Category Archives: I have Family

Stopping Earth’s Orbit

My uncle passed away in the wee hours of the morning Saturday morning, the 14th.  My aunt is a retired nurse, so she knew there was no hope.  I treasure her practical no-nonsense ways.  But the thing is, I still can’t wrap my mind around this whole crazy thing.  The fluke event, the domino effect, how one thing led to another that normally wouldn’t have happened, but it did that day.  How an ordinary orbit around the sun started so ordinarily, and an ordinary decision to follow his ordinary routine in his ordinary day ended his life.  How he did nothing wrong, but everything somehow went wrong.

I’ve looked through all the pictures that I’ve taken when we’ve visited each other and it is just so surreal to me that the images and voices that I captured of us all together, of William singing him happy birthday in 2015, the park bench he sat on at a park in 2016, the tree he sat under for shade after our walk over the Bob Kerrey bridge, of him laughing at William’s energy running across a giant field, of him grumbling to camouflage his secret joy that he would have to “sacrifice” his diet and help Tony eat that big bag of popcorn he just bought while they watched TV together in the downstairs family room, of his antics when he was frustrated with his beloved Huskers football team and his passionate joy when they were doing well, how reliable he was to take his great-grandson to school every Tuesday and Thursday, or when his great-grandson steals his seat (his La-Z-Boy, no less) in the family room and he would let him, how he would save me a cup of coffee out of their giant carafe in the mornings when I was visiting, how he would make a giant pot of beef stew for the first night’s dinner when we arrived after our day of traveling because he knew it was my favorite, and all the numerous other facets of his very normal life… all those memories, those are the only ones we’ll ever have with him, and no new ones are to be made.  At least not here on earth.

p1220470

 

dscn4595

dscn4586

 

I know that the end of life for each person is death, with no exceptions.  It’s no surprise.  I’ve read Ecclesiastes.  I also know I’m at this strange age in my life when death starts taking the lives of those I know and love, and that it will continue that way.  But sudden death is always such a strange thing to process.  I’m not sure I can get used to this being my new norm.

My uncle’s funeral is this week, on Thursday, but rather than go back for it, I booked tickets to fly us back to see my aunt early February instead.  My heart is telling me that I need to see her, that perhaps she’ll need to see me, too.  And I know she takes joy in William, so going in February will allow me to bring William and Tony, too, instead of just me because of airfare costs.

I’m praying for my aunt and their son, and the rest of the “surviving” family members and friends, as we all find our new “normal” while missing him.  If you have prayers or thoughts to offer, they would be appreciated.

6 Comments

Filed under Best Husband, I have Family, Life Encompasses Me, Our Kid is Cute

Celestial City.

I have been reading Little Pilgrim’s Progress to William.  We received the book last Friday night and within two days, we were 65 pages into it.  Now we are well past that.  I don’t even know what page, but I think we finished chapter 30 last night.  We read, last night, the chapter where Faithful is escorted from the town of Vanity Fair into the Celestial City by angels.

I reached out to my aunt today during my lunch break, I don’t know why I was so timid to reach out to her.  Fear of bothering her, fear of her being busy, fear that she wouldn’t want to repeat the story to yet another person, fear that she wouldn’t want to cry more  — or knowing that she is much more of an in-person type of person vs. a phone person.  Probably mostly the latter,  now that I think about it.  I get that, I’m that way, too.  But, when I was looking at pictures from our trip of October 2016, there is one of her and me, and the look on her face and the positioning of her hands on me, I see in that picture that I am the daughter she never had.  Seeing that, I felt compelled to overcome my fear.

Talking to her cleared up so many questions… the incident didn’t happen early morning, like my dad’s cousin had told me, but rather mid-morning.  He had gone out to get the mail, not the newspaper.  The period of time between him taking his great grandson to school and the time of the incident was enough time for the roads to ice up, which is why the emergency vehicle was unable to get up the hill to their house, and then when it went the other way, it got stuck in the ice, so the city had to come out and treat the roads.  It took 45 precious possible life-saving minutes … they talk about the “golden hour” of brain injuries, and my uncle’s golden hour was spent on the grass of his front lawn in freezing temperatures waiting for emergency personnel to help him due to bad street conditions, and then being transferred from the hospital he was initially taken, to a hospital that might be better equipped to help him due to the severity of his injury.

