Today is another last day of school in our house. They just started school a few weeks ago but now we have a college graduate, a rising senior in high school, and a rising 8th grader. What the hell? I once figured out that we would have at least one child in primary school for 22 years, and now we have only 5 years to go. It is so cliché to say that it goes fast, and everyone tells you that, but I am here to tell you that it goes by so, so fast.
I did not have the opportunity to know my grandparents very well, but I do have happy memories of each one.
Dad’s mom used to offer my sisters and me gefilte fish every time we visited, first thing, right as we walked in the door. Although we never took her up on it (in fact, I don’t think you could have paid us to eat it), I love that this is something I remember about her. I still have a children’s encyclopedia that she gave us, signed in her own handwriting on the inside cover. She died when I was 11.
Mom’s mom used to give us Boo Berry cereal when we came to visit, and it was the best cereal EVER. Boo Berry was reintroduced a few years ago with a new formula and sadly it was not the same. My grandma died when I was 17, but she had suffered from Alzhemier’s for many years before that, so my memories of her without being ill are from when I was much younger.
Dad’s dad entertained us with animal noises when we were very little. He and Grandma lived in a small platform house, and when we jumped on the floor it made a racket, so he would tell us not to jump because we would wake up the ants under the house. It is funny what we remember; that and the dinners at Morrison’s cafeteria. Grandpa remarried after my grandma died, and he moved to a nice Jewish retirement community in South Florida. He died when I was in college.
Mom’s dad danced and sang when we visited him in Miami while I was growing up, and he was my only grandparent to be able to make it to my wedding. By that time, he was in a wheelchair and very frail. He died three years after I got married.
Sometimes we get another chance to have a grandparent, and I have claimed my husband’s grandmother as my own. This family I married into is large, very close, and most of them live close to each other. I should have known we had a connection when my husband (boyfriend, at the time), took me to his grandma’s house and the name of the street was my name. I later learned that Grandma was the one who chose the name of the street.
Grandma was diagnosed with cancer recently and just had surgery, so you might think I am writing this out of fear for what is going to happen in the months to come. I guess that is true to a degree, but really I just wanted to put down on paper, so to speak, the things that are on my mind. Grandma is independent, strong, caring, and somewhat cantankerous. She is a lot like me. Although we aren’t related by blood, I would swear that we were. She loves to read (I love to read), she is not afraid to say what she thinks (I am not afraid to say what I think), and she has a beautiful way of accepting everyone without judgment (I hope I can say the same for myself). The things I wish I could have learned about my own grandparents I have had the great fortune to be able to learn about Grandma – who she is, what she likes, what her life has been like, and stories about her children, her parents and 5 siblings, and her grandchildren before I knew them.
Besides my love for Grandma, I feel ridiculously lucky that my kids know their great grandmother. My kids know how lucky they are, and I take pride in that. What a special thing to be able to say you grew up having a relationship with a great grandparent. Grandma has 4 children, 7 grandchildren, and 11 great grandchildren. My daughter is the oldest great grandchild at age 21 and the youngest is just a baby.
Grandma does not like the helpless feeling she gets from having to rely on others to take care of her. She does not like feeling sick or being in pain (who can blame her?). Doesn’t it suck that our bodies start to fail us when we really are young inside? I told her before I left the hospital today that it’s going to suck for a few days, maybe a few weeks, but she’s going to get better. I know she will get better.
I have no words. Jon Stewart says it so well:
My dad took me to see the Challenger arrive for the first time, piggyback on a 747, in July 1982 at Kennedy Space Center. I watched from outside my high school when it launched on January 28, 1986. I was at lunch, hanging out in the band room, and we all stepped outside to watch the launch. Funny how something that happened 28 years ago can seem so clear to me. I feel blessed to have lived in Merritt Island during the beginning of the shuttle program; seeing it from my house, FEELING it from my house, going to KSC to watch the launches. My dad even got press passes for us once, and we saw it launch from the closest a spectator could get. I am sad that my kids don’t get that excitement. RIP to the crew of STS 51-L.
Okay, so I decided to pick through my friend list on Facebook tonight to weed out the people I don’t talk to very often or the ones I don’t really have contact with anymore. Here’s the thing: How do I unfriend people without hurting feelings? These are not people to whom I have any hard feelings. What if they are following me more closely than I am following them? So, I leave them on my list and only unfriend the ones who I have totally lost touch with, and maybe I “unfollow” them on my news feed. That way, we are still friends but my feed is not clogged up. Whew, being on Facebook can be a pain, right?
