Monday, September 28, 2009


One of my Grandpa Ed's paintings, one of my favorites. The original hangs in my grandparents' living room.

Fall is here, strong and brilliant. It's the part of the cycle that tugs at the hems of our heartstrings, reminding us that we can't ignore the less joyous parts of our lives forever, that there has to be sorrow in order for us to appreciate our joy, and that we will eventually have to let go of this world with all its named things, and return to a wordless existence that doesn't recognize petty ownerships, but perhaps does recognize love, spiritual tribute - those truths that extend beyond the corporeal, if you believe in such a thing.

The season is hitting me hard, this year. I have been, truth be told, enjoying the crispness in the air and the faint hints of changing seasons quite a bit, though thinking more of hayrides than subways while I do so. But today was a sad day, and brings together all the sorrows that have been lingering, banished some as petty, and betted others as necessary woes.

I lost my grandfather today. I don't know how else to put heart hurts. But I am truly relieved that he is no longer suffering.

In June, he developed some symptoms that presented like pneumonia. It turned out to be lung cancer. An extremely aggressive, fast moving, and nearly asymptomatic type, which I am told has been more or less directly linked to Agent Orange, to which he was exposed while working as a medic in the vietnam war. He went from being fine, to thinking it was pneumonia, to finding out it was cancer, to learning that it had metastasized too much for surgery to be worthwhile, to trying chemo, to finding it was having no effect, to hospice care, all in a matter of weeks. And today he's gone.

I'm sorry that I didn't get to see him before he went. But I am also so glad for all the times did get to see him, and hopefully remind him of how much he meant to me. I am extremely grateful that Cadence got to meet him, even if it was a brief visit, while she was very young. He was always a steady, silent presence when I was young, intimidating in an almost thoughtful, curious way that reminded me almost of playfulness. I remember his hugs being strong, and warm, but somehow, like a gentle giant, like he could squeeze as hard as he could and it wouldn't hurt me. I don't remember him talking much, but whenever he would speak up it was with such interest in life it made me wonder why he was so quiet. I remember assuming he was very shy. But then he'd create these amazing paintings, drawings, and it was always so much an extension of himself, that he was sharing in some vulnerable way, but had so much truth in it I wouldn't know how to respond. I remember his art studio in the basement, how his smell lingered even when he wasn't there, and how it seemed like a scary, but magical place. I remember how he would encourage us to explore, to fill blank spaces, and always seemed genuinely impressed with our creations, which always, in turn, genuinely surprised and excited me.

I remember how you could hear him snoring all over the house, even downstairs, and how that was somehow remarkably comforting - even though it was usually during the day, since he worked the graveyard shift at the nursing home.

I remember how on one level he always seemed like a fish out of water when he came to the city, or encountered new subjects, but on all the rest of the myriad levels, he was soaking in everything there was to absorb, and his apparent absent-mindedness was just his lack of attention to the superficial happenings in the room. We may have laughed, but I think that he was actually lost in the wonder of whatever it was he was discovering. Whether he ultimately liked something or not, he always let it affect him somehow, first.

I remember his laugh. I remember his breath, somehow always expressing things that were living within him, if not otherwise expressed. I remember how infectious his enjoyment was.

He was relatively young, and went so's so hard to imagine my life without his presence. I've been so far away for so long, and yet, knowing that my grandparents - all my family, really - are there has always been a grounding feature of my life. I love them dearly, and I know that his passing is going to have a lasting effect on my life. As well it should, I wouldn't have it any other way; he meant enough to me that, were his passing to be but a blip on the radar...well, it wouldn't even be a possibility without entirely rewriting who he was, who I am, and how our lives intertwined.

I have always been proud of him. And that pride, and my love and respect for him, have not at all died with him. They will live on, into future seasons, germinating future life, and keeping him with me in spirit if not in life.

I think the best way I can honor him and his memory is to remember my own art, to press on with the exploration and filling space, and sharing those powerfully vulnerable moments that make artists artists, and to dedicate a small portion of that life to his love, encouragement, and his ever gentle, ever caring spirit.

