As it Seems

It’s been a year. 365 days since you died.

We mark the annuals in interesting ways. News Year Day. Birthdays. Now Sept 22nd.

So much has changed.

I see the little things, like the new lamp on my desk that’s lighting up my office tonight as I write, the same Facebook cover picture you’ve had for the last year, your truck parked in front of your dad’s house. I see the big things, such as a new war on the horizon, not going to visit Aldersons since Grandpa died in February, your grave.

*

Tonight, as I’ve done many nights in the last year, I’m listening to a song on repeat. One I heard first a few weeks after you died. Normally I have no patience for endless repetition but maybe that’s something else that’s changed a little.

“And I’ll let my stories be whispered
When I’m gone…

When I’m gone
When I’m gone
When I’m gone

Well in this life you must find something to live for
Cause when the darkness comes a callin’
You’ll go back to where you were before
Cause this life is as
Fragile as a dream, and
Nothing’s ever really
As it seems…”

I could listen to that for hours, thinking of your life, the stories you experienced in 26 years.

But in the past year there were none. We all continued to live, grow and experience our lives, missing you.

*

I know I’ve changed. For the past few months I’ve been working with a personal trainer. He works with kids in high school football and I can’t help but think you’d be friends if you’d met. Maybe for the first time ever I’m enjoying time at the gym, even laughing (not at other people either!).

I still find myself driving east, away from the “bright lights” of Woodland and into the country where the stars are brightest, remembering that time we sat on Grandma’s front yard until 10pm waiting for a meteor shower that was happening at 2am. You pointing to the North Star and telling me that it was Jamie’s star, where your oldest sister was looking over you.

At the house even more of those baseboards you helped me haul home (what 4 years ago now?) are getting installed. Just 3 more closets and the whole house will be done. When we demoed the bathroom this summer I couldn’t help but think you would have enjoyed that. I can’t decide if you would have liked hearing about my backyard projects having inherited your dad’s green thumb or wanted to relax on the porch swing with a drink, like our grandparents did.

Losing Grandpa felt like the sharp sting of a slap, it hurt, it still hurts but nothing like a year ago (that was more of a punch upside the head, to the gut and then a kick in the face). Grandpa had experienced so much in life – remember the stripper pole he got for help getting out of bed? He loved when the nurses joked about that. I think you would have been a funny, dirty old man if given the chance.

*

My business has changed a lot this last year. I think you would have liked hearing about clients all over the world, the book I’m writing, or made fun of my videos. I talk more about leaving a legacy now, seeing how fragile life can be.

A few weeks ago I was able to help some guys who are working to get fire academy grads hired. I wish I’d known them a few years ago after you graduated from the academy. Helping them with strategies to reach fire cadets like you was so sweet and I think I met them at the most perfect time.

*

How do you cover a year in life? How could I even express all the things I’ve felt or seen or experienced? It’s impossible.

A German guy made me laugh and cry a few days after our birthday. He meowed like a cat and it reminded me of you.

The Giants won the World Series again last year, but this season has been so pathetic we try not to talk about it.

Your dad is doing better after his stroke, I know he wishes you were here every day.

Jaidyn is growing up so fast, she’s so smart and sweet. Thankfully she’s no longer biting her cousins.

Your nephew Jake has your initials and looks so much like you did as a baby. Chubby cheeks and all. Dylan turns 3 tomorrow, a day that’s both a celebration for him and mourning for you.

It’s hard to think of the kids not knowing you as they grow up. We won’t let them forget Uncle Justin.

*

“Well I knew
What I didn’t want to know
And I saw
Where I didn’t want to go
So I took the path less traveled on
And I’ll let my stories be whispered
When I’m gone…”

Selfishly I wish that I didn’t have to know what it was like to lose you. That your daughter and family and friends all were spared that experience. I wish you were here to continue living your story.

But your stories will be whispered, shared, shouted, meowed, and passed on.

Year after year.

Even when it seems like just yesterday you were here.

As it seems.

Another Office Remodel

Okay, I know you’re thinking I’m crazy but this time it’s not my office. Since last April’s remodel in Arizona, I’ve been itching to do another project start to finish. So when the chance came to dog sit in Pittsburg for the week I insisted on having a project.

Any project.

Otherwise I’d pack up 5 dogs in my tiny Toyota and take them home.

Instead, Mom decided that it was time to revamp her office. So Mother’s Day weekend we started cleaning stuff out and stocked up the desk in the front room with all the office supplies we could find. By Friday when I arrived she had the room mostly empty and then it was time to patch holes in the wall, take down hardware and prep for paint.

20130607_214033We started cutting in and rolling on Friday night once the texture patches had dried. Mom chose a blue in the same shade as her guest room to go with the darker blue carpet.

