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December 2009
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February 2010

A measure of the man

Tuesday night Clay's cell phone rang about a half hour after we'd gone to sleep. At first I ignored the conversation, thinking he was being called into work, but then I realized I was hearing words like "hospital" and "lungs."

His father, Larry, who has been battling cancer for the last year and a half, was in the hospital, in crisis.

Clay hung up, told me what he knew, then lay there in the dark, silent. I put my hand on his shoulder, whispered that I love him, and waited with him.

Waiting like that reminds me of labor. It's surreal, and it seems like it will never end.

The phone rang again. Clay's mom Connie wanted her kids to come. We decided all of us would go and swung into action, tracking down flights and throwing unwashed clothes into suitcases. Sophia woke up, and seeing we were up decided to be awake with us.

About three in the morning Clay took her out of my arms and told me to go sleep. He wasn't going to be able to sleep anyway, so I might as well. And so I did.

I didn't hear the phone ring again. I didn't hear the conversation. I heard my husband crying.

It was about 3:40 and I slipped out of bed and padded out to see him, there on the couch. Sophia was curled up on his chest, sound asleep, while he sat, head back, crying. He saw me and shook his head.

"He died," he said, shaking his head at how unyielding that fact is, and the tears poured down his cheeks. He mopped his face with his sleeve, and I curled up next to him on the couch and whispered words of love.

It was such a horrible moment, when the line sliced through, separating now from when Larry was alive. But as I watched Larry's son cry for him without reservation, I was struck by the beauty of it too. Clay is a measure of the man who raised him, and love is his legacy.

Now we are here, with his family, starting the work of living without him. All six of Larry's kids were by Connie's side within nine hours of his passing. There is much loss here today, but oh so much love.

Life. Simply everywhere.

Last night I was writing my post over at Five Full Plates, typing with one hand. The other was pinned beneath a sleeping Sophia. She'd had an exhausting, overscheduled sort of day, and so had trouble settling down to sleep. I'd walked with her and sang to her, which sounds sort of cozy, but in reality is more like trying to cuddle a tiny, irritated octopus with Tourettes. But eventually she'd calmed down and fallen asleep, and so that's why I was there, typing with one hand.

It's such a spunky post, too. Very get-back-in-there plucky! At least, that's how I intended it.

I read it one last time for errors, spell-checked it, and punched "publish". Then I stood up and headed for Sophia's room to deposit her in her crib. I got no further than five feet before her eyes fluttered open. Shoot, I thought. Then her mouth opened and she...spewed.

She was a fountain, a geyser, a fire hose of vomit. It drenched her, it drenched me, it formed a puddle at my feet. I stood there, staring, as she gasped and resumed throwing up. I suspect some sort of magic was involved, because I don't think there is any way she actually ATE that much yesterday. I don't think ANYONE ate that much yesterday.

If you are a young person, planning to have a family some day, here is a word of advice for you: don't have carpet. Carpet SEEMS nice, but it's really not. And someday you will find yourself standing in the foulest sort of puddle, thanking the good lord for laminate.

Clay had gone to bed about a half an hour earlier. He was so tired, but I absolutely shamelessly bellowed for him. Here's a nice thing to do to someone who was sound asleep seconds ago and has just staggered out into the light - hand him a puking baby with no explanation other than, "sorry."

Another word of advice, imaginary young person: marry yourself someone who is good in a crisis. If he's had training as a combat medic, all the better. Those people just know what to do.

Clay took Sophia from me, saying, "oh, did she - oh, wow." Then he swept her into the bathroom and held her over the toilet, while I stood there, dripping and thinking oh hey, babies can puke into the toilet too!

Together we got her stripped down, hosed off, and back in clean jammies. Then Clay walked with her while I took a shower. I didn't even have all the chunks out of my hair before he had her back asleep and in her bed. That man, I tell you. He is a treasure.

Anyhow, Sophia seems okay now. At least, she slept pretty well, and she hasn't thrown up again, so let's hope for the best. And I'm not sure what my point here was, except maybe that life surely does go on.

These things happen

These things happened last night:

Max had trouble falling asleep, and wandered up the stairs a few times with messy hair and hope in his eyes that this time he had found a really GOOD reason to be out of bed.

I laughed with Clay as we climbed into bed, joking and talking over parts of our day.

Sophia woke up only once between 9:30PM and 9AM, an unimaginably luxurious stretch of sleep for her.

Raphael crawled into the cocoon of our bed about 3AM, trying to shake off a bad dream.

And my grandfather died.

