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family, life bumps, memories

For My Mama Addie

My Mama Addie is gone.

A few years back she started to slowly slip away.  The glimmer in her eyes faded gradually.  I think she’s been gone for a while now but her body hung on.  She was ready to go but I have a feeling she stayed for us, her beloved ones.  She knew we needed a little piece of her to cling onto for a little while longer.  She lingered here because we weren’t quite ready for her to go.  But who is ever ready to say goodbye to someone like her, with her quiet grace and her stubborn beauty.

There’s never a good time to say goodbye.  It hurts, no matter how long or short the life.  Her’s was a long life, but it still feels too short.

Now, all that’s left here with us are the memories and the love she spread.  All my thoughts lately begin with, “I remember…”  And that is her gift.  She is gone now, but her love is not.  Love never dies and it never fails, as long as we continue to pour it out as she poured it into us.

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The memories pile up and for that I’m grateful.  The grief is hard but those snapshots of the past help the loss and the wallowing feel productive.  They make the waiting in this deep dark expanse a little more colorful, especially when it feels so bleak.

I remember a cupboard in her kitchen she left empty for Ryna, Mickey and I.  As she worked her culinary magic, we would play inside that tiny spot.  Sometimes we would chat, other times the quiet bound us together.  Both were good, both were needed.  There is holiness in the verbal back and forth just as the quiet is sacred.  One working, three playing, no need for the words to muddle the space between.

I remember the summer before my sixth grade year.  I had already spent my school clothes budget when I saw the-coolest-shirt-that-ever-was at The Bon Marche.  Somehow Mama Addie found out that I desperately wanted, needed, that shirt.  You see, grandmas don’t have to stick to school clothes budgets like parents do.  They’ve put in their budget years.  They’ve earned their spoiling rights and get to do whatever the heck they want with their checkbooks.

Mama Addie asked me to show her this glorious shirt.  I made sure to explain how practical it was, with it’s light-weight, versatile fabric.  Blue and gray stripes that would match absolutely everything currently hanging in my closet.  Also, even though it wasn’t a coat or a sweatshirt, IT HAD A HOOD. I am not even lying, this fashion miracle was real, and I wanted it bad. Ingenious design, super cool, it was everything a sixth grader wanted in an article of clothing.  This was THE shirt for me.

After hearing me plead my case, she grabbed that shirt off the rack and marched up to the register. She didn’t mess around, a business transaction needed to be completed and nothing could distract her.  Her eyes smiled as she passed that purchased gem into my hands.  She always appreciated good fashion.  It didn’t matter if she couldn’t understand the younger generation’s style, she took my word for it.  Shopping isn’t for the weak-hearted.  And neither is grandmothering tweenage girls.  She rocked both; she was a brave woman.

She may or may not have bought me that shirt so I would finally shut up about it.  Most likely though, she purchased that gift because she knew I loved it and she loved me.  That was her kind of logic.  Love logic.

Please note: I wore that shirt the first day of sixth grade and for picture day.  I put it into the weekly rotation as many times as I my mother would let me.  Also, my friends and teachers may have been worried that I only had one shirt that school year.  Even though that striped beauty was a frequent flyer, I never, ever, wore it out to play.  As soon as I got home from school, I changed into a lesser play shirt because there was no way I was ruining it.  That shirt was valuable, priceless actually, my Mama Addie bought it for me.

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I remember her always being classy, always put together.  Perfect make-up, perfect curls, perfect outfit.  All of that on the outside though, was just a reflection of the beauty on the inside.  Her true beauty shone out through her eyes.  Bright blue and sparkly with the skin wrinkling around them, evidence of her creaking, contagious giggle.  The outfits, the make-up, the hair, all these were just accessories to the real Mama Addie.  She was an in-the-background kind of lady.  A get-things-done-without-complaining person.  A you-need-something?-here-you-go woman.  She had big ideas and beliefs, but she would only share those within the small circle.  She was like the coffee she used to drink, strong, fragrant and bold.

