Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Fabric Burrito

A heavy 4’ x 2.5’ box was dropped off on our porch the other day. 

If I didn’t know what was inside, I’d be thinking it’s the umpteenth shelving unit that David received from IKEA that he’s going to put together, or music room equipment – this could be ANYTHING, I couldn’t even begin to guess what – or bulk food for SheaDoggy. Maybe even a small freezer for our bedroom 😊 to indulge my periodic Ben and Jerry’s obsession. 

But a king-sized mattress? No frigging way.

My mom would’ve been horrified that not only did we shop online for such an essential item so important to our well-being but that it came flat as a pancake. She touted a comfortable “firmness” as the be-all and end-all for a quality mattress, just like she spoke about the need for good "supportive” shoes, both of which she believed would lead to proper spine alignment and a healthy life. 

This is our second experience with purchasing a memory foam mattress in under a year. The first was bought for a spare bedroom; this time it was for our bedroom.  

Initially, it was recommended by our kids when we were redoing our upstairs. We followed their suggestion and bought it without too much of our own research other than to compare prices of similar mattresses.

When they came to visit and raved about the good night’s sleep they had, David began to wonder if we too should buy this kind of mattress to alleviate some of his back and hip pain.

Since he had a particular goal in mind, he combed through copious amounts of information to dissect the pros and cons of foam mattresses as well as compare companies that offer similar products, thousands of reviews and very generous return policies.

We decided to go for it. One week later, it arrived.        

With Lauren and Anas’ assistance, we all lifted the old mattress from our bed and started the process of unpacking the new mattress.      

When we opened the box, it looked like a rolled-up fabric burrito, tightly compressed in vacuum-wrapped packaging. We straightened it out, sliced open the plastic and began to shimmy the mattress on to the carpet.

It began to expand, but very slowly. I was a bit nervous at first that it was going to be too thin to provide any comfort or support at all, but then I decided just go with it, trust the process.  

After letting it do its thing for several hours, we then got into bed and...had a glorious night of sleep.  

It’s been this way ever since.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

And Shea Makes Six

Seventeen years ago, I wondered what it’d be like if David and I had had a kid together. We talked about it, but after a new marriage, 5 kids between us, a new house, and a whole new life as a blended family, we didn’t really need to push the envelope.

Plus, I’d have been in my mid-40s by the time that would’ve come to be, and even though my mom was 43 when I was born, I didn’t know if I’d muster the energy to have a 4th with all that other stuff going on.

When SheaDoggy came along, I was 50, and even though life was chaotic and he added to it, he also brought a sense of calm that I hadn’t anticipated.    

He became the baby we adored, bringing us all together as we marveled at his every move, and we impatiently took turns holding him. Overnight, he became the center of our lives. I did my mommy thing, which was to make sure his basic needs were met; David chased him around to play and snuggled with him every chance he had.    

Fast forward 11 years and 4 months…he’s now the only “kid” living at home, he’s become “Uncle Shea” to our grandkids and he's still the perfect housemate for us.

No matter what is going on, he always greets us with excitement, wants to hang out with us, doesn’t complain about what he’s having for dinner, doesn’t stay up past his bedtime and get into any kind of trouble; and so on.

Since we are aware that he is aging (he eats “senior” food now), I wasn’t completely surprised when he appeared reluctant to race up the stairs. I just assumed for some reason that he was either tired – as I was, close to his age in people years – or was developing doggy dementia, which obviously was quite disturbing to contemplate. Rather than fight it, however, I decided as his mom that I’d just carry him when he didn’t seem up to the task.

We also started to see him limp and appear unable to jump up on to the couch or chair as he always had, thereby preventing him from doing what he loved so much: to look out the window and bark at all the doggies and delivery trucks that passed our house. 

I took him to the vet to get checked out and was told after the second visit that he had a torn ACL on top of the first diagnosis of arthritis. After a consult with an orthopedic specialist, we decided that surgery offered the best chance to get Shea back to living the good life.  

