Wednesday, August 24, 2011

10 Days Later

It has been 10 days since the birth of my grand daughter.  I have many pictures of her and receive almost daily reports of my Peanut.  While its not the same as being able to see her in person, I will soon enough, and it was the deal I knew going in. 
Traveling through this life I have been granted, when I thought about the future, (which wasn't often enough), it seemed a road fairly straight into the horizon.  It was occassionally blurred by mists and a storm or two would block it for a time, but it always seemed pretty assured.  I would grow old gracefully, not worrying about expanding waistlines and drooping parts that once had been my pride and joy in "perkiness".  Kurt would find hobbies he would love and after retirement would be content to putter.  We would have grandchildren like baby bunnies all around our feet, and our days would be filled with laughter and contentment.  Sometimes I wonder what I was smoking at the time to have had these visions.  When had my life ever gone in such an unudulating path?   I would suppose I had envisioned every facet of my life in a certain way.  Childhood to teen years and dating.  I never had the "Ozzie and Harriet" television version of being a teenager, and yet, I survived it pretty much intact and by other's standards it was almost idyllic. 

We didn't know we were the "Me" generation, post Vietnam, and yet very much influenced by what happened there.  We didn't know that those cars, the guys among us drooled over, the Dodge chargers, Chevy camero's and corvettes, Ford novas and mustangs, would someday fetch alarming prices if we had only hung onto them when we could finally afford one.  We didn't know that, though many of us got college degrees, many of us didn't use them at the time, females especially if they married, still stayed home if they could.  Many of us still went into the big manufacturing jobs available as the last of their kind.  I didn't know that after graduating college with a teaching degree and no romantic entanglements, that I would meet the man I would marry, the summer after graduation and never really attain that career. 

I didn't know that having children would change my life.  An abrupt change that no one prepared me for.  Thank goodness for two sets of grandparents and many aunts and uncles and siblings that helped me along the way, and allowed me to keep my sanity that first winter with a newborn.  The children got easier, as like learning to make pies, raising children was about practice and it an on the job, 24/7 kind of training.  I was fortunate, looking back that my kids were pretty easy.  They were healthy, and I believe happy, though they might beg to differ. 

I centered my life around family and Kurt centered his life around the family business.  We were like our friends, raising families and working for the American dream, voting in elections but too busy raising kids and pursuing our pleasures to pay much attention to politics and where this Nation was going.  We suffered minor recessions that now seem inconsequntial and gas wars that really seem silly in light of today's $4 a gallon fluxuations.  We suffered stresses that gave us stomach problems, and drinking problems and many learned to smoke cigarettes and spent years trying to quit the insidious habit.  Because I didn't work, I thought we sacrificed some things, but we still took vacations with the kids, patronized their sports endeavors and were able to buy them the latest toys or clothing.  They might see it differently, but looking back I wish we had gone with even less or perhaps I had chosen to go back to work at a time when they were all in school.

Choices were made and many times choices were made for lacking of making a choice.  We chose to stay where we were because it was comfortable and secure at that time.  I never thought that going through it, as there was always something to worry about, but we were secure living our part of the American Dream.

Somehow we put the kids through college.  One year we had three in college, the year of 9-11.  I remember it vividly as the 10 year anniversary approaches, because after the cataclysmic events happened that forever altered us as a Nation, I remember calling each of the kids at their schools to make sure they were okay.  I knew they were, but I had to hear their voices on that day.  I breathed a sigh of relief when Annie graduated from Western Michigan University, thinking my days of paying college tuitions were over, and it was now "us" time and time to start thinking about what Kurt and I wanted to do for the rest of our lives.  Time to start being the couple again, but two weddings and two children leaving the state, one the country for a time, seemed to put that off, indefinitely once again.  And once again it was easier to do what I had always done, tackle each thing as it came along and not look into the future too far. 