My Grandpa Ed, my cousin Meghan and myself, I think we were around 4 in this photo. Note the corner of the painting behind us.

Goodbye, Grandpa. I love you so much, and I miss you, terribly, already.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Dear Cadence: Month 26

Dear Cadence

Oh my, what a daunting month to document! And what an Amazing little lady you are becoming!

The day you hit the 25 month mark, you were officially Done With Diapers. We'd been doing the only-when-out-and-about-or-asleep thing for quite a while, but that day, you said you wanted to keep your big girl pants on as we ran our errands. We stressed that it would mean that you'd SERIOUSLY NEED TO TELL US if you had to use the potty, and like an unimpressed teen you brushed us off with that 'yeah yeah yeah, I know' attitude...and sure enough, you did. And you haven't missed a beat since. Even night time...I think there was one wet bed at the very beginning...and that was that. Amazing. We didn't even bring the diaper champ when we moved. Didn't need to. We didn't bring any diapers.

Even during the long journey, with all its hiccups and lengthy stretches on the road, you'd tell me if you needed to go, were unbelievably patient, and had narry an accident. We were all very impressed.

And of course, that brings up the all important journey: the big move to New York City. The last few weeks in Kentucky were spent in a bit of a crazy, half-real state, Mama was working the whole time, often being gone all night and returning just as you were waking up, packing, preparing for our departure, and trying to soak up as much family and friend time as possible. Though somewhat difficult, I think it was a good thing for you and Baba, you got to have goodnights with just the two of you, and spend lots of quality Baba Baby time before BaBa has to start going to classes and spending time working. The goodbyes were awful, but also wonderful because of the love and support we have, from everyone down there. This past year meant the world to me, and to our family as well. We could easily be in a very different place right now, if we hadn't had such an amazing, loving but not enabling, welcoming, enjoyable, and ultimately real embrace to fall into when we needed it. It was very bittersweet to have regained enough footing to move on.

The actual journey was a long, often hectic one, but we all made it unscathed. Baba and I got you a disc set of Kai-lan episodes as an emergency backup, and it ended being very helpful in the last stretch of road before you fell asleep. I think you watched all 8 episodes before you dozed off!

Kai-lan has become one of your favorite things now, and you've adopted her phrase "that's so silly!" into your own vocabulary, with your own unique pronunciation that doesn't really involve any Ls, and it's unbelievably endearing.

Anyway, we took a slightly longer route than we normally would have so that we could stop just outside of Washington DC to visit your Uncle Robert and Yeye. We had a great brunch with them, and then we all went to the smithsonian zoo, which was really awesome! You got to see real live tigers, lions, elephants, hippos, pandas, snakes, turtles, lizards...and so much more! You took to it very well, of course, and seemed to have a great respect for these grand was very impressive.

Our arrival into the big apple was a mixed one, we spent the first day trying to get security clearance for the building, which involved a lot of driving around and being somewhat lost in queens, and finally making it to our new apartment late at night, well after dark, but waiting for us were several very good friends as well as your Nainai, aunt Audrey, and uncle Andrew. It was, as always, wonderful to see them all, and you seemed very happy to feel so much love around.

Since we got here, it's been a bit of a roller coaster - we've seen lots of old friends, new playgrounds, and a lot of cleaning, unpacking, and work to try to make our new apartment livable. I'm afraid it hasn't been a terribly interesting transition for you...though I do think that it is good that you've been here for it, to help understand what's happening, that this place is home, and how we're working for it.

You miss your friends, you talk about them a lot, and you talk about missing pepper (like the time we came home from walking charlie and you got very a little panicky as we opened our apartment door, saying "uh oh! where's the puppy?" and, to my response that we didn't have a puppy in new york, you declared, definitively: "Pepper is my puppy, and she misses me. and I miss her!") and the country cats, and of course nana and papa and kelly...and more than once you've just gotten very sad and declared "I don't like this place", which just totally shatters my heart. I'm not sure, though, whether you're referring to NYC as a whole with that, or just this apartment - which I'll grant you, has not made a favorable first impression on any of us. I lean towards the latter because you seem to enjoy our trips through the city quite a bit, and say that you like it when I ask...but I suppose only time will tell.

