Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Post That Got So Long So Fast

My trip was overwhelming. Last night, after the baby was in bed, I went downstairs where J had already started washing all the baby's stuff and pulled out some of the things from my grandpa's house and it all just hit me. I started crying and I wondered if I would be able to stop.

Everything went better and worse than I had thought. The baby wouldn't go with anyone else. My normally outgoing, easy-going, friendly baby was (understandably) nervous (what with all the crying people) and clingy and well morphed into a fucking barnacle. She wailed if I walked more than three feet from her. She didn't sleep well (so I didn't sleep well). She rarely got a nap. I didn't plan for any of that because my daughter isn't that baby. I was prepared for the emotional strain, for conflicting feelings, for intense fatigue but I really didn't plan to have my kid to turn up the stress to a whole new level.

The best thing about the trip honestly was how hard everyone tried to be kind to one another. My family, we are like any other, sometimes we are awesome together and sometimes we are not. We fail each other in millions of ways every day. I have never doubted that I am loved by my family and I hope they never doubt that I love that--but sometimes they make me a wee bit stabby. Stabby towards the eyeballs. And while, yes, that happened a bit (we were all in close quarters for a week after all), I was impressed with how HARD we all tried.

I am trying to gear my brain to do that all of the time. Trying to be kind to the people I love. REVOLUTIONARY. But truly, I think most of us are steaming piles of shit to the people closest to us. We know we can be so we do it. But I am going to try not to anymore.

The viewing and funeral were so so so hard. I realize that I am fortunate to be thirty years old and up until two weeks ago have all four grandparents alive. I KNOW. And I have often said that this is a blessing and curse. While I would love to have my grandfather back and oh how I wish he were back, I know that it is better for HIM this way. His quality of life had really suffered. He was so weak and sick. And the other three are in the same boat. The human body is not really intended to go on into it's eighties. And neither is the human mind. He died in his home where he wanted to be. He had a long life. He said goodbye. We should all be so lucky.

And that is the difficult part of the trip. Seeing my great-uncles at the funerals--literally shells of who they were a few years ago. My other grandparents are really about 3/4 of a semi-competent person. It is a lot like letting a fourteen year old live alone. 90% of the time they are ok but you know--they eat a lot of crap, injure themselves constantly and oh they buy things they do not need. I hate how they have deteriorated. And I hate how as I get older I see their flaws so much more clearly. It is hard as you become an adult to see your parents as people. But I think it is even harder to go through that experience as an adult. I got a vivid demonstration of how frustrating it must have been for my mother to have these people be our grandparents when we were small (and I am so grateful that she did it anyway). We all have flaws and we are all largely products of our environment. Which means that the elderly in my family say some crazy shit that well, is uncomfortable to hear.

Also, ONE OF THEM, will go all bat-shit crazy if you maybe MAYBE snap at her at the mall play area because she was hovering around your kid and giving you the stink eye and brought up how many bruises said kid has and wouldn't back the eff off. HYPOTHETICALLY. She may also insist that it was your sister who snapped and be pissed at her instead.


I was thanked so many times for bringing the baby, something that made me feel guilty a bit because was a I making it seem like it was so hard? Mostly I think she just charmed the pants off of them. She was being very cute and chatting away and eating so many things--something that didn't stop amazing one of my uncles whose own children have never eaten anything voluntarily. Mo eating lasagna and carrots and all the fruit in the world just blew his mind. Babies are great at funerals, they are cheering and cute and distracting. Fabulous unless you are their mother and you just want to mourn your grandfather and well you can't. Because you are marching your kid out since the hymns were freaking her out. Or you are playing cars with her and your cousin's son rather than sitting with your grandmother at the casket. These things are fine and useful but totally shit the bed as far as mourning rituals. There is a reason you don't sit shiva with hot wheels.

The absolute highlight of the week for me was watching Mo with my cousin's son. She called him her MeMe and several days later she is still talking about him. She followed him around relentlessly. Copied his every move. And he adored her. They kept hugging and kissing each other and she didn't even mind when he ran her over in fits of jealousy. Watching that I was so happy for her and consumed by guilt. She won't have any cousins to play with close by like my sister and I did. When my sister does have children they will live across the country. J's brother says he doesn't want kids but even if he were to change his mind they would still live thousands of miles away. And she will be an only child. It was so comforting to see my cousins and my sister and my family. Mo won't ever have that and I admit it breaks my heart.

I can't stop thinking and feeling and worrying about everything. I roll it all over in my brain until the edges are worn but still keep rolling. It's confusing and scary. There are so many things I need to say and I know that eventually I will say them all. Right now I am just grateful to have some one else to deal with the barnacle so I can rest.

And think. Always think.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Longest Trip Ever

To sum up the trip: we've been here since last Tuesday and I took my first dump today.

It's just been so sad, so draining, I haven't slept a bit. The child has been a barnacle--she will barely leave my side. We are all touchy and need to be home in our own beds. I have tons of guilt about my grandpa and about my other grandparents. And I am angry even though I know there is no point to that.

