Excerpts From The Journals of Vicky Sawyer, TGAW
Elizabeth Baker Turnock
My Grandmother, Lib Turnock, passed away February 5, 2000. Below are a number of excerpts, many trivial, of my journal entries that refer to her or the beagle puppy she left behind, Henry. A lot of places
I have skipped irrelevant passages. They are marked with ellipses (...). Present day comments are placed
between brackets (). I have not yet reviewed my high school and early college journals for content to add.
Grandma told me a story about her mother's cousin, Josie. Josie was an overweight woman who had a FORTY pound tumour removed from her body when Grandma was a young girl. AMAZING.
Grandma also said that there is a history of mental illness of her father's side of the family. I think Grandma's grandma died in a mental hospital or wait... maybe that was the one who died from being struck by lighting. I will have to clarify.
After breakfast this morning (Grandma made waffles) Mom said she used to wonder why me, Jay, and Carolyn are obsessed with weight. She cited the last Sawyer family reunion (Reading, PA). I kept complaining that I looked anorexic. Jay kept complaining he was scrawny and Carolyn kept complaining she was fat. Mom says what molded us to think like that is Grandma. According to my mother, Grandma is always talking about weight. I have never consciously noticed Grandma mentioning someone's weight. Though she did make sure to mention Josie was a big woman. Hmmm....
Grandma Lib called me today. When she cleaned out the closet today she found one of Grandpa's reports about Antartica. She said it was fascinating. If weather permits, she's going to Staples tomorrow to make me a copy. She also found family trees from the Baker family. She's going to mail me a copy of those as well.
One thing that's interesting is that when she called, the Caller ID said, "TURNOCK, JAMES H". How haunting. My grandfather has been dead for almost 20 years and he still has a phone line in his name. Another manifestation of my grandfather's ghost is how my grandmother refers to herself as "Mrs. James H. Turnock". Sometimes I don't get it- how she sacrifices her entire identity... but then what a wonderful tribute that is to my grandfather. He lives on, his name is remembered because of his wife.
Sometimes I take for granted the practice of a woman taking on her husband's name. It's so easy for me to sit back and be defensive of "Sawyer" and to think how weird it would be to be a Vicky of some other surname. But then, it is surprising and a little frustrating when I come upon other women who haven't changed their names. For example, Mandy Wilson. One day I was CCS phone-list-less and I needed her number. I searched the phone book for Wilsons-- not knowing that Wilson was Mandy's last name only. Her husband's last name was "Barnes". I didn't know that tidbit of information. It doesn't really come up in conversation. Needlesstosay, I was unable to contact her because of her defiance against social mores.
I guess in conclusion, I am undecided. Would I give up my last name? I guess we'll see one day.
Earlier, alone, I laid in the waterbed looking out the window. The ground is white, the sky is pink. It feels like dawn outside. It feels like I should be asking, "Grandma, is it almost?" (as I did as a young child) or look for "Grandpa's bird" pirched on a telephone post (as I did as a slightly older child). Anyway, from where I laid I could see the trees acquiese and the screen of my window gyrate almost erotically at the beckoning of the wind. But, I couldn't hear a sound. That, my friend, was orgasmic.
[Big Brother Big Sister Bowl for Kid's Sake]
I bowled great. 124. I got a spare, two strikes and another spare right in a row. After that my scores weren't so good. Mom and Grandma cheered me on. They came to visit this weekend, so they accompanied me to IHOP and bowling.
Though, when I was warming up, Grandma made a wisecrack. She beckoned me over and when I arrived said, "You're supposed to roll it down the lane, not the gutter!" Later she confessed that someone had told her the same thing when she started bowling.
Grandma has two bowling trophies at home. I remember playing with them as a child. I also remember some of the little gold bowlers falling off the team trophy. I just always assumed since Grandma had 2 bowling trophies, she was a great bowler. However, today she told us that one trophy was for "Most Improved Bowler" and the other one she got was for being lucky enough to be on the team that won some championship. I guess Grandma's trophies are like bridge trophies-- the only trophies given out at tournaments are for the novice events that don't really mean too much.
Nonetheless, I am still proud of Grandma's trophies.
Speaking of Christians, Mom, Grandma and I went to the sunrise service at 6:15 AM today. It was great! We were the only white people there, but I for one didn't feel like I was out of place or didn't belong. That community is so accepting and so hospitable. I want to write them a thank you note.
Grandma showed me that wall hanging of the historical buildings where she grew up. Her church is the center, to the right is her mother's home. Below the home were Grandma's two schools. The bottom one (Grades 7 on) was too far for her and her sister to walk. So they rode ponies to school. They would leave the ponies at this house (pictured on the bottom left) This boy was petrified of the ponies, but his job was to put them in the stable so everyday he'd get two apples and lure the ponies into the stable.
At the sunrise mass, the congregation sung Grandma's Mother's favorite hymn.
Yesterday was Grandma Lib's birthday. Ryan and I were planning on going to Nova to return Dad's suburban... but it didn't pan out.
