Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Grandpa Hal

Most of you who read this blog knew Hal Tyler personally. But for those of you that didn't, he was one hell of a guy. Which is why I try to reference him as frequently as possible. One thing I love to remember about Grandpa is that he was a hand holder.

I don't know when he became that way. I can't imagine that when my aunt brought home her first boyfriend, Grandpa Hal held the boyfriend's hand while he gave him a tour of the house, but at some point, Hal Tyler became a hand holder. It was an extension of his care and love for people, a way of communicating things he probably didn't say much, like, "I see you. You matter. You are lovable." He was such a servant-hearted person, always willing to help and quick with a joke. When my sister and I were kids, we played pictionary and OH, did he draw Dolly Parton. Quick with a joke and fast with a pencil too.

Grandpa passed away 3 1/2 years ago. Soon after that, I had two dreams about him. In the first, I actually don't recall if he was there or not. I guess that's why you should write dreams down when they happen! I just remember that upon entering his garden he kept at the home he and Grandma lived in for 45 years, I knew it was now my job to tend that garden.

While I do think it would make him smile if I learned how to grow heavenly raspberries like he did, what that dream meant was that he planted many seeds in my life. Generosity, faithfulness, humility, an appreciation for animals and the earth, laughter, a love of nuts (which took me almost 3 decades to cultivate) and a respect for human life not in any way general, but in a very specific love the person standing right in front of me sort of way.

In the second dream, we were in a room with Grandma and Grandpa was lying in a bed in his hospital gown. He rose up. Then we were in a multitude of people singing, like in church, and he was dancing joyfully in his hospital gown, which, for the record, is NOT something he would have done on this side of heaven. It was pretty glorious.

After he died, I told Grandma I wanted to go to a brunch buffet every year on his birthday because Grandpa loved to eat, and when called upon, like my husband, could put away a healthy sum of food. But a brunch buffet with Glory, Elena and Manny sounds a bit horrifying at this point. So I haven't really held to my intention, but today I decided I could at least muster a trip to a the bakery.

While we were getting ready to leave, I happened upon all the kids in Manny's room rubbing organic shortening all over their faces, hair and clothes. Part of Manny's eczema treatment is skin care and a tub of shortening is economical and I don't care if he puts it in his mouth, which is a BIG plus around here. I instructed them to rub it in, confiscated the shortening and plunged forward, knowing that if we didn't exit as quickly as possible, we might never make it. Everyone would have to pee again, someone would inevitably inflict or receive an owie, the kids would get too hungry to go eat, or more likely, I would just lose all the fight in me.

I commanded that they all go down to the mudroom half-dressed, with a pile of clothes and socks in the crook of my arm. When they were dressed and ready to depart, their hair plastered to their faces with shortening, I felt a twinge of regret at their appearance. When you regularly have people comment, "Oh, your children like to dress themselves too," but in fact, you are the one that dressed them, it is an indication of two things. One. You don't ever do enough laundry and in the right combinations. Which is a perpetuating problem because then the mix-matched things are always washed together. And two. The poorly developed fashion sense you have is being displayed on three small, unsuspecting people who have a fistful of shortening in their hair.

It's just really, really sad.

You know, if you're not rooted in the true meanings of life and stuff.

But come on! Turquoise socks with harvest orange pants and a gray and pink jacket, finished off by a very dirty pair of Keen sandals. Yikes!

On the way, I told the kids how whenever Grandpa took me out to eat, he always said, "Make sure you get something good." And, in that spirit, when Elena didn't like what she had, I bought her what Manny had. I didn't anticipate, however, that she would then want a third thing, so while I tried to insert more lovely things about Grandpa Hal into my monologue, Elena was a broken record about one of the muffins in view, which she probably wouldn't have liked either.

