Well it's official - our first granddaughter arrived on October 10th. And she's perfect! Meet Elise Standeven.
I think that when something is 'not an option' most of us become comfortable with the idea of just living happily 'without' it and that's kind of where I was with the notion I might never be a grandma - at least until one day down the road when our youngest son settled down with a wife. Our oldest son and his wife have been married for eight years. I don't think we ever nagged them for grandchildren (which I know they appreciated immensely) and as the years went by without any serious mention of adding to their family I just resigned myself to the fact that parenthood might not be a path they wanted to wander down. Fair enough. It's not for everyone.
Both my son and his wife turn 31 this year and we had a little birthday celebration for Kevin on March 9th. I'd prepared one of his favourite meals - Waikiki Meatballs - and both his grandmothers joined us at the table that night along with our other son Andrew, Kevin's younger brother, and Andrew's girlfriend, Alyssa and her little brother Sonny. Using a timer, Kimberly had set her new camera up on the fireplace mantle to capture the moment with the family enjoying dinner together and, unbeknownst to anyone except her and Kevin, at some point she had set the camera onto 'video' mode.
While we were enjoying dessert and after Kevin had opened his cards he nonchalantly said, "Oh mom, Kim and I were in the book store the other day and we bought you a present." Well, I thought that was pretty sweet to buy ME a gift on HIS birthday but, hey, we raised the boy right after all so I didn't read too much into it. (Yes, hindsight is 20/20 I know!).
I think I made some wisecrack like, "What is it? Marketing 101 for Dummies?" because Kimberly's profession is in marketing and my family knows I am not the best when it comes to marketing myself and my books (personally I think it's because I have a VERY loud ingrained subconscious voice from my upbringing that shouts, "DON'T BRAG, DON'T BOAST, DON'T TALK ABOUT YOURSELF, BE MODEST, BE HUMBLE ..." which is of course the complete opposite mindset required to be a successful self marketer!). He handed me a pretty silver gift bag with puffs of black and white tissue paper sticking out the top. How lovely!
I'm not a dainty gift opener - I go straight for the present - and I'm sure two seconds after the gift was in my hands I let loose the most blood curdling scream imaginable as I pushed the tissue paper aside and, without taking the gift out of the bag, I read the title on the little book, Grandma, Grandpa and Me by Mercer Mayer.
My husband covered both his ears and if memory serves he may have cursed a little (bear in mind that he's deaf in one ear so for me to 'hurt' his ears you know I had to be screaming at a decibel that could potentially shatter glass). My son's girlfriend jumped out of her seat to comfort me because she thought I was dying. Her little brother looked around to see what was scaring me. The two 'GREAT' grandmothers continued to eat their cake as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening at all. I continued screaming as my face turned red and my heart practically pounded out of my chest and the tears started flowing ... ironically the inspirational speaker had suddenly become incapable of putting two coherent words together. Kevin and Kim just grinned across the table at me and after what must have seemed like an eternity of me screaming, Andrew finally asked, "Is Kim pregnant?" Of course ... what else (besides a live spider being inside the bag) would have caused such an INSTANT and uncharacteristic response in their normally calm, cool, collected mom?
I DREAD seeing the video ... I always pooh-poohed the women on America's Funniest Videos who screamed uncontrollably when they found out they were going to be a grandmother. I didn't understand the depth of feelings that wash over you when you hear that 'your' baby is going to 'have' a baby... it's miraculously magical ... it's surreal ... and it's the circle of life expanding.
What about the soon to be GREAT grandmothers who happily continued to eat their cake when my life as I knew it became forever changed? Hmmm... Maybe to them all this is old hat and maybe, just maybe, they feel the precious circle of life contracting just a little more with each new addition to the family tree. They are, after all the oldest living branches but, like the rest of us, destined to become the roots that keep the ever growing tree anchored.
Something Bad and Something Good – Do you believe in balance?
Many optimists whole heartedly believe the old expression, “Out of something bad comes something good” and I am no exception.
My something bad was losing a wonderful new friend, Kathie Haley, far too soon.
We met last winter when my surgeon, who now lives and works in Arizona, asked if I would mind connecting with a lady who was facing the same amputation I had gone through in 1988. I knew how much it meant to me to connect with other amputees after my surgery but it would have helped me even more if I could have connected with them before. So of course I said yes and a beautiful friendship was forged with Kathie and her loving circle of family and friends.
Kathie and Steven – hands connecting hearts
We chatted and exchanged texts. We shared fears and tears. And in the end, on February 25, 2014, she had the surgery to amputate her entire leg including her hip and pelvis. It was much more difficult for her in her 50’s than it was for me in my 30’s. She was very tiny even before her surgery and losing her entire leg took so much more away from her.
