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A Different Sort of Journey

I had planned to post one of our recent Vieques adventures today, but my sweet fireball of a grandma, Mary Dugan, passed away last night.  Kind of appropriate that she died on Thanksgiving, don’t you think?  She was, and will always be, a huge blessing in my life.  In honor of her life, I’m rerunning “Milestone 95” (below).  On Monday:  Another adventure from our recent time on Isla de Vieques (wild chickens, a floundering ferry boat, a bioluminescent bay… ?)

Originally posted on July 5, 2010

Milestone 95

On many days she dwells in the memories gathered in crossing ninety-five years. Her journey, begun in 1915, has been richer in people and experiences than in geographic destinations, but travel is travel, whether in distance or time.

A matriarch like no other, my Grandma Dugan also holds a bit of the little girl named Mary within her, making her a completely fascinating and compelling presence in my life. She snoozed through a recent visit having overexerted herself moments before making a break for some enticing flower beds beyond the safe edges of the care center’s outdoor patio. I love that she still finds satisfying a curiosity worth the considerable effort of propelling her wheelchair down a sidewalk.

Her smiles made me smile at her birthday party this past week. In her usual fashion, she flitted about the room greeting her guests, exclaiming at the purple decorations and enjoying all the special attention. When presented with the first slice of birthday cake she insisted I share it with her, bite for bite, enjoying it all the more for having divvied it with me.

Milestones. They encapsulate our memories and plant them in a place we can revisit at will. This year we have celebrated my oldest son’s high school graduation and the life of my Grandma Prior after her passing at age ninety-two. On June 30th we were privileged to honor the passing of but another year for Grandma Dugan. Ninety-five years and still counting…


“Favorite Memory, Favorite Gift”

“Traveling the ‘Mental Miles”

“Tis the Season…”

“Care Center Carols”

“Caroling at the Care Center”


On Her Own Road to “Amazing”

In honor of Hannah’s fifteenth birthday today, I’m reposting these reflections from her thirteenth year.

Originally posted: February 1, 2008

I could easily trip over the milestones set within this past week. First, my oldest boy Zach turned 16, and then, on Tuesday, my daughter Hannah became an official teen-ager. She’s been an unofficial one, off and on, for the past few months. Anyone blessed with a daughter her age needs no explanation of the constant surprises arising when child and woman live so closely together within the same skin…

Hannah sparkles in most lighting and is not an easy one to describe. Centrally located between two brothers, she learned increasing degrees of self-reliance from an early age. She was the quickest at learning to tie her shoes and to ride a two-wheel bicycle, and she gained “crossing the street” privileges at a younger age than her brothers.

She runs fast in races and on soccer fields, with a gazelle-like grace that is a wonder to watch. I’ve saved every note she’s written to me for the smile factor, whether tearful apology, pointed critique, or adoring words from my favorite girl. She films, sings, writes and is my “go to” girl for computer graphics. She encourages me to cook and likes my clothes well enough to even wear some of them…

The middle child position is not easy. Hannah has read up on it and shared the most pertinent details… And of course, her birthday week only proved her point(s). Her older brother had his sixteenth birthday first. Then her little brother upstaged everything by getting sick, hovering in his illness like a yellow jacket in August and delaying her “birthday dinner” for a few days. Her great-grandma had to be evacuated from her care center after a ceiling collapse Baby Hannah in spare bedroom at mom and dad's Bluffview Drive house; January 1998(“adventures” are not always age-appropriate), requiring even more of her mom’s time… Would it help Hannah to know that she bumped Zach’s third birthday party by deciding to join us in this world just as I put the finishing touches on his birthday cake? Probably not…

I somehow thought that being the only girl would Hannah stamping at WCESneutralize the middle child deal. That’s probably the “oldest child” in me speaking. I don’t fully get it, I know. But, I love what being a middle child has done for Hannah. She’s motivated. Organized (double points for achieving that as one of my offspring). Incredibly creative. Funny…

I look at Hannah and see “amazing”. Every time. She’s several steps ahead of where I stood at her age, both in ability and in confidence. And I think she’s bypassing the so-called “awkward stage”: that miserable zip code I resided in for much of my early teen years…

I’m sure there are times she feels that her capabilities are taken for granted, and at times, they probably are. She simply makes it look so easy.

