I Don't Forget
It seems impossible that it's been this long but here it is: it has been eighteen years since my friend Jos was killed in a car accident, shocking the hell out of my teenaged self. Up to that point, I'd lost only my grandfather and while that was hard in it's own way for me, well, I was a kid and he was a grandfather. Even though it was sad, it sort of made sense, what with him being in his sunset years and all.
Jos was 2 weeks away from being 18. She's now been dead longer than she lived. More than anyone I'd known, she packed a shitload of living into her life. The specifics of that have fallen away, it seems, but I remember being in awe of her experiences. After she died, I was glad she'd had so many of them, since her time on this earth was so short.
I learned a lot from that day, from her tragic death. The month after her death was a blur. I remember writing the date on a paper in my geometry class, it was October and I had no idea how we'd gotten there. Surely there was a September first, but I seem to have missed it.
I was fifteen. I wept at her gravesite and some cameras from channel six news were there to capture my grief. A bunch of us spent the rest of the day hanging out, trying to understand how someone who had been with us at a party not a week before was somehow now dead.
Because she died as a direct result of not wearing her seatbelt, I wear mine every goddamn time. I suppose an offshoot of that is that my kid is strapped tightly and safely into her well-installed carseat every time.
That afternoon, she picked cherries. On the way home, the wreck happened. She was thrown from the car, her restrained boyfriend broke his pelvis but lived. He tried to do CPR on her at the scene but she was already gone. At her funeral, he showed up in a makeshift wheelchair and said he was going to ask her to marry him. She wouldn't have said yes, there's no way she would have wanted to be tied down at that age.
But we all smiled and clung to him, since he was now forever intertwined with her for us.
I do not forget, I cannot forget. I was fifteen and losing her in the blink of an eye changed me forever. Because of this loss, I wear my seatbelt. I won't drive you if you're not wearing yours. I hold the ones I love a little closer, I try to pack more into every day even if it makes me more tired.
Because after that muggy August day when Jos died, I got it. There's time to rest at the end.
Rest in peace, Jos. You're not forgotten.
To Our Nice Friend
Someone at our shower gave us these books, which come in a box, that until last week had sat, unopened on a shelf in Val's room. She found them all by herself and dragged the box through the house until she discovered that WOW! There are BOOKS! INSIDE THE BOX!
These books are just her size, each is 3 pages long and she can hold a stack of them at a time. She likes to share them with us, giving a few, taking them back, reading occasionally but mostly just stacking, unstacking, giving, taking back, giving, taking back and of course, stacking. Last night, we added a new element to it -- putting them into and taking them out of the super cute, absolutely perfect backpack that Grandma K and Granddaddy P gave her.
Thanks to the books, she's also learned a number of new words: books, back (as in give it back to Val) and re-enforced her use of Pweesh and thank you.
To whoever gave these to us (and I apologize a thousand times, I cannot remember) you are a genius. Sheer genius.
Even if Val thinks less of her mommies because the books, they do have to say good-night. She waved bye-bye to them, I put the backpack away and she was sooooo bereft.
In other Val news, Saturday at lunch she pointed at me, said 'mommy.' Then she pointed at Andrea and said 'mommy'. Then back to me, 'mommy!' then Andrea 'mommy!'
You've got it right, kid. Two mommies = no waiting!
A Big SEW-G And An Even Bigger Boo-Boo
Yesterday, Soosan and I took all the girls to the park. It's really a preschool of some sort, with three toddler/preschooler appropriate playgrounds. What this means is that there aren't often bigger kids there and more importantly, it means that the equipment is all the right size for the girls.
At a neighboring field, soccer practice for bigger kids was going on when we first arrived. We could see them just over a chain-link fence. As their practice ended, most of the kids walked around the fence towards the exit. But a few ruffians hopped the fence and started running all over one of the little kid areas in their cleats. A couple of parents stood by watching them.
Fine, whatever. Our kids were out of their way and that was my main concern. However, when those 4 boys started CLIMBING ON TOP OF the little playhouses there, (you know the type, they're plastic and designed for little kids. I assure you that the roofs were not made to hold the weight of four older boys on them.) I waited to see if either of the snooty-looking parents would say anything.