We leave on Tuesday. I cannot come soon enough.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

All Packed

Due to boring details like how long it takes to get anywhere during commuting hours, a morning flight and my daughter's bedtime I am taking her to spend the night tomorrow even though we do not fly out until Tuesday. I spent parts of yesterday and today trying to do all these last minute things.

I had to buy a dress for my daughter to wear to a funeral. Which is so wrong.

I had to squeeze my fat, not really post partum anymore ass into one of my old suits. Some miracle made it fit even though it is definitely tighter. It will have to do.

I packed my bag. All of Baby's stuff and mine in one bag. Just the diaper bag (crammed with food because if that child is hungry the plane with explode with the rage) for a carry on. I feel like a super hero but will undoubtedly have forgotten something very important like zombie repellent.

I had to buy deodorant and allergy medication and I finally caved and bought a smaller stroller (I adore my stroller which is brilliant in every way but weight since it is twenty pounds GAH). This is what you have to do before a trip. Of course after some one you love dies you feel like doing none of these things but that can't be helped. Sweaty pits don't help anyone.

J's mom and uncle were over and bitching about his grandmother. She is doing all kinds of annoying and crazy old lady things and they were rightfully complaining about it. But all I could think is how I wish I could bitch about my grandpa again. How I wouldn't roll my eyes that he only wants steak when you go out to eat so that great Mexican place better have one or he won't go, or how pissy he would get about his lawn not being mowed properly. I wanted to scream at them at at least she was alive! She loves them and they love her and she is ALIVE.

It's not their fault. Hell, later on that day I made fun of my other grandmother's wig so I am just a damn hypocrite anyway (but she has a gardening wig! how you can not make fun of that is beyond me obviously). I miss him.

In some ways I can't wait for this trip--I really want to see my sister (who hasn't met Baby yet) and in others I just want to pretend none of this is happening. I suppose this is what denial looks like.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Last night I felt restless and vaguely sick. I couldn't relax, I had heartburn, I wanted to vomit. I sat around in front of the fan and stewed. Eventually I was able settle down to and sleep but just had an uneasy feeling.

My grandfather died last night. In the back of my mind I think well maybe I knew (though that statement makes me want to slap myself a bit too so there is that).

I am thirty years old and until last night at some point all of my grandparents were alive. They are all in their mid-eighties so they have the usual physical complaints, they forget things, my mother's parents shouldn't be allowed to drive cars but they do. But they were all alive and doing things to make us all laugh and cry and worry. Now there are three of them. I don't know what to do about that.

He never got to hold Mo. When we took her back last year he had the flu and she was only three months old. So he watched her from a distance. My mom and I are going next week, he would have got to hold her this year. We missed it by less than a week.

I remember his leathery face. How he smelled like Brut shaving cream. How he would shower two or three times a day. How he loved the Cubs and taught me to love baseball. The summers before we moved to Washington my sister and I would go to stay with my grandparents for a couple of weeks. We would play out in their yard and garden and overheat ourselves and then I would settle in the den to watch baseball with my grandpa. It would be all dark and cool from a fan and we would lazily watch the game and doze off and curse when they lost (and often when they won).

He restored his mother's piano for me. Because he thought I played (I don't). But I promised him I would learn now. He made me a beautiful chair. He made the bar in my entry way (it's not really a bar but well)--if my mother thinks she is getting that back she is crazy.

He used to wake me up in the middle of night to eat ice cream or peanut butter and butter sandwiches.

My mother and I used to scour the Western stores looking for shirts in a size that can only be called skinny assed tall.

He would wear cowboy boots and was so sad when he had to stop because of his bad back.

My grandparents were classic depression era grandparents. They re-used everything long before it was fashionable. They have the same damn WINDEX bottle as they had in the sixties--with the packaging they haven't used in thirty years.

Oh you guys I have nothing good to say I am just so devastated. I would give almost anything to see him one more time. They are going to tear his house down, the one he built all by himself. The tiny little house they have lived in since my father was seven years old. Tiny rooms, shower in the bathroom, walled in porch where he hid from my grandmother. When I get there I am going to breathe so deeply, trying to store that smell in my memory. I wish I could bottle it, save it for times when I really need it. I might steal the Windex bottle for those times coming up ahead.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Lucky Lucky

One of the dirty little secrets of new babies is that you almost never get as much help as you think you will. Grandparents don't pitch in the way they say they will, friends disappear, somehow parents often end up more on their own than they planned. The village does not show up.

A woman I know was told by her MIL that she would take care of the baby while they worked through her WHOLE PREGNANCY. And then the MIL bailed the last month before the baby was born. That story gave me the vapors so much that J had to talk me off the ledge.

Another friend has NO help at all from her family. And her husband's family will help, but they live across the country. If he travels for business then she is on her own the whole time.

And countless other friends were urged by their families to have children--only to have those families disappear once the babies arrived. Sure, they show up for special occasions but the day to day is all the parents.

