A Legacy

I spent the weekend saying farewell to extended family members&#8212both my mother’s family and my father’s. Saturday evening, at Grandma’s place, she gave me unsolicited relationship advice…advice that I will follow.

March 19, 2004, my grandfather passed away. His name was Irving. I cannot believe that it has nearly been a year since I received the phone call that morning, since Miles and I made the impromptu drive northward. My cousin’s writings skimmed the subject of his death, and they were the first pinches that I felt through the shock.

I feel funny admitting that I was shocked, but in hindsight I can see that I was. His health had been deteriorating. He smoked for 50 years before his first big health scare in the summer of 1996 when he struggled for breath. He was taken to the emergency room and hospitalized for a week while they drained his lungs of fluid and cured his ailing body of infection. He quit smoking. I am so proud of him for quitting. He had a fifty-year crutch and he was brave enough to find the strength to walk unassisted.

They tested him again and again for Cancer. (I will always refer to this demon as a proper noun.) It looked like a duck and it quacked like a duck…but the tests would come back with nary a duck in sight. Grandpa had avoided doctors for years before that first incident in 1996 because he feared the duck. After, every test was an exercise in anxiety, every negative result was a sigh of relief. Still, Grandpa was getting weaker. The strong, handsome man that I knew was fading away.

He had a humor to him that I reveled in, and I loved to hear him talk to his high maintenance wife. They were so opposite! (Naturally, you know what they say about opposites.) She was the drama queen to his dry humor. One afternoon, after a widowed acquaintance of theirs remarried, my grandmother announced, “Irv, if you go first, I’ll never marry anybody else!” While we were all rolling our eyes at her maudlin delivery, he replied in a bored monotone, “Well who’d want ya?”

And then there were the times when he was talking about her, and he’d refer to her as “mummie” and the soft sweetness of the name, along with the revered way he spoke it…well it warmed you from within.

The doctor appointments became more regular as he dealt with this virus or that. Grandma and Grandpa moved off of their farm and into a condo. The farm had been in our family since 1892. I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that it’s no longer ours…that the glorious woods are now developed with xeroxed houses. Developers were hounding them to sell for so long…and Grandpa had 2 sisters who were due their share of inheritance from their parents. Maybe he knew he was slipping away…maybe he was trying to save his wife the headache of selling…he loved that farm. He was born and raised there, he built his family there, he met his grandchildren there, he retired there…and in 2003, it was no longer his.

In March of 2004, he was taken to the hospital by ambulance yet again. (This had become somewhat regular since settling in the condo…I think moving away from the farm wounded his spirit.) By this time, he was using oxygen tanks full-time to breathe. The doctors decided to go duck hunting again, as they had so many times already in just the short existence of 2004…but this time the results were very different than all of the other times.

I cannot piece together the memories clearly, as forgetting seems to be my coping mechanism&#8212but it was either a Monday or a Tuesday when they found him to be a victim of Lung Cancer. He came home to Grandma feeling defeated that Wednesday. On Friday, he was gone.

I never fully processed his passing until the last 4 or so months. It’s difficult living far away from your loved ones as you can convince yourself of untruths as well as imagine the situation to be hearts and flowers while it’s grim and cold. Miles and I made the journey back to North Carolina after about a week in Wisconsin last March, and I think I was numb. The grief didn’t come. The well had broken during the funeral, but it had patched again by that evening and I was a zombie. Miles told me in awe, “I hope I can handle this situation even half as well as you are when it’s my turn.” I remember nodding mechanically and thinking, “What is he talking about?” I was that out-of-it.

I remember Dad calling me while Grandpa was still in the hospital that last time. I remember him crying about his father, even before they found the Cancer. I remember him relaying, his voice breaking, that the doctors were saying years but that he didn’t think Grandpa would be around for Easter. I remember comforting him and saying, “You’re scared right now, and that’s ok. If they say he has years, than I’m sure that he does.” Blind faith has always been one of my bigger downfalls. I trust too readily. And this time, I was painfully wrong. My dad saw it, and he saw it when his sisters and his mother didn’t, or just couldn’t…he knew. The bonds we form with our parents can be so tight that the echoes of logic ricochet off of our ears, never penetrating.

Grandma told me that one day, weeks before Grandpa died, he drove over to where the woods used to be. He and his sisters all had roads named after them, and that day, he took a drive on his road. Grandma said, “He thought that was pretty neat.”

She told me to go home hug my husband tightly, to cherish every moment with him. She wishes me to be unlike her. She wishes that I not wake up alone one morning and realize that I never said the words that I needed to say, even if the sentiments were known and felt…she says you need to say them…you need to show them.

And, I will.

Cold Desires

I can tell that my blood is running Midwestern again. Yesterday was a 36° day, which, in case you don’t know, is a sauna in February terms. I went for a stroll in my sweatshirt along with a pair of gloves and a hat. 36°! I returned to the house, and decided it too warm. So, what did I do?

I KILLED THE FURNACE AND OPENED THE WINDOWS.