So I ask them if those are their kids. Yes, says the man in his starched dress shirt and dress pants. Well, I say, they probably shouldn't be climbing on the roof.
No reaction. Just this sort of faraway stare, as if I'm an alien.
So I keep talking 'because that roof isn't strong enough to hold them.' When what I'm really thinking is hey, asshole, watch your fucking kids. My daughter really likes that house and don't you dare let your kids break it.
He and the snooty woman saunter over toward that area and finally he says something to the boys.
But he made his point, which was that I am apparently insane for even daring to talk to him.
Hey asshole, when we see you again, I'm going to ask you why you were so rude. And why it didn't occur to YOU to get your kids off that roof.
Later, his son almost stepped on Sam's hand (with his cleat on) while trying to climb the tree adjacent to the little house. Fortunately at that exact moment, his self-entitled white guy dad told him it was time to go.
After they left, Val came running towards me at full speed. And fell on the gravel. At full speed. She now has a giant boo-boo on her knee that hurt so much she couldn't even cry at first. Auntie cleaned it off and patched her up but it still hurts. She pointed to it all night last night and cried quite a bit.
I feel SO bad for her.
Between the time I got out of my car after an extensive 5 minute commute to work, these things happened:
- I nearly got run over by a fast-moving co-worker with a loud-ass rolling briefcase.
- After she blew by me to get to the elevator, she and another guy just stood there waiting for it. The button to summon said elevator? It had not been pushed.
- Once I pushed the button to summon the elevator, thus nixing any competitive advantage the fast-moving co-worker had over me in terms of time, the three of us got into the elevator and I made my obligatory (to me) comment to the fast-moving co-worker about being in a hurry! a flock of coders came in.
- One of them almost backed up into me (I guess I'm invisible) then followed through and backed all the way into me before I could say excuse me.
Dancing with Ernie and Bert
The Big Trip
I guess I'll just start with the beginning, then gloss over the end since I'll no doubt run out of time and interest... At least you know that going in so you're not disappointed.
Day 1, 8/7
We stay up till 1 am getting ready, then settle in for a 3 hour nap. Up at 4:30 am, out the door at 5, we're at the airport in plenty of time for our 6:35 am flight thanks to Susan's Airport Transit System. Our butts are through security and on the plane in plenty of time to watch plane after plane around us leave while we're still sitting there waiting for something to get repaired.
An hour and a half later, Val is out of interest in her snacks and they tell us to get off but the plane will be fixed by 10:30. They also tell us to leave our crap on the plane, since we'll be getting back on the same plane soon. At this point, we're hosed for our connection but I call and find out we could still make the later flight. Fine.
NOTE: 1. Have the airline's number programmed in your phone. Call it as soon as something is amiss, do NOT wait for the now-suddenly-overwhelmed gate agent to help you. 2. ALWAYS TAKE ALL YOUR SHIT OFF THE PLANE IF YOU GET OFF OF IT.
Still blindly assuming that we'll be leaving at 10:30, we have some nasty BK breakfast and let Val run around this cheesy little play area they have there. We head back through security, only this time there's been a shift change and the staff decides to hassle me about how to properly display the bag of bottles and my DVD player. Whatever.
Then we wait. And wait. By this point it's 11:30 am, 5 hours after we were supposed to go. So I call again, to see if we can get rerouted. Oh, they say, you were supposed to go on an American flight AN HOUR AGO. But nobody called/email/paged us so we had no clue. Oh, and also, your luggage? It's been taken off the plane so you have no hope of getting on this flight. Fuck.
I try not to panic and ask the overwhelmed but nice gate agent about getting our shit off the plane and what about our gate-checked carseat. At some point, I go out to try my luck with getting rebooked through the Ticket Counter, but that line is insane. So I go back to the gate area to consult with Andrea (who, as always, kindly lets me deal with our arrangements so at the very least the only people I'm negotiating with are the airline) and try to figure out our best next move.
AN HOUR LATER they let me onto the plane and I get the rest of our carryon stuff. The carseat is still MIA. I hear about a Delta flight leaving from the next gate at 1 and I scramble to call Northwest to get us on that flight.
