Sunday Easter Sunday

So, who’s morbidly curious about what I did for Easter?

…Thought so. But I’m going to tell you, anyway.

Headed out at 9:45am. Made it to Lakewood (about 5 miles west of downtown Cleveland) in less than two hours. Lakewood Hospital, where Memaw’s staying, is on the same street as Aaron’s grandparents’ house, so we drove past their place first, thinking maybe we could just walk from there. Alas, it was closer to five blocks than the two Aaron had originally thought, so we drove down and found a parking spot on the street (to avoid paying for parking in the parking garage).

Walked into the hospital, asked the receptionist what room Jessie Lowe was in, and followed her directions (hitting the restrooms that were conveniently located on the way). Since Mom had asked me to get hearing aid batteries for Memaw, we stopped by the nurses’ station on the way to her room to drop them off, and ended up conversing with Memaw’s personal nurse. She gave us a run-down on how Memaw was doing: her hearing aid had just plain died, she wasn’t eating, and she was generally groggy and in "what she perceives as pain." The nurse said that if Memaw doesn’t start eating, she won’t have enough strength to make it much longer. I thanked the nurse, then mentally steeled myself and led Aaron into the hospital room.

The greeting was much different than the warm welcome of Tuesday. This time, I got, "Oh, it’s you." She was much more confused this time around, and I only managed to converse with her at all by hovering two inches from her ear. We only stayed for about 15 minutes, because I saw no point in being there. Maybe it sounds callous. I don’t know. I’d just rather minimize the Memaw-as-a-confounded-invalid memories and stick with the Memaw-as-a-good-cook-and-strong-woman memories. I’m glad I came up on Tuesday, because if this had been my only "last visit" with Memaw, I would have been much more upset. I didn’t cry when we left this time, but I know I’ll be haunted by my (assumedly) final image of her watching me go and dazedly repeating, "I love you, too. I love you, too. I love you, too…"

With the depressing part of the day behind us (I know, I know, I’m being crass and callous in the face of family tragedy), we drove back down the street to Grammie and Poppa’s house. We were the first to arrive, and sat and talked with Poppa for a while, since Grammie was still at church. Five minutes after we got there, Aaron’s dad showed up in his new SUV (who’d have thunk Bob would buy an SUV?). We talked about the wedding and Aaron’s job and everyone’s various medications and unions and on and on… Grammie came home from church and joined the conversaion. it was pleasant. Then Pete’s clan showed up.

If I haven’t explained Uncle Pete’s clan, let me clarify for you. We’ve got Pete, who is Aaron’s uncle — his mother’s brother. (Poppa and Grammie are his mother’s parents.) Pete’s first wife, Peggy, the mother of his children, died some time ago. I want to say about 9 or 10 years, but I’m not sure, since I never met her. The oldest child is Megan, who is 17-almost-18. Then comes Alex (15?), Natalie (13?), and Joey (10). (I’m sure Aaron will tell me if I got any ages totally wrong.) That had been interesting enough, but there’s a recent twist: Pete just got remarried. His new wife is Deanna (yes, our names were confusing to the grandparents at first), and she has two children from her previous marriage: Sophie (16?) and Gabe (14). Most of the kids are old enough that they’re "real people" and aren’t too annoying anymore, but Joey still likes to watch Spongebob and those bizarro Dexter-type cartoons on Nick and the Cartoon Network that make me stare in confusion.

So, this should provide a better idea of the immediate insanity involved as soon as the Bura Clan arrived. …Not that I would have it any other way. A holiday at Grammie and Poppa’s wouldn’t be the same without Pete’s family.

After Aaron and I talked with Megan and Alex for a while, food was ready. We had ham and twice-baked potatoes and kielbasa and paska (polish raisin bread) and green bean casserole (a Bura family staple) and Poppa’s famous salad and there was horseradish and we had a lamb-shaped cake for dessert. Grammie forgot to put out the sweet potatoes, so we all divvied them up and took them home afterward, along with all the other leftovers.

We stayed until 8:00pm, just talking and watching TV (and being bored while Joey monopolized the television with weird cartoons). Aaron and I ended up being the last to leave. Overall, it was a good time, as usual.

I guess maybe I always took my family for granted, since we were always together, anyway. We had big meals on special occasions, but never had any other family over. Mom, Memaw, Aunt Sammie, my cousin Michael, and I all lived together, and rarely lived close to other family, so that was it. No cousins or other grandparents or other aunts or uncles to visit or invite over. Now I’m finding that I enjoy this "visiting family" thing. Even going to visit Mom and Gary for a day is enjoyable (to an extent — the less Gary, the better, I’m afraid).

