Rings On My Finger

I am a chronologically old woman, 7 decades measured and counting. Growing up in a nurturing protected neighborhood, that mythical village, my siblings and I shared the blessing of never having quite enough, of always being required to try harder.

Political correctness came long  years later and our discipline included the occasional ‘good spanking’ to teach a lesson.   The culture of that time believed in ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’, especially in questions of attitude.  Mom and Dad struggled as the country climbed from the depression, giving us the best that was theirs to give.

We received our early formal education and training from women of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth.    Jesuits and Benedictines handled a large part of our college educations.  Discipline and humility held up the foundation.

Two marriages to two good men gave my life balance, reality checks and the richness of ‘for better and for worse’.   Each marriage extended my  family and I am grateful for what I have learned from each member of that very large group.

Marriage gave me the most precious gifts of my life–my five children.  Each of them fills me with awe and appreciation.  Their gifts are strong and enduring.  Life situations have not always treated them gently, but they handle what happens and they move through it.

My education provided me with a paycheck for doing what I would liked to have been able to do for free.  Teaching was a 28 year ‘fire-in-the-belly’ that never banked.

Through my time from childhood to crone I have often been overwhelmed by the generosity of  friends, colleagues, neighbors and acquaintances.   These past four months are powerful life lessons in the blessings of enduring support.

And now?  Now I am Grandma/Nana.  No one could be more blessed by the lives of the five grandchildren who gave me my new titles.  With my wedding band, I wear a five stone mother’s ring given to me about 30 years ago.  Next to those two rings,  I wear a five stone grandmother’s ring that I gave to myself 18 years ago.

Rings on my finger, blessing of my life.


Dance With Me, Henry

Set my soul on fire.  Aren’t those lyrics from some 1950’s song?

Henry is our youngest grandchild, fifth of the most amazing line of Crystal children.

In Four Ordinary Women, we wrote about our children and my chapter was “In My Father’s House There Are Many Mansions”.  My children are my mansions.

Over the past few difficult days, my children have infused me with their love, concern and wisdom.    And three of my children married partners who added new beauty and wisdom, making ICU days become times of positive belief in healing.  My children and their spouses offered their wisdom, their presence, their support, their time, their homes…their love.

Five crystal grandchildren have blessed us with overwhelming joy.  Cain and Molly are young adults finding their passions and making their personal statements.  I love them so much.

Frank is six, funny, happy, charming, bilingual and learning a third language.  He is determined to be reincarnated as a girl because girls are prettier and have nice hair.   I love this  Crystal boy.

Sam is our joy one day each week.  Sam is bull stubborn when he sets his course,  a train buff who sings while he plays but gently says, “Nana, we are not going to do that today” whenever I try to sing.  I love this Crystal boy.

And Henry?  Henry to dance with me and set my soul on fire?  Henry is one year old, red-haired and darling.  But we don’t know Henry as we know the other grandchildren.  So today I had to make a decision to find all of Henry’s Crystal by getting Bob out of ICU.  Nothing medically supports my decision to will Bob to wellness.  “Plateau’ isn’t a particularly encouraging word.  Doesn’t matter.

I decided that ICU will have a positive outcome because Bob needs to dance with Henry, to do the Grandpa, GP, Papa dance with this tiny Crystal boy.  Nothing else will do.

So I will whisper words of love and healing more than I have been doing, trusting that the sedation won’t cloud my meaning.  I will hurry Papa along, telling him that we cannot miss time with our family, our children and grandchildren.

Bob can have what time it takes to heal. Henry will wait but it really is time to  “Dance With Me, Papa”.    That dance will happen.

Peanut Butter Grandma and Little Frank

Yesterday was birthday 72, a reminder that one of these days the adjective ‘old’ will apply.  Not yet.  The hair is silver, not gray.  The step is quick and determined.  The denim shirts and Birks remain unchanged in the last 20 years.

Keeler Women’s Center has offered the opportunity to facilitate a journaling class.  Four Ordinary Women is reinventing.  We continue to do author events, speaking about our writing group, the process and the importance of women to women communication.  In addition, we now offer our experience to any group wishing to take the same route to adventure–writing, supporting and publishing.  Patti and I offer perspectives on that great concept, authenticity.

If you are a regular visitor to this blog,  Gentle Reader,  you know I show amazing restraint when it comes to letting you know that my grandchildren are beautiful, wonderful and amazing–that my children and my grandchildren are my Alleluia moments.  They are,and I do— show restraint.   Birthdays allow exceptions.

To Peanut Butter Grandma and Little Frank

Frank lives in Greenville, S.C., is a six-year-old pirate with at least four years of experience as Captain Jack Lobster and the author-illustrator of Peanut Butter Grandma and Little Frank, his birthday gift to me.   Frank and I are box people with arms and legs at the four corners, perfect people with giant smiles.   The story has it all, plot, characters, conflict and resolution–I get to keep my favorite lunch on the food group pyramid.

Happy Birthday to me.