In the next half hour, all the stars align: we get tickets on the Delta flight, I get our luggage to Delta in time to check it, the carseat is found on the original flight and I get back to the gate in time to get extra fucking security because of the airline change. Even though they've seen me go through 4 times already. They also attempt to search Andrea (why did I have her boarding pass out for them to see??? I shoulda put that in my pocket!) until the supervisor points out to his overeager subordinate that Andrea has BEEN SITTING BEHIND THEM WITHOUT LEAVING THE GATE for hours now.
And just like that, we are finally, 7 hours later, on a plane. We get to Salt Lake City, where we have just enough time to inhale some food, then get on another plane for JFK. 4+ hours later, a mere 15 hours after we got to San Jose airport, we arrive in muggy, hot New York. And spend over 3 hours getting out of JFK, installing the carseat and driving to our hotel.
We arrive at our hotel shortly before 3 am. Val proceeds to pull the toilet paper all the way out from the crapper to the other side of the room. Given that she behaved like a champ the whole way out, I figured that was fine.
We all slept like logs until 11 am the next day, when we headed to a bbq at Andrea's family friends' house. There were a ton of kids there and Val had a blast watching them, then playing in the pool. Val also got to meet Andrea's mom, which seemed to go fairly well, all things considered. We ended up spending the whole day there, then heading out to dinner w/ Andrea's mom, uncle, 2 aunts and 2 cousins. At this point, I was so damn tired I almost keeled over during the meal.
The next day, we wound up with part of a free day, so we had lunch at Fuddruckers, then went to Turtleback Zoo, just us. It was nice to have some downtime as a family. Val totally grooved on the penguins and on the ancient stroller we rented for $2.
We had another dinner that night with Andrea's peeps, then we said goodbye. The next day, we visited Andrea's friend then headed out to Sesame Place. It took FOREVER to get there but once we did, Val got all excited, saying 'Melmo, Melmo!' before we even got in the front gate. The place itself was kinda small but just the right size for our little shortie. We didn't get to go on the water rides, it was too cold. But we did all the non-water rides and saw Abby's new show. If we had the chance to go back, I totally would.
From there, we headed to Philadelphia and our free! night at the Fairfield thanks to my points. I returned the car that night so we could save some time and some cash. The next morning, we headed back to the airport and onto Columbus.
My parents met us at the airport and had gotten the LATCH anchors installed in their car. I got the carseat in quite easily and we were off to a fine Steak n' Shake lunch. After we got back, we went to the local water park, which was a kind of dingy pool while I was growing up. It's been redone into this badass thing with slides and lazy rivers and stuff like that. Val had a good time and we did, too. For an hour until we went to visit my cousin and meet her little guy, who's about 3 weeks older than Val.
After that, we headed up to my grandparents house (I think it's time to stop calling them birthgrandparents because, well, that's a mouthful) to introduce Val to her great-grandparents and see Grandma K and Grandaddy P again. We hung out there for many many hours and had a fabulouso visit. Val was the hit of the party, I couldn't be happier about how it went.
The next day, we spent the whole day at my grandparents. Val continued her streak of charmingness and in between, I got to really enjoy the company of my birthfamily. We shut the place down, chatting on their back patio long past sundown while Val moved rocks from one side of the patio to the other.
Exhaustion and bliss, all rolled into one.
The next day, we got up at the crack of down and had a final breakfast with all the family before Grandma K and Grandaddy P headed home. We returned to my parents' house, Andrea settled in for a nap while I chased Val around, hoping she'd finally go back to sleep. It took a while and some time on Grandma Marti's lap watching Sesame Street but eventually, she (and then, I) went back to sleep.
Until Melinda called and we headed to the Waffle House for some tasteeee lunch. That would be the same Waffle House where a woman fed Val some taters a week after she started solid foods. This time, the server (not Tater Lady) offered to bring Val some apple juice (no thanks), some chocolate milk (again, no thanks) or fruit punch. This, after we'd ordered milk for her. But fine, that's all well-meaning (and I suppose the taters were, too). As we were leaving, she asked if we'd adopted Val. No, I said, she's homemade. I could tell she wanted to ask more, but instead she said something about how her kids look like their daddies and I just smiled, offering nothing else about Val's origins.
