Tuesday, January 17, 2012

soup

Playing Christmas Carols 2011
The greatest gift we have been given is life.  Even before we recognize freedom, love, grace and hope we have been given life to pursue all of these things.  Life, in its essence, is full of growth, death, aches and climaxes...all day long.

I was typing from my mother (Jennie's) desk... then from Vincent's...then from David's and finally Alice's.   I have been a vagabond travelling from place to place and hardly writing... that is, in surrendered, beautiful disruption of my schedule, visiting family.   

When we arrived in California, we hardly expected the roller coaster of events that have transpired.  It's been too much for even me to recap, but in my brain, there are endless snapshots that will never leave me.  In the weeks we reconnected with friends and family, we were overjoyed at growth, killed ourselves laughing, cried tears of joy over our granddaughters...and languished in the company of family and friends. We also said goodbye to a most beloved brother. We spent the most time we have ever spent on a vacation "back home".

I am settled, now, in Johannesburg, safely "home", and back to the southern Hemisphere summer.

It was just Friday morning when we left New York City.  We loaded up the hired car with our 6 bags and said goodbye to our beloved Alice on her Riverdale driveway in 0 degrees, our parka  hoods touching as we hugged goodbye.  Today is Tuesday, and it has been my first chance to write since I've been back.  This morning, my upper lip is annoyingly beaded with sweat and my hair up in a pony tail as my neck is exposed to the window behind me.  From cold to hot - from winter to summer - from surrounded by our children to just the two of us here....with our dogs.

The trip, in reflection, was the best, most beautiful expenditure of time we could manage.  When we first arrived in the States, we had one day at Dave Smith's house before  Mario boarded a plane bound for Phoenix, where he was hoping to see his brother, who had been asking for him.   For three days, Mario kept vigil over Anthony with his family at the hospice center.  

I drove David's jeep to Tracy, where I stayed with my parents for a long, gorgeous, relaxed, three days.  I got to have long, uninterrupted talks with my parents, something missing from our face-to-face time for the last few years.

Mario spent his time at Anthony's bedside, leaving three days later while Anthony slept, kissing his forehead and pleading the blood of Jesus over him.  Anthony died a few hours later.

We got the news when we were in Chico, visiting our beloved daughter, Alicia, and her little family. While Brian and she were so encouraging and inviting,  Alicia grieved deeply with us.  Still, grief was interrupted by the absolute miracle of the presence of our families together.   Our granddaughters, Harmony (2) and Alannah (5 months) are too young to understand grief and loss, and too alive to ignore.

 Reconnecting with them s was heavenly.  Alannah, who was one day old when I last saw her (and Mario had never seen in person), is a gorgeous, happy baby who smiles with her whole body when you make eye contact with her.  She was one smile and cuddle after another.  Harmony, prone to contemplation and deep thought was a ball of affection, so  full of hugs and kisses for us.  We stuffed a year of visiting into three days: walks, talks, last-minute Christmas shopping....all done with them as if we've never left.

Before we knew it, three days were over, and we went "home" to Tracy for Christmas.

The days of Christmas were full of celebration and tradition.  Family, growing neices and nephews, grandchildren...singing, tamales...laughter.  A picture says a thousand words and I think I took a thousand pictures. It was a beautiful Christmas, but I have had a lifetime of beautiful Christmases.  I spent the night lapping it up, grateful for the company of my family, once again.  Christmas Day we drove to the Bay area again, this time for a day of soaking with our beloved Cynthia, Mario's cousin (more like his sister) and her family.

The next few days were amazing: Friends, family, catching up...my 49th birthday...our 24th anniversary....My sister, Colleen, hosted a birthday party for me.  Flashes of memories...too much in my heart, which was already overflowing.

New Years we travelled to New Mexico to see Vince, his girlfriend, Rikki and their cat, Eddy. We learned how to play x-box connect (forgive my spelling), which made us feel like 111-year-old-hillbillies, constantly saying "Can you believe this? How do they do this?" Our games were shared with our beloved Vince and Rikki, who were masters - and good teachers.  Since it was a Christmas present for Rikki, we all enjoyed the newness of it together.  We also got to meet her extended family for the first time, which was wonderful.

From there we went to Arizona for the Memorial for Anthony.  It was miraculous that we could be there for such a time.  Planned by his wife of 31 years, my sister-in-law, Shirley, the night was a dinner and a tribute, with all of Anthony's close friends and family sharing their hearts. All while Anthony's favorite foods were served.  It was a perfect night, and one where we reconnected with David and Joe.  To look over Mario's shoulder and see all three sons talking to each other....was a joy beyond joys.  I kept hugging them.  They kept laughing.  They did everything but say "It's okay, Mom".  If life were perfect, Alicia would have been there.

We saw my grand-nephew, Renee's baby who was just born premature.  He was beautiful and every bit of the miracle we heard about long-distance.

From Arizona, the "Boys" (Mario, David, Joe and Vince)  took a road trip to New Mexico, Oklahoma and finally Kansas, where I had flown and was met by my daughter-in-law and granddaughters at the airport.  To see the girls (Lennae, Laila, Lilli and Lauren) for the first time in two years was amazing.  Astoundingly,  the little ones all remembered me - and were anxious to reconnect.  Thank GOD for SKYPE!!   They loved my stories, which they would ask for by making up a scenario with different animals and relationships....it was so precious.  The boys joined us that night, and two days later Alicia, Brian and their girls joined us as well.

Another miracle of three kids in one place:  David, Joe and Alicia.  We must have stayed up Life isn't perfect.  If it were, Vince would have been there, but the reunion was a huge blessing.  Greater still was the union of all of the granddaughters- all so beautiful!!  All such a miracle!  All so different in ages and personalities!!

We said goodbye again, on a cold morning at the Kansas City Airport, where Alicia and David dropped us off with our massive luggage, and I tearfully said goodbye to both.  We were so moved, but so thankful.  The time with our kids was amazing...

Our last stop was in New York City, where we took a cab from LaGuardia to Riverdale, where Alice was waiting for us.  Three days of heavenly visiting again: this time with a trip in to the City.  What an indellible mark she has made on our hearts!!  It was a stunning time.  Reflecting on Anthony's life, Chev's life...and our own lives as well.

Here I am, finally finishing at nearly midnight my time.  I have drunk deeply on my "holiday" as they say here...and now am about the task of resting.

Life, as we know it, is full of emotions.  The highs and lows, the laughter and tears.  Together, all mixed together the grief and the joy makes a "soup" we call life.

Eat it up.

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