Posts Tagged ‘family’

The Shape of Love

And I do not immediately recognize the feeling as grief.  It has been gone for so long.  Yet suddenly and without warning it is back.  I have tears in my eyes and my heart is breaking.


You smell like boy sweat even though you have told me that you showered.  I think you lied.  I agree to snuggle with you in your bed because you are nine and I know that these moments are going to end soon.  I am really sleepy and as I am drifting off to sleep I have a somewhat misplaced thought.  I am thinking of a high school teacher that I had.  I think she died of cancer, she was part of the Historical Society, and that she always wore dresses.  But I can’t remember her name.  For a moment I am irrationally obsessed.  Then I think of mom.  I think that if she were alive, I would call her up tomorrow.  I would ask her the name of this teacher.  As quickly as I was obsessed with remembering some seemingly insignificant name, I am overwhelmingly distressed over not being able to call up my dead mother.  Particularly distressful is that I know precisely how our conversation would unfold.  I play the tape in my mind.

Hi, mom.

Hello, sweetie.  It has been two years since I have heard her voice?  I am struck that I cannot remember exactly how long.  Has it been three?  It occurs to me that after the first 365 days of being without mom I have literally stopped counting.  And yet I can hear the voice so clearly in my ear.

It’s me.  Then we would exchange small talk.  How is the weather there?  Hot.  Yeah, it’s hot here, too.

Then I would say Ma, remember that high school teacher I had?  She always wore dresses, and spoke with a lisp.  She was in the Historical Society. 

She would say Oh, you must mean Ms. So-and-s0.

Yes.  I would say.  The world being put right for some trivial reason that matters to no one in particular.

Why were you thinking about her?

Did she die of cancer?

Yes, honey.  Don’t you remember she had that long battle with breast cancer, then when she died her husband was devastated?  They had just bought that house out in the country?

Oh, yeah.  Now I do remember.  Whether I actually do remember or not being totally insignificant.  It is more the needing her that matters so much to me.  And insanely just knowing that Ms. So-and-so did die of cancer, her husband devastated has brought me peace.

I am deeply jolted by these thoughts of mom and I open my eyes to get my bearings.  I look over at you and tussle your hair gently.  I want to talk to you.  Your eyes are closed, your breathing heavy, and I am sure you are asleep.  I want to wake you because selfishly I do not want to be alone with what I know now to be my grief.  I consider it.  As if you have heard my thoughts you say What? with your eyes still closed.

I say simply and immediately knowing that you will understand, I miss Grammy.  Since you were born I call my own mother Grammy.  It just makes sense.

Me, too.  You say simply.  What do you miss?

I miss that I used to call her when I didn’t remember things and she would tell me the things that I didn’t remember.

Mmm.  You say.  I know that you have no idea what I mean.  Do you mean that Grammy knew everything?

Yes.  I know that as an answer this is completely inadequate, but I have nothing else to offer.

You consider this and accept it within seconds.

Well, you say in your attempt at a solution, I guess you could call Aunt Lucy.  She’s old.

I laugh and it is good for my heart.

And even though it is funny and it is a nine year old’s offering for a peaceful heart, after I am done laughing my soul is bare.  Again.  No, I don’t think she would know the things that I don’t remember.

Well, what about Grandpy?  He would know everything that Grammy knew, right?

Yeah, buddy.  I think he would.  And to myself I say, But it’s not the same.  And immediately I feel guilty for having that thought.

We are quiet for a long time and I think that you have drifted back off to sleep, but suddenly you say, Mom, didn’t you tell me that your Grandpy died when he was 107?

Again, I giggle and it does feel good.  He was old, but not 107.

Can you tell me about him, ma?

Well, we used to go visit him and my dad’s mom every Sunday.  They lived close to where we used to live.  They had a two-story house, but the upstairs just had one room.  I think.  There was a box of toys up there and I would play while the adults talked downstairs.  They spoke Spanish and I couldn’t understand a lot of what they were saying, so I just played upstairs.