How You Do What You Do

Nana: “How about some oatmeal for breakfast?”
Grandson: “How about a cookie?”
Nana: “How about a cookie AFTER the oatmeal?”
Grandson: “How about a cookie now?”
Nana: “How about oatmeal AND a cookie for breakfast?”
Grandson: “How about that cookie now?”

This being said as he walked to Nana’s special Granny-Cupboard.

Sammy, age 3, has the condition called SPE. He is always Specific, Persistent and Expectant.
He has it dialed:
Ask for exactly what you want.
Continue until the message is heard.
Fully expect that the good will happen.
And, as his older cousin once decided, “Nana  can’t say ‘No’. She can’t.  It is a rule.  Nana isn’t allowed to say, “No”.

Pretty amazing lesson here.

Imagine what our relationships would be like if we adopted Sammy’s SPE. No more hinting, pouting, whining, beating around that overused bush. Straight out expression of our wants and needs. Straight out and honest effort to say what needs to be said. Then we continue with calm persistence until we are heard. No anger. No shouting. No “Why-don’t-you-ever-listen-to- me?” Express the need with total belief that the listener will respond.

And then go stand by the right cupboard fully expecting that the good will happen.

A little child shall lead them, right?

Seventy-One and Still Not Done

Three year old grandson spent Thursday with us and opted to stay the night.  This kid is a dream combination of his mom and dad, with just enough stubbornness to keep it interesting.   During the night, a little voice would whisper,  “Nana, it is two zero eight.  Is that close to morning?”

Not quite.

About 10:00 this morning, I walked through the ‘Sunday Room’ where he was laying out elaborate train track designs.  Sam has an aversion to battery or electric operated trains.  “Papa, do you know why we have fingers for?  Use your fingers to move the trains.”

Good enough.

Sam looked up and  was about to give me a bazillion dollar smile which stopped at half-mast.   “Wait.  Wait just one minute.”  Dead-run to the counter in the bathroom.   Back in a flash, hair brush in hand.  “Sit down, Nana.  I can help you fix your hair.   I can fit Nelson’s hair really good.”  Nelson is their dog!

The mouths of babes?

Mid-day and we are playing with Sam and his baby brother in their home.  Mom was busy with a phone call so we were having extra fun while she handled some business.  Called ended.  Mom asks Sam if he wants to give us a good-bye hug.  Absolutely NOT.  He did not want us to leave unless he could come  with us.  Usual adult ‘stuff’ about why we had to go and why he needed to stay….a few tears, some extra hugs while his mom and I got involved in a new conversation.  “So you don’t want to play trains, Papa?”  Long pause….  “OK.    So, Guys, you are leaving now, right?  Nana, here’s your coat.  I’ll help you put it on.”

Humility is important, right?

No Tricks, All Treat With Frank

Grandmothers are allowed some latitude, right?  We get to talk about one discrete hour of a vacation rather than do the travel-log thing, right?  What a wonderful hour on Halloween Night, 2009.

Papa drove us to the special street where most houses are decorated and families wait on the porch to hand out treats.  Strobe lights, music, adults with painted faces hovered at the edge of porches, adding just the right amount of scare to the twilight.

A light rain was the perfect touch.

At first, five-year old Frank was hesitant wanting Mom or Nana to stay by his side, but a couple of welcoming adults handled that quickly.  Several times he forgot to take the candy because the conversations engaged him.  At one house, he was delighted.  “Hey, your music is just like mine at  home.  Night on Bald Mountain is my favorite scary music.”  That led to a nice conversation about favorite music and some impressed adults.  (Nana is totally impressed.)

Looking through the front door of another house, Frank saw a young man watching from behind the door.  “If you don’t know him, you should ask him to leave.  It isn’t good for him to hide behind doors like that.”  With a smile, Frank was reassured that the mystery person was family.

Discovering that a candy bowl was running low, my favorite Skeleton Man studied the dwindled supply.  “It’s OK’, he said, “you should keep that candy.  I don’t really need any more.

By now the rain was heavy and we were getting that feeling that skin was the watershed.  When Mom suggested we might consider stopping, Frank said it would disappoint all the people if we didn’t come….so we kept on walking.  From that point, Frank did not take any more candy.  He simply walked up the steps, smiled that beautiful smile and said, “Happy Halloween.  Thank you.”   On to the next house…

OK, I did say one discrete hour, but now I want to add some amazing minutes.  He created a Candy Land with stuffed animals and his candy, not eating  but arranging and rearranging to create new scenes.

Now you know why this Nana could not resist the tale.

Further Proof

by Pat Antonopoulos

There is zero chance that I am a grump. Zero. Each time I think, “Well, maybe…just maybe I need to work on more ‘up’ and less grump, something wonderful happens.
It just did.
An email from my son:
“Mom, Frank, (his son, my grandson) is so delightful that it is delightful to me to think about how delighted you and Bob will feel when you are around him.”
Those joy kind of tears that punch up from the heart and clog the throat.
How could a woman with knowledge of this depth of father-to-son love feels anything but joy.
And my son shares his son with me in emails like this.
No room for a grump.