My grandmother died this morning.
She landed in the hospital a few days ago from a nasty case of pneumonia she just couldn't shake. Her lungs filled up with fluid, and off to the ICU she went. Nonnie was on a respirator and her body just couldn't take any more. I don't know any of the last details right now. I hope that she was asleep and peacefully dreaming.
It's funny how we never see our parents and grandparents as real people until we're adults. Then, we're always surprised to find that they've had lives and experiences we knew nothing about.
When my grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary several years back, I had a clock engraved for them commemorate the event. It ended up being a late gift because I discovered that no one knew my grandparents' real wedding date.
It seems the sly couple had snuck off and gotten married about a month before the real wedding. I was shocked! I couldn't believe my sweet, tiny, white haired grandmother had done such a thing.
When T and I visited a few years ago (pre-baby), I had her drag all the photo albums out and show me people and places I'd never cared to hear about as a child. I was struck by how young and beautiful she was as a new bride. I looked at her happy smile in the photos, and her wistful gaze as we paged through her albums, and I realized something. Oh yes! My grandmother would definitely have snuck off to get married. It made her that much more interesting and special.
Over the last few years, as H&H came along and I got caught up in work and my life, I haven't been as good about calling Nonnie or sending her photos. A few years ago she and Poppy got internet access, so I know she saw pictures of the boys on a regular basis. But still, I know how much she loved to get my all too infrequent calls.
My father was already on his way to Louisiana when we got the news this morning. I've been calmly making arrangements to fly down on Thursday and I was amazed at how well I was holding it together, despite the loss of my sweet, sweet Nonnie.
The damn broke this afternoon when I read a post by Amie at Mamma Loves about her grandmother and why she always told Amie she loved her. The long and short of it is, we never know if we're going to get the chance to say "I love you" one last time. So we should say it as often as we can.
I didn't get the chance to tell my Nonnie "I love you" one last time.
So I guess this is my chance. If there is a God, a heaven, or an afterlife, I'm sure Nonnie knows how much I loved her. How I wish I'd been able to see her more often. How I wish I'd stepped out of my life for a moment and called her more often.
How I wish she'd had the chance to meet Holden and to see H&H together. As the mother of three boys, I know she would have loved that. I know she would have loved to watch me, her only granddaughter, in my new role as mom to two boys. She often joked about how if I tried for a girl, I would definitely have three boys. That's exactly what happened to her!
I'll wallow in regret for today, but then I'll try not to do so. I'll try to live my life and remember her every day. I'll remember her patience with me and the way she would play card game after card game with me, endlessly, when I was little. I'll remember how she would whisper in my ear, "Let's go Visa Poppy," and whisk me off for some clandestine shopping. I'll remember her hugs and her soft Southern drawl.
I'll remember her perfume.
I love you, Nonnie. I'll miss you so much.
Today is Leap Day. I don't know why I'm so excited about February 29th. Something about the idea that this day only happens once every 4 years makes it special, different somehow. I feel like I should be out making something happen instead of sitting here in front of my computer. But since I am compelled to blog, I thought I'd remember life through the Leap Years.
February 29, 2004:
The 76th Academy Awards were on this day with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King winning a record eleventy gazillion awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. There was that whole occupation of Iraq thing going on too. Sigh. And Jean-Bertrand Aristide resigned as president of Haiti.
I was living and working just outside of D.C. in 2004. Working my butt off in fact. I was about 6 weeks pregnant with Hollis after the Side Trip to Iceland and puking my guts out on a regular basis. I even fell asleep in a puddle of drool on my desk. Between the exhaustion, nausea, and absent mindedness it's a wonder I even showed up at the office. Ah, good times. If I could find my calendar, I could tell you exactly what I was doing on this day. But I can't remember where it is....
February 29, 2000:
According to Wikipedia, not much happened on this day. I like to think of it as the last year or so of our American innocence. These were the days before 9/11, when I was still idealistic and hopeful about changing the world as an international human rights lawyer. I was in my second year of law school at George Washington in D.C. About 3 months after this I realized that $100,000 in student loans pretty much dictated working for a law firm for the foreseeable future.
(Whoa! Did that sound cynical, or what?)
February 29, 1996:
On this day, a Peruvian 737 crashed into the Andes, killing 123 people. The siege in Sarajevo was lifted. Also, Joan Collins won $1.3 million in a breach of contract suit against Random House for a manuscript she wrote. She obviously had a good agent as the contract required them to pay her even if the book was never published. And it wasn't. Interesting. I wish I could see a copy of the contract.... (Sorry, I am a contract litigation geek. I got a little sidetracked there.)
Let's see, in 1996 I was still working as a claims analyst in the hellish world of individual health insurance claims for an insurance company often associated with a certain famous wildlife show. I loved that show as a kid, although I always wondered why Jim had to do all of the hard work.
Marlin Perkins: I'll stand here and watch, while Jim wrestles that alligator for us.
Jim: Damn you to hell, Marlin.
February 29, 1992:
The college years. It's all pretty much a blur.
