillusioned, racist, hopeless, twisted, unloved and unloving young person might decide to shoot the place up in an act of defiance.

Our ministers should be armed. Our priests should carry loaded guns under their robes. Our kindergarten teachers and our English teachers and our college professors should all be armed every single day.  You know. Just in case.

And young baristas at Starbucks in small New England towns should probably carry guns, too.  And the kids who gather to play music in cozy art galleries in those small towns might want to be packing heat as they strum their acoustic guitars.

Because you just never know when an angry young man in a tiny little Berkshire town like Adams, Mass. might decide to blow up a college cafeteria.  A young man like the one who is the same age as my boys.  Like the one who lives in the same bucolic place where they share a house.

You just never know when it will happen.

Clearly, it is time for us all to arm ourselves to the teeth, to load our guns and keep them close. And we should be ready to pull those guns out and start firing just as soon as the next sad and broken young man or woman starts to shoot the place up.

Or.

Maybe we should think about limiting the guns……………..

Feeling my age


Sadie, aging far more gracefully that some of us.

Sadie, aging far more gracefully that some of us.

Ya know, it could be the imminent arrival of my granddaughter into this world.  Or it could be the fact that my last haircut revealed that the salt outnumbers the pepper up there.

Maybe its the fact that I overestimated my ability to chop, prune, weed, mow and mulch.  Or it could be that I tried to clean out one too many closets this week.

Not sure what happened, but I woke up yesterday and realized that I feel like I’ve been run over by a cement truck.  I feel about 200 years old.

You name the body part, it hurt.  My posture looked remarkably like a question mark.

It hurt enough to keep me awake last night.  So I got up at midnight and took two ibuprofin.  Laid back down.  Twenty minutes later, my achy/nauseous stomach got me back up for some Tums.  Laid back down.  Neck hurt.  Got an ice pack.  Laid back down.  Dozed.

I must have fallen asleep, because I was yanked awake when my right calf turned into a giant ball of searing pain and I had to jump up and flex my foot.

Sigh.

I love summer.  I love the green yard, the gorgeous blossoms, the warm air. I love the smell of cut grass.

But my aging carcass is beginning to long for a nice cool rainy day where I’d be forced to sit still in my recliner and doze while the soup simmers on the stove.

I must be getting old.

 

OK, Mother Nature, you win.


Every spring, without exception, I am overwhelmed by the desire to create a fantastic garden.   I imagine myself growing enough vegetables to last us through the winter.

Every spring, I turn over the earth, Google “Tomato plants in New England” and “How to grow beans in Massachusetts”, and go out to buy 300 pounds of composted cow manure.

Yep.

I aspire to be one of those self-reliant old Yankees, canning my tomatoes and freezing my beans.  Ready to take on the winter, even if the grid goes down.

And pretty much every year, round about July 8th, I start to think, “Oops.”

That’s when I notice that the tomato plants are turning all yellow, and the beans never came up and the row of lettuce got eaten by some kind of little wormy thing.   That’s about when I start to think about the Farmer’s Markets and the local farm stand, and I start to repeat that old Red Sox slogan of many years past.  “Wait till next year”, I tell myself.  “Next year I won’t put the tomatoes in the garden with all the manure (too much nitrogen).  Next year I’ll remember to spray the lettuce with a combination of dish soap and water.”

Yep.  Next year.  The elusive next year, when the bounty of my backyard will be enough to insure survival for Pa and me over the long snowy winter.

I’m an idiot.

And here’s how I know that I’m an idiot.

I have huge areas of my yard that I completely ignore.  One part used to be a rock garden, until I ran out of steam and stopped chopping back the vines.   This year it is so full of ripe delicious raspberries that the birds and I are both filled up.  I picked enough in an hour to make a pot of jam.

Another section used to be the home of a grand old white pine.  We had to cut him down about 5 years ago, as he was getting mighty old and brittle, and he was threatening our roof in every windstorm.

Two years ago, I noticed that a whole bunch of blueberry bushes were springing up around the stump of that old tree.

This afternoon, I went outside and shooed away a couple of robins.  I picked about 2 cups of sweet, ripe blueberries in 20 minutes.  Enough to make a pie.

And here’s the part that gets me.   Its only in the parts of the yard where I haven’t done one single thing to grow a crop where there is a crop worth harvesting.

I am clearly NOT the Farmer’s Daughter.

Momma Nature, I give up. You win.  Again.

Picked all this in about 20 minutes.

Picked all this in about 20 minutes.

Sigh.

I can hardly wait for the acre of blackberries to ripen in a few weeks!