Monthly Archives: May 2011
I sit quietly in the bath tub, trying to make my stomach hurt less when it dawns on me. Today is May 25th. Oh. My. God. Today is May 25th, which means that 4 days ago it was May 21st. 4 days ago it was my only grandmother’s birthday and I forgot it. When does it become acceptable to let your life become so busy and intertwined, that you lose sight of something so important? You stop calling, you stop visiting them, you stop asking them for advice, you forget their birthday and then you let their memory slowly fade. Almost 12 years ago, I stopped calling my grandmother. I’ve visited her only twice in the past 12 years. Occasionally, I will still ask her for advice but on Saturday, I forgot her birthday for the first time in 32 years.
Doris Mae Paris was a firecracker in every aspect. She was a beautiful sight to see and could explode at any moment. She led a full and happy life with a handsome and perfect man until he lost his battle with lung cancer when I was very young. I think of the weekends where my cousin and I would lay on the living room floor coloring in our Flintstone coloring books while the smell of Schwann’s pizza, cheese and Ritz crackers and Jolly Rancher’s wafted through the house. Baseball season was my favorite and probably most memorable thing about my grandmother (besides the fact that she was an avid candy eater). She always had a baseball game on TV and if it wasn’t on there, she would find it on the radio. It’s odd that she loved baseball so much but I never remember her going to a baseball game.
I was never Mam’s favorite, as much as I wanted to be. I had some pretty hefty competition in 3 cousins that really could do no wrong. I kind of always thought that I was the underdog who had to fight just to try and stay at the end of the line. I was the girl who got married and pregnant at 17, I was a disappointment. I have to tell myself that for the last few years of my grandmother’s life, her and I became pretty close. I would drive up to Holt and pick her up and then take her out shopping or for groceries. We made a habit of going to Stephenson’s Restaurant (which is now gone) and often times, I would drive her out to my house in Lee’s Summit so she could play with my ferrets. My grandma never seemed like a huge animal lover but the joy on her face was priceless as she would lower herself to the floor so she could play with Slinky the bouncing ferret. While I hope that it was me and not the $100k paycheck at 18 and the nice things I ended up achieving, I am still glad that in the end we really got to know each other. We talked about raising chickens, writing, muddin’ (and I even got to take her once before she died), Crazy 8’s and cars. Baseball was another big conversation topic for us and still to this day, it is my favorite sport. I’m always sporting a raging boner on Opening Day.
In late August of 1999, my grandmother was scheduled for a routine surgery. While she was on the operating table, she aspirated and soon slipped into a coma. During the last few days of her life she had her family surrounding her. The last time I saw Mam, I really didn’t recognize her. I grasped her hand and I tried to be strong. I didn’t tell her to wake up, I just told her about Levi and work and life. I held back my tears as I told her that I loved her and once, as I was turning my head back from her monitors, I swear the grip on my hand tightened and she moved her head towards me. I looked down at her and kissed her forehead and I told her again how much I loved her. Then, I told her that it was okay for her to go. She stuck around many years after her soul mate died, she raised 3 grandchildren and she saw her first 2 great-grandchildren be born. Her life here on Earth was over but it would never be complete until she was in the arms of my grandfather again. We all knew it. When my grandfather died, Mam never stepped foot back in the bedroom to sleep. Eventually, she put a daybed in the living room because the pain of an empty bedroom was just too much. I whispered in her ear, “Thank you” and I walked out of the room and back to where all of my family waited. I later heard that my grandmother semi-awakened and said it was time for her to go and be with Pamp. She waited until the last of us slipped from the room and then she ran into the arms of my grandfather who she had missed for so long. Her life one Earth was over and it was finally complete.
I learned a lot from Mam. I learned naughty words as she watched the ballgames, I learned to cheat really well at Crazy 8’s, I fell in love with frozen juice popsicles, that cheese would soothe me even to this day, that cramps were a bitch and I just needed to “walk them off”, that roses will always be the most beautiful flower and no one can ever rival my grandmother’s, that slugs love beer but it’s depressing to clean up the pans by the Hosta’s and many other things. I learned so much, yet I forgot the most important day in her life.
I ask myself again, “Is it ever okay to forget?”. The only answer I seem to receive is tears. I’m sorry to have disappointed you, again.
Did you hear about the bad tornado that happened yesterday?
Bristol: “Who? Gloria (daycare provider) said a thunderstorm hitted something.”
Paris: “Yes. I heard that it was enormous and we got to look at it closely. We heard it on Fox 4.”
Do you know the name of the city of Joplin, Missouri?
Paris: “Yes, because we have a book in my first grade class and we go to page 640 and it shows a map of the United States and I look closely and I saw Kansas City and then I went on the other page and it showed me Missouri and then that’s it.”
Bristol: “No, I don’t.”
Do you remember when we went to see Grandma a few months ago and we stopped to eat at the buffet and Bowser stayed in the car?
Bristol: “Yeah, Paris puked blue and then we went back home.”
Paris: “Yeah, I did puke. Oh, my God. I can’t believe Mom just wrote that.”