Here’s the room the night before carpet was installed

DSC_0648and after carpet:

DSC_0656Once the carpet was in on Wednesday I really got to work. First I dragged in the blue bookshelf. And the CD tower. Then the file cabinet. Then unpacked and assembled the new Ikea bookshelf and desk.

Then: trouble.

The tall bookshelf I was planning to use was too long to get through the door frame. So plan b. I moved in a shorter bookshelf and finally a few chairs.

DSC_0687Then came the fun part! I started stocking the room again with all the things Mom wanted at hand. The new computer got hooked up at the desk, the old computer too. I brought in craft stuff, office supplies, books, CDs, cards, picture frames, some toys and it all started coming together.

I even installed the shelf above the closet doors for Mom’s hat boxes, rehung the curtains, brought in a plant and covered the chair with a soft blanket for the dogs.

Throughout all of this I refused to send Mom any pictures or hints, even when I changed the furniture arrangement. Here’s the final product on Saturday morning with fresh flowers on the bookshelf:

DSC_0689the desk:

DSC_0680the new desk got 2 computers set up:

DSC_0669the blue bookshelf and chair:

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The CD tower behind the door:

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Tall wardrobe tucked into the far corner:

DSC_0675It was a fun project to complete but so, so many hours. The old computer desk was taking up too much room and literally falling apart:

20130607_143119And before the big clean out the room was overflowing with too much stuff:

DSC_0179Now, it’s a relaxing and calm room with fresh paint, plush carpet and organization:

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Limits

It’s been 4 years to the day since my Grandma died. I wrote about her death here.

She was so important to me, a big part of my life. Over the years I’ve accepted that she’s gone. That, in many ways, her death was a blessing because she didn’t suffer for many more years with Alzheimer’s. But it took a long time to see that.

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I still cry when I think about the last time she spoke to me just before hospice took over her care. Mom and I were lying with Grandma on her bed (the same one that’s now in my guest room), singing and talking. She looked at me and said, clear as day,

“I’m so proud of you.”

Later on she thought I had a daughter, so it was those little moments of clarity that we lived for. When her sweetness and caring spirit came through the disease that was taking her mind and memories one day at a time.

But then she was gone.

19 months later my Grandpa George was in the hospital with a bleeding ulcer. Something, intuition, told me to go. So I packed up at 10pm and drove until 1am to be at the hospital. Waiting. Shocked to see the blood bag wasn’t giving him fluids, it was collecting the blood pumping out of his frail body.

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Terrified, when he started to die and my Mom left at 2am to get Grandma. Unable to say anything as the doctors worked, asking me if they should resuscitate him. If they could. Working frantically to stabilize his body.

Eight days. A hail mary pass. Dad flying home suddenly. Working from the hospital. Waiting to hear. Getting the call that he was gone. The day after my birthday.

Then a whole year waiting, holding my breath, relieved when no one died. Wondering if it was normal and still knowing it’s not.

Then, September. JT. The phone call we never expected to get and crying in my kitchen and wondering why? Why? 26 years old. A little girl who points to the stars and says with childlike innocence “Daddy’s in heaven!”

Jaidyn

Regrets. Fear. Pain. Watching people I love break down completely.

I live in a small town. And have lived within 5 miles of my Grandparents and their care homes for 7 years. Every time I didn’t stop in to visit. Every time I let life get busy, that nagging voice would say “don’t.”

So I didn’t stay away often. I didn’t let months pass without seeing him. Even short visits were special. I know it’s what I would have wanted. Still, I told myself that whether or not I make it, there’s a chance that Grandpa could die after I didn’t visit.

Which is exactly what happened.

Grandpa and Kelly 2012

I wanted to see him on Valentine’s Day. I bought a brownie for him. But he was sick, an infection. Sleeping a lot. Wary of sharing germs and making him sicker, I stayed away. 7 days later he was gone.

There’s a song on the radio I heard after Grandpa died. And it hits me, right in the feels.

“Here I am waiting,

I’ll have to leave soon,

Why am I, holding on?

We knew this day would come

We knew it all along

How did it come so fast?”

After Grandma died some people said Grandpa would “fade in 6 months, or a year tops.” But he didn’t give up, he kept on living and loving the time with his friends.

Tomorrow we say good-bye. Tonight was the last time to see Grandpa. Once again the lyrics from this song were ringing in my ears:

“The sky is getting light,

the stars are burning out,

somebody slow it down,

This is way too hard,

Cause I know,

When the sun comes up,

I will leave,

This is my last glance,

That will soon be memory.”

Throughout it all, the heartache, the pain. The countless hours helping with details and doing whatever I could (often filling in a void when other family were unable or unwilling to step in).

Four funerals.

Four videos.

Four people I love put into the ground.

In four years.

Everyone has their limits and I think I’ve reached mine.

