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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

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

And waiting you will be free some day

13 Jun

 

Well my grandmother is back home for now…

 

The year my very first cousin was born, I remember my mom pulling me out of school on Fridays, driving the 3 hours to the tiny town where she grew up and spending weekends in the hospital. Back then, I went more because my mom was the only person who could care for me and my diabetes. I loved my grandma, but I don’t think I always understood the seriousness of her health condition. I loved going out to dinner with my grandpa and sampling every restaurant surrounding the hospital, doing art projects to decorate her hospital room, and riding in rental cars. I’ve continued to be the most willing person to accompany my mom on the long trips to and from Pennsylvania as the years have gone by.

Death was rarely on my mind back then, but as I’ve gotten older and the hospital stays have gotten more frequent there is a little part of me that wonders if this is the last one. My grandmother knows it’s coming. I probably shouldn’t type those words. But they are true. It will happen. I’m scared. I’ve cried about it. I faced it with a friend. But I know I still won’t be ready when it happens. I tell myself, she’s had eighty plus great years. She was the premature baby sleeping in a shoe box next to the oven to keep warm who became the greatest Nana a girl, her sister, and three cousins could ever ask for.

If you ask my cousin, MJ, who Nana’s favorite is he would say himself. The truth is, it’s me. I’m not just saying this, I know because she’s told me. My grandmother has always been one of my biggest supporters. She gets me on a level that very few do. She allows me the room I need to express myself, even when she disagrees, and is always at the top of the list for biggest fan in all that I do. She’s strong. She’s creative. She’s warm and caring. She’s everything I hope to be and more. I love her so much I can’t even figure out how to explain it.

We have this book that saved my life when I was suffering from depression in early high school. It’s a journal for mothers to give to their daughters, or daughters to give to their mothers for them to return. My mom gave it to my grandmother more than few (maybe 10) years ago to fill in and she returned it a few years after that. There are pages and pages of questions and the answers are the stories of my grandmother’s life. I’m just glad that she’s passed down so much to my mom and in turn to me because one day she won’t be here, but I know it will be okay because she’s already given me so much more than she could even imagine.

 

Motherland – Justin Nozuka

We’re just moments…

14 Mar

Three weeks ago, one of my closest friends (L) lost her grandmother. She had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for quite some time. I only had the pleasure of knowing her after the disease had taken over, but of the few times I was in her presence I could tell she was such a sweet person with a smile that could light up a room. It’s so strange what a disease like Alzheimer’s does. For all that the disease took from her memory and her body, it left something as simple as her longtime passion for dance.

I’ve never had anyone close to me pass away. When it happened I wasn’t sure how to handle the situation. My friend is the sweetest person, after attending her grandmother’s memorial service I know where she got her kind heart, and I knew she needed my support. I immediately knew I had to find a way to show it to her. So I did what I do best, plan and organize. I got three of our friends who are in school here (the rest are too far to come to home on short notice) to attend the memorial service.

The service was nice and the tone of it was very much like my friend’s family, loving and heartfelt but not too serious. I cried a lot. I found myself trying to think of puppies and candy to make the tears stop, but it didn’t work. The hardest part was when my friend went up to the altar to sign a song while her sister sang. She looked out, saw us sitting there, and began to cry. In that my tears were no longer for Grandma Betty, they were for L and the bond we have and the trials we’ve gone through together recently.

After the service she came up to us and collapsed in my arms. I’ve never felt like I was in the right place, doing the right thing, more than at that moment. She told us that she had been fine, and then it hit her. I’m glad that I was there to hold her up.

I have a friend who told me recently that the length of life scares her. To be honest, I agree that growing up is scary. Grandma Betty’s death is a prime example of that fact. It’s amazing that there was a person, and then there just wasn’t. Memories remain in the form of beautiful words written in journals read by her children to a church full of loved ones. Her spirit lives on, but life moves on. We live, learn, loose. Here today, gone tomorrow. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that I should take the time to enjoy it all.

Never Know – Jack Johnson

I got a brand new attitude *

30 Dec

Reverb10

December 3 – Moment.

Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

(Author: Ali Edwards)

This is a tough one.

No, never mind it’s not.

The moment I felt most alive lasted more than a moment, it was actually about an hour. It was late on a Friday night in June. I had just finished another grueling waitressing shift and when I got out to my car I called my mom. I was exhausted. Near tears as was usual at that job. I told her I was on my way home and then she told me I had a letter from school waiting for me on the kitchen table. I told her not to open it and that I’d be home soon. I then called my best friend who had sent me a text to let me know she had something important to tell me. When she picked up she asked if I was home yet. Then she told me she’d received one of places in the Honors Academy at our school, a scholarship that we had both applied for. I told her I was excited and that I needed to drive home, but I’d call her back. As I made the 20 minute trip through the hot June night all I could think about was how much this would mean. I could really justify the fact that I wanted to quit my job if I knew school would be taken care of. It would be a sign that I was headed in the right direction. When someone else can see the potential in you and support it, it means so much. As tears started streaming down my face I pulled into the driveway, parked my car, and ran in the house leaving my shoes and bag behind. I grabbed the letter off the table and did something that I never do, actually read it! I got it! They wanted me! I ran downstairs and told my mom the news. Then I ran up the stairs to tell my dad and sister. They picked me! No one ever picks me! But they did and my hard work had paid off. I don’t think I’d ever felt so acknowledged and alive. I live to feel like that again, and I think that I’ve been able to use that moment as a catalyst for the decisions I’ve made this year. I’ve put myself out there, made decisions I was once afraid to make, and that moment was the start of it all.

*So What – Pink

You can read about the moment here.