She loved to fill bellies and give gifts.  Her love came in fresh baked bread and strawberry freezer jam.  Her love was spread through homemade fateman and krumkake.  I learned to count through Skip-Bo games at her table.  Later her handwritten numbers on shipyard ledgers taught me the ins and outs of budgeting and bookkeeping.  We spent hours playing Hand and Foot and other card games her friends had taught her.  Her table was always open to us.  Whether it was filled with food, cards or conversation, she never turned us away.

I remember she used to rock me to sleep on her voluptuous “pillows” in that creaky old glider.  I drifted off to sleep in the comfort of her lap and to the sound of the waves crashing outside onto the beach.  Later on, when I was older, I still occasionally stayed over at her house. I was a little too old and too big to be rocked to sleep so she tucked me in after a story and crept back downstairs to clean up and retire to her bedroom.  One of those nights, I woke up scared in the black of night, so I tip-toed downstairs into her bedroom to tell her.  Part of me still knew that, although her lap had shrunk and I didn’t fit on it anymore, I still needed the comfort she always provided.  I had grown, but I still needed her.  I slowly opened her bedroom door, but the excruciatingly loud snores coming from her side of the bed frightened me even more so I scampered out quickly and ran back into bed without waking her.

She would hate that I called her out on the snoring.  She wouldn’t have said anything verbally, instead, she would have spoke with her eyes.  Her brow furrowed, her chin set.  That stubborn scowl spoke volumes.  It would let me know that I was in trouble now.  Then a few seconds would go by, the shiny eyes would return, the corners of her lips would curl back up and all would be forgiven.

Even though she was quiet lady, she was bold.  One time she went shopping and bought a really fancy dress.  Next, she proceeded to tell my cousin that she bought it to wear to his wedding.  Granted, he hadn’t even proposed yet, but she was antsy for things to move along.  She wasn’t always direct, but you got her message anyway.

It was the same way with her love.  It wasn’t always spelled out but you got the message anyway.

In her lifetime she didn’t receive world-renown attention.  Her name won’t be written in any history books.  She would have hated that spotlight anyway.  Instead, she quietly, stubbornly, and sometimes sternly, loved her family and friends.  She loved her husband, raised her two boys, welcomed their two wives and spoiled her three granddaughters.  She loved Tim from the start and got to have flashbacks of her own early mothering years while watching our two boys toddle and wrestle around.  She loved us all fiercely and for that she will always be in the spotlight of our hearts.  Her name, forever recorded in our own personal history books.  She left her mark on us, that is her legacy.

Her brave love was not for the faint of heart.

She was spunky and quirky and classy in the best way.  I like to humor myself in thinking she passed some of that down to me.  When I grow up, I want to be like her.  Humbly giving, selflessly serving and relishing in the joy that is found in family and friends.

Good thing she taught me to love by her strong example.  Good thing she still gives her gifts and teaches me lessons in the form of memories.  Good thing she passed down her stubborn heart, or else I would crumble underneath the weight of her loss.

There is no conclusion to her life because we are still here.  Her love is still here.  Her spunk and stubbornness live on.  I just wish she was still sitting at the table with us, dealing out those cards or piling food onto our plates.

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family, memories

How do the Rules fit into the Bigger Picture?

I am a rule follower.  I always have been and probably always will be.  Lately, I’ve been wondering about all the rules I follow.  Some are imposed by myself, some others throw onto me.  Some I enjoy, others I hate.  Some help but some inhibit.  Some I want to keep but some I want to chuck off the side of the tallest cliff.

Now I just have to figure out which ones lie on which side of the line.  Which ones to keep and which ones to trash.

My Mama Addie, my grandma, was a rule follower too.  A few weeks ago, I got to see her.  Well, I got to see her shell.  She’s 94 and most of the time she’s not really there.  Sometimes though, if I’m lucky, I get to see a twinkle in her eye.  It’s a mischievous twinkle.  It used to be there all the time but as the years have come and gone, she’s slowly drifted away from us.  I miss the constant twinkle and I miss her mischief, but most of all, I miss her.

You see, I was her first girl.  She mothered two sons but didn’t get a female little one until I came along.  Lucky for her, she got two more girls after me.  The three of us got spoiled rotten, probably because she thought God was spoiling her with three granddaughters.  She would have loved grandsons too, if they came along.  It’s just that she’d already been there and done that with her own sons.

