My other grandma.

Whenever I write about my grandma – I usually mean my mom’s mom. We saw her very often.

Although my dad’s mom lived just as close, we didn’t see her very much. She was busy raising my cousins.  She would have been about my age when my uncle died. I cannot imagine taking in three rambunctious boys at 60.

My memories of her are limited. I remember her wearing boy’s tennis shoes (sneaker options for women were different than they are now).  At the time I wondered why. Now I know: her feet hurt.

As she aged, her hair remained mostly brown, and I don’t think she colored it – because mine is the same way.  In fact, when I look in the mirror, I often wonder at how my grandma’s face is looking back at me.

She was an accomplished knitter and crocheter. I still have the little blue afghan she made for me.  While I knit ( dishcloths and hats only – I  cannot for the life of me get pairs of things, like socks or mittens,  to come out the same size), I have never been very good at deciphering the instructions for crochet.

The colors she picked for some of her projects were outrageously bright; something else we have in common. I wonder if she had some color blindness, too?

It’s a special day.

Today is my friend’s birthday.  When I wish my friend well today, this is what I mean:

  • may you wake up from a good night’s sleep, in a warm, comfortable bed
  • may you feel as well as possible (face it – we’re old and stuff hurts – lol)
  • may you receive many loving greetings from family and friends
  • may you have time for fun, without  any guilt about using your time for yourself
  • may you have a deep sense of security and a genuine feeling of calm
  • may you have hope for a future that includes peace, love and happiness
  • may you sit down to good food on the table,  and have good company with whom to share it
  • may you have cake (because everybody needs cake)

 

Birthday cake adventures

This was posted two months ago. For some technological reason I do not understand, this post got all messed up when you scrolled past  – so I deleted the original and am trying it again.

I usually bake my kids’ birthday cakes. I am no baking/decorating master, but I have managed to make a number of acceptable, even a couple exceptional, cakes over the years.

When it was my daughter’s birthday, we would sometimes be on vacation with extended family in the Outer Banks. She would know we were going to celebrate, and even pick out the cake – but she wanted us to all to yell “Surprise” when she came in the room. She expected it and enjoyed it, so we did it.

My kids’ birthday cake adventures were pretty tame compared to two of my own experiences.

First, I remember a birthday cake my aunt ordered – a doll in a hoop-skirt cake with a big cardboard and frosting hat. Well, the candles were too close to the hat. You can imagine the rest. Exciting and memorable. All the other birthdays celebrated with my aunt run together. Only the flaming disaster stands out. What I learned from this experience – you remember more of what goes wrong than what goes right.

Second, there was the banana cake incident. We were high-school age, a few girls celebrating a birthday at my friend’s house. I baked a scratch banana cake with cream cheese icing – it was perfect. When the birthday girl went to cut the cake, it was too close to the edge of the coffee table and flipped frosting side down onto the living room carpet. We laughed so hard that we spilled a glass of cider onto the mess. We, being responsible girls, decided to clean up our mess with the vacuum cleaner. Needless to say the vacuum was never the same. Fortunately, someone else had baked a second cake and the party went on. What I learned from this experience – always have a back-up cake.

Goldilocks

I used to watch a cartoon called ‘Fractured Fairy Tales’ when I was a kid.  Puns everywhere. It is the kind of cartoon I enjoy watching even now.

I don’t know if it was this cartoon that inspired my telling of the ‘Three Bears’ fairy tale to my son.  I do know that he was truly frightened of Goldilocks for many years.  Here was a girl who would come uninvited into your house to eat your food and break your stuff! He found it frightening.  I probably should have read him a standard version from a children’s book…a version where Goldilocks ran away, afraid of the bears.

I think back often about the stories my children liked me to tell them or read to them. Sitting on the couch reading to them, or telling them stories was one of my favorite parental responsibilities. No, make that one of my favorite parental privileges.

A Neighbor

My neighbor was a good cook, a very good cook. I remember the smell of garlic and onions coming from her house as I came home from work. At canning season, the smell of tomato sauce and a variety of peppers filled the neighborhood. Like my grandma, she used the high wall of her back porch to cool her pies and set her jello at Thanksgiving – that back porch was an extension of her busy kitchen. When my son was born, she brought me a casserole…it was delicious.

My neighbor often offered my young son a cookie when we were out for a walk. We would stop and chat while my son ate his cookie, waiting patiently to move on so he could look for interesting rocks and bugs. My son asked  more than once why her cookies and other baked goods tasted so much better than mine. It made her smile to hear him say that.

The neighborhood has changed since she moved away. Oh, I still have good neighbors, but illness and age keeps them inside. Some, like me, work irregular schedules. There is still the feeling, that in an emergency, you could knock on any door and someone would help. But there aren’t neighbors sitting on the porch, waiting for a chance to talk. Or share a cookie.

Future Shock.

My daughter is approaching age 18, so there is a lot of planning going on about her future.  Some of the planning involves her team of social workers, and me. Some of it includes her directly.

