Tuesday, May 6, 2014

My Sweet Frannie

When Gray was in the hospital there was a nurse who had a picture of her little boy in the badge holder that hung around her neck. One morning I watched as she weighed a brand new boy while his elated dad stood by taking pictures. He noticed the photo and very enthusiastically told her how cute he was and asked his age. She thanked him and told him that he had passed away when he was a few weeks old. The dad stumbled out some sort of sympathy and she changed the subject back to his baby.

I couldn't do much those days except sit next to Gray’s little crib and watch the nurses work. All day I watched her care for new babies. Hold them, change their diapers, bathe them, and rock them back to sleep when they cried. Many days I watched her doing her job wondering how she did it. How did she come back? Her loss was fairly recent, within the last year or two. Still, there she was, taking care of new babies without any signs of outward bitterness. She was so good with all of those perfect babies, mine included.

While driving home one night, Somewhere Over the Rainbow came on the radio. I knew the song had often been associated with loss, but I felt like I was hearing it with new ears. I was in an emotional place, leaving my baby in the hospital, and it hit me that she at one point must have driven home from somewhere realizing that she would never see her baby again. She could not go home, shower and come back to him a few hours later, safe under the watch of a sweet nurse. She would never run to the store, grateful for a few minutes of alone time but still tiptoe into his room when she got back and kiss his perfect sleeping face. She could not throw him birthday parties or try her hardest to fulfill bizarre Christmas gift requests. She would never even hold him again. Not even for a few minutes. I cried for her all the way home and wondered how God could take babies. I thought about how lucky I was, because isn't that what it comes down to? Often times, the most terrible things in life happen by chance. Some of us skate through never knowing how chance spared us time and time again.

I've thought of her off and on over the last couple of years, but never so much as I have the last few weeks. I've read that placental abruption occurs in one percent of pregnancies. Who imagines being the one percent of anything? How can you possibly be the one percent? You’re always the 99. My little Frannie was born on April 19th. She was so beautiful and so, so perfect. I told Jared over and over that I have never seen such perfect little toenails. Perfect little toenails that would never be painted. She only lived for a few minutes. I would endure anything to be able to live those moments of her kicking her little legs and stretching her arms again. I would give my limbs to be able to spend a few more minutes holding her. I play a game in my head while we’re driving these days. I try to come up with the most terrible punishments I can think of and ask myself if I would bear it for another few minutes with Frannie. I haven’t thought of one that I wouldn't so far but I’m pretty far from sane at the moment.

 Driving seems to bring out the irrational in me. I tell myself this is all one of those vivid nightmares you can’t wake up from. I look out the window while we go to my parents and try to convince myself that my brain could come up with all the details I see. Yes, I tell myself, your brain can imagine that gravel. Each individual piece. Your brain can visualize exactly how the rust would form around the dent in the car in front of you. Your brain is pulling all of the names on these political signs out of it’s subconscious. None of this is real. In a moment you will wake. You’ll sit up and grab at Jared. You’ll tell him about the horrible dream you just had and he’ll say something incoherent that he thinks in his half-awake state is comforting. Then when he’s back asleep you’ll lay awake, so scared you’ll have the same dream.

But it isn't true. I won’t ever wake up from this. Frannie is never coming home. I had to watch her die right in front of me. I had to call the nurses when we decided it was time for them to take her. We had to call the nurses when we decided that we were wrong and that we needed more time, please, please bring her back! Then we had to call the nurses and tell them it was time all over again. I had to walk out of the hospital without her. With a memory box and literature on grief. We had to cry when we told her brothers. We had to cry when we called to cancel doctor appointments and delete the reminders from our phones. We had to cry when we moved my pregnancy pillow to the basement and when we saw the little slippers I had bought sitting on the shelf. We had to cry when we picked out her urn. We had to cry when we decided we weren't dressed properly to pick her up. We had to cry and cry and cry. Every day we cry.

I was the first to see she was a girl when she was born. I’m strangely proud of this. I want her to know I saw her first. I loved her first and will love her forever. I’m back at work now and it’s awful. It’s awful when people act like everything is normal because everything is not normal. The whole world has changed forever and they can’t feel it. I know that is a crazy, self-centered view. Our loss is not everyone’s loss, but it feels like it should be. I want to scream, but I can’t. That seems to be the theme of my life now. Wanting what can’t be.