I’m not saying girls are better than boys, or anything like that.  I just think she wondered what it would be like to take care of girls.  I don’t think she realized it but she was part feminist.  She didn’t distinguish chores and household duties as belonging to one sex or the other.  Those two boys of hers grew up knowing how to cook, sew, and clean as well as build, fix and tend.   Mama Addie taught her boys to be creative and to think critically.  She rocked being a boy mom and she did the same as a grandma to girls.  Since she raised two little boys, I take voracious notes when I hear stories of her momhood.

She loved all of her family like nothing else.

Funny snippets stick into my brain.  I remember her perfume.  I remember laying my head on her “pillows” as I drifted off to sleep.  I remember her lullabies would creak a little – just like the wooden glider she would rock me to sleep in.  I remember waking up, coming downstairs to the earthy smell of black coffee and to her staring out at the salty Sound.  I remember rootbeer floats and dipping crab into melted butter.  I remember curlers in her hair while she lay on her bed chatting on the phone with her sister like she was a teenager.  Most of all I remember she loved me.

I also remember her absence.  I used to play softball on the weekends and I never saw her sitting in the stands.  She had a rule.  Sundays were Sabbath.  The rule was no work or play on that day.  She thought I was breaking a rule by playing in my favorite game on Sundays.

I never asked after her thought process on the subject.  I wonder if her absence was because she didn’t want to condone my unruly behavior.  Or maybe she didn’t think she could enjoy being a spectator on that day. I do know she was thoughtful about her own life and faith, so she must have been severely convicted to follow this rule.

I know she loved me and I admire her faith, but it hurt seeing that empty spot on the bleachers.  I ached knowing that her tradition and rules trumped our relationship.  I was confused as to why a turn on a calendar was so important.  I wanted to hear that creaky voice, see that troublesome twinkle AND have dirt and grass stuck between my cleats.  I wanted her there.

Her absence never made me doubt her love and devotion to me.  I simply missed her and wished she would break some of those rules to share more time together.  I wanted to see her sitting in the bleachers with the sun beating down on her perfect head of brown curls.  I wish her perfume wafted out to my nose in left field.  I wanted to hear her laugh as I walked up to the plate.  I wanted to go out for hamburgers together after the game.  I never doubted her love for me, but I wished those rules would shatter so we could hangout on a Sunday.

I get that certain rules are needed and important.  Some make life run better and most of us don’t want to live in a world of total anarchy.  I also understand that periods of rest and time to exercise beliefs are vital.  But sometimes I wonder if rules are the easy way out.  It’s easier to stick to the rules in stubbornness rather than see their part in the bigger picture.  It’s easier to blindly follow along than to think critically about how they fit into the puzzle of life.

For me, relationships are the bigger picture.  They were to Mama Addie too, but her tradition spoke louder.  I wonder, if she could have a do-over, would she break some of her rules?  Would she do things the same?  I wish I could ask her.  Not in a confrontational way, but in an educational way.

I know that the Sabbath was very important to her, along with other church traditions.  I wonder if we went back to that time, would she realize that sitting in the bleachers could be Sabbath too?  Being together could be Worship.  Eating hamburgers and drinking Coke could be Communion.  Breaking the rules could be church.  It takes great faith to see that.  I wonder if she would have seen Jesus sitting next to us all in the dugout.  He was there.

I like to think that looking back on life, she would agree.

All of this makes me wonder what rules I’m stubbornly sticking to out of faith or beliefs or morals.  Some of them may be beneficial, but others may be blinding.  Am I not seeing the whole picture?  Are the rules getting in the way?

Which ones should I keep and which ones should I break for love and devotion?  Which ones promote relationships, which ones hinder?

What is your bigger picture?  What rules promote that goal?  What rules could you toss out the stained glass window?

All I know right now is that I miss my Mama Addie and she’s not even all the way gone.  She taught me volumes and I want to keep learning.  Maybe I’m just thinking about all the times I missed out with her because she won’t be here in the near future.  If she still had all her wits about her, she would probably scold me, “Be strong, Lindsey Annie, keep the faith.  We don’t know exactly what that means or how it works out, but keep learning, keep asking questions.”

I will, Mama Addie, I will.