I told my aunt that I was concerned about her.  That I wanted to come and see her.  That I love both of them, but I wanted to be there for her in whatever capacity I could be.  I asked if I could fly to see her, to hold her hand, to just hold her.  We both started crying.  She declined, because her home will be full of his relatives in a short time and she feels that she has emotional support from her son and her niece (her husband’s brother’s daughter).  I told her that if she just needed a friend by phone, to please, please, please reach out to me in whatever capacity she is comfortable with.  I want to be there for her.

My uncle was taken off of life support at 11 AM (CST) today.  It is now just a matter of time before he is taken by angels to the Celestial City.

2 Comments

Filed under I feel Sad, I have Family, Who I am

Turning in Circles.

I just found out that my uncle, the one who we visited when we went to Iowa four months ago, is in a coma.  The doctors don’t expect him to live through the night.

A regular day in his life.  They get up early, before the roosters do, on Tuesdays.  My aunt and uncle watch their great-grandkids for an hour or so before school, their mom works the super early shift every day just down the hill from their house, so she drops them there and then my uncle (their great-grandpa) drives them on to school.  That time in the early mornings is something they’ve always treasured.  This morning was no different.  He drives a great big truck and he drives slowly.  He made it home safely after the drop off and parked his truck in the garage.  He went out on the driveway to retrieve the newspaper and when he bent down to pick it up, he slipped on the ice. He went down hard and hit his head.

My aunt, concerned that he hadn’t come inside, went out to look for him and saw that the driveway was nothing but ice.  It looked like glass.  She immediately called 911 and then went out, crawled across the ice to get to him, and to keep him warm.  The ambulance apparently had difficulty getting up the hill to their house, it took them an hour. I’m not sure why or how, the telling of the story was that the road conditions were terrible.  If that’s so, I’m not sure how my uncle was able to make it up there in his truck.  But… the fact of the matter, there was an hour long delay before they were able to assist him.

He was taken to the hospital and then transferred to another hospital with more capabilities.  He has a brain bleed.  Multiple cat scans show that they couldn’t stop the bleeding in his brain.  He’d survived heart surgery a couple years ago and was on blood thinners for that.  Let me just repeat that… he freaking survived heart surgery, but likely won’t survive a slip on the damn ice!

My aunt has been at the hospital with him all day.  Their son (my cousin) flew home from Vegas, apparently had trouble getting a flight and it took him forever.  I am beside myself.  I love them.  I want to be there for my aunt right now, but I live too far away.  And… of course, I’m hoping for a miracle.  That maybe the doctors are wrong. Maybe we’ll wake up tomorrow and he’ll have survived this, too.

 

 

8 Comments

Filed under I feel Sad, I have Family

Vacation: The Mitt (Part 5) — Journey to Hawks

The next morning we were to meet Tony’s parents and his 2 uncles for breakfast at a cafe in Boyne City.  As it happened, the cafe was across the street from an enormous wooden play structure.  What is it with Michigan and these enormous wooden play structures?  Never have I ever seen so many amazing wooden play structures in my life.  California is all about plastic structures that burns-your-bum-in-the-sun and that lasts forever.  And how is it that wooden playgrounds stand up so well to the extreme weather that Michigan encounters?

As I wandered through the play structure, following “William the White Rabbit” (again with the Alice in Wonderland theme), I noticed that I was walking through quite a few spider webs.  Offhandedly, I thought to myself how busy those spiders must have been to spin their webs so quickly overnight and how bummed they must be that the tall human was destroying the carefully woven web of captivation.  Then I learned a bit later (from talking to one of the other adults who was there with his grandson) that this particular playground had been closed for a good long while, and that it had just reopened that day, and the ribbon cutting ceremony for the reopening ceremony was at noon.  The timing of it all felt rather fortuitous.

Eventually, though, we had to load up in the car, go back and pack up our stuff, and hit the road.  As we drove back to the farm, I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to understand my delight when I found a giant metal chicken.  There’s a story behind this, and if you’re ever interested, feel free to ask.  But that giant metal chicken totally made my day and gave me the energy to face the day ahead.

