Of Paradoxes and Pop

Hi,

So here’s what’s been rolling around in this very addled head of mine…My neighbor Gary is an avid gardener.  So much so, that we have never spoken about anything else.  He came to the door a few weeks back to tell me that our grass was being over-watered and that I should adjust the scheduling of the sprinkler system.  Ok, done.  The other day he flagged down my car to advise me that my grass wasn’t getting enough water (I’m abbreviating the conversation to keep this thing going).

Everything needs water – but not too much.  Every meal should be savored – but not so much that you get heartburn.  My cyber pal David (davidkanigan.com), is pondering the extremes of emotional bungee jumping, as I extol the state of balance.  But highs are awesome – it’s the lows that suck.  It’s all a paradox (sidebar – Annie LaMott’s Ted talk on her 12 rules of life and writing – enjoy it).  I got it – and to a ridiculous degree, it’s all a cliché.  Until of course, you get to some lessons I’ve learned from my father-in-law.

Sid calls me his favorite daughter-in-law, and he in turn is my favorite father-in-law.  Of course, we are also each others’ only person in that category, so for me, it’s an easy win.  He’s 92, one of the greatest generation, the head of Andy’s clan and he wears that mantle handsomely.  He recognizes the magnificence of my sons’ as fathers – and tells them.  He literally beams at the mention of his grandkids.  He’s vibrant and engaged and has become the official greeter to his community.  Going up to strangers, introducing himself, inviting people with an outstretched hand and an easy smile.  He’d win “Most Popular” if they had such awards for adults.

Pop has an easy walk, this kind of strolling gait that is unhurried yet purposeful.  He broke his foot a few weeks back, which only slightly inconvenienced his ability to dance at his granddaughter’s wedding.  His two granddaughters wheeled him onto the dance floor, he was handed the mike to sing along with Louis Prima and no one eclipsed him from that point forward.

And yes, now that his boot is off, he’s got golf to return to, bridge of course…you get my drift.  Pop’s unassuming and humble, he’s warm and truly finds no fault with anyone in his ever-widening circle.  He reaches out – with no hesitation.  If you surmise that I love him, you’re right.   I think he finds self-absorption boring – too much is happening for the over-examination of one’s self, or the pursuit of that kind of attention from others.

My parents were too young when they passed away.  I’ve written about them extensively and will not do so now.  What I will say is that neither was able to show me how to grapple with getting older.  I’m grateful for Pop’s lessons, because other than learning how to  play bridge, I try to play this life as he does.

Pop was married to my mother-in-law for well over 60 years.  And he still called her the ‘most beautiful woman in the world’.  We all were deeply worried about him – would he be able to get past the grief, heal enough to make a life for himself, etc.  And here’s the paradox that Pop taught me, the only one that doesn’t make me crazy.

You don’t get past grief (I knew that part);  you don’t get over love and you still live.  One can argue that it is a religious requirement to do so (it is in Judaism) – which is a pretty high imperative;  so is doing it for the spirit within that begs to sing.  Love and grief co-exist.  One doesn’t cancel out the other.  Losing someone you adore doesn’t give you permission to exempt yourself from life’s dance.  They are not different sides of the same coin – they are the same side of the coin.  There is no better moment to thank my father-in-law than today, there is no better reason than his patient coaching and his love.  What can you say to someone who asks the world to be his guest?  Thank you for the invitation, Pop – I gratefully accept and I love you.

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Holding On

Hi,

It’s been too long, I know – most of you have understandably moved on to more reliable (and probably far better) musings.  What can I say that you haven’t read before?  Transitions are not seamless for me – that’s an understatement.  Cognitively I recognize that every beginning requires a transition to something else, movement is far preferable to stasis, new adventures are uplifting – yada yada yada…Internally, I ache for breath, tiptoe around my life until I get my bearings and slip through the day as unobtrusively as possible.  For all of the bravado, I stand before you – a wimp.

I have found it impossible to write, for I find the current climate so negative, toxic, skewed to the vitriolic that I can’t find my voice in this cacophony.  I don’t want to contribute to the noise; if anything I would like to turn the volume way down.  Waaaaaaaay down.   How about if we whisper for a while?  We might listen to each other more attentively.

Which brings me to my quiet, sacred moment of grace.  I have the gift of watching one of my granddaughters once a week.  I don’t write about the babies often – suffice it to say, I am every besotted grandmother who finds her grandchildren magical, perfect, amazing; every mom who marvels at her sons as adoring, devoted, gentle dads who are awed by their own children.  It’s hard to write this stuff without hyperbole

Bu that’s just the segue – sorry if I went on too long.