[Discussing Sean and my dilemma picking up a bedroom set on short notice]
Luckily, Dad and Mom decided to let us borrow the suburban. As a result we got to go to the pilot house for Dad's birthday dinner. I got surf and turf. The lobster tail that comes with that is a medium size. Grandma ordered a large size.
I was curious how much larger her lobster was than mine so I asked her to pass me the tail shell. She handed it to me and I held it with my left hand while using my right to make room on my plate. Suddenly annoyance sounds emerge from Sean and my brother starts to laugh. I did not realize it, but the lobster tail was dripping and I was holding it directly over Sean's class. [There is a picture of a hand-held lobster tail dripping into a soda glass]
I was looking forward to being around for Grandma's birthday. Maybe next year. If there is one.
Grandma keeps saying stuff as if she anticipates dying soon. Last weekend she told me to take all the Shakespeare books. She wanted me to take them right away because "if [I] didn't and [she] died, they might get mixed up in the estate." I denied Grandma her wishes because I knew our car real estate was limited because of all the furniture I had to pick up. I hope I didn't make a mistake.
2 weekends ago Grandma's dog, Thomas, died. He was 15 years old. I saw him the morning before he died. I had driven the suburban back Friday night and Stacy McMahon was kind enough to drive me back Saturday morning. Furthermore, Grandma was kind enough to fix me and Stacy breakfast before our journey. As I ingested waffles (with chocolate confection sugar) I asked, "What's that on Thomas's eye?" Grandma replied in a kind but exasperated tone, "Vicky that's what happens when you get old! He's just old!"
This is remarkably simliar to her response when I note that she looks tired, "I'm not tired.. I'm old! This is what being old looks like!"
Interestingly enough after Stacy and I departed, the thing on Thomas's eye exploded and started bleeding. Jay was kind enough to take Thomas to the vet. Thomas's body was completely infested with cancer. In fact, the thing on his eye was cancer. He had cancer all over the outside and inside of his body, including his liver. Jay, for the third time in 2 years had to make the decision to put a dog to sleep.
Grandma was relieved. She had been worried about Thomas's health for quite some time. I was a little annoyed. Thomas recently went to the vet to get his rabies shot and somehow the vet missed the cancer that had overcome Thomas's entire body?!?
Anyway, here are some quick memories of Thomas:
Grandma told me two interesting stories over breakfast that day. First her favorite Christmas was the one in 1945. The war was over and Jim was home. My mother was not even a month old. They went to relatives house and one of Grandma's relatives who recently had a miscarriage wanted to feed the baby. She played with the baby all day long and Grandma got a day off.
- When we went to pick Thomas up, Carolyn, Jay and I had a field day playing with all the puppies. We find tiny little Thomas and recognize his club leg as what Grandma was talking about. Knowing full well this was the dog Grandma was getting when Grandma returned, I, cuddling Thomas in a towel said, "Grandma, can we get this one instead?"
- When Thomas was young, we were watching him at our house. We had been trying without much luck to get Thomas to release his bowels outside. It was raining and looking back that could have been a deterrant to the young dog. In frustration, Jay ran out the back basement door, squatted in the rain and demonstrated to Thomas what we expected of him. As soon as Jay returned into the house, Thomas ran outside. We joyfully celebrated our success. Thomas understood! Or so we thought. A few seconds later, Thomas returned, carrying the visual aid from Jay's presentation. We shreiked and ran away.
- We used to run from furniture to furniture in Grandma's living room, trying not to be caught by the "Rug Shark"
- Clint making Thomas bark with just a look
- Grandma, walking Thomas by "King Kong" across the street from her house with Socrates following nearby.
The second story is quite funny. When Grandma was young, she observed, "I cry... the baby [Grandma's sister, Sarah] cries... but Frances [Grandma's older sister] doesn't cry. I wonder why that is." Grandma then grabbed Francis's leg and pulled it out from under her. Frances fell backwards and hit her head on the wall and started crying. Grandma felt better. Grandma says she can't remember getting punished for her little experiment, but she is sure she did.
Grandma's grandma died by getting struck by lightning. She was pregnant at the time and before her death gave birth to a black baby (charred). Grandma said whenever they tried to explain the phenomenon, they misunderstood and thought it was (to quote the language of that time) a nigger baby.
When Grandma gave birth to my mother a nurse came in with Anne, took one look at Grandma's naked breasts and said, "Wrap those things up woman. They ain't no good for feeding a baby." I wonder if that is what will happen to me with my "A-cups-on-a-good-day" breasts.
Grandma got a new dog last weekend. He is a 6-week old puppy. Grandma had wanted to name him T2. Not after the Arnold Schwazenegger film.. but for "Thomas II". Instead she named him Henry. So Grandma's beagles have been named "Thomas", "George" and "Henry". All Kings of England.
Greg came in from Norfolk. Cory and Jill were on their way from Savannah when they hit really bad traffic. They weathered the storm in a hotel north of Charlotte. I was happy to hear of our hurricane refugees. I realized something yesterday-- I think I got that from my grandmother. At supper time, Grandma is constantly inviting people and any "orphan" without a supper to eat was invited. Even during holidays, Grandma would remind me to invite any friends who didn't have a place to go. I'm proud if my habits of inviting people to dinner and joy of unexpected guests stems from her. She is a wonderfully hospitable woman. I strive to be as hospitable.
