Quilts and hawks and the new normal….

Help me get my feet back on the ground….

If I was to make a timeline of the last five or six weeks, I could qualify my life musically (The Beatles, Belle and Sebastian, and Big Star).  Or I could chart it via sport (Warriors clinch the Western Division and home field advantage throughout the playoffs while the Giants start the year well, then lose eight straight games).  Or I could call upon parties held and attended for my eldest, her husband and their upcoming offspring (but don’t forget about Buttercup please).

But truthfully the best way for me to align the last month and a half revolves around my father’s medical care.  Somehow I know those dates like the back of my hand, from the last time we saw his oncologist on Wednesday, 4 March, to Dad’s death at the beginning of this month.  From the day heart failure was diagnosed, Dad had less than a month, most of that spent in two different care facilities.  I feel like I’ve earned an honorary nursing license, which hopefully I can shelve for a good while.  I possess more knowledge about morphine and dilaudid than I ever imagined I would require.

Setting that information aside, I have returned home to sewing, writing, and what my sister-in-law so correctly coined as the new normal.  When someone so loved dies, a transitional period emerges.  But what I didn’t foresee was how that transition would forge an altered reality for yours truly.  Or maybe I was being naive; how could my world ever be the same, regardless of quilts and books, sport and music.  And what about grandchildren?  Not only did my father die, but I’m still coming to grips with being an abuela!

Whoever said that aging was boring has nothing on my life.

I’ve been back in my Silicon Valley realm for nearly a week; in those days I’ve sewn two baby quilts, published a beta-version of The Hawk (part one), and listened to a LOT of Belle and Sebastian’s new LP Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance.  I’ve also endured the Giants’ losing streak, thankfully halted last night, as well as Golden State starting their bid for the NBA championship in a victorious fashion.  And I’ve thought heaps and bunches about my dad, both his last days and those from ages ago.  I’ve written some poems, although I was sure I would bail on NaPoWriMo.  Thankfully two of my sisters gave me the kick in the pants so necessary for healing to continue.  Yes, I love to sew, but writing, especially poems, best assuages my heart.  And believe me, after a week of baseball losses, I sorely needed that literary lift.

I’ve also soothed my soul in tunes; I cannot fully express how music eases memories, also permitting this new normal to not feel so damned strange.  Dad introduced us kids the right way, The Beatles permeating my childhood.  But it’s a Scottish band to whom I’ve turned all week, letting Girls In Peacetime lead me along the ironing board path.  So as I gingerly reenter this sphere, I’ll close this post with the final lines from what has become my tune of the moment, ironically entitled “Enter Sylvia Plath”.

And when things get tough for you

As they did when you came up through the ranks

You can borrow from my faith

From my faith….

A Readjustment Period

I can’t note how many times I wanted to add an entry, titles accumulating on post-it notes and within my gray matter.  Yet, no time arrived to satisfy my blog-longing.  I’d forgotten how much attention babies require, morning and noon and night.  Not that the burrito is an especially fussy sort, but he’s a three and a half week old newborn who doesn’t like being wet, prefers to cuddle on someone’s chest, or to simply be fed.  Add the usual household chores, and here I am, finally getting a post written over two weeks since the previous entry.

But more has occurred beyond the needs of one adorable taquito; hospice has been called in for my father.  Over the last three weeks Dad’s breathing has become severely compromised, one of the issues which arose when Dad saw his doc on Wednesday.  Hospice was on Mom’s list to discuss, but the doc wanted a chest X-ray as well, due to crackles he heard in Dad’s lungs.  As we left that appointment, no further ones were made; the oncologist would liaison with hospice as to Dad’s condition, which spoke volumes to me.  I’ve been at most of Dad’s oncology appointments over the last three years, once bone cancer entered the picture.  Suddenly these quarterly to monthly appointments were over.

