Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Good Grief

I can't write about grief.

I don't know about it.  I have not experienced such a painful loss of a parent, or a spouse, or a child firsthand, so I just am unable to write about it.  Sure, I have experienced sadness.  Yes, I've lost my grandparents, a pet, a friend.  I've even suffered through the devastation of an early miscarriage of a baby we wanted with all our hearts. 

But the unimaginable hole left by someone so close to you, you know their very thoughts, I - blessedly - do not know that pain. 

My husband knows it.  He is experiencing it now, and will be for the rest of his life.  I can only stand beside him and weep with the frustrated helplessness of someone who wants so badly to fix something that only our God can heal.  A broken heart.

When his mother phoned us early yesterday morning with the news, we were only able to lie in stunned silence holding onto each other in our bed, where only moments before we were enjoying the blissful slumber of ignorance.  After that phone call, and the two simple words that changed everything, "Dad's gone", our minds raced, and then went silent.  We awoke from the remains of a fitful sleep in the morning, expecting the world to be another color.

It wasn't.

Everything was the same.  Babies woke up and needed to be fed.  Grass needed to be mowed.  Bills needed to be paid.

How can everything be the same?  And yet, so different?

We woke up to a world without Chris' Daddy.  His business partner.  His counselor.  His mentor.  His prayer warrior.  His role model.  His best friend.

My children's beloved Grandad.

Thankfully, blessedly, providentially, Daryl Thomas was a faithful Christian.  A man of God.  A Believer.  Saved from the time he was a young child.  We have no doubt of his eternity.  No qualms whatsoever about the celebration and festivities taking place this very moment at the feet of Jesus.  We know he had no fear and no trepidation about his own passing, knowing he'd be healthy and well and spending forever with the One Who has loved him always.

We just have to adjust now to life here without him.  The hole his absence has created in our family.  A hole that will no doubt be filled with the healing Spirit of the Lord over time. 

Chris' mom, Patti, told me once during a particularly deep conversation about Daryl, "Sarah, grief is just something you just have to go through.  You can't avoid it.  You can't go around it, under it, or over it.  You just have to go through it".

One final note.  Daryl was an avid banjo player, and took great pleasure in the beauty and authentic spirit of bluegrass music.  During his hospitalization, we would play it for him on the CD player at his bedside, and it always seemed to bring a calm and peaceful stillness over him.  In later days, one of the last times we saw him feeling like his old self, Chris put a song in for him, and - even though he was virtually unable to talk or communicate at this point, and we weren't sure how much he could understand - when he heard it, he actually sang this song, word for word, in its entirety.  With a big smile on his face.

We have taken great comfort in the words to this song in recent days, and it will be sung by a gospel soloist at the service celebrating the great life of this great man tomorrow:

I'll Fly Away

I'll Fly Away

Some glad morning when this life is o'er,

I'll fly away.

To a home on God's celestial shore,

I'll fly away.

I'll fly away, O Glory, I'll fly away.

When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,

I'll fly away.

When the shadows of this life have flown,

I'll fly away.

Like a bird thrown, driven by the storm,

I'll fly away.

I'll fly away, O Glory, I'll fly away.

When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,

I'll fly away.

Just a few more weary days and then,

I'll fly away.

To a land where joy shall never end,

I'll fly away.

I'll fly away, O Glory,

I'll fly away.

When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,

I'll fly away.

Rest in peace, Grandad. We miss you so. Save a spot for us. We'll join you in the celebration one day.

Monday, August 30, 2010

August 30th

We woke up this morning expecting the world to be a different color.

 Kenneth Daryl Thomas  10/7/1939 - 8/30/2010


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

You Say It's Your Birthday?

Today, August 17th, my exceptional husband is another year older.  And so, I feel a tribute is in order.  Especially since my only outing today was to the UPS store to mail a package, and they are thin on sentimental cards.  I learned it doesn't take much creativity to publish a greeting card.  Maybe I went into the wrong business...

Anyway, Chris.  Love of my life.  The rock of our family.  The person who has kept me tethered to the ground during the ups and downs of the last ten years.  The man who has changed my life the most.  Besides Jesus. 

But I have to say, if you are second only to Jesus in someone's eyes, you must be doing something right.