But that isn’t the worst of it. The worst is my addiction to McDonald’s ice cream cones. (they aren’t terribly bad for you, fortuitously) But ice cream cones! In the middle of winter! Why don’t I just bathe in ice water!?

I suppose it’s an exercise in bonding for my mother and myself&#8212or that’s my story, in any event. The drive-thru personnel look on, quizzically, as they fill our order. We lap at the luxurious cool in wordless communication of delectation.

As we completed our Saturday morning excursions today, I noted that we missed our exit on the interstate. Inquisitive, I arched my left eyebrow&#8212as I am wont to do. Mom replied, “Yeeees?” I said nothing, eyebrow still pinned to my hairline. Chuckling, she went on, “You’re lucky you’re not a cat.”

“Curiosity may have killed that cat, but satisfaction brought it back!”

She ignored me as she engaged her directional.

**This is an ongoing source of argument between the husband unit and myself**

I say directional while he says turn signal. How two Midwesterners could develop opposing diction is beyond me. Why a man as smart as Miles would choose to debate with a woman as skilled in B.S. as myself is also beyond me. (But then, so are the really high bottles of lemon juice at the grocery store.) He tells me, “You dork. You’re signaling to turn! It’s a turn signal!” I return, “I guess I’m not so simplistic that I can’t use my language know-how to realize that a directional would be an instrument displaying direction.” We often veer from the subject at that point&#8212with him thinking me to be a know-it-all and me thinking him to be a fool. We’re laughing on a safer subject moments later&#8212Southern terminology.

Back to the story: I see that we are in the next town. And that we are accelerating toward a McDonald’s. Odd. There is a McDonald’s in our own city. No, that couldn’t be our stop.

“I give up. Where are we going?”

She screwed up her face as she admitted, “Just to McDonald’s…but I figure we’ve been going to the other one so often that they’ll think we’re addicted.”

“And we aren’t addicted? Is that how it is in Liela Land?”

I received no response as she spoke our order to the talking box. She knew better than to answer. Any denial would have secured the unsavory truth, even if driving out of town to scratch the itch anonymously wasn’t indicative enough.

Food for Thought

The last three years of my life, I have worked towards a healthier me. I have a tendency to bore people to pieces with my nutrition and fitness knowledge. (That’ll teach ’em to ask me for help! Hah!)

I, like so many others, entered into the weight loss game wanting to lose all that persnickety, superfluous weight in mere weeks. Well, if that’s even possible, it certainly isn’t healthy. I truly believe that patience is the greatest weight loss challenge. It ended up taking just a few months shy of three years to achieve my goals. One hundred and fifty pounds later, I’m wondering how I did it. That number seems HUGE to me now that I’m looking backward. How did I ever take that first step when I knew I had so far to go?

That’s neither here nor there. I’m glad to have taken the high road and veered away from the murky corners of fad diets, restrictive diets, and weight loss gimmicks. They aren’t lifestyle changes. They aren’t metabolism nurturing.

And now, I feel like a glutton most of the time…not that I eat all that much at once, but that I feel the urge to munch every couple of hours. Sitting through the The Lord of the Rings movies in the theater was torture&#8212three hours without food! Absurd! Opening night of Return of the King, during the short car trip home from the cinema, I could be found gnawing on Miles’ forearm. He’s a good sport.

Not unlike Homer Simpson upon meeting a donut [Laura! Tsk!&#8212A double negative. I just like looping the subject a few times before arriving to the point. Efficient communication&#8212that’s an oxymoron in Laura Land. I’m big on tangents as well. That’s why my css for mlphillips holds a special class for comments. I find it curious that I know the html entity for the dash while I had to look up the entity for the “é” the other day&#8212and I studied French for a decade! I think my brain thinks in dashes. Where was I? Oh goodness, I’m having this out in the middle of a sentence. Now, back to your regularly scheduled babble:], my disgruntled hunger results in glassy eyes and slobber. (My mouth runeth over?) Suddenly, even tree bark is appetizing. I think I even get grouchy.

Do you hear Miles in the background replying sarcastically, “Oh, ya THINK!?”

It seems to me that there was some specific direction I was going with this entry…but I’ll be damned if I can remember what it was. Disorganization not your thing? Go read CNN.

Tell Us the Tail!

I apply lip balm [to my lips] each night before I sleep. Each morning for the past 10 days, I have met the morning with fuzzy lips. Sounds like a fungal disorder, doesn’t it? Rest assured that it is not!

The fuzziness has a sort of calico palette. I would even go so far as to declare the fuzz to be of a domestic-short-hair nature. It’s curious enough to give a person paws&#8212erm…pause. I imagine the cat has more nighttime fun than she perhaps should.

I can’t think that the contours of my face make for good dance space. I can’t think that the angles make for comfortable seating. Thus, we can assume that the cat is showing her disfavor.

Perhaps she is upset because I refuse to give into her whim. She meows at me to demand, “Cuddle with me, you wench!” and I meow back to return, “Shut up, you cat!” She sniffs me, I sniff back. I am not her inferior, and she is not pleased. What I wonder, and what I’m probably too afraid to ascertain, is which part of her hairy body she rubs against my lips…