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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Untitled HK Autobiography

You might want to know that after my parents divorced, I lived in a house full of 5 woman.  It was my sisters and I, my mom, my mother's mom (grandma), and my grandma's sister, Aumt Jay.  I believe that they are all responsible for shaping me into the person I am today.  My dad too.  All things happen for a reason, cliche I know but I am feeling the truth and simplicity behind it.
And you need to know that until the days that grandma and Aunt Jay died I lived with them, except  when I left the home for my college hiatus and after college own apartment time.  You also need to know that it was devasting for me when they died. And ironically they both left this earth when they were 93.  So I must ask if my destiny has been determined.
The insert below was a result of my grandmother's SUDDEN death.  I was in school for my MSEd and was taking a writing course.  Thank god for it; as it helped me deal a little with the crash landing in my life:

"I will always be your New Year's Baby," I told her. My father was a drummer in a band and my mother a housewife. Every New Year's Eve my mother would accompany my father when he performed for a celebration. I would always have to stay home with grandma and Great Aunt Jay. I am the youngest of three daughters, a ten year difference, so my sisters were never home. For her request, I would dress up in my underwear, t-shirt, and eventually a bra, complete with a sash that said "Baby New Year." We drank Shirley Temples, which now would be cherry 7-UP, ate some snacks and rang in the New Year with horn blowers and Dick Clark. "Happy New Year!” we yelled. We kissed as Auld Lang Syne was sung and off to bed we went.
Only five months after what I will always remember as our last New Year’s together, grandma began her new life.
"We need to get pictures collected right away," I said to my family. "We have to find the best ones. I have to find the ones from all of the New Year's celebrations."
After digging through my drawers, the basement and the garage I found them and stared at them, and I cried. I couldn’t understand how she died so quickly. I couldn’t see why she died two weeks before my son Daniel's first birthday. I continually contemplate these questions daily. I contemplate and I cry.
It has been years since we celebrated New Year's Eve with just the three of us. Aunt Jay died in 2002, she was ninety-three. Since those earlier years, I have celebrated in Mexico when I studied abroad; with my mother and sister Michele in Atlantic City; with my friends at a house party; or in Times Square. Last year I was pregnant but celebrated in Times Square with my sisters, their significant others, my niece Megan, my husband Ronnie, and my grandmother. We forced her to go to the city on New Year's Eve. We promised her that it would be a great time and that we would get her into Times Square with no problem. And we did, eventually.
"Come on grandma, the whole family is going to go. We go to John's Restaurant through a back door, eat and drink and get our celebration gear, and at 11:55 we get a police escort to the middle of Times Square. We promise, it'll be great," Michele and I said.
That year my mother had decided to go to Atlantic City instead, but the rest of our family went. The limousine picked us up at the house and we headed into the car where grandma and Megan were the last to slide in. It was difficult for the ninety-one year old and the four year old to get into the limo. Both were excited, but scared about the crowd that we would later have to move through. We arrived in the city and unfortunately it was not like it had been in the past years. We really did have to go through a crowd of party goers. The pregnant one, the four year old, the ninety-one year old and our loved ones began to trek through Eighth Avenue. This could be an issue, we thought.
To the policeman, Michele said, "Hey how you doing? You know that party that John's hosts for the officers and their families? We throw it and we need to get across the street and get in through that silver door over there."
They looked at us like we were crazy, and responded "okay, let me see."
An officer radioed his fellow officer across the street and said that he was sending some people over. That didn't exactly help, but he gave us some room to move through one group of party-goers.
So, a screaming father-to-be, a very concerned father, and a panicked granddaughter eventually pushed through the crowd for the rest of us. We arrived at John's and got in through the silver back door that led into the back room that led into the kitchen that led into the dining area. We climbed over the obstacles in our path and finally sat down at a table. The festivities had started but we needed a moment to calm down the crying child, stunned mother-to-be and the "I told you so" grandmother.
After some time, we all calmed down and were able to relax and enjoy our surroundings. But then 11:30 came around and it was time to line up to go outside. Megan, still trying to fully recover, was extremely afraid to go back out and grandma was unwilling as well. However after some coaxing and the idea that we came this far set in, we all emptied out. There was Christina Aguilera singing right in front of us, Nick Lachey standing above us in the MTV studios, the Target confetti began falling, and the ball began to move towards 2007. Huddled together with our cameras and dressed in our New Year's Eve garb, we were extremely excited.
