Remembering

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Greetings! Oh, gosh, whenever I type that word it gives me a start, thinking of my Grandma Frances, and how later in life, she would walk into a room and say “Greetings and hallucinations!” I never found it funny because she was such a complicated character in my life. As a little girl, I adored her. She was clever, adventurous, generous, fun, funny, and let me stay up impossibly late to color with markers or talk and play King’s Corners and Concentration. She took me to the dime store where we bought shockingly red pistachios from the heat lamp carousel and shared Russel Stover salted nut rolls. She loved to take me to the movies, to the show as she would say.

As we both got older, I would meet her for the first time, meaning, her faults and idiosyncrasies came into full view.

My Grandmother was bipolar and likely a borderline personality, but it didn’t become fully evident to me until I was nine or ten, though there were plenty of signs. Like the fact that she reamed my Dad for not doing her bidding, or that she so fully believed, as an old enough to know better girl, in her ability to FLY, that she jumped off the roof of their house and broke her collarbone. Or that she had shock treatments. All of this, she told me as if it happened to everyone, all the time.

I have told you about my sister, the harsh words, the beatings, the fact that I had to have a lock installed on my bedroom door to keep her from me and stealing anything she felt she deserved more than I did – clothes, money, jewelry, trinkets. So, as you might imagine, any time away from my childhood home was a gift, where I could be guaranteed a day without my sister’s abuse, the loudness of my parents and brothers. Where I didn’t have to hide in my room to feel safe.

On the occasion I met Grandma Frances for the first time, I went her house for a weekend. She lived with my Great Grandma Tillie (her mother), and unbeknownst to me, they had hatched a plan for me to spend the time with my cousin Becky. Bless her heart, Becky was kind, but I only saw her as an awful interloper. She was nothing like me. I have no idea how she turned out, but at the time, I didn’t find her terribly bright or interesting or fun. A dud. She breathed heavily through her mouth and smelled funny. It feels cruel to type the words as an adult with hopes of all children getting along, but, through the lens of a little girl looking for escape from her family, my heart can’t help but break a little. No one ever asked me what I wanted or needed or felt. I was crushed. My time with Grandma was ours, special. That she would do this, however well intentioned, felt like a betrayal.

I asked my Grandma to take me home. Thankfully, she did, but oh, oh, oh, the litany of abuse I got during the car ride home. You’d think I’d committed a mortal sin. The twenty minute drive stretched into what seemed like hours.

And so, I became more guarded around her, made decisions that would make me safer from her vitriol and unpredictable moods. Which only became more erratic and cruel, her mind vacillating from what was mostly normal to the awful psychosis of bipolar disorder. She literally became crazier and crazier, hurling insults, believing impossible lies about friends and relatives, getting in trouble with the law, being institutionalized. It was a terrible time, especially considering all she had endured and accomplished.

She was widowed, quite tragically, at 32, but found the strength to raise three children and have great success working at Sears. A master at bridge and a devout Catholic, she did much for her local parish. A dear friend to many, driving just about everyone without a car wherever they needed to go. She loved music and parties and politics and volunteered for the Democrats. Her favorite drink, a Brandy Alexander. Her scent, White Shoulders. She chewed Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum (I do too!).

But her illness and her lack of belief in it, there was absolutely nothing wrong with her, destroyed our relationship. A death by a million cuts, from the moment I met her that first time, as a child. It is the greatest loss of my life.

And so this post, where I started with a cheerful picture of pie (delicious and wonderful cherry), and thought about that first word, greetings, turned so dramatically. A bit like life, I suppose.

Hello, and happy Friday from my FIRST visit to Greeley! It’s funny how I was born and have spent the majority of my life in Colorado (31 years!), yet so much here is undiscovered. In an effort to remedy this, Greg and I went with my parents last weekend, mostly to visit the grave site of my great-great grandparents, Francesquita (Francesca) and William (the adults above, with Clifford, Tillie {my great-grandma}, and Lula) at the Linn Grove Cemetery. It’s been nearly 100 years since their deaths, so it’s about time, right?

Unfortunately, as they were awfully poor in life, we are fairly certain their graves have no headstones. The four of us wandered and searched, literally dug up grass, and Juniper gave her best sniffs, to reveal other nearby graves. We found a whole branch of the Card family (the name of one of my besties, Andie!!), and a LeRoy Williams, but no more. Now we will be purchasing a proper headstone for them. I do believe they deserve it.

As for Greeley, it turns out it is a pretty neat city, with the University of Northern Colorado its jewel in the crown. There are many fine murals and sculptures lining the main street (8th Avenue, actually) and a whole host of restaurants, sweet shops at a at least one distillery. When I return to see the new headstone, I’ll take more pictures!

