Sweet Sawyer

“You guys I figured it out. I’ve been thinking and I figured it out. You can only go to Heaven if you stand on the cliffy side of trees or if you touch somethings sharp! Right?”     Sawyer, 2/1/2016

My sweetest boy,

Your heart break is breaking my heart in ways I didn’t know it could.   The sadness radiates off you, even when you’re happy. I don’t know how to help you process the loss of Cabin Grandpa. I can’t believe I even am writing this…. That we have even lost him seem impossible.

Your Cabin Grandpa loved you so big. In a way that still blows my mind. He was always finding ways to make you smile: catching fish, playing hide and seek with Ankie, taking you on lawnmower or four wheeler rides, hiding Grandpa candy in his shirt pockets for you to find, cuddling you on the couch when you were so tired and couldn’t sleep.. until you both were sleeping. Then we’d just laugh, take a picture and cover you with a blanket.DSC_0536

Daddy told me about when his mom’s friend was sick and how the house was filled with sadness and felt heavy. That has stuck in my mind and I can’t imagine you having such a dark memory in your life. I don’t want it. But I know that is what this will become. A dark spot.

We have been trying to make it lighter. Going to the cabin, but you and sister both wonder where Cabin Grandpa is. Going on weekend getaways, but when you had such a cool dude like Grandpa in your life, who always stopped by just for a quick visit, or met us wherever we were going… it makes his absence so big.

I know that since you are only four, your memories will be what we share with you. But I have to tell you, there are no bad memories. We aren’t leaving out anything to share him in a special light. He just was special. Every memory is amazing  and good and beautiful. There are no bad. So never think that.

Here is one of my favorite memories from last summer: Cabin Grandpa was stopping by every day to work on our fence (containment of you and sister and dogs). He usually came by in the afternoon, but it was a hot week so he switched to the mornings. Around 8:30 you looked out there at Grandpa (sweating away) and told me he ‘needed a beer break’. I hooked you up with a beer in your messenger bag and off you went. I could hear his surprised laugh and (even though I don’t think he wanted one) he sat  down next to you while you drank your apple juice and he had his beer in the back yard. That was just the man he was- taking a break to make you smile.

I know you are afraid of what it means to be gone. It’s a big idea and hard for even me and Daddy to understand. How can people who love us leave us? Where do they go and how do we know they get there? I hope you find the answers to this in our journey of life together. I hope you resume confidence in the idea that we will all be together for a long time. And most of all, I wish a life with less tragedy than you’ve experienced so far in your four years.

I love you so big sweet boy. And so does Daddy. And so does Cabin Grandpa watching you from Heaven.  And we will feel him all around.

Love, your sweet mama fish2

 

 

Two Weeks

It’s been two weeks.

Two weeks since my doorbell rang. My dogs went wild barking and my instant thought was, ‘It must be Cabin Grandpa. Why didn’t he call first?’.  He was going to stop by and pick up our Christmas tree, but usually he does give me a call to make sure it’s a good time.

Two weeks since I opened the door and was surprised to see a police officer standing there. He was looking for my husband. My answer was, ‘He is at work on the Slope… what did he do?’,with a smile. The officer looked down at my sweet boy standing by the door watching him and asked me to step outside. Little did I know my world was about to come crashing down.

‘I’m here to notify Vince that his Dad… his Dad is Curt Abbas right? (I nod)  He was killed in an accident this afternoon in Wasilla.’

There it was. This blow to our lives… a knock on the door, a poor man that had to break the worst news, and my two babies sitting inside watching a movie and eating popcorn on a Saturday night.

‘What am I supposed to do?’ I asked him. His face was filled with incredible sorrow for me and I (probably in shock) felt so bad for him… that this was his job. To come here and deliver the news that would change our lives forever. “Here’s a number to call and get the details. I was only asked to notify next of kin, but wasn’t given much”, was his reply.

