The Scamp at 20 Years

20 years is a long time to miss someone. I can’t remember what her voice sounds like, but when I smell Red Door I instantly see my grandma’s face. I was only 8 when she died, but I remember the night we got the phone call, I remember bits and pieces of the funeral, and I remember her best friend, who was in the car with her when it wrecked, told my mom the story of what happened.

Francis Ann. Grandma Fran. Auntie Fran. Franie. Mom. Sister. She was a lot of things to a lot of people, and because she refused to wear a seat belt, the world has had to be without her for the last 20 years.

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She battled drug addiction. She battled her weight. She battled a shopping and gambling addiction. She was a complicated woman, sometimes almost impossible to be around. I didn’t know any of that. I only knew her as my grammy. She had zebra print carpet, took us for hamburgers and milkshakes whenever we went to visit her and my grandpa in Palm Springs, and never let her hummingbird feeders run out of food. I can remember being in Louie the Lebaron with my brother, sister, and our two cousins Jodi and Sivan when we were really young. I don’t remember where we were going, but while we were in the car, she started a sentence and we all took turns adding to the story. I can’t remember what the story was about, but I remember laughing and the story getting more and more ridiculous the longer we went around.

This is always a hard time for my mom. She has had 20 years of health issues, awards, major projects, and amazing life moments that she did not get to share with her mom. I can’t go more than six hours without talking to my mom, so I have no idea how I would survive 20 years. I’ve struggled a lot in the last two years, and my mom has tried her best to shoulder the burden so I didn’t have to.

The one comfort that I had when I lived in California was a hummingbird that comes to hang out at my parent’s house. There is no real reason for the hummingbird to hang out, but it comes every day, sometimes right to the door. My last night in California, it hung out for over two hours and got close enough for me to touch. I like to think that that little bird has the soul of my grandma and hangs out with us to see what kind of shenanigans we get up to. There are no hummingbirds in Scotland, but if I ever see one, I will know why it is there.

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So, until I figure out what happens after you die, I like to think of her the way my aunt thinks of her:

I like to think of her winning at heavenly Mahj Jongg, Bridge, Canasta. She still is one of the smartest, funniest people I have ever known. Do they have Jeopardy in Heaven?

Those of you who see my mom, or know how to get a hold of her, be sure to send some love her way.

And go hug your mommys. Right now.

The Scamp and the Gratitude Challenge: Week 3

Week 3 of the gratitude challenge is one that I can write pages and pages and pages about: my family.

I make no secret that my favorite people in the entire world is my family. It is the easiest thing in the world for my to be grateful for them. For the last two years I have been struggling at California State University, Fullerton. The program has worn me down, and as of yesterday, I am no longer a part of the program. While I was in meeting after meeting listening to how I was academically dishonest and emotionally unstable, my family was there to make me laugh and remind me that they loved me whether I was a cheater or not.

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My brother eloquently reminded me that sometimes in life you have to have to play the game to survive. He told me:

“Sometimes in life you have to suck a dick. You don’t have to like it, and you sure as hell don’t have to swallow, but sometimes you just have to suck a dick.”

My sister and brother-in-law took me out, sent me cat pictures, and reminded me that the people in the program are the misguided racist people, and that what I put up with in their presence is not the real world. They joke with me, and don’t let me wallow in my misery. We talk, text and hang out with each other all the time, and although they usually have to drag me out kicking and screaming, it is always a good time.

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The rest of my family has been equally as supportive of my journey. My aunt, uncle, and cousins have been  outraged on my behalf and supportive of my journey. We are lucky enough to get to spend a lot of time together, and I love hanging out with them.

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I know that everyone says that they have the best family, but I honestly believe that my family is the best, We laugh, we joke, we support each other, and we are lucky enough to live near each other.

This week the gratitude for my family goes a little bit deeper. Today is the anniversary of my grandma’s death. This is a hard day for my mom. She has spent the last 19 years without her mother. I think of all the times I have cried on my mom’s shoulder, gone out to dinner with her, watched movies with her, cooked dinner, gone on vacation with her, and driven her crazy. I have the luxury of always having her in my corner.

My mom does not. She doesn’t get to cry to her mom when she has a bad day, or go out to dinner, or even just have phone conversations. I know that my mom misses my grandma every day. Their relationship was far from perfect, and my grandma had a lot of daemons, but she loved my mom, and I know that she loved us too.

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My grammy was a stunner. She was born March 19, 1938 in New York. She was a lover of big hair, big glasses, and big purses. I remember the crazy large glasses, the outrageous purses, and the long painted nails. She was killed in a car accident January 16, 1996 because she refused to wear her seat belt. For a woman who wouldn’t put her key in the ignition if one of us was not belted in, she was careless about her own safety. Having only been able to spend a limited amount of time with my grammy makes me appreciate my mom that much more. I’m grateful for all the time that I get with my family, but a little extra grateful today that I still have my mommy around.

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The Scamp and a Repost

This is a post that I wrote a year ago to the day. It still holds true, and it was written at a critical moment in my life, so rather than try to recreate the words, I am just going to share them again.

 

Today my grammy would have turned 75. I say would because she was killed in a car accident in 1996. She would never start her car until all of us had our seat belts on, but she herself refused to wear one. That choice ultimately cost her life.

While she battled many demons (drugs, weight and addictions) I was too young to know any of that, so to me, she was just my grammy. She was fun, told the best stories and had zebra print carpet in her TV room.

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Frances Ann was only 20 when my mom was born. I’m not sure if it was hard for her or not, doing the single mom thing before she married my grandpa, but pictures like this make me think she did the best she knew how.