And to the neighborhood where I grew up, with Little Dry Creek looking rather fine and a fun bit of mailbox art. As we strolled along, I contemplated the minimum number of times I walked along the banks, as it was my route to elementary school (K-6). In those days, the majority of kids walked (only Brandon Johnson and Heidi Geisler got rides on the daily), no matter the weather. I remember some supreme bundlings in winter and the two times I got a ride home from school.

The first was the day my parents bought the 1977 Monte Carlo and celebrated by taking us home early. A HUGE deal! The other was during a rather frightening tornado. Our neighbor Joyce picked us up in her Land Cruiser since my dad and the Monte Carlo were at work. Anyhoo, to that minimum calculation, 1890. How impossibly large that number seems now, a million steps ages and ages ago.

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The hubster and I both dreamt about my Grandpa last night, of him being with us before realizing the reality of his death. Both of us reminded of the truth that the dead never leave us. He is here, beside us, as we type, move, and breathe. Always.

There is serendipity in the dreaming, too. Today, my grandparents house sale is finalized. The last place to smell of them, of sixty years lived well in one treasured spot. The porch light will not be left on for me. No more glimpsing through the windows, across the street, onto the porch, or the Skulavik’s yard. I have taken one last look in the mirror at the end of the hall. Grandma hasn’t swept nor dusted in more than three and a half years. My hand will no longer shhhh down the banister, to the raucous stair creak of a million exuberant Lewis, Sohn, and Johnstone steps. Every game, National Geographic, book, and beloved record, Chicken Fat to Herb Alpert, emptied from the shelves my Grandpa built. A snazzy rack void of his ties. And I, the not terribly sentimental type, weepy at the thought.

There will be traces, however, a beloved photograph buried in a jar. A few pieces of furniture, and the remains of our love and laughter, racing like neutrinos, through every atom of the house.

A dear friend lives here! We ate and talked and enjoyed Fifty Licks of ice cream. The time whooshed and the sky turned starry.

Luna graduated from preschool!

Aloha!

Lucky to have had these fine folks as my Portland neighbors. It was like I never left.

Zoran likes workbooks. His Mama does, too.

Super Girl Heart Warrior

picnic in a box

Much beloved Portland rain, tumbling down just for me. Or so I like to think.

Kill your television?

As I was short on time and long on activities, I didn’t make a visit to my favorite bridge in the world, so imagine my delight when the plane home gave me this view.

And then this one of THE old neighborhood! I walked and biked and drove every one of these streets in happiness and sheer joy, sometimes in tears, always in gratitude.

Can you see the plane shadow surrounded by a rainbow? It was much, much clearer when first I spied it but wasn’t quick enough to capture. But still, how cool?

Denver! Almost home…

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Oodles of zoodles, and a few meatballs, too. Zoodles, if you don’t know, are made by spiralizing a zucchini, which is pretty darned awesome. Heat them in the oven, and they, to my mind, are the best substitute for pasta. But that isn’t really fair, because I would honestly rather eat the zoodles. Really!

Why? I have been trying, and succeeding a good 90% of the time (sweets the weightiest albatross), at eating low carb. Not to be part of a growing bandwagon, but because my body has gotten very LOUD about what constitutes its best fuel. After trying just about every food combination imaginable to keep my hormones (and dreaded endometriosis) in check, keto (low carb high fat) works THE best. I have very little pain, fewer hot flashes, better digestion, more energy and focus (I didn’t know how foggy I was until I made the change). Also, to quote my friend Chrissie, “Where did your wrinkles go?” She is exaggerating, but my skin looks and feels great for a forty-six(!) year old. So zoodles, and casseroles consisting of my favorite pizza toppings (fennel, roasted bell pepper, mushroom, & Italian sausage), salmon, hamburgers without buns, bacon, and piles and piles of green things: broccoli, asparagus, cucumber, kale, lettuce, avocado, cabbage. These are my staples. So good.

Such a sap for this sweet girl, who, even in sleep is almost always on the move, wiggling, panting, stretching, smiling, cuddling. Juniper Beulah, I love you!

And to make this post an even more odd assortment, tomorrow I am going to my grandparents house for the first time since my Grandpa died. For reasons both obvious and puzzling, I am feeling a bit wrecked at the prospect. My family, member by member, is taking furniture and knickknacks, items random and sundry, and dispersing them to the four winds and our respective homes. My list includes a ladder-back chair, a whisk, bookends, a bowl, muffin tins, and a stool. Every single item touched by my grandparents hands, well used, loved even. Soon enough the house will be empty of Lewis and Sohn and Johnstone traces. With laughter, the sound of traffic, the flutter of toilet paper by the heat register, the creak of stair to the basement, a glimpse in the mirror at the end of the hall seen and heard by other eyes, filled with other voices. More than sixty years of memories. My whole life, thus far, and I am at a loss. Say a little prayer for me…

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