*Song lyrics “Daylight” by Maroon 5

Rest Peacefully, Grandpa

I’ll miss your grin, sticking your tongue out, your ornery spirit, and watching you light up when friends and family were nearby.  Hearing you say “fine, fine, fine” and your catch phrase “well, shiiiiit.”

Thankful for the stories, your legacy, how you touched so many lives and spending these last 7 years living here to take care of you and Grandma. Take care of Grandma and don’t get into too much trouble with JT. You two were kindred spirits. I know you’re surrounded by your brothers and sisters and together again with Harvey, David and PJ (who passed on just a few hours before you).

Know that I love you and always will.

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March 1, 1928 – February 20, 2013

We say farewell March 7th, 4 years to the day after Grandma passed away.

12/21/12 No Power

Here I am, sitting at home on December 21st, thoroughly enjoying the jokes about the “end of the world” and in the middle of a dozen tasks, online chat conversations and email when the power goes out.

And now a simple shut down but suddenly off. Sputter on. Off again. Sputter on. Off for good now.

So I’m torn. My computer has 7 hours of battery life (which will flicker down to 3 hours in approximately 10 minutes or so) and my phone is at 81%. My cell phone and iPad won’t connect to the internet so I can’t check if this is a localized or if the zombies are coming.

Ah, pot smoking neighbors to the rescue! Apparently it’s not just my house or neighborhood but homes 4 blocks away are also without power. Nice. I should go check on my grandpa and get hooked up to wifi for a few hours before everything shuts down but did I mention the dogs are afraid of the dark?

Yeah, they’re wimps. It doesn’t help that one of my smoke detectors or the house alarm keeps going off and that makes them nervous.

If I leave I can’t keep them calm and can’t leave candles unattended. Great.

The dogs are huddled in front of my space heater, confused about why there’s no heat for their little butts. They keep whining and looking at me like “turn it on mom!” Sorry buddies, at least you have fur.

I suppose if the power isn’t on by 4:45 I’ll go see Grandpa and find out how much of my city/state is plunged in darkness.

All of this makes me laugh. End of the world my ass. No wifi? Now that’s a disaster of epic proportions.

Update: it took about an hour for the power to return. No news yet on why it went out but I’m grateful for electricity, microwaves, my TV and the internet.

In fact, after the power came back I closed two new clients in my business!

Saying Bye to Beamer

It really wasn’t until late today that the significance of events really sunk in. There was so much happening that once the rain stopped and things were put away it hit me.

My grandparent’s house has been sold.

The new owners are moving in.

And just like the loss of a life, this represents the loss of a property that has been in my life since my birth. It’s where I grew up a little bit each summer from the time I could crawl.

Kelly Azevedo 1985_3

And continued through the years and especially the summers I spent learning to swim at the high school pool. Grandma’s house was the hub, especially after my uncle divorced and in the years before my youngest aunt bought the place next door.

Grandma was always there with hugs, treats and advice.

Jessica, Thelma and Kelly 1985

Grandpa was there to teach us how to dress like a cowboy and to stay out of his chair. And say ‘fiddledoofie’.

Blackie Truitt, Alex and Kelly Azevedo 1989

Blackie and Justin Truitt 1987

We climbed the trees out front until they were cut down and replaced by the city.

Kelly Azevedo, Jessica and Katie Payne 1995It was hot in the summer, easily over 100 degrees many weeks. So there was always a pool whose size varied based on the number of grandchildren in residence.

Katie Payne 1995 Kelly and Alex Azevedo, Casie Truitt  And when we were done swimming there was lunch on the picnic table grandpa built.

Jessica Payne and Kelly Azevedo 1990

The house has been in the family since the 70s, it hosted family dinners, Christmas, Thanksgiving, sleepovers and more than one kid with chicken pox. Or a broken arm.

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We cooked here, only occasionally dumping over a canister of flour.Kelly and Joyce Azevedo

Celebrated birthdays.

Casie Truitt 16 yo 1996_2

More than one grandchild was rocked to sleep by Grandma.

Thelma Truitt and Zech Thompson 1994

Outside we played in plastic pools and later in a hot tub, in the motor home and sometimes on its roof. Under grandpa’s fishing boat and behind the shed.

Justin Truitt and Jordan Payne 1995

This backyard was a kid’s dream with the orange tree, plenty of room to run and always something to explore.

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This is the cover built for that motor home, which has long since been sold, which housed hours of play:

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This is where cousins became friends

Jessica Payne and Kelly Azevedo 2

Kelly Azevedo 2 yo and Justin Truitt 1 yo 2

And pets were welcome as part of the family

Kelly Azevedo with Ben, Tootie and Roxie 1989

and there have almost always been dachshunds here.

