Sunday, June 10, 2018

Our Complication

Good Sunday evening.

Last I blogged I told you I'd received news of my grandmother's ill health. I know chronologically only a week has passed since I shared that news, but that seems implausible to me. I'll be honest & tell you I do not feel like writing. I am trying because I believe at some point in the future I'll be glad I sat down & made myself do it. 

My grandmother was flown from her local hospital to Rapides General, which is about two hours by car from where we live. Maybe because it was the weekend or maybe because there is a general shortage of doctors, we were told there was no surgeon available locally, thus the decision to airlift her to a hospital two hours away. 

Essentially what happened in terms of her health is that something was cutting off the blood supply to some her organs. Surgery would have been necessary to determine what exactly that something was, & surgery would have been necessary to attempt to save her life. The surgeon at Rapides General determined that she would not survive surgery. She was given medication to ease her pain. She passed away shortly before midnight on Sunday, June 3. 

Much of last week is a blur. The kids & I had to be out of the house Monday because the cleaning lady was scheduled to arrive that morning for her twice-monthly appointment. I headed to Chick-fil-A with the kids so we could get some breakfast. The kids didn't get to play on the indoor playground as long as they'd have preferred because I had to race back home to retrieve my laptop, which I needed to write an obituary. I had planned to sit down Monday night after the kids were asleep to write the obituary, but my mom let me know visitation would me Tuesday evening with the service to follow Wednesday afternoon, & so the obituary was needed ASAP. 

After retrieving my laptop, I left the kids with Trey & headed to CC's Coffee House. Before I sat down I got a huge bottle of water, a huge cup of coffee, & a chocolate almond croissant. CC's sells a chocolate almond croissant that I absolutely love, but I don't let myself have one often because CARBS. I didn't think twice about the croissant Monday; I have to assume the carbs you ingest while writing your grandmother's obituary do not count. 

Have you ever written an obituary? It can be a bit complicated. I quickly typed up a framework, which exposed for me several blanks I needed to fill. My grandmother was one of six children, five of whom are girls. Girls can be problematic because, you know, they marry. Over the course of an hour or two, I exchanged numerous texts with my mom, my dad, & my Aunt Lisa (& also had a few phone conversations that earned me some interesting glances from CC's patrons). Slowly it all came together. At one point I heard myself saying, Yes, I know she is deceased, but I still need to know her married name. The young lady seated beside me put her headphones in her ears at that point. 

The kids had a nice afternoon with Trey. He took them to our local Toys-R-Us, which of course is going the way of all Toys-R-Us stores soon, namely out of business. They both had fun new (discounted) toys to show me when I picked them up. We returned home to a clean house & a freshly mowed yard. In the middle of everything else happening I had arranged for some young men whom I recently taught to come fix up the yard in case we soon put the house up for sale. I believe I mentioned last week that I have discovered a house I want Trey to purchase for me. 

A not-so-brief aside about the house I want: There's a house for sale right around the corner from us. The odd thing is that apparently this house was on the market for a few months not too long ago, then it was pulled for a bit, & recently it was re-listed at a slightly lower price. I literally drive by this house twice a day if I go basically anywhere, yet I have no memory of it ever being for sale. Browsing real estate listings is a thing I enjoy doing in my free time (no, seriously), & certainly I would normally take note of a house in my own neighborhood that's up for sale. There is perhaps nothing more indicative of how tired & busy & generally frazzled I was during the school year than the fact that I never, not once, noticed the For Sale sign in the yard of this house I have now decided I love enough to possibly abandon our current home. 

As is usually the case when I want to buy something, Trey is kind of meh about it all. Week before last we walked through the house. He doesn't hate the house. One of his concerns was whether or not there would be an obvious, perfect space for his gun safe (this is not a joke), & I believe that specific concern of his was allayed when we saw the inside of the house. Still, there are further hurdles. Sigh.

The major kink in my plan is, of course, that we owe people money for the house in which we currently reside. If it was anything other than a house, I think I could smile brightly & convince Trey to buy me what I want. Wise man that he is, he is not going to buy me a house before we reach an agreement with a lovely buyer regarding the purchase of our current home. He is tired of discussing it all at the moment. Real estate is a mess, y'all. It is a game of chess. Ironically, Trey has been playing a good bit of online chess lately. 

