Category: family (page 1 of 2)

Twenty-Five Years Ago Today

Five years ago today, I posted this. I’m reposting it now because reasons. Mainly that I was thinking about it this morning and so I shared it with my English classes. I cried when I read it to them – not for sadness, but because my heart was leaking love for all the people in the story. All of them.

I’m sure it must have been embarrassing for my class to see me lose it a little – that’s not an everyday occurrence. I apologized, but honestly I’m not that sorry. It’s okay for them to see me feeling things. There are worse things than feeling too much.

___

Standing at the circulation desk, filing cards grown soft at the corners, I heard the phone ring. Eager for a change of pace, even if it meant I’d be doing someone’s research over the phone, I grabbed up the receiver.

“Batesville Public Library, can I help you?”
It was my dad. Calling from the hospital room in Chicago where my mom had been admitted during their getaway weekend. He just wanted to check in on me – he’d missed me when he called home to talk to the boys.
“I’m good. Work is fine. I’m excited to go to Cincinnati this afternoon. Can I talk to Mom?”
Pause.
Now, I should explain that pauses in telephone conversations with my dad are not unusual. There is always… a great deal… of… white space… in talking with him. So why was I suddenly hot around my eyes, and tight in the back of my throat?
“Dad?”
Throat-clearing. “No. You can’t. Mom’s in a coma, Bec.”
Did I know that? Was there some conversation in the past few days where this information was given to me, and did I somehow forget about it? Is that even possible? But if not, how could he have neglected to mention such a vital fact to me?
The library, quiet anyway, went fuzzy like cotton around me. Even the whispers were muffled, and I felt wrapped up in the familiar. I didn’t even sit down. I tipped my chin to roll the tears back into my head, and finished the conversation like a well-bred teenager. Which I was.
Maybe years of living with a mom who spent a week every year in the hospital calloused me. Maybe the idea of her in the ICU was just part of my childhood. I’d lived with it my whole life, you know. So maybe you won’t find me a completely unfeeling ingrate when I tell you that the rest of the day was more than fine – it was fun.
After a rowdy drive into Cincinnati, Missy and I got dropped off downtown, scoured a few ballet supply stores (for her) and a bookstore (for me). We ate at Taco Bell. For a skinny person, Missy could really eat. She ordered no less than five menu items, and I watched, impressed, as she downed every bite. We met at the rendezvous point to get picked up for the dance.
The dance.
Here was where I belonged, in this under-decorated church-building-turned-social-hall. With these kids, from towns and cities an hour from my home — this was where I felt like me. Good kids, and all so different. Different from what I saw every day at school, and different from each other. I felt loved there, not judged, not watched, not weird. This was a place for a great deal of hugging.
Dance, dance, dance. Cute boys and happy girls and jokes and laughter and music. Forgive me for forgetting, for a couple of hours, what was going on a few hundred miles to the northwest.
After the dance, Pizza. As ever. Mr. G’s pizza, breadsticks, and root beer. More laughing. More talk. More teasing. Gentle teasing from the others, and more pointed teasing from my brother. I shook it off, like I’d learned to do (not like the years and years that I would scream and yell and then get in trouble for overreacting).
Somehow on the long drive home, I didn’t know. I had no premonitions. The earth didn’t shift. Air wasn’t sucked from the atmosphere. I just rode home, laughing and not sleepy and not afraid.
I checked on Marc. He was sleeping in the parent’s big bed, elbows and knees everywhere. Good. Wash face. Brush teeth. Change into jammies. Lights off. Climb into bed.
Knock at the door.
Blood runs cold.
Ignore it. It will go away. My fear of the dark, fueled by far too many Stephen King novels that first year I worked at the library, overtook all logic.
More knocking. Monsters. Axe murderers. Doorbell. Vampires. Psychotic animals. More knocking. Another doorbell.
I picked up the phone in my room and called our own number. I don’t know if this works anymore, technologically speaking, but that night, I hung up quickly and the phone began to ring. Once, twice, three times. It stopped. I grabbed the receiver.
“Nathan?”
“What?”
“There’s someone at the door.”
Only the intervention of a benevolent God prevented him from reminding me that axe murderers do not ring doorbells.
“Okay. Coming.” The bravest words of a brave big brother.
I stood, shivering at my bedroom door. Saw him walk from the basement stairs across the small family room. He turned and I heard the door open. Heard the Rockwoods’ voices, hushed appropriately for the time of night and the delicacy of their mission.
I didn’t wonder if we’d left something in their car. I didn’t wonder if anything terrible had happened to their kids between dropping us off and getting themselves home. I didn’t wonder anything. Because I knew.
I knew.
I walked to the front door. They’d come in, but only just. Their backs were pressed against the door, and I knew again. There were no jokes, and if the Rockwoods weren’t telling jokes, this was more serious than anything I’d ever experienced with them. Jolene, tall and stricken, held her arms out to me. I shook my head, not because I didn’t want her comfort, not because I didn’t believe, but because my head would shake. Back and forth as I was folded into her arms.
Whispered words: “Your mom…” Head shake, back and forth.
“… dad called…” Head shake.
“Come home with us, sleep at our house…” And then I could nod. Yes. Your house. That is the right thing to do. Because we shouldn’t be here alone. And we should give you the thing you need, too. We should allow you to do the only thing to do when there is nothing, nothing anyone can do.
 
