Christmas? What Christmas?
The winter holidays have been a little strange for us so far this year.
Maybe it's the fact we were getting married at Thanksgiving ("Three days until the wedding! Oh...it's Thanksgiving, isn't it?"). Or maybe it's the effects of moving and not having things settled in enough to think about putting up any winter decorations. Or maybe it's because for the first time Ben and I are a family unit and that means we're combining traditions and arriving at new ones. And I'm sure the uncertainty about when Grandma's going to be home is playing into the issue. But whatever the case...we suddenly realized this week that we have one week left before Christmas and we still don't know what we're doing for it.
Now, I'm sure the celebration will involve some form of visiting our family and eating way too much food (as at the Turner Family Christmas a few days ago). Beyond that, we're a blank slate. Probably doesn't help that our families are kind of feeling the same way. I talked with Mom Tuckfield this morning and she said, "Do you think Christmas could just go away for a few months?" Mom Turner said, "I have no idea what we're doing yet. Something. Making fudge."
That's not so new from my mom, but from Ben's mom that's a very new phenomenon. She likes Doing Christmas Properly. Hopefully next year will be a little calmer and more settled!
I sat down and brainstormed a little with my mom on the phone this morning about what presents to give and I suppose that made it feel a little more real, but overall the idea that it's about to be Christmas seems a little surreal to me at the moment. Granted, I've never been a big celebrator - but I usually make cookies, at least. I seem to identify times and places by what food I'm cooking and Christmas is no exception.
Maybe if I just make some cookies, it will seem more like the end of December and I'll be less disoriented. And maybe that will just make Ben gain ten pounds. Hm. Maybe just a nice spicy candle instead...
Last night there was a full moon.
This doesn't really mean a whole lot in and of itself, other than we noted it was shining really brightly through our bedroom window.
At around 2 AM, however, we both woke up when two very loud bangs went off somewhere in the near vicinity.
Now, there's nothing quite like starting wide awake while it is still pitch dark outside except for the really bright moon. Even with the two of us here together, there's just something inherently spooky about that. And on top of it, those loud bangs sure sounded like gunshots. Yeah, we've heard cars backfiring and firecrackers and other loud noises that sort of sound like gunshots too, but these ones REALLY did.
We were then faced with a dilemma, however. So let's say it really was a pair of gunshots: now what? It was 2 AM on a Sunday morning and all we had was a couple of loud noises possibly somewhere in our area. It's not like we can don a cape and run off to see what the commotion is about. All we could do was say, "What was that?!!!" and begin speculating. Dark nights with full moons are apparently conducive to this, because we both had very strange dreams all the rest of the night.
So this morning we decided to investigate. Being children of the computer age, however, "investigation" did not mean driving around the neighborhood looking to see if anything was amiss. Instead, we hopped on the computer and tried to find out if there was any breaking news. "Police standoff at a local gas station" would've done nicely. Instead, we found articles on a lady suing a car dealership because she insisted her new used car had once held a dead body and another article about how a local man jumped to his death in the Clinton River for unknown reasons earlier this week. Nothing about mysterious gunshots in the middle of a quiet Sunday morning...during a full moon (which eclipsed last night)...at about the time bars let out...during the notoriously chaotic Christmas Season.
So we are left wondering....what exactly did we hear last night?
Some mysteries just might have to remain unsolved.
We had our first training session in how to move Grandma Lila without damaging her healing leg yesterday.
The thing I found the most interesting was how much thought has been put into developing methods of doing something that on the face of it seems almost impossible: how do you move a full-grown person around without being able to scoop them up and carry them like you would a baby? It's not like most people are strong enough to just lift another adult out of bed and put them in a chair. I mean, sure, Superman does it all the time...but unless Ben is REALLY hiding a little secret, neither of us is going to running around carrying Grandma from place to place anytime soon.
The good news is that there are ways for normal people to manage.
First of all, right now it takes three people to move Grandma: one behind her, one in front of her, and one person just in charge of keeping her leg stable. We strapped a thick canvas belt around her waist and used that to hold onto and move her instead of holding onto her body, which would be a lot harder to grip without hurting her. There were also a few tricks about using gravity to our advantage, especially when it comes to paying attention to which side to approach moving Grandma from depending on what we're trying to do. We also learned that it's effective to link our arms under hers to shift her around on the bed rather than using our hands, which are weaker and could actually hurt her shoulders because of how they're shaped.
And above all...always lock the wheelchair wheels before doing anything with Grandma in it! Having the chair slide away mid-move could be...ouch. Nasty.