Because… MORE ROAD TRIP (see previous post)!!!  This time, however, we were following Tony’s parents as we headed to the area where Tony’s dad grew up, and where Tony spent many of his summers in his youth.

We made a stop at the Cross in the Woods shrine and parish.  The walk out to the cross was the beginning of the ramping up of my mosquito phobia.  Anywhere there is stagnant air in humid places, there is likely to be a mosquito or three lingering around, and if that’s the case, then they will find me.  So I kept my step quick with an eye for avoiding the caterpillars that seemed to be dangling from trees like an aerial obstacle course.  I didn’t know anything about this particular place, except for what the sign in the parking lot said, so all my reading about it has been done after our visit.  When I saw it, it was rather jaw dropping… as one might expect of a 28′ bronze statue hoisted on a giant wooden cross.  From their website (link):

The sculpture of the crucified Christ was titled “The Man on the Cross” by the renowned Michigan sculptor Marshall Fredericks. It is made of bronze 3/8″ to 1/2″ thick. It weighs seven tons, is twenty-eight feet tall from head to toe, and the outstretched arms span twenty-one feet. The figure of Christ is attached by thirteen bolts 30″ long and 2″ thick that were made when the figure was cast in Norway. Fredericks wanted to portray Christ in a peaceful way. It was his dream to “give the face an expression of great peace and strength and offer encouragement to everyone who viewed the Cross”. Christ is symbolized just at the moment when He commends Himself to His Father. The sculptor received special permission from the Vatican to omit the crown of thorns and the wound on Jesus’ side. In 1992 because of damage to the crucifix caused by weathering and pollution, it was decided to clean the corpus. The Jensen Foundation for Art Conservation spent several weeks cleaning the corrosion from the bronze figure. It was then lacquered and waxed. Fredericks requested that the Cross be painted in a light tan tone to emphasize the bronze corpus. The corpus is waxed by volunteers every two years.

DSCN1296

After that, we headed to a McDonald’s/Gas Station/Gift Shop all-in-one combo place where you could fuel yourself, fuel your car and commemorate the visit with a souvenir.

We passed Moran Iron Works in Onaway, Michigan.  On their vast lawn, they have enormous metal sculptures of the World War II aircraft carrier Bunker Hill and a bust of George Washington.  According to Moran Iron Works’ website, Tom Moran (the owner of the company), is quite the artist and has done other items of art, which he either donates, gifts or displays throughout the state of Michigan.  You can see his art here:  Link

We stopped at a local grocery store as we neared our destination to stock up for the mosquito apocalypse that I was suspicious we were heading into.  Tony also grabbed a small can of bug repellent in a cheery orange canister and nonchalantly dropped it in the wheel well near my feet.  Then as our rental car reached more rural locations, our cell phone access got more and more spotty and finally disappeared altogether, coinciding with our arrival at The Kamp.

(Side note:  According to local lore, all “hunting lodges” or “cabins” in Michigan are called Camps.  I’m not sure why this is and, apparently, no one else really knows for sure, either.  When I inquired, there were a lot of theories that were spoken, but no hard facts were presented.  From the moment the name of it was mentioned, I changed the spelling in my mind to The Kamp, because “camping” to me is something you do in a tent.  So, camping in a building is more glamorous and, thus, should be dressed up with a K from the very start.)

We pulled into the parking area of The Kamp and a cloud of mosquitoes greeted us with great anticipation.  Like true vampires, they had somehow caught our human scent long before we even knew they were in existence.  As we sat there captives in our car, 25′ from the Kamp’s front door, mosquitoes pinging our windows, our cell phone access gone, like a super hero, Tony bravely stepped out into the cloud of vampires to run into The Kamp to open it up for our occupancy.  Four mosquitoes slipped in before he could shut the car door, and I grabbed that cheery orange canister of bug repellent and frantically sprayed them.  Now, mind you, bug repellent doesn’t work quite like an insecticide would, killing bugs on the spot. No, no, it doesn’t, and I knew that.  But I sprayed enough of it that they drowned in it, and from then until the end of time, the seats of the car should have been invisible to them.   I had unbuckled William in preparation for going into The Kamp, and as he climbed into my lap, he bravely declared, “It’s OK, mommy, I’m the Bug Killer.”  I stared at him in horror, for he was an innocent.  An untested.  He had never seen a mosquito in-person before this day.