For the record: She hates this picture. But she’s pregnant, working on a fishing boat. How badass is that?

life bumps, memories, sports, Tim

The Parade

We’ve been in a state of mourning for the past few days.  We were three freaking handoffs from winning the Super Bowl!  Three.  And with plenty of time left too.  We are still die hard fans though so nothing can shake our love for our Seahawks.

Instead of dwelling on things I can’t change though, I’ll reminice today on fonder times.  It goes back to last year about this time.  Seattle was actually celebrating because we blew those Broncos out of the water and held the title of World Champions.  A little sidenote:  The Seahawks very first Super Bowl appearance was when Luke was one month old.  In the nine years since he’s been born, they’ve made three appearances at the big game.  Considering the fact that before Luke was born, they never made it, they should be thanking him for all their success.  Maybe they’ll make him a mascot, or a coach.  According to Luke, his nine year old self would make a better coach than Darrell Bevell.  That may be true.

Last February, the city of Seattle planned this huge homecoming celebration for all the players and team personel.  There was going to be a huge parade in downtown so Tim and I decided to be spontaneous.  That morning, we woke the boys up early and told them to get all their blue and green gear on.  We were going to skip school and work that day to see the parade.  Since downtown parking is a headache on normal days, we thought it would be smart to take the bus.  We drove up to the park ‘n ride and hopped on a double decker.  What normally consisted of business commuters turned into other fans and families like us.  Seems that a lot of other people had the same idea of playing hooky.

In all our well thought out planning of the day, we figured we would run downtown, see the parade and then jet back home so Tim and the boys could finish the afternoon half of their work and school day.  Little did we know but everybody else had that idea too.  A later estimate was that over one million people drove into Seattle that morning from the surrounding area.  When it was done, all the busses home were packed to capacity and we got stuck until my sister came to rescue us and drive us home.  Even that took forever because fan traffic on all major roads and side roads alike was a nightmare.  We ended up getting home after dark and after bedtime.

I’m jumping ahead a bit, sorry.  Back to the bus ride into town.  Business men and women had traded in their briefcases and laptops for twelve jerseys, flags and anything else blue and neon green.  We knew the parade route so we got off as close to it as possible.  We walked a few blocks uphill and found a great spot on a corner, midway through the planned route.  By eight o’clock a.m. we were set up and putting dibs on our prime spot.

Because this was a spontaneous planning of the day, I didn’t even think to check the weather report.  It was February, so I knew it would be cold.  Seattle cold though, normally only requires a winter jacket, cotton gloves and maybe a hat to keep your ears warm.  I started to get little sneaking pangs of worry when I saw other kids in full-on snow gear, boots, insulated pants and gortex gloves.  Oh shoot.  I looked down at my own boys, who were wearing normal jeans and tennis shoes.  We might be in trouble.

After standing on that cold cement curb for about an hour, we were all fidgeting.  It turns out that cool, crisp, clear sunny day’s high temperature was 11 degrees.  My only defense for being an ill prepared mom was that Seattle is NEVER that cold.  I should have brought blankets and other insulated gear, but we were going to have to improvise.

Tim and the boys stayed in our perfect spot with a perfect view while I trudged down the hill to the first Starbucks I saw.  Maybe coffee, hot chocolate and scones would distract us all from the cold.  After standing in the coffee line that went out the door for half an hour, I finally got our order and walked back up.  The hot drinks warmed us up for about fifteen seconds and we were all cold again.

Tim decided to try and find at least some extra socks or something else to layer up the boys.  This time the boys and I planted ourselves in our spot while he went a few blocks over to the mall.  Meanwhile, while we were shivering, but still enjoying the fan fare of it all, people started to filter in around us.  This nice family with a few kids came and stood right next to us.  We were all happily chatting and waiting for everything to start.  Cars were driving down the road with twelve flags, honking like crazy to the cheers of all the waiting people.  When the police finally closed off the road, people on bikes, and one guy in a skin tight neon green suit and blue wig came roller skating down the road.

More and more fans were filtering in and room was beginning to run out.  The sidewalks were about four rows deep and I saw people finding their way up onto roofs and balconies of the surrounding buildings.  We were on the front row edge of a corner so I knew our spot would yield great views of the players.  People were starting to push gently from behind, but we held our ground.  The side street next to us finally got closed off by the authorities so people filtered in to the other side of us.