In remembering it all life is a series of doors you go through.  You pick door number 1, 2 or 3 and sometimes you don't even realize you are choosing a door or walking through it.  We are given challenges every day by our Creator and He guides us.  Whether we always pay attention is another story, but He is always there.  I will face many challenges in the rest of this year and my years here on earth, and slowly like  training a child, I get it through my stubborn head that I can affect how I regard the challenges in my life, though I am in the end never in command of my own ship.  I am just a traveler through this life that is mine.

Ten days old is my grand daughter Vittoria and so much lies ahead of her and her parents.  I think that's why grandparents were made, to fully relish what lies ahead....

Monday, August 15, 2011

Grand daughter...

Christmas 2010 was a happy time as I found out both of my sons would become fathers in the coming year.  At long last I would become a grandma.  We later learned we would be blessed with a boy for our eldest son and his wife and a grand daughter for my second son and his wife. 

Any grandparent will tell you that grandchildren are life changing, even at a time, you'd thought you had seen all the changes you could possibly handle in your lifetime.  There are always more surprises I have learned. 

Two pregnancies, quite different, and different we knew would be the paths each would take, but the joys of a healthy baby would be the same and the happiness of new grandparents would be delightful.  This we knew and anticipated.  We were not disappointed.  My grandson I was able to see minutes after his birth.  It was a sensation I did not expect to feel, and I was surprised and almost overwhelmed by the power of it.  The feelings calmed down and life settled into a routine for him and his parents as they learned the ropes of parenthood.  I knew it would be different with my grand daughter.   I wouldn't see her minutes after her birth and could just hope and pray that everything went easily for both and I was prepared to live on pictures of her right after and the accounts from my son of her adventure entering this world. 

We were awakened at 6 a.m. here yesterday morning.  They were at the hospital and she was in labor and while it would be awhile, we would have a grandchild at some point on the day.   So began our Sunday, trying to be a normal Sunday while staying close to the phone.  Having been through first babies, myself, I was guessing it would be after noon, here before she would arrive.  I missed that estimation by only a few hours.  The morning went fairly quickly as we had things to occupy us.  But noon, in my mind was the end point.  Noon passed and then 1:00 and 2:00.  After 2:00 officially passed I was starting to become nervous.  Kurt said to call Korey, but I didn't want to catch them in the middle of it all and I figured Korey's phone would be turned off anyway.   So we waited and I began to find "put off" jobs to do.  When I am nervous, I need to be involved in something so I went outside which always has things for me to do.  I want to say I was nonchalant about it all and was an old hand at being a grandma now, but I wasn't and this one was so different.  Just before 4:00 in the afternoon, my son called and our grand daugher was born.  We had nothing more than her name, which I got wrong, the first time out, as she was pretty new and haven't even been weighed and measured yet.  That would wait until the next phone call along with a picture of how gorgeous she was.  I guess it was the big secret of grandparenthood.  As long as all are healthy, everything else is gravy. 

The tears came after when I saw her, and realized I wasn't there and she would look so different when I finally got to meet her in person, but they were happy tears and grateful tears, that all had been brought safely along in this world. 

As my daughter, Annie, who has been "Baby Girl" for a good many years, since her aunt tagged her as such, and will probably always be my Baby Girl, there's a new one in our family and I and she will happily look forward to September and our meeting of her and every special thing she will bring to all of us. 

Welcome to the World, Baby Girl....Grandma loves you and can't wait to meet you...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Is it August already? Part II

Somehow July slipped by me.  We had the Historical Society's annual ice cream social and the end of July saw us attending the Saginaw County Fair.  We didn't have ice cream social's when I was a kid so for me those are relatively new experiences which knit the more senior of our community together.  They come for the ice cream, scooped expertly by me, (at least I am getting better at it every year).  They listen to a band comprised of mostly senior gentlemen but a couple of 30 somethings add a nice touch and I respect their committment to playing music that is old by my standards.  This year I saw women I had gone to school with now sheperding their mothers to seats and laughing about how far we have come, or gone.  We have now quite often become the parents to our parents, something we could not have imagined 10 years ago.  But it is what life doesn't tell us.  I am finding that in every stage of my life, I have arrived unprepared and I am constantly learning on the job and maybe that's the way it should be.  It would be nice to have our visions of life at the end be close to what we expect, but surprises make us appreciate the good so much more.   So the ice cream social was people getting together for a brief time to listen to music, to sweat, (it was a 90+ day), and eat ice cream and laugh about diets not being in the realm of a hot fudge sundae. 

