All the Sun For You

A mom, two boys, a husband, and a whole lot of adventure!


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Me and Mine

I have a very vivid memory of watching Ronald Reagan debate Jimmy Carter on our tiny black and white TV in our kitchen (8-10″ screen, I believe) in the fall of 1980.  I was four and a half years old.  I didn’t know what I was watching, but I knew that it was very important given my parents’ tone and interest (we never watched TV during dinner).  I heard two words, “democrat” and “republican,” that prompted one very important question from my 4-year old brain.

Daddy, what’s the difference between a Republican and a Democrat?

My dad’s answer stuck with me until I was in college:

Well, Court, Republicans make people work for their money.  Democrats give money away.”

From that day forward, I was a Republican.

****

My older sister was the black sheep in the family.  She defied my parents’ every command (and they were, most definitely, commands), she spoke out against social injustices, she had S-E-X long before I thought she should have, and she despised my parents’ way of life.

We were raised in a very privileged lifestyle – my dad was a “big fish in a small pond” and we had the things kids around us only dreamt of.  My dad drove a Porsche, we belonged to the country club, we belonged to elite dinner clubs, my grandparents hosted George H.W. Bush in their home during Reagan’s run for the presidency, we took elaborate trips that landed us in the highest-rated resorts around the country, we girls drove BMW’s, and we went to an elite all-girls Catholic high school.  We were given EVERY opportunity there was to succeed, and by “succeed,” I mean to surround ourselves with people like us so that we could inherit a similar situation once we grew up.

My older sister fought our upbringing, tooth and nail, at every pass.  I remember getting so angry with her for “not appreciating the things Mom and Dad have given us.”  My dad would literally say, “my job is to worry about me and mine,” and I championed him.  I could not understand her defiance.  I could not understand her anger.  I could not understand her.

But how could I understand her?  I was a carbon copy of my parents.

I said things like, “I fully trust our government,” “People need to take care of themselves,” and the most cringe-worthy, “People are in bad situations because they put themselves there.  PERIOD.”  I didn’t just say them, I believed them.

****

I’d like to say that I started changing my views in college, but I’m not sure that I did.  I think that’s when things started to come a little more into focus for me, but I graduated a registered Republican.  I voted (cringe) straight ticket Republican (cringe) in my first election in 1994 in the bluest county of Iowa for God’s sake.

My sister wept for me.

I think my move to Chicago, a move that was not planned nor dreamt of, is what made me start thinking outside of the Republican box that my parents very carefully constructed around me.  My parents were as Republican as Republican got, back in the day when abortion wasn’t a big part of the platform.  We were raised being told that if we got pregnant in high school, that we would have to have an abortion.  And I, being so good and compliant, agreed that that was how it would be (I made damn sure I didn’t get pregnant in high school by staying a virgin past graduation).  But when I moved to Chicago in 1998, abortion was seeming much more front-and-center for the Republican platform and it bothered me.

I believe in women’s rights to choose.  I do.  I don’t think I’d ever have an abortion or want my child to have any involvement with one, but I think it’s a right that needs to remain with women.  It is so important to me that when I lived in Chicago, I changed my registration not to “independent” … but to “democrat.”   Because, as I still say, “taxes rise and fall easily with each administration.  People’s rights, once taken away, are very difficult to return to them.”

My sister rejoiced.

I didn’t dare tell my father.

****

When I met Hottie, we had lengthy, wonderful conversations about politics.  We were 98% on the same page and I learned that I wasn’t a Democrat or a Republican, but that I was a textbook Libertarian.  I am fiscally very conservative and socially very liberal – and I believe that most decisions belong at the state level and not mandated at the federal level (except, of course, when it comes to abortion and the right to marry whomever you want.  Yes… hypocritical).  When the 2008 elections were coming up, we latched onto Ron Paul and, because we were BOTH registered Democrats, changed our affiliation to Republican so that we could caucus for him.

And caucus we did.

We were delegates to the state convention for Ron Paul and we took this honor seriously.  Hottie wore a suit and I dressed in a professional skirt and top.  We arrived early so that we could figure out, exactly, what we were there to do and how it would be done.  The day took forever, and we had to vote on the “prongs of the party’s platform.”  Imagine being on the state convention floor as a “Ron Paul Republican” as the group is voting on the Republican platform of gay marriage and abortion.  It was very uncomfortable and strange.