Thelma Truitt and Tootie

and not just outside but watching the street as well

Ben and Tootie 1992

We loved our own families

Dave, Toni and Zech Thompson 1997

and the extended one

Truitt Grandchildren 1999

It’s these memories that I’ve feel like have been lost, just a little, because the next generation won’t be crawling through those floors or playing football after Thanksgiving in the backyard.

I know that I am one of a few grandchildren who lived there, and the only one who did so as an adult. I did it so my grandparents could stay there longer, enjoy their home. Losing a home that’s been in the family for all my life is harder than I imagined it would be.

But even now as I reflect, sitting at the desk that my grandma used for years, I know things are okay. Moving forward. There are little reminders of the house here. A mirror. A teacup and saucer set. I don’t miss living there, for many reasons it would never have been a home that I could enjoy like mine now.

Even drinking the glass of merlot I’m enjoying tonight would not have been as relaxing (I gave up alcohol when I lived there out of deference to my Grandpa who is 46 years sober).

Today, after clearing out the final items in the shed and waving goodbye as the new owners unloaded their boxes, I continued to work on the bench seat. It sat on the front porch at the house for many years. Grandpa would sit here and drink his coffee and watch the cars pass. Grandma would relax with him after gardening or walking with her friend Betty.

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I brought it to my house in 2008 and now, in the midst of revamping it, I know that it’ll be something I cherish, just like the memories we had on Beamer Street.

Plans for Spring

I was recently thinking about the next big project on my list (after finishing in the guest room) and decided that I really should just bite the bullet and tackle the living room and dining area ceilings.

I’ve avoided this so far because:

  • 12′ vaulted ceilings are serious business
  • I really, really hate the scaffold
  • there’s a lot of stuff to move
  • it’s going to be messy
  • I need to save up some cash

But, it really is the last big DIY thing we can do aside from the master bathroom. So here’s my brain dump of all the things I’d need to do and what I can do alone and where good old Dad comes in.

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Phase 1 Prep:

  • empty the garage as much as possible. donate recycling, finish the bench project, donate or sell stuff quickly.
  • move big furniture into the garage: couch, china hutch, table, chairs
  • box up smaller things and move them to the garage: china, decorations, artwork, stuff in the TV bench
  • move medium furniture to the hallway or bedrooms: DVD bookshelves, chairs, kitchen bookshelf, lamps, mirror, tv
  • move everything in the kitchen into a cabinet or fridge. nothing on the counters.

Then we also have to prepare the space which might take a few days but the room is empty and my TV is in a closet somewhere so I have nothing but time!

Phase 2 Cleaning & Covering:

  • steam clean the carpet while all the furniture is out of the room
  • touch up the baseboards and wall paint if it’s needed
  • cover all of the floors, walls and surfaces with brown contact paper OR plastic sheeting (over doors and doorways) – this seems easy until you consider the front door, hallway, opening to kitchen, door to garage… lots of tape and paper!

This is probably the point where my lovely, wonderful dogs go off to stay at Grandma’s house for a week so I don’t have to keep them out of half the house or deal with them barking at me while I work on the scaffold.

Phase 3 Actual work:

  • bring in the scaffold and scrape the texture off the ceiling smoothly
  • sand the ceiling and patch rough spots, sand again
  • clean so all the dust that came down is off the ceiling we want to paint

At this point I’d probably be happy to quit and move my furniture back in but will need more work done to get it finished once and for all. So we call in the experts…

Phase 4 Dad arrives:

  • do final patches & sanding
  • oversee contractor inspect and clean the fireplace
  • using the paint sprayer I own paint the entire ceiling
  • install new light over living room
  • possibly replace dining area fan with a new light

Phase 5 Clean up:

  • tear down all of the paper and plastic and trash it
  • touch up the edges of the ceiling if needed
  • clean the wayward dust which made its way down the hallway or into the kitchen
  • possibly clean the carpet again if needed
  • bring in the furniture, rehang the mirror and pictures and enjoy the finished product

Yeah, just thinking about all this work is giving me a headache but I can also visualize how beautiful the room is going to be! Before getting started I’ll need to budget for the fireplace inspection, 2-4 gallons of ceiling paint, the paper and tape to cover the room, new lights and build up some goodwill by dog sitting for my parents so they’ll return the favor.

The fireplace isn’t an essential thing at this time but it’s been 5 years since it was used and the room will already be protected from dust and soot so why not?

I think if we plan it well and most of the prep is done then Dad and I can do phase 4 & 5 in 3 days if we stay focused. Ideally this will happen in early spring before he gets too busy with car tours for the season and that gives me time to finish the guest room, save up for the items to buy and start making room in the garage.

Of course none of that is happening until January because I want to enjoy my living room decorated for Christmas!

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The photo is a little crooked and the dogs have smooshed the pillow into new shapes but still, I want to enjoy it for the rest of the month!