A Journal of Growing Up

8:38 am, Sunday Oct. 31st. I’m sort of anxious about calling Megan, for some reason I keep feeling compelled to call and make ordinary offers, “Do you want to help me make cookies for Amy’s birthday?” She hasn’t really been talking to me for five months now and part of me thinks that her pride just doesn’t want to be the one to break the silence, but I have no idea if that’s true. My pride balks too, but I’m bored with the narrative of pride so I just call her anyway and say “Hey, we’re making sugar cookies shaped liked skulls this morning, do you want to come over and help?”

Today we’re throwing a birthday party for Amy and I’m nervous. I don’t know how many people are coming, I don’t know if people are ready, as per the conversation with the overly-dramatic park ranger this morning I don’t know if there is going to be someone else who reserved our corner of the park, I don’t know if people will come with food and drink, or things for the altar, if they’ll engage with each other… In short, this is a “party” being thrown for a group of people who don’t really know each other for the birthday of someone who died not that long ago. I know people wanted this to happen, but was it a mistake? I just take the next step. I don’t need to know, and it’s not in my control. Just take the next step and have faith that whatever it looks like, even if it doesn’t match my vision, is what it’s supposed to look like.

8:15 pm, Monday Nov 1st. It is officially Amy’s birthday today and tomorrow I’m going to set up a Dia de los Muertos altar for her, Grandpa and Rudy. For tonight I’m going to have a drink with Megan for the first time in several months, since before Amy passed away. It’s strange how these events all seem tied up together in my mind, I wonder how they will look from a distance in the years to come. I’m almost positive that these events clustered together for a reason that I am going to continue to mine for. Right now I’m excited and a little nervous, but mostly just resigned to this being whatever it will be. There is a sort of surrender taking place that is very relaxing and humbling. It seemed she took her friendship away for reasons I don’t understand, and it seems to be reviving now for reasons I don’t understand, but it doesn’t feel as important to me to know why as it used to. I love my cousin dearly and that we get to spend time together is comforting and brings me a lot of happiness. I also feel like I am getting a lesson in real friendship; it doesn’t always make sense and good friendship can endure what feels like betrayal. My illusion of what our relationship is and what it isn’t has been shattered and in the midst of that crumbled facade of relationship history, our friendship is emerging perhaps in a more authentic form than it has ever been, with more space for both of us to be who we are.

5: 51 pm Wednesday Nov. 3rd. As I leave my grandmother’s house on Wednesday we make plans to spend Monday together too. My grandma Melba spends a lot of time by herself since my grandfather died 5 years ago (5 years ago! hard to believe that his death is almost more present than his life now) so when I’m in town I try to spend whole days with her. She offers me strawberries with white sugar, ice cream, yogurt, tea, “smoothie” (a strange mixture of Odwalla and milk that she drinks through a straw, ick), and everything else in her house. Even when I tell her “I’m full, I just had tea, no really I’m fine.” I still end up having to say in a louder but joking voice “Grandma I’m fine! Stop, come over here and drink your drink so we can talk!” to get her to stop offering me everything in her refrigerator. It’s an endearing routine and it happens every time.

Later in the evening when I’ve gone on to my friend Katie’s house she calls and leaves a message asking when we made plans to see each other next. She calls again immediately after and I answer and remind her. She calls my house again the next day to ask when was it again we were going to see each other. On the day of my birthday she calls me but instead of wishing me a happy birthday she lets me know that she’s having new carpet installed downstairs on Saturday. I thank her for letting me know and offer her some encouragement, and then remind her that we’ll be picking her up for the birthday party later, and that I’ll see her on Monday.

It’s interesting to notice parts of her begin to slip away, and also what remains. She has a hard time understanding any process or technology that is modern. She doesn’t remember the difference between certain ways of doing things, but she’ll remember that there had been difficulty last time she tried to do something at the bank. To protect herself she usually gets angry and blames the bank, or the mechanic, or whoever it is that happens to be the introducer of confusion. At this point I almost always go along with this unless it’s family or friends that seem to have unknowingly earned her ire.