That evening, as my bestie cuddled the burrito, I sewed a receiving blanket to a crocheted blanket for my grandchild.  I was due to head back to Silicon Valley the next morning, and this little project was the last one for me to complete.  My daughter’s abode had been my home for the last five weeks, but now that Dad’s appointment had taken place, it was time for me to let my youngest and her son do their own thing.  The atmosphere was festive, although I still needed to write the obligatory email to my siblings about Dad’s news, hospice and a increased dose of morphine topping the list.  But before I could write that note, my brother rang, asking if I’d seen Mom’s email.  The doc had called her personally with the results of the chest X-ray; Dad has pulmonary vascular congestion.  Now his extreme difficulty while breathing made sense.  It was also strange, in that probably cancer won’t be what kills my father.  It will be the results of COPD.

As I shared this news with those near, I prayed for my parents, that Dad’s pain would be effectively managed by hospice, and that Mom would know God’s peace.  Then I went back to attaching the receiving blanket to the crocheted yarn at four-inch intervals.  When that was finished, I gave the blanket to my daughter, who admired it with a loving smile.  I wrote back to Mom, then sent her email to my husband and beloveds.  Then I put away taco leftovers, and started packing for my departure.  I was still going home the following morning; I missed my husband, and needed to be back in my own crib at least for a few days.

An hour or so later, when it was just my daughter, the burrito and me, my girl told me how brave I was.  I smiled at her, and told her it had nothing to do with bravery; it was that I knew where my father was going, and I’d be with him one of these days.  I don’t remember if she was cradling her baby, or maybe that little boy was snug in my arms.  By the end of the evening, he’d been passed back and forth between us, not falling asleep until after ten thirty.  He only stirred once, around three, then slept until after seven, when this abuela administered one more morning feeding for my sojourn.  He’d gotten a bath the night before, light fuzz standing upright on his head.  He’s a stoic fellow, but reflexive smiles brighten his face, making me eager for those grins to be factual.  I was glad for his timely arrival, but how quickly my father’s health has deteriorated kept flashing through my mind.  Our lives are precariously brief, crossing at places we don’t expect.  The burrito in my arms yesterday morning won’t know the man who I call Daddy.  But there’s also a sweetness, which I ascribe to my faith; one day these two chaps will enjoy a long chat about various topics, sports probably, if one discusses pastimes in heaven.   Family history might come up in the conversation, and maybe this time in my family’s collective breaths will be noted; babies arriving, a great-grandfather departing, and all the other accumulated hoo-haa that surrounds these momentous occasions.

The burrito and his great-grandmother, as Great-grandpa nods off in the background.

The burrito and his great-grandmother, as Great-grandpa nods off in the background.

But for now, this blogging abuela is taking a sabbatical.  More is going on than I can detail, not all of it big and amazing, but some trivial and mundane.  I need to buy an iron, as I left mine at my daughter’s.  Quilts await my attention (why I need the iron), as well as other baby-related sewing projects.  I’ll be making more trips to see the burrito, but those visits will revolve around my father.  I’d also like to reacquaint myself with The Hawk, which I perused only for minutes over the last couple of weeks.  How many hats can I squish down on my head, oh goodness, too many.  The blogging sombrero will be hung up for….  Well, I can’t actually say, although I imagine I’ll dust it off at some point.  I’ve tried not blogging in the past, and I’m terrible at it.  However at this juncture, there’s so much to do, and not enough words and time to accurately describe the days.

The days are just packed with love and laughter and life.  Best I get back to that, while the opportunity remains.

Odds and ends and a burrito’s cloth diapers….

I want to squeeze in this post about cloth diapers before it gets lost in the burrito shuffle.  Right now the burrito and his mum are both asleep, but due to wake soon.  Dinner is simmering, a chickpea/curry/veg dish that was supposed to be for the slow cooker, but I didn’t wake this morning until eight, and still had to cook the soaking-overnight chickpeas, and….

And life with a burrito baby gets complicated; there are detours, even with a burrito as pleasantly natured as this one.  Last night we hung out for a bit, while mum caught up on some sleep.  Usually I’m an early riser, but that was my old, pre-nana existence.  I’m finding my abuela feet these days, sometimes referring to myself as nana.  No idea which name will stick; I’ll leave it to the burrito to choose which he likes best.

