Thursday, January 26, 2012

It’s so hard to say goodbye

Sadly I have actually experienced the loss of a number of friends & family members over the years.  We have all seen the Lion King; it is simply “The circle of Life”.  But this is the first time, in my ADULT life, that I have loss someone who meant so much to me, my childhood, my character, my soul.  I don’t have a single happy childhood or holiday memory that doesn’t include my Grandma Rosalie.  I was a lucky only grandchild with the exception of my deceased brother, Shawn.   Anyone who knows me knows that I’m close with my family & this loss has hit us hard, I find myself realizing that I have to find a new normal & that things will never be the exactly the same. 

~A few of my 30 years of MEMORIES~
When I was younger my Mother & I spent the night before any holiday at my Grandma’s house.  Easter we dyed eggs, woke up to beautiful dresses, hats & our version of baskets (wagon, cabbage patch strollers, makeup case).  Then we would drive out to Deming to enjoy a ham & big holiday get together at my Great Grandpa Walter & Great Grandma Dorris’.  I remember long car rides my Grandma would sing all these silly songs that right now I can’t remember (Mr. Jonny Beck & his sausage machine, boom-boom LOL).  At Christmas time my Grandma would take me out to buy my Mom a gift.  We’d make & decorate cookies as Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole & Elvis holiday records played.  We’d drive around looking at Christmas lights almost every weekend in December, comparing houses, drinking hot chocolate & singing songs.  I remember long camping trips at Baker Lake, shopping trips, Chinese food, the shrimp shack and exciting adventures in the snow & sunshine. 
During the five years my Mother & I lived in Longview/Kelso I would count down the days until my Grandma’s next visit.  She even drove through the snow storm of Christmas 1990 to spend the holiday with us.  During the summer time My Grandma was my rescue.  She’d come get me so I could stay with her for weeks, shoot months each year.  I’d spend my days watching movies & eating PB & strawberry jam sandwiches or going shopping or out to lunch or a movie with my Aunt or Uncle.  Then after work my grandma would take me out to eat at places my mother would never explore.  We enjoyed seafood, Chinese food, burgers, deserts and other delicious places.  I remember her taking me shopping for school clothes & taking me swimming at Lake Sammamish.
During the year after my brother passed away, my Grandma did everything she knew to help uplift us, buying me my first ever brand new bed, our first VCR & making tons of I-5 drives from Ferndale to Longview to show her support.   It was also my Grandma who took me to Disneyland when I was 11.  We drove down I-5 on a fun filled three week adventure of California that also included Universal Studios, Sea World & many fun beaches & piers along the way. 
When I was a teen we had moved back to Ferndale & as my mother worked long hours I would call my grandma for rides & permission to do activities.  I also called her for instructions on how to cook.  I remember calling her one afternoon because my Mom had a roast out for dinner & I wanted to cook dinner for my Mom.  My grandma stayed on the phone with me as I located the ingredients & slowly sliced the potatoes, onion and carrots.  “350* so it doesn’t dry out” she said.  It was my Grandma who taught me how to make homemade jam, how to bake cookies, make homemade fried rice, cook a roast, make homemade stews & soup. It was my grandma who basically taught me how to operate in a kitchen. 
It was also my Grandma who taught me how to play cards.  Okay anyone from my family is laughing now because I can 100% GUARANTEE they remember my Grandma and my great Grandparents out at the old trailer in Deming on the back porch playing Progressive Rummy.  This is the game they ALWAYS played for quarters, them’ dirty gamblers!!!!  But some of my fondest memories are of card games that never ended, nights of dice games that went on forever, 1000, kismet, chicken feet and of course when you only have 2 people there was loads of homemade Skip-o. 
Thanksgiving 2007
~Her Fight~
My Grandma first became ill in 2004.  She had cancer, fought it and briefly won.  This last year in May she began to experience stomach pains.  “Nothing to worry about”.  Pardon me but BULLSHIT.  In September she had a heart attack & a small surgery. But it was Thanksgiving that I knew. As I watched my Grandma bend her fingers and ask Issac for kisses I could see just how weak she was, the pain & discomfort in her eyes.   I cried the entire way home because I could tell that she was hurting.  I told Tyler that I could tell that my Grandma was trying to push through the holidays & we had discussed me spending a week every month in Ferndale to spend time with her.
 In December, on the 10th she was unable to make it to Josie’s 1st Birthday party.  I knew this was bad.    She LOVED watching the kids, my kids, your kids, any kids.
The week after Josie’s birthday was beyond stressful. As I stressed Josie’s pediatric cardiologist appointment, my grandma laid in the hospital.  This is when we found out that the cancer was back.   I feel very fortunate that my Grandma was able to meet & bond with each of my children.  It pains me to know that as adults they won’t remember her the way I remember my Great Grandparents but Gi-Gi will live on forever through photographs and our numerous happy memories.
 August 2009
 Christmas 2012 with Josie
Easter 2010 with Issac

