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Archive for the category “Family”

Holiday Seasons

In general I manage to keep my stress levels down and just take it easy over the holidays. There are people who hate me for this. A couple simple gifts for my brothers, something a little nicer for my folks, and something for my godson and my holiday shopping is done. I don’t have to host any parties, though I do tend to go over to the folks’ and help clean for whatever parties they end up hosting (though I think it’s just the one this year, with Dad’s family). My brother and I tend to host a couple of my cousins for a few days out at our place, but about all this costs us is a little more food over those days. All around, the holidays aren’t cause of much concern for me.

(If it’s any consolation, I don’t expect it to last. One of these days I’ll find the right someone, settle down, and have a litter of screaming rug-rats. Which I’m sure will change my entire existence more than I can even begin to imagine. Weirder stuff has happened.)

I think it helps, too, that I’m not much of a partier in the first place. I’d rather hang out and talk with friends and family than hang out and drink. (I’ve never actually been drunk, to be honest, and seldom have more than two drinks. I’ve been a little buzzed on occasion when one of the two drinks was stronger than I expected. But I figure I make enough stupid, potentially disastrous mistakes when I’m sober that I don’t need any help from the alcohol.) I think the key reason I’m not a wild partier lies in that both sides of my family tend to hold fairly low-key parties. I say “low key” in the sense that no one gets stupidly drunk, no one’s property gets seriously damaged, and they are generally safe for the younger kids. This isn’t to say that they don’t get loud. My mom’s family in particular is quite large, and thus tends to feature a lot of noisy laughing, joking around, and storytelling.

I expect this year will be quite different on Dad’s side of the family. We lost Grandma Marilyn back in July, who, up until around five or six years ago hosted all of our Christmas parties. Grandpa Don still seems to be taking things in stride, but mostly this is because he is very good at keeping himself busy. I have to wonder just how different his first Christmas without her will be for him. I have to wonder how it will be for all of us.

Anyway, a joyous holiday season to everyone. For your viewing enjoyment, I give you Santa’s Dark Elves.

Kind of a whimsical picture I drew last Christmas.

Kind of a whimsical picture I drew last Christmas.

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Cancer

Grandma Marilyn passed away early Tuesday afternoon. I recall reading at some point that fast cancers are rougher on the victims, but slow cancers are rougher on the victims’ families. I can’t attest to that, but I do know how horrible Grandma’s cancer was, not only for her, but for all of us. Grandma wasn’t the first in our family to get cancer, nor the first to succumb to it. But unlike other family members we’ve lost, I was close by geographically and was involved in the day to day struggles of not just Grandma and Grandpa, but my parents and aunts and uncles as well.

Grandma was diagnosed with lymphoma about twelve years ago–and beat it back a couple times. She spent the past five years in and out of the hospital. And I think she averaged two doctor appointments a week for the last six months leading into her hospice care. Grandma started hospice back in May, during the final stages of her cancer. The doctors tell us she broke records–what should have been the last few days of the lymphoma lasted almost two months.

The most frustrating part is that Grandma took amazing care of herself all her life. She fixed home-cooked meals made with fresh vegetables from Grandpa’s garden, baked bread and cookies (friggin’ awesome cookies), and canned raspberry jam. Perhaps most importantly, she was physically active her entire life. I have memories of her coming back from swimming at the gym or golfing with the ladies or even just riding her bicycle. And she walked every day, down the old ditch-bank roads around the fields farmed by Dad and Grandpa. I don’t remember her ever being an idle person–not until the cancer made her too weak to move around on her own, anyway. Into her seventies, she was in better shape than a lot of women twenty years younger. Yet she spent that last three months bed-ridden and fragile, unable to bathe or even feed herself.

I wasn’t with Grandma when she died–and I think that’s for the best. But Mom and Dad were. Mom called us just minutes after. I called a cousin to let her end of the family know. Then I went to my room, lay down, and stared at the ceiling for a while. It was (and is) weird to think that Grandma is gone.

And the rest of us are left to try to understand the unfairness of it.

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