Friday, October 29, 2010

Reach Out

I still have my grandmother's phone number programmed into my cell. I pass it by every time I go to call my friend John.

Or my parents.

I just scroll down and there it is.

I can tell you her area code was 315. I can tell you the rest of the numbers, but it probably belongs to someone else now. Sometimes I'm tempted to call it, just to see how many times it rings. Or to see who answers. And I could tell that person that I used to be good about calling her, despite how often she'd try to get me off the phone, because she didn't want me to spend money on that. On her voice. And of course, I could tell that person that's the one thing I want to hear, and sometimes cannot fathom that my chance is gone.

I can now go for days without thinking about her. But not much longer than that. Not weeks. Something will always happen. Her mass card will peek out of my wallet, or the girls, going through my jewelry box, will see one of the pins she gave to me. And they ask questions.

I've had two dreams that I remember. In one, she was younger, wearing horn-rimmed glasses, and looking sadly at me. I woke up wishing that my brain hadn't conjured that one up.

In the other, Lillian brought her to me, through a doorway, and said, "Look, it's your grandma."

Friday morning, at Hannah's Halloween party, I saw an older woman that reminded me so much of her. There was something about her face that caught me by surprise, even though I was certain she wasn't Italian. Maybe the shape of her nose, and how her hair was styled.

There are times when I'm in my in-laws' house, and I see a picture of my mother-in-law's Eastern European mother, smiling and in her late 60s, and I can see my grandmother there. They look strangely alike.

Driving to school the other night, I heard the Four Tops singing Reach Out, and there she was. Well, actually, both of them, my grandmother and grandfather, because at some point I'd heard this song at their house on a radio, or with them in their car, and hearing it again brought back the love that is there always.

And what it also brings back is the sight of them on their patio preparing green beans for freezing, or the smell of their house, the candy dish, or the raspberries along the fence line behind their garage. I think of these things and the love comes, and the longing, and it fills everything, right up to the entire surface area of my skin, and then I think I must release some of it.

The love and the longing, like scent molecules in air. It clouds and disperses, and I wipe away some tears and go about my business of being. Here.

In the Spring after her death, while we were raking the front yard, the kids were laughing and playing around us, and when I looked up and saw my girls, I also saw something else. In my head, I could see my grandparents sitting in their patio chairs watching their great-grandchildren romp around, giddy with Spring fever. I knew exactly what look my grandfather would have upon his face, the same face that seldom revealed much. I knew that he'd smile and nod. And my grandmother too, nodding her approval and love and affection with each bob of her head. It all left me a little breathless, like I'd been granted a gift, but the kind that you open and take in quickly because it will melt away.

I've been thinking about departure. I see the previews for Hereafter, and yes, I'd like Clint Eastwood to answer for me what happens after death.

Do you feel lucky, Kelly? Do ya?

I'd like to ask him and Matt Damon and the lady that survives the giant wave that swallowed up Indonesia. Where are my grandparents? Where is my husband's brother? Where did they go? I will take the light and love category, that set of beliefs. I will take the foggy but infinitely bright reunion, where the once sharply defined human form becomes amorphous. All the better to float around in complete happiness with.

I will take Heaven for $1000, Alex.

That's what my grandmother believed in.

This morning, while I was grocery shopping, someone said her name. And I smiled as I walked past the cold chill of the freezer cases, with a cart full of whatever.

That's the way they come back. That's the way they say hello, using the only voice they can.

That's what I believe in.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Lillian

Dear Lillian,

For bloggers who often write about their children, I have committed one of the cardinal sins of the blogworld.

Your birthday passed, without the ubiquitous letter I was supposed to post. I kept meaning to sit down, and it was certainly on my to-do list, but I had two tests in the span of a week, out-of-town guests and a party to plan, lots of things to bake and cook. It fell by the wayside.

Well, that, and every time I considered how to begin, I kept coming up with things like:

To my beautiful demon, or

Dear Child-Who-Keeps-Waking-Me-Up-At-4:30am-To-Use-The-Bathroom, or

Dear Lily, You're getting a little bit nicer these days, or

Birthday Girl, I'm almost over the PTSD brought on by your infancy.

And then I was like, birthday letters are supposed to be nice and lovely and filled with flowery language singing the praises of one's child. Not a run-down of all the things you were supposed to outgrow after turning 4.

But listen, I don't think there's any crime in telling the world that you're still a...challenge. You have been from the get-go. Most kids are, in their own unique snowflake kind of way.