I can't believe we are all here, except mommy, I thought. "She's missing a great party," I said to grandma.
Dancing in the square, the ball was coming closer to 2007: five, four, three, two, one "Happy New Year!" we yelled. I cried. What an amazing time this was, I thought. Auld Lang Syne came on and we sang and continued to dance. It was a warm night, the wind ever slightly swaying with the rhythm of the people dancing and celebrating. We stayed out until close to 12:30. We wanted the night to last forever. I was running up 43rd Street through tons of the confetti, throwing it up in the air and snapping pictures. Today I stare at the picture of all of us and I cry as I remember what a wonderful night we were able to share.
At the funeral we reminisce about how good she looked and how active and stubborn she was until the day that she died.
"Remember when we took her to the city for New Year’s?" Michele questioned. "What an awesome night," she continued.
We look at all the pictures that we put on display, the new years picture with grandma holding a horn blower wearing a sweater that said "Michele," looking so alive and happy. There is another picture with Aunt Jay and grandma on another New Year’s, and the picture of our New York City New Year's. What fun memories we were able to share.
At the funeral we continue to reminisce about holidays, special occasions, our homes and grandma's relatives and old friends. There we stood together as one united family to celebrate our grandma.
"See gram, we are all here together, just what you wanted, all your grandkids and great-grandkids, your daughter and son, all here together gram," cries Michele.
She is leaning over grandma's coffin, tears rolling off of her face onto grandma's silk beige dress which she wore to my wedding.
Another picture displays grandma at my wedding, hands raised linked into the arms of our friends and family, swaying to "Sweet Caroline."
"That was from my wedding. We were all singing and celebrating," I say to my neighbors Ming and Paul.
She looked as beautiful that day as she did four years ago.
This year, for our wedding anniversary, grandma pulled me aside as I was walking out the door to "Peter Luger's Steak House.” She handed me an envelope that said "Happy Anniversary, xoxo, love grandma."
She said to me, "here is a little something that I think will cover your dinner. You know I really can't go out to get a card, but here is something that I think should be enough."
"You didn't have to do this, thank you; I am sure it will be enough. Thank you!" I told her as I kissed and hugged her.
That was five days before she died. And it was enough to cover the dinner and to get cupcakes.
When we arrived home that day after dinner, I went down to grandma's house and said "I brought home some cupcakes from Brooklyn."
"Wow," she said excitedly.
"I bought the lemon one for you," I told her.
She looked at me like I had three heads and sounding very disappointed, she said "Oh, do you have any chocolate ones; I really wanted a chocolate one. I like lemon but I really wanted chocolate." I did have a chocolate one that I had bought for me but I gave it to her and I also gave her the lemon one. Thinking today, I am so glad that I gave her that cupcake and I wasn't selfish because I really wanted that chocolate cupcake. That week I checked every day to see if she ate the cupcakes and she did eat most of them only discarding half of the lemon one. I am glad that she was able to enjoy "the cupcakes from Brooklyn" which was how they were referred to by grandma.
Grandma loved her sweets. We made sure that we would always bring her home danish from Atlantic City, fudge from Point Pleasant, and zeppoles from the fairs that we would go to. The week before her death, my mother had gone to Atlantic City and brought her home key lime pie, lemon danish and blueberry danish. Grandma had explained to me that she wanted the chocolate cupcake because she had too much of the fruity stuff. Up until last year, grandma would have accompanied us to Atlantic City, however because of her aching bones, she stayed behind.
At the funeral, another picture of grandma and Aunt Jay is displayed. I took this picture of the ladies in front of Bally's Wild West. It showed Aunt Jay wearing a white floppy hat sitting in a wheel chair, grandma in sunglasses smiling from ear to ear standing to the left of her, and Michele with her baseball cap on top her head standing on the right of Aunt Jay. The sun was shining that day as we walked on the boardwalk, and there was a breeze coming off of the ocean. We enjoyed the buffet at Showboat eating everything from salad and fruit to clams and shrimp and finally ice cream, cake, and cookies. We made sure that every event involved food. That's what made us happy. And when we went to the beach, it was sausage and peppers, hamburgers, waffles with ice cream and funnel cake.