While my childhood run in's with ice cream were of the Merrill Whippy Dip and homemade variety, the County Fair was in my memory from my earliest recollections.  I can't remember a time we didn't go, and it was always held in September, and quite often rain would drown out forays if we waited too long to go.  It was magical the few times we went at night, the ferris wheel and bullet lit from all over the area.  When we were old enough for 4-H we almost always went on the day the cooking entries had to be in.  We got in free if we carried in a baked item for the Fair.  For us the rides were the least of the Fair.  The Fair was about caramel and candied apples, elephant ears and rock solid ice cream cones dipped in chocolate and then rolled in crushed peanuts.  It was french fries in a cup right out of the hot oil and sprinkled with vinegar and generous dollops of ketchup.  It was corn dogs and bags of popcorn, often given out free in the vendors buildings.  We made a slow tour of the grounds, generally starting with the barns, as that's where the 4-H barn boys hung out.  The 4-H kids who brought animals got 3 or 4 days off school to stay with their animals and it was as much a party as anything.  After trying out our burgeoning flirting techniques on clueless boys we went to the other barns where draft horses so huge there back ends stuck far out into the isles and bulls so huge they needed pens all to themselves, and finally pigs so wide they seemed incapable of standing and lay on their sides letting an occasional grunt escape.  

After the barns were thoroughly perused we would amble up the Midway deciding which rides we would go on when we finished doing everything else.  We weren't all that courageous and the ferris wheel was enough to make us squeal for the rest of the day so it was saved until close to last.  The vendors buildings were next after the 4-H building where we it seemed to extend forever and we knew so many of the names on exhibits and clothing and baking.  We all had our 4-H projects and I just wanted to be old enough to have a camera and exhibit in the photography show.  Somehow when I got to be that age, I had left 4-H behind and never entered the upper eschelons of high school 4-H projects.  

The vendors buildings meant a stop at the first place that offered bags to store all the loot we could pick up on a couple of go throughs.  There was the usual pamplets we picked up from everything to home building to insurance and weather tight windows.  Yardsticks, pencils, rulers and frisbees were just a bit of the junk we picked up on our way.  We came out laden with bags bulging and then had to decide on rides or carnival shows.  The carnival shows, such as the bearded lady always seemed enticing, but our allowances wouldn't cover the shows and the rides and the rides usually won out.  From the top of a ferris wheel, the world spread out before us and was magical.  While the seats were stopped and patrons let off we would sit on that top seat for a brief minute and our breath would escape us at how we had left the world behind.  The ordinary rural kid's life we all lived every day was suspended in the County Fair every year in September.

But as things go, they change.  They grow or they stagnate.  The Fair was losing patrons every year.  Its down town venue became a place where no one wanted to be at night any longer.  The 8 day fair seemed mired in rain half the time and it was becoming financially impossible to keep it going as it had.  Many suggestions were made but the one that finally caught ground was the building of a new fairgrounds in Chesaning, the far south end of Saginaw County, and a smaller schedule would be put in place.  It went from 8 days to 5 days and was changed from rainy September to late July or early August which was usually a dry period.  Rural Chesaning was a good place to hold a County Fair.  The parking was safe and abundant and there was space for growth.  We don't go every year, but like to go every couple of years.  Sadly what used to take us three or four hours now can be done in an hour.  As with everything the size has shrunk.  One building for 4-H exhibits and the collections exhibits which are all that remain of the "home" arts.  A smaller building for livestock, horses, pigs and sheep share a building and chickens and rabbits share another small building.  The Midway is scaled down but still seems "midway" sized.  The food isn't the same, but then I'm not a kid any longer either. 

