Saturday, September 12, 2015


I met Bobbe in an exercise class for pregnant women.  I'd just moved to a new town and didn't know a soul besides my mom, and it seemed like a good way to meet people I'd have something in common with.  Three of us were due about the same time, and exercised together like graceless dancing elephants until we delivered.  We got together afterwards and compared our babies: Mine was smallest, Karen's was the boy, and Bobbe's?  The likeliest to be able to live up to being named after not one, but two English Queens. 

When the babies were less than two months old, Bobbe and I got bored and took a road trip to Philly to visit my brother and sis-in-law for a weekend.  New moms, we loaded the back of her SUV to the gills with full-size strollers, suitcases full of baby clothes, diaper bags, and in Bobbe's case, an entire bassinette.  Two car seats in the back, and two grown women taking turns sitting back there to keep an eye on the babies, taking breaks every five minutes to nurse one or the other of them: We were utterly ridiculous and had no idea that we didn't need any of that stuff really.  We laughed at ourselves over that trip every time we thought of it for years afterwards.

When the girls were 9 months old Bobbe moved to Tampa.  "Come and visit anytime!," she said, and meant it.  So Tampa became Citygirl's and my winter getaway.  We came every year for a week or two.  I have pictures of Victoria in her naked-except-for-fingerpaint stage.  I have pictures of little girls trampolining.  I have pictures of Citygirl pinwheeling into a pristine backyard pool in the January sun.  I have memories of Bobbe talking her pediatrician into seeing Citygirl for one of her many ear infections.  Of meeting her church friends. Of sitting and talking and talking and talking about nothing and anything and everything on the lanai. Of shopping for real bras together once we were done nursing (I had never had a professional 'fitting' before. Bobbe insisted. She was right - who knew?  Take her advice, ladies - go and let some total stranger measure your boobs.  Your boobs will thank you). 

They would come north in the summer.  We went camping together, drinking Bailey's Irish Cream beside the campfire next to giggling girls cooking marshmallows over the coals (I insisted. To Bobbe's chagrin, Victoria loved it.  I think it cost her a fortune in camping equipment over the years).  We lay on our backs on a thyme-covered hill watching the stars, and stayed there long enough to know it was the earth moving under us and not the stars moving over us. 

One memorable week we traveled to visit, bringing all of Citygirl's siblings, my brother, sis-in-law and their two kids.  I overheard Bobbe say casually to someone on the phone, "Oh, no, not this week.  I have nine houseguest so I don't have any extra room." Whoohoo! I was the one who finally filled her house to CAPACITY!  That was the same week that we went for desert at a local restaurant, only to discover that the President was eating dinner there! The memory of Bobbe's excited thumbs-up dance in the middle of the street when she learned this news still makes me laugh out loud.  Victoria and Citygirl spent an evening stalking former President Bush.  Ask them about how successful two fifteen-year-olds can be at outwitting the Secret Service. 

When the kids got older the visits got less frequent, but it didn't change the fact that Bobbe was one of the best friends I ever had.  Her willingness to go the extra mile, driving me and my Babygirl to a doctor's appointment that was literally a 384 mile round-trip while I did dialysis on Babygirl in the back seat of her car was just one more example.  And we used the time to talk, and talk, and talk about everything and nothing and all the things that cement a friendship between women. 

My brother once said, "I don't 'get' you and Bobbe.  You don't seem to have anything in common."  On the surface of it, I suppose we were very different people.  But our friendship began at a time when our lives had everything in common:  A focus on the love of a tiny little girl.  We had no nearby family, and no friends who wanted to hear us brag about every blink and bowel movement.  And once you bond like a sister, you stay sisters forever.

I miss you to the moon and back, Bobbe.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Arriving Late......

It grieves me terribly to admit that I was late to the wedding.  Not late-late - I was in time for the ceremony.  But I was a full hour later than the time Citygirl told me to be there.  And I'll never be able to make that right, really.

But here is how it went:

I had asked a friend of my Mom's to come to the house to help get her ready, and I was to pick her up at 8:30 AM.  The house was packed, or I would have had her spend the night, which she typically does on Fridays anyway.  She doesn't drive and there are no early buses on Saturday, but since I only had that task and getting myself ready it shouldn't really be a problem, right? 

I called her at 8:20 to let her know I was running a little late.  She was running even later. "Could you get me about 10?"  Criminey, TEN?  Well, it is what it is, right?  And it isn't like I'm some kind of makeup freak - I can shower now and then all I'll need to do is slip my dress on. 

Mom had been showered by an aide the day before, and I got her up and tried to get her moving:  Meds, breakfast, coherency.....not going with any speed. 

