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Greetings from…

15 Jul

New Jersey. I’m writing this from my phone. I haven’t used a computer in over a week.

New Jersey is quite possibly the strangest state I’ve ever been to.
I’m really enjoying spending time with my cousins, uncle and aunt. It’s a total shift from only seeing them a few times a year to living with them for a short period.
Kids are so funny and refreshing. I wish I could write all the wonderful things they come up with. From mispronunciation to silly outfits.
I’ve met a lot of interesting adults with successful careers, a lot of moms who play tennis. It’s a total shift from what I’m used to at home. My uncle says “it’s not wrong, it’s just different.” I keep reminding myself of a phenomenon my friends and I often talk about; reverse ignorance. We had the privilege of growing up in an extremely diverse area both racially and socioeconomically. I’m used to variety. None of my friends look the same or come from the same household structures. I like it that way, but I’m aware it’s atypical.
Here. Things are so different. For being so near to one of the most vibrant cities on earth the kids here seem to all enjoy the privilege of wealth and a (unknowing) comfort with a total lack of diversity. I don’t remember talking about how big my friends’ houses were at 12. That stuff just didn’t cross my mind. Another thing is most of the kids I meet on my daily outings with my cousins always say something about me being the babysitter, as if having a cousin of another race (or half race) is an impossible thought. My cousins are quick to correct, but it’s still strange. One girl, who I’ve since won over with my taste in nail polish color and willingness to swim with kids, said she thought I was someone else’s babysitter who just happens to be an older black woman. I get it. They are kids. They don’t know, but still…it’s strange to experience.

A big joke around here is “are you going to tweet or blog that?” I often respond that it’s all material for my book. I even outted this blog last night (I hope no one new is reading this), but honestly this will be my one and only post from the Garden state. All of these people have welcomed me into their world, this won’t be The Nanny Diaries New Jersey Edition.

I’m counting the days until I’m home…14.

Until next time.

27 Jan

My sister says I haven’t been writing about Nana in the way that I should. If I’m being honest with myself I know she’s right. The problem is my way of coping with things is to rationalize, be cold, and try to forget. Probably not the healthiest plan, but I don’t know how else to deal with this.
There are so many unanswered questions. So many things I keep wishing I had said or done. Things I think about like how one day I’ll forget her voice or or how I didn’t ask enough about family history. How even though it was impossible, she’ll never get to see me fall in love, get married, or start a family if I’m lucky enough to do any of that. So because my words just aren’t cutting it. Here are some of hers:

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And I know you’re shining down on me from heaven

17 Jan

So here we are.

On the other side of the worst possible thing that has ever happened to me and my family. On Saturday, we buried my wonderful Nana. I can barely say or write her name without feeling choked up. I spent most of the drive home Sunday randomly crying and speeding, things that do not go together. Don’t worry I made it home in one piece, physically. Mentally is another story. Every little thing sets me off. A comment from my father, feels like judgement and yelling. Thinking I lost the claddagh ring she left behind. Having a nosebleed. Are now all tearful experiences.

I keep thinking about my Pop Pop. My grandparents would have been married 60 years this November, but they’d known each other since they were in grade school. He lost the true love of his life. Their love story is perfection to me. Bumpy, but filled with greatness. An example to live by. And now he’s all alone in that big house, one she stayed in even when it meant being basically trapped on the first floor due to her lack of mobility. It’s just so sad. I don’t know how he’s going to go on. Even if we could financially bring him to live with us, I don’t think he would agree to it. That’s the house he was born in, the last place he lived with her, I don’t think he’s leaving it.

To top it off, my Pop Pop’s closest friend (Mr. M.) had a seizure during the service which caused everything to halt. Later we found out that the seizure was a result of an aneurysm, and Mr. M passed early Sunday morning. Trying to put a positive spin on things, our family joked that my Nana who was a nurse made it possible for Mr. M to be in a church surrounded by people who could help him instead of alone in his house when the aneurysm burst. So, not only did my grandfather lose his beloved wife, but also his best friend in less than a week’s time. Mr. M. could have been a great help to my Pop Pop, he lost his wife a few years ago. It’s not fair, but what in life is?

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get the images of my Pop Pop, mother, sister, uncle, aunt, and little cousins crying in that church as we walked out behind the casket. The little ones are the worst. My cousin (M) started crying as soon as they wheeled the casket from the back of the church to the front for the start of the service. (He’s really hurting. The poor kid changed the password on his iPod to Nana for goodness sakes.) My sister, who played this whole situation very cool, lost it during the service. And by the end my youngest cousin (R) was crying as my sister carried her out of the church. It was awful. Just awful. It’s not fair. My sister and I had her for the longest, I only hope that they have a solid memory of her. Our Nana was the greatest, I hope we all do a good job of helping them remember that.

