It’s all about the PANCAKES

amaranthCrepes_mainAs a pancake flipper, my husband crushed it. His pancakes were legendary and looking back, I should have eaten more, lots more.  But my tempestuous stomach competed with concern about my waistline to keep a lid on my appetite for these light as air suckers. Though I hadn’t eaten a lot of pancakes since my kids left home, when they were small I made more than my share of super healthy fat ol’ pancakes. Mine had apples, oats and wheat germ packed in but I never got any complaints. Of course, mine were all they knew.

Enter the pancake king.

From the decadent iHOP variety to stacks of homegrown hotcakes with the mom-forbidden syrup, (pancake syrup is only maple FLAVORED!) pancakes are always a go-to for kids. And the same kids who inhaled pancakes themselves, passed their love of the circular bites of goodness to their own munchkins. When my husband came on the scene, they discovered quickly that his specialty pancakes were like no other. Even I was crazy for them, but why not? These light as air pancakes were the crepe variety – delicate, delicious and often studded with blueberries.

Hungry yet?

Even nights when the exhausted work warrior trudged through the door, if grandkids were there and they asked for pancakes — they got pancakes. He’d drop his briefcase, and head to the kitchen, yanking out the griddle, eggs and spatula as he went to work. Before the first pancake was lightly browned, the kids were at the table begging for more. And crepe-like pancakes are labor intensive! The poor guy barely had time to breathe before grandpa duties got him by the apron strings — and he loved every minute of it. If grandkids asked, the answer was always yes. Continue reading

Black. White . . . Technicolor.

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Life is a mess of contrasts, isn’t it?  Few things are strictly black or white. Sometimes the same thing that makes you supremely happy can also be bittersweet, even really sad. You know, the kind of thing that makes you feel like your foot is on the gas and the brake at the same time. That pretty much sums up how we feel remembering holidays, birthdays, and yes, anniversaries after the person who was central to that day is gone. It’s also EXACTLY how I feel this week.

There’s a ton of stuff swimming in my head as my second wedding anniversary— without the groom—rolls in this week. There are some fun memories to be sure, like when my son whispered to me as he walked me down the aisle “Mom, what’s the rush?”. I had no idea I was practically racing to the altar but I had seen my guy’s adoring face and couldn’t wait to get there. (Sorry, my sweet son, you know I love you endlessly!) Now remembering my rush to get to my bridegroom I can’t help but wonder if, even then, I knew subconsciously that our years together were numbered. But blissfully ignorant, we still managed to wring every happy we could from the years we had.

Funny how memories barge in when you least expect it. Often, some of the most telling are ones that seemed insignificant at the time but years have raised their place in memory. Grey moments sandwiched between the black and white bookends take on a technicolor tinge. One of those moments was the morning of the wedding. Both sitting at the kitchen table, my youngest daughter teased the groom-to-be about needing to change into his tux somewhere else. She jokingly insisted that he uphold the tradition to ensure not bringing ‘bad luck’. Hah! Given our medically challenged life from that day forward, admonition had to be the most ironic turn of phrase!

Last year this time, I dreaded that once incredibly happy date. My daughters and granddaughter took me to dinner and a movie in the hopes we could all somehow just get through it together. We each were basically whistling in the dark but did pretty well on balance. At least I didn’t, like the Wicked Witch of the West, melt into a puddle of tears – but then I came home. Walking into the empty house, I had the perfectly masochistic idea to pop our wedding video into the TV. Brilliant. Seeing my husband so vibrant, healthy-looking, happy and in living color was a stellar way of kicking off a major pity party. Yet, I continued to watch. (No one ever accused me of being a quitter) I saw all our friends in their excitement for us, our kids so glad for our happiness and me, the radiant bride, totally clueless of the speeding train just around the proverbial corner.