But in the meantime….  We’ve inaugurated cloth diapers because this burrito detests a wet bottom, and even though he’s still under eight pounds, I grew weary of using disposables, then tossing them right into the can.  We have an assortment of pocket diapers, from Bum Genius, Fuzzibunz, and Rumparooz to Sun Baby, Imagine, Nicki’s, and a few covers that came from a friend.  Basically, there is a plethora from which to choose, and while a good number are VERY large on the burrito, none of them stay on his bum long enough to leak.

Dad has a tale for that great-grandchild....

Dad has a tale for that great-grandchild….

I feel no guilt in changing him, then smooshing that wet or messy (or both) pocket diaper down into the pail, along with the cloth wipe.  And he doesn’t seem to care either way.

The reason I’m writing this post is because so many cloth diapering posts I have read over the last few months have been full of mums who waited until their burritos were eight-plus pounds to start using cloth diapers.  We all realized, right away mind you, that the burrito prefers a dry bottom; rare are the times he’ll sit with a soggy butt.  That is a fortunate detail in our cloth diapering experience, for even with the bulkiest diaper, he hasn’t leaked through.  The Bum Genius, Rumparooz, and a cover-style with snap-in inserts called Gro-Baby fit best, or are the smallest pockets.  But even those are still large, however, it matters not.  The burrito uses the diaper, hollers, then another is placed upon his delicate bum.

Great-grandma gets into thte burrito cuddling action....

Great-grandma gets into thte burrito cuddling action….

Now, we did NOT use a pocket diaper when we took the burrito to visit his great-grandparents, in part that the lumberjack-styled onesie wouldn’t have fit over his otherwise huge cloth diapered behind.  My dad was pleased as punch to meet this baby, telling stories as if his pain was gone.  It wasn’t; Dad nearly went to the hospital the night before our visit.  However his aches had lifted by morning, and our arrival in the early afternoon was eagerly welcomed.  Mom cuddled with that baby too, gifting him with a St. Paddy’s Day onesie.  The burrito needs to wear it, before he gets any bigger!

Aged hands but never too old to caress a loved one.

Aged hands but never too old to caress a loved one.

Babies get bigger every day, but I’m glad that my daughter was ready to give the pocket diapers a go.  If you have a little one with very sensitive skin, but worry they are too small for pockets or covers to fit, give them a try.  The worst that will happen is one change of clothes.  The best is that disposables will start to fade into the background.  And you can always sing this mantra, made up by yours truly only this morning.  I don’t charge a dime for copyright, and the tune is all up to you.

Small man, small problems, big butt.  ‘Nuff said….

What does time mean?

A most contented abuela; all shots by a most talented Belgian.

A most contented abuela; nearly all shots by a most talented Belgian.

Days have passed and the burrito has changed into the happy chappy, little man, or when he refuses to burb, the twerp.  Burp twerp has become a late-night refrain, and I sing different songs, some of which aren’t even of my own creation.  We watched the Big Star documentary a few nights ago, and I’ve been humming Chris Bell and Alex Chilton tunes, thinking about my new world as an abuela, and about my dad.

The happy chappy will meet his great-grandfather tomorrow, when the home health nurse isn’t around.  My father is excited to hold the littlest member of the family, but I don’t think it will be a long cuddle.  Dad’s lower right leg has a bad edema wound, and he’s not firm on either of his feet.  He’s lost ground in the last two weeks, whereas his grandson has gained a foothold, and to be honest, I’m not sure how these two will mesh in the weeks to come.

Which brings me to today’s title; what does time mean?  My grandchild is hovering at a week old, my father is seventy years.  I’m forty-eight, but those are merely numbers.  Life is a constant pull-push of breaths taken, occasions experienced, then the slow (or not so slow) approach to the end.  Now, due to my faith, the end isn’t the end, but it’s still a cessation of activity, involvement, memory.  When my father takes his last breath, all he knows, and has known, will be gone.  What he’s shared with us shall remain, but those are fragments of what he has seen, done, felt, and at times, avoided.  It has become impossible for me to separate my father’s ill health with the emergence of the next generation of family.   I cannot look away from these issues.