It isn't all sadness and toil, though, there have been some very exciting events. Take, for instance, our new job as dog-walkers! Our good friends Brittany and Kate have some family, a cousin of Brittany's, here in the city, and it just so happened that he and his girlfriend were in need of a new dog walker about the time we arrived. So, luckily for us, we now get to spend a little time each weekday playing with a wonderfully rambunctious, somewhat overgrown yorkie named Charlie, and nothing seems to bring you more joy than getting to spend time with Charlie. You tell everyone we meet, in the hall, on the subway, on the street, that you're going to go take charlie for a walk. It's so cute, and I'm so glad that you enjoy it so much!

Another nice effect of the move has been how much closer you seem to our kitties. You've always had a good relationship with them, but now you all seem that much closer. You seem to place much more emphasis on their well being now, and you chase them around with renewed vigor, all in hopes of giving them pets and hugs. And they, in kind, have also seemed to be seeking out your attention more and more frequently, being a bit more brave about stepping into your defined territory, and finding it an acceptable game if you decide to pounce.

And there was one major event very quickly after we moved: our good friends Lena and Zack got married in a ceremony that was an absolutely perfect representation of them and their relationship. Not only did we have the good fortune to be there for it, but you were actually a part of it all, making your debut performance as a flower girl.

It was supposed to be a beach wedding, but a hurricane came through that day, so, not to be outdone by nature, they got married at the Flea Theater instead. But the beach theme stayed. You had picked out a special dress at a very nice Indian shoppe, but the day of the ceremony revealed it to be too scratchy for comfort, so you ditched it, with the bride's blessing, for your own pink sundress, which you picked out yourself when you were like less than a year old. You both looked divine, so it was all good.

You'd been able to rehearse the day before the wedding, during which you ran the gamut of what a flower girl can do; first, you walked very slowly, dropping one petal at a time. Then, you walked a bit faster, dropping large handfuls at a time. The third run added in the music, and boy were you fascinated by the singers! you ran out to the middle of the stage, and stood there, transfixed, dumping handful after handful of petals onto the same spot on the floor. And the fourth time, you were kind done being interested in rehearsal, and you just ran.

So, the big day arrived, The bride and groom were excited, nervous and happy, and you started onto the stage stepping perfectly and reaching for those petals...and then you saw that full audience, all watching you, and you sort of jogged the rest of your course, bumping petals out of the basket as you went, and as you reached my lap, your sense of duty kicked in and you sat, very primly, in my lap on the side of the stage, throwing one petal at a time into the playing space. I think you would have emptied the basket had I let you, but at a certain point I realized some folks in the crowd were watching you and not the officiant, which seemed a bit inappropriate, and so I made you stop...but I take the blame fully for not letting you complete the task you had every intention of seeing through to the end, no matter what.

After the ceremony, the first thing Lena did was to turn and open her arms to you, and you ran to her and gave her the biggest was a beautiful moment, one I wanted to make sure you knew about in the future, since it is a wonderful example of how much love for you Lena - and so many of our friends here - have for you, and how much you've touched their lives as well. She'd been officially married for under two minutes, and you were the first one she hugged. You're a lucky lady, m'dear.

So, all in all, it has been a crazy month, with lots of stress, and lots of excitement, some not-so-great moments and some really awesome ones. Hopefully, as we move into the next phase of moving, settling in, we'll be able to expand our sense of enjoyment and fulfillment in our new surroundings, and meet new friends who can help to bolster us into this new place of forward movement and happiness in our lives.

But whatever happens, Cadence, I will be right here with you, every step of the way, to hold your hand - or let it go, and to catch you should you fall. Baba and I will always be within reach, and we can scoop you up and carry you whenever you need us. You're my brave little Cadydid, and I have no doubt that you'll find your wings and fly as soon as you are ready.

Love Always,