They say love is being stupid together. If that’s true, we had honed it to perfection.  Remember the rubber ducks in the margarita fountain I told you about? The hot dogs that rotated above elegant canapes in a theater snack bar rotisserie?  We prided ourselves on silly fun and that wedding wingding we threw was a total hoot! But just like lovers being stupid together, as C.S.Lewis knew well, love is also being vulnerable together and we were that, too. When cancer has the first wedding dance, vulnerability is part of the package. But that package can also weave you together in ways that stitch more depth and knowing than the years you are given.

I’m not at all nonchalant about the anniversary rolling in this week. Even though it most likely won’t knock the wind out of me like it did last year, I still won’t be popping champagne either. The reason for that kind of celebration left when he did but I can still toast what we had because we had a lot. Maybe I’ll even drop that wedding video in again, but hopefully I’ll watch it differently this time. As the scenes of that day roll by, yes, I’ll be reminded of how blissfully unaware those two people were of what they would lose. But this time, I might also smile, even laugh, at the crazy couple who, despite all they lost through the years, kept and grew the love they began with. Contrasts, right?

Like one of the songs we danced to on that wedding night, sometimes what we don’t know, is a good thing. Life is not black or white but all the feelings, colors and hues in between. Good or bad, healthy or not, happy or sad, we loved each other like there was no tomorrow – until the day there wasn’t.

 

“And now I’m glad I didn’t know

The way it all would end, the way it all would go.

Our lives are better left to chance; I could have missed the pain

. . . But I’d have had to miss the dance.”

Garth Brooks, The Dance

 

 

It’s Your Move.

CandyLandSo you’re all packed, ready for the next step of your journey — but you have no idea where you’re going. Aces. Actually, that might not be a bad thing. Heck, you’ve already traveled a road no one ever listed on their bucket list. Who, in their right mind would ASK to go to Grief City — instead of Licorice Castle? That squared highway from hell you’ve been traveling hasn’t had great scenery but, look at you – you’re still standing. That’s a good start.

The even better news is that it’s your road and only you plot the course. It didn’t come with a map or snacks for the trip. You’ve been here before. But, though you played the cards well, your multicolored road ended not in Oz but a very lonely desert with nothing in your backpack but a broken heart. If you were lucky, (as I have been!) there was kindness of friends and family along the way, people who provided emotional sustenance. Maybe there was a support group of other travelers but, in the end, the trip is yours alone and you’re the only one who decides where to go next and how. It’s your game board.

Will you continue to wear your wedding rings? How about keeping your other half’s car? When is the right time to give away their clothes? You are the only one with those answers even if you don’t have one right now. They were YOUR person,YOUR other half and any decision about them is YOURS alone. It is you who carries the game pieces of loss every day in ways no one else does or can. No matter how deeply anyone grieves your loss, no one misses that person as intrinsically as a spouse. Sorry, that’s just a widow fact. Continue reading

Down the rabbit hole . . .

AliceInWonderland

You know when you take off running — and then you’re not? No seriously. I was running to catch the door of the bank as it was closing, and completely missed the curb. My bad. Actually, it could have been worse – a lot worse. Lying on the cement, Itwo things came to mind last week: is anything broken and, of course, did anyone see me. No to both, thank goodness. It could have been a “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercial. Luckily, my only casualties were scraped knuckles, one bruised elbow, a ripped pair of jeans (which still didn’t make designer status) and a completely raw knee. Ouch.

What really tripped me up, though, was the smackdown of my confidence. I’m usually a pretty strong chick. I cry easily and am a total pushover for everyone I love but I take care of myself as I took care of my kids in my stint as a single mom. Yet, one misstep on a curb and I’m suddenly back to Grief 101. What the…?

More than the raw sting of my knee, it was the raw absence that greeted me at home. Somehow, I was still surprised that morning that my husband wasn’t there to ask what the heck happened. He’s has been gone for a year and a half and it should be pretty clear he wouldn’t be answering the door.  So why was I suddenly caught between a surprise pity party — and getting the fraud of the year award? Continue reading