Friday, December 21, 2007

Apologies Around

My apologies to all those bloggers I normally visit -or at least try to -daily as today I barely got around to reading but a few of your posts.

Of course, I do have an excuse - one of them is that I was busy mixing up more cookie dough and I did get two batches of cookies baked as well. One of those two is completed - the other still has to be frosted but that will have to wait till most likely, tomorrow evening. So will the sugar cookies in the fridge waiting to be rolled out, cut and baked and the chocolate-pepperment cookies that are chilling -ready to be sliced and baked. I even have a batch of dough made up that -hopefully -will be date-nut pinwheels. Yes, I broke down and am trying once again to make those little suckers that so far have always bedeviled me, would roll out properly, wouldn't hold together to bake and if they did make it so far as the oven, then when baked would be so rock hard that it would take a pot of coffee to have enough liquid to dunk 'em in and make 'em edible. No, they are not my forte in cookie baking, that's for sure but I'm hoping since I had such good luck earlier with the molasses cookies and the sugar cutout cookies I made that this will be the year that the worm will turn - in my favor - for a change.

Today wasn't the best of days for me in other ways though. Lots of other things happening that created just a tad of havoc in my normally calm and placid life. Yeah right! Life with Maya is far from calm and placid - trust me -even on her really good days although on those days, most of her antics are just things that make you lose track of what you were doing because you just have to sit back and laugh.

The speech therapist was here this afternoon to work with Kurtis. She also had been the speech therapist who worked with Maya for two years prior to Maya's entering the pre-school program for autistic children over in Clearfield so she knows all of us in this household pretty well by now. When she arrived today, she had a Christmas gift for Kurtis as well as a little present for Maya - a most appropriate gift for her too it is. Maya absolutely loved it!

A Princess Magic Wand! Cutest little thing you'd ever hope to see. A nifty little wand with a star on top and this little button just below the star that when Maya presses it a cute little melody plays and the star twinkles. Really, it is very cute, it is! I loved it today. By midnight tomorrow night though, I might be singing a different tune after listening to Maya press that button probably non-stop all afternoon and evening tomorrow -again. But, if that wand and that little button to get it to play those few bars of music will appease Maya come 4 p.m. tomorrow when Mandy and Kate will have to leave for work and if it will appease her enough to ward off the meltdown she frequently has when they go to work, then trust me, I will never, ever, ever, ever bitch or complain about that little bit of music! Really, I promise I won't!

This evening, shortly after I had fed Kurtis his supper, he was in the playpen and had dozed off for a little snooze and I was trying to take a few extra minutes of a break to read some of my favorite blogs when things just went to Hell in a handbasket here. The crashing sound from behind me told me the tree had just been toppled over again!

This time, the culprit was the little princess -not Nina the cat! She just had to go over by the window that the tree is standing in front of to watch her dad plowing out the parking area a little better. Just HAD to do that ya know! Even though I had been telling her to please stay away from there, from the tree -nope, had to be there! Ok, I know she's only four years old and doesn't understand these things that well but still I am getting a little tired of uprighting the darned tree a couple of times a week now. The poor thing is a tad lopsided to begin with and all these trips to the floor and back up again - picking up ornaments, trying to find a branch where I can hang them again is getting very old.

So I have decided something tonight. Next year, provided we have a tree again, I am going to tell Bill to drill a couple of holes in the ceiling and we can hang the tree, upside down from the ceiling, in the same manner the Swedes of old supposedly did with their trees.

You never heard of that? Well, my neighbors three doors up the street from us always had a small hemlock tree (a live one) that they would hang upside down from the ceiling light over their dining room table, all trimmed with little ornaments and even candles! My grandfather said when he was a small child that was what they had for their tree back in Sweden too. With my family's track record with fire and stuff like that, I don't think I would want to try that with the live candles on a live tree but according to family folk lure, that's what they did way, way back then.

But I am thinking very seriously that to hang the tree from the ceiling would solve our decoration problems -between the kids and the cat -at any rate. Don't you agree?