Boy what a busy week.
Tuesday- had lunch with Mom and Grandma at Garden Kitchen (formerly Country Kitchen where Grandma would take me and Carolyn to get cookies right after she picked us up at the bus stop), drove to Vienna...
I am typing up some of Grandpa's stories. Maybe one day my grandchild will do the same. Here are some words he uses that I don't know:
- surreptitiously - done, got, acting in a stealthy way
- manifest - I know this word, but he used it in a different context: an itemized list of a craft's cargo or passengers
- approbation - approval
- flippant - frivolous and disrespectful
- desultory - aimless, disconnected, random
VA TECH WON! I learned something interesting. Actually I didn't learn, I observed. Recently (Last 6 months or so) I realized that probably the reason that I am so hospitable is because of my grandmother. I had observed that most evenings I cooked, I would actively seek out someone to share the meal with. People are always welcome in my home and people are always welcome to spend the night in a moment's notice.
When I was growing up Grandma always had open doors when a friend came over for dinner. Around Thanksgiving time she would actively seek out orphans, friends of her grandchildren that had no place to eat.
Likewise, my mother was as hospitable with suppers and sleepovers. Oooh.. Chris Hatcher and Cheri are good examples of my grandmother's and mother's hospitality.
Anyway that philosophy is ingrained in me, perhaps even genetically.
My grandmother Lib is really ill. It's a long story. I pray she gets well soon. I love her and miss her dearly.
11/11/1999 (AE, Bret, Kurt Vonnegut's birthday)
Last Tuesday, I received a disturbing email from my mother regarding my grandmother's health. I took off work and went home.
Almost a month ago, Grandma went outside and bent down to open her storm cellar. When she stood up, she hurt her back. First she went to Urgent Care- they sent her home with a prescription. Next she went to the emergency room- they sent her home with a different prescription. Then, under recommendation of a friend, Grandma saw an oseopath. The oseopath noticed a heart murmur and sent Grandma to an internalist-- when the internalist (Dr. Friedanthal) examined Grandma, she had Grandma hospitalized immediately.
Grandma was put in Potomac Hospital on the 28th of October.
The first night I visited (Tuesday Nov 2nd) was a horrible and unnerving experience for me. Before I left Blacksburg, I called the Garden Kitchen (formerly the Country Kitchen) and ordered some Cream of Brocolli soup. When I was little and ill, Grandma would always get me two things - a milkshake and Cream of Brocolli Soup.
Mom went with me to the hospital. I told Grandma there was no pressure to eat the soup. When I had mono, I had very little appetite and feeling pressure to eat made me more reluctant to eat. I guess its good Grandma knew there was no pressure to eat the soup because while the nurse was heating it up, she fell asleep.
The first thing that was awful was that Grandma was getting this horrible back spasms ranging from one minute to eight minutes apart. Her whole body would tense up, her face would distort in wrinkles and she would moan. It was awful to see. When she was given the drugs, she fell asleep-- but it wasn't really sleep. Her eyes would open and close and she still had the back spasms. It was awful. Even in a drug-induced sleep, she could not escape the pain. I wished for her to die that night. I couldn't bear her pain. She is such a wonderful woman and didn't deserve that suffering.
The finale of my first visit could not have been scripted better. My grandmother had not been eating because her medicine made her nauceous and she didn't want to vomit because she thought it'd hurt her back too much. My mom said, "She keeps saying 'No! No! I'm going to throw up. I don't want to throw up.' She sounds just like you."
Anyway, to further complicate my grandmother's lack of appetite as much as possible, a negligent nurse forgot to give my grandmother her phenegran (anti-nausea medication). So my mother and I were talking when my grandmother sat up. I looked at her just in time to see her vomit on herself. It wasn't a lot of vomit at all. It didn't have a gross consistency to it. It was just like 2 tablespoons of orange liquid. It left her mouth just like fake blood leaves the mouth of a B-movie actor.
Regardless, I had to leave the room. Then, even after the nursed cleaned my grandmother up (one nurse told me, "It's safe now") I could not go back into the room.
That fact freaked me out. I kept thinking-- after the vomit-- as I was fleeing, my mother rushed to my grandmother's side and aided her. Decades from now... what if it is my mother in the hospital and me taking care of her- I wouldn't be able to do it or what if it was Sean? I would run away and wouldn't be able to help. This vomit thing has gotten so bad with me, that I would dessert those that I love. How can I get through life like that?
I was so disturbed when I got home, I immediately went for a walk. "You don't want to say hello to your father?" my mother had asked me, baffled. "No, I need to go for a walk" I replied. "It's that bad?" my mom asked. "Yes" I said.
When I returned from my walk, I still wasn't in the mood to talk. I blew off Carolyn, Aaron and Sean. Finally I expressed my worries to my mother and father. I told them that I didn't think I could go back again.
My mother dispelled my future fears. She said I'm lucky because I have a brother and a sister to help me out when she and Dad need it in the future. She also pointed out that my brother is in the health care field.