 I've had a song for each of my babies while I was pregnant. The song that I heard and loved for Frannie was Rainbow Connection. The one that Kermit sings. I know. When I told Jared this while I was still pregnant, instead of thinking it was silly, he listened to it with me over and over. He thought it was perfect. The first time we listened to if after she was gone we both cried. It reminded me of the other rainbow song.

I played the Ingrid Michaelson version, it's my favorite. It brought me back to what I felt for Gray's nurse and suddenly here I am. I am another person that wants to be on the other side of the rainbow. I too am one of the people that God took a baby from. I can't believe that I have gone from hurting for someone else I didn't know to this deep pain of my own. I realize how shallow my previous feelings were and I want to go back and beg her to forgive me for being just another person that didn't understand. At the same time, I'd give anything to be just another person that doesn't understand.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Not on fire, anyway.

My Mom had five kids. Even though every one of those kids was planned for and loved, when you have five, parameters must be set.

“If no one is dead and nothing is on fire than you better let me finish this phone call.”

That’s the line my Mom used on me the day my brother and I built a see saw in the backyard. I jumped on my end before he was ready and a two by four flew up and hit him in the face. There was a lot of blood. Sometimes the line she used included a part about blood, but not that day. When I ran inside to get her, she dropped that on me and I ran right back out. A second later Steve staggered in, bleeding all over the place, pointing at me.

“Why didn’t you tell me Melanie!” “He’s not on fire! And he’s not dead!”

I keep wondering when I’ll bust that sucker out on my own wild ones.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A wedding in 36 hours

I was married young. I am thirty years old and just celebrated my tenth wedding anniversary. Really, really young. Sometimes I tell Jared that it is sheer luck that despite our age and the general dumbness that accompanies that part of one’s life, we married the right person. Lucky, lucky, that’s what I say.

Because of this, I strictly forbade any of my sisters to even think about getting married before the age of twenty five. They all signed the contract in blood and thanked me for hard earned wisdom. Or they walked out of the room before I finished my thought. One of those ways, for sure.

So when my little sister called me Wednesday of last week and told me she was going to get married on Friday, I couldn’t argue. She is past the 25 mark. They really love each other. We all love her Ryan. He really loves her son. We all love his family. Really, there was far too much love going on to be anything but happy. Her original plan was the classic courthouse move, but as evidenced by this blog, our family likes a party. So we planned a wedding in 36 hours.

It was beautiful. A family effort. We cleaned multiple stores out of candles, and filled the place with pumpkins and leaves. My sister got to catering, my sister in law got to flower arranging, and my brother got to anything and everything that was asked of him. The music was provided by my grandma, who played the piano like an angel. One of my sister’s best friends happens to be an official officiate. My cousin had his camera in his car, so poof, photographer. Her mother in law has a salon so the wedding party prepped there. My mom made the wedding cake and Christi and Thomas brought everyone’s favorite salad. Everything just worked.

I don’t have many pictures, not even one of the groom, because I was too busy enjoying the wedding and trying to help everyone make sure that our candle wonderland didn’t turn into a raging house fire with the assistance of five crazy boys under the age of five.

She was beautiful. There were tears during their sweet, impromptu vows. So perfect. Happy marriage little sis! I hope you enjoy many holidays, weekdays and even sick but not very sick days. I hope that when you wake up, even on those crummy days, you look at each other and realize you have someone on your side, always.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Babies, cougars and fire

There are logical questions one must ask themselves when camping. Such as, will I be eaten by a mountain lion?

The posted signs say it’s possible. They say they are drawn to small children. I smell like small children. No amount of showers can ever truly erase the smell of cheerios and Desitin. They are going to eat me. My last meal is going to be deli meat and giant marshmallows. I am going to die with black boogers.

Jared’s internal dialogue is a little different. I haven’t seen anyone for the last five miles. Where are all the people? Do we have the whole forest to ourselves? Sweet! Wait, that doesn’t seem possible. There must be someone else out here. Where are they? They’re hiding. Hiding in the trees. In camouflage. Armed. Do I have a knife? They have guns and scopes and shiz. Oh crap, we’re totally going to be datelined while we sleep.