He asked if I was okay and I did that hyperventilated breathing thing… sort of like when you’re in labor and trying to ride it out… but it was a kind of pain that would never subside. Eventually I must have said yes, because he left and I found myself in the kitchen… collapsing to the floor and sobbing hysterically. My intuitive 2 year old came around the corner and dropped to the floor next to me, crying equally out of control… ‘You sad, I sad Mama’.

So I picked myself up. Texted my own Mama because I knew when I heard her voice I would lose it. She texted me back, so must have realized I was trying to keep it together and was on her way to help. Then it happened… I had to call my husband.

I had no number… and he was in the middle of nowhere working. No cell service, no office number… I called him back on the number he had called me on, hoping someone could give me a number to get connected to him. A random man answered and I asked for Vince. He repeated his name and I heard Vince in the background say ‘That’s me’. As soon as he said hello I lost it. All I could get out was ‘You have to come home now’ before I became incoherent. He called me back on a private phone and told me he was leaving on the company plane in 15 minutes. Pick him up in 2.5 hours.

What a blessing that he was in the room he was in when I called, a blessing a plane had just landed and he could hop on it… a blessing my parents were home and could come watch the kids… another blessing that Vince’s boss and our close family friend would drive me out to pick him up… so many things fell into place that night. Except that I wish none of them had to.

The whole night seems like forever ago. The last two weeks are like a foggy haze of horror and having to adjust to a life that I would prefer not to. However… we don’t have that choice. Instead we are forcing ourselves to remember what Curt would say, ‘It is what it is’ and enjoy being alive. We are smiling at the small whispers of Grandpa we find laying around: a cigar frozen to a log at the cabin, his giant bunny boot footprint on the edge of the steps where he slipped into a hole, an open can of his favorite chips on the counter… trying to soak them all up while they are still here to discover.

My husband told me this weekend,”You know… I really miss my Dad. But there’s nothing I can do about that. Even more than missing him, I miss us being happy.” That was a really good ‘hey lady’ wake up call for me. Get it together, fake it til you make it and figure it out.

Somehow it’s time to pick ourselves up and move on remembering him and living a life he would be proud of. With him in mind, I went to work today and soaked up all those little people smiles, hugs and laughs. Not only did I make it through the day without crying, but I enjoyed my day. I’m hoping this can continue… and get better and better. There will still be waves of insane, insurmountable grief,but if I can smile everyday and can make my kiddos smile, I think I’m doing okay.

 

Missing A Piece

I lost my friend yesterday.

I say friend, but he was more than that. He was a leader, an inspiration, a foundation block for our family, an ideal grandpa and the best father in law a person could ever get. The man set expectations and you did not want to let him down. Period.

When Vince and I first started dating (as adults. We dated in high school too) we were attached at the hip. I mean… everywhere Vince went, which meant a lot of adventures with his dad… I was trailing along behind him with my fishing pole and ’44, ready for whatever we were doing. Curt was game. That was the thing about him… he gave everybody a chance. Even me with my ‘forbidden’ piercing (maybe he didn’t notice) and tattoo.

I thought for sure I would get on his nerves eventually. Some  days I would be at the cabin when he got there, waiting on the dock for Vince to get off work, fishing away. He would bring me a beer, come sit down and chat with me until Vince got there. After a couple weeks of this, I earned myself my very own cabin key, which was a really big deal. I guess he figured if I was going to be out there, I might as well get the cabin warmed up while I was waiting.

The next summer we built our cabin in Petersville. Vince and I spent every single weekend out there with Curt. I was referred to mainly as ‘she’ or ‘her’ when we were in construction mode, and rarely addressed directly. But I did my jobs, helped out and made some amazing memories with our little building crew. We laughed, survived injuries, caught fish and even got our first moose together.

Moving on to our world with children, I saw a whole additional side to him. He is an amazing, giant, silly kid! A man who carries ‘mm’s’ in his pocket for the kids to discover, who plays tug o’ war with blankets and creates the opportunity for adventures at every corner. I feel like my kids (well, and us) were robbed of years of memory making. They didn’t get to do so many things with him that they should have.