Another picture is displayed at the funeral. I again took this picture. It shows my mother and grandma in their one piece bathing suits pointing towards the ocean. I point it out to my mother and she says, "Wow, this was a while back, we were so skinny, where is it from?"
"It's from Point Pleasant but I have no idea what you are pointing at," I respond.
They were standing side by side in this picture, mother and daughter taken by a child’s point of view. I wonder what they were looking at. They were probably looking at a boat gliding by causing the waves to force water up to our knees. More importantly though, I wonder what I was thinking when I was looking through the camera’s eye hole. I know now that I was looking at two amazing, strong women. These were the women who yelled at me when my mind would wonder and when my crazy ideas backfired. These were the women who pushed me to succeed in life without really pushing me. They stood by me every time I told them I was taking another class and working towards another degree. They might have called me the drama queen at times, but they always said that I should be on a soap opera. And little did they know but I was a soap opera star and they were my costars, my supporting actresses. They made me who I am today.
At dinner one night this year, Ronnie and I asked my grandmother and mother if they would agree that we were the real life characters from "The King of Queens," and "Everybody Loves Raymond." My grandmother has always lived with us and since I got married continued to live with us. And my mother sold us the house and she moved into a three room apartment directly across the street from us. So for Ronnie and me, it was clear as a ph balanced pool. Smiling, they looked at us like we had chocolate smudged all over our faces. "Who am I?" my grandmother questioned.
"You are Carrie's dad, he lives in the basement and he is so funny, like you," I told her.
"Oh, I know, he's a pain in the ass too," grandma exclaimed. We laughed.
Yes, that was grandma, a pain in the ass, spunky, stubborn ninety-three year old. Earlier in the week of her death, I took her to King Kullen where she bought garbage bags, a cover-up stick, butter, Cherry 7-Up and low sodium chicken broth, "I have a lot to buy" she told me when she asked if I could take her. When walking through the aisles a short time after arriving to the store she told me she had a pain.
I said "do you want to leave?"
"No, let's just go up a couple of more aisles," she responded
"Okay, if you're sure," I replied.
On our way home, even though in pain, she said "Do you want to stop at Dunkin Donuts?"
I laughed and said, "Gram, you have a pain, you want coffee?"
"No, but if you want something, we can stop," she replied.
"No, let's get home," I nervously answered.
The next few days came hard and fast for my family. The next day I had to take Daniel to the hospital because of dehydration caused by a stomach virus. We were there two nights. We asked grandma to come visit him but she said she wasn't feeling well. We returned home on Thursday, and Friday I returned to work.
Friday morning I checked in on grandma and she didn't look good at all. Her words slurred, her face gray, but off to work I went. I called during the day to see how she was, but she didn't feel like talking. I made sure Michele went there to keep her company. I arrived home around 5:30 and stopped in to see gram. Michele was still there and she was telling me that grandma was in pain and that she told grandma that we would give her twenty-four hours before we tried to get her medical attention.
"I have pain killers from my C-Section, do you want to take them?" I asked her.
"No, I can't take those, I don't remember why, but I can't," she said looking confused.
"Okay. Hey gram, why do you sound funny?" I questioned.
She answered, "Yeah, I don't know, my tongue feels weird."
I responded with something short but I can't remember at this time my final words to grandma. Michele and I went upstairs to see Daniel but not more than three minutes later did we need to call the ambulance.
Grandma, her head slouched to her side and her eyes wide open, was as gray as the next month of my life has been. No response as we spoke to her and as we were yelling “We are here, gram, we love you and we are here.” There never was a response. She passed on exactly how she wanted to in her recliner chair with no doctors and pumps and breathing machines.
Yes, she did pass on how she wanted and it was quick and fairly painless; however my pain, our pain exists. Now I have to find a way to live without one of my supporting actresses. I have to find a way to look beyond those piercing, empty eyes that had always been full of life. I have to find a way, the way, to peace in my heart, in my stomach, and in my mind.
This year we celebrated New Year’s in a restaurant and then at my house. In our pajamas, we rang in 2008 together. Daniel was the new New Year’s baby. Grandma was in awe of him. And two weeks after grandma’s death we celebrated Daniel's first birthday and sent up a balloon to the clear blue sky for grandma.
I hope that it found its way to her. I hope that one day I will find the way peacefully.

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