I ramble on and tell you about the tattoos of the Virgin Mary, Jesus on the cross, my grandma’s name in a heart with an arrow.  As I relate these memories I am not sure that they are true.  But I don’t think that it matters.  I tell you about how my Grammy was as deaf as a doornail and spoke no English, but how somehow I felt love for her.  You ask me about the size of my Grandpy’s sweet tooth and I tell you that it was huge.  Possibly larger than your own Grandpy’s sweet tooth.  We both laugh.

We are quiet for a long time.  I am sure that you have now drifted off to sleep.  I lie there alone with my grief.  And again, you surprise me.

I love you, mom.  And I miss Grammy, too.  And I hope that my Grandpy lives to be 107.

No words will encompass what I have in my heart, so I just say,

Yeah.  Me, too. 


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Can you believe I made this?

So, those of you who know me well know that I am a foodie, but not necessarily a great cook or baker.  Since I am a mediocre cook/baker I often do crazy things that refined cooks know not to do.  Like….try out brand spankin’ new (often complicated and far above my skill level) dishes I have never cooked before at parties.  (Hubby loves it when I do that).  Something you should also know about me is that when I cook I must follow a recipe to a tee (Even if this means that my oven is hotter than the oven of the cook who wrote the recipe and I burn the entire dinner or dessert.  And, yes, hubby loves that, too). 

Now, that being said, I will take you back to last Saturday when it was…oldest girl child’s First Communion dinner/lunch.  I was pretty sure I could manage her request of lasagna with salad for “linner”, but her dessert request was a little more tricky.  She requested lemon cake.  Huh?  Lemon cake?  After thoroughly questioning her:  Lemon?  The tiny, yellow things?  Are you sure you like them?  They smell like floor cleaner?  They are typically used in lemonade?  What about chocolate?  I thought you liked chocolate?  It was clear she did indeed want lemon cake.  So, being the great mom that I am <insert sarcasm> I frantically started to google “lemon cake” the night before her party at around 9:00 p.m. 

Now, I’ve already said that I am no baker, but seriously?  I don’t need Google to tell me how to make LEMON CAKE FROM A BOX.  I was looking for an actual real lemon cake from actual ingredients that don’t come in boxes and that I could find in my kitchen.  And, here’s what I came up with:  http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Lemon-Cake-with-Lemon-Filling-and-Lemon-Butter-Frosting/Detail.aspx?prop31=4

With recipe in hand, I began my Making of the Lemon First Communion Cake.  It’s titled like a novel because that’s kind of what it turned into in terms of time, research, trial runs, do-overs, running it by various “experts,” etc.  I can trace my downfall back to my desire to modify the original recipe by putting it into a 9 x 13 pan rather than two round 8 inch cake pans.  Bakers of my skill level should never stray from the original recipe.  That’s how (at about 9:40 p.m.) I came out with a cake that smelled like……bleach and was about one inch high.

9:42 p.m. – I was starting to panic.  So, I did what I always do when I am panicking – I googled lemon cake……..again.  I was really worried about the size of the cake and the smell of the cake.  After much indecisiveness and turmoil I decided to bake the exact same cake again with less lemon (to cut the bleach smell).  That’s how I ended up with two one inch 9 x 13 decisively lemony cakes.

Now, I’m no dummy and therefore while I was baking the second cake I realized I would need a way to put the two thin cakes together.  So, back to google where I found this delightful blog and cake recipe with a delicious looking filling.  http://calminthekitchen.blogspot.com/2009/02/lemon-cake-with-berry-filling-and-lemon.html  I could tell by the picture alone that this cake was WAY above my skill level.  But, I thought I could manage the filling.  Problem:  I only had strawberries.  So, I used fresh strawberries for the filling. 