7:50 pm, Wednesday Nov. 3rd. Katie’s daughter Ellinor is almost walking. The night that she and I have dinner together Ellinor is moving really fast between the living room and kitchen in a sort of turbo crawl that reminds me that children are actually small wild animals. I am reminding myself to continue talking and being engaged with Katie but it’s really hard when a cute little round smiling face keeps peeking around the refrigerator after slap slap slapping the floor with her palms and shins from the living room to the kitchen. After a dinner that Ellinor wholeheartedly engages in sabotaging we decide it’s bed time and then we can have big girl time outside with some tequila and the balmy San Diego night air.

We are in Katie and Frederik’s room on the bed and though Ellinor can only speak three words not to even mention reading, it is reading time. Katie and I trade reading silly poems while Ellinor joyfully crawls all over the bed, stopping to position her self in front of us and smile and laugh when we say funny sounding words or make faces. She also thrashes her little arms and her whole body up and down excitedly with hard covered children’s books in her hand, more than once knocking me good naturedly in the head.

In the dim warm light with the three of us on the bed I remember my mother reading to my brother and I when we were children, and how much we loved being in mother’s warmth at night before bed. The ritual has provided me with some of my most comforting and pleasant childhood memories. Those times together, outside of all the time spent doing things and going places, on the bed with mom and her warm voice- I think those hours we spent together were for me as close to being in the comfort of the womb as one can get this side of being born.

Tonight though it is one of my best friends that I grew up with and her new little being basking in the comfort of our loving presences. While she continues to use our bodies and the various pillows and beddings as a soft tumbly jungle gym she prattles in a language that we can’t quite understand yet. Sometime during that time we hear her say “book.” It’s the fourth word she has uttered in her short life just begun, and suddenly the evening takes on a slightly different glow, something small, but profound, a tiny little accomplishment in the sea of firsts that children live in. To be followed by first full sentence, first step, first day at school, first friend, etc. Then driver’s license, college, and whatever will fill her hopefully long life. But for now we’re just quietly, and daily, collecting these firsts as the private pearls and gems they are; joyfully filling the book of Ellinor. Sometime later when she is off in her life we will remember that night she first uttered “book” while crawling over us like a mushy caterpillar learning machine. What a small a fresh pleasure this moment.

8:38 pm, Wednesday Nov. 3rd. Ellinor is a small love bug that has completely captured my heart, and when we put her down, she’s not asleep yet, but she doesn’t fuss. She knows it’s time and we head outside to talk about other things that on the surface seem like they make more sense than those silly poems… our adult dream…

10:30 am, Friday Nov. 5th. My mother stands in the kitchen and says “I don’t know, it just worries me.” My 93 year old grandmother has just called to say in her dear sweet remorseful and apologetic way that she can’t go with us this morning because her blood pressure was 90 this morning. “Ginny not going shopping with her granddaughter on her birthday? It’s just not like her…”

I’m hardly surprised. Low blood pressure seems like a really legitimate reason to not want to get tired out or risk fainting. It’s not the not going shopping that is the problem, it’s that at 93 my grandmother is having more days like this than she used to. She’s at some point in a decline and we don’t where. It seems like duh moment for me until I realize that my mom is focusing her words on the shopping, but that is merely metaphor for my grandmother’s eventual disengagement from life itself. My mom doesn’t think her parents will live forever, but we all act like everyone lives forever until they get so sick or weak that we are forced to accept the frailty of our bodies in a more real way. It is one thing to say that we are all mortal while our health is strong enough for us to do the things we love to do. When our decline becomes strong enough to stand between us and what we love, then we begin to worry. Then mortality begins to have a more tangible meaning in our life.

Earlier this morning I rose with the sun to begin my new year in the way that I love; with myself, my thoughts, and my journal, in the freshest part of the morning. I know later will be activity, parties with family and friends, food and drink, color and gifts. Right now is pure morning light, quiet, and myself. This morning I’m a little more aware than usual of big-picture life. On this day I can transport myself back through the years to see where I was and what I was doing, who I was and what that trajectory looks like now from this point in my life. I feel very aware, and grateful, that I chose to be with my family this year, to spend this day in a way that was peaceful and reverent as well as celebratory. This evening we’ll have a happy hour with friends and relatives stopping by to drink champagne and enjoy each other. My grandparents will come as well as others who have also witnessed and been a part of my life for the last 28 years. I am the only one I will really spend my whole life with though, and this morning I give myself my best quality time, my truest heart and my deepest intention, to craft my life with care, to be a home for love starting with my own life.