IMG_7281

My purse slung over my shoulder, my son’s hand in mine, and that cheery orange canister in my other hand, I opened my car door and yelled, “RUN, SON, RUN!”  And I blasted that bug spray in a cloud all around us like it was a massive weapon of destruction with a tiny nozzle, while we ran for our lives to the door of the building.  In retrospect, I suppose I could have just casually sprayed us before we got in the car after we visited the grocery store and that likely would have been sufficient.  Or, you know, even as we exited the car at The Kamp, but that sort of rational, calm thought did not seem to make sense in the face of desperate, hungry, ravenous, starving mosquitoes who all had big eyes, sharp teeth, a kamikaze attitude, and hadn’t eaten all winter long, and here we were, served up in beautiful Volkwagen Jetta platter, just in time for dinner!

–To Be Continued–

1 Comment

Filed under I have Family, I Left Home for Awhile, Our Kid is Cute

Vacation: The Mitt (Part 4) — Journey to Boyne City

After our visit in Kalkaska, we loaded back up in our rental car and got back on the interstate.  We’re driving along and wouldn’t you know it?  We found that road painting truck again.  I was kind of surprised, because DON’T THESE PEOPLE HAVE A HOME SOMEWHERE?  Shouldn’t they be having the “What are we having for dinner?” conversation that unites couples everywhere with SOMEONE?

We lingered behind them for awhile, and then the person behind Tony roared past us and the truck with a great big gust of wind, and that was all we were waiting for.  A cue that passing them (when safe to do so, of course) was legal.  With that, Tony floored it and we were on our way.

I remember road trips with my mom and brother with great fondness.  It was the adventure we had together as a family that bonded us with mutual experiences which we would remember with love and alchemy for the rest of our lives.  We would stop and take pictures with interesting sites and pose with each other, an arm slung around each other’s shoulders, as proof that we had been there, here is what “there” looked like at that moment in time, and we loved each other, by golly.  See?  Evidence.  Look how happy we were together!
Scan20024

OK, well, maybe that’s a bad example.  Let’s try again a couple years later when we were older and more mature …

Untitled-28 copy

Uh… well. Huh.

Well, this road trip experience with Tony and William was quite similar.  Except now that I’m the adult I can eject myself the moment the car stops and close the door, leaving the madness contained inside strapped helplessly in the child’s car seat in the back!  It’s not always awesome to be a grown-up, but sometimes it has its perks!

DSCN1243

Because now I’ve got a kid in the back seat whose toes seem to suddenly be  7 inches long and they reach into the front seat and poke us in the armpits.  This kid, who when he climbed in the car, the first thing he said was, “I don’t like this car. It doesn’t have a snapper.”  Confused, we asked what a “snapper” was.  He didn’t expound at all, instead he exclaimed with great delight, “Oh!  Here’s the snapper!”  And he reached with his extended toes and started snapping the cigarette lighter cover repeatedly.  OH, OF COURSE.  THE SNAPPER.  YIPPEE!!  Then we have the “Are we here  yet?” question.  And, everything beyond that is just bonus.  Pure bonus.   For your viewing pleasure, a video with lots of bonus footage!!  Go ahead.  Watch it.  You know you want to.

DSCN1207

And I began to ask myself why I was being a hero.  Exactly what kind of bonding are we experiencing here?  The survival type of bonding?  A weird twist of the Stockholm Syndrome, except William is our captor?  And that’s when the internal negotiation begins with myself.  When the “I will never…” part of it becomes the “the trip is over two hours and we need to concentrate on where we’re going.  Yes, I know we stay on this interstate until it doesn’t exist anymore, but we need to concentrate, dammit!  Concentrate on the silence.”  And I hand the child his iPod which has short movies on it.  And breathe a sigh of relief at the instant silence in the car.  Suddenly, the trees are greener, the grass is prettier, the road ahead melts back into a possible harbinger of good things instead of a never ending connect-the-dot maze leading straight to hell.  Suddenly, I can enjoy the journey instead of wondering where the hell our destination is.

And then your child hands his iPod back to you and tells you he’s done.  He doesn’t want to watch a movie. He doesn’t want to play games.  And you hear, “Dun dun dunnnnnn” in your head and momentarily give consideration to actually picking up a hitchhiker, because a real live person would certainly entertain the child, wouldn’t they?.