I managed to “turn my cakes out” and put the filling in the middle.  THEN I managed to make a yummy glaze for the top by modifying the recipe for glaze above with milk instead of butter and a little less lemon.

Now, my hubby is a fantastic cook and fairly great baker, too.  He is my polar opposite when it comes to cooking, so I consulted him many times during this process (mostly he just kept saying, “Are you STILL making the cake?  How many are you making?  You do know the party is tomorrow, right?”).  When the finished product was sitting on the table (round about midnight), he reminded me that good cooks always taste their food before serving it.  Which leads me to a question I am still not sure I have a good answer to:  How do you do that with a CAKE?  Serve a cake at the party with a piece taken out of it?  That just doesn’t seem polite.

So, I served the cake the next day.  Untasted.  I had no idea whether it would be a huge hit or an utter disaster.  Ironically I was confident in the fact that I am familiar with utter disasters!  BUT, to my pleasant surprise it was a HUGE hit.  It was lemony, rich, had a texture of tres leches cake, everyone (especially my sweet baby girl) loved it, and the fruit in the middle was a lovely touch.  I even took a picture of it so everyone would believe that I actually made it.  And the fact that photographing food to actually look edible?  Yeah, that’s another post.

If you are lucky, I will make it again for you someday on your special day.

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And there is a story that a good friend told me that I think of quite frequently.  It goes like this:  There was a poor man in Mexico who attended mass daily.  Before mass several people would approach the altar to “pray.”  This man would do the same.  When he approached the altar he would simply say, “Soy yo, Dios.  Juan Manuel.”  It is I, God, Juan Manuel.  For a long time he did this and for a long time the other people would stare at him for this seemingly strange behavior.  Finally one woman asked him, “Why do you approach the altar where we are supposed to be praying and call out to God and just say your name?”  And he responded, “Because only God knows what I need.  I simply need to tell Him who I am and He will give me what I need.”

When I think of this story, I think of you…………………………………………..



“I had a dream about my father last night.”  I pause and wait for some response.  There is none.  Only silence.

“We were watching or hearing something painful.  It had to do with a child.  I don’t think it was my child.  I think it was someone else’s child.  The child had been sick or injured or sad, but was now better.  I was sitting to my father’s left on a bench.  When I glanced up at him, his eyes were moist with tears.  He made that guttural sound that he makes when he is about to cry.  That sound makes me feel awful.”

“Why does it make you feel awful?”

“I’m not sure.  I think it’s because it is too overwhelmingly painful for me to see him like that…in pain.  Anyway.  I wanted so much to tell him something.”

“What?  What did you want to tell him?”

“Well, that’s just it.  I can’t remember what I wanted to tell him – but it was urgent.  It was urgent, but I knew that he wouldn’t be able to hear me.  When I thought this – in my dream – he reached for me.  Like in a sideways embrace.  He held me.  And I do remember what he said.”

“And what was that?  What did he say?”

“He said, ‘You see?  They have gone through it.  They have gone through pain and they are on the other side.  Do you see?  Do you see how that feels?  How joyous?'”

“What did you say?”

“I can’t remember.  But, I pulled back from him so that I could see his face.  It was wet.  Or my face was wet.  He was crying.  Or I was crying.  I pulled him back to me.  Close.  Then I woke up.”

“Then what?”

“Then I just had this amazing feeling.  It was like I was still in that embrace with my dad.  I could even feel the warmth of his face next to my face.  It was weird.  It was so vivid.  And the feeling I had…it was like a feeling of – my dad is so smart.  It doesn’t matter that he can’t hear me.  He doesn’t need to hear me.  He already knows.  He already knows what he needs to know.  There is nothing that I could tell him that would make it any different.”

I finish saying this and I wait for him to say something.  I wait for him to tell me what all of this means.  He is quiet.  Then after I have listened quietly – so quiet that I can hear my own heart beating – and he has said nothing – he says simply and with a definite air of finality, “Your time is up.  I think you’ve made progress.”

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