Now, another thing tonight too and this one is going to be a difficult thing to deal with for me, for my immediate family as well as my extended family. My cousin phoned me tonight and told me she'd heard from our cousin who has power of attorney for our aunt -the one who, with her daughter, is in the nursing home about 24-25 miles from here. According to him, our aunt is deteriorating quite rapidly -almost comatose by the sounds of things - he can't rouse her, just sleeps and the last he saw her when she was awake, she no longer recognized him. So, in his interpretation, he feels it is just a matter of days.

This is something I know, from the reality of life, we all have to face the loss of family, close friends at various times and yes, it is difficult whether it is expected or a sudden death. It's never easy. And yet, with my aunt, as much as I do not want to say goodbye, a part of me says "Please, do not let this go on and on."

My cousin has asked that our cousin who lives in Phlipsburg (about 12 miles from me) and I please get together and he wants us to write an obituary for our aunt. He also wants us to put in it every accomplishment we can think of that she achieved in her lifetime because as he put it, if ever a lady deserved to be recognized for what she did, surely it is this beloved aunt of ours.

I couldn't agree more!

If only everyone had the blessing of having an aunt like ours - an "Aunt Mike" -could, in my opinion, make a world of difference throughout the lives all around the world.

She's been one of my staunchest supporters all my life and most especially since my Mom died. She's had faith in me when I was at my lowest points and feeling totally wrung out of what little bit of confidence I'd had. She's been an inspiration to me, to all three of my children - to any of her nieces and nephews for that matter.

She's tried to understand me as much as she could although we have had a few disagreements over the years on a few things - mainly politics and geneology. She has never been able to understand my interest in learning about our family tree. Her opinion about that has always been "What the Hell good does it do to go hunting for the names of a bunch of damned dead people?" But twice in the past 8 years I've been able to show her that keeping some of these records was a good thing after all -the most recent being about two years ago when she called me and asked if I had, in those family tree records, the name of the locations where she and her siblings each had been born. Yes, Aunt Mike -I'd told her, I have that information and she was happy then that I could tell her where all her 9 brothers and sisters were born. The other time was when I located a cousin of ours from her mother's side of our family who happens to live over in Clearfield -about 20 miles from where she lived. I had made arrangements with him to meet him one afternoon at my aunt's house -as a surprise visit for her.

Keep in mind, I had never met this man before -never knew he existed until about 5 years ago as a matter of fact but when he came to the kitchen door at her house, I was amazed at how much he looked like my Dad's next older brother, my Uncle Alex. Same shape of the face, same way he combed his hair -which was snow white then just as I remembered Uncle Eck's was and also, the same ice blue sparkly eyes like my all my aunts and uncles on my Dad's side had! After he introduced himself to Aunt Mike, she remembered then which of her uncle's families he was part of and got out boxes and boxes of old photos to go over with him -a very enjoyable afternoon for her, for me and hopefully, it was for him too. After he left, she looked at me and asked if I'd had a part in getting him there that day. I said yes, I'd done that. And then, because I am ornery -same as she was too -I said, "See, something good does come from searching for the names of a bunch of damned dead people, doesn't it?"

She shot me a look that at first I thought oh, boy - she's gonna let fly on me and then she smiled and said, "I guess you're right."

The political thing, I was raised with my Mom's parents and my grandfather was a staunch democrat, very much a union coal miner too - his idols in life were Franklin D. Roosevelt and John L. Lewis. My Dad's family on the other hand were very much the opposite -I used to joke that most likely none of them had ever heard of a split ticket and had probably all voted straight Republican all their lives. When I was a child, my Mom used to warn me every time we went to my Dad's family homestead that if anyone said anything at all about politics I was under NO CIRCUMSTANCES WHATSOEVER to say, repeat anything I heard at home! It was a creed I taught my kids too when they were growing up - DO NOT REPEAT ANYTHING I SAY ABOUT POLITICS to your aunts or your uncle there!