Before getting in the car, I did the only thing I could do when there was nothing else to do. I went back into my room, picked up the phone again, and listened as the buttons sang Jorja’s song – the eleven-note jingle that meant I could reconnect with my far-far-away best friend.
Her mom told me she was asleep.
“Please.”
“I need her.”
“My mom died.”
Gasp. “Oh, Becca.” A quick waking, and there it was. The comfort I needed, across a thousand miles. The words, just right.
Will you be shocked, or will you understand when I tell you we laughed? Will you know what it is to share a heart, and to realize that there is a time for tears, and a time for laughter? And, sometimes, will you understand the need for both at once? Will you know that both, in equal measure, are required in order to heal?

Gratitude Month, Day 19

Today I am grateful for family that extends, and extends, and extends. Till I can never quite hear the end of that particular echo. That is a blessing, indeed.

Gratitude Month, Day 17

Dad! Dad! Dad! Today, it’s all about you.

My dad is the best. He shows up around here now and then (I mean, I tell you stuff about him, but also he reads — you know), because I have a lot of stories that make better sense if you know the dad. Anyway, he’s good. And I’ll tell you why. Or at least some of the why. Now. Ready? Okay.

My dad is funny. Snort funny. (Okay, well, he snorts. Usually in response to something ridiculous or ironic. My kids call this the Inappropriate Laugh, because it is possible that Husband and I each have a different laugh that comes out when possibly no laugh should.) He isn’t the kind who tells jokes, but the kind who finds them. In print, like The Far Side, which brought him decades of laughs (because you can go back and read them over and over, right?) and in various books of various intellectual levels. He loves Harry Potter, especially the wordplay and the names. He probably laughs at the Iliad and Sophocles. He gets stuff that only True Nerds get. And it makes him happy. Which makes me happy, too.

My dad is musical. He taught himself to play the guitar one summer while he was watering lawns for a summer job (that may be totally untrue, but that’s the story I remember, and hey, this is my blog). He sat under a tree and picked out gentle hippie music which may or may not have hidden drug references, but which also made, in the future, excellent bedtime songs and campfire music. He’s sung with cool choirs, including the one time when he sang with some Cincinnati chorus AND CAROL CHANNING. I know. I love me some Carol Channing. Oh, so much. He used to take us to see plays and he’d sit on the edge of his chair, soaking up the goodness.

My dad has a freakish memory. Mostly for people, but also for obscure literary references. I honestly think the guy remembers every person he’s ever met. He knew all my friends in High School, and still remembers them and asks after them. He cared about them. That’s where the memory comes from, I’ve decided. He meets someone and gets Invested. So he remembers. Cool, right?

My dad loves good food. He’s a great cook and baker and maker-upper and eater. We do have a good time together. Surprised? I thought not.

My dad is a linguist. Besides speaking carefully (which he does) he also knows loads of languages. Even some dead ones. And what’s cooler than speaking dead languages? I know. Nothing is.

My dad is a caretaker. He always took good care of us. And he took good care of my mom. And after she passed away, he’s taken very good care of my Mimi and her parents and pretty much everyone else who will let him. He’s a nurturing man — and I’m pretty sure that most of the world’s problems would diminish down to specks if we nurtured the characteristics that make a nurturing man. He’s a gatherer. He loves to have people around. He loves to organize dinners, lunches, breakfasts… any excuse to bring people together, especially if it involves food. (Where did I get that, again?)