Ron Paul, obviously, did not win in 2008.

****

I’m not a Democrat, I’m sure that’s obvious by now.  I’m not a Democrat but I love President Obama.  I think he’s a wonderful human being and even though I wasn’t thrilled with his election, I sure was happy knowing that the man at the top was a presentable, nice person.  My wish for him going into the office on January 20, 2009 was that he would leave the office on January 20, 2017 as decent a man as he was 8 years prior.

I truly believe that President Obama will leave the office of the presidency maybe even a better person than he was back in 2009.

****

This election cycle, like for so many others, has been painful for me.  I was one of those people who laughed when Dona.ld Tru.mp put his hat in the ring.

“It will never happen,” I’d say.

I enjoyed his early idiotic statements because it made for good reading while running on the treadmill.  I couldn’t believe what he was saying, but I found comfort in knowing that there was no way the American public would elect him President.

No way.

I vowed to stick to my party and vote for “the Libertarian,” not even knowing who that was.

Xenophobic statements were made by DT, and I’d think, “this will do him in, thank God.”  But his support went up.  Racist statements were made by DT, and again, “this has got to be the thing to do him in.”  Nope – he won the Republican primary.  Sexist and misogynistic statements were made, and my thoughts were, “there it is – FINALLY.”  And nothing.  Well, more than nothing… his support grew.

With the hot mic incident, I started thinking about my status as a swing-state voter.  At first, I was still committed to Gary Johnson and thought it was ridiculous of Democrats to expect people to change their minds to vote against every fiscally conservative bone in their bodies.  I mean, if you’re fiscally conservative, it’s pretty hard to vote for a Democrat.

But…

“taxes rise and fall easily with each administration.  People’s rights, once taken away, are very difficult to return to them.”

On October 24th, I posted this to FB with a link to Michelle Obama’s speech in support of Hillary Clinton.

“Shared humanity,” YES!

My friend posted the same speech on her page and it spiraled into a hate-filled conversation amongst many women (and a few supportive men) and one man who didn’t believe in male privilege, white privilege, or that DT’s heinous statements were wrong.  We women were told we were too sensitive, that “cat calling” isn’t sexual assault (none of us said it was), and that our safety is our responsibility alone (“carry a knife, hit him with your keys.”).  That man made us so angry that we started, very graphically, describing our own sexual assaults (from attempted gang rape to full-on rape), asking him if our experiences “count as” sexual assault.  After hours of this, he went away.

That was what I needed to realize the impact of my vote.

“Shared humanity,” YES!

I told Hottie that I was voting for Hillary, and he completely understood my reasoning.

****

My older sister and I don’t talk often.  We like each other, but she works during the day so there really isn’t time to sit around and gab.  I’m not sure how or when I told her I was voting for HRC, but she knew.  We had some great text exchanges and laughs that, “he’s not going to win, and this will all be over soon.”

I wasn’t hiding who I was voting for.  Once my decision was made, I almost wore it like a badge of honor.  I told my conservative younger sister I was voting for HRC and she seemed to be leaning in the Johnson or HRC direction because of the disgustingness that is DT’s spoken words.  I felt good, like the three of us had, miraculously, escaped the grasps of our “me and mine” parents.

Election day came, dragged on, and then… complete devastation.

My white privilege caused me to be absolutely, 100% stunned.  I could hardly speak.  I cried a lot.  I held my breath and texted my friends.  I called my sister and asked, “What in the absolute F*** is going on?!?!”  Hottie came home from a work road trip and just looked at me, sitting on the bed in tears, and said, “I didn’t think this could happen.”  We went to bed around 2:15.  The election was called, I’m told, around 2:30 AM.

I woke to the reality that it wasn’t even a close race.  I woke to the reality, a reality I feared was coming, that we don’t live in the country I thought we lived in.  I woke to the reality that my parents voted for this.

****

A long text exchange transpired between my father, sisters, and me on election night.  My dad started it.

Of course he did.