There was no warning, no crisis, no apparent reason for him to die. He just...stopped, sometime around midnight.

These things happened today:

Phone calls. Lots of phone calls.

Raphael put his hands on my head and murmured, "I'm sorry that your head hurts. And I'm sorry that your heart hurts too."

My mom started the process of burying her father, and then came over to sit on the floor and watch her granddaughter walk. And then she didn't know what to do.

For the first time in over six decades, my grandmother woke up without her husband. And although she no longer has the capacity to understand what has happened, she knows that she is angry.

And I didn't feel like blogging, but I am, because just about every time I talked to my grandfather for the past six years, he asked about this blog. He wanted to know how it was going, and how many people were reading, and if I was still writing. "Keep up with that," he told me over and over. He didn't want me to lose this tally of my days, and so today, for him, although my head hurts and my heart hurts, today I am here, telling you these things that have happened.

One fat foot forward.

Sophia had been cruising for a while, motoring around the house, hanging onto furniture. But then, just this weekend...

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...she realized she could let go...

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...and GO!

Or...could she?

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Come on, baby girl!

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And she's off!

Full tilt at the world.

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And all the falls that come with that.

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 And it all began, as it always does, with one fat foot forward.

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My other baby

 Raphi river
I didn't want to believe that Raphael was having actual, for-reals sibling rivalry issues with Sophia. I didn't want to see that he was angry and feeling displaced and confused. I didn't want this great gift in our life to be a source of pain for him.

That didn't stop it from happening.

The other day I was taking a bath and I heard him in the living room, talking to Clay as he got ready to put bumpers on the sharp edges of everything.

"I need some of this on the piano downstairs, Dad," he said, "because I hit my head, see? Right here." I could picture him, burying his finger in his hair, leaning in so Clay could appreciate his wound.

"Well, this is for upstairs, bud. To keep Sophia from hurting herself."

"But not for me." His voice was so low I could barely hear it. On the other side of the door, wrapped in my bath and hiding behind my book, my heart broke for my baby.

Raphi eyes

Later, when I emerged from the bathroom, back into the world of my family, I found Raphael and Clay both on the floor, under Tre's desk.

"Hand me that piece," Clay said, "no, the longer one. Good." Raphael looked up at me from the midst of a nest of foam bumpers, tools, and the business of boys.

"Me and Dad are fixing things. To keep Sophia safe." He said it with that puffed chest pride that he only seems to get from working with his dad. Clay peered up at me.

"Yup, we're taking care of it." I looked at him, my quietly wise husband. He was the youngest of five kids until he was six years old, and his sister was born. He knows something of where Raphael's heart is right now.

There is no simple story within the tangle of affection in a family. Disappointment and losses twine around security and joy. As Raphael struggles to reconcile the good and the bad, I realize that I don't get to tell him, my fierce tender warrior baby, where to pin his heart.

Raphi and sophia

I pray that even when he hurts, love wins.

Don't be jealous

I was just sitting here, at the computer, listening to two things happen simultaneously. The garage door was trying to break while Clay struggled with it, and Sophia woke up after 14 minutes of sleep, a nap perfectly long enough to power her up for a solid four hour block of night party.

I may have slumped down in my chair, and I looked down and noticed a large swath of graham cracker paste liberally applied to my midsection, surrounded by a festive constellation of dog hair.

This, I realized, is the great luxury of my life.

When I get to the end of the day I never - NEVER - have to waste a moment wondering if my shirt is clean enough to wear again.

Pictures of TWO TEETH!

Sophia has survived the production of two new teeth, and I'm sure she'd love to show them to you.

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Well, maybe you'd rather see her ear?

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Or her eyelashes?

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Would you like to see her clap, instead?

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Okay, fine. Here.

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See them? How about now?

Sophia's teeth

Awww. So adorable and pearly, to cause so much suffering. Congratulations on two whole teeth, baby girl!

Now. Who thinks Tre would appreciate the same sort of investigative photo essay of the new peach fuzz on his lip?

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 Maybe not.

Love grows

I was thinking, just now, about Clay's daughter Jennie. She's seventeen and just about to take flight. College, career, LIFE. All of it is about to begin for her.

Of course this leaves me a bit weepy. I'm happy for her, yes, but also sad. There wasn't enough time. I remember meeting her, a sober-eyed young girl. I wondered who she was and what we would be to each other. I didn't know how to love her.

And now, in a flash, she's a young woman. I still look at her and see a mystery. I am still not sure who to be for her.

But oh, she is beautiful.


And I love her.

Happy Love Thursday.