June 2011 Archives

For the past nine days, ever since my dad died, I've been thinking about him and about life and death in general pretty much nonstop.  When Lex was in kindergarten and went through a time where he couldn't sleep at night because the idea of dying was upsetting him too much, I told him that before he was born his whole world was inside of me.  He could hear my voice, in an underwater, warped way, and he maybe knew that he wasn't alone, that there was something else keeping him company.  And, I told him, it would have been impossible for him to imagine the world that he was about to be born into.  Light, colors, air, trees, smells, cars, houses, seashells, rockets, food, even his mother - everything he could think of - all of it was so close to him all the time but he had no way to know.  I told him that we have no idea what happens after we die, but that if we have the sense that there's more out there, then I think it's because there is.  That there's something holding us that we can't see or imagine, but we can still feel is there.  It seemed to help him.  I know it helped me.

When my step-mom and I got to the hospital after my dad died, we went into his room and sat with him for awhile.  I was hoping to feel him there still, but I didn't.  I looked up toward the ceiling above his hospital bed anyway, just in case he was there watching like people who've had near death experiences describe. 

His voice is still so clear in my head.  The way he said Hello when he picked up the telephone, how he said, awwww coool, when he really liked something, him singing Ghost Riders In the Sky to me and my brother when we were little.  How he said my name. 

Sometimes I think about those fish that live their whole lives at the deepest parts of the ocean.  They're on the same planet we are, but don't have a concept of life outside the water, or even life with light.  It's so weird that things like that give me hope that my dad is still around somewhere.

Last night I was driving over to Scuba's house, so we could go out for dinner, just us, since the kids were away for the night, I stopped at a light and saw that there was a spiderweb between the side-view mirror on the driver's side and the door of the car.  And, working quickly to fix all the broken parts of it, was a pretty good sized little orangey brown spider.  Oh, bummer, dude, I said to him when the light turned green.  He hung in there for the whole drive, even though at one point he was trailing straight back from the mirror on eighteen inches of silk at 40 mph.  About three quarters of the way there, he finally crawled into the space between the mirror and its cover, and if spiders feel fear, I'm sure he was just terrified.  And here it was again: The spider had no idea what the hell was happening to him, but I knew the whole story because I was watching it happen.  It's helping me feel a tiny bit better, looking at things this way.  It doesn't fix that I won't ever get to see my dad again, and that if I live to see eighty years old I'll end up living half my life without him, but it helps me believe that he's still around, tucked someplace, maybe even on this planet, where he's there but no one can see him.

Ever since the end of the summer before last, the air conditioning in my van has only worked sporadically.  Just when I'm ready to pay whatever it costs to get it fixed, it starts working again, but only for one car ride, and then the next time I start the car, I get nothing.  Every time I've driven my car since my dad died, the AC has worked, beautifully.  And I know it may sound silly and far-fetched, but I think he fixed it for me.  That would be just like him.

[Edited 8.24.11 to add: My comment moderation/notification was messed up ALL summer (my fault), but I didn't realize it until now.  Huge apologies to the 20 or so people who left such kind and helpful comments.  I'm so sorry I am only just now seeing and publishing them.  Thanks so much for your help.  Two months later it's honestly not any easier, but it's different, less frantic I guess, since I'm not feeling as much of that panic that comes with total disbelief.  I don't know that I'm making sense, here.  I don't know what to say, so I'll just say thank you again for taking the time to reach out.  My dad read my blog and would have been (or maybe he is) so touched.]

Grandmommie & Aunt Geri

and that makes me very happy.  And?  They are just about the only two women I know who are shorter than I am.  Heh.

On the left is my dad's mother, and on the right is my dad's father's sister.  I think that's her late husband in the chair, there, and I think this photo was taken on the 4th of July in 1948 or so, on her birthday.  I need to get this scan professionally photoshopped and then printed, framed, and hung up on the wall to remind me that everything is okay, even when it's not.
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This is, more or less, what I said at my Dad's funeral yesterday:

It doesn't really feel like it at the moment, but I know that I am really, really lucky.  I don't have a single bad memory about my dad, unless you count the times that I had to tell him goodbye or all the time that I spent missing him.  I remember things like him reading to me, teaching me how to ride a two-wheeler in Grandmommie's driveway on Christmas day, him carrying me out of the hospital after I had surgery when I was little, and him being at all my soccer games, cheering for me. 