And perhaps that makes all of this easier for me, in that my dad’s decline is balanced by the burrito.  He’s still a burrito at night, swaddled in his sleep sack, out like a light.  We put cloth diapers on him today; they make his butt look HUGE!  His umbilical cord has fallen off; we’re going to plant it under a hydrangea given to him by one of my daughter’s dear friends.  Not quite like planting a tree over the placenta, but it’s one way to mark this very auspicious occasion.  And I come back to this fact again and again; people are born, then they die.  I have no clue as to my father’s timeline, but equally I won’t ignore what is obvious.  It would be like closing my eyes and running right into a wall.

Seasonally, new life is blooming around us.  Almond trees are flush with white flowers, which fall to the ground like a carpet. Yes, it’s only February, but spring floods the senses with warm temperatures and lengthening days.  My grandchild is turning from a taquito into a happy fellow, with reflexive smiles that tease; when he starts to grin for real, no one will be able to resist him.  In the back of my head, I wonder how much of this boy my father will know, for how long will their paths cross.  I don’t mean to be maudlin, but it’s a study of life in real time, day by day.  Maybe that’s what time means, not the accumulation of seconds and minutes, but moments and learning.  Over time we accrue knowledge that enables us to love.  Sometimes we are caught off guard by events that derail that plan, but to me, that’s the plan: we are here to love.  If we can look past the hurt, our hearts are made stronger by that which has attempted to thwart the plan, and we love more deeply.  I adore my happy chappy, even when he’s being a burp twerp.  My father’s sufferings cause me anguish, but his perseverance demands my respect, right alongside my overwhelming love.

My dad in 1947.

I never imagined all of these forces colliding right now; just three months ago, my father carved the Thanksgiving turkey.  Now it’s like he’s aged those twenty-five years he thought he had back in September.  While I wish he felt that well now, I can’t do any more for him than I can for the little man.

Which is a very strange situation; right now the little man isn’t such a happy chappy.  It’s nighttime, bedtime if you were a baby.  He’s a wee bit cranky, as many infants are this time of the evening.  We rock him, change him, but we’re sort of helpless to completely soothe, other than his mum, but he’s not really hungry.  My father’s woes are similar; as a daughter, I accompany to appointments, I ask questions.  But my dad is in charge, and as his perseverance requires my respect, so do his choices.

My father and his grandparents, August 1946

My father and his grandparents, August 1946

This is the part of life that requires patience and acceptance; a fussy crying baby and the plethora of maladies that plague someone battling cancer.  These older photographs are precious to me, in that they denote my history.  I never knew my great-grandparents, but they are alive in my dad’s stories.  My mum is in fine health, but the burrito taquito chap will most likely know of his great-grandpa via my tales, and those of other relatives.  That’s not how I necessarily want it, but….

My dad, 1945.

My dad, 1945.

But time can only be measured by yardsticks our feeble cerebral mechanisms can harness.  Yet, what if time was without parameters?  Maybe it is.  Perhaps all this blog-blogging is just a way to unwind after a long day.  But I would love to convey, if I have totally missed the point, that time is what we make it.  Time is as fleeting as a goodbye wave, or as lasting as firm devotion.  Time is nothing we can truly qualify, if our expectations are turned toward an ethereal home.  Time is only a manner of one day’s end, another’s beginning.  Life is very much the same.

My Taquito Burrito Bobblehead Grandchild

The lad in question is a few days old.  He’s so tagged in the title for the nicknames he has already acquired.  My family is big on nicknames; these have sprung on a nearly daily basis, in part from how the taquito loves to be swaddled, his amazing head control, and that he is merely a pipsqueak.  He’s also the most adorable chap in the neighborhood, and I’m the luckiest abuela around.

His birth was notable for a couple of things; he cried nearly nonstop once he was born, leaving us all to wonder if this was a sign (It wasn’t; he seems to have gotten past that initial crankiness, settling into a soothing pattern of burrito-swaddled sleep.)  The other issue was how my daughter went into labour, in the middle of the day.  She and I went to hospital to determine if she was in true labour; indeed she was, and there was set into action the events that led to one little boy’s entrance into this world.