My husband lost his Dad. His best friend. On top of everything that encompasses, it also feels like our last goodbye to Brenda, Vince’s mom who passed away ten years ago this year. Like we’re losing our last link to her. And random stories that would pop out now and then.

Now for my selfish loss… Curt did more for Vince and I than anybody else. Ever. Shoes that cannot be filled. Vince works out of town the majority of the year. Cabin Grandpa (as Sawyer started calling him and it stuck) would pop by somehow just knowing we needed a visit. Or every Wednesday (or Thursday…ok,sometimes Friday) when my garbage can was still at the end of the driveway, he would pull it in ‘on his way by’.

Last summer he called to see if he could come mow the lawn for me and was shocked that I had already managed to do it, while keeping the kids alive at the same time. Popsicles were involved… I’m not magic, just good at bribery.

He cleared trees and leveled our yard. He helped me move things. I had big plans of ‘conning’ him into clearing little trees for my new garden this Spring.We talked gardening and hunting and fishing. And politics. And stories and life.  He was the last person in the world I thought would be missing.

Now I have to put my big girl panties on and deal with it. And I don’t want to. I just want him back.

 

 

Disney: Day One

Day one of our family adventures consisted of traveling. And traveling.

Our first flight from Anchorage to Seattle was awesome. It’s always a toss up with that one- either amazing tailwinds or gruesome head winds. We won that lottery today and had a super quick and smooth flight. Always a bonus with the kiddos to make it short and sweet. My parents came with us and even managed to be sitting with us (after a panicked check in where our seats did not appear to be near each other).

We switched planes and had travel buddies for the second flight. My son, who was a little wild on the first flight, sat next to Grandma and passed out for the whole flight. My daughter, who was super good for the first flight, sat next to us for this one and was very ‘excited’ the whole way. She was chatting and rolling around and crying on and off… whoa. I was glad to land at LAX. And then taxi for 7 hours.

Ok. It wasn’t that long… but it was long enough for my sweet 2 year old to pass right out. Oh. My. Sounds good- but getting off a plane with a groggy 2 year old is not fun.

After the journey to our rental car (HELLO LAX?? Get it together with your rental organization! I’ve been spoiled by Seattle who has every rental in one spot!) and picking up a van just like our babysitter (the most amazing lady ever!) Gracie proceeded to pass right out again. Hallelujah!!

We got to our incredible three bedroom condo. It seriously is amazing. Clean, Disney themed, modern and secure (which was my crazy Alaska paranoid’s lady top concern. I can deal with having to clean up a bit when I get somewhere, but scary neighborhoods are not my thing).

Our room has an awesome attached nursery we popped sleeping beauty right into. Then there’s a kiddo room with bunk beds and a twin bed with a tv- it’s basically a dream room. Little dude was so pumped… until we showed him our room. MELTDOWN TIME! He thought we were all sleeping in the kid room and was less than thrilled about the idea of sleeping alone. So…. we pulled the twin mattress into our room and he slept on the floor.

Three bedroom condo and we are all in one room? Family vacation style! (Although my parents do have their own room. I’m glad they didn’t cry about not bunking with us too. It would have been crowded!)

Today the adventure continues with California Adventures!!

PS. Here is where we are staying! I love it and the owners are SO friendly!  http://funtierlandvacationrentals.com/

Bad Blogger

I’m a horrible blogger. I think I’m better when my hubs is at work, but we have been seriously loving the last 2 months of him home. We are in a parenting groove that’s so awesome.

Sometimes when he comes home I get into the habit of asking him to do EVERYTHING because I have to do everything when he is gone. But it’s a bit ridiculous. I’ve put a lot of effort into NOT doing that this time he has been home and things have been so much smoother. Happier. Laughier.

Now we’re down to two more weeks until we lose him to the North Slope again. For his 4th ‘last year’ up there building ice roads. The problem with this man I call my husband, is that he is SO GOOD at his job. He is efficient, a creative problem solver and super organized. He has worked every part of the job so he makes a foreman that really can’t be beat. The problem with this is they sure do offer him a good chunk of change to go up there. And while it’s being offered- we might as well take it.

