Remembering

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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 rack empty 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…

Grandpa

Baby Marvin

High School

Wedding Day

June 14, 1947

At home – the house they bought new in 1957. Grandpa will take his last breaths in this room.

This is how I will always remember him – wearing my favorite glasses, smoking a pipe, and driving the white LTD.

Fancy!

He and Juniper were good friends. He called her Juni and liked to give her lots of treats. She repaid his kindness by taking on the role of guard dog.

Marvin, Marv to friends, Dad and Grandpa to a very lucky few.

Grandpa L O V E D. He loved his family, my grandma most of all. He loved an afternoon cocktail, the stronger the better, “A touch more whiskey, please, Leenie” (what he always called me). He loved to camp and especially to fish, sometimes to hunt. He loved to eat: cookies, a good tamale, salmon, asparagus with hollandaise, biscuits and gravy, pecan pie. He loved to have fun: to laugh, to tell stories, to play Farkle and throw horseshoes, to while away the afternoon in the company of a friend. He loved whistling to the radio, playing his favorite big band music and standards of yore. He was one of those people that charmed the room, easy going and light-hearted; his whole being said, “Welcome.” And though it was less frequent, he loved solitude, too: immersing himself fully in the crossword, sitting alone on the back porch watching the birds, smoking his pipe.

He served in World War II, after memorizing the eye chart to gain entrance to the Navy. He was among the lucky who saw no combat while serving in Guam, though was not spared injury, nearly dying from typhus while his unit attempted to find a cure. Upon his return, he met and fell in love with my Grandma in Albuquerque, and sold his car to buy an engagement ring. His best man drove them so they could celebrate with a single night in Santa Fe, taking the bus home.

Tenacious and charming, it was no surprise that he became a salesman for medical equipment, Cutco Knives, and an independent insurance agent, earning trophies, accolades, and trips for his hard work. He and my Grandma took a proper honeymoon to Niagara Falls (where they saw Joseph Cotten and Marilyn Monroe – her dress was painted on!!), and flew to Mexico, New York, Florida, and California, even a solo trip to Canada for the best fishing of his life.

His health declined since losing my Grandma nearly three years ago, and it was my great wish that he would die on the same day as she did, a sweet reunion of souls. I am beyond grateful the last of his suffering did not stretch out that long. He contracted pneumonia and fell three times last week, doing awful damage to his already fragile body, bruises and sores and wounds. He hurt everywhere, the lightest of touches causing him to cry out in pain.

Greg and I, knowing the time was near, came to give much needed respite to my exhausted mom, aunt, and uncle. We arrived Friday evening, and though he could no longer walk, his spirit was intact, giving a hearty “Bless your heart!” for baking his favorite biscochitos. He ate one, and we chatted and laughed before giving him his medicine and going to bed. I awoke to him screaming at 1:15, in pain or in terror, I am not certain. He refused more medication, but I was able to soothe him back to sleep.

Saturday, my cousins and our dear friend Sybil Ann surrounded him with love, and he delighted in seeing everyone and calling each by name.  We listened to his favorite music, Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand. As the day wore on, he became tired and grew confused, starting sentences with clarity but ending them in gibberish or not at all. I asked him if he knew where he was, and when he nodded yes, I said, “Hawaii, right?” He exploded with laughter and smiled! How glad I am to have made him laugh one last time. He ate a bite of cookie and slept a lot. The pneumonia was awful and the blanket hurt his tender skin, so I helped him cough out the uglies and rubbed pain lotion on his withered leg.

He shouted out and grabbed the hubster’s hand, “Greg! Help me up!” The hubster asked, “Where do you want to go?” Grandpa replied, “I don’t know…” but kept a firm grasp on his hand, only releasing it to mine, then Sybil Ann’s, hours having passed, keeping a last hold on this life, I suppose.

After the family left, we kept the music playing and he lost consciousness. The nurse came, taught me more ways to keep him comfortable, and we talked about the signs – there were more and more. I swabbed his mouth and gave him syringes of water to keep it moist. We went to bed.

I awoke at 2:30 to check on him, his poor body heaving. I swabbed his mouth again, gave him more water, and a dose of morphine to ease his pain. I stroked his hair and kissed his head. I whispered, “Good night, Grandpa. I love you. We all love you and will miss you. It’s okay if you want to let go.” Twenty-eight minutes later, he was gone.

Driving north Friday afternoon, May 19th. May 19th, snowy Colorado cold, my heart cratered and crushed, the talented and beautiful Chris Cornell dead and gone, and me and the hubster with tickets to a Soundgarden show that will never come to be. Life is full of surprises, some magical in their beauty, some terribly sad.

And these photos, taken in my grandparents neighborhood, which, save a Halloween when I was a wee child and have zero recollection, I had never really walked. So, many thanks to Ms. Juni B., without whom we never would have had reason to so thoroughly explore and spy a Wiley Coyote live and in person. What a privilege!

There was much that brought us north – a party to celebrate the son of a bestie graduating from high school (woot!), my own sweet nephew’s graduation (double woot!), and to spend time with my Grandpa. My Grandpa who is ninety-three and has cancer tendrils winding ever more thoroughly through his body. My Grandpa who now needs an oxygen snake following him about the house. My Grandpa who cries tenderly over the loss of my Grandma and looks with love and bewilderment at her beautiful face at every stage of her life. My Grandpa who I spoil with chocolates and his favorite home made meals – hollandaise with roasted asparagus, biscuits and gravy, and take out from our favorite (and BEST) tamale place – Moreno’s on Morrison Road – red, always, always red. We don’t speak of the inevitable, but it hovers and dances while we laugh and listen to our favorite songs.

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