He started it when Virginia went blue and he wrote, “Virginia!  Rats!!!”  My older sister lives in Virginia.  I responded with, “Did they call it for Hillary?”  “Yes.”  And this is how my dad found out that his baby, his little rank-and-file mini-me, voted for a Democrat, “THANK GOD!”

His response: “Very disappointed Courti Bear.”

My statement of “I hate Trump” was met with “I think that is rather hard.  But oh well.”  My little sister responded with, “I hate Hillary,”  and that wasn’t called ‘rather hard.’  I then, after more conversation, decided not to settle.

“Dad, please say you think it’s ‘too hard’ for L to ‘hate Hillary.’  Last time we spoke, you, Dad, said you ‘hated’ her.”

Crickets.

Me and mine.

****

The morning after the election, my older sister texted the group asking that we not talk politics.  My younger sister responded with, “sore losers. 😉 ”  Not smart nor kind, L, not kind.  My older sister fired back with “Utterly disgusted by the American people.  I hope you all get exactly what you deserve.”  That transpired into my two sisters slinging insults at each other, with the use of the F word, and me sitting by just watching.  Until…

“I am ashamed of both H and Courtney.  This is not how we behave,” came through from my dad.

Who’s the ‘we’ he’s referring to, and more importantly, what, exactly, is he ashamed of?  He wouldn’t answer my questions so for the first time in my life, my dad saw this from me: “FUCK YOU!”

****

This was not just like any other election.  This election brought out all the things that many people want to say, but didn’t feel comfortable saying.  People’s freedoms and safety are being dismantled more and more every day.  If a child of any color other than white could go to school last Monday without even thinking of seeing a swastika on the bathroom stall, but sees it the following Wednesday, that child’s freedoms and safety are being (and have been) dismantled.

My family voted for “me and mine.”

I voted for “them and ours.”

I truly did.

I will likely save money on taxes under DT.  Great.  Everyone wants more money.  But do you know what people want more than money?  Freedom and safety.

****

I had to post my position on FB so that those who may think I vote and think like them know, that most certainly, I do not.  I had to post so that my friends with families that don’t look like mine know that I have their backs.  I had to post so that when my kids read our family books later that I print directly from FB, they see that I did not condone this or the direction that DT has already taken this country in.  My post brought out a person who was my parents’ best friend growing up.  She is in the top 1% of income earners in this country and I heard her and her husband, several times in my childhood, speak of “me and mine,” just like my dad.  My friends didn’t stand for it, and she called them coddled.  Unreal.  The good thing to come of that thread was that my friends, the ones who I chose long after high school and college, saw exactly how I was raised and where I came from.  That… that was priceless.

I’m pretty sure 80% of my FB folks have already blocked me, because I post WAY too much stuff about my life and kids (because, you know, mysocialbook), so if a few more block me because of recent posts, that’s fine by me.

But I can’t not post. I can’t let people (or more importantly, my sons later on when they’re re-reading our family books) interpret my silence as acceptance or approval of what has happened since Tuesday night.
People close to me have told me that they’re ashamed of me for crying over this election. Let me be clear – I did not cry over the candidate losing. I cried over the things that the majority of our voting citizens chose to allow or ignore. I cried over the gigantic security blanket that DT gave to those in this country who used to hide their hatred, sexism, and racism but don’t need to hide any longer. I cried for every family that isn’t a mirror image of mine that now needs to have an even deeper discussion about staying safe in this American climate. I cried over my grief of losing the America that I thought I lived in, but clearly do not. I cried for the things I feared would happen, and happen quickly. For anyone to think I cried over a losing candidate, a candidate that I don’t even like in a party I don’t affiliate myself with (registered Republican here), is ignorant and lacks any understanding and empathy.
I don’t cry when I lose.
I cry when I hurt.
The things I most feared just two nights ago – well…. they’re happening. My eyes are WIDE open. Ignore my posts, ignore reality, ignore the vetted articles. Blow them off, say it’s not a big deal, turn the other way. That’s fine.
But I am not joining you.
Let me say it again…
I AM NOT JOINING YOU.

