An Accidental Extrovert

Wearing my mouth on my sleeve

Posts tagged family

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Pop-Pop.

This weekend I traveled to Florida to check in on my grandfather. He and my grandmother moved to Sarasota over thirty years ago, and it was always the two of them taking care of each other - particularly after my dad’s death. And now it feels like my grandfather is very far away and very alone.

My sisters and I are staggering visits, trading off weekly phone calls, and exchanging many emails and texts in the hopes that four granddaughters can provide the support of one missing (and missed) son.

[We are incredibly fortunate that my grandparents had the resources to move to a community that provides exceptional care and support when we can’t. My concern for my grandfather is always tinged with relief for that.]

I worry that I infantilize this ninety-five year old man — a military veteran and successful businessman — because the only words I want to use to describe him are ‘adorable’ and ‘cute’ and ‘sweet.’ 

But he is nothing so much as sweet, and his gratitude flooded over me all weekend. I was thanked countless times for things like re-ordering checks, setting up automatic payments for a bill, filing papers, filling out yet another form. I can’t remember if he was this effusive when I was a child, but age seems to have worn away any stoicism. Each time I checked off a task, I was rewarded with a kiss on the forehead and told once again that he would be lost without me. I was home for three hours yesterday before he called to tell me he missed me. 

I came back to DC feeling overwhelmed in ways both good and bad.

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Last Tuesday, after almost seventy-three years, one of my favorite love stories came to an end. At the age of 98, my intelligent, beautiful, and wickedly funny grandmother Lucille passed away.

As my grandfather put it so well, my grandmother had three careers  - her time in the Navy, her work for the government, and her marriage and family. My grandmother’s life would make for an incredible novel, but it was always clear which piece of the story was most important to her.

My grandparents’ relationship began when they were both working at a summer camp, and my grandmother asked my grandfather, the swimming instructor, to teach her how to swim (never mind that she already knew how). They quickly fell in love and after my grandfather moved from New York to Washington, she went to visit him and never returned home - they’d eloped.

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After my grandfather joined the Air Force during World War II, my grandmother joined the Navy to occupy herself during their time apart

After the war, they both had successful careers with the government, and raised a son. They traveled extensively. Once, on a trip to South America, there was a bus crash. My grandfather literally carried my grandmother to safety, and only realized afterwards that he had done so with a broken pelvis.

They retired to Florida, played golf, and went on a lot of cruises. They indulged their six grandchildren. They never stopped holding hands, dancing, using pet names, drinking scotch, and taking care of each other. Always, they took such good care of each other.

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We’ll all miss her so much. 

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My grandparents are famous!
OK, perhaps an interview in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune isn’t quite Britney level fame, but I was still so tickled to get a copy of this article in the mail Friday night.
(Even though I’m pretty sure my grandmother is going to demand a correction to her description as retired nursery-school teacher.)

My grandparents are famous!

OK, perhaps an interview in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune isn’t quite Britney level fame, but I was still so tickled to get a copy of this article in the mail Friday night.

(Even though I’m pretty sure my grandmother is going to demand a correction to her description as retired nursery-school teacher.)

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I kind of can’t believe it’s already Friday. I really can’t believe it’s already December.

  • Some people are stoic and handle illnesses without complaint. I am not one of those people. I came down with a stomach bug on Tuesday night and spent the next 48 hours feeling incredibly sorry for myself. I’m finally feeling human again and basking in all the compliments on how thin I look. (That’s mostly a joke.)
  • Years and years ago, my grandfather had quadruple bypass surgery. On the way to the hospital, he and my grandmother were having one of those talks that you have just in case it’s the last talk. My grandfather’s most important piece of advice for his wife? “Remember, Frances, two martinis is enough.”  Fran hasn’t been feeling well lately, and I’ve been thinking about her a lot this week. This story is one of my favorites as it captures them both perfectly and it always brings a smile to my face.
  • And while we’re on the topic of things that make me smile, I just have to share my nephew’s first school picture. Sorry for the poor quality picture-of-a-picture, but seriously, can you get over this kid? I can’t.

Stay warm this weekend, bunnies!

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A Little Game of True or False: Thanksgiving Edition

  • When I picked up my grandmother on Tuesday, she sent me into her room to get two garment bags. One of these bags contained her robe, and nothing else.
  • I made it through preparing a Thanksgiving meal for 11 with only two burns and two cuts. (And yes, in my accident-prone world, this is an accomplishment.)
  • When I found out the dessert crew wasn’t bringing pecan pie today, I made my mom promise we’d make our own Friday morning.
  • I licked creamy mashed potatoes remnants directly off the beater.
  • I look forward to the day-after turkey sandwich (with lettuce, cranberry sauce, and just a smear of mayo) more than the main event. Ideally paired with some ‘leftover’ pecan pie.
  • I am very thankful for you. (Yep, YOU!)

Here’s a hint - I’m a terrible liar.  They’re all true. Happy Thanksgiving, you little turkeys!

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On Being a Good Sister

My youngest sister wants to interview me tonight (via Skype, fancy!) for a class project. I’m touched that she asked and thrilled to be able to help her out.