Here is a story that I think says so much about my father and the kind of person he was: In the late 70s he had an apartment in Garland and Jay and I stayed with him every single weekend.  The apartment was so little - just one bedroom, one bathroom, a kitchen, a little living room, and a teeny dining area with a sliding door that opened up onto a little patio.  Jay and I slept on a black and white fold-out houndstooth sofa with foam cushions.  Remember that, Jay?  One day we were a little stir crazy, and so dad opened the sliding glass door, and opened the window in his bedroom, which was low to the ground and also looked out on the patio.  He took out the window screen and told us that we could run in circles from his bedroom, through the window, onto the porch, into the dining area, through the hall, and then back to his bedroom.  And so we did- we ran and ran and ran, laughing the whole time.  When I was older and had kids, he told me that I needed to be sure that I always lived in a house that had circles for the kids to run in.  So I do, and always will, even when I'm a grandmother and great-grandmother.    

My dad planned to be there when I was born, which was a newish thing in 1970.  He went to the childbirth classes and came to the hospital with lollipops and a paper bag for my mom, in case her mouth was dry or she hyperventilated.  He wanted to see me be born, but the doctor on call that night said no.  My grandmother, Margaret, told me that when she got to the hospital while my mom was still in labor, she found him completely dejected, sitting in the hallway on a chair, his elbows on his knees, his chin in his hands, holding the paper bag.  She said it was the saddest thing she'd ever seen in her whole life.  "Poor Stanley!" she said.

I tried to be there for my dad when he died.  When Jeani called me the Saturday before last and told me that things were looking bad for him, I booked a redeye out of San Francisco the next night and got to Houston at 8 in the morning on Monday.  I grabbed a cab at the airport and was in his room before 9.  He slept for almost the whole day, except for the time when the nurse stopped his sedation so he could wake up and tell me hello.  He was back on a ventilator and couldn't speak, so he took a pen and wrote on his notepad, "I am so tired," and "I'm so glad you came."  Jeani read him a wonderful letter that Jay had emailed her. 

I wanted to sleep in his ICU room that night, but I'd been awake the whole night before, flying, and the nurses encouraged me and Jeani both to go home and rest.  The next day was supposed to be big; they were going to remove the chest tube that had gone in a few days before to give him relief from his collapsed lung.  Before we left, I was sitting in a chair at the foot of his bed and looking at him sleeping there.  He was sitting up partway because of the ventilator and his head was turned to his left.  I wanted to climb in the bed next to him and put my arms around his shoulders so that his head could rest on my shoulder, but we could hardly even give him a hug with all the wires from his IV and ventilator, his chest tube and heart monitor.  When we left I gave his hand a squeeze, rested my hand on his shoulder, kissed his cheek, and told him that I loved him, that I'd see him early in the morning when Jay got there from Portland.

At 12:01 on Tuesday morning I finally got into bed and tried to sleep. It was June 21st, the summer solstice, a date that dad always appreciated and sometimes even made sangria on.  It was the longest day of the year, and what would turn out to be the longest day of my life.  At 1:24 Jeani woke me up, saying, "Jeni, it's time.  We need to get to the hospital."  We got dressed and drove over, only to find that he'd died at 1:27.

A lot of small and large details had to be attended to, and so Jeani and I did that and then planned to sleep before driving to Sherman.  We never did rest, but we got on the road a little before 2pm and made our way through rain and forest fires up to Sherman where my dad grew up.  We got to grandma's house after dinnertime, and we hugged her and cried with her and I couldn't hardly look around because every single thing I saw held all these memories.  After an evening spent visiting around the table, Jeani and I went to bed just before midnight in my dad's old bedroom, the one he grew up in.  There was a thunderstorm, and as we went to sleep the windows lit up with lightening and I counted one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, all the way up to twenty before the thunder came and I pictured my dad as a little blonde-haired boy doing the exact same thing in the exact same place. 

It's funny, sometimes, the things that make you think of people.  Last summer, when I went to Houston for a weekend, my dad and I were cooking supper together and he said, "You know, I read something really interesting and once I thought about it, it made perfect sense: When you crack an egg, instead of cracking the shell on the side of a bowl or the pan, you should just hold it longways and strike it flat against the counter top.  It makes a cleaner break and you're less likely to get eggshell in your eggs."  Then he briefly explained the physics to me of why that was.  I break a lot of eggs.  A lot.  See those four kids there?  They love eggs and banana bread and cupcakes and frittata.  Ever since my dad taught me that, every single time I have cracked an egg I've thought of him.  And now maybe you will, too.

My dad taught me so many, many things, and the most important of them were things he taught me by example.  He taught me to be considerate, to give people the benefit of the doubt, to not be judgmental, and to be patient.  He taught me that honesty is best, even when it's the more difficult choice, and he taught me to treat everyone with respect.