****

My dad and I had to clear the air in some way after my enraged “F you” text.  I called him after he left me a voicemail.  I was so upset that he couldn’t even understand what I was saying.  He had no idea what this election meant to me.  He thought I was just “another crazy liberal” voting left because that’s the progressive thing to do.

No, Dad.

As I told him, I don’t know who my kids are yet, I don’t know who they’re going to choose to love.  I’m trying to teach them to love everyone around them, while being aware of their differences (because being “color blind” does no one any favors), and to love themselves.  To vote for a man who hates everyone who doesn’t look like him sends my children the wrong message.  It tells my children that I am willing to overlook his hatred so that I can save some money.  I’m not willing to do that.

What I wanted to tell him was:

Dad, I’m trying to raise better, more embracing children than you raised.  I’m trying to teach them that it’s about them, us, and ours.  I’m trying to teach them that they are elite only because of their race, but that I won’t let them act elite as I was allowed to act.  I am trying to teach them to value love and compassion over YOUR almighty dollar.  I am trying to teach them to never say, “me and mine.” I am trying to teach them not to be like you.

My dad can be ashamed of me all he wants.  His approval is not something I’d be proud of.

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Family Trip!

We took a family trip this past week and it was terrific!  We rented a cabin at Mahoney State Park in Nebraska and it was like being at summer camp.  I can’t wait to go back next summer!

Here is my photo collection from 4 days with limited TV, hot weather, and an abundance of activities with the kids!  They’re in reverse order, but it doesn’t matter  🙂

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Where Does One Even Begin?

The last time I posted here, I’d been told we had a few weeks left with my closest maternal aunt.  It was June 9th – last Wednesday.  Because I know how these things go, I drove up alone to see my aunt on Saturday, June 12.  Hottie really wanted to go with me, but it was important to me to go up on my own terms, on my own timelines (or lack thereof), and with my own family.

****

I used to make this drive many times a year when I moved back to Iowa in the late fall of 2002.  My maternal grandpa lived up north and I cherished him.  My Aunt Kris lived in the town where my grandpa was living, so given how close she and I were, I had many, many, MANY reasons to get up to see the family as often as possible.  I think I made the 3.5 hour drive probably 4-5 times a summer and at least once every fall, winter, and spring until my grandpa passed away in January of 2005.  I still got back quite a bit after that, but then I fell in love and got married and got distracted with building our own little family.

****

When I headed up north on Saturday, I took the old route I always took when I’d head up to see Kris and Grandpa.  The roads here have changed a lot in 10 years, but I prefer the back county roads.  I stopped for McDonalds like I always used to do on the way through Perry and cranked up the radio (no CD’s, no XM, no MP3’s – just the good old-fashioned radio) and drove.  I didn’t scream through the small towns or furiously pass the slower-moving vehicles like I used to do, but besides that, I pretty much did everything the way I used to do when I’d drive up to see my extended family.

This time, though, it felt like a pilgrimage of sorts.  It felt ritualistic.  It felt like the closing scene in “Elizabethtown.”  It was important to me that I did this exactly so, exactly right because I knew, in my heart of hearts, that this was the last time I’d be driving directly to Breezy Meadow Lane to pop in on Aunt Kris.

****

I called my mom on my way up to Spencer.  She and my dad were coming up to see Aunt Kris too, but were going home that same day.

I’ve mentioned before that my mom is #6 of 7 kids, but that she was the youngest for 10 years before her baby sister came along.  Her baby sister is my Aunt Kris.  Everyone loved Krissy from the moment she was born.  She was a true gift to her parents and siblings and they all knew it – they all cherished her for the bright light that she was.  Grandma always said that having Kris so much later than the other kids kept her young and my older aunts and cousins always had wonderful stories to tell of her childhood (she was 15 months older than my oldest cousin – her first niece).  Aunt Krissy bridged the generations together, much like her kids are doing now.