The biggest draws seems to be the track which hosts demolition derbies, and big truck and auto races that filled the stands the evening we were there. 
In these times, we hold onto those things that are the best of our childhood memories.  They may in reality be just a memory but we can't quite give them up, and hope every time we go to catch lightning in a bottle, even though we may be reduced to a lightning bug in that bottle, and our memories will still be the best part of these events.

While it may not be quite what I remember, in these times of upheaval and nothing old is new anymore, in hundreds of venues all over the states, County Fairs still go on, and I hope always will...

Is it August already?

What happened to July?  It was here and it was hot and it was dry.  We wanted rain, we needed rain, but we never got rain.  We ran the AC because it was hot, and I railed against it.  I got my watering routine down to a fine science.  Lug hoses here, lug hoses there, lug hoses everywhere.

I helped work dogs at nights that weren't training days.  I was the "bird boy" or bird dummy who threw the bird dummies.  I read a couple of very good books, one suggested by a friend about mother/daughter relationships and when a special relationship is at a turning point does it survive.  Though I knew what the ending would be, I still found the book satisfying as I can now look back on my relationship with my daughter, Annie, and know that we survived sometimes rocky days and nights, to a comfortable one in which she has become my friend as well as my daughter.  Maybe we had to go through all the other stuff to get to that.  Our relationship was different than my mom's and mine.  She was always my mom but I knew even as a child she was my shield against any storm, and I trusted her with everything.  There was little I didn't tell her even as a teenager and she knew after my first date with Kurt, he was the "One".  After my marriage our relationship changed, and she went into that place called "life after the kids leave".  We learn to do it, sometimes easily, but many times begrudgingly and sometimes we are terrified by a house without children.  But for her, there was little leeway time between children leaving and grand babies appearing.  My brother Kim and I kept her in grandchildren for almost a decade.  She developed friends that weren't a part of our lives just as we developed friendships with others, over our own kids and their friends and friend's parents. 

Somewhere along the way of my children leaving babyhood and becoming busy children and then more busy teens, I lost my mom for a bit.  I didn't really lose her, but her solid place in my life was replaced by family; my family.  She was always there but there were times where weeks went by where we weren't in constant contact.  When my own children left home, I understood.  It was a process and the last was the hardest to let go off into the world.  Maybe I should have celebrated that jump to "me time", but it I felt alone and unmoored.  I wasn't sure what my next role should be.  Over time, I and Kurt carved a life for us that was ours alone.  We figured out living alone.  The boys brought home girlfriends.  Some stayed, some didn't.  Finally they each found "the One" and we had weddings and things to plan and a future once again.  With these joyous events though came the loss of Dad.  It hit us very hard as we had little preparation time for this and you go on auto pilot just trying to get through all the things that need to be done after.  We crossed days off our calendars, and tried to make sure Mom was included, but we were silenced by her stoic attitude, and mostly we wanted to believe she was alright because she was the strong one in the family and we knew it. What I didn't anticipate, was the independence was a cover for how she and Dad had leaned on one another.  We all hoped that spring would be the answer, but it wasn't.  Its almost 5 years and we have all adapted but there is a point of reference missing for us all.  I always thought that point of reference was my mother, but maybe it was our dad. 

I guess I don't know how I would react were I in her shoes, and I hope I don't ever have to deal with it, but I likely will.  I have seen the things I love about her and the things that I want to be different and maybe that's what being a parent is all about.  I now see my very different daughter, coming to share things with me.  We share more than just genes and some kind of blonde hair.  I hope that's what its all about. 

I have my mom's eyes, her mousy hair, and her need for quiet time to reflect.  I have my dad's hands, his voice, and his nose.  I have the love of surprises and the need to see new things from him.  My mom's love of reading and my dad's head for math.  My dad's flat feet, and his love of chocolate, her steadiness and my mom's love of baking.  I hope someday that my own daughter and my sons will look at themselves and say we are our parents children and its a good thing.