It Takes a Village. And a Double Grandpa.

By Kate Morrow

When agreeing to write for this blog, I knew one of the posts would be about the sudden and traumatic loss of my father. I dreaded writing this one. But, it needs to be told and I want to get this one out of my mind, off my plate, out of sight.

I recently read an article that was entitled, “The Unique Hell of Losing A Parent When Your Kids Are Small.” As I read the article, a few lines really struck me:

“As taxing as it was, I put on my brave face and did what I had to do at home. Then I put on my brave face and did what I had to do at the hospital, and they were none the wiser.”

 I remember exactly what I was wearing, what I was doing when I found out about my father’s unexpected and quick death. My brother called me. He didn’t even have to say it. I just knew. It was 4:45 p.m. on a Tuesday. I was still in the midst of my maternity leave. My husband Cam was about to leave the office and head home. William, my brother, uttered the word, “I hate to have to tell you this, but Dad…”

I instantly started screaming, “No. You’re lying. No.” I ran onto the front porch. I cried. I felt helpless and panicked. And then the twins started crying as they woke up from their nap. I remember having to hide my pain, my tears, my anguish, when all I wanted to do was sink into the floor. I could barely breathe. But they needed me.

 “If there is one absolute truth, it is that death and grief and small children do not mix. Life as I knew it changed forever, but my circumstances and responsibilities did not. I was waist-deep in naps, meal prep, butt-wiping, art projects, the flu, paying bills, loads of laundry.”

 I often wonder how I would have handled my grief differently if I were not a mother yet. I probably would have spent a lot of days in the bed, under the covers, with a pint of ice cream, and the television on Netflix to get my through my sadness. But as a new mom with infant twins, that was simply not a choice.

I remember telling my husband often, that I didn’t even have time to appropriately grieve my father because I was so busy being a twin mom. There are days I still feel I haven’t grieved him adequately and it’s going to hit me even more immensely when time slows down. Even though my husband was there every step of the way and my in-laws fly down the interstate any time I am in need—babies are babies and they still need Momma.

“Intense waves of grief periodically stop me in my tracks, take my breath away and force me to sit down and say to myself, “Holy shit, that happened.” Those waves will crash in the rest of my life, and if time is able to do anything for me, it will give me longer stretches between each one.”

 In the weeks and months after my father’s death, I would find myself so busy between caring for the twins, being a wife, keeping up with the house, learning my new job, that I would sometimes forget for split seconds at a time that my father had passed. I would randomly think of him and how I should “call to tell him something” or “the next time I see Dad.”

And then it would hit me. And I would force myself to think about it. Really think about it. “This is forever.” “I will never see, hug, or talk to him again.”

There is no feeling in the world to describe that pain. None. There is no amount of time or level of busyness that can get you through that.

But honestly, being Jack and Lilly’s mom has given me so much inspiration and gotten me through some of the toughest days. People often ask me how I have been so strong through this. It is partially because I am so busy with life, but also part that I saw so much life and death during our hospital stay. I know the world has to end for some for others to begin.

The hardest part about my father’s death? Not getting to see him be a grandfather. He only got to be a grandfather for the twins’ first six months of life. He visited them in the NICU frequently, FaceTimed with us often, held them for the first time on Thanksgiving Day. It hurts the most because he would have been one of the world’s best.

He was so proud of them. After he died, I was the family member in charge of clearing off his phone. I found a photo log full of every single picture I ever sent him of the twins. I found text message after text message of him beaming with pride about his twin grandchildren to his family and friends.

What makes it better? A man that often gets overlooked because he is quiet, but humble. A man who I can simply not find enough words to tell how much I love, appreciate, and am grateful for not ever intending to take my dad’s place but intentionally makes the pain less deep because he is always there. A man who had to balance the difficulty of being overjoyed to be a new grandfather without overshadowing my pain in losing another new grandfather, my dad. He is sincere, loving, and giving. The epitome of what it means to be the protector of one’s family. Losing my father was breathtakingly, stop you dead in your tracks, painfully hard, but having someone I consider my second father made it easier.

He, my father-in-law, has the hardest job of all—being Jack and Lilly’s double Earthly grandfather. I have watched him these past eight months in awe and wonder as he has been there for all of their firsts, putting in overtime to make them feel the love of having a grandfather.  The world’s best.

I know Dad is honored to give you his Grandpa moments that he is watching from Heaven with the same awe, wonder, and pride.

Thanks for being in our village, Ed. We love you.

Front Porch and Kitchen Memories

By Chaunte McClure

By now, you know I love to reminisce about growing up with Grandma. I was scrolling Facebook on Sunday night and came across a meme with an image of peas in chipwood baskets, and of course, my mind traveled back to summer months sitting on the porch at Grandma’s.