DSCN1212

There might have been a slight bit of panic in my mind when Tony handed me his cell phone and said, “Here, call my dad and find out where they are.”  I reply, “What do you mean, find out where they are?”  And then I call his dad and find out that they are not at his aunt’s farm, that no one is at his aunt’s farm, his aunt’s farm where we are supposed to go and sleep is empty of people, and all of the people who might welcome us to his aunt’s farm, those people are all over at  Uncle Al’s house having dinner.  A nice, grown-up, leisurely dinner at 8:45 PM with elderly people, whose children have left home and live on their own as successful contributing members of society.  So they have no comprehension of my anxiety, which was rapidly escalating because of the REASON of that anxiety, a delirious 4 year old in the back who needs to go to bed.  And Tony’s all, “Calm down, it will be OK!”  And I hand the phone back to Tony, while his dad is explaining something about how to stop by Uncle Al’s house, and said something along the lines of, “I can’t deal with this…”

We found Tony’s aunt’s farm, laid out just as he remembered it, stretched out along a hillside.  A barn standing across a single lane dirt track, a tool shed of sorts beyond that, a meadow beyond the barn, all framed like a perfect picture by tall trees.  Grateful to be there and grateful that out in the sticks of Michigan, people don’t always lock their doors.  Shocked that it was still light outside at 9 PM and grateful that I had packed black out drapes, we hustled inside and set up for William’s bath and bedtime, and prayed for a good night’s sleep.

The road trip wasn’t done yet.   The next day we had TWO MORE HOURS, maybe longer, depending on how fast Tony’s dad planned on driving, and how many stops he might be thinking of making.

2 Comments

Filed under Best Husband, I have Family, I Left Home for Awhile, Our Kid is Cute

More About Last Month’s Vacation.

In a previous post, I shared one of the funny moments that happened late in our vacation while it was still fresh in my mind. I also shared some tidbits of things we did while on vacation in William’s monthly post. I wanted to share an overview of all the things we did.

Our airline experiences this time were much better and on par with what I expect from Southwest Airlines. We managed to rack up $400 a person in complimentary vouchers from Southwest for the shoddy way they treated us last October, and those vouchers mostly funded our trip to San Francisco the end of May and our trip back to Nebraska. Sadly, since they did so well, that is the end of our free ride. Thank you, Southwest Airlines!
IMG_7781

We stayed with my dear Aunt Marjorie (paternal side) for a few days while we visited the Omaha Zoo and Lauritzen Gardens again. We had visited those places last October, but our gardens visit got cut short due to a fast moving rainstorm. They have a model train garden that is quite amazing to watch, it’s so detailed! So we visited that again, and also walked up to see the two real-size, huge, famous engines they have on display.
IMG_7855

IMG_7858

We were well pleased with our visit to the zoo last time, except they had ended the season of camel rides and their train wasn’t running the day we went. This trip it was overwhelmingly hot and humid. While the weather wasn’t necessarily a surprise, it was challenging for me (us?) because we’re used to California’s weather. Sadly, I wilted quicker than I expected in the heat. While at the zoo, We managed to meet up with some friends, a lady I know from an online Facebook group (and her family). Fortunately, they were willing companions for our agenda and didn’t protest when we suggested going and getting lunch. She had her two boys with her, the older of them shares a birthday with William. William LOVED meeting him and I loved hanging out with her. Tony pretty much gets along with anyone, and her husband was great to converse with. So, we kind of went to get some lunch and then just never stood back up again until it was time to leave.
DSCN5160

DSCN5164

The timing of our trip was stipulated by a family gathering that happens annually the last Sunday of July in Albion, Nebraska. So, we did a road trip from Omaha to the middle of Nebraska, a two hour drive made longer by construction and ill-timed traffic lights on a timer in the middle of nowhere.
DSCN5241

My uncle (maternal side) graciously hosted us in their basement, which was blissfully cool and mostly comfortable. They are gracious hosts and very accommodating to quirky travelers. I highly recommend them. I just love staying with them on their farm. They have animals galore… cats and kittens(!!), dogs, horses and ponies, goats, guineafowl, cows, and… I’m sure I’m missing naming a species here. Also, my cousin has two girls and William just loved playing with them!
DSCN5319

