Sunday, August 20, 2017

My Grandpa Glenn and Other Goings On

So I have some recapping to do, and we're going to do it fast and picturey because it's already 10:30 and it's the first day of school tomorrow and no one loves the first day of school more than I do, so I want to be ready and rested, but first I need to take you back to Friday morning.

I woke up to a text message from my mom that said "Gpa is on his way to hospital via ambulance... they think he is having a heart attack." A few minutes later and we were on the phone and I learned he was being life-flighted to Minneapolis. The situation was very bad and I was very worried, but he's my grandpa. He's a stubborn, fiercely loving, stocky Swedish fighter pilot who still walks miles every morning- no way was this taking him down, we were just having a little scare and he'd be fine. I had to sub a barre class, so I drove over in a state of unreality and taught barre to my upbeat pop playlist. On the drive home mom called in tears, "it's really bad. They're not sure he's going to make it. I have to tell grandma." And I pulled over as the tears came.

Since then it's been text updates and phone calls. Reasons for hope followed by reasons to remember he is still very very sick and extremely critical. We've pieced together the story now that more people are together at the hospital. My grandparents are still at their beloved lake cabin in tiny Siren, Wisconsin. He'd gone on his mandatory morning walk - sans phone despite my mom's exhortations to bring it with him in the past - and just made it back to their lake lot when he yelled for my grandma to call 911. The ambulance came and the emergency workers saved his life by realizing they couldn't bring him back to their county hospital and instead took him straight to a local airport to be flown to Minneapolis. They performed CPR the entire way, breaking a bunch of his ribs and giving him his only shot at living and our only reason for hope. He had surgery as soon as he got to the hospital and then his body was cooled down to preserve his organs while they determined if he'd suffered any brain damage from lack of oxygen.

We found out a few hours later that thanks to the hard work of the EMT crew, his brain is miraculously undamaged. Yesterday, they began to slowly warm his body back up and decrease his sedation to see if his other organs survived as well. My grandma sang "You Are My Sunshine" to him, just as they sing to each other every single morning, and he squeezed her hand. Our hearts soared. We found out his kidneys and pancreas aren't working and they fell. He's on dialysis for the kidneys, but there's nothing they can do if his pancreas doesn't step up. Today we found out his white cell count is high and they suspect an infection, but they also think his pancreas might be coming back online. His blood pressure is too high and his pain from the broken ribs was increasing so they increased his sedation. Better for him; no more hand squeezes for us.

It's so, so hard. My heart aches for my grandma; to watch her love suffer and to know we are in no way out of the woods, that every day is a gift but it doesn't make the next day any more likely. They buried their daughter in January and here we are in August and it's just so much. My mom flew up there immediately and my dad (who was flying home from London as this was all going down and landed hours later to one thousand text messages and a wife now on a plane to Minneapolis) followed the next day. I've almost booked multiple flights but sat back as we think it is going to be a marathon and a lot of family is there now. As the doctors continue to keep us grounded in the reality that his chances are still hovering around 50%, I think I may fly up this week. I just can't stand being so far away. And yet, as I wait here, life is so busy and full and crazy that there's a sense of unreality every few seconds as I think back to that hospital room up north. It is so hard.

I can't write much more- part of me wants to talk about him and how incredibly much he means to me. The kids call him "grandpa" - I think they'd be surprised to learn it would normally be James's parents who would have that title. He is one of my favorite people in the world- always so inquisitive and wanting to learn more about you and everything else in the world. Whenever we talk he asks a million questions about my day and then tells me he loves me, that my call means so much to him- no matter that it might have only been 2 days since the last one- and that I'm a wonderful woman, lawyer, mom and wife. Every single time I talk to him, "You're wonderful honey, we're so proud of you, we love you." If I'm feeling sad I just call them. I know it'll be short - they love an efficient phone call - and I'll feel like a million bucks when I hang up. But I'm not going to do that. It feels to much like a eulogy and we're not there yet and I don't know how I'll bear it if we are. So I'll post my favorite picture of him, the one taken at the exact moment he meant his third great-grandchild. I'd handed James my camera as we walked in their apartment and by some miracle, he decided to turn it on and take a shot. No picture has captured a moment- or two personalities - so well.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Part of me feels like I should end the post with the news about my grandpa- news I've been meaning to write since Friday morning but just couldn't, because it feels almost inappropriate to move on with pictures of Landon buying giant shoes and Winston riding around our streets like royalty, but that's what's been going on too. This crazy juxtaposition between extreme grief and hope and Target trips and grocery lists. Tantrumming tweens, back-to-school volunteering, and frantic hospital text updates. That has been the last 3 days and no one would appreciate that more than my practical-minded grandparents.