Even still, we camped. Twice in the last month. For our tenth anniversary we left our babies with my amazing parents, hopped in the car and headed for the coast. We spent a portion of our time in San Francisco surrounded by people and the other half in the hills above Santa Cruz in total isolation. It was so good! We watched the sun set and rise beyond the mountain lion infested hills, over the ocean. We saw no one except for a couple of turned around hikers for a brief minute. It truly felt like we stepped back into pre kid days. I have a habit of counting down while on vacation. “Only four days left, bummer.” “The day after tomorrow I’ll be back in my office.” I didn’t do it once. I really enjoyed every minute.

I imagine even the very best marriages go through moments where you feel disconnected. Like a couple of people who just happen to be wrestling the same kids into bed every night. This alleviated that. I’m still on a high a month later. Nothing like the fear of being hacked or eaten by wild animals to throw you back into the proper groove of things.

Jared must have enjoyed the whole thing too. The second we got home he went all consumer report crazy and bought a tent. We had borrowed equipment from my Dad for our trip, but now we are the proud owners of an eight man tent. Really, what other size would you purchase if your family consisted of two adults and two children who weigh under fifty five pounds combined? It’s bigger than our living room.

We tested the thing out in our backyard where the wild ones were able to climb inside and run laps out of the inclement weather for a couple of hours. After they broke that sucker in, we were ready for the real thing, the inaugural run. We attempted to go Friday, but in midst all the hoopla, forgot the star of the of the show. We left the tent at home. The tent.

So we tried again Saturday. We made spaghetti and meatballs in the woods. Hotdogs, I tell you, hotdogs are the way to go when you camp. It is much easier to keep a baby neat eating a hotdog. No post spaghetti bath in the woods. I almost tried to dunk the kid in the creek but he pulled out his best scare tactic on me and spouted off hypothermia stats while reminding me how high my insurance deductible is. Dirty baby won.

“Everything is more fun with kids!” we said as we set four little rocks by the fire to sit on. “Everything is better with kids!” we said as we ate cake mix dessert out of a dutch oven and told ghost stories. “Sooo much better with kids,” we said as we bundled those loves up and watched them giggle and dive in blankets and sleeping bags.

“Kids suck,” we said as we tried to get Gray to sleep approximately one thousand times between eight pm and five thirty am when we finally gave up and Jared drove the kid around the campground blasting the heater and NPR. Nothing puts a one year old to sleep like The Prairie Home Companion.

I still can’t decide if it was incredibly fun or traumatizing. Phin loved it, so I guess we’ll chalk it up to childhood experience gone right.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

John Buck

When I look at my babies it always feels like they are exactly the age they were meant to be. Then a month or six or a year passes and they're different. Still, the feeling persists. I can't picture them older or changed. They are just one and three. It seems they are perfectly suited to be one and three and they will always be one and three. My own little defense against the time machine we live in. Other then brief feelings, imagining them 10 and 12 or 41 and 43 is so difficult. And 82? Never. Never can I picture them losing their little boy voices to puberty and manhood and then, eventually, to the crackle of old age. I wonder if that is how it is with any other mothers. If picturing them past the age they are is reserved for the times you fear you won't see it.
My Grandpa passed away two months ago. His mother has been gone a long time, but I wonder if she looked down on his final days and marveled on how she went from staring at a tiny baby to a man who lived completely.
John Buck has always had a big personality. He was voted most outstanding boy in high school. I mean, c’mon. Most outstanding? Pretty sure they made the category up for him. He was an all star in every sport. He played college football and basketball.He had five beautiful babies with my Grandma and was able to see four of them grow. He played handball with his college buddies for as long as I can remember and there was one fantastic moment where he danced with his pants on his head. You haven’t lived until you have seen your Grandpa do the running man with pants on his head.
He’s always told it like it was. One of our favorite Grandpa lines came on Christmas morning. He opened a package and stared down in silence. Somebody asked him what he thought and he said, “I don’t like it and I won’t wear it.” Tossed the unfortunate gift aside and that was that.
One last memory. When I was in high school I found an old letterman sweater of his. It fit like a dream and I wore it frequently. Years after I came into it's possession, we found a very old video of him wearing the same sweater while he was in college. It was taken on the old yellow film that people try to replicate with phone apps these days. He’s outside doing backflips, goofing around and looking very much like a silly college kid. I remember putting on the sweater and trying to picture it's past. It was once brand new and his. He threw it on as he was running out the door once. Maybe he wore it on a date with my grandma. He wore it when he had no idea what he would be doing when he was thirty or forty or eighty.
I called my grandma today, heard his voice on the answering machine and for a second it felt like he might have just stepped out. When he passed away the world lost something great. My uncle said it best, he was a real man. A real person. And I am going to miss him so much.