When I adopted her at age 46(she was 3), I never imagined the changes that would take place in both of our lives.  I  did not expect to feel old at 60.  I did not expect to be a single parent.  Am I expressing regret over the adoption? NO. Not at all.  I’m just saying that  my plans back then did not adequately consider rogue events.

I think it is important to plan. I think that  based on what we know about my daughter’s development and her emotional state now, we will come up with a wonderful plan….a plan that will take into account  every situation that we can imagine.  It’s those  situations that are outside our view, beyond our wildest imaginings that could derail the plan. God knows her future. He knows her need. And I am confident that he will provide what she needs even if her team and I can’t foresee it.

Will I lose sleep over the plan, or over her future? No, probably not. I will make every effort to be sensible and careful.  I will consider possible outlying events, and wherever I can, make them  a part of  the plan. That doesn’t  promise planning success, but is does eliminate guilt and regret and those are the things that tend to keep people up at night.

 

Another page from the Grandma files.

When I was little, my grandma’s dining table had six legs with wide curved stretchers connecting the legs. These stretchers made wonderful roads or parade routes for the decorative salt and pepper shakers she used to let me use as “toys.” A refrigerator box with a dish towel as a curtain on a cut-out window, was a playhouse. The old record player turntable was a steering wheel for my “car.” I played “store” in the fruit cellar. Grandma could fold hankies into babies in cradles and turn little boxes into cribs. Newspapers could be cut into paper dolls.

I spent a lot of time playing at Grandma’s, but I don’t remember there being actual toys there…and I certainly don’t ever remember being bored.

When I got older, imaginative playing gave way to watching silly old movies on Saturday afternoons and sitting on the porch swing; all of us talking, laughing and dozing off after a big lunch. I miss those simpler, quieter days.

Cooking

Perhaps the biggest challenge that comes with living alone, is cooking for “one.” My crockpot is my friend (my daughter calls it a ‘crackpot!’). Since I don’t mind leftovers, I often plan to eat the same thing all week or freeze servings for busier days. Soup, chili and meat sauce for pasta are frequent preparations. Easy to make, easy to reheat. An occasional roast or batch of pulled pork. I am definitely in a cooking rut.

I have friends that are gourmet cooks; their recipes and ingredient lists are astounding. Like the cooking shows on tv – far removed from the reality of my kitchen.

Here is the kind of cooking show I would like to see:

The competing cooks go to a random home, a home like mine: galley style kitchen, old stove and an oven that may or may not heat to the temperature you dial up. Using just the equipment available in that house and just the ingredients on hand in that house, the competitors have to make an edible meal.

No fancy knives, one mediocre paring knife. No fancy pans – just Farberware or Revereware. no stand mixer – just an egg beater.

Simple seasonings like salt, pepper and Italian seasoning from the dollar store. Ingredients like canned tomatoes, boxed pasta, canned tuna, condensed soup, applesauce and baked beans. (Not to be used all together in one dish – of course!)

There may or may not be butter, milk, flour,eggs or sugar on hand. The produce will be grocery store quality – not fresh from the farm or orchard. The meat or poultry will be from the local supermarket and will be frozen solid because no one defrosted it.

The judges will be picky children – not people who live alone. Why? because when you live alone, you tend to appreciate anything someone else cooks for you!

Off track

Looking back over my posts, I see I have written about a lot of things other than my daughter.

When I write about her, it is often very difficult.  So if you wonder why I get off track, wonder what’s up with the silly family stories: It’s a matter of self-care. Some self-indulgent  writing about happier days, simpler times, and adventures with friends takes my mind off the weight of care giving, and off the pain of loss.

Now, do NOT imagine that my life is a misery – it is not.  I actually consider myself very (undeservedly) blessed.

I have friends who don’t get to choose to take any kind of break.  Their reality is 24/7, ongoing, never-ending care-giving. They have my respect and admiration. I remember having my daughter here at home…the constant stress, the heavy  weight of that responsibility.

I have friends who have suffered the worst possible loss, the death of a child.  I  cannot fully comprehend  the enormity of that grief.   I still get to see my daughter, and although the future for us is not what I imagined when she was little – she is still here, on this earth for me to hug, and I am very, very grateful.

Racing.

When I think of racing, I do not think of NASCAR, the race in Indianapolis, or drag racing.

When I think of racing, I think of my daughter’s racing thoughts and the resulting one-sided conversations she has with me.

She will be talking to me very fast; it is hard to follow her train of thought – and suddenly she will stop and ask, “Wait, what was I talking about?”

If I’ve been able to keep up with her monologue, I tell her and she will go on. When I can’t keep up (It is easier to keep up in person than on the phone!), she will go on to something else…and when she remembers that first racing train of thought, she will suddenly switch gears.

Now, I come from a family of fast-talkers. I’m used to that.   But my daughter’s words come out at a speed that makes everyone else seem slow!

Funny thing is, while her words and thoughts may race, her walking and working at tasks is very slow. I think to myself sometimes, “If she moves any slower,  she’ll be going backwards!”