My dad is a worshipper. He loves his Heavenly Father and Jesus. He loves going to church. He loves studying the scriptures. He loves serving and working and helping and living the gospel.

My dad is a reader. He loves books. He has a broad range of tastes which has broadened to include YA romantic comedy, since I started writing it.

My dad is a grower. He loves plants. Mostly ones you can eat, but also ones that look pretty or smell good. He loves the dirt. And compost. Lots of compost. (He also showers. Good thing.)

My dad is an awesome grandpa. He gives each of his 40+ grandkids so much personal attention that I’m pretty sure they all think they’re his favorite. He lives 4+ hours away from the nearest ones right now, but he’s still involved, knowing sports schedules and concert plans and plays and tests. He tutors his grandkids in French, he sings with them, he gets so excited when they tell him what they’ve been reading. He works with them. He listens to them. He cooks with them and eats with them. He’s been known to cry with them when the tears are called for, and he cheers and cheers for them.

And my dad cheers for me. It’s a pretty great thing to have someone who can find all the best things to say, at all the most needed moments. He thinks I’m great. And I think he’s great.

Happy birthday, Dad. I’m so glad there’s you.

What about this?

I originally posted this in October, but then I found out that it was SOTS (sort of top secret) and hid the post. But now the news is public, so here you get it again. Because it’s still exciting, and it’s still news, and the photos we took have LOADS of leafy trees in them.

Sunday morning, my parents met with their bishop  and he said, “This comes as a surprise to me, but I’m authorized to extend you a call to serve in the Nauvoo Temple Mission. You leave in April.” (It came as a surprise to me, too.)

If you didn’t understand any of that, I will be happy to explain. A bishop is a pastor. People of our faith (LDS, Mormons, Really Nice People) sometimes serve missions. You’ve likely seen the 19 and 20-year-old variety biking or walking around your town. There’s a white-haired contingent, too, and my parents are going to join them. In Nauoo, which is in Illinois, exactly 4.25 hours from everything.  Except the Mississippi River, which in floody seasons, actually covers part of the town. Once upon a 1840s time, there was a Mormon temple in Nauvoo, but when the Mormons got kicked out, the temple was destroyed. Which is terrible. Tragic, really. But the temple was rebuilt, and is a beautiful house of worship once again. (This photo, above, Husband took, and I just hold my face up to the computer screen and breathe easier with all those trees.)

The town is great – full of gorgeous restored brick houses with chimneys (did you know I love a brick house with chimneys?). And there are lots of fun things to do there, to play and to learn about historic Mormon-ness. Like in all these photos I took (except the really good ones, which, natch, Husband took) of my kids playing there many years ago (5 years ago, if I remember correctly):

Here’s Kid 1, back in the day.

And Kid 2, with the glasses of cute-itude.

And Kid 3 on the totally authentic Pioneer stilts.

I know, right? Give me that time machine and let me live in that day, forever. Kid 4 on the cutest sheep anywhere.

And not only that, but this place has the best trees in the known world. Like this one:

Breathe with me.

And my parents are going to go there. To live, and work, and get bit by many, many bugs. (That last part? That’s a bonus. Not really what they signed up for, but they’re going to get it anyway. I know this. I’ve been there. Many times.)

So, yea for them. This is huge fun for my family, and we’re completely excited for Grandpa Brent and Grandma Mimi to have this grand adventure.

I almost showed you my list.

Almost.

But it is just a little too embarrassing that we have nearly made it to noon and my list is still so very un-crossed-off. Ug. But I have been busy. Here is what I accomplished already today:

*The weightlifting *The Kid-hair-doing *The breakfast making and cleaning *The carpooling *The bread making (and tasting – very nice, thank you) *The report grading *The Monday Blog Visiting *The panicking (which was not on the list, but I put it down because I accomplished it, and feel like getting credit).

But here’s the one part of my list I will share: The treat making part. I have been (mostly) off sugar lately, and that is by choice, and a good thing. But see, the Kids and Husband? They’re not. Off sugar, I mean. So in the spirit of Christmas and cellulite, I’m making treats for after-school snacks in December (as opposed to other months, when Kids can eat a piece of toast, or a slice of yummy cheese, or some fruit, or gnaw on a chunk of cardboard when they get home).