Chris, you have encouraged me to do so many things I don't know I would have been brave enough to do.  (Mom, close your eyes).  You taught me to wakeboard, you cheered me the whole way up my first Colorado Fourteener, you taught me to fly an airplane, drive a boat, you talked me into paragliding.  Together, we've scouted bears in Denali, watched whales in Hawaii, caught record-big salmon in Alaska, snowmobiled Yellowstone, SCUBA dived the Blue Hole, sipped red wine in a palace in Italy.  And don't forget the mundane:  you taught me to lay tile, handscrape hardwoods, stone a fireplace, build a fence, paint a house.  We solve all the world's problems painting houses, don't we?

You taught me that it is always better to think before I speak.  That I should never send an email when I'm angry (thank you for that one!), and it is always best to wait and think before a big decision.  You've also taught me that saving money is more fun than spending it. 

Who would have thought I could have ever learned that lesson?

You've stoically held my hand while I hysterically passed a kidney stone, you held my hair during the flu, and you held my heart during the brutal infertility treatments.  You helped me through two cancer surgeries and the resulting anemia, and you "didn't say no" when we started the adoption process, which eventually led to our beloved babies.

Everything above, however, is eclipsed by the feeling I get in my soul when I watch you lovingly and patiently parent our Two spectacular daughters.  This often renders me completely speechless.  Imagine.  Me.  Without speech.  Wow, a feat in itself.  And through the resulting chaos of the last two years, you always maintain your characteristic tolerance and serenity that sometimes puts my proclivity to fly off the handle to shame.  All the while, patiently loving your dad through his infirm, and still having a smile on your face for the girls even though I know inside, your heart is breaking. 

This makes me love you even more.

Happy Birthday, my Love.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


A word of warning, Texans:  the heat index in Dallas is 115 today.


Not to be overly dramatic or anything, but I strongly suspect the gates of Hell might be slightly more temperate than it is in my backyard right now. 

Oy vey.  It's toasty.

Our poor dogs have been out there digging holes, making shady beds in the cool dirt and, I presume, trying to find their way back to their motherland of Labrador, where right now it is probably not possible to cook meat on the hood of one's car parked in the shade.  In years past, I never would have evicted my dogs to poach in the backyard during the feverish heat of one of Dallas' only two seasons, but in the past, I also didn't have the chaos of Two darling kids underfoot, one of whom is teaching herself to walk and subsequently mops the floors with her knees and hands and sometimes face, and the other of which is so accident-prone, she has been known to fall down while standing completely still.

So, yes, there it is.  My beloved, formerly-inside-dogs are outside dogs now.  It's not so bad, really.  Very lagoon-like, if you will.  There's even a pool for their swimming pleasure.  Yeah, yeah, that's the guilt talking, I know.  Go ahead and judge, but walk a mile in my flip-flops first.

115 degrees, though.  My dogs really shouldn't be blamed for digging themselves to Labrador, should they?   

Wrong answer. 

In fact, Lexi owes me big-time.  She needs to give me a lot of doggie love and loyalty and protection for the rest of her lifetime to make up for this past week.  $617 worth of love to be exact.  That's how much she cost me on Thursday when she had to have this dumb surgery on her stupid paw.  $617.  For those of you who don't excel in math, that's twice the cost of the boots I want but will never buy now.  It's five times as hot as it is outside.  And about 617 times what Chris was willing to spend on the dumb surgery on her stupid paw.

And now, to make matters 617 times worse, she is supposed to wear an Elizabethan Collar for the next ten days.  That's what the vet calls it.  Really?  I'm not an idiot.  An Elizabethan collar would be all regal and what-not, with red velvet and pearls and gold stitching.  With a matching crown.  Now we're talking.  But this thing?  No matter what fancy name you give it, this is just an ugly, big, white, stiff plastic lamp shade.

You know where I'm going with this, don't you?.....

Let's just call a shade a shade.

Ha ha ha!  Couldn't resist!

It's fun to find humor among the shambles of my bitterness.

When Lexi has to wear this shade, she goes into Doggie Distress mode, which, lemme tell you, ain't pretty.  She starts by slinging her head about, trying to throw the collar off.  When that doesn't work, she begins writhing around on the floor, somersaulting end-over-end trying to pull it off.  When even that doesn't work, she locates me somewhere in the house in a full-on panic, throwing herself at my feet in agony, whining at me to take it off.  In weak moments, I remove it, but I always have to put it back on when she begins worrying the wound on her dumb paw.  And I haven't even mentioned the eyes.  Oh, the sad eyes she has when she wears the daggum lamp shade.  There just are no words. 

