Out in Nevada

We recently returned from Nevada, where we celebrated my father-in-law's life. The girls adored seeing their cousins, the weather was incredible (high seventies!), and the celebration lovely.

It was unpleasantly strange, the absence at their house without him there. I hadn't been in Reno for the deterioration of health, so for me the change was abrupt. Meanwhile, the girls have processed the loss of their grandfather in different ways. Charlotte spent a long time gazing at the large framed photo of Bill that was used at the celebration, then moved several small framed photos of herself (and some with Lorelei) around his photo. Oh, my heart.

Lorelei, despite our best efforts to explain his death, was just not understanding it. As we were packing to go to Reno, she listed everyone she would see: her cousins, aunt and uncle, Omi . . . "and Grandpa!"

"No, sweetie. Because he died, we don't get to see him anymore. That's why we're so sad about it."

Her face fell. "But he's so FUNNY!"

I agreed and explained yet again that Grandpa is in heaven, probably playing golf. He's not sick anymore.

Then Charlotte hit me with: "So does he EXIST?"

These questions from children give you NO WARNING.

"Yes," I said. "His soul, the part of him that made him Grandpa? That's in heaven. He doesn't need his body now. His body is gone, but he's still exists."

Of course, you can completely argue against everything I said, because which one counts? Existence in this world or the next? Well, anyway.

You would think after all this, Lorelei would have understood more than she did. I certainly thought she did. But I was wrong and didn't realize it until many days later.

After the celebration of life, or "Grandpa's party," as Lorelei and I called it, she came up to me. "Mommy, now that Grandpa's party is over, will he wake up now?"

Oh, my dear Lorelei. No. And so we started again.

Grandpa's party, or the celebration of life, took place at the golf club where he and my mother-in-law were members. The turnout was huge. People flew in from Palm Springs and San Francisco. Even their financial advisor (he's ours too, so I finally got to meet him) and tax accountant came in from the Bay Area. You know you've made an impression on people when your financial guy comes, with his wife, to your celebration of life and gives a speech.

The room where the "service" part took part was set up with rows of chairs, like a wedding. (You had to pass the open bar on the way there---it's what Bill would've wanted. I've never sat at a funeral with a glass of wine in hand, but I liked it.) My mother-in-law wanted the nine of us in the front row, but with the aisle breaking up the chairs into six and four, how should we sit? Finally, I suggested that Chris's mom sit between him and his brother, Jason. My sister-in-law and I would sit on the other side of the aisle with the four granddaughters. It was perfect.

Before people started showing up, we took family pictures. Something about doing that without Bill hit me like a semi-truck and I started to lose my shit. Everyone else seemed to be holding it together (or quietly slipping away to go lose their shit privately), so I capitalized on the bright shining sun and put on my sunglasses. I'm pretty sure no one was any the wiser, but of the nine people there, I really didn't want to be the one to make a scene.

Jason, as firstborn son, gave the first speech. It was spectacular. Chris gave the next one, which was very moving. And then lots of others. Lorelei, alas, used up all her good behavior during the hour before everything started and was on my lap, whining that she was hungry. There was no clear exit, so I did what any mother would do while her husband was giving his dad's eulogy: I gave her my phone and begged--BEGGED--her to be good. It mostly worked.

Afterward, the open bar continued and appetizers were provided. My mother-in-law can throw a party, as we all know. I met a lot of people, caught up with some folks I hadn't seen in forever, and thanked my lucky stars for two amazing nieces who kept my children entertained, happy, and FED while Chris and I worked the room.

My mother-in-law was amazing throughout, brave and gracious. Many, many people told me how much they loved my in-laws and they promised to look out for her. Her neighbors have been incredible, doing countless things these past months.

While we there, Chris's dad's obituary was released: Here's a link: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/rgj/obituary.aspx?pid=184409098

I'd like to post Chris's speech, but I need his permission. And the file. And he's at Costco at the moment. 

We returned on Tuesday evening, despite snow (phew!), and found that our sweet neighbors had snowblowed our driveway, sidewalk, and walkway to the front door. Chris had been dreading doing this and was so relieved--oh, good neighbors are so important!

And there you have it. I guess it's time for life to return to normal? Whatever normal is.

So, books. Both Chris and I finished the third book in Chronicles of Narnia, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, for Sunday school and are on to book four, The Silver Chair. I finally finished Charlotte and Emily by Jude Morgan and it was so, so, so, so good. I don't typically keep books (well, the vast majority of books I read are library books), but I'm hanging on to this one.

I also flew through The Ministry of Motherhood, which I read mainly to help actualize a character I'm writing about in my slowest-ever-moving manuscript. I also secretly hoped I could pull away some nuggets to help me raise non-asshole children, but the book was, on the whole, a disappointment. The writing is bland and sentimental, the conversations this woman has with her children completely unbelievable (to the point where the message feels disingenuous), and of course, no good Christian mother would stoop to working outside the home, which is . . . divisive. Of course, I could argue Mrs. Clarkson has quite the career, generating oodles of books and speaking at countless conferences and radio programs, but I guess that doesn't count in evangelical circles. However, I felt some pangs of guilt as I know I need to step the "discipline" of my kiddos to be good people who aren't always looking out for number one. And her encouraging kids to follow the right paths, even if not necessarily full of "worldly" acclaim, is a good message. So I gave it a couple stars.

I've started reading How to Party With an Infant, which skewers the San Francisco mommy social scene. It's hilarious and smart. I love it.

I'm still reading Kate Atkinson's Life After Life. I'm still enjoying it, but I'm far enough into the book that all of Ursula's lives are starting to feel repetitive (I mean, they are, but . . . I don't want to FEEL the repetition).


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