Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wedding Season is Here!

--photograph by Shana Waarich

Off to California for my sister Becky's wedding. I'll have lots more to report on that front when I return. In the meantime, I was thinking about my own wedding--some twelve years ago. If I had it to do all over again, I would do it in a heart beat. I think Jim would say the same thing.

I'm glad that Ethan and McKenna will know that their parents really loved each other. Surely that is one of the greatest gifts parents can give their children.

I fear I'm sounding a little smug but I don't mean to. There is no fairy godmother working overtime here. We fight. We make-up. Nothing unusual or transcendent to report. It's just that we really work at it. A LOT. ALL OF THE TIME.

I'm just grateful for the here and now. For once.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

We Called Her Nana

She was something. Nana had presence. If she was in the room, it was impossible to miss her. A big lady with charisma to spare. I don't think I realized until my adulthood just how pretty she was. At my wedding in 1995, a friend commented that my grandmother must have been a stunner in her day. Even with the extra weight and age, she radiated confidence. A huge smile, cafe' au lait skin, dark hair, sparkling eyes. Wore pastels better than anyone that comes to mind.

And that laugh. Just a hair shy of raucous, sometimes a little forced, but never grating. You heard it when she was at her most mischievous, telling you a tall tale from her past that may or may not have had any resemblance to actual events. In a spirit of affection, my mother recently remarked that Nana rarely let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Much of her life is cloaked in mystery. I think Nana liked it that way. She thrived on drama. Some of her choices were questionable. Not everyone has a warm fuzzy where Nana is concerned. She did the best she could, I think. How Nana raised seven children (one died as a toddler), largely without the help of her first two husbands, is hard to fathom. I'm not giving her a pass. I'm just allowing the passage of time to sort of soften the edges of her mistakes. History in soft focus.

It seems to me that Nana was a better grandparent than parent. I guess that's the case with a lot of people. As a child, I was always very excited to visit her. There was always a whirlwind of kids and fun at her house. And she showered me with affection.

My Uncle Bobby Rabie, Nana, and me circa 1968

I was not close to Nana in the later years of her life. I regret that now. If I had it to do over again, I would. So, I will pay my overdue respect to her in the best and most meaningful way I can. My hope is to document at least one version of her story in the most loving way possible. There has always been lots of talk over the years about her faults. Still, no one could say that she did not love her family. Maybe not the way they needed it. But maybe the only way she knew how.

Nana and the new Mrs. Eckroth (me) September 3, 1995

In the end, there was absolutely no one like her. And as my sister's wedding approaches, I find myself thinking that she will surely be missed. She was not one to skip a party.

Nana, dear Grandmother... May God keep you safe and loved. You are in my heart, mind, and prayers tonight.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Jazzy's Home!!!

There is a long and amazing story that must be told and I will tell it...just not tonight. Bottom line, after 8 days on the lamb, Jazzy is home where he surely belongs. We just love this crazy critter.

Pretends to be bored and above-it-all.

Crabby, aloof, and finicky. Perfect.

Requirements: High quality food and water available at all times, cat box cleaned and in immaculate condition, petting/cuddling only when he wants it--otherwise don't bug him. Brush frequently. Play with him until he tires of the game and walks away. Then leave him alone or you will get smacked. Be prepared to get swatted for any reason because he feels like it. Allow him to climb in bed with you and walk over any part of your body until he finds a suitable place to nap. Clean crud out of his eyes and his nose because he has a flat face and it accumulates frequently. Provide a cat-nip filled sock for him at all times. Acknowledge him when you enter a room but do not expect the return favor. Expect that he will climb into any open closet, cabinet or other suitable orifice and disappear for long periods of time. Assume that he will plop on any clean, folded laundry. More requirements are forthcoming.

Works for us.

Welcome home Jazzy!

By the way, today is Easter and Christ is risen. Amen.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Miraculous Kindness

Today I thought about an incident that still baffles me. Three years ago, when my Grandfather was in the last stages of a terminal illness, I had a brief but unnerving phone conversation with a family member in California. Up to that point, everyone was somewhat optimistic about the illness being "kept at bay". We could not expect a cure but perhaps it could be treated and maintained in remission. I was informed that that hope was overly optimistic and that Grandpa was not doing well at all. Seeking confirmation, I called the doctor at V.A. who advised me in a less-than-delicate tone that if I wanted to see Grandpa while he was still living, I should get on a plane. Now.

I was not hysterical but I was really, really sad. Ethan must have been napping; Jim was at work. It was the middle of the day and I was alone with my thoughts (This was before McKenna was born). And then I heard knocking on our mud room door. Generally, neighbors and family use that entrance. Solicitors, charity fund raisers, and missionaries are the only folks who use the front door or the "main entrance". So, thinking it was a neighbor, I went to the mud room and, to my mild surprise, greeted a stranger.

He was a genial young man in his early twenties, clean cut with brown hair. Honestly, at that point, I thought I was in for a heaping helping of Mormon or Jehovah Witness hokum. What I got, however, was something very different. He simply said that he was passing our house, felt a sadness or that we were somehow experiencing a hard time. He looked at me directly and told me that everything was going to be alright. And then he walked away. That was it. No Bible thumping, no caricature filled handouts foretelling the end of time.

This was three years ago and I still don't know how to process the encounter. None of my neighbors knew about the information that I literally just received moments before this man knocked on my door. So, it's not like a well intentioned neighbor informed him that I might need some counsel. There is nothing about our home that screams "troubled occupants". In fact, quite the opposite is true. How could this complete stranger know to stop? What compelled him to do it?

This much I do know...A gentle, kind man sought me out to provide a smile and some comfort, however small. How he knew to stop, knock on my door and provide solace to me, an unknown woman, is a mystery. It doesn't haunt me but I think about it from time to time. I have tried to rationalize the whole thing by surmising that he saw me through my kitchen window, speaking on the phone and appearing distraught. Perhaps he intended to give me a spiel but then recognized my demeanor and decided to back off and simply render some badly needed cheer.

Any way you cut it, it was a lovely, unexpected gift. How very blessed I am to live in a town where people genuinely still care about one another. Because of this, I'm learning to part with untold layers of California cynicism. In the middle of my life, I am seeing miracles that I never took the time to notice before. Goodness can just sneak up on you and sometimes even scare you when it is unexpected or when you are not accustomed to it. You wonder what the angle is. Out of sheer habit you almost find ways to dismiss or minimize it. On a really dark day, I might even ridicule it. I'm learning though.

I now think angels appear in all kinds of subtle, vicarious ways, working through people's routine thoughts and actions. And then again, maybe an angel can just skip all of that and simply knock on your door.

Either way, kindness in all forms is truly divine.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Flower Girl Preview

McKenna's big debut...As to whether she actually walks down the aisle at Aunt Becky's wedding in a couple of weeks...the odds are 50/50. With bribes of chocolate, I actually got her in the dress!

Love you sweet girl. I just love these times with you!