The thing that gave me the hardest time about all of this was not my own agony over the loss of Aunt Kris, but the experience that was going to be my mom’s.  My mom is not a warm person – that is no secret to anyone who knows me.  My mom and I are not close – another obvious theme if you know me.  My mom hadn’t seen Kris is months.  My mom just doesn’t visit her family much and when Aunt Kris was diagnosed with cancer again in February, my mom didn’t flock to see her because she didn’t want it to feel like she was coming up in a panic to say, “goodbye” just in case.  I get that – I really do.  But now, with just weeks left to live, that was exactly what my mom had to do.  She had to make the drive (my dad drove) to say goodbye to her baby sister, and the thought of that literally made me physically sick.  She knew that when she walked out of Kris’ house on Saturday, that she would not be seeing her baby sister again.

Think about that.

So when I called my mom, I told her that I knew this was hard, unimaginable, and that I would not go straight to Kris’ if I knew she’d be there.  I wanted her to have her time.  However, because of the situation, no one got to have “their time.”  People were coming to and going from the house all day long and my mom knew that she’d have very little privacy with her sister.  She told me to come to the house.  So I did.

When I turned onto Breezy Meadow Lane, I saw tons of cars in front of Kris’ house.  I couldn’t believe my eyes, and I ached for my mom who does not do well in these types of situations.  She just isn’t “good” at handling death.  She doesn’t know how to act, and although she says death doesn’t scare her, I think the death of others terrifies her.  My heart just hurt for her.

I went in, pulled up a chair with my dad and Uncle Dan (Kris’ husband) and chatted about the boys.  My mom was with Aunt Kris and her oldest sister.  My mom seemed fine.  I popped my head in to say a quick hello so she knew I was there and went back out to be with the guys.  My mom wasn’t there long and my parents decided to leave.  My mom didn’t say goodbye – she couldn’t – so she just told Kris she loved her.

She fell apart out in the driveway.  That was when I knew that the plan I’d put forward for my own goodbye was the right one for me.

****

When we received word on the 9th that Aunt Kris had 3-4 weeks left, I knew that was on the long end.  We’d just been through this with my friend back in December and given that it was the same type of aggressive liver cancer (both were in full liver failure), I knew that I had to go right away and that I’d be going every weekend until my Aunt Kris had passed.  We blocked the following weekend (this current weekend) and secured a condo for our entire family to go up.  I knew that if she was still with us when we went up the next weekend, that I’d book the following weekend.

I did this for one very specific reason – I could not, could not, do what my mom had to do.  I absolutely could not walk out of Aunt Kris’ house at a certain point knowing it was the last time I’d see her.  I could not say a final “goodbye.”  I knew that.  I knew that all I could do was say, “I’ll see  you ___” (next weekend, on Saturday, tomorrow, etc.).  I could not say, “Goodbye.”

****

When I went in to see my Aunt Kris, she greeted me with her usual, peppy, happy,  “Hi, Couuuuuurt!”  She smiled, I smiled, I kissed her, and I sat down with her.  She was tired.  She had her sense of humor, but she was fading.  I could see it.  I knew it.  There were so many people there.  Cousins I hadn’t seen in a year, aunts I used to spend weeks with at a time, and friends of my Aunt Kris who I did not know at all.

The house started to clear out and I felt like I was catching my breath, gathering my strength.  I had 2 very important things to say and I needed my own, private time to say them.  My cousin and Aunt Pat asked Kris’ best friend to lunch and I knew that was my time.  They left, my Uncle Dan squeezed me around the shoulders before walking out, and I marched right up to Aunt Kris and said, “I have two things to tell you.”

She seemed concerned at first.  Ha!

I told her they were good things, and then I said them.  We cried, we told each other we loved one another, and we then relaxed and settled in.  It was a nice visit, but I was so glad, so very glad, that Hottie, the boys, and I went up to see her just two weeks earlier for Memorial Day.  She was more of herself back then and we had our own time with her and Uncle Dan for several hours.  It was a normal visit like old times, and it felt great.

This one, this day, felt painful.

****

My aunt’s best friend works in an oncology clinic in Seattle and has been a hospice nurse.  My aunt Kris asked her to come stay with them until the very end, and Kim did just that.  I knew all about Kim, her profession, and her personality.  She’s a straight shooter like me.  So – when we had some time alone, I asked her what to expect.  I told her about Jenny and she asked if I wanted the reality.

I said yes.

She’ll be here for another few days to a week.

If she’s here when you come back next weekend, I’ll be surprised.