People came and went needing help with one thing or another.  At some point I sent someone out to the truck with my keys to get something for's all a blank. 

Near 10 o'clock, I went to grab my keys and leave, and.... no keys.  No problem, Hubby has keys.  But....No Hubby!  He's gone someplace for God alone only knows what reason, so I backtrack on the keys.... and call my nephew.  "J, what did you do with the keys after you got the stuff from the truck?"  "Ummm....I might have left them IN the truck."

Oh. My. God.  And Hubby has the truck.  And he is not answering his phone.  And it is now AFTER 10 and I am supposed to be home already and dressed and CRAP.   Just as I am about to have a major private meltdown my sister-in-law pulls up to the curb.  My brother had forgotten his computer and he needed it to run the sound for the wedding.  Excellent!  Please please give me a ride to pick up Mom's friend?

No problem.  Except that no one ever warned me that my sis-in-law drives like a Chihuahua on speed.  "The speed limit here is 30.  We don't have time for a ticket, you can't go 50 on a city street and OMG THAT LIGHT WAS RED AND I AM GOING TO DIE BEFORE MY DAUGHTER GETS MARRIED!"

By the time we got back home it was 10:30, the time I was supposed to be at the wedding venue.  Mom still wasn't dressed and her ride was arriving in half an hour, and I wasn't dressed and I still didn't have a ride either. 

At some point you just give up, you know?  I could either rant and rave or I could make my Mom's day pleasant, so I took my time, did her hair, got her dressed and helped her get into the van at 11.  By that time Hubby was back, and I helped him fasten his cummerbund and got into my dress. 

And then there was that one really, really bad moment, when all the stress of the morning hit:  I'd lost a little weight since I bought the dress, and I needed to pin the dress to my bra to cover a small gap.  I looked in the mirror and I just couldn't do it myself, and I started to cry, "I need Bobbe.  I just need Bobbe!"  But she's gone and she won't see my daughter or worse yet HER daughter get married and OhMYGOD Bobbe....

Thank God I'm not a makeup person.

I arrived at the museum at 11:30.  I missed the family portrait time with the photographer, so there will be very few pictures of me in that fabulous dress.  But I arrived in time to help my precious baby with a last-minute wedding-dress wardrobe malfunction that I hope helped her forgive me for adding to her stress on her special day. 


Monday, September 7, 2015


I've been in weddings, as bridesmaid, but the last time was probably close to thirty years ago.  If there was a rehearsal dinner I don't recall, honestly.  What I DO recall about that wedding was rear-ending another car on the way home because I was so sleep-deprived during my pediatrics rotation (but I digress.  No injuries, no car damage, no delay, it was all good, right? Right).

Citygirl's rehearsal dinner was held at the museum where the wedding and reception were held, using the same room Make A Wish used to reveal Babygirls's Paris trip.  Citygirl's minions had made it lovely - flowers, table runners, atmosphere - lovely. There were seats for exactly all those expected.  The museum's courtyard was all set up for the big event, and could be seen from the windows. 

They had a caterer, a local Pakistani restaurant to honor Citygirl's heritage on her dad's side.  Her Auntie in Pakistan had gotten Citygirl's and her Beloved's measurements and had lovely traditional Pakistani clothing made for the event.  The rehearsal went was looking to go well, and then....

People just started to show up.  Those who did had reasons to be there, some of which even had something to do with rehearsing for the wedding, but....suddenly seating was, well, off.  And the caterer somehow forgot he was in America and started running on Pakistani time (I know. I lived there for a while. If an invite said "7 PM" for the love of ALL that is holy do NOT come before 8:30 or your hosts will still be showering and the servants will not know what to do with you!).  The resultant chaos went unnoticed by the majority of the guests.  And who knew my Ex could be so gracious a host?  Kudos to him, and a Boo/Hiss to what was our favorite restaurant!

After the rehearsal dinner there was a cocktail 'hour' (or three) at the hotel where most of the guests were staying.  It was very lively, but I have to say that all I consumed was about 10 glasses of ice water.  It was fun watching the crowd of Citygirl's high school friends act like they've always acted together:  High spirited, happy, and loving.  It was wonderful seeing them blend in with new family and old, welcoming all.  Citygirl and her Beloved have between them a solid base to build on.


Monday, August 31, 2015

The Week Before.....

The week before a massive family event is always complete chaos.  There is a list of things that need to be done, and just about the time you cross one thing off three more things have tacked themselves onto the end of it.

I arrived home from the mission trip tired and grieving.  B's sudden loss was a huge blow to all of us, and there was no time to even consider really processing it.  We had no idea what the final arrangements were going to be.  George's funeral plans hadn't been announced.  My Dad's memorial had been definitively postponed until the after-wedding chaos died down.

