Jul 27, 2015

The Grey

Not really living but not quite dead.
It is the place nobody talks about until a loved one has entered the grey.
We talk about living, and we talk about death, but there isn't a lot of talk about the actual process of dying.
Dying is in the grey.
For some, death is a finite point on a timeline of life.  But for others death starts at one point and crosses a span along that line before it is complete.
I have seen the grey.
The grey is hard.
The grey is ugly.
The grey hurts.
There is pain, confusion, uncertainty, and sorrow.
There is struggle.
Struggle to walk, think, eat, or breathe.
The look...the plea, the fear, the discomfort.

It is one foot in death and one still in life.
The time it takes to cross over from one to the other.

The grey has moments of life - a smile, a glimmer in the eyes, a laugh.

Like a color photograph fading away.  Traces of the different hues remain, but vibrancy is gone and details stripped away.

Today I had a full dose of grey.
My grandmother smiled when I said hello, held my hand close, listened as I prayed with her, and even laughed a full belly laugh as joked around with her.
But along with all of that came the scary moments, terror filled both our eyes.  Peace replaced with panic, comfort with pain.

I pray that the time in the grey will not be long.

Jul 22, 2015

Summer: Day 41

Today I took the car to one of those expedited oil change places.
Last year, about this time, I took my car to one of these places and 10 minutes before I started on a 3000 mile journey I realized they didn't replace the oil cap properly and the garage floor was covered in oil.  Thankfully, I noticed before I was in the middle of Wyoming with a busted engine and no cell reception.  However, I did get a late start on what should have been an 11 hour drive - turned 13 due to frequent oil checking because I was not confident that the oil expediters knew what they were doing. That was an unpleasant experience.
I decided not to use them again.... well until today.
Last night around 11pm I decided I was moving my trip to California up to today.
As I lay in bed, going over my schedule and determining the practicality of a literal last minute trip, my husband decided to be the voice of reason.
He gently reminded me that the van needed an oil change and a fill up, and I hadn't packed yet... I think he may have also been thinking of the fact that I needed to go to the grocery store if I was going to leave him for a week, but he didn't mention that.  He very nicely explained that by the time I packed and got the oil changed it would be after noon and then I would be pushing it to make the drive in one day, resulting in a hotel stay and I wouldn't end up at my parents' until Thursday anyway.
He's right.
But that means I have to go to an expedited oil change place!
Matt convinced me it would be fine.
So I went.
And sure enough they did what they do best...try to up-sell a thousand services that I would never consider having done at such an establishment.
I have laundry and packing to do, the waiting room is hot and smelly, and this guy starts in on "Toyota recommended services".
Dude.  Look at my van.  It screams when it starts, the power door is disabled because the motor broke, a few of the floor mats are missing (surprising how an entire floor mat can fall out of the van while on a road trip and nobody notice), some of the windows screech when they are rolled up/down, it has 170,000 miles on it, the back wiper is broken off, and there are so many coffee stains in the front seat I'm surprised the van doesn't smell of a coffee house.  I don't really care if Toyota reccomends me draining every last fluid from this machine and giving it a transfusion of new and improved additive laden super juice.  Just change the damn oil...and mark up a brake light 200% and change that too.  Thanks.
I'm hoping that when I pull out of the garage tomorrow morning I don't have any surprises.

Jul 21, 2015

In just a few weeks I will make a trip that I'm frightened about making.
I'll hop in the car with the boys, drive 9 hours to In-n-Out in Redding, then continue a few more hours to my mom's house.
I've made this trip quite a few times in the past three years.
The drive is fine, I pop in an audio book and I'm golden.
The kids are fine, they are used to the long rides.
The frightening part of this particular trip is the purpose.

I'm heading down to see my grandma before all hints of her are gone.

In the past month or so she made a quick journey from living on her own in her home to requiring 24 hour care.
Physically, she is doing fine for being in her mid eighties.
Mentally, she has lost many of her capacities.

Last spring I decided rather last minute that I would go down for a visit.  We were saving up for our trip and it wasn't necessarily the best idea, but I felt I needed to go. Grandma was at my mom's house for Easter Sunday, we had dinner, the kids hunted for eggs, we chatted about whatever.  It was a normal day.   Later in the week I went over to her house for her famous chicken and homemade noodle soup.  It could be 105 degrees outside, and it would still be a perfect day for grandma's noodles.  She seemed fine.  She scooted along with a little less pep in her step, but she sure had enough gumption to give me a once-over for wasting water while I did the dishes!  She was talking about outfits for her upcoming trip and chattering on about daily business.  Sure she gets some facts mixed up and definitely teeters on the edge of conspiracy theorist, but who really cares?  She lived through the depression, the Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam War, the current wars, the invention of cell phones and the world wide web who can blame her?
We had a normal visit.  Just like many that I have had with her in the past. Nothing hinted that it would be the last time I really spent time with her.

