’tis the night after christmas

‘Tis the night after Christmas,
and Asher’s in bed
Events of the holiday
are filling my head

The stockings and tree
were all put up with flair
Because of our preschooler
wanting them there

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Our family was nestled
in holiday “bliss”
For me, visions dancing of
Kade who I miss

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Christmas 2011

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“Remembering Kade”

And Brian in his lounge pants
and I in my fleece
Are settling our brains
for some post-Christmas peace

Christmas Eve night-time
my bro and I clattered
To launch a sky lantern
ambitions were shattered

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Away from our gloved hands
no flying, no flash
‘Cause it was too windy
our hopes, they were dashed

But stars and the planets
our vast midnight show
Gave the luster of hope to
us hurting below

More rapid than eagles
Christmas morning tears came
As I whispered… remembered…
and called him by name

Then, what to my wondering
ears should I hear
Woke the miniature boy
with a cough, yes, severe

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Our hopes of volunteering
were changed and right quick
We’d drop off our goodies
and leave, like St. Nick

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Driving to drop off items collected for the homeless

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“Christmas in the Park”

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“Christmas in the Park”

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“Christmas in the Park” volunteers

Coughed all Christmas Day
and that night no relief
Shower steam it encircled
his head like a wreath

The day after snacks
and sweets that I chose
And giving a nod,
off to yoga I rose

I sprang to my mat
to my core gave a whistle
To enlightenment flew
like down-dog of a thistle

I suppose my exclaim
as I go out of sight
“Peaceful Christmases, all
and to all, cough-free nights”

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grandma gibson

12/8/14

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Katherine Loyola Gibson

I’m writing this post about my grandma, Katherine Gibson. My dad’s mom. She died ten years ago December 6th. Does everyone say this? I can’t believe it’s been ten years.

Let me tell you about Grandma Gibson.

I got tears in my eyes saying those two words to myself, Grandma Gibson. They mean loving, generous, sweet Grandma. I got to know her for 32 years. How lucky am I? And that’s not something I utter often but I’ll keep it here.

Growing up we spent a lot of time at Grandma’s house which is actually a big farmhouse that’s been in the family over a hundred years! It was like a second home to my brother and me. Our family even lived there for a while after returning from my dad’s post-graduate work in Korea. We spent lots if not most of our weekends and school breaks there.

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Andy and Jenny; The Farm in the background

Grandma was the Ultimate Homemaker. She quilted, crocheted, knitted, cross-stitched, and had a green thumb. She made the most delicious food you can imagine. She baked her own bread. I can see the loaves left to rise on the window sill, and conjure the smell of bread baking now. We asked for the crusts—just out of the oven, piping hot, real butter melting. I try to replicate her roasts. Forget it, I’ll never get mine so fall-apart-on-your-fork tender. And her gravy? We sopped up every flavorful drop with our bread. And do you know who she was cooking for? Us kids. Sometimes my dad and other family were there for these incredible meals. But she spared no effort, detail, or time, when it was just us kids.

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We’d make pizza on weekends. And watch The Dukes of Hazzard. And she would always, always, always have chocolate almond ice cream.

Sometimes we were little stinkers for Grandma. Probably because she was so nice and we could get away with it.

I just about spit out my coffee remembering this one:

My dad, who lived in New Jersey much of our childhood, would fly Grandma out with us on school breaks. She watched us while he worked. One day my brother and I decided to hide. I mean, really hide. Quietly… while she searched and searched… calling our names… and everything. We were under the kitchen sink. I think we emerged at the point she started to cry. I must be a really mean person because I’m still giggling. I suppose hiding was better than another favorite: jumping out at her from behind a corner. Sorry, Grandma!

When I was really little I remember sleeping in Grandma’s bed. Her purple striped sheets were so worn that they almost felt like satin. In that big dark farm house at night I felt safe next to Grandma. And I would wake to the sizzle and smell of sausage. No Poptarts or frozen waffles at Grandma’s, no sir!

Grandma was of the generation of “pressing.” She had an ironing board that folded down from the wall in the kitchen. Though I wasn’t around to see it, she pressed cloth diapers. I did see her press bed sheets and t-shirts. When I fling my comforter over my pillows in one quick motion (in other words, make my bed), I think of how my Grandma taught me hospital corners. Like I said, Grandma was the Ultimate Homemaker.

She was born in 1910 and she’s my marker of history. For example, when I hear accounts of the attack on Pearl Harbor, or think about World War II I think, Grandma would have been in her thirties. When I recently watched the Ken Burns documentary on the Roosevelts, I wished so badly she was around to share her memories and opinions. I do remember her speaking fondly of Eleanor.

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Grandma center. I absolutely love this picture of her and her besties. Not so different from today…

Though I knew my Grandma for 32 years, I never knew my Grandpa, Don. He died of a heart attack when he was only 44, and my dad, only 12. I have heard what a wonderful husband and dad he was. I’ll never forget Grandma telling me they were crazy about each other. And what a handsome man he was!