~A Not so Merry Christmas~
From the moment my eyes meet my Grandma’s weak body on Christmas Day I knew her days were numbered.  She sat in the chair with her head in her hand the entire day, only perking up when I put on Christmas music.  We tried to take some pictures, but honestly the timing wasn’t right, we were all crying, balling, smiling and then crying again.  My Grandma ate a lil but not even a ¼ c. of turkey & stuffing.  When she was on the phone with my uncle John she cried while talking to him & replied to his “get well Mama” with, “I’m not going to get better”.  When she left my Mom’s for the day, for the last time, She asked me if we were leaving in the morning, I said “yes. But Grandma, me & the kids will be back on the 9th for a week.”  She lifted her weak head and replied, “I don’t know if I’ll be here”. 
Christmas evening Tyler cared for the children while I went with my Mom to my grandma’s house to have a family meeting.  While my Uncle & Mom fell asleep from their turkey & stuffing comas as we waited for my Aunt, I sat on the floor in front of my Grandma weeping as she brushed my hair with her fingers.  She told me she loved me, she loved my kids, that she was proud of me and that I was beautiful.  Then she told me she was done fighting and asked me not to let “them” (my Mom, Aunt & Uncle) take her to the hospital.  I told her I wanted to help her & I was on their side but she had to try & drink her ensure.  We decided that we were going to keep the previous promise they made her on Christmas eve & not put her in the hospital on Christmas.  We decided that the next day my great Aunt, my Grandma’s only sibling was coming from oak Harbor & we would reassess the situation then. 
In the morning I went to meet my Aunt to help shower my Grandma & it was a total no go.  We called for an aid car because we could help her walk to the bathroom let alone take her to the car or hospital.  She was weak and her legs couldn’t hold her any longer.  After a verbal battle that will forever sadden me and completely crack me up because I can totally see where I get my “in your face, say it straight honery”, we were on our way to the hospital.  I took my car to Tyler & rode in the ambulance with my Grandma as my Mom & Aunt followed. My Cousin Michelle and my Great Aunt meet us at the hospital.  Later that day we were told that my Grandma’s kidneys had begun to shut down. 
Knowing my grandma was done fighting and that the machines at the hospital were only prolonging her days the decision was made to move her to the hospice house.  Thursday December 29th, she was moved the Whatcom Hospice House.  Friday night I stayed with my Grandma & Great Aunt at the Hospice house.  After hours of tears & walks down memory lanes, discussions about regrets we decided to try and catch some sleep around 3am.  As I lay there crying I could hear the saddest song, the symphony of life.  My Grandma’s full body, over working to catch each breath & my Aunt’s sobbing sniffles.  With little sleep & 5 cups of coffee in me I sat holding my Grandma’s hand has she slowly and peacefully stopped breathing just before 9am on New Years Eve. 
~A Celebration of Life~
The Memorial service for my Grandma was held at the Cornerstone Church in Ferndale on Saturday January 14, 2012.  It was a beautiful service and we as a family were very blessed to be surrounded by many members of our extended family and friends. People I haven’t seen in years took the time to drive in the snow & show us support and remind us all how special my Grandma Rosalie really was.   Some ladies that my Grandma went to school with in the 50’s came and some neighbors and old co-workers.  It was simple and beautiful just like my Grandma.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Christmas 2011

Before December began we had decided to hold off on Christmas until after Josie’s Birthday, we had even decided to do everything from the 15th on to celebrate with the “Sipress 12 days of Christmas”.  We ran out of energy and money before we could do every little activity we had discussed but did manage to enjoy a ton of festive holiday activities.  Although ice skating & caroling may come to mind when you think of seasonal activities, with two young kids we spent a few evenings watching holiday films & reading Christmas themed children’s books as a family.
 However, after witnessing Issac’s excitement every time we drove by a minivan with a tree strapped to the top we decided to get our Christmas tree on Sunday the 11th.  We wanted to revisit the spot we went last year so we drove out Highway 18 to Black Diamond to purchase our tree from a local “you cut tree farm”.  It was a chilly evening but we bundled up & had a great time. 
They had tractor rides around the tree farm which Issac loved and it didn’t take us long to spot the perfect sized tree for our family.  When we got in the car Issac started to cry because he couldn’t see the tree strapped to the car from his car seat, “My Christmas tree. MINEEE” Issac screamed, sad but comical because he was confused.  Tyler & I assured him that Dad had tied the tree to the car.  When we arrived back at home Issac climbed out & tried to get the bungee cords off “his tree”. 

