Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I'm with you...

I’ve been missing my nieces lately.  They live 2000 miles away and we haven’t seen them in three years.  And despite the modern age of technology that includes cell phones, texting, Facebook and Skype, I haven’t talked to them in about two years.

The sad part is that I’m really not sure why.  

I dreamed of the day that the girls would be teenagers, and I could be the confidante aunt that listened when you had problems with friends or school, and didn’t judge you.  The aunt that sent you little gifts just because, that came at precisely the right moment that you needed to feel loved and cherished.  That we would share secrets and they might call me in the middle of the day just because. 

When CJ was small, she knew exactly what our relationship was to be.  She was helping me put on my makeup, running the brush across her face and saying, “CJ will do it!”  

When I shared this with her dad, he corrected me.  “No, she says it, ‘CJ WILL do it’.”  

“Not with me,” I giggled.  “She doesn’t have to convince me…she knows that I will let her.”

Every time we got the chance to visit them (which was not nearly enough with my brother in the military), I would take lots of pictures and then create a themed scrapbook with the pictures.  One year, I made a book in which each page began with “At Aunt Jaycie’s house…”  Another year, I recorded a piece of advice for each picture.  

The next time that we got together, they would quote the books.  I went to visit them one year, and Allie apologized when I saw the tattered book from their last visit.  

“I’m sorry, Aunt Jaycie,” she said soberly.  “It’s getting ruined!”

I couldn’t have been more excited.  They were reading them.  They were memorizing them.  They were LOVING them.

It was those shared memories that kept us close.  We could laugh together about how their grandmother, my sweet mother…is the worst poor sport in the world.  You have to keep an eye on her, one would say, and then in unison, “Because SHE CHEATS!”

We would talk about how their dad flipped out when his he couldn’t get the film out to develop photos from when he proposed to their mother.  He ended up smashing the camera and the film on the back patio in frustration.

They loved to hear about how they used to tease Uncle Chops that they were “stinkin’ up his spot.”  That once, he took away Allie’s “buh uh gum” because she wouldn’t keep it in her mouth.  He held her over the garbage can until she spit it out, and she cried for an hour.  They promised to never be teenagers and ignore their adoring young cousins, like Tux did when he turned 13 and was too cool to be seen with them.  

We remembered making Fourth of July shirts together, Tie dyeing, and working on the roof of my parents house together.  Eating crab around the island in the kitchen, and the many nights watching Pokemon when Todd and I spent a week with them when their parents were out of town.  How the storm nearly drowned us at the park before we could get back to the van.  Eating Taco Bell and watching CJ cry when her cheese got spilled.  About how JJ kept telling me that I was mean.

The cool aunt train appeared to be going the right direction.

But then the phone calls got fewer and farther between.  They were more hurried.  And soon, calls were not answered.  No return call.  

CJ was nearing those teenage years, and I had hopes that even if her parents were too busy to keep in touch with us, that she and I could keep in touch via social media or her new cell phone.  I texted her one day, sitting in Taco Bell, and reminded her about the spilled cheese.  I told her how much I missed her, how much I loved her, and how I wished that she were at Taco Bell with me.  

I never heard from her.

Bro told me later that she had mentioned that I texted her.  But she didn’t text back.

I posted on her Facebook wall.  

She never replied.

Bro says that she isn’t your average teenager, and she isn’t into texting.  

I happened to catch Bro one day, and we had just a moment to talk. JJ was there, and Bro asked him if he wanted to talk to me.  He said "No, thank you."

I finally quit trying to contact them, because it broke my heart to be ignored.  

No one noticed.

I heard Avril Lavigne’s “I’m with You” on the radio today.  CJ loved that song when she was little, and we found it refreshing that she heard “DAMP cold night”, instead of the lyrics “damn cold night”.  

I thought that you'd be here by now
There's nothing but the rain
No footsteps on the ground
I'm listening but there's no sound

We’re also coming up on the Fourth of July holiday – a family favorite.  It reminded me of the time that we were coming home from the beach and a tiny CJ said from the back seat, “You love us, Aunt Jaycie, and when we’re not here, you miss us!”

I smiled at her and at Allie, whose big eyes were looking at me in the rearview mirror.  