The next two weeks will be incredible. We are taking the family to Disneyland. Wait… I mean – WE ARE GOING TO DISNEYLAND!!!! That adventure, followed by Christmas and then he is off to work. And we have a week of no school after to adjust and cuddle and watch movies and get back into a ‘mommy only’ groove.

So much happy and sad mixed together. Bittersweet times ahead!

A Rough Day

Half way into our conversation I realized my Grandpa was saying good bye to me. He started out telling me the story of his sickness and how it had progressed over the years. Information about his blast counts, platelets and more details I’d heard previously. Then he went into his recent trial treatment he was participating in which led to his bone marrow biopsy last week and spinal tap to determine how well it was working.

It’s not.

gg

Next came how much he loves me and how proud he is to have been able to watch me grow up into the best mom and person. How my choices over the years have led me to where I am supposed to be: with Vince, my husband. He continued on to tell me we have given him the most amazing great grandchildren and his only regret is not being able to stick around to watch their milestones and experiences. It was here I realized… oh… he is saying good bye to me.

Obviously at this point all I would say was ‘uh-huh’ and ‘right’ and ‘oh Gramps’… while convulsing in silent tears in the front passenger seat of my Sequoia while my kids were in the back seat. And my poor husband is driving us home from a great morning at the Alaska Wildlife Center.

I can picture him sitting there at the breakfast bar at their home we have visited them in and made memories with them in for decades. Picture him with his typed up bullet points he wanted to cover while talking to me. And probably one sheet for each of us grand kids. My Grandpa is an amazing writer, poetic and gifted with a flowing literary sense that doesn’t come to all people.

The rest of the conversation I pulled it together enough to get some details on his plan, which includes spending the rest of his time at home with Grandma. He asked me to make sure to check in on her and still come visit, even when it’s just her- because she has been his life. For sixty years. The tears started again.

Gramps told me to tell Vince he loves him. And to keep the family together even when he is gone. Hopefully watching over us, but he won’t know until he gets there.

Love you gobs Gramps.
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And So It Begins…

School.

It’s started. Know how I know? I’m tired. And sick. And tired of being sick. And also… super excited every morning about my new kiddos.

At the end of every year I can’t imagine having a group of kids as great as the ones I have had. The beginning of the year always has a slight undertone of anxiety about meeting new people: adults and kiddos. Figuring out emotional tells and cues from tired or stressed kids. There’s always little people who aren’t so good at adapting to new situations and going to preschool for the first time is definitely a new situation.

This year I have an incredible group of kids. No major separation issues for parents or kids.A lot of sweetness and awareness of other people’s feelings. Empathy is something that is tough to teach, but comes natural to a handful of people. I think I have a group with a high number of these types this year…

I have 100% full confidence that by the end of the year I will again be thinking…. ‘NOooooo…. don’t go to kindergarten!!! I need you!!’.

We are going to have a great year. As soon as my cough lets up a little and my voice returns. 🙂

My Better Half. Or Equal Half.

Oh DaddyMy hubby is amazing. I complain a lot about him being gone, but only in spurts. Usually right after he leaves and things are really hard to adjust to and then again about 3/4 of the way through his work season (usually the 5 month mark is a tough time for me). It also happens to coincide with two very busy times of the year for me: school ending and school starting.

We have an incredible relationship.  I think it takes a certain type of person (people) to maintain a healthy, happy relationship in the situations we put ourselves in. We are best friends, co-conspirators, alleviate each other’s stress with humor and just ‘get’ each other. I don’t know a lot of people who have what we have. And we know that. We do not take our relationship for granted and know how blessed we are to get to live this life.

I often wonder why we get this life. We have two happy healthy kids, careers in industries we love, mutual interests in the outdoors and a love for where we are geographically, a beautiful home and even a cabin to enjoy. Our families are filled with incredible people who love and love and love. We appreciate everything. How did we get so much greatness?

Then I think… maybe it is so great because we made it this way. We have a mindset that allows us to overcome obstacles (some times with moderate venting, but that is healthy) and truly enjoy each day. A roadblock is simply a means for a new adventure. An Avenue to create a solution.