I do not know what happens next. As you might guess, that makes me a little nuts. I think initially  Trey believed I was in a phase. Obviously I don't think I am in a phase, but I realize my insight on this matter is probably biased & flawed. Trey doesn't know I have had a lot of talks with myself, I have thought a great deal about this, I have mentally decorated this house I recently discovered, & I truly would love for all of this to work out exactly as I have scripted it in my *totally sane* head. 

We may just make an offer on the house this next week & see what happens. A contract contingent on the sale of our house is still a contract, you know? If we get a signed contract, I would be equal parts elated & horrified, because a signed contract would mean immediately launching into action to get our house sold.

The good news is that if everything house-related falls to pieces like Patsy Cline, we will remain in our current home, which is not too shabby (you should buy it!). My purpose today is not to sell you our home, though if I know you & you're interested, I will certainly walk you through it, provided you give me about an hour's notice so I can throw a bunch of stuff in the back of my car & bribe the children to smile. If I don't know you, I suppose I could still show you the house provided Trey &/or our realtor are present, or, alternatively, I will show a stranger our home provided you are fine with me giving you a tour while holding my revolver. Nothing sells a home like the homeowner brandishing her weapon. Truly here in Louisiana it may actually be a selling point. Maybe Trey has some of his NRA paraphernalia we could showcase on the front porch.

*whispers* It's a good house.

So that is the deal with the house(s). If there is any news on that front, I will share. For those who've asked, no, our house is not officially on the market. It likely will not be on the market unless we sign a contract to buy the house I want around the corner. We're not looking to move just to move; I want that house, & if we can't reach an agreement with the current homeowner, we stay put.

Tuesday & Wednesday were long days. Visitation was exhausting. When it ended, the kids & I piled in the car, & when I turned left to head home I literally felt my body just turn to mush. It is almost like being in a pageant (I am guessing . . . I have no actual pageant experience). You're dressed in formal wear. You stand some. You sit some. You smile. You talk to people. You answer a few questions. You hug people. 

Wednesday was a long day of activities of every variety. Henry turned five on Wednesday. Weeks ago I told him we were going to get up the morning of his birthday & go see the weekly Wednesday $1 movie at our local theater, which happened to be Boss Baby (a favorite of Henry's) last Wednesday. By nine-thirty that morning, the kids & I were dressed for my grandmother's funeral & headed to the theater. I know we looked odd walking into the ten am movie dressed like we were headed to a funeral, but, well, we were. We met my sister & cousin Maisie & attempted to do something fun on Henry's birthday before heading to the church for the service.

My brother-in-law took these of Henry at dinner Wednesday evening:

I wanted so desperately to stay home in my pajamas all day Thursday, but alas, it was not in the cards. Henry had an afternoon appointment to have his (second) cavity filled, & I also had to take the dog to the vet because of course she had a rash on her belly. 

We didn't stay home all day Friday either. Sigh. Friday was designated as official party day for Henry. We had supper & cupcakes with the grandparents & aunts & their families, & then the kids swam for about an hour.

At long last, I stayed home all day Saturday. I did leave the house in an attempt to exercise, an attempt that went better than I expected given the heat & my general meh attitude. Saturday night after the kids were asleep Trey & I ate leftover cupcakes & watched the third Jurassic Park film. Neither of us had seen the third film in the original Jurassic Park series, & obviously that's not something you want lingering on your To Do list too long. It is amazing how they keep coming up with reasons to drag people back to these islands full of dinosaurs. It is also amazing that I keep watching these films, but the heart wants what the heart wants. 

At this time, I suppose I'll share my takeaways from this last week. First, no one knows exactly what to say or do when someone they know & care about loses a loved one. What I can say is every little thing helps. It can be cathartic to just sit & read Facebook comments. It doesn't matter if there are already fifty comments; you go ahead & be fifty-one. What is most excellent & squeezes your already sore heart is seeing familiar faces at visitation or at the service. Thank you to those who drove up Tuesday evening or Wednesday afternoon in stifling heat just to hug our necks. 

It's hard to be a mom & a granddaughter at times. It's weird to hustle the kids out the door in their funeral attire to go see an early $1 showing of Boss Baby before driving north to attend your grandmother's funeral. It's hard to navigate grief when you're constantly surrounded by tiny people who don't fully understand what is happening & still want their milk at the exact moment they want their milk. This is the first grandparent I've lost as a Mama. I was not yet married when my paternal grandfather died, & I was newly pregnant with Reagan when my maternal grandmother died.   