Sophie will soon be eleven months.  We get a kick out of each other, we really do.  We make each other laugh, hold each other tight, she places her head in the crook of my neck and I place my nose to the crook of hers and I tickle her.  She’s starting to walk and toddles with determination – stout of heart, if not necessarily equally strong of leg.  Up and down the stairs, slapping each step with little hands that grab and clap and point and propel her up, up, up.  When she laughs at the Sirs, her nose wrinkles.  Between cruising the house and the neighborhood, reading (of sorts), engaging the dogs, and her ‘learning’ toys – we’re pretty busy.  And when it’s time to nap, there’s no negotiation – she can fall asleep in her high chair.

She wakes a little disoriented and as I lift her up, she places her head on my shoulder.  Within a moment she has found her spot, falling back to sleep and I lie down on the couch.  I place one hand on her head, the other rises and falls with her breath.  I try to count her eyelashes, trace the little pucker of her mouth as it drops open.  I feel the pads of her fingers, softer than cotton.  And in her breath, I find the breaths that I find so elusive these days.  In this moment, we breathe together.  Perhaps she can feel my heart,  as I let mine adapt to the rhythm of hers.  There is a reverence to this kind of quiet.  This is what we’re here for.  And if we’re fortunate souls, we dial it down so that we can feel it.

She wakes and we look at each other – my eyes wide and grateful, hers dreamy and a little unfocused.  And then she sees it’s me and smiles, rubbing her face against my shirt and receiving kisses from the Sirs who are ready for her to chase them once again.  Our little respite is done, the awe lingers.

Soon, Sophie will start day care, for it will be time for her to hang out with her peeps and engage with the world.  We will still have our time, our moments.  These little girls and the generosity of their parents have given me my breath, in these times when it can be so hard to breathe.  And they offer the greatest grace of all – to love, to love, to love.

 

 

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Lost In Thought

Hi,

How have you been?  I have been remiss in writing to you timely; the thoughts in my head refused to make themselves apparent when I sat down at my laptop.  True, I could have sent you some jumbled, free-form excuse for a post, but you would have seen right through it.

“Wandering and confused, lost to myself, ill-assorted, contradictory, pausing, bending and stopping” — Nicholas Sparks

Yeah, I’m good…thanks..

So – we have moved.  Not just around the corner – go big or go home – we moved to another state.  Renting a lovely little house until our new home gets built.  Ostensibly, this should be completed before the end of the year, but something tells me that’s a concoction of hope combined with good intentions.  Looks delicious to drink, with a surprisingly bitter after-taste.

I have found my toothbrush, coffee, hairdryer…the Sirs have found their favorite spots in the backyard, though their enthusiasm is tempered with a bit of anxiety.  Andy discovered his sweatpants, iPad and softest t-shirt.  All that we’re going to unpack for this temporary stay has been unpacked (let’s not talk about how much remains unopened).  I’d say we’ve made progress in a week.

I have found the supermarket, Target and HomeGoods.

I’ve had the delightful company of my almost-six month old granddaughter who discovers the world around her with a contagious delight.  We’re learning as we go.  My appreciation for the warm welcome from my son and daughter-in-law and her family is greater than my facility with the English language permits me to articulate.

So, I promise you it’s all good – remarkable really,  given that we just threw our lives up in the air a week or so ago.  And yet…

I’m so lost right now that if someone pointed the exit to a paper bag, I’m not entirely sure I’d find my way out.  Directions have never been my long suit.  I miss my other son, his wife and yummy daughter, I’ve lost the familiarity of faces that graced my days for years, the enveloping comfort of driving down a street that welcomed me for decades, the subtleties that define ‘home’ and gently imprint themselves on your heart.

Don’t get me wrong – it was time to shake things up.  Learn a new neighborhood rhythm, find alternate ways to embrace being lost and learn how to find one’s self (my GPS never seems to have those coordinates).   Grab onto some newness to life in a way that one is forced to in situations like this.  I’m going to learn how to play the ukulele, start moving these arthritic hips and see if I can at least make them a bit stronger.  Slowly wind my way around the maze of uncertainty and trepidation, bump into some privets along the way…I’m going to sit down and have a good cry some days and I’m going to get up and keep going.  And one day, we’re going to have a new house, and it will shelter new memories, its walls will contain laughter and love, and family get- togethers will be enhanced by the miracles of two little girls who will define their grandparents’ home in ways I can only imagine.

But right now, I need to figure out where the light bulbs are…

 

Some Days Define Magic and Miracles and Stardust

May I introduce you to Sienna Reese – the most perfect daughter of my son and daughter-in-law.  This little girl was made in love and born in love (with a powerful dose of determination, grit and strength on her mommy’s part) and is welcomed to the world with a full heart from so many – including this new grandmother.

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There are no words for experiences like this…they get caught in the throat and can’t be fully formed.  Ironically,  I came across this post from The Story People, and it felt right for today.  To rediscover that place.  Perhaps I was never more at home than when I was holding my children against me.  Welcome home precious child, welcome home

courtesy of The Story People

courtesy of The Story People