“When you’re not here, I miss you all of the time.”

Just so you know…I still do. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Not today.

Of all of the coping mechanisms that I employ, this is perhaps the easiest and the most effective.  
I don’t know how I’ll feel tomorrow…
…tomorrow is a different day

Music has always been a big part of my life, and this song holds special significance to me.  The first time that I heard it was on the television program, “Joan of Arcadia”.  Joan, who regularly talks to God in various forms, has been diagnosed with mental illness for believing that she is talking to God.  She’s returned home from a summer camp for crazy kids, and trying to return to her previous life.  It was heartbreaking to watch her try to explain her struggles to those around her, knowing that they are judging her and watching for any sign of recurrence.  

And I wanna believe you,
When you tell me that it'll be ok,
Yeah, I try to believe you,
But I don't.

There are days when I feel like everything is out of control and I just can’t take one more ‘hit from the snake’, so to speak.  I can tell that my resources are low and that given the right trigger, I’m going to lose it.  Over the edge.   I’m not sure if it will be fits of crying, or anger at anyone who looks my direction, but it won’t be pretty.

My mind starts to wander, and it never heads into a good neighborhood.  I start listing all of the things that are wrong in my life, all of the things that I have failed at.  I start to overthink everything, and see patterns where they don’t exist.  

Everything begins to take on a sinister twist, and I’m sure that the universe is conspiring against me.  To be fair, I’m sure that the universe is simply trying to balance the scales against my failures, but it is against me, nonetheless.   

I get angry that no one seems to notice that I’m hanging by a thread.   

That’s when this song starts to play in my head.  Because even if I can’t take one more minute of today, there’s always tomorrow.  If I can just get through THIS day, things will be different.  

Gimme a little time,
Leave me alone a little while,
Maybe it's not too late,
not today

                I feel myself retreating into the darkness, but not succumbing.  I can pull back and let myself recover.  Take a breath.  I can let the darkness surround me while I hide in the shadows and look out.  Not so far that I can’t see the light, but far enough that I’m not going to get burned. 
                 And I wait.

And I know that I’m not ready
Maybe tomorrow

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll feel stronger.  Maybe I’ll be in control of myself and my surroundings.  Maybe someone will see my struggle and take my hand.  Maybe, the world will just be better tomorrow.  And if not, I’ve given myself the time that I need to keep it together.

Things can be so much worse if you let yourself get dragged into the darkness.  

And I wanna believe you,
When you tell me that it'll be ok,
Yeah I try to believe you,
Not today, today, today, today, today...

Tomorrow it may change

For now, I’m going to bed.  Taking a bath.  Not going to think about the walls that are closing in on me.  A good night’s sleep is never a bad thing.  Tomorrow is, after all, another day.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

When you can't tweet...or post...or even type!

I feel complete.  At least for this moment…

You see, I’ve been without a laptop for a few weeks.  It started out with a hibernation issue.  It would refuse to boot for days at a time.  Then, it developed a screen issue that meant that I had to use it with an external monitor attached.

That’s really not convenient, especially you are used to laying in bed typing or reading.  The monitor is never positioned quite right, and well…it kinda digs into your knees when you try to balance it. 
Finally, I took it in to the computer doc to fix it.  Not that I couldn’t have fixed it; in another life, that’s what I did for a living!  But it frustrated me so much, and I would get bummed even thinking about it.  So I paid someone to do what I simply could not bring myself to do.  Whip my baby into shape. 

$100 and one hour later, she works like a champ.  Even in bed.  I’m a happy girl.

What’s interesting to me is what I missed about my laptop.  I could still access email, Facebook, and Pinterest on my Kindle or Ipod.  I didn’t miss much there.  I could peruse the web, check out the news, all of the really important things.

But I felt like I couldn’t DO anything.  And by anything, I meant anything creative.

I could still take photos, but without having a computer to edit them, it wasn’t worth the effort.  I couldn’t work on my 365 project.  I couldn’t scrapbook.  Even if I wanted to go back to scrapbooking with real paper, I always use my computer to edit photos, print, or create titles and journaling.
Most of all, I couldn’t communicate.  I type all day, every day.  I work in front of a computer, and everything that I do is typed.  I type as fast as I think.  Well, almost.  But writing?  Fuggettaboutit.  Even if I could write quickly, it would be illegible.  I was completely frustrated when I would take out a paper and pen.  It was as if the delay from my brain to my fingers was interminable.
And typing on a Kindle?  Not a chance.  Crazy misspellings.  Ipod?  Crazy autocorrect.  (and sometimes, even inappropriate!)

