Thursday, July 24, 2008

she remembers

A little while back we went to spend some time with Josh's little grandma. My time with her always feels bittersweet. The first time I met her she was quick to link her arm in mine and immediately made me comfortable in that grandmotherly tender way. Though I never really got close to her before she began to suffer from Alzheimer's disease.

I can say unequivocally that I hate this disease, anyone who's been touched by it can echo its devastation. There is often a look of utter confusion and fear in her eyes as she has no idea where she is or who we are. Little things we take for granted have become the most troublesome feats, like what to do with a tooth brush or a spoon. It breaks my heart to see her strain for the memories or the words. We all feel a little lost and a bit like a stranger from time to time, but to live in a constant state of disorientation, I can not imagine. So we are sure to say in loud clear voices, "Look at your beautiful grand-daughter Naya." and "so your grandson is four years old now," to help her know she is with her family.

Do we ever anticipate our body or our mind betraying us? One day do you just look down at your veins through paper-thin wrinkled skin and wonder when did this happen? Do we not feel just the same in our hearts as the years pass? With ageing comes so many endings and losses: loss of loved ones, of health, of energy, of clarity. Even with the promise of glory, and as natural as physical deterioration is, I don't think we're ever really ready for it. Our spirits weren't made for endings; they were made for eternity. It is this that makes the most natural process feel so completely un-natural and painful. I didn't mean to sound so dismal; my mind can just get lost in such things.
Betsy is certainly anything but dismal; through so much struggle she still takes so much joy in watching all her little great-grand babies. She may not know their names or gender but she laughs as she reaches for their soft hands and still has that protective mothering instinct whenever she's with them. My hilarious husband can still make her crack up with the most contagious giggle.
I watched her try to sing along as I sang hymns. But perhaps most amazing is that though the most ordinary bits of knowledge fail her she can sit down at her baby grand piano and from somewhere deep in her soul, she can play. Though they may start slow and she couldn't tell you their titles, song after song they come, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", "New York, New York" and various other old-timey classics. She was once an accomplished classical pianist and by some measure of grace despite what she has lost, she can still remember how to play. As I watched her frail fingers grace the keys I thanked God that her passion for music was so embedded into her hard-drive that it now provides a place of peace and familiarity. How powerful music can be in that way and how much more beautiful.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

studio attic

Josh and I used to joke when we bought our turn-of-the-century house that we lived in a Fight Club house. Meaning every square inch of it needed repair or updates. A half-lit fluorescent light dangled crookedly from wires over the greasy linoleum kitchen floor. The bathroom walls were spray-painted gold and sixties carpet adorned the floors. Broken windows and chipping paint abounded and, no lie, for about a week we washed dishes in a tub and went to the Conoco to use the bathroom. But we were first time home buyers, young and full of vision, so we just saw the history and charm of a beautiful old house with plenty of space to fill with wee ones. The stress set in later when we realized that every job would take twice the time and money we usually expected. Over the years with the helping hands of friends and family at times, he has done a wonderful job of restoring most of the house. He's had to do it all in his spare time and as children kept arriving, but I am so thankful for his hard work in making our home so comfy.
This summer project was to convert our decrepit attic,and home to the occasional pigeon, into a creative space to give drum lessons and record various musical projects. It is a relief to see it coming to and end, satisfying to be investing in our home and making a space to do something we both love. And check it out people, the finished product! I am so proud of him.

Juden and I have a new favorite place, this cozy reading nook.

I'll write more later on the music projects to come, but I'm gonna go hang with my love before he takes off for Ragbrai (which is a huge bike ride across Iowa) tomorrow for nine or so days. Oh, and to you ladies who will be on your own with the kiddos for the next week and a half, I'm sorry, I know my husband possesses some persuasive powers. But male bonding is good, no?

Monday, July 14, 2008

summer loves

I must just say how much I love summer, deep in my bones. It used to mean long days of bike-riding and firefly catching in the less humid NJ heat. Plenty of trips to Ocean City, eating the best Italian water ice, summer camp romances and so many sleep overs at my best friends house that I should have paid rent. Now I see it through my kids' eyes and I hope to help create some of what I remember. Which is just the wonder in the most ordinary moments of life. Do we ever fully grow up? I still feel the same excitement when the days get longer, or when I get caught in a surprise thunder storm or that deep contentment snuggling up with Juden with a heap of books after a long day of play.
One major change is that those endless summer days I remember with the occasional pockets of pleasant boredom are definitely no more. This summer is flying by. I'm trying to exercise more and working on a musical project with a good friend and I'm sure some things have fallen to the wayside. It's been busier than I'd like. I can barely tear my husband away from his summer project which I'll post about soon.
But I have been cherishing these sun-shiny days with my loves, the friendship of some of the most beautiful women ever, tending my flowers and pushing aside the thought that it is somehow a frivolous luxury as I marvel at the silky-petaled symmetry and perfection of my Fathers creations.

My very favorite part of the day is just before sunset when the shadows are long the day is calming down and coming to a close and everything drips with the golden hue of twilight.