On the car ride to the hospital the morning of the surgery, I had a heart-to-heart with my little guy to explain that the doctor is going to fix the pain in his leg. I let him know that we’d pick him up the next day, but that once he gets home, he’ll have limited ability to move around. I prepared him for wearing a cone much of the day and taking a lot of medication, but I assured him that we’d be with him every step of the way.

When we got to the animal hospital and I was handing him off to the woman there, I felt so sad when Shea looked longingly at me like he was trying to say, Mommy where am I going? Why aren’t you following? Are you coming back for me? Are you giving me away?

It’s been 2 weeks since he had a plate and 6 screws inserted around his tiny knee, and little old SheaDoggy has been a real trooper. We are proud of how well he has taken the whole ordeal in stride, seemingly unfazed by the surgery.

In the meantime, we are at our boy’s beck and call.

Fortunately, he doesn’t realize how much he could be taking advantage of us.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Minna's Bowl

When David makes dinner, he often uses a heavy pink Pyrex mixing bowl to aid in his preparation. He’s one of these guys who cleans up after himself as he’s cooking 😊, usually returning the bowl to the cabinet before it’s time for me to do the dishes.    

On the occasions that I do put it away, I have to reach up as high on my tippy toes as can be to lift the bowl to the second shelf, where it is stored in the larger nesting bowl. This is the main reason I don’t seek it out.    

When it’s my turn to cook and I’m in need of a container of any kind, I always opt for the easiest to get to, even if it’s a big spaghetti pot that I’ve just washed. 

Since Lauren has been staying with us, I’ve put the pink bowl away numerous times, only to see it reappear throughout the day: whenever she cooks/bakes, eats a large salad, warms May’s milk and pureed fruits and vegetables, it’s her preferred equipment.

What’s with the bowl? I finally asked, wondering why she chooses this one so often when there are others more accessible.      

“It’s the perfect bowl…I love it,” was Lauren’s initial response.

Then she said the magic words: “It’s from my childhood.” 

David chimed in: “It’s from my childhood too” and said that his mom Minna, who passed away 31 years ago when he was 28, used it all the time, along with his nana, who lived with them for years.

Thoughts of his mom mixing pancake batter and also grinding meat into it (he wasn’t a vegetarian then), as well as simply picturing it sit on the countertop, fills him with such happy recollections.   

He loves to utilize the same bowl she did, he said, because it helps to keep her alive and close…so why wouldn’t he use the most meaningful one he has, rather than an ordinary one, with no history attached to it. 

Likewise, his grandfather’s phillips head screwdriver with a rubber head brings the past into the present each time David takes it out of the toolbox, for whatever job he has in mind.  

While some people talk about and/or tell stories about loved ones who have passed, for David, it’s about bringing items and memories associated with them to life that truly touches him.     

These purposeful relics have the functionality factor which keeps them in motion, but housing several of his mom’s Hummel figurines also brings him great joy, as he recalls the pleasure she experienced in collecting them.

It’s interesting how everyone refreshes the past in different ways.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Letters to My Mom

Today is the 6th anniversary of my mom’s passing.

With her acutely on my radar, I not only had one of her favorite snacks yesterday of sour cream with bananas and blueberries, but I set aside time to read through letters that she and I had written to one another.  

I also read a ton of poems she wrote for me, as she did for others in her orbit whenever we had a birthday, wedding anniversary, or any other milestone event. Getting her pretty notecards and stationery was always fun for me and a welcomed gift for her, as she liked to present her sentiments of love, pride, and support on quality paper fit for the occasion, which made us all feel special.

There was a period of time, however, when I was in my 20s, that she and I were not in simpatico – even though you’d never know by her poetry – and it made me so sad. I wanted the rift between us to disappear, but I didn’t know how to make that happen, since just wishing it away wasn’t working.

