I have to say that this is the very first time in almost a year that I've felt like writing. Last year just kind of knocked the stuffing out of me. It's been an adjustment, these past few months. Not just my own adjustment, but trying to help Mom through it as well. Learning how much to push, and how much to stand back, and let her find her own way. She can be prickly and stubborn and difficult - probably just like most people would be who are surrounded by a bunch of overbearing children. We hovered, we bossed, we cajoled. And what I've found works the best is to just lend a listening ear and be supportive. So what if she tells me for the 100th time how nice she thought Dad's service was? It seems to give her comfort. Who cares if it takes her months longer to arrange to get her house re-roofed than it would take any of us to do it for her? The house isn't leaking, and it isn't going to fall down. She is learning to do some hard tasks that Dad always took care of, and she's gaining some confidence in the process. (We hope. That's the plan, anyway.) So we've learned to stand down, and let her handle things in her own way, in her own time. Sometimes it's hard to watch, but I think she's making progress. And she'll be so much stronger than if we did everything for her. Which she doesn't want us to do anyway, by the way, although one of my brothers has tried very hard to convince her otherwise.
Mostly I've been fine. It's weird without Dad being there when I go to visit. I really miss him being there on holidays and for important family events. But I know he's somewhere close by, supporting us and watching over things. When I cry, it's usually in the shower where no one can see. And there was last night while we were watching a bit on 60 Minutes about a new breakthrough therapy for cancer using the polio virus. It killed me, knowing that it's too late to help him, and also to see the people who took part in the clinical trials who didn't make it either. My heart hurt for their families. It made me cry. But mostly I'm fine. I imagine Dad discovering all kinds of things in the cosmos, and having such joy in the learning. Consorting with all sorts of intelligent oddballs just like him. Makes me smile, even though I miss him. I try to bring him flowers from time to time so his patch of earth will look as pretty as the other patches of real estate around him. So people will see that he is remembered and loved by his family. Because if nothing else, Dad was a family man, who was fiercely proud of all of us.
This summer promises to be almost as busy as last summer. Almost. I don't know if I could do last summer again - it was so much fun, but I never stood still. It's kicked off already with the arrival last week of Tim, Autumn, and 1 year old Lincoln. We had a great time going to the little Santa Ana Zoo, and spending an evening taking the ferry across from Balboa Island to the Fun Zone on the other side of the bay. We walked down to the end of the Balboa Pier and had dinner at Ruby's. And then the ferry back to the island and frozen bananas all around. So good to see them!
In a couple of weeks, Rex and his family will be here on vacation for a week. They've rented a house with a pool close to Disneyland, and so Katie and the kids will come down and have a giant cousin slumber party. We'll see if Drezden and Travis kill each other. That should be fun. It's been a few years since the kids were together, and I'm really looking forward to it.
Next weekend I have tickets for Katie, me, and the girls to see Fancy Nancy the Musical at a little local theatre. Should be a good time, and I'm hoping we'll have time for a fancy dessert afterwards before they have to hit the road. Girls night out.
In June I have another trip planned to Nashville with Nancy, Mischell, and one other old friend, Kay.
We went last year when our friend Linda lost her son-in-law, and then her daughter to cancer. All within 2 months. Unbelieveable. Soul sucking, horrible time for our Linda. She and her husband are now the guardians for their 3 grandchildren and have uprooted their lives in California to take up residence in Tennessee. So we are going to descend again - the YaYas bringing our crazy, spirit healing nuttiness to Nashville and surrounding areas. Perhaps an area near you. It'll be a good trip, ya'll. I love places where everyone calls you "honey" and where stores are closed on Sunday. There are also some sketchy dive BBQ places where you probably aren't safe without a gun, but that's a story for another day.
Early July will bring another trip to Denver for Matthew's 8th birthday and his baptism. He is the sweetest boy alive, and we're excited to share these special milestones in his life. And we'll be there for the 4th of July! Rex always does it up right - lots of fireworks, and the neighborhood all comes together. It will be a good time to spend with those special littles that we love so much.
Again the last part of July, L and I will take a road trip to Utah for the 24th of July - Pioneer Day in Utah. From my brother's new house they'll have view of fireworks going off from two different valleys. I've been imagining sitting out on one of their decks in the heat of a summer evening, watching fireworks with them - something I've been looking forward to ever since they mentioned it in February. My dad's family usually has a big family reunion during that time. And I've never gone. But this year I'd like to go. Reconnect with cousins who were so kind to come to his funeral last year - and we had the BEST time visiting! Dad would love it that we showed up. Going back for those reunions was one of his greatest pleasures. That generation is all gone now - my dad was the last. So now it's up to the cousins of the next generation to carry on the tradition. Pioneer Day in Spanish Fork, Utah.
And last - but not least - one of my old college roommates lost her husband last week after years of long, drawn out health problems. My first thought, after that first stab in the heart for poor Bronwyn, was are we here at that time of life already? That place where we start to lose friends? Especially when those friends are Our Own Age. Unthinkable. I haven't been the best at keeping in touch with my roommates and countless other old friends - although in the last couple of years the situation has improved. I've learned that The Routine will still be here waiting for me when I get back from making time with old friends. That these memories made are priceless and dear, just as the friends these memories are made from are indescribably priceless and dear. It's always hard for me to blast out of my rut and travel to Somewhere Else. Somewhere where my things aren't, and everything isn't comfy and familiar. But oh, how worth it the minor discomfort is when I get to spend a few days laughing and reminiscing and loving some of the best people alive. So we old roommates are trying to cobble together a trip to Southern Utah. Coming from California, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, we will have our grand reunion, and hopefully reconnect with those young girls we once were, remembering dreams lost and realizing how many of them actually came true - although not always in the way we'd imagined back then.
So a busy summer once again. And in between, I try to sandwich in weekends here and there with Katie and the kids, now that they're back in California. They're still a couple of hours away - a journey that involves driving through Los Angeles and beyond - but once I get there it's so much fun. Oh - and did I tell you? She is expecting her fourth and final babe in September. A little girl. Her name will be Ione. What, you say?? Yes, IONE. Katie just loved my grandmother, but my grandmother's name was Melba. And no one wants to be named Melba. But her favorite sister was a fun little lady named Pearl Ione. And Katie just loves the name Ione. We'll call her Onie for short, just like my great aunt. At first, I admit, I wasn't thrilled. But it's growing on me. And somewhere - I just know it - Melba and Onie (and my dad!) are playing with that baby while she waits to make her grand debut on this side of life. And if she's like either one of them, she'll be a gem.
So that is life as I know it. Life without Dad, but learning to carry on. Helping Mom to find her balance and confidence without running her life. Father's Day is coming and that will be a little sad. L and I are both father-orphans now. The holiday has lost some of it's glitter for us. But we have trips to look forward to, grandchildren to catch up with, wonderful friends to sit with, a shiny new baby in a few months. L and I are feeling lucky overall. We are feeling blessed to experience so much Spice of Life, and hold it close. We are savoring it all, as we realize - especially lately - that these joys are sometimes fragile. Enjoy the present, and savor every last drop. Tomorrow it could all be different, but you have Today in the palm of your hand. Don't waste it.