Now, just to be sure to end the entry on a down note… when we got home at 10:20pm, Mom had left a message on the answering machine not 15 minutes earlier. She was upset that, when she went to go visit Memaw, "the lights were on, but no one was home." She asked me to e-mail her, which I did, pretty much detailing what I detailed here about my visit. I told her it made it a little easier for me, seeing Memaw like that. That way, when she goes, I won’t feel like she could have had a few more good years left in her. I’ll know she was ready to go.

When Mom e-mailed me back today, she had this to say:

"You look into the eyes of the first person you remember, the friend you had before you had friends, the one who taught you all the basics from how to go to the bathroom, get dressed, eat, talk even, and the body’s there but she isn’t. When I worked in the nursing home, I used to think the families of those folks were so cruel to not visit more often; now I understand, it wasn’t that they didn’t love them, it was that they loved them too much to see them that way."

The Obligatory Thanksgiving Narrative

9:00am: The Schnuth/almost-Schnuth one-car caravan headed to Lakewood (the northwest side of Cleveland, that is). Arrived at Aaron’s grandparents’ place in roughly two hours.

11:15am: First to arrive on-location. Chatted with Poppa and Grammie. Had quality time talking about plants and wedding plans and the Thanksgiving schedule. Also had quality time with the cat, Sid.

12:00pm: Aaron’s dad arrived, sans Aaron’s brother. (sans means without, for all you non-Latin-speaking types.) Seems Matt stayed home, puking and feeling generally ungood. Had more quality time talking about wedding plans and rib restaurants and the Thanksgiving schedule.

1:00pm: The Eschbach minivan arrives, bearing Aunt Elaine, cousin Nathan, and Nathan’s 21-month-old daughter Caitlin. Cute as a proverbial button — she started chasing the cat as soon as she saw it. Had even more quality time talking about Caitie, antiques, jobs, wedding plans, and the Thanksgiving schedule.

1:30pm: The slated time for dinner. Uncle Pete called to let everyone know that he and his clan would be a little late (surprise). The turkey came out of the oven right on time, despite dripping juices and much smoke. The table was set, and 15 chairs were somehow located and brought to the dining room. All that was left was for Pete and the clan to arrive and bring the green bean casserole.

2:15pm: Pete and his new wife Deanna finally arrived, with Pete’s four kids and one of Dee’s two kids. (The other of Dee’s kids was at his dad’s place for the holiday.) About half a dozen people crammed into the kitchen to finish preparing food. Had yet more quality time talking about choir, Lord of the Rings, Caitie, and wedding plans. Studiously avoided mentioning the Thanksgiving schedule.

3:00pm: Food was ready. Aaron and I sat down promptly, while the rest of the clan milled about wondering where to sit.

3:15pm: Dinner started. Finally.

4:00pm: We excused ourselves to go visit my family, as mentioned to his family multiple times while discussing the Thanksgiving schedule. Drove about two miles to the nursing home where my grandmother has recently been admitted.

4:10pm: Located my Memaw in the Aristocrat nursing home in Lakewood. The chemo thinned her hair, and she looked ten or fifteen years older than her actual age of 70, and she went off on bizarre, almost-senile tangents a few times, but she’s still my Memaw, and it was still good to see her. Shocking, but good. Gave her the birthday presents I forgot to send three weeks prior, and showed her a picture of her grandfather that I found online. Lots of hugs. Promised to write more often.

4:30pm: Left Lakewood for Parma. Ended up combining Mom’s set of directions with my step-Gary’s set, and got there just fine.

4:45pm: Arrived at my folks’ place. Ate another dinner. Watched the Cowboys play the Redskins. Ate sweet-potato pie. Had quality time with my cat. Talked about how big my step-brother Philip has grown, about wedding plans, about weird commercials on TV, about my long-ass hours at work, and about crap in general.

9:00pm: Gary walked Philip back to his mother’s house down the street. Mom packed us a bag full of Thanksgiving leftovers (especially appreciated since we had to bail from Aaron’s family so fast we didn’t get any there). Once Gary got back, Aaron and I got our stuff together, said our goodbyes, and headed back to Bowling Green.

11:15pm: Home again, home again, jiggity-jig. Off to bed for Diana — I had to be at work by 9:00am the next day. No four-day weekend for me. Overall: a fun day, a good day, but a busy day.