We dropped my mom off and headed to AmFam's for a visit. Val had a blast playing with L and M. And I can tell you for sure that little L is cuter than I'd imagined. It was nice to catch up with AmFam and if I stop fighting with my camera and losing, I'll soon download, then upload the pics from the trip.
That night, I stayed up really late uploading pics my parents had taken into their very own flickr account. It was worth doing since they have some cute ones of Val.
Our last day, we packed in more visiting with both my parents and my aunt Mary. Then it was off to the airport, where we ran into my aunt and uncle, who were waiting for my cousin and his wife to arrive from Japan. I saw my cousin outside of the bathroom near our gate and got to meet his daughter, and introduce him to Val.
He'd been there when Grandma died but had to go back before the funeral. He'd heard what I said at the funeral and said he'd heard I'd done a good job. I appreciate that, but apparently I'm just not ready to talk about that, about losing Grandma, especially with someone who knew her and loved her too, so I quickly thanked him and changed the subject.
After 2 delayed flights, we finally got into SFO at 1 am and into our bed at 3. I'm still exhausted but glad that we had the time to spend with so many parts of our families.
I know, I know, I've been sansapost for a week now. When I say that there's been no time, I'm so not even close to kidding. It's been awesome just having all this time with Val, even if we have traversed what feels like all of New Jersey and gotten really intimate with one road on the north side of my hometown.
More to come but rest assured that we're all having a good time, even if we are rather very tired.
And We're Off!
I've scored us seats together on the plane, packed enough snacks to entertain Val for quite some time, packed enough clothes and stuffs for the trip and now it's down to wrapping up a bunch of loose ends at home. Then getting to the airport in time for our 6:35 am flight.
If we are lucky, there will be some sleeping during that time as well. But I'm not counting on it.
Wish us luck and we'll see you from Jersey!
Just When Everything Was Calm
Yesterday afternoon, my work was kind enough to send us out to see the Simpsons movie, so after the film, I headed home. There I was, watching TV while Val played when I hear this little kid at the door:
"Excuse me, do you have a weiner dog?"
Holy shit, why? Um, because somehow THEY HAD ALL GOTTEN OUT. The kids had Rainie and Zeus, but Patrick had taken off, they said.
FUCK. (Yes, I said this in front of the kids. I totally suck.)
I start screaming for Andrea. Screaming. While I bring Rainie and Zeus back into the house and throw them in crates, since apparently the back gate was open. Andrea runs out, grabs Val takes off walking to look for Pat.
I run to my car and get in, driving slowly around the block shouting for Patrick, trying not to let the panic creep into my voice. I know that if we don't find him within the first 15 minutes then he could well be gone forever. I try not to think about that or how he'd do in some strange place without his epilepsy meds.
I shout at every person I see (turns out there's a shitload of people out walking in my hood) asking if they'd seen a dog, making this grand gesture with my arms to show how long he is. One guy says aqui! aqui! and points down the street.
So I keep driving and shouting. At the house around the corner that has an older beagle, I ask them if they'd seen him. No, but they'll keep their eyes out.
I go towards home to see if Andrea's had any luck. No. So I head back out, the panic rising, rising.
I head back towards the house with the beagle and there. There is my boy, barking and whining his head off. He had run into the street in front of a store and the store owner's son grabbed him before he got hit by a car. Since he looks not unsimilar to the beagle, they brought him to the beagle house.
What's really annoying about all this is that HE WEARS AN ID TAG WITH OUR ADDRESS AND PHONE NUMBER ON IT. It was on his collar, if the guy had only looked. But fine, whatever, he's back and he's okay.
When we got home, I sat with him and gave him lots and lots of lovin. Same for Rainie and Zeus, everyone scored extra treats yesterday.
We gave the kids who found Rainie and Zeus $20 each. I think they were absolutely stunned but we absolutely want the kids in my hood to know that if our dogs are out, they should bring them back to our house and we'll reward them for doing so.
We have a huge advantage in having a rather unusual breed for around here -- people do notice when a very large basset hound goes running free.
While Patrick was gone, I kept having visions of how the life cycle of a dog in our family is supposed to go. They come home (after being spayed or neutered) from the rescue or the shelter, then they stay here with us until some years later, their lives come to what I hope is a peaceful end. There's no room in that vision for sudden, mysterious disappearances. There's just not.