*I show the boys a picture of Ryan’s Steakhouse in Joplin that I found on Google maps.*
Did you know that was in Joplin?
*I show the boys a road map of the city of Joplin and then I begin showing them pictures of the damage to those same areas.*
Paris: “Those pictures are bad and sad. I think they are damaged from the big storm.”
Bristol: “Because the tornado hitted a store and it hitted cars and it hitted houses and eating places and cars.”
Do you guys think anyone got hurt?
I then showed a few videos to the boys. The most touching one was the one that they couldn’t even see anything. I think that because of the fact that they couldn’t see the physical damage happening, they could sense the emotional distress and fear of living through the tornado. The boys audibly gasped and would utter, “Oh, my God” or “Whoa” or “Bad Ending”. At one point, Paris leaned over with his head on my shoulder and I could sense the sadness in him and I could see a single tear forming in his eye. He remained on my shoulder for the rest of our conversation.
I guess you want to know my point to all of this and to me it’s fairly obvious. I don’t choose to hide my children from the terrible acts of Mother Nature or the cruelness of the world. I would rather shield them from the hurt that is inevitable but let them experience life as much as they can. I want my boys to get an understanding of humanitarian efforts and I want them to learn how to problem solve to help their fellow people. When I first started talking to them, they had no idea what they could do to help anyone or even where to start. They thought that there was nothing that they could do to make a difference and that because they were little, they were helpless. Things were different after looking at the pictures and watching the videos and it all took was for a parent to make the decision to educate their child.
After watching the videos the first responses the boys had were that they would go and search all of the cars and houses for people. Then they moved on to grander ideas, like rebuilding the entire city all on their own. I explained to them that the point of this whole “talk” was for me to help them decide what they could do to make a difference. The boys almost in unison said, “We would teach everyone to go to their basement and duck down and cover their heads.”. I asked them what they think that they could do since it already happened and they ranged from donating all of their toys to kids without them to searching for all of the animals and reuniting them with their families. I asked the boys what would happen if they found an animal and all of that pet’s family had died and they simply responded, “Well, we would rescue them Silly!” I feel a moment of pure joy at the words I just heard. They really do get it. A 5 and 6 year old understand what it takes to help the world, they just need a chance to show it. Paris asked if all of the people knew to get their animals to safety, too and I told him that a lot of people do try and save their pets. Paris seemed to think that pets were just as important as people and that since pets are helpless that someone in the family needs to cover them with their own bodies to protect them. That conversation went to one of me begging my boys to let me deal with covering everyone’s bodies if I ever had to. There was no question about the fact that Bowser and Oreo are just as important as us, the boys have made many trips to the basement where I was dragging all of our critters down with us. We have drills, we talk about safety and I teach the boys about what to look for in bad weather. They watch the news and give me up to the minute reports of what is happening. They can also point out exactly where we are at on a US map, regional map and state map. They can even point to the county and EXACT location of where we live! This is very important and something that all of our children need to know so they can save their own life and maybe that of someone else.
For 30 minutes, I had the boys undivided attention. They listened intently, they raised their hands with input and they answered questions. Most importantly, we talked… about real life and about how they can make a difference in the world. I fully believe that my boys would risk their own life to help save another’s. I also know that they will educate their peers, donate to charitable causes and that they will want to play Angry Birds on my cell phone when I am done explaining to them how much life can suck sometimes.
I tell you that I want to rescue animals… You tell me that I am crazy.
I smile and tell you that we are all a little crazy… You tell me that I have went off the deep end.
I say that I want to make a difference… You say, “It’s such a waste of time.”
I try and remind you of how pets suffer at our hands… You remind me that most people don’t care.
I convince myself that there are enough of us out there that do… You make a point of proving that they don’t.
I awake each morning, dead set on proving you wrong… You awake smug, thinking it can’t be done.
I’m almost late to work and I’m never pulled together… You have time to stop for Starbucks and a paper.
My first task of the morning is seeing what dog’s we lost to a never-ending sleep… You spend your morning catching up on the office gossip.
I spend my lunch break sitting at my desk while I frantically post “Critical” and “Urgent” pets, filling my keyboard with crumbs of the vending machine sandwich I grabbed in a hurry… You spend lunch at a nice restaurant, laughing and having a great time.
I rush out the door and hurry home to my computer… while you pop in at the local bar for happy hour.
I’m lazy and eat out often because I have no time to cook… You hit the gym and have a home cooked meal.
I guiltily speak to my kids over the top of my computer… You recount tails of your trip to Disney World with your family.
When you ask my kids what they are going to be when they grow up, they tell you, “an Animal Rescuer like my mommy”… I don’t bother and ask you because I know your kid will be a doctor.
As I lay my head on my pillow each night, I have visions of pets cloud my mind… You just smile smugly and envision me, wasting my life.
A single tear falls to my pillow and the cycle all starts again. You see that single tear as weakness, but you’re wrong. That tear is strength, it is courage and it is the regeneration of hope that one day I will prove you wrong. Why you ask? Because you say that I can’t.