She flowed so freely from building whimsical sand castles to dinner dress elegance during our beach vacation together last September. Glorious memories…

Eager child one moment, maturing young woman the next…  I want her to know that parts of that tender girl are worth keeping forever. -That concentrated maturity is overrated, and that growing up doesn’t mean you quit jumping up and down when something sparks your heart. I hope her great-grandchildren will someday see the same sparkle in her eyes that I do and recognize the sweet core of Hannah, sacredly kept and carried within for a lifetime.

Matt was finally well enough for us to travel out for Hannah’s birthday dinner last night. We hadn’t ignored her actual birthday night, but it was nice to finally go out to dinner with a healthy family. Matt’s appetite was fully returned.

But sadly, Zach, whose presence normally ensures no left-overs in the home, wasn’t so hungry. In fact, he didn’t feel very good at all (Kids never get sick at the same time).

Hannah handled it with lady-like grace. We asked that our dinners be boxed up for carry-out. Singing waiters still brought Hannah a candlelit dessert but in a styrofoam container for easy transport. And we drove home…

Matt, Hannah, and I ended up picnicking by candlelight on a big sheet in the family room while Zach rested upstairs… Lily lay at the edge, sniffing and hoping for someone to drop a crumb.

If it’s not one brother, it’s the other, huh Hannah?

But she’s thirteen, my favorite girl, and well on her way to “amazing”…


Journey to Sixteen (Eighteen…)

In honor of Zach’s eighteenth birthday

Originally posted: January 24, 2008

Sixteen years ago tonight, I attempted to slow down the arrival of my first child by breathing into a paper bag. I had no idea if it would really help. I was pretty much at the mercy of the attending nurse by that point in the process. If she had told me to boil my own water, I’d have at least made the effort.

With a first baby, it seems that many doctors linger for that one last sip of coffee, check their e-mail, and maybe even discuss dinner plans before actually heading to the hospital for a “labor in progress”. To this day, I don’t know the identity of the masked man who finally delivered Zach when my labor advanced a bit faster than expected. My ex-husband yanked him in from the hallway, stating that I was more than ready to have our baby and that our doctor appeared to be a “no show”. We were pretty sure the guy was on the medical staff, but that detail was secondary by then. The important thing was that this anonymous stranger recovered from his initial bobble of our new son, and that Zach was now a part of our world.

Hard to believe he was once an 8 pound mass of baby… Zach towers over me now, closer to the clouds than I’ll ever be. I’ve learned so much from him as he’s grown to sixteen years; I can’t fully grasp how much this young man will enrich a whole lifetime. He has such a bounty of gifts and talents, but it’s his heart I love the best.

I’m so honored to be his mom.

I’ve felt more than the first twinges as more and more is released into his capable hands. Sixteen is but a couple of breaths from high school graduation. And Zach’s world of possibilities could take him anywhere…

When he was about four, he promised me that he and his wife would live with us forever and that we’d all play nightly hockey games in the basement. “Won’t my wife be surprised?” he asked me. You have no idea, I thought, writing his remarks into my journal with a smile. He’s a musician, composer/writer, and an athlete. He’s his little brother’s hero. He lights even the dimmest corners of his great-grandma Mary’s room when he walks through her doorway to take her hand.

I tried everything to get labor started sixteen years ago, even running (well, awkwardly plodding) four miles through snow the night before. He was late (some things never change), and I wanted to speed up time to where I could hold this little one I already knew so well.

And now… I wish that breathing into a paper bag really would slow it all down a little.

I’ve told him often that he’s the kind of guy I’d want to know even if he weren’t my son.

So true. I also love to walk beside him, knowing that he is…


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