By the time Tim got back to us, there wasn’t a lot of standing room left.  He had found some extra socks just in time because both boys were starting to whimper and complain that their feet hurt.  He knelt down to layer up their toes.  The nice mom to the left of us, graciously offered some of her extra toe-warmers.  Even though I was a bit self conscious that we weren’t more prepared, we accepted.  Sometimes it takes a village to keep those appendages warm.

As the boys’ feet were slowly warming up, Tim’s 6′ 4” self stood back up and took his place back, right next to me.  Then I hear a scratchy, lady voice pipe up from behind.  “OH, NO, you can’t do that!  You can’t just come in here and stand in front of me.  I was here first!”

I turned around and tried to explain, that actually, if we were acknowledging that arrival time was the trump card, we were here long before she ever set her foot on this frozen curb.

She went on to explain that she was with her whole family and they had been in this spot for a long time and they wouldn’t be able to see anything if Tim were standing right there.  She quickly got wound up and her voice was getting louder and louder and angrier and angrier.  Tim kept listening to her and repeatedly interjected in a slow and steady voice, “You need to calm down.  There are kids around.”

Meanwhile, I was getting angrier as well.  Who was she to assert that this spot had her name on it?  And if we were really looking at the facts, we had more claim to it than she and her hundred family members who showed up thirty minutes prior.  At one point she was trying to explain the angle of her view.  I guess Tim was in her 90 degree angle view.

I got sucked into the heated conversation and it all began to fall apart.  I can use my logic tool when I am in a calm environment, but I am completely useless in a heated debate.  I was trying hard though.  I guess trying to convince her that, actually, more of a 60 degree angle view was better because of the trajectory of the parade coming down from the north side of the street.  She wasn’t having it and I wasn’t thinking anymore anyway.

“HE CAN’T HELP HOW TALL HE IS!” Those words just vomited out of my mouth.  And since it was such an intellectual zinger, she was kind of confused.

Then I decided to give my old pal, passive aggressive, a turn.  I simply turned back around to face the street.  I scooted my body right in front of the short nasty lady and threw in the calm jab, “He could have stood right here instead.”

Obviously, she wasn’t too pleased with that move, so she grabbed my official sideline Seahawks beanie and threw it on the ground.

Now, Tim had been engaging her the whole time.  He had been extremely calm and reasonable, unlike his lovely wife.  He’s normally even keeled unless, UNLESS, you go after me or the boys.  So this was definitely crossing his line.

He looked down on her and told her, “You can’t touch someone, sister, that’s called assault.  You can’t touch my wife!”

This change in Tim startled her so she started to irrationally back peddle.  “It’s not assault!  I speak English!”

“Umm, your abilitiy to speak English has nothing to do with your intelligence.”

” I’m a …..

Tim had had enough.  “You’re a what?  Please tell me you do something really important for a living to excuse your behavior.”

I think she was noticing all the stares and slight steps away from the situation.  We were too and so when she finally shut up about everything, I grabbed my hat off the ground and turned around.  We waited on the parade to start while our teeth chattered away. The nice lady next to us, took pity on us and offered to share her family’s blanket with our boys.  She was probably thinking, “Oh my gosh!  I feel so bad for these boys.  Their mother didn’t even dress them warm enough and besides, she’s certifiably crazy.”  She earned her stars that day by taking care of the boys who were destined to be dragged around downtown Seattle with a lunatic for a mom.

If you haven’t figured it out already, there is no moral to this story.  It’s just one more example of my inability to express clear thoughts when put on the spot.  Then again, maybe it’s my lesson that I should keep my mouth shut when I know my brain will definitely not back me up.  Selfishly, this also may be one teeny reason why it might be a good thing we lost the Super Bowl this year.  No championship, no parade, no ridiculous irrational debates in the streets.  Granted, we live a five hours drive away from Seattle now, but those kind of obstacles have never stopped us from showing our spirit before. There’s always next year.  I’ll try to reign the crazy in if that happens, but I can’t make any promises, because BEAST MOOOOOOOODE!