Awakened by a Motorcycle

Startled awake by Kevin’s 5:15 am alarm, I lay there, with my head buried under the quilt and my back to him, praying that the 16 month old in the crib over by the far wall didn’t awaken. After all, I had just been up with him 2 hours ago.
The man of the house’s wake up routine begins nearly an hour before he actually gets up. Fearful of oversleeping, he insists on having a number of alarms staggered to go off at random times. Occasionally I will snooze right through them but usually I end up elbowing him (or toe’ing him, depending on how far apart we drifted on the king-sized bed that night). Hard.
Right now, the motorcycle alarm is going off. It’s crazy, the cacophony of sounds that echo in the darkness of our room thanks to the wonders of technology. Did you know that besides the motorcycle, iPhone also offers a piano, car horn, and alien invasion even?! Pretty sure the alien invasion terrifies my sleeping conscious the most. Consequently, those mornings that he sleeps through that one, he may awaken with a bruise already forming.

Today it was the motorcycle that got to me though. Something about that blaring engine, so full of life right there beside me in the darkness, taunting, screaming for me to get up and prepare for a new day annoyed me. I despise getting up early. A night owl by nature, I was always promised as a child that when I became an adult, that would change. Mornings would suddenly become relishly delightful, with fluffy squirrels and bluebirds singing broadway with me as I sat with coffee and a banana on the front porch awaiting the rising sun. Apparently, I’m not an adult yet.

I felt the anger rise. How can he just lay there, sleeping so calmly?! Couldn’t he respect my desire to sleep for 2 measly more hours and find it within himself to toss out his arm and pop that screen?! Now! Didn’t he understand that if the baby awoke, somehow our 3 year old would know this? And then she would bring her bright eyed morning cheerfulness into our cozy dark dungeon and shine it upon my wretched tiredness? And then..then….our 5 year old would somehow become aware of the party in our dungeon and bring his smart aleck 4 foot frame in there to bounce on the bed. And me. Like.a.trampoline. And they would talk. Incessantly! (Who talks before 7 am anyway?! Children, thats who.) All of this because of daggum Steve Jobs had this dumb idea to offer sleepers a ridiculous amount of freakishly annoying alarms.

I cocked my leg in readiness, about to sling shot my foot into his thigh when I felt him wiggle. I heard a sigh, felt a weight shift, and the alarm fell silent. The room stilled. A hand snaked under the covers and softly stroked my back. More weight shift. I felt a soft kiss on my hair. He assumed I was still sleeping. The bed emptied.

A couple stumbles later, a soft light flipped on in the master bath. Our room darkened once more as the door closed. Muted sounds of morning routine drifted past me. He emerged, minutes later, dressed in uniform for a job that requires him to work with high voltage electrical currents in all manner of weather and temperatures. He is on call 24/7. He’s never missed a day of work, and his only allusion to complaint would be his rare utterance of “I’m tired today, babe.”

I watched him through slitted eyes in the dim filtered light from the bathroom as he slid his leather belt into place, then gathered up his phone and hat. Tiptoeing to the side of the bed, he reached out to softly pet my hair, bending to lightly kiss my forehead.

And then he walked out of the room, out of the house, into the dark night air with nothing but the twinkling stars overhead for company.

Loss of a Grandmother

Time nor space nor age nor maturity can provide complete relief from internal losses we have suffered during this human journey. Whether a sudden sniff of faint remembered odor, a sudden shift in the coolness of air, or a certain twang of a familiar country song note hit just right, we are transported back in time swift as warp drive. 12 years in and today I still find myself suddenly longing for my beloved Granny!
Just shy of 5 feet tall, this tiny little country powerhouse survived the worst that life in the mid-20th century could throw at her, starting with the death of her mother at a young age, the Great Depression, the birth of 5 children during the 1940s, a massive heart attack, and the eventual death-by-cancer of her husband, whom she went on to live 22 years without. She also raise numerous goats, chickens and crazy tall ears of corn – all of which provided me with a wealth of fond childhood memories.
At the age of 80 you could still find her out front chopping wood for the iron cast stove in her 1940s cozy cinderblock 5 room home she had lived in since her youngest child (my father) entered school, hoe’ing one of her many garden plots, and calling on “them dadburn chickens” to come in their pen at night.

