Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Scenes from a Wedding

We attended my cousin’s wedding in Minneapolis this past weekend. It was wonderful spending time with family, and there were lots of laughs. But I have to say, the big surprise—to everyone, really—was how fantastic a dancer my brother is. The rest of us have one or two fallback moves and can demonstrate our coordination well enough not to attract unsolicited pointing and laughing from the crowd. (Well, most of us.) But my brother? It was like discovering your sibling had won the televised Pillsbury Bake-Off and not told anyone. Had secretly been working for the CIA. Had one day awakened to discover he could read minds. “Oh this goofy trick? Yeah, it’s crazy! I don’t know how it happened.”

How had my brother become so talented? Where did he learn these moves? There were several possibilities:
  • He was genetically gifted in terms of movement, motor skills, and rhythm.
  • He hung out with his students too much.
  • Teacher by day, Dancer by night.
  • Once, in the late eighties, he lived in a music video.
  • He’d secretly auditioned for So You Think You Can Dance, and these were the leftover moves from his routine.
  • He was having a well-coordinated seizure, which was the likely conclusion of some of our relatives.
Other relatives reacted to this display of dance magic by rejecting and blaming the music. At one point, my mother, tired of attempting to synchronize the waving of arms and pointing of fingers and shaking of hips, leaned over to me and said with some frustration, “I just don’t understand this music.”

My aunt decided to confront the music at its point of origin, wandering over to the DJ and blasting her with, “Your music sucks!”

And after watching my uncle do a Very Special Dance with a lone chair in the middle of the dance floor to Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer,” I have to say I agreed. Note here that he also demonstrated the best way to clear the dance floor for your own private dance: with a well-timed, well-cured fart. As the herd of guests migrated past, sour looks on their faces, some plugging their noses, I overheard one girl announce in a voice dripping with disgust, “It smells like poopee!” After the dance he ambled by and told us he was going to “Clear the other side of the room.”

Oh! This was fun, too: Later another of my aunts accidentally sat for a spell on a large, real rat trap near our table at a British pub (“Danger! Poison!”)

We returned on Sunday, and I was delighted to discover I’d been summoned to jury duty again in two weeks. Wheeee!

I’ll be blogging at the brand new Girlfriend’s Book Club on Thursday, September 2nd—there is a new post by a terrific author every day, so add this one to your list of daily reads.

PS: if anyone wants to buy my house, it’s still for sale. I’ll cut you a deal.

Me with my genetically gifted siblings. Wow, I have terrible posture. Either that or my brother's arm weighs a TON.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

You Say Goodbye

My Grandma Dorothy Martin died on Sunday morning. She was 91, vivacious, feisty, and giggling almost to the end. The last year was a rougher one for her, which seems to be the universe’s way of alleviating the grief of those left behind. No more suffering.

It'll take a long time to get used to the idea that I’ll never get to see her laugh again. For the last 30 years of my life, she’s always been … there. So much love and support, such a wonderful sense of humor. I’m glad I have a dash of hoarding in me because I’ve saved many of the cards she’s sent me over the years.

(Which makes me think of Grandma saving bushels of plastic bags, which exploded hilariously from her unused dishwasher when you’d open it.)

We arrived at her residence home Sunday prepared to say our final good-byes. She’d been with hospice volunteers for days, fading fast. Still, I wasn’t prepared for how tiny and withered she seemed in her gown, for the rattling in her breath. Once a blooming flower, red and lush and fragrant, dancing in the slightest sunny breeze, now a fragile autumn leaf.

I sat next to her and stroked her hair. “Hi Grandma.” It was all I could croak out. Her eyelids fluttered. Somewhat restless, she seemed to be trying to speak, but maybe it was just her body preparing to go (or trying to hold on?).

I came to say good-bye, and I said hello. Is that what the Beatles were getting at? I like to think that in her final hour, oxygen and morphine sanding the rough edges from the pain, maybe she interpreted my words as coming from a loved one who died before her, welcoming her to the afterlife. Perhaps her beloved daughter Lynda.

She died while I was watching my darling 3 year-old nephew in the day room. He didn’t seem to understand what was happening in the other room, but he was understandably averse to spending his free time with a bunch of mopey grown-ups. We built a Lincoln Log house and tossed giant sponge dice around. I felt guilty for gently shushing him, for not visiting Grandma more often, for not thinking of anything comforting or interesting to say to the other ancient residents hunched over their well-balanced, bland meals next to us.

Grandma died surrounded by family and loved ones, my Dad holding his Mom’s hand as her pulse slowed and finally flickered out.

There are worse ways to go, I comfort myself and rationalize. A long, fruitful life, we can’t live forever, surrounded by loved ones in those waning minutes

Still, I'll miss the heck out of her.

I don't know what she's laughing at here, but I love this picture. The towel is draped behind her because minutes earlier, she'd spilled that classy juice glass of boxed white zinfandel all down her pants. Seconds later, her glass refilled, she was good as new.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

For Sale and Stuff

It's been hectic lately...we officially listed our house for sale on Monday, had our first showing Tuesday, and the offer we made for the new house was accepted last night. I am a Property Virgin, so this has all been very new and gut-churning. My left eyelid has been twitching like mad, which is fun because it's a tic visible from the fourth ring of Saturn. Yay, twitch! Get on down with your funky, twitchy self!

Ours is a "starter home," and we've invested a lot into making it more appealing. Still, there is work that remains--so how do you word that in a marketing pitch? "Yeah, try to look past the walk-through bathroom upstairs that some yahoo did a piss-poor job installing. It wasn't our idea to cut that hole in the drywall near the toilet tank." Or we could pitch it like we're running a relay race: "Exterior's finished. Ready to hand the interior remodeling baton to lucky lil' you!"

There's only so much bouquets of flowers and freshly-baked cookies can hide. Cross your fingers for us.

Just five minutes after we returned from the realtor on Tuesday night, we were visited by two smooth-talking salesmen selling home security systems. (Wow! Check out that alliteration!) It was my Advanage nightmare all over again, when 30 minutes later I found myself hypnotized at the kitchen table, filling out paperwork, nodding my head in a daze and speaking slowly: "Yes...of course...I agree to all terms, including the sale of my left kidney. Why yes, you may garnish my wages. I would be glad to move to an Indian slum and personally stitch all of your future polo shirts." Luckily, Jason was there to snap me back into reality. It was a close call. We usually don't even buy underwear without researching it to death online first.

It's amazing how far things can go when you are a conflict-avoiding, trusting, people-pleaser. I still have no idea how I worked in a prison for nearly two years.