If this whole thing has done anything for our family, it’s brought us even closer together. Bringing old friends to a house left silent by the absence of my grandmother. A house where holidays used to mean high school buddies and beer, once again had life this weekend. To celebrate one of the greatest people I’ll ever know. My little cousin R is right, Nana is an angel now. Because she always was one.

 

One Sweet Day” – Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men

Aside

Nana.

10 Jan

It happened. Just after midnight.

It’s kind of weird because my dad left to go, and on his way there he called my aunt and uncle who told him my grandmother had flatlined. So, he called my sister and I to tell us our grandmother had passed away. Turns out, by the time he finally made it to the hospital, she had some how “come back”. Between the time we received the phone call and the time we found out the news was false about an hour passed. In our haste to celebrate our grandmother’s life, my sister and I alerted the world through what else… Facebook. Then, a text from our dad told us that no, she’s still breathing. So we immediately deleted the posts and waited.

This morning my dad called again, apologized and told me that this time it was for real. I talked to my mom, she sounded surprisingly okay and she asked me to look through pictures for the obituary. I’m trying my hardest, but all of my pictures of Nana look the same. I loved capturing her when she didn’t know. As she looked across a room at my little cousins or gazed taking in the entire family before her. They don’t work for this situation. So I feel like I’m failing a little bit.

I then had to call my sister and tell her that this time it was for real. This is all very strange to me. There aren’t appropriate words for any of it. I’m crying, but there really isn’t anything to cry about. It happened while she was sleeping, I think. It’s what we all know she wanted after years of suffering in a body that just gave up. But it still doesn’t make the fact that she’s gone any less difficult. I hate when I can’t understand things. I don’t “get” death and I don’t “get” why I’m crying because I’m totally okay with it. If I have a life anything like Nana’s I’ll be the second greatest woman to live. She had a great run. I learned so much. I’m okay. It’s going to be okay.

Here are some of my favorite pictures…

Nana & Nana with the all grandkids…about a month after my youngest cousin was born celebrating Nana’s birthday, I think. (2006)ImageImage

Easter Egg Dye (2010). We have this great book that she wrote for us. It says that she always wanted to bring cheer…she did.

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Nothing like a Nana hug and special whisper. (Christmas 2009)

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She had the greatest and funniest stories. Nana and my mom (August 2011). The last picture I took.

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Nana

8/1/1929 – 1/10/2012

But it’s nothing to cry about ’cause we’ll hold each other soon

9 Jan

I don’t want to be the girl who cried wolf on this one, but I’m pretty sure today is going to be the day my Nana dies. She’s in intensive care with pneumonia and lungs filled with fluid and a DNR order.

I just feel the need to write this down, to get it all out.

You see this is the first person who matters to me that is going to be passing away. I mean there have been countless elderly aunts and uncles over the years, but strangely because I didn’t see them often it didn’t mean much. It’s almost like they just drifted off and I forgot. Is that terrible? I’ve never even been to a funeral, just one memorial service last February for my best friend’s grandmother. I lost my dog in September, although it happened suddenly, it was my choice and he was suffering. Even though I know it was the right choice, I spend a good amount of time thinking I made the wrong decision. But this is a person I’ve known my whole life. I have no control. I know she has been suffering for so long. Her body is giving out, that’s what happens. We have had so many extra years and memories with her that were a gift. But I just keep thinking so many things.

I didn’t go to visit her at the hospital on Christmas, because I was tired, a bit angry, and I’d seen her in a slightly better state over Thanksgiving. I’d like to think she understands. No, I know she does because for all our differences she got me and all my quirks.
I sent the present I make specially for her every year, a calendar filled with pictures I’ve taken over the previous year. She’s not even going to make it though the first month, a yellow rose probably my best one chosen for just that reason (secretly).

I’m thinking about my mom. I hope she knows how much I love her. Her mom is her best friend. I’m extremely close to my mom, but not the way my mom is with her parents. I hope if anything this brings us closer together, because so far it’s just ripped us apart. As much as I would have loved to have spent the time with my mom in the car on weekends like we used to do, it wasn’t possible this time around for so many reasons. But I’m so glad my mom had all those weekends to sit in a room with my Nana as she told her stories of her stories of her past, my mom has that. What I wouldn’t give for a few more stories. God only knows what my mom wouldn’t give for a few more.