Dad said he didn't blame me about the vomit. Also, he told me that I am young and this was the first time I had ever visited someone in a hospital and that with time I'd get used to it.
He was right. The rest of the week I stayed a long time at the hospital. This could be correlated to the fact that there was no more vomitting occuring.
Today, Mom and I got Grandma to sit in a wheelchair for about 2 hours. We wheeled her to this "lounge" with windows overlooking Gallows Rd. The trees were all maroon and orange (Go Hokies!) and looked fabulous. Grandma has had low spirits recently. Before I forget, here are some antedotes from the week she was really in a lot of pain:
I was holding Grandma's hand. She looked down at our interlocking hands and smiled. "We match" she said.
On Saturday 11/6/1999 the Va Tech - WVU game was on. When I asked Grandma if she wanted to watch it, she replied, "NO! Your team never lets the other team get any touchdowns!!!" When WVU scored, I told Grandma, "We let the other team get a touchdown." She retorted, "Yeah, but I bet it wasn't on purpose!"
Grandma overheard me talking to her wonderful roommate about 7-11 hotdogs. She said, "You want a hot dog? Where's my purse? I'll buy you a hot dog!" Actually, she has been volunteering to buy a lot of things for people.
On Monday 11/7/1999, I stayed with Grandma until they wheeled her into the OR. I was convinced she would die during surgery. Just in case, I told her that she has taught me a lot of great things and I love her. She said, "I'm not done preaching yet! I still have a lot of preaching to do!" She was right.
I love her. Last week she was for the most part grateful for everything. She did go through a paranoid phase where she thought I was doing stuff to her. I love her. I hope she gets well soon. I have emails to Brian Kalten that I will print and include here so I don't have to write things twice.
I spoke with my grandmother on the phone yesterday. She sounded really lucid and made a lot of sense which is why what she said is making me contemplate.
After going over the typical, "You've got to work at your physical therapy so you can come home" and the array of Henry stories, she said, "We've got to get together to discuss our arrangements?"
"Our?" I said
"Of course. They won't let me live alone when I get out. I want you to live with me."
"What about my job?" I said after a while, probing to see if she was lucid.
"You can easily find a job up here." which is true.
"What about my dog?"
"He can come too. I don't have a Thomas anymore, Vicky. Our dogs get along." Which is True.
"What about Sean?" I asked.
"He can come too. We can find him a job as well." Which is true.. if he wanted to come.
I told her that I would see what I can do-- I still have a lease and a life down here. She said she understood.
Mom and Carolyn both independantly called me to tell me that Grandma is doing really bad. Mom said the doctor said he didn't think Grandma is going to make it.
Make it through the day?
Make it through the week?
Make it through the month?
No one is giving me any answers!
Everyone is talking to me, but no one knows the answers to the questions I pose. It's so frustrating.
I feel so helpless... and guilty. There are so many times through my average day now where whatever I'm doing, walking my dog across a snowy field, sitting at lunch with co-workers, browsing the aisles of CVS-- where just for a moment I think of this woman lying alone in a hospital bed. That kills me-- she is so sick and weak and helpless and alone while I am 250 miles away just going on with my life.
That's what we're all doing-- going on with our lives. Carolyn goes to work. Mom keeps going on with the school bus. Everything is almost normal and Grandma is just a second thought.
Well... I mean-- I'm not being fair. My parents have been doing a lot for Grandma while she is ill. It is easy for me to sit back and judge and its not fair.
But its not my family's fault.
I wish I wasn't so far away. I'd do anything to see her just now and hold her cold, boney, yet soft, hands. All I want to do right now is lean down and whisper in her ear words that somehow convey how much she means to me and then kiss her forehead.
Maybe I am sheltered from the horror of her health down here-- not exposed to the daily trials to get her to eat.
I wish I wasn't so far away.
I wish I was home
I ran into some old writings of mine from freshman year of college. There was poetry there-- and some of it was actually good. It makes me want to try again.
Mrs. James H. Turnock
Wed in blue velvet
the sleeves white lace
Loved when I sang
Get Well Lunch
Cream of Brocolli Soup
Decorate the stoop
After school snack
chocolate chip cookie
Milk carton feeders
in the cherry tree
With rubber reptiles
Protector of Fruit
Amoung tiger lilies
A blue-tailed newt
Patron of beagles
Three legged variety
George, Thomas and Henry
Decade of Sobriety
Mt. Vernon Kiosk
And Sycamore trees
A delicious specialty
This week's complainer
Next week's cook
Murals in the attic
Her husband's puzzle book
Grandma, is it almost
Means is sunrise soon?