I feel so lucky that this has not happened to me.

My parents come up every weekend to see the baby and have virtually every week since she was born. They have taken her overnight when we have needed a break or have plans to go out. If we ever need anything they are just a call away. My MIL takes care of her while we work. We have never had to freak out for a moment because we need help and no one is on the way.

There is a safety net. Even if we don't use it, we are never alone. My mother will come and help me, she is THRILLED to help me. Today she came because I needed to work and J was taking his mother to a concert and we weren't sure how those things would overlap. She gladly came up, early even because she just wanted to see the baby, and when I got home in plenty of the time decided to take us out to dinner.

I have great role models for being a grandmother. I had two wonderful ones myself and now my mother is fabulous. But I am still learning how to be a mother from her. Because sometimes I still need my mother and I am lucky enough to still have her.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Spy vs. Spy

About twenty minutes ago I saw a K-9 unit strolling through my backyard. Being a law-abiding citizen and living on a dead end street (even if it is in the ghetto) this has never happened before. They didn't announce themselves and just walked through the backyard, over the divider in the back and left.

What I think is telling is our reactions to this. I was like HUH, bet they are looking for some one and keeping us safe. J was like HULK SMASH WHY ARE THEY IN MY YARD WITH NO WARRANT.

In other words, I figure they are in pursuit of a criminal and J thinks we are being spied on by the police. I have basically had only good interactions with police. Well not good, in that I basically have only got traffic tickets from them. But I was guilty in those instances and well TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS. J has been more harassed by police and was brought up by people who are very suspicious of the police. So his instincts are all aflame with ME BIG MAN PROTECT MY FAMILY WILL DIG MOAT.

A quick call to the station did not reveal what they were doing here but only that we were not in danger and they were real police. I feel like J is going to have yet ANOTHER chat with the police department (his last two year about patrols in the neighborhood). No wonder they are spying on us.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Keep It Safe Tonight Everyone

I once had this boyfriend, who turned out to be an asshole in eighty-four thousand different ways, but who's family did this grand Fourth of July celebration. The grandmother owned a house on a lake and the whole family would go up for a big meal, swim in the lake and watch fireworks put on by all of the neighbors. This was practically a professional display because over the years the ante had been upped many many times.

This was a fun party, one I attended a few years, but always one that turned me into a basket case on the inside.

I am not really into fireworks.

I don't mind professional displays so much--though I don't really understand the appeal of pushing through crowds and traffic to see a bunch of shit blow up. And I do think they are a huge waste of money. But the home stuff is awful.

For a few years my family would go to a big reunion on a ranch. There were a lot of us and we took up most of the ranch during the day but the night of the Fourth a bunch of people from town would come in. And most would get roaring drunk and set off fireworks. Roman candles and mortar shells--shot off a couple of feet away by drunks. Scary shit, especially if you are a naturally jumpy person like myself. More than once things whizzed by my face too close for comfort. And many people got hurt.

So I would go to this boyfriend's party and be in a mild state of panic the whole day. His family bought a bunch of illegal shit from one of the reservations and even the littlest kids would set it off. Their display was small compared to the other things going off and at least they weren't drunk but I just don't have the constitution to deal with small children lighting things on fire. There are many reasons I am thankful to have dumped his ass many years ago but never having to watch an eight year old weave around with a Roman Candle he lit with a blow torch is on that list.

I am very grateful to be married to some one who hates fireworks as much as I do. We're at home, the baby is in bed, and well I am still happy to wish the country a Happy Birthday.

And I didn't even have to fucking find a place to park my car.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Open Door

I was a buyer.

I am saying this now, even though locals can undoubtedly tell who I worked for, because it is the sort of job that sounds vaguely impressive, half made up, and has a certain prestige to it. Every store you walk into has a buyer--some one has to fill those shelves. It is a job that is more nerdy than not and looks nothing like Rachel Green on Friends.

I was a really good buyer.

It is hard to walk away from something you are good at, especially if it is something you enjoy. It is harder when you have a lot of your identity wrapped up in your work and being a breadwinner for your family. But I walked away--for a lot of reasons really--and yesterday was just a strange day.

In the end I was sad. Sad because for eight years I had worked for that company, for seven I said hello to the same doorman every damn morning. For eight years I had the same email address and voice mail password. It is amazing to me how much of my brain was used to remember how passwords I won't use again and how to build reports that I won't even run again and think about how to sell more stuff that I won't use again. I have 48% more brain space available and I think I better rot it out by watching reality TV.

Mostly I am sad. I miss my buddies, I was lucky enough to work with a lot of really fantastic people. And I am scared. It is hard to try something new. I hope that in a year I will look back at this time and shake my head at my silliness about being so afraid. I hope that I won't be shaking my head remember this being the event that dumps the doors off. That corny bit about one door closing and another opening is ratting around in my (48% emptier) head and I really wonder which door will open.

And will I be brave enough to walk through it.