IMG_8032

DSCN5267

The drive to the family gathering was mostly on dirt roads, which William thought was fabulous thanks to the off-roading scenes in the Cars movie. It was made more entertaining for me by texting with my cousin, who was in the vehicle in front of us. She acted like a tour guide with such things like, “This is corn fields on your right and soybeans to your left. Upcoming to your right is a house where no one famous lives.” She would switch the types of fields appropriately. As we drove, we passed a farm that had a bunch of old buildings on it. There were a couple of churches, a sheriff building, and other things. It looked like a little Western town. I later learned from my uncle that the owner of that farm had a vision of building a little town, but he passed away and now his family doesn’t know what to do with the buildings. I guess his vision isn’t theirs.
IMG_8077

At the family gathering, the couple who hosted it are 2nd or 3rd cousins, once removed, to me, I think. I’m not really sure. Anyway, they have grandkids around William’s age, and while the kids weren’t in attendance, their toys were. William and my cousin’s girls had a fabulous time playing down in their basement. They have a pool table down there and William loved putting the balls in the holes and then listening to them rumble to the end. Best kid entertainment ever! I enjoyed seeing one of my cousins who I haven’t seen since he was 6 or 7 years old, and meeting his wife. There were also other distant relatives there and it was just an enjoyable relaxing time. The food was set up buffet style, entrees on one side of the kitchen island and various “salads” (the notion of salad is very different in the Midwest vs. California) on the other side. Also, desserts.
DSCN5347

The days went quickly (surely a sign of a good vacation?) and before we knew it, we were headed back to Omaha to stay with my Aunt Marjorie one last night and catch our flight the next morning. Now… where do we go next?

1 Comment

Filed under Best Husband, I did something Special, I have Family, I have Friends, I Left Home for Awhile, Our Kid is Cute

A Story from Vacation

We just got back from traveling to Nebraska and Iowa yesterday. We stayed part of the time with my darling aunt (my dad’s sister) and my uncle (my mom’s brother), and their families, as well as visiting with other of my relatives during our stay. It was a wonderful time. Not so relaxing as one might think or expect, but I don’t expect that these days. In fact, I just laugh when people ask if it was relaxing. No. No, it wasn’t.

What I hope for is that my son will build the kind of memories I had as a child with my cousins with his (2nd) cousins and that my aunt will get to know my son, who is the only continuation of her (deceased) brother’s genetic line.

I’d like to share one of the stories from our trip that will have me laughing for years to come.

My cousin’s youngest daughter, Abby, just turned two years old. In fact we celebrated her 2nd birthday with them while we were there. She doesn’t say much, but has these unimaginably huge blue eyes that communicate (along with her pointing fingers, body language and her giggle) pretty much most anything she needs. Monday morning, the last morning we were out at the farm, I was busy with a project that my aunt asked me to do and Tony was carrying suitcases out to the car.

William was in the house, playing with the girls. They had been playing hide-and-seek, a game that has moments of loud and moments of quiet. So when things got quiet, I assumed they were in the hiding part of the game until I heard William yell out, “MOMMY! I NEED YOUR HELP!”

I got up quickly and asked him what he needed, mostly to track down where he was in the house by the sound of his voice. I found Abby standing one step into the bathroom, her eyes huge and her finger stuck in her mouth conveying all sorts of uncertainty and concern. William stood further into the bathroom, his underwear on backwards and pulled halfway up his legs.

“Did you go to the bathroom?” I asked curiously.

“Yes!” He replied, matter of factly. “I went poopy and I also peed. I didn’t flush it yet.”

“Oh.” I responded. I went over and checked the toilet and it was as he said. “Did you wipe?”

“No.” He answered, and exasperation entered his voice to a level only a 3 year old can muster, as he continued, “I told Abby to wipe my butt, but she didn’t do it. That’s why I need your help.”

I glanced over my shoulder at Abby, her finger still stuck in her mouth, her eyes huge as saucers and her diaper soggy, and visible below her little dress. I smiled a little and said, “Yeah, dude, I don’t think she knows how to wipe butts yet.”

2 Comments

Filed under I have Family, I Left Home for Awhile, Our Kid is Cute