Later this afternoon, we were getting ready to go to Sam's holiday happy hour at G2B. I dressed the girls in the darling Christmas dresses my mom made and attempted to put their hair in pigtails. My fashion ineptitudes show up in my hair design too, sadly, but something had to be done with their hair so that an unsuspecting G2B investor didn't slip and fall while brushing by them. Manny was effusive with his compliments telling Elena she was so beautiful (all true) and when I sat on the bed with my nicer pair of jeans in hand, Manny said to me, "You're so cute." Then he took a closer look and exclaimed, "WHAT'S THAT?", in reference to my leg hair, which in my defense, for the season, isn't terribly unkempt, but it was enough to put a cork in the bubbly champagne of compliments.

We went to the party, which was on top of G2B's offices, on a deck overlooking Lake Union. It was lovely and cold. Manny was distracted for a while by the view and by the hot dogs on the grill. When offered one by Sam, he ate it faster than a dog in the prime of his life. It was awesome. This is a feat only accomplishable by someone who regularly practices food stuffing. When we broke the news that one hot dog was the limit, it wasn't long before Manny came up to me, hugged my legs and said, "Take me inside. Feed me. Make me feel better again."

When we got home, I rushed them through a post-hot dog dinner and convinced them to take off their clothes with promises of more shortening. After they got slicked up, Manny and Elena went to roll around on the girls' beds and there was more penis talk. Because the things you can say about penises really are endless.

Elena was a captivated audience and when Manny shouted, "WHO WANTS TO PINCH MY PENIS?" she replied with gusto, "I DO!"

I gave the kids their fish oil supplement with a drop of Vitamin D. It tastes like lemon starburst and they love it. Whenever I give Glory a spoonful, she licks it clean and hands it back to me saying, "I'm better now!"

That's how I felt whenever I had the good fortune to be with my grandpa. Whenever we parted company, I could have made the same exclamation. "I'm better now!"

Maybe I'll try to talk to the children more about Grandpa Hal tomorrow. I am reminded today that attempts at conversation about anything beyond food, sharing and potty behavior must be forcibly inserted when there are three people who are constantly rotating and overlapping their thoughts and requests. Today we ventured into human reproduction and the death and resurrection of Jesus. I think the whole time I was talking about those things, the children were demanding more food, which may be why it's important to open the lines of communication about faith and sex early. It gives you plenty of time to refine your talking points.

And when words are too troublesome or simply not necessary, it's good to shut your mouth, smile, look someone in the eye and hold their hand for a just moment or a good long while.

Thanks for teaching me that Harold.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Would this work better with an attachment?

I have a long post brewing in me, but since it has taken me over 2 hours to get the kids to sleep coming off an already tough day, I think it's time to do the dishes and consider exercising, but have a bowl of cereal and watch 30 Rock on Netflix instead.

But I had to write, at least briefly, because after spending the day worrying about Elena being sick and an afternoon of meltdowns (all three kids, me and a scary incident with the Christmas lights, an outlet and a metal disk that is now charred and misshapen), Manny said something that made me laugh out loud and that took some doing.

Trying to get Elena ready for bed, she suddenly looked panicked and said she needed to go potty. I was still worried about her potential stomach problems and rushed her to the bathroom, stripping her while we moved. Once she was sitting I crouched down right in front of her to provide all the moral support required for someone who doesn't feel well and is new to a life free of daytime diapers. I wasn't even fully aware of Manny right next to me, who was pacing the rim of the bathtub in his Batman pajama shirt and absolutely nothing else.

Elena peed.

Manny stopped, cocked his head and exclaimed, "I don't know why you don't use a penis," as though a penis was like a vacuum attachment that has fallen behind the messy shelves in our family room closet. "You just use your bottom," he concluded.

Elena didn't even dignify his comments with a non-verbal response. I, on the other hand, was doubled-over the toliet, but not for the traditional reason.

Thank God for Manny and for laughter and for Tina Fey streaming on my computer in my dirty, soon to be transformed, kitchen.

(And for my Dad, who visited this morning and barely made it out unscathed. Glory and Manny think he is a jungle gym. I felt simultaneously sorry for you Dad and happy, that for a few hours, it was you and not me. Painful love they give at times. Sweet, but ouch.)