In March when I found out that he'd been diagnosed with kidney cancer, I spent many days feeling like I was underwater and in a dream.  Jay and I booked a trip to visit him, together, at the end of April, and I couldn't wait to go see him.  On April 1st dad was hospitalized and Jay immediately got on a plane to be with him, even though he had just become a papa for the second time to sweet little Oliver who was born nearly two months early.  I arrived the next day.  Dad couldn't talk, because he was on a ventilator, but he wrote notes.  Lots and lots of notes.  One of my favorite stories from that time was when a young male nurse came in to check on him.  He'd been napping and the nurse woke him up.  Dad asked for his pen and paper and he wrote, "You aren't nearly as cute as my sister."  We all looked at him, wondering what on earth he meant by that.  He continued, "She was bringing me an ice cold beer, but then you came and woke me up!"  Another time, when his friend Richard was visiting, he asked Jeani to tell the story of their very eventful first date, and he used a pen and paper to add his details to the story.  Even without his voice, my dad was a wonderful storyteller.

I was there the first time he had his ventilator removed and he could speak again.  He told me that he'd had a great life.  He told me that he'd been blessed with an amazing family, that he absolutely loved his career, and that he was honored and humbled by the outpouring of love sent his way when he became ill.  He told me that he was lucky, and that even if he didn't live much longer, it was okay, because he'd had the best life he could have ever hoped for. 

Friday night after work, Scuba and I loaded up the kids and went to the beach.  We left at 6:30. It was hot and sticky at home, but when we got over the hill it was grey and cold and foggy.  We parked in Capitola and got out, everyone demanding their coats and long pants.

I didn't think it would be a good night to learn to surf, because I thought I would be freezing, but since the boys were getting in the water, I decided to be brave and get in, too.

looking for waves

Turns out, it was warmer in the water than on the shore.  The girls stayed on the beach, playing in the waves and watching us.  I did okay, I think.  I wasn't able to stand up (that is so much harder than it looks, especially when you are on this side of 35), but I did have alright balance and get up on my knees a few times.

Friday was hard.  My dad is still in the hospital, and after doing really well for awhile had suffered a collapsed lung on Thursday.  Friday I talked to him, just for a moment.  It was a struggle for him to get any words out, but we were able to say that we loved each other.  He said he was very uncomfortable.  He told me goodnight. 

If you've ever gone swimming in the ocean, or surfed, or paddled a boat or just walked in the shorebreak, then maybe you have had the experience of the waves and the water stilling all your thoughts and bringing you peace.  It's better than a beer at the end of a long hot day, better than sleep when you are exhausted.  I sat out there on that surfboard for the first time and while I was thinking of my dad and feeling this heartbreak that I'm not sure how I'll ever live with, at the same time I was calm and peaceful and nothing felt really wrong. 

The water was a little flat, but when good waves came, Scuba would give me a push and yell Paddle! and I would.
in the water with Scuba

So what happens is that you are paddling, hard, but not moving very fast, it seems, and then the wave swells beneath you and starts to carry you.  I wasn't sure when to try and stand up, and the first time I tried I went over the front of the board, got rolled under a wave and then hit square in the top lip by the front of the board as it crashed into my face.  But hey, the Pacific is pretty cold so it didn't hurt.  Scuba told me that when the wave started to break, that's when I should stand up.  The next few I caught, I pushed myself up to my knees but my arms weren't able to get me all the way to standing.  It was okay, though, just feeling the waves carry me up to the shore was all I needed. 

It started to get dark and the girls were freezing, so we finally, reluctantly, got out of the water and packed up our things.  This is something I could do every single day for the rest of my life and never get tired of it.  I'll probably always stick to the little baby waves, but that is fine.  I'm not much of a show off. 

Today, Sunday, we had plans to go back, but yesterday I got a call that my dad was not doing well at all.  He was asking for me, wondering if I was going to be there.  So, today was spent finding childcare (Scuba's parents are stepping in, which is awesome) and booking a flight and getting laundry done and the house picked up so I can go for a few days.  For a little while I was worried that I wouldn't make it in time, but now it seems a little better and I am so looking forward to seeing my dad tomorrow morning that I cannot even think of how to put that into words.  He's back on a ventilator, so I don't think he will be able to talk to me, but luckily I think we have said all the words we ever need to say to each other and it'll be good for me to just be there with him.

And, later, when he is gone and my heart is more broken than it is now, I'll be getting in the water, a lot, and I guess it will all be okay.  As okay as it can be, you know?

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This was my morning:

7:00: Try to wake up girls, but they are out cold.
7:02: Make coffee, unload dishwasher, put clothes in the dryer.
7:15: Try to wake up girls, they beg to sleep a little longer.  I let them.  The last week of school is basically just a hazing ritual to see who among the parents is dedicated enough to get straight which day is Hawaiian Day, which one is Olympic Day, when to send the kid in their class t-shirt and with a sack lunch for a field trip, and when to send them in their pajamas.  I don't really care if we are late.  I'm a little cranky and tired myself.
7:30: I've had one cup of coffee and answered some work email.  The girls are snoring, both of them.
7:40: Drag them out of bed and start handing them clean clothes to get dressed in. 
7:45-7:50:  There is a lot of whining and flopping around.  A Lot.
7:55: Realize we need to leave in five minutes.  Get another cup of coffee.  Spend the next twenty minutes getting hair done, shoes on, sunscreen applied (I do know it's Olympic Day, which means outside all day for them) teeth brushed, lunches into backpacks.
8:15: At school, the bell is ringing, yet we are at home, asking Nate if Sophie can borrow his Vote For Pedro baseball cap because I kept forgetting to put sunscreen on her scalp since she got her braids, and she's got a pretty awful sunburn.  See braids, below:

crazy hair day

Somebody saw Karate Kid II and fell in love with Jaden Smith's hair and Needed To Have It. 