On occasion, she’d shell peas or butter beans while we, the grandkids, frolicked in the yard. Some days I didn’t have that privilege or thought I was “too grown” to play with the others, but my time wouldn’t be idle because I’d have to get a bowl and help shell peas. Geez, if Grandma could’ve seen the eye roll I imagined upon her demand. Of course, she always knew whether or not I wanted to do what she asked. I’ve heard her say, “If you can eat ‘em, you can shell ‘em.” That meant get your fingernails ready to open the seams of 2,000 pods. (Clearly, I’m exaggerating.)

fresh-peas

It just seemed like it took forever to see the results of my labor, for I thought my bowl would never get full and the pile of unshelled beans always looked so large.

We snapped beans too. I’d much rather the snapping because it was much easier to break off the tips and snap the stems and that was easier on the fingernails, thumbs and index fingers.

Those are classic moments because today I don’t eat fresh vegetables often enough nor do I have a garden like many families did during my childhood. Food was better for you and oh, the memories we made just with food. Picking, peeling, cutting and bagging tomatoes. Canning peaches, apples, and beans. And making biscuits from scratch. I only watched Grandma knead biscuit dough and even at 42 years old, sadly, I’ve never made homemade biscuits nor have I canned fruits and vegetables. But some of my fondest memories were made on the porch and in the kitchen at Grandma’s House.

What are some of your fondest memories growing up in the South?

In-Laws or Out-Laws?

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

I’m fortunate, today, to have a fabulous relationship with my mother-in-law and my father-in-law.

Wait, Crissie, aren’t you divorced?

The simple answer is “Yes.”  The more complex answer would be that when my marriage ended, only that relationship ended; my relationship with my children’s grandparents and other extended family members did not end.

I did not always have this great and wonderful relationship with my in-laws, however.  Going back 13 years, I’m sure that all of us could enumerate the many different things that irritated us about each other.  The long and the short of the situation, the problems were rooted in misunderstanding, miscommunication, and lack of communication regarding many different situations.  There is little reason to go back and place blame or to recount every single mistake and misstep made; all we can do is look at what we did to correct the situation, move forward, and live in peace and friendship.

The basis of this new relationship is honesty, open communication, and boundaries.

First, we are all honest that this relationship is not always easy.  There are differences in parenting that are created by our own pasts and typical generational differences.  Personality differences must be recognized and you have to accept that; accepting a personality trait does not mean that you take it on yourself, it simply means that you understand it and respect it.  There are also differences created simply by the dynamics of this relationship; my role as the parent and their role as the grandparent.  Parenting is and always has been different than “grandparenting;” much like the Las Vegas tag line, we all know that what happens at Mimi and Poppie’s stays at Mimi and Poppie’s.  Understanding this and just simply letting go of some of that parental structure and those finite rules and allowing some of those fun moments to occur can actually lead to less stress, relaxation, and great memories for your children.

Keeping the lines of communication open also goes a long way in making that in-law relationship much better.  And it goes further than just actually answering the phone when they call; I don’t just mean physical lines of communication.  Remembering that you are all human and are in this together, for better or worse, and are experiencing many of the same situations and emotions and then leaning on each other can help shore up shaky waters.  Often just opening yourself up once is enough to create a strong bond.  This is part of how my relationship has been strengthened with my mother in law; once I opened up in regards to certain issues and situations, I learned that some parts of my life were not so different than things she, herself, had experienced in her own past.  She is no longer a “Monster-in-Law” she is my mother-in-law and she is my friend; a person I can call on when I’m feeling down or need someone to read over a graduate school paper.  And I think that she feels somewhat the same way about me.

Lastly, create boundaries.  Everyone hears the word boundaries and immediately goes on the defensive, but we forget the old adage that “good fences make good neighbors;” this is also the case with relatives.  After my oldest son was born, I often felt like what I wanted no longer mattered, if my parents or my in-laws wanted to see the baby, they just stopped by or came up, regardless of our plans or desires.  Really what it amounted to was some poor planning, structure and lack of boundaries on all of our parts.  None of us recognized what the other group needed and wanted, and, in truth, deserved.  Now, if I go visit my in-laws, they recognize that I might want some time alone, to myself, or some time to just do something with the boys, alone, and even often, that I might want to spend some one on one time with my boys, individually. We work together to make all of those situations take place when desired.  But, I’m also keenly aware that they desire time with the boys as well.  They want to take them places and “show them off” and spoil them some.

We also try to make plans for holidays and special events well in advance so that all of our needs and desires are met the best they possibly can.  A few years back, I invited both my parents and my in-laws to my home on Christmas morning; however, I indicated to everyone that the door would not be opened until a specific time.  This was both for me and them.  It provided recognition that they wanted and deserved to see their grandchildren on Christmas morning, but yet protected my time with my sons on Christmas morning.  No one’s feelings were hurt or made to feel uncomfortable, and a good time was had by all because we took the necessary steps beforehand.

Will this type of structure work for every single family?  No.  However, the first step is to be honest with all parties.  Yes, it might mean sitting down and talking and this might, initially, be uncomfortable, but if the end result is more peace and harmony, with a slice of compromise thrown in, then it is worth it in the end.

In-laws or Out-laws?  Which would you rather have?  The choice truly is your own.