Grief & loss are exhausting. I am exhausted. Grief & loss bring out the best in many people. I am thankful for a lot of what I have seen & heard over the last week. 

All the people in your life, regardless of their current age, were young once. Your grandparents & parents experienced a lot of life before you were born. It's easy to forget that, or rather, to never dwell on it; we can't forget it because their youth is not part of our memory bank. They lived out their youth before the digitalization of everything (as did I, I suppose). Take the time to go through old photos. Digitalize some of them.

Seeing so many photos of my grandmother when she was young, I thought about her as a young girl in Memphis, one of six kids in her family. At a young age, she made the decision to marry my grandfather, a decision that took her many places, a journey ultimately ending in Bastrop, Louisiana, where my grandparents raised their family & where my dad met my mom when they were in high school.

I am sure there were many girls born in Memphis in 1933, but only one whose life dramatically impacted mine. Marrying my grandfather was a good decision (I think she'd agree). It was one of countless good decisions she made. She is forever etched in my mind as my gray-haired, chatty, coffee-drinking Mamaw, but she was once a young raven-haired beauty who fell in love with a dashing older boy named Jesse James. She buried her first child, a premature boy who died a mere thirty-six hours after his birth. Her second child, her second son, is my dad. So much of her life unfolded before  she met me.

Death highlights our own mortality. I appreciate Joan Didion's words quoted above. When we mourn,  we mourn the individual we've lost, but we also mourn afresh the reality of our complication, that of course being our mortality & the mortality of every person whom we love. Unless the Lord returns in our lifetimes, time & death will eventually claim us all. That is an almost unbearable thought. Almost.

A man named Tommy Inman taught me Bible during my junior & senior years of high school. At some point during those two years, I distinctly remember him saying that he does not understand how people who don't believe in an afterlife cope with death. Ms. Didion is correct in her assertion that we are imperfect mortal beings. On our own, we are sinful, imperfect mortals who will surely return to the dust from whence we came.

Praise be to God that we are not on our own, & we are, in fact, all immortal. While it was at times complicated navigating the past week with my kids to consider, it was also comforting at times because you have to explain death to children on their terms, & truly their terms are probably the best terms. The simplest, purest, truest terms. She no longer lives in her body. She left her body to be with Jesus.

Jesus overcame death so that we too may one day do likewise. Because He lives, I can face tomorrow are perhaps the truest song lyrics ever written. You are a soul. I am a soul. My grandmother is (present tense) a soul. We are given temporary vessels in which to flit about the earth for a short while, but these vessels are not meant to last. They age. They wear down. This is, as Ms. Didion notes, a complication, this wearing down. It's frustrating because ultimately, despite diet & exercise & vitamins & modern medicine, there is nothing we can do about how time ravages our bodies. Truly the only way to  cope with the temporal nature of the earthly lives we lead is to live every day reminding ourselves we are passing through. We are nomads in a strange & temporary land. The trials & struggles we all face at times, both physical & emotional, are a testament to the fact that this is not our home; this is not the end of the journey, the place where we will flourish.

All of the complications of which Ms. Didion speaks were eradicated on the cross. My body is mortal; my soul is not. One day (not now because this is already lengthy) we will further discuss literature & film that dapples with immortality (Edward Cullen, anyone?). We are fascinated by books & movies that depict immortal creatures, & why do you think that might be? Yes, yes. We are immortal.

If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world. 
-C.S. Lewis 

Do you want to live forever? Guess what? You will. Do you want your loved ones to live forever? Guess what? They will. The complication is not that we won't live forever, but that we will. I hope & pray that truth is a comfort to you.

Over the last week I heard two things repeatedly about my grandmother: She never complained, & she was kind. The likeliest explanation for the demeanor of a kind person who never complains is that this individual knows she will live forever in a place not of this world, a place where aging & death & sorrow & other of life's complications are nullified by Jesus's work on the cross.

I have certainly rounded the bases this evening, covering life & death, real estate, & the Jurassic Park films. I will bow out now before I sell one of you my our house without Trey's permission.

Have a great week.


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