Kathie struggled bravely to regain her strength and, photo after photo, I saw her with a determined smile on her face and a light in her eyes that hid the pain I knew she was experiencing. I remember that pain vividly. It takes a huge amount of determination and concentrated effort to ‘choose to smile’ through it. But determination and effort alone is not enough. You need something extra and Kathie had an abundance of faith combined with the unconditional love and support of an incredible family and circle of friends.
If prayers and positive thoughts were enough Kathie would still be with us. Sometimes the answer to our prayers is not the answer we want and it is just so darn sad for the ones who are left behind to mourn. She was loved deeply and is missed beyond words. On a Facebook post her brother, Steven, wrote:
She gave it her all……I am so proud of her for everything she overcame….I see her everyday in my thoughts and feel her always in my heart…..
Kathie Haley and brother Steven Contois soak up the sun post surgery
He loved his sister more than anything. Before she became too ill to travel, he took her on an amazing trip to New York where they made memories, shared laughter and smiles and, I’m sure, tears as well. Steven will never forget that trip and I know Kathie cherished every moment with him. After she passed away in August, I felt the families pain through every picture posted on Facebook and every loving comment. I grieved with them even though Kathie and I had never met in person.
And now for the something good…
Steven and his family, 16 of them all together, are planning a one week Caribbean cruise in February to hold a memorial service for Kathie on a beach in St. Thomas. They have generously invited to fly my husband and I down to Miami to join them on the cruise. It will be a perfect opportunity to learn more about Kathie through the special memories shared by her family and it will be a time to celebrate life with new friends. It will also be a time for my husband and I to make memories together and take more things off our bucket list. I can’t help but feel Kathie’s presence as she is bringing our lives together and not merely through words on the internet. I just wish we could have hugged each other before she left us but I know I will feel her love in the hugs of her family.
How do you thank someone for this kind of generosity? It was my privilege to be allowed to share a little of Kathie’s journey with her and her family and it will be an honour to be with them when they unite to say a loving goodbye to her in St. Thomas.
Life has a weird sort of balance I suppose. Since my husband’s diagnosis of prostate cancer we are becoming more accepting of the special gifts of love that seem to come our way and we are saying ‘THANK YOU’ from our hearts to Steven Contois for giving us this incredible trip with his family and a wonderful opportunity to know his beautiful sister, Kathie Haley. I just wish we could have done it sooner …
The wonderful Contois family…
I left a copy of my book, What Men Won’t Talk About…And Women Need to Know, at the cash register in the store while I ran to the back to grab some envelopes I’d forgotten (okay, I didn’t actually ‘run’ but I did hop really fast on my crutches). The clerk was reading the back cover by the time I got back, read the title out loud, and said sadly, “My dad died of prostate cancer 23 years ago. I should get this book.” I agreed with her of course. She was certainly surprised when she realized that the person who had written the book was standing right there in front of her. We both had a chuckle.
The man in line behind me had obviously overheard our conversation. I turned to him and said, “Prostate cancer doesn’t seem to be a topic men like to open up about.”
Without hesitation he said, “That’s for sure! It’s definitely taboo. I would rather ‘Just Say No’ than talk about prostates!” He obviously recognized me from my years as coordinator for the Just Say No Smoking Awareness school program.
Unfortunately, he was right. Too many men wait too long to see their doctor for a simple DRE (Digital Rectal Exam – my husband calls it ‘an 8 second ride’) or an even simpler PSA blood test (Prostate Specific Antigen). In my opinion, it was the PSA test and having a base line established that saved my husband’s life (but the DRE was important too so, follow my motto, when in doubt, DO BOTH – which works especially well when applied to desserts).
You can now order your copy on Amazon.com or Kindle and please post a review – your feedback is always appreciated.
The wonderful Contois family…
My husband and I were both a little nervous and LOT excited to meet Steven Contois and his family and to learn more about his sister Kathie during the one week Caribbean cruise. We fell in love with the whole family! Sharing memories of loved ones can be so therapeutic. It’s funny how you can meet people and feel an instant connection. We shared laughter and tears and made memories – it was a perfect trip!
I want to share something interesting with you and I’m sure many of you can relate similar stories. When Kathie passed away from bone cancer the family had talked about finding ‘dimes’ in odd places as a means of Kathie reconnecting with them to say ‘hello’ from the other side. I didn’t know this but I found dimes throughout the trip in the oddest places – under a chair in the airport, on the gangplank in one of the ports, in a pocket, in the hotel lobby, and on the floor in our cabin … they popped up everywhere! Not nickels … not pennies … DIMES. So, “Hello Kathie! It was a pleasure to meet you through your wonderful family. Thank you for the memories!”
And thank you Steven Contois for making it happen. We have new friends who already feel like family!
Name* Email * Website Comment Cancer is a word, not a sentence. ~John Diamond
My cancer scare changed my life. I’m grateful for every new, healthy day I have. It has helped me prioritize my life. ~Olivia Newton-John