I’m thinking about my Pop Pop. He’s been living in their house alone since August, both of them hoping that she would one day come back. That’s not going to happen. He’s already so sad a shell of who he used to be, but that hope being gone, will break him. They’ve known each other since they were little kids. My Nana yelled at him for stealing her doormat to play in the street (a story I’ve heard so many times). They are my ideal. That house is the only other house I’m completely comfortable in. He’s lived in that house all his life. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. She should outlive him, it just would be better that way. What happens now? Does he move in with us? My uncle? Away from his siblings. His doctors. Does my mom keep spending long weekends there? Ultimately, what happens when it’s all over, and that house and that town aren’t the places we go in the summer, for holidays, for random weekends.

This is a transition I’ve never faced.

So I wait and there aren’t words for it.

Just a lot of tears I didn’t expect to fall.

My dad is leaving for the 3 hour drive.

I have to stay here and wait for my sister.

She doesn’t know.

I don’t know what to do.

I just want my mom.

My mom just wants her mom.

I’ll just hold on, close my eyes, and wait.

Because that’s what you do when you’re scared.

Is it over, yet?

I Will Follow You Into The Dark” – Death Cab For Cutie

It doesn’t help the hunger pains…

2 Jan

My family is a little bit strange, but maybe that’s how everyone feels about their family. The grass is always greener and all that. I can only think of two things we do that are anywhere near “normal”, or at least they represented normalcy during my childhood. Everything else was a bit chaotic, unconventional, unplanned etc, but I had these things.

The first is our Christmas Eve tradition. It once involved opening a single present and stockings after dinner on Christmas Eve, then staying up late and going to midnight mass at church. Over the years, church dropped out of the equation. But the special preview present stayed. I can’t remember when this stopped happening. Last year, I think we did all of our presents on Christmas Eve and then my mom made the trek to Pennsylvania to cook Christmas dinner with my nana. This year, my grandmother has been in and out of a nursing home and the hospital. So my mom was gone days before Christmas Eve, and my sister and I were driving to Pennsylvania on the 24th. My dad decided to spend the holiday with his family. We didn’t open any presents until the following Tuesday. Who knows where we will be next year. It’s funny. It’s such a simple thing, a single present. It probably takes 20 minutes, said and done, but it has always meant a lot.

The second is family dinner. I have several friends who find it odd that sitting around a table for dinner is the standard in our house. I even have one friend whose mom put two sitting chairs where their kitchen table used to be! Are these family dinners always pleasant? No. I’ve often used the “I’m not sitting at this table” as my defiant move of choice. Lately with my mom out of town on weekends, class, my sister working; family dinners are rare. I’m going to try really hard this semester to help my mom out with grocery shopping and some cooking. Maybe I’ll save the family dinner.

It’s weird to be conscious of how things are changing. It’s not something people tell you happens when you grow up. I’m not saying I want these things to always be the same, it’s just a little bit funny to notice evolution. To long for the days gone by, but be willing to accept the change because it is what it is. There’s no way to go back, only moving forward. Making new normals, new traditions.

Something’s Missing” – John Mayer

If you only knew what the future holds after a hurricane comes a rainbow

31 Dec

So here we are… The eve of a new year. I took the time to go back and read through some old entries, and it was strange to see the places I have been. If I had to give 2011 a word: Growth.

I took a creative leap and it worked out. Lost the longest friendship of my life, in the most ridiculously drawn out way. But I gained allies and friends I never could have imagined. Got into a “real” college, back out on a deposit. Got a partial scholarship to a different school, and many months later the full ride. I’ve always had that second choice luck, and I’m thankful. Graduated from community college. Worried about my grandmother. Went on a disaster date. Listened to tons and tons of Adele, even though it wasn’t necessary. Spent tons of time in the sun with friends. Switched to Maroon 5 music. Contemplated, but what else is new? Started a new university. Met new people, some I love some I can’t stand. Worried about my mother. Put a disease I used to hide in the middle of my art work. Finished a semester with a GPA I can be proud of, even if it’s not my best. Relaxed. Ready to begin a new year…

When I take that all in. I’m impressed. Contrary to the self absorbed nature of blogging, in real life I HATE talking about myself. Even if I’m confident in a talent, my knowledge, my character, I wouldn’t say so. But this place is all mine, even if others get to read it. So I’ll say it. I’m proud. I couldn’t have foreseen the things I faced, but I handled them. I made it through, with my head high. I struggled, but I survived. I had great highs for every low. It was a good year and I’m hoping for another. So here’s to that!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

*Firework – Katy Perry