Pictures of the moon
If you fall down,
Ride the ambulance by yourself
Taco Bell Night
Flick of a switch
Roaches scatter from sight
Mamie Davis Park
Easter Mass at Dawn
Overlooks the Occoquan
Undefeated in birds
Recessitates the dead
With Forgotten stories
Mill House Musuem
The Whatzit Table
Children paint landscapes
From the picnic table
Every meal accompanied
A pitcher of ice tea
Giver of good advice
Always waiving the fee
Work dresses handsewn
Still managing wit
Three months pass by
Stuck in a strange bed
All this and what's left
For lifting a cellar door
I love you
I miss you
I won't blame you
If you can't
2/5/2000 8:02 PM
Fairfax Hospital, Room 861
There are three mustache hairs, two black, one white, pressed flat against her oxygen mask-- suffocated by a breathing aid. Cradled on a pillow, Carolyn's boom box plays a Glen Miller CD-- Carolyn's Christmas gift to Grandma. The music is uplifting, negates the stuffy air with that distinct hospital smell. Sometimes at work-- 250 miles away I can still smell the hospital beneath my perfumed skin. Every breath is a struggle. She looks much like a goldfish orphaned from its bowl- mouth gasping for air every three seconds. A trinity of tendons strain with each inhale. Her neck is stained with iodine and hosts her final IV tube-- her arms are swollen from fluid retention so much in fact her watch is on the very last hole on its light blue band and is STILL strained. Her face is devoid of wrinkles. Her chin has mysteriously disappeared as well-- dropped away leaving only an upper lip. Her roots are inches long and grey-- the first sign of grey I've ever seen on her.
I hope the music and our voices are somehow incorporated into a dream. I hope she's beyond recognizing pain. I hope she's free soon.
A plastic container perched over her bed contains suctioned away phlegm. When we first arrived this morning, some missed mucous had settled at the bottom of her oxygen mask-- squishing against the plastic rhythmically as she tried to draw air into her lungs. A cathedar hangs on the left side of the bed-- with urine so dark I thought it was blood.
Last night I drove up from Blacksburg-- and came straight into the hospital. I had to leave my dog alone in the parking garage and use stealth to get in. I'm sincerely thankful for the ten minutes I spent with her last night. I told her she didn't have to speak. She opted to anyway-- even after her speech inspired a coughing fit. I could barely hear her muffled voice under the mask. I leaned in to make out her words. One thing she wanted was a map of Virginia. I told her I'd bring it today. When I asked questions she'd reply with her now-standard answer, "I don't know, you're in charge." When I came into the room she was sleeping peacefully. Her sleep was now riddled with coughs. I waited until the coughs were less frequent before I left.
There are five chairs in the room now. One for Mom & Dad & Vicky & Carolyn & Jay. Dad is even here, sleeping in an uncomfortable hospital chair despite his fractured rib. How poetic. How touching. How very typical of our family-- even though a situation like this had never presented itself--- the closeness and loyalty of our family is manifested exactly the way it would be expected to be.
The medivac keeps flying over. Before, when Grandma was being prepped for surgery I heard the chopper and think, "Poor soul. There's someone worse off that Grandma." I hear it now and think-- "Does that still hold true?" I look at the death showing through her sullen skin and think, "Could that still be true?"
The answer is yes.
Here lies a wonderful woman with a long happy life and owner of many great stories. She has intimately touched the lives of many people. The quantity, quality and diversity of her visitors the past four months are astounding, absolutely astounding. The person she was, the kind heart she had and the wonderful life she led is extremely rare.
So is the nameless, faceless (maybe literally) person in the copter better off than my Grandmother? Odds are stacked against it!!!
Feb. 5th 10:20 PM [I wrote down in my notebook the date and time right after she died]
2/8/2000 - Supplement from Email to Jason Pitt
My sister is getting married on Thursday... Her reception is going to be on Saturday. Last Saturday, my grandmother from across the street passed away. That last sentence sounds really depressing, but it really okay. Grandma was in the hospital for quite some time as you know. When she died, she was surrounded by me, Carolyn, Jay and Mom. My father had yet another mishap with ice and he broke a rib last week. He had been sitting in hospital chairs all day agrievating his rib, so when it got too painful he went to sleep in the back of his suburban for a while. My sister had made my grandmother a burned copy of a Glen Miller CD for Christmas. Grandma never got a chance to hear it, so Carolyn brought it and her CD player into the hospital with her. My father cushioned the player on the bed next to Grandma's head, so she got to listen to the CD. So she died surrounded by loved ones and listening to music she grew up with. That's a nice way to go.
Anyway, three interesting things happened the night my grandmother died. First, right when she died, my brother went to page my father and he looked out the window and saw Dad getting out of the suburban. It's like he knew... though my father claims his rib pain woke him up.
Everyone drove home seperately. Carolyn, while returning to her house, saw a shooting star. When I arrived home, I parked in my Grandmother's driveway and there was a deer justing standing in her yard. I had never seen deer around here before, but my mother told me yesterday that lots of deer live in the woods by my grandmother's house. Blast her-- ruining my supernatural moment.
Anyway, the memorial service is tomorrow. Carolyn's wedding the next day.. A day off and then the reception. Busy week. Carolyn and Clint selected one of my grandmother's favorite Glen Miller songs as their first dance for the reception. Also, Carolyn's dress is a non-traditional blue velvet. My grandmother when she was wed decades ago, also wore blue velvet. It will be a nice tribute.