And for many years, all went smooth as glass. Oh my uncle did figure out back in 1976 that I was not a registered Republican but he did kind of brush that off because heck, at least I was registered to vote and well, the democrats were in that year in PA politics so he thought it might help me in my job hunting a bit then. (No, it didn't but that's a whole 'nuther ball game I suppose.)

But four years ago this fall, I had stopped at Aunt Mike's -popped in for a quick visit and as I was getting ready to leave she said something about good old DUBYA and I don't know what came over me, what possessed me but when she asked me what I thought of him I blurted out "I just don't like the man!" WOW! Was that ME who had said that? It was one of those moments in time when as soon as you've said something you can feel your hands wanting to reach out and grab that one word or the hole bloody sentence -in this case, the whole sentence -and stuff them back in your mouth if it were possible to do that. Oh yeah -eat those words, baby!

She flashed me a look that said there was fire in her eyes and her whole system was on high alert! "And JUST WHY don't you like HIM????"

Not wanting to argue politics, platforms, party lines, etc., just wanting to escape, make a speedy retreat, get out of Dodge fast ya know, and to maybe placate her a bit, I told her I just can't handle the way the man talks. That, you know, I betcha his wife has to cringe every damned time he opens his mouth, with her being a librarian, educator, etc., and that I figured Aunt Mike, as a teacher herself, would perhaps see the logic there in my line of thinking.

She kind of harumphed a bit and I did make a really fast exit -breathing a sigh of relief out in my car that I had escaped with my life and limbs intact after that gaffe you know.

That happened on a Thursday afternoon and the following Sunday - a mere three days later - as I was cooking supper for my older daughter and her fiance, the phone rang and Carrie answered the telephone. I could tell right away who she was talking to but thought nothing of it till Carrie handed me the phone and whispered to me "What the heck did you do to her now?"

When I got on the phone my aunt says "You remember when you were here the other day and you said you didn't like President Bush? Well, I got to thinking about that and I've made a list here of several reasons why you should like him" and yes, she proceeded to read off a list of about 10-12 or so reasons why, in her mind, I should be happy to have the DUBYA as our fearless leader.

Obviously, for those of you who have been reading my blog for any length of time now, you know her reasons were not enough to sway me from my original line of thinking though, don' t you?

I tell these stories -little ones about her - to keep alive the memories in my mind of how feisty she -and her older sister could be at times. Both of them -tiny as all get out (always made me feel like a giant and more clumsy, awkward than my normal when I was around them because they were both so petite. Not that I am THAT tall - I'm only 5'6" but Aunt Mike was only about 5'1 and Aunt Lizzie, my older aunt, was only 4'9" so next to them, I was tall. But they were both so much taller than me in so many other ways - both of them overcame so much, were both very intelligent women although Aunt Mike rarely would admit that -she always felt she was not smart at all. Both were strong - fighters in their own way - stubborn too, as the day is long. Ok, in that respect I guess I know where I acquired that trait -as did my kids -although I do blame their stubborn streak on their dad, not just me. Both my aunts were teachers - elementary teachers - Aunt Lizzie taught first grade for years and years and Aunt Mike taught second grade for many years at the same school as Aunt Lizzie. The things they would do for their students - above and beyond the call of duty really -well, by today's teachers standards and regulations they did go all out anyway. But they cared, they really cared about the kids that entered their classroom.

One boy in particular, they both took a shine to - felt terrible because he didn't have clothes that were decent, that fit, that were warm, weatherproof and they bought him coats, jeans, shirts, boots, shoes -took him home with them for supper and eventually Aunt Mike took him into her home and raised him like a son. One would think a story like that should have a happy ending there wouldn't you? But in this case it didn't. I don't remember now how long ago it's been -but somewhere in the late 80's or maybe early 90's he got married and his wife, for whatever reason I don't know, apparently absolutely hated Aunt Mike. I'd say it's been at least 10 years -probably longer than that since he has seen Aunt Mike. And that, I know for a fact, hurt her very, very deeply as she loved that kid with all her heart!