So, on Monday, after we returned from our trip and I felt like this about coming back to reality and work and Texas summer temperatures:

We had our swim team awards banquet that night. It started at 7:00 p.m., which is way too late because our kids go to bed at 8, but did give me time to make a healthy dinner (bbq quinoa salad!) and shove it down the kids after I got home from teaching barre (and being at real-work all day) before we had to leave. The kids of course loved it - coin tosses, relays, diving board time, and you know, the awards, and Cora was thrilled to be able to return to her preferred swimming attire.

Tiana dress over Belle suit

Cora won an award for being the youngest swimmer; Claire and Landon both won awards for swimming the most laps in the swim-a-thon for their age groups; Claire won her first-ever medals from Regionals; Landon and James continued their heavily medaled streak; and I won my first medals in many years! We left early because it was dark and past their bedtimes and I was still crabby about not living in Colorado, but it was a fun evening and a good end to a great swim season.

Mid-week was spent working and trying to get myself to go back to Orangetheory. I did the former, skipped the latter, and played a lot of YamSlam with the kids. Our friends had brought the game to Colorado and now we're in love. Winston likes it too.

On Friday, the day that started with the awful news from my mom, I taught barre, cried on the side of the road, went to the TCU human resources office to turn in employment paperwork (oh yes! I have another new job! Teaching barre at the college rec center!), and went home to research flights to Minneapolis. Everything was in limbo and I had a 12:30 appointment back at TCU to get a tour of the rec center before I start teaching there next week, so, feeling like I was having an out-of-body experience but also unable to think of a single other time I could get myself to my new place of employment more than 5 minutes before I started teaching my first class, I drove myself over and took the tour, asked the questions, and learned how to hook my music up to the sound system, all the while checking my phone constantly for news. I got back, looked up more flights, and texted more family while registering for a TCU ID card. Cora's school was closed and the big kids didn't have a camp, so they were all milling about all day too and I had to feed them and keep them from killing each other over back-to-school excitement and furious emotional exhaustion.

That evening was also Meet the Teacher night, so I got all the kids to school in time for my volunteer spot to sell spirit merchandise and hopefully also meet the teachers. James finished his lessons and joined us and I plugged on, cheerfully selling shirts to excited new parents and extolling the virtues of our sweet school that I love and makes me happy just to walk inside while thinking, this huge thing is happening and no one knows and wait, how did I give that person their PTA registration form back? I got home and had a comfort dinner of popcorn, cheez-its, and cheetos and got another update from my mom.

Saturday was errands. A million errands. Plus Claire's first soccer practice with a new team and Winston's first appointment with the dog behaviorist.

We got Landon new shoes - Men's size 9.5 (!!) - which are SO much more expensive than kids' shoes that it made me want to cry. But, I spend basically $0 on his shoes and clothes because he wears the same thing every day and has no desire for more options, and he is THRILLED with his new shoes, especially the pair of sliders we got half off at the sale and he has extolled their virtues for the last 36 hours. Cora's princess shoes aren't loved half as much as he loves those sliders. He literally brings them with him to around the house.

Not like, on his feet, but carried in his arms, just so they can be next to him where he sits.

Winston's dog behavior training went REALLY well. The behaviorist came to our house and taught us a lot about him and put us to work with a set of simple commands to establish our authority over him and his respect for us (and also to actually get him to come and sit and other helpful things). He was basically a prodigy... until we tried his commands a few hours later and he cocked his head and looked at us like... I want to help... I don't know why you're making that hand motion... what does it mean? do you... do you want me to lick it? And then he hesitantly stepped forward, gave James's fist (the sign for SIT that he knew perfectly well 5 hours ago) a little lick and then laid down with a sigh.

She'd warned us he would need lots and lots of practice. "He's a bulldog." she said knowingly, as if that would explain everything.

Apparently, it does.

Today we woke up and I decided to bake everything. My friend's amazing pancakes that she made in Colorado; three loaves of my mom's delicious poppy seed bread I make for all our new teachers every year on the first day of school; and the superhero muffins from Run Fast Eat Slow that I've always wanted to try but never wanted to bake.