Speaking of my father's rib... last night we watched the movie "American Pie". Numerous times throughout the movie, my dad would start hollaring with laughter. That in itself is entertaining enough... however, because of my dad's recent rib injury, every time he laughs too hard he gets all this shooting pain from his rib. So there was this repeating cycle of Dad cackling, doubling over in pain moaning, "Owww... my rib!", looking up seeing something else humourous and start laughing again. The combination of laughter and pain brought tears to his eyes... and mine as well. I know he was in pain, but boy was it hilarious. I couldn't stop laughing. [Present Day Note: I did ask
numerous times if Dad wanted the movie turned off-- he declined each offer]
The Funeral- It was yesterday at 2 PM at Pohick Episcople Church. A number of people attended and like my Grandmother's hospital visitors there was a large variance of age. Aaron Evans & Stacy McMahon both took off work to attend. Jay & Marissa, Carolyn & Clint and me & Sean were in attendence as well. Frank, Mary Ann & Jimmy Phelps, Aunt Maria, Grandma Sawyer, Nellie Curtis, Alice from up the street, Vicki Grice, Rebecca Randolph, Sue Carol Houghtalen (Mom's cousin). There were lots of other faces I recognized & a number I didn't. The interior of the church was really bright- filled with light, hope and happiness. Me, Sean, Aaron & Sue Carol sat in George Washington's booth. Mom, Dad, Grandma Sawyer, Jay & Marissa sat in George Mason's. Carolyn and Clint were late so they sat in the back.
The minister didn't know Grandma too well. She did attend his & his wife's welcome lunch before her fatal injury. He mentioned in the eulogy that Lib--upon first meeting them was like "Sally, let's do lunch!" He said Grandma was very adament about wanting to make sure they felt welcome to the area. That's hauntingly true. In Potomac Hospital the minister and his wife came to visit. As they were leaving, Grandma reached her thin arm with pale-ing liver spots towards them and said, "Sally, when I get better, let's do lunch."
I was disappointed in the hymns they selected. We specifically mentioned Grandma favoured Amazing Grace & Joyful, Joyful. Although, I admit Joyful, Joyful doesn't quite seem fitting, it seems one of those hymns would make it in. Instead, out of three only one had I heard before- Faith of Our Fathers. Judging from the volume and the on-key/off-key ratio, most people didn't know the other two either.
It was horrible-- no one knew the tune so this clutter of hesistancy and indecisiveness filled the church. This was her farewell?
Okay, forget the music and everyone's attempt to sight read a tune-- this service was nice and touching. For a bit, I felt like I was watching a movie. Everytime I turned my eyes & head-- I saw something that felt cinematic-- the *shadows* of a candle and the wavy ascension of heat, Marissa's large brown eyes lined with tears, Stacy standing in the back somber with his sword tie-tac, Rebecca Randolph-- for once her spirit seeming as old as her body, an unfamiliar young pregnant woman dabbing her eyes.
The most dramatic moment was exiting the church. A lone usher opened the George Washington & George Mason booths. As we were walking out I realized people were watching me exit. I kept my chin high and avoided eye contact. I exited out the door and walked down the brick steps. At the bottom I heard crying. It was my mother-- the past few days were full of rationalization & looking on the bright side. Finally she was letting it out in large sobs. Her face was buried in my father's shoulder. I am not sure of the order, but Carolyn, Jay and I all joined the embrace. My parents-- the neutron and proton, Carolyn, Jay & I electrons. We rubbed my mom's back. I kissed her on the cheek. Her sadness awoke mine, but I didn't cry. Carolyn's eyes looked the way I felt-- on the brink of tears. Clint stood behind her and rubbed her shoulders. Jokingly I said to my mother, "Who's the emotional one now?" Soon after that she was better.
Passerbys stood aback just watching the incident. Some with tear rimmed eyes-- others with just silent expressions. Again-- another physical manifestation of our family's closeness.
After Mom was feeling better the hugging began. Everyone came by and gave us hugs. They'd whisper "I'm sorry." With Carolyn-- there was a new twist-- "I'm sorry" then punctuated with "Congratulations!" or a question about the wedding.
Clint said his work sent him a sympathy card and a congratulations card on the same day.
My work sent me lovely peace lilies. There have been extremely supportive-- especially Kalten & Bowman & Airaghi.
2/19/2000 - Supplement from Email to Jason Pitt
My toast wasn't the only tribute to my grandmother. My other grandparents did the blessing before the buffet and said, "And may grandma Lib be looking down from heaven..." Then when Carolyn and Clint were doing their first dance (they picked one of my Grandmother's favorite songs to dance to) Clint's Mom shouted "For Libby! For Libby!" in the beginning. She had to do that because that DJ was so damn dumb.
Well I am tired. I just woke up to take the dogs out. My grandmother's puppy has an untamed bladder, so as soon as he wakes up, you must take him out immediately otherwise he is going to dampen the carpet.