If you're wondering why I'm writing these thoughts, memories now - I have to do this. I have to start to clear my mind, to remember how she was, what things she did for me, for others in the family, for my cousins, our children - and especially what she did for her own daughter too -when the doctors all told her that she would be so much better off if she put her in an institution. That was 50 years ago and she never listened to a word they said but went on to fight like the tiger or she-bear she could be when she got riled up over something.

Her daughter was born severely handicapped - mentally and physically challenged. Although my aunt would place the blame on the physician -with some degree of truth to that -but in reality, the cause of my cousin's problems was the RH factor blood type. She was conceived prior to the development of the drug, Rhogam, which is injected into a mother who has been pregnant and either just delivered a baby or even if it is a miscarriage -to prevent the antibodies that develop because of the RH factor and blood type incompatibilities in subsequent pregnancies. My aunt had lost a baby prior to having my cousin, so the antibodies had a chance to build up and attack the fetus. That, plus the fact there was a foul up with her medical records and the doctor did NOT have her listed as RH negative which didn't surface until later, after my cousin's birth so she was not automatically given a blood transfusion immediately upon delivery. Although it is doubtful that transfusion would have changed everything in my cousin's life, it might have made a slight difference -but that's the unknown factor there too and one that my aunt devoted the rest of her life to caring for her daughter.

As my ex-husband always said, if a child has to be born with the issues that Jane has, it is a shame they can't all have a mother like Aunt Mike. And I so agree with him on that!

So bear with me please. I've got a lot of things left to do to get ready for the holiday - probably no more than any of the rest of you but for me, well I'm operating at a bit of a disadvantage now in that my mind is more distracted than the norm. I may get around to everyone's blogs -I may not - it just depends on a lot of variables. But if I don't, I will get back to you eventually -just want you all to know what's going on here and that I haven't forgotten anyone - just may be somewhat preoccupied by a lot of other things for a while.

And in case I don't get a chance to post much between now and who knows when -I don't want to forget one thing here.

I'm wishing each and everyone of you reading this post tonight that you have a joyous and blessed Christmas -celebrating the true meaning of Christmas and not just Santa and the gift thing - but sharing the love, the spirit of the holiday with your own families near and far -wherever they may be. And that come the New Year -that it's the happiest one ever!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Sylvia said...

Sorry to hear about the tree. I like your idea of hanging it from the ceiling. Thank you for sharing the memories of your aunt. She sounds like a person I would like to know.

Jo said...

Germans also use real candles. We have a friend who has to use real candles when his parents visit over the holidays. I have yet to see the tree but imagine it would be interesting.

Sorry to hear about Aunt Mike. I never got to meet her. I heard a lot about her though. I would like to know her reasons why you should like Bush. I haven't found one good reason yet so I am just wondering if she had at least one.

Have a great Christmas and Happy New Year!

Debo Blue said...

I felt too many emotions reading this: I laughed out loud when you mentioned the track record your family has with candles and fire; your thoughts on losing your loved aunt rekindled memories of my own very special Aunt Grat who died last year.

I wonder what the world would have been like if Aunt Mike had met my Aunt Grat.

Find comfort Jeni in your family, your faith and your memories.

Travis said...

I hope that if it is your aunt's time, that she can go peacefully. I enjoyed reading these few stories about her. She sounds a lot like my grandmother.

Well, except for the politics. My gram was a fierce democrate for her entire life, and I can just imagine some of the choice things she might say about the current administration.

Smalltown RN said...

It's funny you should mention the upside down tree....hubby and I saw one in the store a couple of weeks ago...and he loved the idea...and I guess in some ways it does make sense....sounds like things are just as active as ever in your home....I do wish you all a very joyous and peaceful Christmas...and as for your aunt...I pray that when she passes it will be painless so that she may finally be at rest....Merry Christmas my friend....

Dianne said...

I really enjoyed reading these stories of your family Jeni. Brought back many memories of my own.

You handle so much with such grace and humor. One of the gifts I've received this season is finding your blog.

Have a Merry Christmas filled with love and light.