My only caveat? That I get to interview her in return about her (first serious) boyfriend. I’m working on my list of questions now.

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I’m a day late wishing my grandparents a happy anniversary.
My grandmother is a just a bit older than my grandfather (and would probably kill me for sharing that here) and when they decided to get married, they eloped to Baltimore (what’s more romantic?). Over sixty years later, they remain one of the cutest couples I’ve ever seen.
My Pop-Pop still golfs regularly, and my Grandma just took up acting - and I quote, “stole the show” in her first production. They’re regulars at their retirement community’s bar, love their cruises, and an e-mail with the subject line “From Grandma” is guaranteed to make my day.
And they’re still very much in love. A few years ago, my grandmother tripped and broke her hip on a birthday cruise. She was airlifted back to Florida for surgery, and for a very scary day, she could not wake up. Being Lucille, she did wake up (and is long since back to stealing the show wherever she goes.) But that day, the first words out of her mouth to my grandfather were “I thought I’d lost you but now I’ve found you again.”
I may be a day late and a buck short, but happy, happy anniversary to a couple that I’m so very glad found each other.
* Not pictured above: Two grandchildren, a great-granddaughter, and a grandson-in-law-to-be.  Quite a crew for the parents of an only child!

I’m a day late wishing my grandparents a happy anniversary.

My grandmother is a just a bit older than my grandfather (and would probably kill me for sharing that here) and when they decided to get married, they eloped to Baltimore (what’s more romantic?). Over sixty years later, they remain one of the cutest couples I’ve ever seen.

My Pop-Pop still golfs regularly, and my Grandma just took up acting - and I quote, “stole the show” in her first production. They’re regulars at their retirement community’s bar, love their cruises, and an e-mail with the subject line “From Grandma” is guaranteed to make my day.

And they’re still very much in love. A few years ago, my grandmother tripped and broke her hip on a birthday cruise. She was airlifted back to Florida for surgery, and for a very scary day, she could not wake up. Being Lucille, she did wake up (and is long since back to stealing the show wherever she goes.) But that day, the first words out of her mouth to my grandfather were “I thought I’d lost you but now I’ve found you again.”

I may be a day late and a buck short, but happy, happy anniversary to a couple that I’m so very glad found each other.

* Not pictured above: Two grandchildren, a great-granddaughter, and a grandson-in-law-to-be.  Quite a crew for the parents of an only child!

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Two weeks after my dad died, my older sister and I were tasked with starting to  clean out his office.   Given the fact that he had six kids, the numerous family pictures scattered across his desk were no surprise. What shouldn’t have been a surprise was the fact that the credenza next to his desk was also covered in framed pictures — of his trip to St. Andrews several years earlier. The obvious fact that he had spent a great amount of time framing and arranging these pictures (much more prominently than the others in his office) provided some much needed humor that afternoon.
The father-golf cliche may be tired, but so many of my memories are tied up in my dad’s love of the game. He practiced and played constantly.
If I close my eyes and picture him, he is always dressed for golf.  The hushed voices of announcers during tournaments reminds me of countless Sunday afternoons at his house.  If one of my visits coincided with Washington Golf Center’s annual sale, I could be sure I’d be spending part of my day using golf club covers as puppets while he shopped. Five years later, we are still unearthing hidden golf equipment purchased on the sly.
I’m watching the US Open this afternoon and taking comfort in the nostalgia it provides. Happy Father’s Day, Merk.

Two weeks after my dad died, my older sister and I were tasked with starting to  clean out his office.   Given the fact that he had six kids, the numerous family pictures scattered across his desk were no surprise. What shouldn’t have been a surprise was the fact that the credenza next to his desk was also covered in framed pictures — of his trip to St. Andrews several years earlier. The obvious fact that he had spent a great amount of time framing and arranging these pictures (much more prominently than the others in his office) provided some much needed humor that afternoon.

The father-golf cliche may be tired, but so many of my memories are tied up in my dad’s love of the game. He practiced and played constantly.

If I close my eyes and picture him, he is always dressed for golf.  The hushed voices of announcers during tournaments reminds me of countless Sunday afternoons at his house.  If one of my visits coincided with Washington Golf Center’s annual sale, I could be sure I’d be spending part of my day using golf club covers as puppets while he shopped. Five years later, we are still unearthing hidden golf equipment purchased on the sly.

I’m watching the US Open this afternoon and taking comfort in the nostalgia it provides. Happy Father’s Day, Merk.

Filed under family tribute

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Is there a difference between a true memory and the memory of a story told? As the grown-up version of a child with a voracious imagination, it’s easy to question the things I remember.

A crystal-clear memory, whether from some crevice of my brain or a borrowed memory, is of the weekend my mom, sister and I were snowed in together while my stepfather was skiing in Lake Placid.  The three of us, my most nuclear of families, ate cinnamon toast in bed.  We huddled for warmth.  Lizzie and I most likely fought.

And in a very visceral way, thirty years later, I am sometimes caught off-guard by how right it feels when I am with these two women. I have spent too much time mourning what my family was not, and am grateful that I have finally realized how lucky I am for what my family is.

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