This memorial day is pressing me to be a bit reflective. After almost two months of just not being able to blog, I am going to give it a go. I feel it is a necessary thing for the boys, to write down the little things they have been doing since turning three that I don't want to forget. These past two months have been hard. Really hard. My father, aka Grandpa Pickles to the boys, passed away suddenly on April 8th. It was sudden, although his health has been an issue for many years, and we are truly thankful for the extra time we have had with him since he retired. My heart is hurt and missing a large piece now, but I am thankful that he passed so peacefully, and did not have to endure a long painful death. We are incredibly lucky to have had a special vacation with the whole family in Orlando, with my Dad, and my brother's family, too, just weeks before his passing. It was like he was waiting for that vacation and time with all of us before he finally just let his heart go. He was scheduled for a heart procedure this May, and we all knew he really did not want to endure it, and again, I think he just made his peace with it was his time to go, and let go.
Our lives were so impacted by my dad. He was hilarious, many times without even trying. I think of him calling someone a "gork" instead of a dork or a geek. Him yelling out the window to another driver, who was probably in his 80s, in the middle of Chicago rush hour traffic with all their windows down, to get the f*** off the road, yes, he said the real swear word often, but he was just so lovable saying it…Thinking of him makes me smile. I miss just going over to see him with the boys on days when we don't have plans, I think the most. He was so happy to feed the boys and me, and really anyone who needed a meal. Almost nothing made him happier. I cannot eat a bagel, chili or spaghetti without a little sadness now. We are trying to retell the tales of Grandpa Pickles to the boys every day. For almost two months that was nearly impossible. Now, it is our way of helping them remember the man who was so important and special to them. He was the one who visited Raleigh with Matthew, in the CVICU at All Children's Hospital; while my mom took care of Gus and me at the hospital 30 minutes away where I gave birth to the boys. It was Grandpa who had the lap to hold both boys while I took a much needed shower quickly, or just needed 15 minutes to myself on those crazy early days. It was he who always came over when the boys were sick just to help hold one or give a big hug and cuddle when the boys needed it most. He was the one with the towel ready to get the boys after a much needed bath at Nonnie &Pickle's house after an especially messy dinner of spaghetti and meatballs. He would sing to the boys the funniest ditties, and read anything and everything he could to them. He was not able to chase them much, but man, he had the best lap for the boys. I am sad the boys won't be able to learn about baseball, football, hockey, Nascar and politics from him. We hope Grandpa Pickle's brothers will get the chance to fill in though.
Lucky for my mom and I, Uncle Jerry and Auntie Mary were here when Pickle's passed away. I cannot imagine going through that without them. My mom and I drove the boys up to Green Bay for one of my dad's three memorial services. It was a bittersweet trip, one I had driven with my dad often. We had lots of family trips from Wisconsin to Florida and everywhere in between. My dad was also the one who picked me up from college when I decided to move to Florida during my junior year and drove a car that overheated more often than not, safely all the way down. The boys had a ball in Wisconsin with more family than they knew they had, and Illinois with Auntie Kristy, too. They have a new appreciation for dogs after spending time with Jerry & Mary's dog Sophie. The squeals of laughter helped break-up the sadness. The boys got to see snow! It was on the day of my dad's service and we all knew it was my dad's gift to the boys. They LOVED it! Snowball fights and eating as much snow as we would let them! Sadness creeps up on us all most days, but honestly, the boys have left little time to dwell on what we've lost. We laugh when Gus talks with his mouth full just like Grandpa, or when Raleigh wants a pickle. They occasionally reminisce on Grandpa, like when they tell us this is "grandpa's cheese" when eating a specific hard cheddar cheese. Telling two three year olds their special Grandpa passed away was rough. We did not know how to do it for a while, but Matthew had a family member who suggested telling the boys that Grandpa Pickles is now the brightest star in the sky watching over them, and it seems to have worked. They understand he is gone, and that we are sad. Shortly after telling the boys, Nonnie was over helping the boys in the bath, and Raleigh looked at her all seriously and asked her if she missed him. Wow, the insight these boys have is sort of frightening. I am not sure if most three year oldsNonnie, Gus, Rals, and me) totally broke down crying in sync. We had not had that kind of break-down since he passed. It was therapeutic in a way and very sad to see the boys so broken up. Now, there are more good moments of reflection than tears, but this blogging is a bit of the therapy I needed, too.
The day-to-day routine hasn't stopped, and neither have the boys. We've still been busy, and they continue to amaze us always. They are totally into fantasy play right now. Most mornings we cannot wake-up without being asked to help them put on pirate costumes, or Batman, Spiderman, or today, it was construction workers. Dad bought them some cowboy hats that basically only came off when were in public, coupled with their fire boots, of course!!! They are playing together more and although they are fiercely competitive (finishes eating first, walk up the stairs first, etc.), we are working on the concept of also looking out for each other in a brotherly way. They start school in a matter of months, and we want them to help provide some comfort for this new transition. They are happiest when they are leading. They want to walk first, or get to a ride first, or just show you the way somewhere. Matt and I are very proud of their instinctive leadership ability. Of course they are still the lovable little men they have always been. They are the first to give hugs to anyone willing and able. They see people at the park and immediately call them their friends. They think the world revolves around them and I still see that as a great thing. They are loved immensely by most who meet them, so how could they not think they are the center of the Universe? We have had a few times where they have said things that make me want to crawl under a mommy-sized rock. Today, Gus let us know that the man at the restaurant had a big bum, the other day, Raleigh was quick to point out a Southern-sized hair due on a well put together woman…look at that BIG hair Mommy. Yes, sweetie, I see that. Thankfully, they did not repeat it when she stopped to ask if the boys were twins a few minutes later. We've been asked that question more often lately, too. I think it is the hair. Gus' hair is growing out for now. They are still different, which is important to me, but he does not want to cut it, and I think having some choice is good too. At their three year check up, Gus was only 1/2 inch taller, but almost three pounds heavier. Gus weighed in at an even 33 pounds, and Raleigh was just over thirty (30.6 to be exact). Gus was 40 inches, Rals was 39.5. Amazingly, their cousin, Kaine, is already 37.5 inches and 35 lbs, and he is only 2. Hello Miami linebacker in the making!!! Speaking of cousins, my brother and his family are moving back to the area, which will be so nice for the boys to have more family in the immediate area. They adore Alexander in particular, and will love to have a cousin in Kaine who will likely keep them ALL in line! Hopefully having this initial post out will help me keep blogging. I want to remember all the little things that make me smile, turn my head around in disbelieve, and keep me going as a stay-at-home mom. I already don't remember all the little quirky things we've seen over the past two months. In other news, I have been inspired to do what I love now, and have kicked off my own photography business. If you have been a follower of this blog, you know how many pictures I have taken of the boys, and now with a SLR camera and time to devote to learning the craft, I have opened Hamilton Creek Photography. My web site is live, but I am still playing with it, so for now, I am on Facebook mostly. I have had a shoot almost weekly thus far and love every second of it. Matthew and I had a trip to Puerto Rico planned the weekend of my dad's death, so we rescheduled it and just got back last week. It was amazing, and a great way to celebrate 10 years of marriage despite the sadness of our loss. Next up is a trip to Australia for the whole family. We'll get that trip in before the boys start school in August. Big changes and lots of excitement abound.