Still 8:15: Time to leave, I want to stop and take a photo of Sophie in the Pedro hat, but instead grab bread and peanut butter and make foldovers for the girls to eat in the car.  I hand the girls their sandwiches, and we walk out the door.  I'm wearing ugg boots, pink pajama pants with wedding cakes all over them, a Rock Your Firefox purple tshirt, and a ponytail that goes straight up so that my bangs, which are nearly grown out, can reach it and wont' be in my eyes.

We get in the car and the girls ask to listen to Hank III.  This song:

They sing along, mouths full of peanut butter, and I remember that I never did find the 2012 sticker for my license plate that came in the mail a few weeks ago and my tags are expired.  And, I pass a police officer.  Perfect!  I have no wallet, my young kids are listening to music that carries a parental advisory, and I am in my pajamas with my hair sticking straight up.  And sunglasses.

I use up all my good karma and don't get pulled over.  I pull up to the curb, where the girls kiss me goodbye and jump out of the van and run to their classrooms with the other late kids.  I feel a little better that we're not the only late family, but I am most definitely the only parent in my pajamas.

I go home and start looking, again, for the 2012 tag.  When it came in the mail, I stuck it in my checkbook, because it was rainy out and the car was dirty and I didn't want to put it on when it wouldn't stick.  But, of course it isn't there anymore.  And I know because I've taken the checkbook apart six or seven times and looked and looked.  There's a very dim memory of taking the sticker out again, and placing it *somewhere* so that I can grab it later, but just as my hand is putting the sticker somewhere, the memory gets fuzzy.

I do remember, though, that I was sitting at my desk paying bills when I moved the sticker.  So I sit.  Nothing.  I start looking around me, slowly.  To my left is a bookshelf.  I sit up a little taller in my chair and see a tiny fleck of green on the shelf just above my line of vision.  I stand up, and there is my tag, thankfully, which means I can take the girls to school in pajamas all the way till the bitter end.  Go, me!   
At Sophie's bday party

So that kid up there, who used to be this baby down here

teeny Sophie

just turned ten.

I love her so much I can't even tell you.

dog kisses

There's no one on the planet quite like her. 

Sophie's t-shirt from Paris

And I know that's true of every person on the planet, but it's truer of her.

Miss Hairdresser

If she didn't make me furious so often, she would totally be my favorite.

I'm kidding.  I don't have a favorite.


But I do have a goofiest.

jack-o-lantern teeth

She said something to me the other day so funny and so profane I can't even repeat it. 
gilroy memorial day 10 027

She regularly amazes me by being more kind and thoughtful than most adults, and at the same time I know there are houses where she's not allowed to go play because of something she's done or said that she shouldn't have.

amelia earhart soph 039

But that's okay.  My mom once said to me when I was upset because someone didn't like me, Well, you don't like everyone, so why on earth would you expect everyone to like you?

Sophie is TEN

I really hope that we're able to look at each other in another ten years and be as happy to be mother and daughter as we are now.  I can tell that her being a teenager is going to be a trial for the both of us. On her tenth birthday I woke up and looked at her sleeping next to me in my bed and I swear I heard a ding and instructions to fasten my seatbelt.

So, in addition to now being the mother of a tween girl, I have some other VERY EXCITING news to share.  Today Scuba will take his LAST FINAL FOR GRAD SCHOOL. 

DUDE.  I'm so freaking happy I can barely contain myself. 

He's been in school since we started dating almost three years ago, and he'd been in for a year before that.  I think that I'm even happier about him finishing than he is, though, because this means that I'll actually get to see him.  Like, all the time. 

And we will do a whole lot more of this

SG free diving w/ video camera

And this


And for the whole rest of my life, when I look ahead, I will get to see this

SG beach stairs

I know probably nobody wants to read all the sappy I'm so in love stuff, so now's the time to look away. 

Scuba, I have never been happier than I have been these past few years.  We've talked a lot about when school is done, and now all of a sudden, here it is, done in just a few more hours.  And it feels like everything is about to get even better.  It feels like the best gift ever, this future we've got waiting for us to make an amazing life together.  I totally love you (big time).  xo 
Partner since June 2006





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