She won’t make it to the 4th of July (her favorite holiday).

The kids don’t know how aggressive it is.

Please tell the kids to tell me when they want time alone with their mom – they don’t have a lot of time left.

She will only be able to converse for another 2, 3, or 4 days.

Everything that happened to your friend is happening to her right now.

There it was, practically in black and white.  I was told everything I already knew, but was hoping I’d been wrong about.

I popped in and out to chat with Aunt Kris and before I knew it, it was time to pick Sarah (Kris’ daughter) up for dinner.  I told Aunt Kris that I was going to take her girl out for a quick bite and she said to tell her hello.

I truly believed my closing statement as I kissed her goodbye:

I love you, Aunt Kris.  I’ll see you tomorrow!”

I soaked in her response:

I love you too, Court.

****

Sarah and I are close.  We’re very close.  She lived with us last summer when her brother, Sam, was hurt so badly in that awful car accident.  We spent hours and hours talking, connecting, laughing.  She felt like my little sister within days of living with us and Aunt Kris told me that Sarah viewed me as her own big sister.  Last summer, Aunt Kris told me that I could not disappear from Sarah’s life the way I disappeared from the family for so long (met a boy, fell in love, got married, sucked at making babies, focused only on making babies, had a baby, got lost in that baby) because she needed me.  Sarah is very stoic and unemotional, but with me, she’s quite raw.

Sarah and I are close.

Because we’re close, I told myself on the way to the cabin that I would be honest with her about things.

The minute I walked in, she cried her eyes out.  We talked, I was honest, I told her that she needed to get home tomorrow morning to see and be with her mom (her parents had sent both kids up to the lake house to have fun over the weekend since so many people were coming by the main house).  She asked how long I thought her mom had left, and I told her what Kim had told me.  It was horrible, but honesty often times is.

We had a fantastic time at dinner, talked about her move to our city and her job, and enjoyed the best burgers we’ve had in a very long time.  Just like old times when she lived with us!  I drove her home and then continued on to my Aunt Linda’s house where I’d be staying the night (around the corner from the lake house).

****

Aunt Linda, another one of my mom’s 5 sisters, is a fun gal.  We hadn’t sat up and talked late into the night together in years, and that’s exactly what we did when I arrived.  Sure the conversation centered around Aunt Kris, but it felt like home to sit with her and smile and cry together.  The phone kept ringing and ringing, and the caller-ID would read out the number as Aunt Linda listened, so I figured she was screening her calls.

She wasn’t.  She couldn’t hear the phone.

The next morning, Linda’s daughter called to say that she’d been calling late into the night to tell us that Kris had taken a turn and that Kim thought she’d only be able to talk for a few hours in the morning, if at all.

Stunned.

Absolutely stunned.

My first thought was the kids, just down the road, so I headed out for my run and stopped there to talk to them.  Uncle Dan had already reached Sarah and told them to come home when Sam woke up.  Sarah and I decided that she needed to wake him up.

****

By the time I returned to Aunt Kris’ house (10:30 AM on Sunday), there was nowhere to park.  It was the most amazing thing I’ve seen in a long time.  Cars everywhere.  I literally had to walk a full block from my car to her house.

Everyone was there, and they were all crying.  Aunt Kris had slipped into the coma that we knew she’d slip into, but a day or two earlier than expected.  I went in to give her a kiss and my first thought was, “thank God Mom came yesterday instead of today.”  I stepped out to call my mom (I’d already updated her earlier in the morning) and she was in shock that it had gone so quickly.  So was I.

I had planned to head out when it felt right but it never felt right.  There were things to do, people to comfort, a house to keep clean, food to keep out.

Being close to Sarah, everyone thought I was also close to Sam (I’m not).  No one could get him to come in to be with his mom but no one would go talk to him either.  So, I did what any good big-sister-type would do and went out to sit with him and talk about anything but his mom.  The conversation finally led into his mom and I told him about my friend, Jenny, and that things will get worse before they get better.  He didn’t want to see his mom this way, but I told him he really needed to because time was running out.  He said he couldn’t see her with all those people there.  I understood, and I told him I’d check on him in 20 minutes.