Our back entrance, a 10 x 12 shared space for the two apartments in our house, has always been a shambles.  It has no heat, so the genius who ran water out there for washers and dryers before we bought the place cost us plenty in plumbers' visits when pipes froze in the winter because tenants didn't want to pay to keep a space heater running.  Tearing out the plaster and lath and insulating helped keep it warmer but didn't really improve the looks of the room.  So while I was gone, Hubby tore out woodwork and put up beadboard and began the process of making it....pretty.  Citygirl and her beloved did a lot of painting, and one indoor/outdoor carpet later: Voila!  a tolerably good looking entrance! (I still need to paint the door.  Oh, there is still a list, but we promised ourselves we would do NOTHING in August.)

The kitchen backsplash needed to be put up.  I had picked tin ceiling tile (which, these days, is made of plastic and can be cut with a good pair of shears - awesome product, I must say).  With Babygirl's assistance, that project took two full days.  I did, at one point, literally tell my mom to 'SHUT UP!' after she had, for the fifteenth time, advised, "Measure twice, cut once!" and asked, "When are you going to do this on MY side?" again.  She left for her side in a huff.  And then forgot all about it.  Ah, the beauty of dementia. 

I had found some lovely fabric at a garage sale - an immense amount of yardage on the bolt, sold for $1 by a local interior designer.  I made new pillow covers for our very tired living room pillows and a bedspread for the rented guest bed.  I made beds, put out clean towels and washcloths for each room, made sure each room had curtains (Mom has never used the upstairs of her side, so we never needed them!), getting creative with antique lace tablecloths and twine when needed.  I bought fans. We had a professional steam cleaner come in and clean our couches (ahh, no doggy smell) and mom's chairs (cats, she used to smoke, and old lady.  We can't talk about how much better her side smells without being insulting about how bad it used to smell LOL).

On Thursday my sister-in-law and I did a sweep of the house, looking for any construction items that had not been needed, and we loaded up the truck and headed off to all the home improvement stores.  We came back with over $300 in store credit (yeah, I have all the receipts. No, I didn't have them with me.  Did I mention I still have a LIST?) and a lot more room in the basement. On Friday, while the bridesmaids were all off having their nails done, we whipped through the house for a final clean-and-polish, and then she and I went off by ourselves for our own mani/pedi. 

When we came home we tackled our final assignment:  Make pudding shots.   These were for the after-reception barbeque, and they were simple, fun, relaxing and giggle-inducing to make.  It was a good thing:  The rehearsal dinner was yet to come.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

WHY did you leave....

In telling people the complicated story of my summer, one of the commonest questions is, "Why on EARTH did you leave town for a week two weeks before Citygirl's wedding?"

The answer is a complex blend of the balance of our lives.  Citygirl's wedding was a high priority, indeed.  I had taken off the entire week before the wedding to help with preparations, and had dedicated every weekend from April through mid-July to readying the house:  Adding a deck, upgrading a kitchen and remodeling a bathroom were all accomplished in that time. 

But Citygirl isn't our only child.  Babygirl still needs raising, and her life, in the past few years, has been a lot different than Citygirl's exuberant high school experience.  I had no problem giving up Beach Week for an event as momentous as a wedding, but the annual mission trip is an opportunity for fellowship and friendship that Babygirl's illness so frequently isolates her from.  To complicate matters (and to add just a TOUCH more stress to an already far too stressful summer) Babygirl's June run to Philly had yielded some nerve-wracking lab reports.  Her neutrophil counts had dropped.  Not into the don't-go-out-in-public-without-a-mask levels, but suddenly and radically lower than they had been.  Low enough, that as they stood, the mission trip was off the table. 


Well, or you could repeat them.  So the Monday before we were to leave, we went to the hospital to visit our favorite phlebotomist, only to be told he no longer worked in the lab.  Crap.  When your kid has ONE vein on the back of her hand, you want someone you know can hit it, right?  We hooked up with a new lady, got the tests and waited.

Wednesday, two days before we had to load up the vans to leave, we got the call.  "Counts are back to normal!  See you in October!" 

So we went to Lincoln County, West Virginia to install a floor on house for a family who'd been living with a dirt floor (and no bathroom, kitchen or indoor plumbing) for six years since a fire gutted their first floor.  We were the final team on the 7-week project, so we did painting, tiling, and laminate floor installation.

On the last day we had a bit of extra time, and the building inspector had said that the family needed to clear the construction trash before they could move in, so I rounded up Babygirl and a girl from another team and we started loading trash in the van to take to our Center's dumpster.  After the second load I realized that we needed to move the bags from the front of the dumpster to the back so that we could REALLY pack it full.  The girl from the other team said, "I ain't gettin' in no dumpster."  Babygirl just laughed at her and said, "I'll do it!" 