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Do you want to hear something terribly ironic? Ironic isn’t exactly the word. Coincidental? Crazy? Bizarre? My grandpa survived his two brothers who died as teenagers: John, sixteen, of appendicitis and Forrest, the same age as Kade, nineteen, of diabetes.

I won’t dwell on Grandma’s later years where, sadly, her health declined after strokes. But I will share that when she didn’t say much of anything at all, when Kade would walk through the door, she would light up and exclaim, Kade! And they’d cozy up for a ride in her pink automatic recliner lift chair.

I wonder, when Kade got to heaven, if he was welcomed like that.

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Kade and his Great Grandma Gibson. He looks like he was maybe four.

meet me in st. louis

My mom and I recently spent the weekend in a city we’ve never been to before. No, not to protest a grand jury decision. We had booked our tickets weeks ago, taking advantage of an airfare sale. It was a matter of finding a city between us with a great fare. Thank you, Southwest!

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out my window on my very early flight St. Louis-bound

Why didn’t I go to MI, or Mom to CO? We had some business to take care of. Though I would LOVE to see my extended family, and Mom can’t wait to get her hands on Asher, we can both get easily distracted and thought this best for the task at hand.

Before the Compassionate Friends National Conference this summer, once in a while we casually mentioned we should write a book. But I was truly motivated after. Maybe it was the Writing to Remember workshop. The facilitator held up a book she wrote for her son. It was a beautiful, tangible, memoir of his life, right there in paperback. A piece of his legacy that could be handed out… and handed down. I knew I would write Kade’s memoir one day. The How to Get Your Book Published author panel also stirred me. And the bookstore there filled with powerful reads (that I think we bought one of each of). The stories I’ve read in the last two and a half years have inspired me. And the shortage of books from a grandparent’s voice my mom notices, also motivates.

Since I can remember, my mom has had a propensity for grammar, writing, and reading, and a love of literature. I’ve enjoyed creative writing since grade school, myself. I remember writing plays to perform at assemblies with my fourth grade friends.

Now that my mom and I have this huge topic in common; this life event we share that’s the same… but different…  I suppose you could say our writing a book is a bit of a natural progression. So we took the obvious first step, right? Meeting in a St. Louis suburb.

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Let me tell you about St. Charles. It was a fabulous little historic town, recommended by a friend of a friend from the area. It was the perfect place to hole up and do some brainstorming and list-making, with a backdrop of shops, restaurants, and cobblestone. I’ve never been to Boston but for some reason it’s how I picture historic Boston. We didn’t even mind the rain or not having a car.

Getting by on foot gave us the opportunity to walk to the nearest store for crackers for the summer sausage we bought. WHICH was a gas station. THAT didn’t carry crackers. But we would have totally missed walking down Boone’s Lick Trail (of Daniel Boone fame) and reading the historical markers along the way. We never ate the sausage because the gas station potato chips didn’t pair well, but it turned out to be a perfect gift to bring to Brian! We polished off the chips, though.

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We tasted milk-chocolate wine at a shop selling local goods. We visited with a nice jewelry store purveyor couple WHILE MY NEW KYANITE RING GOT SIZED. The large denim blue stone… and its name… caught my attention. You see, a newish friend of mine, Martie, lost her son named Kyan (pronounced Ryan). I’d never heard his name before meeting her.

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I absolutely love it. Doesn’t one need a statement piece as a memento of a monumental weekend such as this? I thought so, too.

We tried St. Louis-style pizza (thin crust with a combination of provolone, cheddar and Swiss. It was meltily delicious).

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I got a tiny bit of Christmas shopping done; even picked out a Kade Ornament for this year. A rustic rugged star. I like it’s irregular shape. We picked out a few fun ornaments for Asher.

Our last day, last lunch before the airport, we ate rich appetizers and laughed (and cried) over our drafts. We took pictures in front of the fireplace where the plans for the Santa Fe Trail were purportedly drawn.

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The cozy rainy view from our booth at our last lunch

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A close-up of the STAR below the peaked roof

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Braddens Pub, in front of the fireplace where the plans for the Santa Fe Trail were drawn up

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Really pretty ceiling at Braddens Restaurant

Back to our book. I confess, I have a list of books I aim to write one day. Can’t you just picture an adventurous little dinosaur named Kade? I can’t wait to collaborate with his artist friends on an illustrated children’s book. We talked a lot and set some goals. To heed most advice so far, we’re going to Just Get Writing. And see where our writing takes us.

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“Clark” of Lewis and Clark leading the way

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Fun with William Clark

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The lending library nook under the stairs in our hotel lobby. Where we will place a copy of our book!

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A whole room of a store dedicated to different hot sauces. Kade would have loved it.