Confession: I have no idea how to be a grownup. I fear this has been wildly apparent to the general public for some time, but my meager attempts at hiding it have officially exhausted me. I've also become aware of something else some time in the last week/month: I'm not the only one. I don't know if thirty-five is the magical age where people realize this, or if it's taken me inordinately long, but I feel so freed by this that I'm shouting out ten of my craziest I'm-a-lousy-grownup secrets for all the world to hear. Even my Mom. Because you know what? I've decided they don't make me a bad person after all.
1. I don't move furniture to clean. Once in awhile, a toy will fall in a hard-to-reach place or, worse, something large is being delivered and Joe has to shove the couch out of the way and, well, it's mortifying.
2. I have more than one closet where I have to duck when I open the door.
3. My children have clothes two sizes too small in their drawers. Sometimes, when they dress themselves, they come skipping into the room with with their forearms and ankles showing and they are befuddled by my shrieks of horror and insistence that they change outfits immediately.
4. School forms are the enemy. I still have some from when Joey was in first grade. They are tucked in the handy "organizers" I've purchased and set up specifically for school forms. I'm quite sure the office has a fat file with my name on it, and it's filled with all the panicked notes I send in explaining that, though I've misplaced the form, can my child still be permitted to go on the field trip/attend the social/eat the candy bars/go to school that day?
5. My basement looks like an episode of Hoarders.
6. My children hide things under their beds and I pretend not to notice.
7. In the event of unexpected company, I have swept dirt under the rug in the entry way.
8. I buy fancy baskets so I can hide, not clean up or organize, messes.
9. My children eat processed foods. Many households have two working parents who have figured out how to have fresh/organic/paleo/gluten free/nontoxic/brain-strengthening meals and snacks at the ready. Shamefully, we are not yet among those people.
10. I still wear maternity underwear and I don't care about panty lines. Of all the problems in this great big world (and as clearly indicated by this post, I have a few), I don't want uncomfortable undergarments to be one of mine.
My hope is that somewhere in this list of my deepest and darkest, you went Gasp! Me, too. (Though it probably wasn't number 10.) And other than that, don't judge me too harshly--my mom will do it for you.
“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”― Gilda Radner
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
I was ten years old when I first experienced the loss that comes with the death of a loved one. It would be a long time before I felt it again. I remember it vividly however, and have carried it with me in all that I do in the years that have since come and gone.
This time, of course, is different. Like visiting a place you knew well as a child after many years, the colors have changed, the sizes seem out of proportion, and time seems to have sped up and slowed down all at once.
I was asked to write something and speak at my grandmother's funeral. "You can just put something together, right?" Right. Easy. My favorite addendum was, "We can all give you our stories and you can just put them together into a little speech?"
As I sat at Grandma's dining room table today, a sea of photographs flowing around my elbows, I was relieved that the speech was no longer a thing. Catholics don't go for personal eulogies, and while we'd hoped to be an exception to the rule, we were gently reminded that we were no more special than anybody else. But I was relieved, because the more waves of pictures that rolled toward me, the more stories I saw. My grandma wasn't just my grandma. She was an ocean herself, deeply layered with the experiences of eighty-four years well lived.
Someone had said to me, "Of course your story will be all about how she took care of you when you were sick." Like that was it, that was all I'd come up with to say about a lifelong relationship. When I was four years old, she was my best friend. Last Thursday night, while we watched Wheel of Fortune, she was fast becoming a memory. The last words I said to her that night were, "'Do you know the way to San Jose?'" I'd solved the puzzle, but she'd already fallen asleep for the night.
But it was the photographs today, and trying to organize them by relationship or importance or historical sequence, that made it clear to me I could no more compile everyone's stories in a short speech than I could control the weather. It would be an impossible task. My grandmother was a lot of things to a lot of people, and all of them were very lucky to know her. She was what many of us can only hope to be: Important.
But I can tell you a little bit about how she lived her life.
Runner of the Year for over twenty-five years. We tried to figure it out and lost count. Weight-lifter. Book club member. Tour guide at Our Lady of Victory Basilica. Crisis counselor. Substitute teacher. Maker of amazing meatballs. She made the best salads, of all things, but they were delicious. She was classy. Sleek. She made looking good at any age look like a breeze. Her smile was dazzling. Best of all, it was real, every time. She was a friend, the kind everyone deserves to have but rarely finds. She was fun. She laughed often and loud. And she loved. She loved so many people with everything she had. She fought hard to the end to hang on because she loved us all so much. I know that. She was our friend, our mother, our grandmother, great-grandmother, friend, teacher, counselor, and things I'll probably spend the next few days hearing all about that I never knew.
But dear Grandma, you were the strong hand that held mine when I was a little girl. You were the voice that softly called me "Lovey" and your baby, even on my wedding day. You saw the best me when I was my worst, and more than anything else, you made sure I knew how much you loved me.
I hope you knew how much we all love you. Always.