My kitchen was a disaster. Everything tasted amazing. My kids have requested superhero muffins everyday in perpetuity.

Recipe here. So healthy and hearty and SO good.

We took a walk. It was already 11 a.m. and 100 degrees, so we tried out the new umbrella we bought for Winston on our errands the day before.

He's like a furry sultan being carried about the neighborhood.

Cars always slow down and smile when they see what the wagon is all about. It's the best.

Then I made my mom's spaghetti sauce for dinner and got it in the crock pot before racing off to teach barre again. I got home to all the friends we'd invited over to swim and then took Claire for a last minute 6:00 p.m. haircut before coming home to eat the sauce that had been simmering all day.

And all the while, emails and phone calls and texts. Every time I see James he asks if I have an update. Every time I hear my phone ding it's a Pavlov's response of hope and fear. And yet, we're also eating dinner and excitedly talking about the first day of school and which tutu Cora is going to wear.

We took one more walk after dinner.

A couple rushed out of their house as we rolled by, asking if they could get a picture of our dog because their daughter has a bulldog and they bought her a wagon for him for Christmas. They were delightful. Their kids had gone to our kids' school 20 years ago and they were thrilled to hear we loved it so much. It was a lovely little moment of neighborly bonding.

We got home, made sure the backpacks were packed and first day of school outfits were ready, and tucked the kids in bed. Tomorrow is the big day. Already exhausted from his walks, Winston was completely worn out just thinking about it.

It's now 11:33 and I need to be more like Winston.

For anyone heading back to school tomorrow, I wish you an easy morning and adorable pictures. For everyone else just heading back to life on a Monday, I pretty much wish you the same. And if you can send some thoughts of healing and strength up north to Minneapolis, I'd appreciate it. It's been a very difficult, stressful, and strange last few days, with moments of overwhelming fear and sadness interspersed with bits of laughter and everyday joys. It's an odd place to be, but right now we're just hoping for a lot more days of it.


  1. I'm so sorry about your Grandpa being in the hospital. That is the hardest kind of situation and I will say a prayer for him.

  2. i am a long time reader and am so sorry to hear of your grandfather. I'm in the Twin Cities and if you need anything please reach out.

  3. I'm so sorry, sending healing prayers to your grandpa.

    Landon's metamorphosis into a teen is almost complete. He just need a pair of Nike crew socks to wear with his slides all over the place and it will be completed.

    Hope the kids have a good first day!

  4. Thinking of your family and sending good thoughts your way.

  5. Sorry your grandpa is unwell, thinking of you and your family

  6. What he says on each phone call... Reminded me what I need to be saying to my kids more often, to my nieces, all my family, what an inspiration.

    1. This was so sweet, I actually copied your text and sent it to my mom to show my grandma in the hospital room. <3

  7. I'm sorry about your grandfather. Thank you for sharing. Thinking of him and your family.

  8. I am so sorry about your grandfather. I'll be thinking of you and your family. Thanks for this reminder to call my own grandmother up in Minnesota.

  9. I'm so sorry about your grandfather. I hope the kids have a great first day of school. Life sometimes has too many things all mixed together.

  10. Lots of prayers and well wishes for your grandfather's recovery - he sounds like a wonderful person!

  11. Prayers and hope for healing for your grandfather! I love when you share stories of your grandparents, they seem like fantastically entertaining people who refuse to let a little thing like age stop them from living every moment to its fullest. They're truly inspirational!

    1. Thank you so much Melissa! I showed this to my mom and grandma in the hospital room and it made them smile. My grandparents are definitely an inspiration of love for me!

  12. Thinking of you.

  13. I'm so sorry about Grandpa Glenn and am sending positive thoughts for a miraculous recovery!! I hope your time with your family lifts his spirits and yours.
    Please don't think I'm totally insensitive, but I would love that muffin recipe and the link is broken. If you have time when things settle down, I'd love it if you could share again. Thanks!

    1. Hey Anna, not insensitive at all- I was the one posting about them in the first place! I'll try to fix the link above, but here it is- it worked for me on my computer! If for some reason it still won't pull up for you, just google "Run Fast Eat Slow Superhero Muffins" - they released that recipe to several fitness blogs when the book came out, so it's pretty public. They're soooooo good.

      Full link: