Thursday, December 4, 2014

An Overdue Update, Part 3: Family

In case you missed them, click to read update 1 and update 2.

I had an impressive and non-stop agenda ahead of me:
- 2 days in DC
- Drive to Boston for 3 days, see family and say goodbye to my Grandma
- Drive to Richmond for a business trip and visit with family for 9 days
- Drive to DC and fly back to Memphis with Jon's mom; she would stay with us for a week
- Drive to Chicago for 5 days and Jon runs the marathon
- Drive back to Memphis

Thankfully, I was going to some of my favorite cities with many of my favorite people in the world.

I was greeted at the Dulles airport by Jon's aunt Ronnie. We went out to a wonderful dinner and spent the evening catching up. I could not contain myself and ended up sharing the wonderful news of my pregnancy with her. It felt so good to share and say it out loud. We enjoyed lunch together the next day as well, but as always, time together was too short. That evening, I met up with my dear friend Regas and his wife at this delicious place called Pupatella. I highly recommend it if you ever find yourself in the DC/Northern VA area.

The next morning, I met up with my dad and sister and we began our long drive north to Boston. My mother was not able to join us, but I called her, put her on speaker phone, and shared the great news of the baby. My dad seemed surprised, my sister excited, and my mom's response was "I was thinking about this today and just had a feeling... I knew it! ...and you're having a boy, I'm convinced."

Half way there, we got word that Grandma's energy was waning significantly. I began getting more and more nervous that we may not get to spend much time with her... or worse, see her at all. I really wanted to see her one more time and share the news of the first great-grandchild that was on the way. The weight of everything, along with pregnancy fatigue, had begun to set in. Between deep reflection and napping, I spent much time in prayer.

Once we arrived in Boston, everything felt like a blur. We spent time with family friends on Friday night after we arrived and made plans to spend all day Saturday with family. My sister and I had grown up so far away from family that it always felt like a special treat when we got to see them. This time, it felt strange. We were no longer the little children in the midst of adults during a joyous reunion. Now the whole mood was different. It is a cliché to say it, but it really was bitter-sweet.

When we arrived at Grandma and Grandpa's home, we were greeted by more family, including Grandma's two sisters who travelled in to see her. Grandma was resting in her room, but welcomed me back to go and see her. In the years that I had known her, she was always so full of life. I had never won in a game of tennis against her, she had great patience when trying to teach me to play the piano as a child, and she had seemingly endless energy while swimming in the lake at our family reunions. Seeing her now so frail took away my words.

My grandparent's wedding day, and two family photos. (My dad in in the bottom photo on the left in front of Grandpa).

I took her hand and made sure she was comfortable. She asked how Jon and I were doing. Then I shared with her that she was going to be a great-grandmother. She seemed to immediately brighten at this news and became more alert. It was wonderful to see that familiar eager look in her eye, curious to know about my life in the duration of time that had passed since we last sat face-to-face. I could write for pages and pages of the memories we shared and how much she means to me, but I am glad that they are my special memories. For a shared moment that day, we were able to really appreciate them like never before.

Later that evening, we enjoyed a great home-cooked meal as a family. My father is one of 6 children, and most all of them are married with children. Almost everyone was in attendance, including some extended relatives that I had not seen since I was a child. The room was filled to capacity with so many faces I had known for so long. Grandma came out to join us for about 3 hours. She seemed to have more energy and was rarely without a smile. After countless toasts to her and the family, we all ate and caught up on life together.

I had not initially planned on telling everyone that I was pregnant yet. I was still so early and it felt inappropriate. But at one point in the evening my aunt Mary, the youngest of the siblings and proclaimed "favorite aunt" (I love them all equally, but shhh) began announcing each of her nieces and nephews by name as her favorite. "Matthew is my favorite and Patrick is my favorite and Lauren and Nicholas are my favorite..." The moment was just too perfect to not speak. I realized that the chance to tell the family in person was a wonderful gift. When she had finished listing all of our names, I announced that she had forgotten someone. Everyone looked around slightly confused and wondering who had been missed. After a pause, I announced that there was one she had not yet met but was coming in May because I am pregnant.

Everyone seemed so elated with this great news, including Grandma. She had wanted to speak about it with the family and now was able to do so freely. It was like a little fresh air had been let in the room. There was a poetic nature to it all as we knowingly said our farewells to Grandma and a new life was being made. Tears welled in my eyes knowing that this little baby, although so tiny, had already brought about such great joy. Just like my Grandmother, who had spread a lifetime of great joy to us all.

Some of the family, my dad talking with Grandma, and the special time of Grandma talking with her grandchildren.

This long trip without Jon that had started off as a seemingly ill-timed venture was now blessedly well-timed and I was thankful that I was able to go to Boston. After the long drive back to Richmond, I spent a couple evenings with my mom. After all the traveling, it felt very good to just sit all snuggled up with her and relax. We had much to talk about. Then I attended a work conference for a week. Every time I had a spare moment, I tried to spend some alone time wandering the streets of the city. The Fall in Richmond is my favorite time of year. I walked under the silver tarnish sky with watercolor leaves at my feet. It was just what I needed.

I decided to spend a fair portion of my trip staying with my dear friends, the Agabas and the Robinsons. They live in a large house together with their children. It is a beautiful, wonderful chaos of life and laughter and food. The hard part about going home is that I am always reminded anew how much I love that city and the friends there. As the theme seems to be, time was too short but I was grateful for every second of it all.

Some highlights from this portion were rejoining my morning prayer group girls for breakfast before work, Thad's 3rd birthday party at Maymont, Simone proclaiming that she thought she could see my baby in my belly button, and the wonderful conversation that happened fire-side with some of my closest girl friends.

When it came time to leave, I met up with Jon's mom and we made the super early morning drive to DC to catch our flight. I started to really feel unsure if I would have the energy to make it through the week of her staying with us and then go to Chicago. All I wanted to do was sleep and hold Jon's hand. The world was whirring like a hummingbird around me and I was watching it all happen. Yet despite everything, I felt an uncharacteristic calm fall over me.

When we arrived in Memphis, Jon was at school and his mom took a nap. I was sitting on the front porch just watching the wind blow through the trees and attempting to absorb it all. Then the phone rang. My grandmother had passed.

To be continued in update 4...

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