Our chief priority is getting you to understand the world is a better place if we're all not assholes to each other. This includes trying to get you to realize you shouldn't close your sister's arm in the car door, or draw on her pictures, call her a poop poop, or throw things at her. I mean, I know she's not perfect either, but I'm estimating the bad behavior is really about 80/20, and guess who's the 80?

It's completely not easy being 5: having snacks brought to you, school days involving paint and glitter and dry-erase boards, watching Curious George and going to friends' houses to occupy afternoons.

(Wait a second, that sounds amazingly easy AND magical. It's a world I want to inhabit, now.)

But I have seen some improvements. You're at least willing to entertain logic. If I give you the chance, you'll often make the right decisions. You apologize more willingly for your infractions these days, and somehow you're sticking to your decision to be a vegetarian despite having one day that was full of bacon. That one is difficult for you. You love animals and want to protect them, so why do they taste good? It's a question I'm unable to answer for you, love.

God knows, you keep me all kinds of entertained.

The night before your party, we were all watching a stand-up routine by Jim Gaffigan on Comedy Central. It was generally kid-friendly, and you and Hannah enjoyed the bit about camping, and how crazy the entire concept is. Listening to you both laugh at his mannerisms and inflections killed me. On the way up the stairs to bed, you tried out your own routine on me, borrowing heavily from the material you'd just heard, and trying your best to mimic his every blank look and perplexed affectation. It's funny how sometimes you crave an audience. That's your personality: song, dance, comic bit, you like to have people's attention.

Except when you don't. Like when people sing Happy Birthday to you. I had to hold you for this year's song. One day, I believe, my children will be able to hear that tune without crying.

Lillian, I give you a hard time. And you give me a hard time. But I love you and couldn't live a day without you. (Well, maybe a day or two, provided you were hanging with your grandparents. I'd try that.)

You really are so special, and I know one day your creativity and assertiveness will suit you well, and turn you into a kick-ass woman.

Happy 5th Birthday, belatedly, on the blogosphere, to my girl.

Love, Mama

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Untitled Miscellany

What I have is nothing.

Nothing to give you, at least.

It was totally supposed to not be raining today, so the meteorologists are a bunch of lying liars. I just completed my application to the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, and instead of feeling relieved, I feel like some sort of poseur. Seriously, Kel? Seriously? (If you cannot tell, it's one of my 'off' days.)

I'm counting down to the cats. I have about two weeks until Anatomy & Physiology foists a dead cat upon me, ready for me to make sagittal or transverse or God knows whatever else kinds of cuts to, and I have to say, I'm disturbed less by the idea of cutting a dead animal than thinking about exactly where that animal came from. That bothers me.

And I'm a dog person. Probably these are cats from kill shelters? I don't know where else they'd come from, unless people who've had their cats euthanized can consent to donating their bodies to science? I find that less plausible than my former idea. Maybe because it's raining, and I'm feeling not-so-very confident in the world.

Also, I burned the hell out of some apple muffins this morning. Their bottoms were as black as coal, which is highly undesirable in a baked good. Although I'd like to pretend otherwise. (What, you've never heard of Martha Stewart's 'Mostly Fine Except for the Hideously Blackened Bottom Muffins'?) They actually were tasty and moist, if you ate it with a fork and stopped 1/2 inch above the bottom. Which is so NOT how to eat a muffin.

This led to three smoke detectors going off at the same time, and I frantically ran back and forth between rooms trying to fan them with an old New Yorker. Finally, I had to climb a chair and just take them off the wall. I had really good follow-up skills though, after finally ridding the house of the smoke. I actually went around and put all three back in their places, ready to call me out on my iffy baking skills some other time.

In other news, I've started and stopped an open letter to gay kids like seven times. Maybe eight. Why? I don't know. Well, I know the 'why' in terms of why I'd be writing one. Because I don't want any more kids to jump off bridges or hang themselves in their rooms or shoot themselves in the head. I don't know why I keep stopping the letter. It's really an epidemic, and we're sending these kids horrible mixed messages. On one side, there are the people I consider the smart ones, telling these kids they have value and inherent worth and need to stick around. And then there are the others, who are in favor of silly policies like Don't Ask, Don't Tell or who campaign on overturning such silly policies, and don't. When we're still trying to define what makes a legitimate couple, on a state by state's all rather disheartening. And we want to do something about bullies at the school level. Wouldn't the top be a great place to start? Government? Laws? Equality? I feel like wishing for a superhero to save bullied kids is actually more plausible than waiting for anyone in government to actively make a change that will stick.

It's raining, like I said. Maybe I'll try again when the sun comes out.

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