She could play a thoroughly wicked game of poker and taught all of us yougins the fine art of Go Fish, Old Maid and Gin Rummy, holding well worn cards with beaded, arthritic hands, capped in chipped ruby red nail polish…all while a lit Salem dangled from her leathered smiling lips. But don’t sip from her red solo cup mistaking it for her always-on-tap sweet tea or you may end up with a mouthful of Granny’s hard whiskey! If that DID happen though, be prepared for haughty laughter over the sound of the slamming forest green wood screen door in your rushed attempt to spit it out in the front yard! Ehem.. not that I would know personally, of course. 😉 Then there were the spooky fall nights, filled with crackling stove fire, 80s country music playing softly from the old grey tape deck, the eerie creak of the back porch swing, and whispered tales of UNK, the resident headless ghost who wandered Granny’s yard peeping through windows in his tireless quest for a new head (preferably from a brown haired child with a red shirt and white shorts…or whatever look you happened to be sporting that particular evening).

And now here I sit, well over a decade since I last heard her voice. I have so many questions I would love to ask her that never occurred to teenage-me! Questions about birth, raising multiple children, overcoming modern materialistic desire, what her thought about war were and how she survived without air condition. And although her voice timbre is almost faded from memory, and I’ll never get the answers to specific questions, her age-old life lessons still ring fervently in my ears.

And I hope she is proud of me.

Cancer Takes My Uncle

This past week, in the front bedroom of a small white 2 story unassuming peaceful country dwelling just past White Knoll High in Lexington, lay a small man barely 6 decades old, his shaved bald head pressed awkwardly into a white pillow as he slept. The peppered grey unruly beard upon his chin was the only vestige left of his earlier normal appearance.
In a mere 3 months time, his entire innocent body had fast succumbed to the most vicious mutant cancerous cells; his breath (even in sleep) now came in painful shallow, uneven gasps as his skeleton-thin chest heaved from life’s most basic instinct. Pillows were strategically positioned to elevate his spine and relieve pressure from the bone crushing tumors. A window air unit a few feet away was turned to low, spreading the sweet smell of cut gardenia blossom that sat in a vase nearby. It’s steady hum along with the soothing baby blue and white linen color scheme offered a sort of mind cooling atmospheric peace.He had no children, and no wife to comfort or grieve him. Instead, round the clock vigil was being kept by 3 of his 8 siblings. Other extended family members had been in and out for weeks, bringing food, cutting grass, and providing solace. But these 3 were a permanent fixture at their youngest sibling’s side. There would be no more graver a sin than to leave him alone now! He needed their presence, and their unmentioned sacrifice came as no surprise.

This proud family exuded love and dedication in their very bones – a heritage given to them by their parents who had bravely endured life (and death) together during some of the most heinous moments of the early and mid 20th century.

In a rocker at the foot of the man’s queen size bed, sat a tough, strait back, solemn purple-heart decorated Marine who had himself looked upon Death intimately during his years in the tropical jungles with the Vietcong. His civilian life the past few decades however had been dedicated to the housing, love and care of this youngest brother, who due to severe mental challenges and failing eyesight had been unable to provide a solo life for himself.

Just beyond the bedroom door, in a quaint old fashioned kitchen with black & white checked tile, RX medicine bottles sat organized and labeled in a plastic tub on the round oak table. Picking up the morphine and mouth syringe, his older sister adjusted her glasses, caught a ragged breath, and steadily measured out the appropriate dosage, which was being administered every two hours to edge the pain. What better a caretaker than she, who had provided the same tender end-of-life nursing to her own beloved soulmate of over 40 years as he suffered through the wretched stage 4 prostate cancer that finally claimed him in 2009?

Setting down a small bowl of finely puréed food they had attempted to feed the dying man earlier, the younger sister approached. “Sit down and rest, please, sissy. I will take it in this time.” she offered, absentmindedly smoothing down the front edge of the emerald blue kerchief she kept tied around her own fuzzy bald head, as her stomach rumbled in remembrance of too many skipped meals. A perpetual tiredness shown in her beautiful aging eyes, belying her own struggles with chemotherapy the past 6 months. No time for self pity. She paused only long enough to pop a lone gummy bear in her mouth. A moment later, medicine in hand, she eased into the quiet bedroom…and shut the door.

This morning, June 27, 2013, at 6:35 am, the morphine dosage was no longer needed. Instead, the pain ceased forever for the dying man – my poor uncle, my mother’s youngest brother. He was part of a very proud, close knit family of 9 children from Winnsboro, SC, born during the two decades spanning the late 1930s and late 1950s.