I’d have a thought, and I couldn’t flesh it out.  I could make notes, but knowing that I couldn’t just sit down and think it out was incredibly frustrating.  Not that I’ve done much writing lately…but when I suddenly couldn’t…I really wanted to!  I felt the urge to bare my soul in prose.  To write the great American novel.  To write SOMETHING.  

I vowed that if I got the laptop fixed, I’d write.  I’d blog.  I’d type and type until there was not a single word left in me.  I’d understand what was inside of me.   

Ah, there’s the key.  I’ve been struggling with a number of things in my life, and I had no outlet.  I’ve always written, even if no one ever read what I had written.  The simple act of allowing my thoughts to flow out into the keyboard allows me to process them, to organize them, and to let them go.  

It’s comforting to know that my therapist is only a keystroke or two away.  

Life is good.

PS.  After I wrote this, my computer died completely.  I was lost.   I debated what to do, and finally decided that this was my thing.  I need it.  It centers me and gives me access to the great big world...and my own  heart.  A few clicks, and a brand new one arrived in just a day or two.  I consider it an investment into ME, and I refuse to feel guilty about the expense.  That's my story...and I'm sticking with it!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

My Grandma didn't smile!

I gingerly approached my grandmother’s casket, not wanting to see her so old and frail, not at all the strong woman that I remembered from my youth.  Her snow white hair was styled just as she liked it, the loving work of a cousin that had done so for many years of Gram’s life.  The hands were clearly hers, gnarled as they clutched a crisp cotton handkerchief.  Those hands had prepared man wondrous meals for her family, quilted countless blankets, both played and taught the piano to unknown numbers of students, but would be most remembered (at least by me) for her obsession with picking every speck of lint off of the carpet. 
                The similarities ended there – the eyes closed in repose were sunken and hollow, the skin around them smoothed and softened.  Gram’s eyes had always been framed with soft folds and deep set wrinkles, the lids tucking into themselves around her bright eyes.  I remember her eyes as a steel grey color, although to be honest, I’m not sure what color they actually were.  Those eyes were both piercing and gentle, depending what you had done to earn her gaze.
                This woman, the one that they had placed in my grandmother’s casket, had high cheekbones and hollow cheeks with a wide smile.  I knew that it couldn’t be Gram, because my grandma didn’t smile!
                Oh, she did.  In her own way, but certainly not like this.  Gram had thin lips that I had always felt sympathy for, lipstick addict that I am.  Her smile was short and tight lipped, with full cheeks even when she had lost the girth of her middle age and shriveled to an elderly woman. 
                I understand the ravages of time.  The vibrant young woman pictured at the guest table as we entered the funeral home was gone long before I was born.  Her eyes smoldered, her smooth skin milky and radiant.  Gone, too, was the young mother who sat regally in family photos, coifed and made up, surrounded by her 7 children, ranging in age from young adults to mere babies.
                My Gram, the one that existed when I was young, had a healthy midsection.  Years of her own delicious meals had contributed heavily, as had her demand that nothing to go waste – even if she had to eat it herself.  She wore lipstick, on those thin little lips, and perhaps mascara and some “rouge”.  Groomed, but not overly so, her one indulgence was the regular visit to our cousin that kept her hair up for her.  She regularly wore dresses, long after it was the expectation to do so. 
                Through the years, I saw the damage that time and gravity can inflect on a body.  Her high cheeks became more jowly, and her skin thinned out and began to develop lines around the eyes and along her hairline.  Her hair faded and thinned, eventually becoming cottony floss.  Her body thinned out as well, as her appetite shrank and she no longer cooked for a family.  As I grew taller, she seemed to shrink, her bones succumbing to the pressure of living on planet earth. 
                This, I understood, and yet, I was aghast at how she appeared in death.  Unable to accept this representation of my Gram, I left without saying goodbye. 
                In later discussion with the family, I learned of the mortician’s signature style of presentation – preparing the body for burial with a peaceful smile. To me, it was reminiscent of the old adage, “never speak ill of the dead.”  He was painting a lovely picture of the departed, without regard to the life that they had lived.