Today? Peanut butter balls.

Here’s what we do:

1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar

Beat butter and peanut butter (I know – can you even stand it?) and vanilla until they’re light and fluffy. Mix in  powdered sugar. Then form into little balls and coat with chocolate. I think we all know that darker=better where chocolate is concerned, but I’m all about inexpensive. So I melt semi-sweet chocolate chips and dip in that.

If that’s the only other thing that gets done from my list today, I’ll count it as a winner.

My Dad

Do you know what I hope for you? That you have a great dad. I have a great dad. My kids, too. They have a great dad. My nieces and nephews have great dads, too. They sort of fill the earth, all those nieces and nephews and their great dads.

Sometimes, when I was a kid, people would ask me, what does your dad do? and I would answer with my seven-year-old studiousness, he’s a strategic planner. I worked hard to remember that, and I used it as often as I could (because even then, I loved me some big words). But between then and now, I’ve had a lot of occasions to answer that question… differently. Because my dad has been a lot of things.

A lot.

But when people ask me now? I tell them he’s a teacher. And a gardener. And that seems to fit. He loves to teach. He fills his heart up with his university students. He cares about their success in his classes and also in the important-er parts of their lives. He loves to teach. And he loves his garden. He tells vegetable stories like I used to tell toddler stories. (Wow! Look how big they’re getting! Can you believe the precociousness of my cauliflower?) He thrills that he can leave boxes of excess produce in the church kitchen, and that it will all be taken and eaten.

A teacher, and a gardener. Sound like Anyone Else you know? Like the One my dad seeks to emulate in his daily life, always putting God’s will first, always seeking to serve others, always willing to submit to the Lord’s plan. My father, walking in the footsteps of his Savior, the master teacher. A teacher, and a gardener.

Half

Does it feel like Thursday was a long time ago to anyone else? Yikes. And I’ve been Momming and Playing so much that I haven’t written a thing. Not a blog post, barely an email. Certainly no revisions. So all my big plans of submitting? They’ve gone the way of the… well, whatever. Gone, anyway. No submitting, at least not this month.

But that’s okay. It IS. Because submitting by the calendar is a great idea, but only if your work is ready. Which mine is not. If I were a baker, my work would still be dough. Were I a tailor, there would be no hems, and my dress full of pins. A filmmaker? Lots of footage, but far, far from locked picture.

Sorry. I know. It’s been a long time.

And there was stress here this weekend. And also strep. Not me, though. I’m still in voice for OPENING WEEK of JOSEPH. I know. I was really concerned last week, seeing as we had not actually learned all the songs and dances. (Not so worried about the songs. I know the songs. Dancing? Not my forte. Really. Stop laughing, brothers who read my blog. See? They know.) But we’re costumed (basically) and ready around here, so bring on opening night. (That’s Thursday. If I suddenly drop off the face of the blogosphere, you’ll know why.)

Does anyone else wonder why the word “strep” comes up misspelled, but “blogosphere” is fine? Yeah. Me, too.

On the literary front (stop laughing, brothers. I mean it.) MRRO is getting fun reviews and lots of blog-time. There’s another week to enter to win a copy over at Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books, so go get signed up. Or don’t. But it’s only fair if I tell you all about it.

Also, it was my little brother’s birthday yesterday, and I forgot to call. Is he still my little brother if he turned 34? Yup. And do you want to hear a cute thing from my kidhood? Here it is: His birthday, like I just told you, was March 14th. And my half-birthday was (and is) March 15th. And seeing as at the point in my kidhood we are discussing, there were only 3 kids in our family (as opposed to the 10 that we had a little later), there was always half a birthday cake left over for my half-birthday. And my Mom always made just enough of a big deal about it that I was pretty sure that I was special. I know, right? She was pretty awesome.

So happy half birthday to me. Now I must go and practice that one part I always mess up. Yes. THAT one.

Bye!

Pets? Probably Not.

Once I talked about pets. Now, Kid 4 is at it again. As his birthday approaches, he’s asking for a turtle. Ick. They smell, I think. Husband agrees.

Advise me, wise ones. Does Kid 4 actually need a pet to become a well-rounded, upright, employable adult at some point?
And is there anything as easy as a turtle that smells less… um, stinky?