Uncle Floyd was an Artist, quiet, a loner, and laid back. He was not one for ridiculous small talk….but catch him at the right moment and his insight into life and sudden wit would overtake you, leaving you breathless. In life, he never had the opportunity to be a leader. But now, as the first of the 9 siblings to cross that great divide between here and eternity, he has earned his place as a leader amongst them….a General in combat, who fought his way bravely forward, alone, despite the frailness of his humanity. And like all good leaders, he will be there, waiting, hand outstretched, laughing his unique trippy laugh, encouraging us, as the rest of our family someday embarks, one by one, across that dark and lonely chasm between life and death.

But until then, the pain of his sudden and permanent absence is raw. He will be sorely missed here on earth.

Where Baby Jack Meets Mother Goose

Our local library offers a weekly Mother Goose Storytime for children under 12 months of age and their mommies. I’ve been saying since before Jack was even born that I was going to take him to reading circles and play groups, but wouldn’t you know it – here he is 8 months old and I hadn’t even been once.
So, this week I decided it was high time I got over my mundane shyness of all things social and force myself to sign him up.

You see, I’ve always been a pretty shy person in intimate settings. When it comes to larger functions (such as giving speeches) or performing in the business world, I do quite well. But when it’s time to show the “real me” and socialize, I get as tonguetied as a turnip in winter. I just don’t do the “talking to random people” thing very well.

But now I have a son who will depend on me for his social life for the better part of the next decade (especially since we plan on homeschooling).

So I need to start somewhere, right?

If I don’t start now, I may end up in a rut of hiding ourselves away from the world and Jack-Evan will be grey headed before he learns that there are “others” out there.

Ok, maybe I wouldn’t be that detrimental to my son’s future social life, but I did really want to take part in the Mother Goose Storytime this spring. All thoughts of “but he’s only 8 months old, Lisa” aside, I swallowed the huge gulp in my throat and called the children’s department at the library to sign up.

Our first class was this past Thursday morning at 10:30 am.

Upon entering the children’s section (which, BTW, is wonderfully decorated with life size “Where the Wild Things Are” illustrations by Maurice Sendak), I was greeted by Ms. Heather, a bubbly little lady who asked me if we were there for Mother Goose Storytime, and then wrote Jack-Evan’s name on a little mitten name tag. She even hyphenated his name and said it correctly – which is a big plus in my books. Most people upon hearing Jack-Evan’s name let their faces gloss over with a “I-didn’t-understand-what-you-said-so-I’ll-just-smile” look. The fact that she even knew to hyphenate eased my social anxieties tenfold. Her 60 foot wide smile helped a lot too.

I then took a seat at the tables in the back for a few minutes to await the start of the class. Soon, Ms. Heather (the resident Mother Goose, sans the outfit) gathered up all of us little ducklings and we waddled..uh..followed her into the story room. It was a comfy cozy room with nice, soft lighting and 4 huge quilts spread on the floor. In all there were 11 babies, 1 grandmother, and 9 mothers (one mother had twins). Plus Ms. Heather.

It was the first time Jack-Evan (and even I for that matter) had been in a room with so many babies his age. He’s been around smaller groups of toddlers and bigger children, but he’s only see one other “baby” in his life. Talk about being fascinated! For the first 7 minutes he sat almost motionless on my lap, letting his eyes roam around the room at all of the other babies who were goo’ing and crawling and (some) running amuk.

We started out storytime with a little “hello” song in which each child was welcomed using their name in the verse. Then we did a couple short finger play rhymes, another little song, and then a sweet book about daddy’s going to work was read. We repeated the pattern and read another book. By the end of the 2nd book, the kiddies were getting restless so we finished up with the most active poems (such as “Ackabacka Sodacracka” where we lift the babies in the air at the end) and they all seemed to love the motions. Ms. Heather then passed out the same colorful board book to all of us and we read the story outloud in unison, pointing out the words to the babies. Then it was time for the “free for all”. A few large tubs of books were passed around on the quilts, and we were encouraged to take them out and spend some time reading / looking through them with our babies (or just letting them crawl on them, as some did).

All in all, the whole thing lasted about 30 minutes. Jack-Evan seemed to enjoy it very much, and was very alert the whole time. He even tried to do hand motions along with Ms. Heather during a few rhymes. Now that he’s a “big boy” and knows how to wave bye bye and hello, he tries to do anything that has a “lifting the arm” motion to it! When he got ahold of the board book, he sat with it trying to turn pages and vocalizing. It was his way of reading to me, I assumed. Then he promptly tried to eat it. I’m so proud of my little reader! (Minus the eating the book thing though.)