What spurred this on tonight was a disagreement with a friend, someone who I actually do see in person from time to time, and she proceeded to unfriend me. Obviously, it was not really a friendship, and I am not really hurt by it other than just feeling bad that I hurt her feelings, but this is what has made me think about the FB world. I would abandon Facebook altogether except for the friends who are truly my friends, in person, who I get the chance to “talk” to more via Facebook. And honestly, I like to share funny videos and post pictures of my family. I want to see pictures of my friends’ kids; it keeps me connected to a past that I feel quickly slipping away. Our kids played together, we volunteered together, we saw each other every day not so long ago. I don’t like the thought of losing touch with people like I did in the years from high school or college until Facebook became available.
Really, it is a process – of me coming to grips with the fact that in the not-so-distant future I will be entering the world of the empty nest. I am so lucky that I have a good relationship with my husband and with my family, and I look forward to the freedom to travel or move to another city, but it’s the unknown, and that’s scary.
The blog link at the end of this message brought many years of tooth fairy strife back to me. With my oldest, our tooth fairy once forgot to come and the next night my daughter got a note neatly done on the computer apologizing for getting behind and not coming the previous night. The next day, my daughter said, exasperated with me, “The tooth fairy doesn’t have a computer.” Well, that transition of losing the tooth fairy myth was pretty smooth.
My next child was a tooth fairy freak. She had this idea in her head that the tooth fairy was this very, very tiny fairy, so she would write little teeny tiny notes and leave them under her pillow: “What is your name?” “How old are you?” “When is your birthday?” The tooth fairy dutifully wrote back in teeny tiny handwriting. For the record, this is when we decided each child had his/her own personal tooth fairy. This child’s tooth fairy is named Pearlina, was 399 years old at the time, and her birthday just happens to be the same day as my daughter’s birthday. My daughter was thrilled, she even dressed up as the tooth fairy for Halloween, and these little notes are now in her baby book. When it came time for my last child to start losing teeth, my daughter was very excited to help him write notes to HIS tooth fairy. This tooth fairy is male, of course, and his name is Cal (short for Calcium) and his birthday is, lo and behold, the same day as my son’s.
Whenever a child would lose a tooth, I would write a small happy face on the back of my hand with a pen. Then, when I was getting ready for bed I would look at my hand and say to my husband, “Whoa, the tooth! You do it…” You see, this is a tradition that is not really my favorite. It is nerve wracking to have to exchange the money for the tooth without waking the child. What would happen if he or she woke up? Would it scar them for life? So, what did I do? I made my husband do it, God bless him.
My son, my youngest, recently lost the last tooth, and I am happy that chapter is closed. I am also happy that we made it special for our kids. Maybe they will continue the tradition with theirs.
So it hit me recently that from the time our children start kindergarten until they graduate from high school is only 13 years. That seems obvious, I know. But here’s the thing: assuming we live to the age we are told is the current US life expectancy, 78-ish, our childhoods last only 1/6 of our lives, a little less than 1/4 of our lives if you count babyhood. Whoa, THAT’S why it seems to go so fast.
I have a great relationship with my kids, at least in my mind I think I do. I hope they think the same, and those most important things in life – safety, family, morals, learning and teaching – we have those pretty well handled. Enter the electronics. Let’s define “electronics” – phones, iPods, tablets, TVs, game consoles, computers and all the cool things that they do, like Skype or other Facetime-type apps. We have Netflix, a DVR (which I love, by the way), a Wii, a PS2, an XBox, 4 tablets, 5 phones, 4 TVs, and 5 computers. This is not an inventory for the purpose of bragging; this is an inventory to demonstrate how many distractions are taking us (all of us) away from wanting to interact with each other in our own home. Thankfully, we still enforce family dinners and discussions, and my dear husband and I do have our time that we watch movies or shows together after the kids are in bed, albeit we are using one of those electronic devices, the TV.
The electronics keep us connected with our college-age child and with family and friends who do not live nearby. We like to play board games on the weekends when we are not running around like crazy, but even that is something we are forcing a little bit. I am coming to a realization, but it makes me sorta sad. I don’t know that I can continue to limit my kids’ time on their electronics and force family time outside of meals and trips. They don’t want to do things with us, and they don’t want to do anything in their free time besides be on their electronics, which makes me feel like I am losing control, but I guess I am not. I am just losing my connection. They remind me that it is their FREE time and they want to do what they want to do, so I am in the background reminding them of their obligations, what they don’t really truly want to do, and then the headphones go back on and they mentally disappear until bedtime.