Upon going back into the house, I was surrounded by Kim, Sam’s grandma, and my Aunt Linda.

Is he coming in?

He needs to come in and see his mom.

You need to go out there and get him to come in.

No one seemed to understand that I’m not close to this poor kid.  I told them I’d told him I’d check on him in 20 minutes and they said that wasn’t soon enough.  They said Hospice was coming and that he wouldn’t get to have quality time with her after that and that they wanted him to come in before the nurse arrived.

OK.

But no one can be in there.

He doesn’t want to see her like this.  Can you get all of those people out of there?

I just told him I’d come out in 20 minutes, this is going to scare him.

Fine, I’ll do it, but get everyone out of this kitchen and out of Kris’ space.

I think getting Sam to come in was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do for someone else.  He knew something was not right, but he trusted me to tell him the truth.

I lied.

I told him that Hospice was coming and that they just wanted to make sure her meds were correct and that she was comfortable.  I told him that because we weren’t sure how long it would take them to do all of that, that we wanted him to have a moment with his mom before they arrived and that they’d probably leave soon.

I lied through my teeth.

He came in… and there was no one else in the kitchen or in the living room with Kris.

****

Time went slowly, but it went quickly too.  People kept coming and going and bringing food.  Sandwiches.  I can’t eat another tea roll and cold-cut sandwich for a long time.  I won’t eat a store-bought cookie for months, I bet.

****

My mom has one brother.  One solitary brother and five sisters.  Her brother is the second oldest child so he was quite grown when Kris was born.  However, he doted on her like everyone else did.

Uncle Tom was on a European cruise.  He had finally been reached the day before (Saturday) and was told that Kris was very sick, but what, exactly, he’d been told, I didn’t know.  It wasn’t my business.

Uncle Tom’s wife is a Lutheran minister and, as far as ministers go with me, she’s quite incredible.  Everyone thinks so.  My Aunt Kris knew she was dying so planned her entire funeral over the last week and a half, and she wanted my Aunt Bonnie to be one of the officiants.  Aunt Bonnie was on a cruise ship in Europe on Sunday, and no one had talked to them yet as Kris was slipping away.  Time was critical.

My cousin, G, and I heard two of the aunts wanting to wait until Tom and Bonnie were home before having the funeral.  We were horrified because that would have dragged things out an entire week.  This, obviously, wasn’t up to the aunts so we quickly diffused the conversation by talking with Uncle Dan’s mom and Aunt Linda about timing for the funeral.  Uncle Dan and Sarah were looped in and they wanted the funeral immediately.  Good.

Someone had to call Uncle Tom.  We didn’t want one of the aunts to do it because they were going through enough, and quite frankly, we were worried that 3 of them may not be firm on the dates.  Uncle Dan certainly wasn’t going to call him.  Dan’s mom elected me, and I elected my cousin, G.  But, both Dan’s mom and G were insistent that I do it.

I haven’t spoken with Uncle Tom in YEARS.  But, I called him and woke him up on his cruise to tell him that we needed him home.  It was awful.

****

At 6:30, I decided I just had to get on the road.  I couldn’t stay another night so I had to get home.  I said my goodbyes, kissed Aunt Kris one more time, and told her I loved her.

I didn’t say, “goodbye.”

As I drove home, I realized that I got the goodbye I longed for from this trip:

I love you, Aunt Kris.  I’ll see you tomorrow!

I love you too, Court.

****

I arrived home at 9:30 PM.  At 10:44 PM, I received a text message from my cousin, G.

She just passed.

She waited until just those closest to her were with her.  She waited until we’d all gone.  I don’t blame her.  No one wants to die alone, but no one wants to die in front of a lot of people either.

****

And so, now I ask, “where does one even end?”

We drove up as a family on Wednesday for the visitation that evening and the funeral the next morning.  It was very hard, I still don’t believe it.  My younger sister, her kids, and my family stayed until Friday morning and spent a lot of great time together.  Hottie, the kids, and I had lunch with Uncle Dan, Sarah, Sam, and more family on our way out of town and then we stopped at Uncle Dan’s because it was on the way to the cemetery.  I visited Aunt Kris and pulled a couple of sprigs from her flowers to take with me.  We drove home and headed to a quick dinner.  As Hottie loaded the kids into the car and as I was settling up the tab, a song came on that will always be special to me.