The apartheid years. On this day, South African archbishop Desmond Tutu was arrested along with 100 clergymen during a five-day anti-apartheid demonstration in Cape Town.
I, on the other hand, was involved in far more important things. Like figuring out the social hierarchy of my new high school. We had just moved from Germany to Bellevue, Nebraska. It was certainly a cultural shock because I listened to way cooler music and had way cooler clothes. I didn't understand why no one appreciated my red Coke bottle cap suspenders and blue Gatsby hat. I spent a lot of time watching MTV, having been deprived of it for 2 years during my prime music obsession years.
Here's one for my friends North of the border. On this day, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau announced he would retire as soon as the Liberals could elect another leader.
This was only tangentially relevant to me as I was living in Grand Forks, North Dakota, just a few hours South of Canada. I was 11 and spent most of my free time at swim practice. And ogling Jerry Hoffarth, a fellow swimmer and 13 year old boy who only knew I existed because of my kick ass breast stroke and my relentless stalking of him. Of course, every time he tried to talk to me, I started giggling and ran away. Boy, was I young.
Incidentally, I ran into Jerry at a wedding in Grand Forks when I was 21. Amazingly I was able to have a normal conversation with him and we spent most of the night reminiscing, dancing and chatting. For some reason he didn't actually remember me as all giggly and young but he was very aware of my crush on him. So much for my 11 year old subtlety.
February 29, 1980:
On this day, apparently somebody in the NHL made his 800th goal. But since I don't care about hockey, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I, on the other hand, was 7 years old and living in Louisiana. I had a nice tan year round and a cute little Southern accent. Which was soon to be relentlessly beaten out of me by the constant teasing from the kids in North Dakota. Yes, I come from a white trash, redneck family. But no one likes to be reminded of that when they're 9.
February 29, 1976:
Apparently nothing happened in 1976. Just that whole bicentennial thing. Oh, and I was about to get a baby brother in 5 days. The days of the solo Stephanie show were about to end. I also think this is about the time I landed on our coffee table chin first and had to get stitches. (I only remember because my mom still tells stories of having our neighbor take us to the emergency room and the doctors inquiring whether we were there for her - hugely pregnant - or me - bleeding everywhere.)
How did I mysteriously land on the coffee table? The next door neighbor and I were playing Superman and jumping off of the couch in an attempt to fly. It was his idea. I swear. Of course, I'm the one who still has the scar on my chin.
February 29, 1972:
I was a 5 week-ish old fetus. My parents have never made a secret of the fact that I was an accident, so I like to imagine that they were just figuring out I was on the way. I wonder if the words, "Oh, shit" were uttered!
We're back. I'm sure it will be a few days before I get back into the swing of things. We got in at 2am last night and I just got my bags a few hours ago. (I'll save that for a post after my blood pressure returns to normal.)
The trip to visit Defiant Muse and her Monkey was incredibly fun, exhausting, and amazing. Northern California feels like a good novel does to me. There's an eye catching cover, lots of drama and beautiful imagery, characters you love, and a story you never want to end. I could spend hours on the coast line just day dreaming or writing.
Yes, DM and I did do some rabble rousing. You can read about that over on DM's site because, frankly, I don't remember much. I have some faded impressions of dancing, lights, asking lots of inappropriate questions, and posing on a mattress. Oy. Let's just say it's a damn good thing the tattoo parlors in DM's town are closed at 1am. Otherwise, I'd have the cliche of all tattooed cliches on my ass.
But the best part of the trip was having a chance to connect with my cousin. DM and I haven't spent much time together as adults without a crowd of a thousand around. Our family is loud, obnoxious, drunk, and overwhelming. It's hard to have a serious conversation about anything around them.
On the surface, DM and I have always been very different. I followed the good girl path to adulthood. She followed the road less traveled and found herself through a more literal journey. Underneath, however, I think we've both known how similar we are. It's not just genetics that binds us, but politics, personality, a quest for beauty and truth, and a desperate need to make a difference in the world.
The eight years between us no longer mean much. Particularly since we've both come to realize that all people are more similar than different. In becoming a mother, and in sharing that experience, it becomes obvious. The human experience repeats itself over and over, generation after generation, passing down to us the best and worst of human nature. It makes it difficult to understand how human beings can treat each other so badly. (Now I'd better get myself back on track before I start ranting about war, murder, and all the other atrocities of the world.)
This was also the first chance I've had to meet Monkey. She's a gorgeous, obsidian eyed beauty, with a romantically flowing name, her father's hair, her mother's mouth, and her grandfather's ears. She made me work for her smiles, like any serious girl should, but those upturned lips, tiny dimple, and sparkling eyes were certainly worth the effort. Monkey is a perfect combination of darkness and light. Watching her over the last week, as her eyes followed my every move and she wobbled cautiously across the room, I saw my cousin as a baby once more.
DM and her Monkey will be coming to visit us this Summer and we can't wait. We can't offer a dramatic coastline, just a boring old flat beach, but we do have some kick ass crabs and there's always beer in the fridge. After looking at all the photos, Big H is incredibly excited to meet his new cousin and Little H keeps asking me where Monkey is.
It won't be long boys.