Remember, I have Two young children about, who could be and frequently are, bowled over by the formidable exuberance of the terrified dog in the really cumbersome stiff plastic lamp shade.

Case in point.  The other day, we were trying to get out of the house to go see the Wiggles.

No, that's not a euphemism. 

The Wiggles are a singing quartet out of Australia who perform children's songs in a little preschool band.  They perform a live show with a circus theme, and have several sidekicks, including a dinosaur, an octopus, a dog, and so on.  I can see how it might be perceived that one or more members of the Wiggles may lead alternative lifestyles, as evidenced by the multiple costume changes into the strange and oddly captivating sequined uniforms a la 1980s-era Elton John, or their trusty sidekick Captain Feathersword, the name they say they chose because they wanted something "non-violent".  Okay, Wiggles.  Whatever.  As long as you keep making my babies laugh, wiggle on, friends.

Aria is a big fan, and this being her first concert and all, going to the Wiggles was a big deal.  So between the four of us, we got bathed, fed, diapered, and dressed up in party dresses for our date with the Wiggles.  Surprisingly, it even appeared as if we were going to be on time (happy cheer!).   I open the back door, herding our group out to the car, when suddenly...

To all dogs, a word of advice:  when you are wearing a size Extra Large lamp shade around your Extra Large head, it is unlikely that you will be able to slink past anyone or anything without causing substantial damage to whatever has the misfortune to be in your path.

And that is exactly what happened in our garage.

Lexi, so alarmed that we appeared to be leaving her trapped in her truncated, cone-shaped prison, plowed through the family, trying to either:  A)  Escape;  or B)  Attend the Wiggles too.  Neither of which are acceptable choices for a dog wearing a lamp shade. 

When I say "plowed through", I'm not kidding either.  Of the four of us, she knocked three of us over.  Me, Aria, and Caroline - splat - onto the garage floor.  And of those three, two began to cry. 

I won't tell you which two.

Suffice it to say, Lexi has a lot of kissing up to do to make up for bowling us over on Wiggles Day. 

It does, however, alleviate just a smidge of my guilt for making them stay outside. 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

No Scat or any of That

Okay, I admit it.  I'm one of those people who needs a vacation from my vacation.  It's just that the minute we got back, everything hit us at once again:  work, broken AC's at rent houses (FOUR!), Grandad, the laundry...oh, the laundry.  The horror that is our laundry.

Anyway, during all the hustle that was kissing my beloved parents goodbye at the airport, getting back to the oppressive heat of mid-summer Texas, and getting back into our routine, my creative juices promptly dried up.  So I took a little blogging vacation until the funny came back.  And it's back.

So first, let me tell you a little about our trip.

We flew with the girls on a Saturday morning to Charlotte, NC.  There are, of course, plenty of the obligatory my-kids-were-so-bad-on-the-plane stories, but if you are a parent and you have partaken of any air travel with your young child, you have a million of these stories of your very own, so I won't trouble you with ours, except to issue a public apology to the guy seated in 3B.  There.  That's all I'll say on the subject.

We rented a car in Charlotte and went to visit my grandmother who was in the hospital at the time (she's home now, it's all good).  My kids have had plenty of experience visiting people in hospitals lately, so this was nothing new to them.  What was perplexing to Aria, however, was the relationship between this woman in the bed called Mimi and her Mommy.  Aria herself has a Mimi, so she couldn't quite understand why I kept calling my grandmother Mimi, until the very end of our visit when she suddenly says, "Ohhhh!  You are Mommy's Mimi!  Hi, Mommy's Mimi!  I hope you feel better, Mommy's Mimi!  Bye-bye, Mommy's Mimi!"

After bidding Mommy's Mimi adieu, we drove up the mountain to Blowing Rock.  It's usually a two hour drive from Charlotte, but my husband is of the Potty Breaks are for Sissies variety, so we made it to the mountains in record time.  Again, there's a story here, but I'll refrain for now, especially since at a family wedding later in the week, my cousin gave me a bit of a complex when she asked me, after complimenting me on the funny in my blog, if I only wrote about  scatological  humor.

Go ahead.  Look it up.  You know you want to.

So, up the mountain sans potty break, to The Wood Shed, my family's mountain home I mentioned in a previous post as being one of my favorite places on earth.  And it did not disappoint.  We slept with the windows open, listened to the sound of the wind in the trees, and woke with the scent of mountain laurel in our noses.  Is this heaven? 