I Hope You Dance

The song that Aunt Kris had chosen to be sung at her own funeral.

I cried in the booth, waited for the song to finish, and then cried some more in the car with Hottie.  And we drove home.

We are home now, but life is not as we left it.  There is forever a piece missing.


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Grief Piggybacks Grief

I feel like all I do is share little snippets of life here and there on my blog. I used to write long posts, but now I write mini-posts that serve as a highlighter to capture the things I don’t want to forget.

Today is a day I’d like to forget and ignore for the rest of my life, but today is actually a day that no one in my family will ever forget.

****

Time is standing still again, and has been for a few days now. The weekend brought us an unending amount of sadness over the loss of our friend, Jenny, this past December.  There has been a heaviness in our breaths, a sigh in our pauses, a shuffle in our feet. At one point, I flippantly and angrily told Hottie, “I’m obviously still grieving and will be for a long time.” We both are.

****

Grief seems to piggyback grief.

Our very large family on my mom’s side learned tonight that my aunt has weeks to live. My cousin, this aunt’s young daughter, called me in tears to talk about it. That’s how I found out and I had to be strong for her, and cry only a few tears as she cried countless ones.

When I thought of my mom seeing her sister this weekend for probably the last time, I fell apart. I thought of my own sisters. I thought of Jenny’s sisters. I thought of my friend who had to say goodbye to her 13 year old nephew. So many people are telling the people they love, “goodbye.”

After talking and crying with my mom, the only way I could think to calm myself was to go spend time with my sleeping children. I just wanted to sleep beside them, but gazing at them and kissing them would have to do. So that’s what I did. And that is the only part of today that I want to remember.

 


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Boys Only!

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All three of my boys raced today, and for the first time all year, I didn’t. It was my turn to watch the boys while Hottie ran a quick 5k. It was fun to hang with the boys and cheer Daddy on with them!

We were told that there was no kids race after the 5k, so I let the boys run the long finish with Hottie. Once they were done and eating their gelato, the race organizers announced the kids race. Ok! We took our two tired boys to the race start and had them take another go at it. Matthew ran hard again and Bryson took his time… he needed a nap! They both crossed the finish and got their chocolate medal!

We came home with a bag of solid chocolates, 2 chocolate medals, a dark chocolate bar with bacon and caramel, a coupon for a pound of chocolate bon bons, and tummies full of dark chocolate gelato and chocolate covered bananas. This is, by far, the best SWAG we’ve gotten from a 5k… which is why we like to do it with the kids!

Now I’m off to hide all of that chocolate!

 

 

 


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Camping Out

I don’t even know how to start this post, and I wonder why I’m putting it out there in the first place.  But, this is part of my life and I need to say it because it’s my reality.

My aunt has lots of cancer.  My aunt, the one who has been so supportive of me and is the mother of my favorite cousin (SK who lived with us this summer, and she’s also Sam’s mom), looks to have liver, pancreatic, stomach, and bone metastatic lesions.  The clinical report was sent to the entire family and although it’s not conclusive, the oncologist is pretty sure he’s right and that this is not curable.  He does say, though, that it’s somewhat manageable.

I’m always a realist, but can usually snap into a hopeful mood about these types of things pretty quickly.  This time, I just can’t get there.  It’s just too close to Jenny dying, and my friend’s nephew dying, of cancer to feel all, “rah rah rah you’ll beat this.”

Because so far, the people I’ve known and loved with cancer recently… they haven’t beat it.  And in our family, on both my dad’s and mom’s side, no one has died of cancer.  We knew a time would come that our luck would run out, but this is rather shocking.  My aunt K is the youngest of 7, and she’s 10 years younger than my mom who is the 6th child.  When Sam was hurt this past summer, it was really hard because he was the youngest grandchild, everyone’s baby.  My aunt K is her siblings’ baby, and this is feeling like it just can’t be.

So… 2016 isn’t starting out so great.  We didn’t even get out of January without devastating news.

I feel like a serious weight is sitting on me.  Not resting briefly, but camping out.