Well, Buttercup helped too.  My daughter can’t resist giving that hound her due attention, and as my daughter return to her feet, a certain sense of impending change was noticed.  That ushered in a night I will always remember.

A few days away from such stupendous happenings, I have the time to write this post, reflecting on all that has altered.  A baby has invaded, and what a glorious, if not sleep-depriving, manner in which to now live our lives.  So many lives have been enhanced upon the burrito’s presence; we bask in the aura he emits, which is often that of peace, for he has taken up nursing and sleep with relative ease.  His voice emerges when he’s wet; he does not like being wet.  He appreciates his hunger signs noted in an expedient manner.  He is a swaddle-king, hence the taquito-burrito handle.  And he’s a strong fellow, bobbing his head along shoulders as if he’s a few weeks old.  He induces calm, which wafts throughout the house like blessed incense; perhaps my feet ache at the end of the day, yet all I realize is the giddy glee of grandmotherhood.  Even at five-thirty this morning, I had made up a little song, toting him to and fro: Grandma likes to sing her song, but you don’t get to sing along.  All you get to do is yawn.

I’m not a lyricist, but hey, it rhymes.

When the burrito came home from hospital, I sent my nearest and dearest an email, noting that while the writer in me could wax all about the details, the abuela in me was ready for sleep.  There’s a fine line about recalling everything that happened and staying in the moment.  More pictures than I have sense have been taken, a few scattered within this post.  I have no idea for how long he’ll be known as the burrito; maybe tomorrow he’ll manage a most fantastic feat and we’ll be calling him….  Aha, that must be left until tomorrow.  Today, he’s adorable.  His hat confirms it.

Welcome to the family, my beautiful taquito grandson.  May your life be full of wonder, joy, and even a real burrito or two….


Last night my dad called me, wanting to know how his granddaughter was doing.  More specifically, Dad desired information about his great-grandson.  He said that both he and Mom had been jumping every time their phone rang, and while Mom didn’t want to pester us, Dad didn’t have an issue with that at all.

Photo by a Belgian....

Photo by a Belgian….

The call was brief; other than scattered contractions that carry little lasting pain, my daughter is hanging in there.  But now my husband is here, hopefully for more than only the weekend, and my eldest, her hubby, and Buttercup are expected this afternoon.  All in all, this would be a perfect day for a baby to be born.

Ha, not that we have much say in the matter.  Rain has curtailed the daily walks around the neighborhood, although we could brave the mall.  But that seems artificial; my youngest prefers tromping around the stomping grounds that will make up her baby’s world.   Perhaps if we catch a break in the weather and she’s not already caught up in productive contractions, we’ll amble around quiet damp streets, talking about various nonsensical subjects, like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  We’ve been watching a lot of DS9 over the last ten days.

Another shot taken by a talented Belgian...

Another shot taken by a talented Belgian…

These last days before a child enters the world are the kind of days that get lost in the soon-to-be shuffle of a new baby in the house.  But these days are important to note, for all of our lives will never be the same.  My daughter’s will alter the most, but each of us who love her fall in line as our hearts are widened for a newbie to fall under our familial umbrella.  Folks are gathering, in eager joy to meet this little chap, and those far away are sending good wishes and much love.  This is the best way for a baby to arrive, surrounded by deep affection from a variety of relatives.  Blood doesn’t bind every one of us, but love is stronger than DNA.

Taken by Brandi, who did my daughter's pedicure; my toes are on the left....

Taken by Brandi, who did my daughter’s pedicure; my toes are on the left, still waiting to dry….

Yesterday, one of my dearest friends accompanied my daughter and me to the local beauty college; my friend received a manicure, while my girl and I had our feet pampered.  We told our stories, how my friend and I met when I lived in the UK and she in Belgium.  How my youngest was just a little girl when this woman became a part of our family, and how now, two and a half years after snapping my eldest’s wedding, this friend will capture a baby’s birth.  Our planet is large, but the scope can be narrowed to one little corner of the world, although my daughter feels anything but small.  And while she may not actually believe it, she will return to her pre-pregnancy size in a manner of weeks, as that freeloader expands his vista to include all of our faces.  Yes, today would be a fabulous moment to claim as one’s birthday; I hope it’s today.  If not, tomorrow would be lovely, Monday acceptable, Tuesday….