Friday, September 27, 2013

When you've been married ten years

You can set up a tripod in your hotel room and take a couple of goopy photos. And you don't even have to talk about how dumb that is. You know.

You can yell across the house if you're out of toilet paper and the person can open the door and hand it to you. None of that squeeze it through a tiny crack in the door crap. That's for sissies. And people with class.

You know each other's annoying habits. Like never rinsing the pancake batter out of the bowl before putting it in the sink. Or putting empty containers back in the fridge.

You've seen your spouse at their worst. Like that time you taught them to drive a stick shift and you learned there really is no limitation on the number of times you can use the f word in a thirty minute period. And the time they got so mad that someone cut them off and almost caused a giant accident, that they followed that person for a quarter mile laying on the horn. Until the horn broke. And your spouse ran into a curb. Yup, cause that was the mature thing to do.

You've seen them at their best. Like the time they hung a sign the size of a billboard in your front yard professing their love, just to cheer you up. Or the time they crossed a bridge with you in the middle of a storm, in just their socks, so you wouldn't be alone.

Sometimes, when you've been married ten years, you get the chance to see each other become parents. You get to see your best friend become even more beautiful, right before your eyes, as they cradle your brand new baby.

When you've been married ten years, it's totally acceptable to steal from each other. Sweats, croutons off their salad,their last piece of gum, all the hot water, the covers. When you've been married ten years, you can do that. You'll still get annoyed when it's done to you.

When you've been married ten years, you are on the same wavelength. Like you both randomly decide to google the same person you haven't seen in five years. Same wavelength.

When you've been married ten years, you've had to hug it out. A lot. A lot.

I mean, a freaking lot.

When you've been married ten years, you realize you've been pretty lucky so far.

Happy belated anniversary to my Lesco.

Friday, July 26, 2013

All about those two going at it like zebras. Or donkeys. Or both.

Hear ye, hear ye!

Have you ever wanted to see the love child between a "brawny zebra" and "sassy donkey"? Yeah, me either, but sometimes the universe gives us little gifts we didn't even know we wanted.

Things like Zonkeys. Plus corndogs. Plus reality shows about guys who make duck whistles.

But back to Zonkeys! I was alerted to this by my very informed co-worker and now I can’t, cannot, stop smiling. And the author of this little piece of literary heaven? Read every word. I bet she shook her head the entire time she wrote. Impetuous Romeo indeed. Just goes to show that true lust can’t be stopped. No fence be holding these two back from a good time. Lordy.


Can I also remind the world that my baby, my teeny, tiny baby, is turning one in a mere week. How can this be? Every cliche is so true. I live in some sort of time warp or matrix or Bill and Ted phone booth over here. He is the sweetest. Don't challenge me on that. I'm weepy.

Also, also, also, it's freaking Friday. Phew.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A pretty perfect day in not so perfect circumstances.

Nothing extraordinary or exciting happened the day before yesterday, but everything fell into place and that was enough to make it a day worth writing about.

The problem is I have incredible writers block. Going on several months now. Every time I sit down to type I write out ten sentences, delete, start over, delete, walk away. Watch Rescuebots with Phin for 22 minutes, eat a bag of croutons, pin 42 recipes that I’ll never even look at again let alone make. You know, the regular.

So don’t expect anything but the facts people. My writing muscles are wimpy so this is more like a walk around the block than a marathon.