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That adorable little creature is me circa 1988. It is clear that she loved being a grandma. Some of my favorite memories as a child involve swimming in her pool in Palm Springs or having milkshakes at Hamburger Hamlet. She was a horrible secret keeper and she used to ask Kelly (who is also a horrible secret keeper) to trade secrets about Christmas gifts with her (it usually worked).

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I think this picture best sums up how I remember her. She never took that necklace off, she was always wearing big glasses, and she always smelled like Red Door. For awhile my mom had a garment bag that belonged to my grandma. I used to open it up because every time I did, it smelled like her. My mom finally got rid it when it stopped smelling of her.

One of my favorite memories of her was one weekend we spent in Palm Springs I got a horrible ear infection. While we were waiting in the emergency room, she drew a picture of me getting a shot in the butt with a very large needle. She had my brother and sister rolling, and had me in tears scared to death. I don’t know what happened to that picture, but I wish I still had it.

On the 15th anniversary of her death I got a showgirl tattooed on my back with her initials. My grammy loved Vegas, and loved to gamble, but the tattoo had to be a showgirl. One of my favorite pictures was one that she took on a weekend trip. It is a picture of her head superimposed on a showgirl’s body. She loved that photo and used to joke with people that that was her in a former life.

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I spent the day eating a club sandwich, drinking a Coke and watching Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. It is a tradition that my family shares every year on this date. It is a tradition that I take comfort in, no matter where I am or how I am feeling. She may not have been perfect, but she was my grammy and I love her.

This day is hard for my mommy. Those of you that know her, give her a hug, or send her a text reminding her how amazing she is and how proud her mom would be of her.

The Scamps Confronts Some Uncomfortable Feelings

We called her Dragon Lady. 

We mocked her love for ugly rooster adorned objects. In fact, we had a rooster tile that we use to pass around the family at Christmas time and laugh when she didn’t get the joke.

She once told a room of strangers that the best way to tell me and Kelly apart was to look at our faces. Mine was fat.

She used to ask my mom what her and my dad possibly had to talk about since he never went to college (as revolting as the thought is, I always wish my mom had said that they don’t need to talk during sex so it didn’t matter).

She belittled my family as often as possible, and constantly bragged about how wonderful her children and grandchildren were.

She lied about her age. She subtracted 10 years from her age, and it wasn’t until almost 20 years later that anyone knew how old she really was. 

She got cancer, and then got incredibly ill. She had round the clock nurses, and my granddad was forced to care for her because her family was nowhere to be seen. He himself is in his 90s and dealing with stomach cancer, but put all of that on hold to take care of her.

Today she died. 

I would love to say that I was sad when I heard the news. I would even love to say that I was surprised. We all knew that this was coming, and the first thing that I thought of was, “Now granddad is free! Now he can take care of himself. Now he can go see the Crazyhorse monument because he doesn’t have to be tethered to her care.”

In truth, I felt nothing. I am glad that she is not in pain anymore, and not miserable. I am glad that the stress and suffering that came with taking care of her is over, but other than that, I felt nothing about hearing the news. I am having a large internal debate today on whether or not I should be more sad, and whether or not my reaction to her passing is okay. I did not like her, and in the last five years have seen her maybe twice. Should I be sad? Should I offer to do things for my dad should he need it?

Feelings. Sometimes they suck. 

A Scamp and Cars

I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately. I used to love being in the car. I spent a lot of time as the DD in college, and always loved the chance to drive my friends’ cars. When I was home visiting my parents, I would drive my mommy around running errands or going to dinner. I spent most of high school driving Kelly everywhere because she refused to get a licence. The craziest thing I did was drive an hour and a half one way to work two days a week. I’d put on a podcast, cruise to work and enjoy my drive along the coast (okay, that had more to do with my want to teach and not my love of driving).

When I moved to Scotland though, I stopped driving. I practically stopped taking any form of public transportation altogether. I fell in love with walking….even in the snow. I still listened to podcasts, but now instead of driving way too fast down the freeway, I was walking  up and down hills and down quite streets. I learned how to walk in wind without getting knocked over, learned how to avoid ice patches, and how to really use my feet as a mode of transportation. I fell in love with walking. I decided that when I came back to the States, I would try and walk wherever and whenever I could.

Of course, that plan went out the window. Brea, and California in general is not really set up for people who like to walk. Sure, San Francisco is a good place for that, but one city not really enough to sway me. I find myself in the car a lot, and besides being expensive, I found that I have lost my defensive driving urge.  Since I have been home I have been cut off more times than I can count, just about rear ended and sideswiped, sat on a closed freeway so cops could finish a car chase and  got hit by a guy on a bike (I also busted one of my mother’s tires, but I would like to think that it was the nail that did it, and not me). A 20 minute drive to the gym is now enough to give me a headache.

I miss walking. I never got hurt walking.

There is another reason that I don’t really like cars right now. I lost a cousin in a car crash yesterday. She was only 23. I had only met her once, but she was really friendly and had a great personality. She was newly married and has a 3 month old son. Her husband has a broken leg and pelvis, and a broken heart thinking he killed his wife. He keeps thinking that if he didn’t take her out for the first time since their son was born, none of this would have happened. I can’t imagine how much pain he is in right now.

This is why I miss walking. While I know that it is just as easy to get hurt walking, people are so careless with their driving around here that driving gets more and more stressful.If you crash into someone while you are walking, chances are, damage will be minimal. If you crash into someone with your car, chances are the damage will be much more severe.

My family is small, and seems to be getting smaller everyday. So I ask, lovely readers, please be careful when you drive and be nice to your family, no matter how crazy they make you.