(Caveat: Please remember that this was construction trash, not garbage. And the dumpster was dusty, NOT disgusting.  I'm not completely crazy.  I'm NOT.  Stop laughing!  I'd have done it myself except that although I was sure I could get into the dumpster from the back of the van,  I was equally sure I wouldn't be able to get back out.)

Babygirl hopped into the dumpster and shifted about 30 fully-loaded construction-sized trash bags from the front end to the back.  She was able to stand upright under the top of it initially, and was climbing over stacked bags as time progressed.  With each additional load we brought she played dumpster-Tetris and stuffed them from bottom to top, back to front, until we had filled the entire thing completely.  Toward the end, she stumbled and sat down on a bag of trash.  She laughed - she was in the shade of the dumpster lid, there was a breeze, and she said,  "This is the coolest I've been all day - I could sincerely take a nap right here!"

At the end of the day, one of our other teammates incredulously asked her, "You really went dumpster diving?"

"Yup.  Bucket list:  Check!"

Dumpster Diving

OhMyDearLord that kid is funny.  And kind.  Clearly not every kid on this mission trip understood that dumpster diving was part of being a missionary, part of getting a family into a home that, this winter, for the first time in six years, would have a floor, a toilet, and a kitchen sink.

THAT's why I left.


Friday, August 14, 2015


For the last six months our lives have been all about the physical de-crapification of our house.  Buy a shed to store the tools that clutter the yard we are covering with a deck.  Empty the kitchen to put in new cabinets. Ditto the bathroom. Clear every unused room to create a Bed-and-Breakfast atmosphere for the wedding. Clean the spare fridge and get it running. Tent, and then UNtent, the yard.  Party set up, party clean up, and restock the utterly depleted pantry.  Clean the spare fridge and shut it down.  Keep track of the finances of the whole enormous project.

Week after week I've watched appallingly large amounts of yard waste, trash and recycling hit the curb.  We've returned about $100 worth of cans and bottles at a nickel apiece. 

We are finally, for the first time in months, back to transplant-standard clean in every room in the house (our bedroom was the final holdout.  I don't want to talk about it. There cannot possible be that much dog fur loose in the universe).

The de-crapification of my heart and soul may take more time and energy than this.  The overwhelming beauty and joy of a wedding crowned a summer laden with loss and grief deferred.  Sorting through it all, finally feeling it all, and letting the healing start is the work of this last quiet month of summer.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Three AM Friends.....

In our lives we are given only a few friends that we know with 100% certainty that we can pick up the phone at three in the morning for whatever reason, call, and they will be THERE.  Whether it is a shoulder to cry on, someone to go with you to the hospital with an injured child, or help with hiding the bodies (well, theoretically....) there are, perhaps, at any given time in your life only one to three people you could call on and not feel at all bad about it, knowing that they could, in turn, call you.

Last week I while was out of town for our annual mission trip.  My good friend B (we met twenty-six years ago in an exercise class for pregnant women when I was carrying Citygirl) came into town from Florida to help prep for Citygirl's wedding, not realizing that I was gone.  She stopped by the house, ran some errands for Citygirl and made plans to return this week, using the extra time to catch up with her many other local friends. 

Except, she didn't.

Sometime Friday she pulled her car off the road and called 911 for assistance.  We don't know why.  They responded quickly but by the time they arrived it was too late to help her. 

And like that, she is gone.

The police needed someone to identify her, and came looking for me, which was how Citygirl was notified of her death.  Another of her older friends was located for that sad task, sparing Citygirl that grim necessity.  Citygirl sent me a text instructing me to call her when we came into cell phone service range (Central Appalachia is generally not on the grid).

It was a sad ride home.

B was the kind of person who made friends in the grocery line.  She was kind to everyone. She was over the moon about her surprise pregnancy at the age of 42 (her first and only).  She cared for her parents until they died (just a couple of days apart) and came and cried on my  shoulder when they did. She opened her home to international students, friends, family and strangers.  She's the one who drove me to Philly while I did dialysis with Babygirl in the car (Week Twenty-four: More Gratitude....) when she herself had just driven over 1400 miles in the previous few days.  I helped her clean out her aunt's house after her death.  She offered to come and stay here to help if I needed it as my Mom declined.

She always put her whole heart out where it could be seen.  A true-blue three-AM friend. 

There is a new bottle of Irish Mist in my fridge.  I found it yesterday when I was looking for some vodka to mix with lemonade at the end of the day.  She must have dropped it off while she was here, planning to come back for an evening of drinks and stories on our new deck.  I wish I'd been here to have that drink with her. I wish she were still here to have that drink with me.