We celebrated Christmas in July at work. One of my very favorite people is moving at the end of August which will prevent her from helping me with our annual Christmas music countdown. This is serious business humans. Around October, we sit down with a calendar and plan the exact day we can start playing the occasional song to the moment we can bust it out full time. Then it is posted on the wall calendar for all to observe. I know everyone in our office is devastated, destroyed even, that this tradition is no longer. I didn't see any visible tears, but I work with a stoic bunch. They are probably all internalizing it.

To help ease the pain we brought out our Christmas wear, loaded our playlist with the classics and ate Christmas cookies and fudge around a tiny little tree we set up. My co-workers have learned that they just need to go along with these things. As long as there is food, “Merry Christmas!”

Yesterday I did hear one of my co-workers grumbling how the workday after a holiday is always so long. Also, my pants are a little tighter today. I always gain weight around the holidays. So gluttonous.

The afternoon was more subdued. I left work early so I could go with my kids and husband to visit my grandpa who is on hospice care at home. I really don’t want to write about this other than to say life is beautiful and life is hard. Sometimes at the same time, which is a very humbling thing.

At the end of the day, Jared and I made dinner in the kitchen while our kids played in the backyard. We were blasting Chicago's Greatest hits, one step away REO Speedwagon, watching them run and crawl around. It should be noted that I'm using the term crawl quite liberally. Gray uses one foot on the floor while dragging his other leg folded under him. Think Gollum. Either way, I kept staring at those wild, wild kids of mine thinking, “Holy crap, what else do I need?”

This has been a tough year for my little family, which makes us big wimps to be honest, but a day where everything fell into place made it all seem ok. There are days for adventure but right now I’ll take uneventful.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Don't judge me. Unless you love me. Then judge away.

You know what? Being a blogger is a lot like auditioning for American idol. Only a select few get the grand prize. Most of us, well most of us are the other guys.

You sit at your computer and write what you think is a brilliant entry. Sometimes you know it’s crap, but every so often you think you hit literary gold. Who cares if the subject matter was your clogged toilet? They always tell you, write about what you know. Then your mom and your friends, and all the people who like you, tell you you’re brilliant.

“You had me in tears!”
“You've got a real gift.”
“I’ve never thought to see things from the toilets point of view you dagnab genius!”

Of course your little ego is inflated. You probably lay in bed really feeling like you could be the next Salinger or Fitzgerald. That despite the fact that you're pushing thirty with nothing more then a witty entry about a commode, you will write the next great coming of age novel. There will be book signings. There will be panels you’re invited to sit on. People will read your words. People will be moved by your words. You have a voice!

But really, what more is a blog than karaoke at locals night? Where drunk people cheer you on while you belt out Whitney loud enough to break a bottle of Guinness right in half. They love you. Naturally you take the next step. Naturally.

So when Simon or J Lo or whoever the F is judging that show now insists you rip out your own vocal chords and take a vow of silence you’re genuinely shocked.

“I wasn’t ready. I wrote that while the baby was crying! I was just warming up my prepositions. I got a real good one on tooth decay, let me read that to you!”

Sorry doll, but this isn’t the career path for you. Have you thought about a vocational school? Maybe something in plumbing?

So that’s where I am today. I have some real juicy stuff on how my basement is currently being used as a litter box, but I just can’t bring myself to write it. Too bad, it’s gold.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Makings of a good weekend. Aka the time I rolled like a Ninja

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I'm almost thirty and not nineteen.

Right this second, no reminder needed. I just had to stop typing so I could re start the sleep sheep hanging off Gray's bed before he woke up and freaked the freak out. That seems like a real thirty year old thing to do.

Friday night my little sister and I did a spy roll in the middle of a casino floor while tracking what might have been a millionaire member of the Safari club. That was a little too close to nineteen. Said the security guard who looked at me with "Get a hold of yourself old woman" eyes.

Then I stepped outside to call my husband and check on my teething baby. Thirty.

Saturday we dropped the kids off with their cousins and went snowboarding. After we finished we hung out in the lodge and ate peanut m&m's. Nineteen.

This morning I woke up and could barely bend my legs. Oh yeah, thirty.

Today I skipped church and took a three hour nap with my two little boys. They were both on top of me and my head was wedged in the iron work of our headboard, but hot damn. It was the best three hours of a very good weekend.

Thirty wins.
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