I did, however, think it best to tell her how I felt rather than keep it to myself, in a gentle manner much like the tone of our overall relationship. I was hopeful that once I aired my grievances and she responded, that we could move forward.   

To broach the topic with my mom initially, I had to figure out how to communicate with her: pen and paper, a phone call, or in person? These were my choices in the 1980s, before text and email were the most efficient options.    

I chose the letter-writing route so that I could get her full attention, since I didn’t know if I’d have it otherwise, in light of the harried lives they led solving all the ails of the world.

Upon rereading the first letter of what became an ongoing exchange that lasted for months, I was happy to see that I took the first few paragraphs to tell her how much I loved her, how much she meant to me, and how much I wanted us to resolve the problem. This letter was 4 pages, written in my best handwriting on pretty paper that I too enjoyed using for my most important communication. 

The first round of this back-and-forth with her spanned a few weeks, as it took time for me to step back and compose my thoughts, which then took a couple days of writing and rewriting to get just right (and legible); to take the letter to the mailbox; and a few days to make its way into my mom’s mailbox. By the time I got her letter back, I could see from the postmark that it was some 15-20 days after I made the decision to write to her.     

The discord between us over this matter was never fully put to rest, but at least we understood each other more than before we started the conversation, our relationship was still intact and we were, in fact, able to move on. 

In today’s world, my kids and I often use text and/or email when we have a sensitive/emotional issue that needs to be worked out, but I have at times regretted this, as quickly typed words have the propensity to turn up the heat instead of cool it down, as well as put the relationship at risk.    

When I see that happening, I follow up with a phone call to try to control the damage that just occurred from the texting. 

This is not a good scenario and makes me wonder whether digital communication is a positive or negative when it comes to relationships.

As I look back, I am appreciative of the fact that my mom responded to my letter(s) with thought and sensitivity, on formal paper that demonstrated she heard me and was taking my feelings seriously, even if she disagreed. 

I am also appreciative that all my contact with her during the last years of her life were conducted in person or over the phone (other than her poetry), as smart phones and computers weren’t in her wheelhouse. 

It not only allowed us to keep misunderstandings to a minimum, but it gave me the added benefit of always feeling her love and hearing the soothing sound of her voice.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

January is All Mine

In honor of the New Year, I may as well come clean:  

What I like most about New Year’s Eve is that it jumpstarts the celebration for my birthday, which falls just two weeks after New Year’s Day.

My birthday translates to a lot of attention for me, and not because I messed up something, but because I was born!

I love it all…the phone calls, texts, cards, gifts, cake/cookies/candy (I’m not picky) and yes, even all those Facebook notifications…what’s there not to love? 

Since everyone is juggling a million things, I get that a lot of these gestures won't happen on the day of, or even the week of; therefore, I am viewing my birthday as an event to celebrate all month long.

This may sound self-indulgent and greedy, especially as the world is falling apart, but this year is like every other in this regard, with me eagerly anticipating the festivities to start. Since I am the youngest of 4 siblings and lived in the shadows of everyone else and have also wondered if I was a “mistake” given the age difference between the 3rd sibling and me (compared with the others)…could this be why I crave the spotlight?  

Who knows, who cares, and does it really matter? Not really – well, maybe a tiny bit – and it might explain a few things!   

As for what I am looking forward to as my birthday approaches, it is pretty tame, and maybe lame, too. I have no plans for skydiving, a celebrity birthday greeting doesn’t interest me and so far at least I’m not jonesing for a big slab of meat, doused with mushrooms or blue cheese, two of my favorite toppings.

All I am aiming for right now is to achieve a straight-edged crocheted scarf. I have the crocheting down; neat edges present the added challenge. Perhaps this falls more into the New Year’s resolution category than a birthday wish.

If I could shout from the rooftops how happy I am to still be here for my 61st birthday, and how grateful I am for all the good in my life, that’s what I’d do.

But since I’m afraid of heights, that won’t be happening.

Happy Birthday to all my January friends!