Jimmie & Henry
Two dogs wrestle
Uncle and Nephew by Ownership
Brothers by Inheritance
Sean had a tad of the Grandma disease last night. His back was really sore
There is a plump robin that sits out in the field by my office window. It's there like everyday (I think... actually there are tons of birds that sit out there). Sometimes it looks like it is just watching me. Sometimes it hops into the mulch right by my window. When I see that bird, sitting there looking at me, I think "Hi Grandma." just in case. You'd be surprised how often I think "Hi Grandma" & the bird replies by getting even plumper, then stretching out & a squirt of white poop shoots out at the ground
When I was younger, I was in my grandmother's house. I think I was supposed to be napping in the "front bedroom"-- the one with the two single beds in it. Instead, I entertained myself by poking a pen or pencil through the screened window. My diligence produced a nice hole roughly the size of a nickel. I then poked something red through the hole- either a balloon or scarf. In my mind, I thought I was creating the illusion of a flower growing through the screen. When naptime was over, I was outside with Grandma. I proudly pointed to my handiwork & said, "Look," Grandma was supposed to be surprised that such a lovely flower was growing & even more surprised when she discovered I had made it possible. Grandma was not amused. I don't remember being reprimanded harshly, but I do remember her telling me that screens like that are expensive. That statement has stuck with me until today.
Here's another Grandma's "Front Bedroom" memory. Once when Carolyn & I were little, Grandma & Grandpa found a stray kitten. I believe this kitten was Cheswick, but I'm not sure. Anyway, Carolyn adored this kitten. She cuddled with it ALL day long. Then at night, when Grandma & Grandpa "skinned the cat" & put us in our nightgowns & in our beds, Carolyn was still cuddling the kitten.
I remember at one point the kitten started crying, but still Carolyn cuddled. All of a sudden, the kitten took a giant dump on Carolyn. It smelled *SO* bad. That is the first time I can recall gagging.
Dad & Grandma are/were so at peace with death.
Today Sean, Ryan Schutt and I took Jimmie and Henry up to Dragon's Tooth. It is a 5-mile round trip trail off 311 near Catawbe.
I was really impressed by the dogs. Henry only had to be aided like 8 times. He was like a little billy goat-- his tiny feet finding tiny crevaces to use as foot holds. I think Grandma would be proud. I wonder if she ever imagined her little puppy hiking up a mountain.
I tripped over Henry today during a walk. I fell, but no serious damage-- a sliver of skin scraped off my palm and a possible bruise on my knee.
Grandma broke her leg when she was young. I believe she said she fell in a hole. Anyway, she said she didn't know she broke her leg or even notice anything odd until she woke up the next morning. Then, her leg hurt and she couldn't walk-- it was all swollen.
That incident has stayed with me till today. Whenever I fall or something, I go to sleep wondering if the next day I'd wake up with a broken limb. I used to be hopeful about that idea--- guess I wanted attention. Now, although it would be nice to take the handicap spot at work or have an excuse not to type, I'm apprehensive about breaking something.
I thoroughly enjoyed the visit with Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Chuck. I really needed a visit with the older generation. Lately, I have been catching myself bitterly narrowing my eyes at old people at Country Cookin' and thinking, "Why are you alive and my grandmother is dead?"
Or sometimes and this happened briefly last night as I watched Bonnie and her mother interact, I see an elderly persion and I get sad wondering if in just a few months they will be hospitalized and every aspect of their personality-- their life and energy will be drained along with the color in their face.
Bonnie and Carolyn reminded me of my Mom and Grandma. They were close and intimate with each other. It is nice to see happy relations so widespread through generations.
I'm reading The Diary of Anais Nin. Here is an interesting passage:
"I never said to June, 'You lie' but 'You imagined, you invented' as I wish my parents had said to me when I fabricated tales of meeting jungle animals in the street, etc"
I have vivid recollections of lies I told when I was young. I bought a stuffed Gizmo doll (with Carolyn's generous loan) at Miller's Lighthouse. I insisted to my family members that the doll was designed to respond to the stimuli depicted in the movie. Don't get it wet. Don't feed it after Midnight, etc. I even said there was a display at the store showing what would happen to the doll if you didn't follow the rules. I think that doll met its demise in the jaws of a Sawyer dog. So much for keeping it dry.
Once in elementary school circa 3rd grade I was walking back to class there was a red-faced sweaty boy in line for the water fountain. As I passed, he exclaimed "Hot Dog!" By the time I got home from school, the tale metamorphisized into the boy kissing me then exclaiming, "Hot Dog!" I even pointed out to my mother watching an episode of Silver Spoons, "That's how the boy kissed me!"
Finally, one day I went over to Grandma's house and told her I saw a Puffin walking down the street. Now that was completely fabricated! I didn't even see a bird for which to base my lie on.
I have no idea what possessed me to create and publicize such lies. But my parents and Grandma and Brother & Sister all tolerated and played along with my imagination. I appreciate that.
I wonder if any civilizations believe the cricket to be a mystical creature. I'd be surprised if crickets aren't worshipped as such... for with their chorus of scattered solos they are able to whisk me back in time. I take the dogs for a summer evening walk. Honeysuckle fills my lungs and the crickets chirp. Suddenly, I am in the body of my youth where wrinkles and cholesterol and celluoite aren't in its vocabulary. I'm with Carolyn and Jay in the Russell's front yard or Grandma's garden. We chase fireflies or pretend to be ponies as we leap over the sunken ground in front of their porch. What happy memories the crickets bring me.