Ben and I were midway through moving Grandma back into bed and I thought, "Yikes...we still have a lot to learn!"
Thankfully, the leg that was injured is her weaker leg in the first place, so her stronger left leg is still well in commission. She's having to do a lot of learning right along with us to know how to use that stronger leg to her advantage, but the point is she's not crippled and unable to move at all. She can stand on her good leg and help us get her around and that's going to be essential to bringing her home.
Turns out it's much easier getting into bed than out of it again. Big surprise, there, eh? That seems a basic comment on the Human condition in general. Unless you're a baby. Then you always want to be up, not lying down.
But philosophy aside, we watched the physical therapists getting Grandma out of bed and then Ben and I were supervised in getting her back in. Grandma gets a little worried when it comes to us moving her and I don't blame her. It's not the gentlest process (we really have to work hard and we are not poetry in motion!); though hopefully with practice over the next few weeks we'll be much more graceful and quick by the time she comes home.
We'd better be. Because right now we're definitely rank amateurs. As we told Grandma, though, this is the worst it's going to be. We can only go uphill from here, because right now she hurts the most she's going to throughout this procedure and we know the least about helping her. From now on, she's going to be getting better every day and so are we.
One of the few places Ben and I have a real difference of opinion is when it comes to snow.
I'm not fond of the cold, but I really like snow. Maybe this is a function of never really having to be out in it if I didn't want to be. Not that I haven't done plenty of grocery shopping on snowy days when I would prefer to actually be at home making cookies, but in general I'm flexible enough to work around snow.
Ben, on the other hand, spent way too many years having to get up in the dark and deal with cold wet snow without being properly awake and ready to go. As a result, he has a rare instance of agreeing with the majority of the rest of the world and using a cliche phrase to describe snow: "It looks good out the window," he said reluctantly as we looked at the first real snow coming down yesterday.
Now, I look forward to snow storms. And there are few things sadder than a perfectly good snowstorm being wasted on someone who says, "Yuck" when they hear it's going to snow six or seven inches.
So perhaps this winter I can help Ben enjoy snow. Because the fact is the snow is going to arrive. We live in Michigan and it's December and it's going to be January and February and snow is just a fact of life around here. And if it's going to be here, we might as well take pleasure in it. I'm not exactly sure yet what I'm going to do to reattach good memories to snowstorms so Ben responds happily to them, but there has to be something. After all, I was made to be a helper. If being a helper means helping someone take joy in something previously dreaded...well hey, what else is a good helper for?
Maybe we can start with hot chocolate made from Lactaid milk. We discovered this week that Ben really can drink a whole glass of Lactaid milk without his stomach making alarming noises like it does with regular milk (seriously, it sounds like he has a submarine in there trying to surface). He was so pleased by this that he drank a whole glass of it before bed last night just because he could. Anyone deprived of hot chocolate for a few years might start to acquire a gloomy outlook on snow. I'm just saying.
Of course, maybe I don't really have to do anything unusual at all. Maybe just doing things like shoveling the driveway and scraping the car together instead of by himself will cheer Ben up when it comes to snow. It'd sure be a shame to have to enjoy the upcoming snowstorms all by myself. Maybe I'll enlist enthusiastic siblings to help. We've all grown up taking tremendous joy in snow together, so maybe that joy can rub off. Joy has a way of doing that.
But an important thing to remember is...if Ben still doesn't enjoy snow by the end of the winter, he's not going to be any less wonderful of a man and I'm not going to be personally affronted.
I'll simply have to call Michael up every year so I can shout, "I JUST SAW THE FIRST SNOWFLAKE!!!!"
It’s almost one week from our wedding. It’s been a week of firsts, including this morning when we got up together and went to church without the usual time involved in coordinating so Ben could pick me up on time. It felt very peaceful.
Other firsts: making a real dinner finally last night (it was an experiment – making a whole chicken in the crockpot. Turns out you can and it’s great). Fixing a furnace when it blew an interrupter switch Friday morning (you know you’re in trouble when you wake up in the morning and can see your breath). Spending time trying to straighten out why the title company didn’t pay the final water bill on the day of closing like they were supposed to. Getting our bathroom and kitchen completely clean and organized last night. Posting our first week’s dinner menu on the refrigerator. Dividing up the meat for a month for only two or three people. Nailing down a firm date for when we expect Grandma Lila to move in (the 16th of December). Being called “Mrs. Turner”. A kiss from Ben (actually, a kiss like that from anyone). Finally instituting our plan of going to bed by 11:00 at night and getting up by 8:00 in the morning (turns out that’s a lot easier when we aren’t delaying bedtime because when Ben goes home we have to say good-bye). Deliberately not being mushy in public even though it’s perfectly acceptable to most people for us to be (there is a definite emphasis on most here. We have learned from exposure to other newly married couples that there is a certain level of mushiness that gets disturbing to friends and siblings who just happen to be around for a little too much PDA).