Later on my birthday after some of the other guests have left, including my minister sister Susan, we start a fire in the back and have a new moon circle. There with my mother, my aunt, and our friend Marsha we let go of what we want to and welcome in what we feel we need. Leading this with my mom and my aunt is really special and when I write my list of what I welcome in for this next month (and year since it is my birthday) I can’t help but say, even though it doesn’t follow the format, “I’m really happy right now.”

9:16 am, Sunday Nov. 7th. He’s “doing the facebook” again. Ever since my parents bought and started publishing Edible San Diego my dad has been in charge of their facebook page. But he works during the day so it’s when he gets home from work that he goes upstairs and compulsively gets on the computer and proceeds to get his totally logically justified compulsive addiction fix. Though I’ve been here about a week and we’ve not spent much time together he’s on the computer this Saturday morning. I’m going to have breakfast and then lunch with two friends and I make an attempt to see if he want to make plans for sometime. He’s noncommittal, and this time instead of pushing, or moping, I leave to go have breakfast with my friend. It’s still bittersweet, but this time as I’m leaving I’m not angry, I’m still thinking how much I love my Dad. I do! I love him so much, and I had all these little fantasies about the time we’d spend together when I got home, but Dad is being Dad, and he feels really stressed out and busy. So I’m enjoying a really lovely day with two guy friends who I love to talk to  and who feed my soul with their engagement and intellects.

12:20 pm, Monday Nov. 8th. Who is this man sitting in front of me? I mean, I know that he’s my brother, today he turns 26, and he’s in nursing school. His girlfriend’s name is Erin and …who is he? Somehow I feel that I deeply know who my brother is, that beyond everything he does and how he acts, that I know this beautiful core of him. That faith and love get me through when his voice sounds harsh and angry; as he sits in front of me, his only sister, and doesn’t seem to want to spend time with me or get to know who I am becoming. Maybe he feels the same way as I do, that he knows me deeply and that knowing what is important to me or what is going on in my life isn’t as important as that bond? I believe that is a big part of our truth. I also know that our relationship is different from his perspective than it is from mine and that he can’t know how much I love and respect him, no matter how many times I say it. Maybe that’s not important either…

10:06 am, Tuesday Nov. 9th.

My mom is driving me to the airport and I’m mentioning to her that my grandfather has offered to pay for couples counseling for her and my dad. I thought it was a great idea, who doesn’t want counseling? Seriously, if someone offered that to me I would be all over it and I would feel like god was giving me some extra special encouragement. But most people hear this as a criticism. When my mom talk to me and shares things, I feel like she comes from a place of powerlessness, helplessness, and then alternately like a hero who can do everything. With the former I get triggered and want to save her even though I totally understand the futility of that. With the latter I just stand back because it looks precarious to me. All this judgment! I wish I could just let my mom be! We’re so connected it is one of the hardest relationships for me to disengage my problem-solving mind from and just let her be. Of course within three minutes she’s crying, and then I’m crying because I don’t want to see my mom cry, and then I’m walking into the airport and laughing at myself again because even though I know this lesson, it’s a big challenge to me to just let her succeed and fail in her life on her own without feeling like I should do something! So I’m laughing laughing laughing because I’m just seeing the beautiful human frailty in my own actions, in our tied up-ness together, the work we have come here to this life to do together, the way we step on each others toes, the way we drive each other crazy, the way we love each other like no one else on this earth, our bond is that close, and how finally, this moment crying as I leave for my Bay Area home, this moment doesn’t feel so big, so crucial and so important this time. Even as I say them I feel the words fall away. In the end we always come back to our love for each other, and the rest of it is just words and strivings that are already vanishing into this mid-morning air.

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