In 1990, my father met his first grandson.  Twenty-five years later, a great-grandson is nearly on the doorstep.

In 1990, my father met his first grandson. Twenty-five years later, a great-grandson is nearly on the doorstep.

Let’s just say today, fingers crossed.  My father is certainly growing weary of waiting.  Nothing more would please me than to place a baby in his grasp.  It’s been a few years since he cradled a little one, and time is passing faster than we realize.  It’s time, or so says this anticipatory abuela.  Let’s hope that little fellow is listening….

Yet another day….

This title applies to both my father and my daughter.  We continue to wait on a little chap to enter our lives, while my dad attends one more doctor’s appointment, blood pressure, temperature and oxygen count taken.  I write all these figures in my Dad Doc Notes folder, then disseminate the information to all interested parties, adding at the end that Baby Watch 2015 continues.  My dad noted twice to the scheduling nurse that by his next monthly appointment, he would be a great-grandfather.  The pride and pleasure in his voice were a balm to my ears.

At length I have noted the similarities my dad and daughter have shared over the last nine months.  What stands out to me now is the passage of time, not the last thirty-nine weeks, but years and years of all these lives involved.  And it’s not merely those with whom I share a genetic marker or three; other folks factor into these equations of three generations, but time spans so much more than Dad’s seventy-plus years, not to mention all the days, weeks, and months my grandson has waiting for him.  Well, once he finally tires of where he’s been living since mid-May 2014.  Last night he was acting like a career in kick boxing loomed, my poor daughter groaning not from contractions, but due to a wriggling little fish.  Or not so little, as the case may be.

My grandmother and my dad in 1945; Dad is about a year old here.

My grandmother and my dad in 1945; Dad is about a year old here.

At the doc yesterday, my father was weary, looking very much like a man in need of resolution.  Home health nurses will now give Mom a hand, but we’re not at a hospice corner.  With my daughter, it’s simply a matter of days, and I’m well versed in the stages of labour and birth.  With my father, the steps aren’t as clear.

How does one prepare for death, while trying to focus on life?  Dad was eager to share of his impending great-grandchild, two of them, I said to the nurse.  Yet, a few days ago, as I said goodbye at his house, he quietly noted that he wasn’t so sure just how much longer he could continue; at times the pain is tremendous.  The doctor gave my father a second look when Dad spilled just how many painkillers he’d taken before getting to the office.  I’m used to these numbers of this, that, and the other, but while the doctor prescribes these medications, does he understand just how my father takes them?  Sometimes it’s in staggered amounts that confounds the imagination.

Having gone for a walk in the park over the weekend, I snapped this vista; so much we don't know, so much to embrace.

Having gone for a walk in the park over the weekend, I snapped this vista; so much we don’t know, so much to embrace.

I can’t liken these days to any other previous; all of this is new to every single one of us.  But then, that is what life is, regardless of the situation.  Sometimes the routine feels familiar, and usually our experiences are to prepare us for what lies ahead.  But yesterday was a day solely unto itself, and today will be the same.  My youngest daughter’s pregnancy isn’t like that of my eldest, and my father’s path won’t be that of my mom.  Which makes each moment one to be treasured.  I’m so happy to be here, hanging out with my daughter, anticipating her bundle of joy.  And while it pains me to see my dad so altered, I feel privileged to accompany him and Mom to the doc, to visit with them at home, and tomorrow, to give my dad a trim.  His hair is getting curly at the ends, and I brought my scissors, drape, and combs.  He has a great-grandson to welcome, needs to be looking his very best.

Dad made it to Sunday breakfast; he would have crawled, he said to me over the phone, to get that chicken fried steak.

Dad made it to Sunday breakfast; he would have crawled, he said to me, to get that chicken fried steak.

No photographs or blog entries can begin to capture all of these events; they simply have to be savoured one day after another.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 347 other followers