Today I found myself quoting Grandma Lib again:
It's better to kiss a dog than a human.
Apparently, the human mouth has a lot more bacteria festering in it than a dog's.
What brought the conversation up was an email forward Brian Nenninger sent to me from his new home in Houston. The email's subject was "Everything you want to know about poop." It was filled with a number of different trivia tidbits. One was an explanation why dogs regularly eat poop (get a lot of protein). Afterwards the original author wrote, "Think about that next time a dog licks your face!"
[discussing my habit of losing my appetite in social situations]
I think the idea that really frightens me is the distant future. I'm frightened of being like Grandma. My body is in desperate need of nourishment but I don't have the will to swallow.
I think for that reason I definately need to permit feeding tubes in my living will. I at least want the strength to fight to live, even if I chose not to exercise that strength.
8/17/2000 7 PM PT
Renaissance Parc 55
San Francisco, CA
Tonight is our last evening in San Francisco. Tomorrow night we catch the long flights back home. I've had a great time here, but I'm also anxious to return home and see my dogs.
Before I begin annotating features of our trip, I want to share some of my memories of a manifestation of modern technology, the escalator.
It was Grandma Lib who taught me to master the escalator. I remember her holding my hand at the Smithsonian and instructing me to step when I saw the green light between the cracks of the oncoming stairs. Sean says no one had to teach him to ride an escalator because it was pretty intuitive... but to me, being as young as I was, it was a complex and exciting experience. I'm thankful my grandmother was there.
On a side note-- I really miss Grandma. However, I realized in the wee insomnatic hours before my flight that if anything happens, Grandma is there already there to take care of me. That makes dying a little less scary. I did say "a little" less :)
On Monday I went with Jodi to play kickball. Kevin Dublin decided to come watch and bring his dog Maggie. He said three dogs would be no trouble so Jimmie and Henry came as well. To make a long story short at one point two little kids approached the dogs. Kevin let the two kids walk the small dogs-- Henry and Maggie. It was so cute to see these tiny humans walking these tiny dogs. I wiash Grandma could see how adorable a site it was.
Last night I wrote a letter to that wonderful woman who visited Grandma everyday. Her name is Vicki Grice. She is a saint. I will always feel gratitude for her kindnesses to Grandma. She brought Grandma these lovely animal pictures to hang in the hospital room. One picture was of a darling beagle puppy up in a tree branch. Grandma was really interested in that one. I wondered outloud how a beagle puppy got in a tree. Grandma replied, "They do that sometimes."
One day Mom and I had Grandma in her wheelchair overlooking Fairfax in the Fall. Vicki came and found us and showed off a metal. She ran a race that morning. I think it was a 5K. Anyway, it struck me last night. Is she the reason I want to run a 5K? Regardless of reason, its a good goal.
[discussing visiting Jodi Vandervort in the hospital after getting her appendix removed]
I think I'm completely unequipped to be a patient in a hospital. One of the many things that frightens me is being exposed to other people's pain.
At Grandma's nursing home, there was this lady just screaming. On multiple occasions, she was doing this. It was a regular event.
The lady across the hall from Jodi's room moaned so loudly it could be heard in Jodi's room with the door shut.
How can one get better listening to all that misery?
I think the terrying torment of others is likely my first impression of a hospital.
When I was a small child, Dad took me to visit Grandpa Sawyer after surgery. I remember Grandpa lamenting about a guy down the hall.
"He screamed all night long..." Grandpa explained, "I think they had to amputate something."
That was the first time I heard the word "amputate". Dad told me what it meant. It's meaning made me feel quesy.
Once, Grandma Turnock took me, Carolyn and Jay to Arlington Cemetary. Jay got lost, I think, this memory is very clouded and likely filled with inconsistencies. I believe Grandma went to get Jay and told me and Carolyn to stay put and wait for her. Is there a hill to JFK's torch? If so, I think Carolyn and I waited at the bottom of that hill. Waiting there, I suddenly felt sick and maybe I started to cry. When Grandma came back, I just wanted to go home. I'm not sure if we proceeded to the eternal flame or not. I could be wrong-- it could have been Jay who felt sick.
My point is-- despite a low level of understanding, I think is only so much death a child can take. They may not understand their own reaction to it (sick stomach, claustrophobic throat) but they do experience a physical reaction... and it's scary.
Mom, Carolyn and I went through Grandma's stuff the day after Thanksgiving. I got a file cabinent of Grandpa's-- it includes another one of his stories AND hand written accounts of his B-29 missions! I want to type those up, but like my own writing that has been on hold for December.
I hope Melanie the best on her story. I sent her some links of references she might want to use on her story (it's about a female serial killer.) Today I bought her a hardbound journal like this one. I have a story I want to include with it:
A few years ago my grandmother gave me a journal like this for Christmas. I opened it up and I was like, "Uh...okay" But it turned out to be one of my favorite and most used Christmas gifts. A great return on investment."
Then I'll tell her she can use it for journals or for jotting down ideas. I also tell her the "to get struck by lightening you need to stand out in the rain" theory.
Really that was a great gift Grandma gave me. I much rather write in these hard bound journals than a spiral notebook.
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