After dinner we played Christmas music & decorated the tree.  Issac was so silly at first putting a pile of plastic candy canes on a branch, then he yelled, “I help u mom. All done.”  We then assisted him in gently hanging the ordainments one at a time.  Typical Josie danced around to the music & tried to chew on everything she could put her hands on.   Now every day, multiple times a day, Issac says that he wants to show me something on his tree so I sit next to him as he points out the stars and colors and the personal ordainments we have.  “That’s Dad’s mom. That’s sister’s mom.  That’s mine mom.  That’s yours mom.  That’s a red star mom. That’s a blue ball mom.”  I think everyone gets the idea!! J
The 15th we started our 12 days of Christmas by watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas, then we read the book before bed.   The 16th we went to Zoo Lights at Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma with my Cousin Laurrin,  Cousin Erin, her husband Ryan & baby Jackson.  It was cold and overcrowded as to be expected but we bundled up & enjoyed the lights.  Issac loved it as he pointed out the shapes, colors and animals he recognized.  Josie and Jackson were quiet and enjoyed the senerary. 

The 17th our family went  to see Santa.  After spending all day talking about seeing Santa, Issac never sat in his lap!! At one point Issac did give Santa a HIGH FIVE, but then put the candy cane back & was ready to go.  Josie never even got close to the guy but passed smiles & glances his way.  After saying hello to the big guy in red we went to an ugly sweater party at a friend’s house.  The kids had a great time playing with the other children while we enjoyed some fun adult time. 

The 18th we watched Fred clause & made a Ginger Bread House.  As with every activity that involves a toddler, Issac had a breakdown after getting in trouble with Dad for eating too much of the candy, but quickly picked himself off the floor and went back to helping.  It was a sticky activity but a fun one that we’ll be doing again J

The 19th we spent the evening going to Sears to get Josie’s 1 year pictures, Issac’s 2 ½ pictures & some family pictures taken.  As always they turned out great & I had a 40% off coupon so we purchased the digital image CD. 

The 20th we stayed home & watched Polar Express and drank hot chocolate & read Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  The 21st we watched Christmas with the Cranks.  The 22nd we drove to Redondo, parked the car.  We enjoyed the evening of winter by taking a nice family walk through a beautifully decorated neighborhood. 
Friday was the 23rd so while I attended outreach for SU4K Tacoma The kids & Tyler enjoyed Mickey’s Magical Christmas.  Christmas Eve, fell on a Saturday.  Tyler worked during the day then after dinner we made homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies for Santa before reading ‘Tis was the Night Before Christmas.  After Issac was asleep I placed all the gifts under our empty tree, placing two big red stuffed stockings in the front.
Christmas Morning Tyler & I got up at 6am and enjoyed coffee while we waited for the kids to wake up.  They both were instantly happy & dove into their stockings & gifts.  Issac loved all his new gifts including his new cars and was quick to bundle up in his new Lightning McQueen Comforter.  Josie got a fuzzy Minnie Mouse blanket, a new baby and some cars of her own.  While the Kids played & watched a new movie we got ready & loaded the car.  We were on the road to Grandma Mel’s before ten & arrived safely in Ferndale at Noon. 

We opened Gifts with my Mom before my Aunt Nicole, Warren, Uncle Philip & Grandma Rosalie arrived.  From the moment I laid my eyes on my Grandma I knew this was her last Christmas.  Gee-Gee sat quietly in the chair as the kids excitedly opened their gifts from everyone.  The Kids got new clothes, new toys & a ton of Little People Stuff including a dollhouse & a racetrack.  My Mom cooked a beautiful & yummy Turkey Bird with all the fixings and we sat as a family enjoying the meal.  After dinner Tyler cared for our children while I went to my Grandma’s house for a few hours with my Mom, Uncle & Auntie. 
Monday had a rough start but we managed to get on the road & arrived at Tyler’s Mom’s new house in Smokey Point around 2pm.  We enjoyed a delicious Prime Rib dinner with Laura, Mark, Devon, Lucas, Uncle Jayson & Auntie Andalyn.  We all got spoiled, Tyler & I received new pots & pans and the kids got pajamas and more Little People Stuff.  Josie got the zoo, a pink convertible and Issac received a tractor, Cars 2 blue ray and another racetrack, which I took back & got him the Barn/ Farm.  It was a fabulous day & our entire family had a great time. 

Our Holiday Season this year was beyond stressful with a big scoop of fun.  On the 19th while i was on the phone the kids got ahold of our camera & put it in the dog water, so that explains the lack of pictures for the bottom half of the blog, we did take some pictures Christmas morning with our phones.   However, I will always remember this year because it was my Grandma’s last Christmas. For thirty years I was blessed with Christmas memories of my Grandma, even as an adult, I have never spent a single Christmas without my Mom & Grandma.  Although some of my memories from this year include the sickness & weakness that was overtaken by my Grandma’s Cancer, I’m thankful that my children were able to spend time with her.   I hope each one of you, our friends & family far & near had a memorable Holiday Season. 

With ALL OUR LOVE- Leah, Tyler, Issac & Josie