                My grandmother was a saint, but she was not saintly.  She was valiant in her faith and almost fanatic in her desire to follow the commandments.  Her strict adherence to rules made her sometimes harsh with her family and occasionally judgmental with others.   Not in the least shy, the nickname “Marge in Charge” didn’t begin to describe the way that she managed those around her. 
                Lest you think that I am being disrespectful, these are the facts of her life, at least as I saw them.  She was also a wonderful cook that welcomed anyone into her home and fed them well when they were there.  She lovingly cared for a son with muscular dystrophy, giving him every opportunity to live life to the fullest, even before t hose with disabilities were invited to do so. 
                It is all of these things that I want to remember.  Good and bad, joy and tears.  To gloss over the imperfections is to lose sight of the full dimensional being that she was.  The angelic looking woman broadly smiling from the casket with smooth skin in no way resembled the woman that I had come to honor. 
                It wasn’t until they had closed the casket and we had arrived at her burial place that I felt the desire to approach and tell her goodbye.  The dedication was given and the funeral director had invited the family to a luncheon back at the church.  The crowd was thinning; young children bouncing down the hill, dodging headstones, the elderly being lead gingerly by friends and family. 
                The pink casket glimmering in the sun, adorned with a lovely spray of rosy flowers interspersed with brilliant white blooms was, for the first time, alone.  A few feet away, the ground opened up, ready to envelope her.  Her headstone, shared with my grandfather, had been engraved years before with her name and birth date.  She had been anxious to join her sweetheart of 60+ years.  Now, his vault was clearly visible in the rectangular hole.  Hers would be beside his, and obscured from our view in a matter of minutes.
                “Goodbye, my grandma,” I whispered, my hand placed lightly next to the flowers, my head as near the lid as I could lean.
                A tiny hand touched me, my five year old standing beside me.  “What are you doing?”  He asked, no doubt aware of the tears that had finally come.  I knelt beside him to explain that we were saying our farewells to Gigi.  Giving him a moment to do the same, I gave Gram a final pat and made my way down the hall to follow the rest of the family.
                I left with reticence, wanting to go back to the funeral director to assure myself that he would stay with her until she was properly buried.  I knew that this was procedure, but I wanted to be sure that my sweet little grandma wasn’t alone there while the family partook of the feast of salads and goodies prepared by the ward Relief Society.  It seemed cruel to leave her behind alone.
                My baby must have been thinking the same thing, as he paused after walking just a few feet.  Running back to her side, he blinked a few times, and then burst into tears.  His little heart was filled with sorrow that spilled out in great heaving sobs as he stood near the casket, suddenly understanding that Gigi was gone and that he hadn’t even said goodbye. 
                This was his first experience with death.  He knew that there were times that people left us and went back to Jesus.  But he’d never seen a body before, and I wanted to be sure that he wasn’t freaked when he saw her. 
                I explained about her body and her spirit and how she would leave one behind, while the other would go on.  “She might look like she is sleeping,” I explained, “But it’s really only her body.  Her spirit, the part of her that makes her who she is – that part moved on.”
                He seemed to understand that.  But it’s hard not to think of her in terms of the physical body that she wore here on earth.  He found a display room of caskets at the funeral home and had asked if he could lie in the ‘beds’.  After all, Gigi was sleeping in one!
                It makes me wonder if we’ll even recognize one another in the hereafter.  Are we going to look much the same as we did here – mother’s eyes and dad’s short legs?  What does ME perfected look like?  The physical is what we ponder, often wondering if a celestial body will have brown hair, or if society’s idea of perfect will be instituted.  Wand which society?  Wouldn’t we all, then, look alike?
                No, my grandmother didn’t smile.  Her teeth were crooked and her lips too thin.  But she was MY grandma.  And that’s how I’ll remember her, with gratitude for the small things that make us unique.  The things that make us…unforgettable.    
                So spare me the angelic smile, save your smooth skin and perfect posture.  Let me remember my Gram in all her glory, perfectly imperfect as she was.  That is enough for me!