And as of today, we have a real kitchen floor. Benjamin, Aaron, Ben, and Michael laid it this afternoon and it looks great. It’ll be nice not to have the sub floor as the only surface in the kitchen/dining area, though I’m glad we waited to get the travertine-tile laminate floor instead of the wood style we could’ve put down before the wedding. The tile looks really great and there isn’t the concern of it looking very cheap next to the real wood floors already laid through the house.
We bought pizza and sat around in the living room on the eclectic blend of furniture we’ve collected (one rocker, one recliner, one glider, and one papasan) and it was a pretty relaxed project. I made a spice cake last night to try out the beautiful cake dome we were given and we just tried it out. Turns out spice cake goes really good with brown sugar crème frache.
Jenny’s been coming over just to spend time here the past few days and it’s been really nice – she came and kept us company yesterday while we opened the humbling pile of cards people left for us at the wedding and read them aloud and made careful records for thank you notes. I miss my sisters now that the sleepy fog of the past week has begun truly dissipating. I like that Jenny can just wander over while I’m making a cake and taste the batter. That feels familiarly homey. Now what’s going to happen is I’m going to really miss her when she gets married next October!
In Sickness and In Health
My Nana (Dad's mom) had surgery on her pancreas this week. Ben and I wanted to be there, but most of my family was already there and we decided to wait until today to visit. This afternoon we made the trek out to Royal Oak Beaumont to visit her.
Royal Oak Beaumont is a hospital that’s so big it should have it’s own zip code. Seriously. You park in a parking structure without a couple thousand other cars and walk about six miles to get wherever you’re going, relying on the complicated maze of signs to navigate your way to the actual floor and room number you need to reach. When my youngest brother Jonathan was there, he spent most of his first three months of life on the third floor of the South Tower; but Nana was ensconced up on the fifth floor of the South Tower, so I didn’t know how to get there any more than Ben did.
We got there just in time to greet Nana and start telling her about the gifts we opened before her surgeon came in to have a little talk with her. The lab work had come back from the tests done on the part of her pancreas they’d removed.
“The report says they found cancer,” he said.
Nana has insisted for three months that she has pancreatic cancer. Multiple tests haven’t shown any evidence of cancer; and indeed, what they found were scattered cells not yet collected enough to become a tumor.
The words “pancreatic” and “cancer” combined are one of Nana’s worst nightmares. It grieved me that she had to hear it. I’m so glad we were there with her when she heard it, though, because otherwise she would’ve been alone. She was very upset that we had to be exposed to such a thing while we’re “just newlyweds” and I wasn’t sure how to convince her that just because we’re newly married doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be exposed to normal life. There are things that are part of normal life: some are weddings, some are births, some are sicknesses, some are death. To face any one or possibility of one is simply…what people do every day.
I love Nana dearly. In many ways, she’s probably the person I’m the most like in natural personality. I hope she has many more years to live. I want her to see our children and be at more weddings and see Jonathan finally start talking and celebrate her 95th birthday. But if not all those things are possible, I am never going to regret being there with her in the moment she reached out and took my hand while the doctor was talking to her; and I would always regret that I was too busy being a newlywed to be with her in that moment if we had not gone.
I just hope I can convince her of that.
A Little Normalcy
Today was probably our first sort of normal day. We did something besides sleep and scrounge around for meals. We went over my family’s house and had dinner and opened all the presents that had been left for us at the wedding. We didn’t open the cards, though. Considering the size of the pile, that would’ve probably taken all evening.
Benjamin also showed us a trailer he made of the pictures and short videos he took of the preparation for the wedding and he’s getting to be a really great photographer. He got some really great photos; and his new camera will take HD quality video, which he exploited with excellent results.
Some of our relatives got us all the remaining sets of dishes from the registry, which turned out to be a huge pile in person. It’s one thing to say, “If we have 18 sets of dishes, we can have our family over for dinner”; it’s another to actually SEE the pile of boxes containing only 10 of the 18 sets! They pretty much filled up the car.
We have so many thank you notes to write that I expect my handwriting will get some considerable practice over the next few weeks. I expect it’s going to take about two weeks to get them all out.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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