And guess what?  I even got to put on... in the middle of summer...wait for it...  a sweater!  Yes, that's how nice the weather was.  We sipped coffee in the mornings on the porch watching the golfers, took the girls in creeks hunting for crawdads, and even let Aria play in the sandtraps in the evenings. 

Oops, I think my grandfather just rolled over in his urn.  He was a stickler for golf course etiquette. 

The "men" - Chris, my Dad Poppies, and my brother Kick - played golf two days we were there, while the "girls" - my mother Vivi, sister-in-law Ginny, niece Sassy, Aria, Caroline, and I - went, as you may have guessed, shopping and to the park. 

One morning, Dad, Chris, and I even went ziplining down a mountain, which is when we discovered our life was meaningless and without direction before ziplining.

We took two hikes to waterfalls - one, just the two of us without kids remniscent of the days we would just randomly stop on a scenic drive when we saw a bunch of cars parked at a trailhead and put on our hiking shoes and go - and one with the girls, bathing suits and sandals on under our chothes so we could splash in the creeks and look for gold (tadpoles).

One afternoon, Chris and I took Aria trout fishing.  We tried our darnedest to catch her a fish, but no luck.  Not one bite.  We tried everything:  lures, corn, deli meat, and at Aria's request, pretzels.  Because, using three-year-old logic, everyone loves pretzels.  Nothing.  To be honest, she's not a fishing fan.  Yet.  Just wait 'til we go salmon fishing in Alaska when the silvers are running, my love, then you'll be hooked like your parents are.  (Yes.  I meant to do that).

And then.  The pinnacle of our trip to the North Carolina mountains. 

Choo Choo!

That's right, Tweetsie Railroad.

If you do now know about Tweetsie Railroad and are not from the east coast, I will forgive your ignorance.  The rest of you have no excuse.

Tweetsie Railroad is only THE most exciting, thrilling, breathtaking, heartstopping, exhilarating amusement park in western North Carolina (if you don't count Ghost Town in the Sky, which I don't, since I got beat up there as a fourteen-year-old by three scrawny, scrappy redneck girls, and am obviously still bitter about it, so in my house, we just don't talk about Ghost Town in the Sky). 

The whole Tweetsie yarn is based upon this old steam locomotive that once traversed Alaska, and now chugs guests on a scenic tour around a North Carolina mountain hypothetically carting gold, where bandits attempt to hijack the train with guests aboard, and are then thwarted by the good guy cowboys with aid from the Native Americans. 

I'll be honest, as a whole, things haven't changed much since I was there as a child in the late seventies, except that back then, the bad-guy hijackers were the Indians, and the cowboys won back the train after shooting all the Indians in the melee.  Doncha just love how politically incorrect we were in the seventies?  Sheesh.  Anyhow, they've built a whole theme park around the train concept, complete with ferris wheel, county-fair-type rides, a petting zoo, and even a chair lift to haul folks up the mountain in the event you have consumed too much cotton candy to walk (we did). 

All those adjectives I just used to describe Tweetsie?  Those were words I used to describe it when I was seven, which, until last week, was the last time I was there, so in my mind, Tweetsie was still all those things. 

When we got there and discovered our three-year-old and even our nine-month-old were permitted to ride each and every ride without restriction, or when the safety harness on an airplane ride vaulting said three-year-old ten feet in the air is a rope you tie around your child, or when the whole family is allowed to board the chairlift which dangles precariously 40-feet in the air with a mere pencil-sized restraining bar - well, I realized just why exactly, as a young child, I considered Tweetsie to be THE most exciting, thrilling, breathtaking, heartstopping, exhilarating amusement park in western North Carolina. 

Lack of safety regulations!

It still is breathtaking and heartstopping, for parents, just now for entirely different reasons.

Following our week in Blowing Rock, we drove down to Lake Lure, NC (of Dirty Dancing fame) for my cousin Kerby's wedding to his beautiful new bride, Amber.  All the extended family was there:  aunts, uncles, cousins, cousins' cousins.  It was fabulous.  We roasted s'mores by a bonfire on the Lake Lure beach after the rehearsal dinner, and Kerby and Amber got married on a rock bluff overlooking an apple orchard.  Stunning.  And believe it or not, my two children were the last two kids to leave the dancefloor at the reception.

Nobody puts Baby in a corner.

So that about sums up our trip to the North Carolina mountains.  We had a wonderful trip and made wonderful memories with our exceptionally wonderful extended family.

And a note to my cousin Corinna:  See?  A whole blog post and I didn't mention scat once.  Not once.