So anyways, that’s what we’ll be doing at 10:30 am on Thursdays from now on. I know that according to experts, kids really don’t need a “interactive social life” until after 2-3 years of age, but it’s pretty cool joining in with other moms and doing (FREE!) activities alongside my son. I kind of think of it as “social life in training” (for me!). Perhaps after a few years of learning to socialize with stranger-moms at storytime, I’ll be ready to hit the big leagues and enroll Jack-Evan in Teeball without wanting to hide under the bleachers.

Originally posted in Little Jack’s Corner ©2009

12 Things My Baby Taught Me

  1. Life goes on
  2. Changes in life happen very quickly
  3. Slow down and admire the world
  4. Green trees are amazing
  5. Fun can be found in turning a lamp on and off
  6. If you’re not hungry, not wet, and not sleepy then life=contentment
  7. Eat with gusto, but stop when you’re full
  8. Greet each morning with a huge smile
  9. Who cares what clothes you wear?
  10. It’s alright to cry (it might make you feel better)
  11. Each day is full of new adventures
  12. Never lose your zest for discovery and learning

Originally Published on Little Jack’s Corner

Day in the Life of Baby Jack

(Voiced by 3 week old Jack, but typed by Mommy…of course)

INTRO: Psst…this is Little Jack. I am so glad to be down here in this new world. I miss living in heaven, but God sure did put me with a fun family. I’ve been having a blast the past few weeks! Since this is my blog, I asked mommy if I could describe what a typical week day looks like for me. She said yes! So here is my version of what goes on in my world. Weekends look quite different, (o perhaps I’ll talk about those later.)——

5:00 AM : Gee, what is up with my parents thinking they should get up so…*yawn*…early! Why can’t they stay here in bed with me? Dad kisses me bye, and says something about this place called work that he must go to. He goes there for a long time when it’s light outside. I miss him.  

5:30 – 7:30 AM : Time to eat! But first mommy changes me out of my diaper. It’s chilly in here so I cry to let mommy know how unhappy I am to be naked. The sheet also feels a little squishy. I think my diaper leaked. As much as I hate my diaper being changed, it feels so much better once she’s done… and I snuggle back up close to her.

7:30 AM : Time to eat again! (I get hungry very often)

10:00 AM : I wake up and discover Mommy is gone! Fearing that someone has stolen my mommy from me, I start to cry. Plus, it’s very scary in here by myself! Thankfully, mommy magically reappears as soon as I cry. It seems that she was only in the other room doing some laundry. Good, because I’m hungry again.

11:45 AM : It’s time to wake up for good, and get out of bed. Mommy calls me her little sleepyhead. What she doesn’t realize is that if I could walk, I would have been out of bed hours ago! With my new diaper and playtime clothes on, I’m ready to tackle the world.

12:00 – 5 PM : Playtime! I’m always wide awake for 4-5 hours strait each day, so there is a lot to do and see. Mommy and I do lots of fun things together. Some days she reads books to me, sings special songs, and makes funny faces. Sometimes I lay in her lap while she checks email on the laptop or plays musical CD’s for me (today we’re listening to children’s opera). And other days we pack up and head to Grammy & Papa’s house! Yesterday me and mommy took our first trip alone – we went to the library! Or, at least thats what she told me. I was in my sling on mommy’s chest and had fallen asleep. Oh…let’s not forget breaks to eat and refresh my diaper! At least I don’t cry quite as much any more when my diaper is removed.

5:30 – 7 PM : There is so much excitement in the air!! My daddy is arriving home!! I sure did miss him. As soon as he comes in I yell for his attention. I love it when daddy finally picks my up and cuddles – although I don’t see why he always insists on changing my diaper first. Usually I fall asleep on daddy’s chest as he wacthes TV. On other days, me, dad, mom, grammy and papa go out to eat. Mom always feeds me before we leave. For some reason she refuses to let me eat food at the restaraunt. I wonder why?

( love it when I have my mommy and daddy all to myself!)

7:30 – 10:00 PM : Night time is relaxing, so I usually just nap, eat, get changed, and eat some more. Often, you’ll find me curled up on dad’s chest while mommy takes a bubble bath. If we’re still over at gammy & papa’s house, I get to spend time snoozing on papa’s big belly. Life is great!

10:30 PM : It’s bedtime! While mommy brushes her teeth, daddy changes my diaper… then they switch and mommy washes me off, puts on my comfy pajamas, and messages my legs and feet with baby lotion. It sure is relaxing! Mommy always giggles when I stretch my legs and toes out for more. Then it’s time for one last meal and a story book before drifting off to sleep.

Originally posted on Little Jack’s Corner