I'm so glad I made that trip.

By the time we got back from our trip to Florida, my parents were breaking the news to me that she was going to have to move in with them.  

With every conversation with my family in California her capabilities and memory recall have declined.

My sister made sure that the boys had a few opportunities to spend time with her while they were down on a visit.  It sounded like she was still doing well enough then for the boys not to be uncomfortable around her.

So, I'm going home to see my grandma, praying that the woman that I love hasn't completely faded away.
Praying that I will see her one more time before going into a home.
Praying that she is at peace, even in what must be very dark confusing times.

Jul 15, 2015

Summer: Day 34

Our major summer travel has come to an end and it is time for us to start phase two of summer 2015.
We have 8 more weeks of summer. 
Our focus for much of that time will be stronger minds and healthier bodies.

Stronger Minds:
Eli is learning a new instrument this summer (a crash course in switching from the Viola to the Violin), in addition to working on research skills and analytical thinking/writing.  Gabriel and I have started a book club and he is working on analytical thinking/writing focusing on literature.  Both boys are working on typing skills.
My goal is to stay on top of the kids studies and practice for the school year.  I mentioned before, that as the kids grew older I felt I didn't have to be as involved in their homework.  In some ways I don't need to be as involved, helping them with the work, but in others I need to be much more involved.  I need to push them a little more, stay on top of the quality of their work, and make sure they are giving their best. We all have some challenges to work through this summer and my goal is to tackle them for about 1-2 hours a day, 5 days a week.

Healthier Bodies:
Yesterday marked the first day of our family fitness plan.  We have free access to really great fitness activities and facilities on post.  We never use them.  Matt goes to the gym just about every weekday, but the kids and I never head up to post to take advantage of the facilities.  Yesterday, we made the trek up there and have planned to meet Matt up there when he goes to the gym.  Eli is trying to build up some muscle to help him with baseball and Gabe and I need to lose the gut!  I'm trying to model and instill in the boys the importance of eating healthy and exercising regularly.  What better way to do that than to workout together as a family? My goal for this is 3 days a week at the gym and one family hike or bike ride each weekend.

Hopefully, by the end of the summer our minds and bodies will be improved and we will start off the next school year stronger!

Jul 14, 2015

Summer: Day 33

On the way home from Yellowstone yesterday we asked the boys a very important question:
"Of all the adventures you have had this summer, which was your favorite?"
There was silence in the backseat.
I thought maybe I should reword the question and ask again:
"5 day Bahama Cruise, 4 days in Disney World, one week at Camp Aunty, or camping in Yellowstone... which one of these adventures would you choose if you could only do one next summer?"

Eli said "its a toss up between Camp Aunty and camping in Yellowstone with the Mlacks".

These two trips were by far the easiest to plan, the cheapest, the closest, and the least glamorous.

My heart was warmed by the realization that this kid loves to be with his extended family more than anything else.   What speaks to him more than the glitz of Disney World or the beauty of Bahamian beaches is time spent doing fun things with the people he doesn't get to see every day.
I love that about him.
On our way home from the rendezvous in Ashland, a waiter asked Eli what his favorite part of his trip to California was? He played laser tag, went to a movie, went swimming, played in a Wipeout park, played at sky zone, played games, camped in the backyard, went to a show.... and on and on.  His response was simple "family".  That was his favorite part of the entire trip, just simply being with family.

Gabe was torn between the cruise and the camping trip to Yellowstone.

So that pretty much settles it - next summer there will be another camping adventure!

Jul 7, 2015

Summer: Day 26

Why do I keep scheduling things like this?
I picked up the boys from my sister in Ashland and immediately headed up north for a Sounders game and to spend the weekend with my cousins in even more Northern Washington.  We had a great time.  The boys swam in the pool almost the entire weekend with a quick time out to watch fireworks for the 4th and spend the following day at the lake tubing, riding the wave runner, and Eli made his first attempt at wake boarding.  A simply fabulous weekend.
We got home around 9pm last night and then here I am loading up the van for our family camping trip.  We leave tomorrow.  I'm crazy, I know.
We are looking forward to a few days getting grubby and not even caring, and hanging out with our friends in Yellowstone.  Sure to be a great week!