Maybe we have this amazing life because we make it this way by taking advantage of the beautiful place and time we were lucky enough to be born into… by focusing on the attributes of each other rather than the negatives…. by loving 100% and knowing what it is like to not have the other there…allowing us to fully appreciate the moments we are together.

Reflecting on this today, when my husband is at the 5 month gone mark, makes the last two months to go seem a little more doable. Even in the hard times of parenting without Dad there to get my back, I know he will be there. Even if it’s five minutes on the phone before he goes to work, or a few hours every couple weeks when he drives home to see us during his 12 hours off work… I know he will be there. And I know how lucky/blessed/fortunate I am to have that.

In the midst of my Facebook rants or exasperated cries of depair, I just have to remember how truly good we have it. And continue on, sharing the memories we make knowing the tough ones will someday be hilarious. And looked back on fondly. Hopefully for every frustrated post, I make five hopeful ones. 🙂 

Dinner Time or Circus Time?

It’s ‘dinner time’ around here. One of my kids appears to be naked except for a beautiful Anna hair pretty. And some marker tattoos she created while I was making said dinner.

The other is America Ninja Warrioring around the living room. He has set up an obstacle course using a fabric tunnel, blanket box, dollhouse, couch , end table and ottoman.

Generally we eat dinner in the dining room, but sometimes we have ‘blanket picnics’ in the living room. The warrior suggested we do that tonight. Walking into the living room and tripping on his ‘perimeter trap’ I can see why.

By the time my dinner is done, my naked princess and wild warrior have eaten all their berries, a couple bites of rice (with  their hands, not forks) and proceed to yell ‘ready, set, go’ and ‘catch me if you can’ before taking off and diving head first into the tunnel. While I could get all ‘mom’ on them and whip this party into shape, it really just makes me smile that they are playing so nicely together. Is that wrong? I swear they have manners most of the time… but tonight on this rainy, dad’s gone,we’ve been cooped up all day while mom does work day… wildness seems to be winning. And that’s okay with me.

These are the days of our lives…

There’s This Man

There’s this man who has been a rock in my life… for my whole life. He has been a constant, a fixer, a listening ear, a voice of reason and an oasis in the storm. He has been a role model, a shopping buddy, a sounding board and the most amazing Grandpa that a person could ask for.

He’s been the one who has officiated just about every wedding in my family. He has baptized me, my siblings, my cousins and my children. He is the patriarch of our family- even before he was the oldest male in the family. You know how there is a person who just brings people together? This is him.

My gramps is incredible. He honestly is one of the most amazing men I’ve ever had a chance to be around. The love and ability to care and give uselfishly, has set the bar very high for my mom, her sisters, and my generation too.

When the strongest link in your family becomes sick, what do you do? How do you care for the person who has always cared for you? The one who makes it better for everyone… he has spent his life taking care of others and doesn’t ask for help ever. He still isn’t. But now, he needs to be showered in love.

It’s scary to think of what will happen in the future. My grandparents are almost 80, they have had an incredible life. They have been married for almost 60 years. Had three beautiful girls, five grandbabies and (so far) two great-grandbabies and one more on the way. Being a minister- they have touched thousands more lives than just us.

My grandfather was blessed with a gift. He knows when people need him. Just knows it. Wakes up in the middle of the night feeling an urge to contact someone or pop by and see them. Arriving or calling them, he would find they were in deep need of counseling, a hand to hold, or someone to sit quietly with them. He is always in the right place at the right time.

How do I do that for him? How does my family fill that void when he is gone? How could knowing that he will be gone from a sickness make it feel so much more real than knowing he would die ‘someday’, ‘somehow’?

The last couple years have been full of laughter, love, new life and loss, growth, and a realization that our days are so limited. Life is about right now, this second, this minute, this day. Yesterday is over. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. Love the ones you’re with… bank those memories to save for when you can’t make more. I guess that’s what I’ll do for now… make as many memories as I can and see what tomorrow brings…20130722_191755