Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Ahh, Family Time

I am only just beginning to process all of the wonderful gems that came out of spending an entire week with my extended family last week. Here are just a few of the things I learned from the kids (five in all: ages 6, two 8 year olds, 10, 13):

My youngest came to me the day after the interment of my Dad's ashes. She'd had a particularly rough night the night before, waking several times in the middle of the night and getting belligerent and mean about ridiculously trivial things. She asked me to go around the corner with her so we could have some privacy and as we sat down together she put her hands underneath her thighs, lowered her eyes and said, "I just don't feel like myself, Mommy. There is something missing....You know when you're doing a puzzle and you get it all done but there is one piece you can't find and you're really upset? That's me. I have a puzzle piece missing." Whoa! This is my six-year-old.

One night when we were sitting around talking about the virtues of popsicles on a hot day my nephew, who for all intents and purposes appeared to be ignoring the adults as he put together a puzzle (!) on the floor, began humming the theme song to "Kim Possible." My ears perked up because this happens to be a cartoon my girls love. Right as he reached the end he blurted out, "KIM POP-SICLE. Wanna lick?" I laughed so hard (in front of my in-laws and my 13 year old niece who was blushing scarlet) that I literally fell off the couch. Oops.

The one night you pitch a tent in the backyard to have a sleepover with your cousins will be the night we have a thunderstorm and it pours rain. This won't matter because you and your cousins, worn out from swimming and fishing and bouncing on the trampoline and riding the ATV, will sleep right through it and accuse the adults of lying when they tell you about it the next day.

Fishing for the first time with your beloved uncle is so much fun you won't even care if you ever get a bite. Standing on the riverbank in a kid-size fishing vest learning to cast over and over again is enough.

You CAN eat sugar snap peas happily every day for a week if your mother picks them from Grandma's garden each morning.

Cousins are the best invention ever.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Feathering My Nest

Yup, I'm nesting. I finally figured that out. I knew I'd been here before - literally incapable of doing anything that didn't center around my husband and children. Knowing that there were some commitments and plans I'd made that I should follow up on, but not having even the slightest inclination to explore anything outside the realm of my own backyard.

No, I'm not pregnant. Trust me - there would be some serious 'splaining to do (both on the part of Mother Nature and myself). For some reason, my father's death has thrown me in to this particular orbit and here I sit, if somewhat uncomfortably.

We spent the last week at my in-laws' farm, eating three enormous home-cooked meals a day, reading on the back porch, floating the river, riding the ATV, and teaching the kids to fish. Despite the fact that I've been visiting this farm in some capacity for the last sixteen years, I am generally somewhat reserved - quick to offer my help and make sure the girls are well-behaved, not offering my opinions on anything more controversial than the weather report, and waking early to start the coffee pot.

This time, I got out of bed around 8:00 on most days, let the girls squabble with each other and ask for seconds of dessert every single night. I managed to read three books in four days and felt more relaxed than I ever have there. Talking to my newly-married and newly-pregnant sister-in-law, I found myself filling up my own skin and liking it. Walking around in my minivan-driving, stretch-mark-having, perimenopausal, fifteen-year-married body felt good. Watching the girls splash each other on hot days and toss a football with their uncle, making a latte for Bubba as I hear him step out of the shower upstairs, and not planning to do anything more rigorous than walking to the river came without admonition or guilt.

Thursday we interred my father's ashes in a sunny room overlooking a pond at the cemetery. My stepmother, two of my stepsisters and my brother came and we added photos and some special items to the urn inside the box. I wasn't feeling it. I wanted to be there for my stepmother, but for me, that isn't where Dad is. I had found him earlier on my own - at a local garden shop he used to frequent. As I wandered among the trellises and fountains I realized why I'm nesting. My father's favorite place was his backyard. From the koi pond he dug by hand to the gazebo and blueberry bushes, the greenhouse and multitude of bird houses and shaded benches, he loved nothing more than planting and weeding and mowing on the weekends and then sitting down in a cool spot visiting with a neighbor in the afternoon.

Last night I tossed and turned, haunted by dreams where I followed my stepmother around as she searched for places to "put" my father. I couldn't fully explain why, but everywhere she suggested was just wrong. Each time I encouraged her to keep looking, Dad would appear to me as a ghost and thank me.

"You're right," he'd say. "That's not the right place." But before I could ask him where, he would go away again.

Yesterday I went back to his house for the first time since he died there in my arms. I couldn't look at the spot where his hospital bed had been. I spent most of my time in the backyard, visiting with neighbors and family members who had gathered for a barbecue. When it was time to go I knew I couldn't leave without sitting in Dad's office for a little while. I told him I'd find the right place. He told me he knows that I've already found the right place.

I'm feathering this nest. This one I've already got. This one that is rich with love and respect, grace and humor and possibility. This one that I share with my girls and Bubba. This is where we will hold Dad. Once I am done reveling in my good fortune, I'll be ready to expand my horizons again. For now, this is where I belong.
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