Grandpa

My grandfather, Tom Lowder, died on July 9 of this year. He was born August 14, 1923, in Lake West, Oklahoma. He grew up the youngest of seven during the Great Depression, losing his father when he was only 2-years-old. He fought in World War II, earning three bronze battle stars. He raised five kids, while working for the Sohio Oil Company for 43 years, retiring in 1985.

He was a success professionally and personally. He never went to college, but he worked his way up to regional superintendent of the Sohio Oil Company. When he retired, they named a building after him.

He worked hard and played hard. He loved his family and life more than anything. Two of his other passions were music and tending his yard, both of which he indulged to his heart’s content after he retired and in his spare time before that. I like to think I inherited my love of music from him. Many people in our family love music, but he LOVED it. And so do I. Some of his favorites were the Bee Gees, Frank Sinatra, and Neil Diamond. My earliest memories are to a soundtrack of Barry Manilow, the Bee Gees, the Pointer Sisters, Wham. Grandpa had the most eclectic musical taste of any grandfather I ever knew. He loved that I liked some of his favorites, like Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, and would willingly lend me CDs or make copies. I always felt proud when I liked something he liked or introduced him to something new he liked. In fact, one of my proudest moments was when he told me the CD Chris and I made as a gift for out-of-town guests at our wedding was “great”. That made my day.

We also shared a love of Humphrey Bogart and old movies in general. I gave him a copy of “The African Queen” for one of his birthdays. Again, it was a proud moment, because he was hard to buy for. He invited me over to watch it with him and we watched it together on his big screen TV. I felt very lucky that, even as a college kid, I still had interests in common with Grandpa and enjoyed hanging out with him.

He was renowned for his yard, which had beautiful azaleas and crepe myrtles. He was very protective of it, to the point where most of the family was afraid to park in the driveway for fear of accidentally driving over the grass! I never risked it until I was in college.

He was meticulous about his appearance, never appearing for breakfast until he was completely dressed and ready for the day. In fact, my mom said that they had to wait to open their presents on Christmas morning until he was dressed. While I do not get dressed first thing, I like to think I take forever getting ready because I take after him. 🙂

He always made me feel so special. He was always so excited to see me and even at the end, his face still lit up when I came in the room. I talked to him on the phone for the last time three days before he died. Even though he was so weak, he still said, “Helloooo, Sara” as cheerily as he ever had.

I know he was proud of me, but I want so much to live up to being his granddaughter. I want to live life with the gusto he did, to enjoy it as much as he did. To have such a positive impact on so many lives. He is so loved and respected, so greatly missed.

I learned so much from him and I am more determined than ever to make him proud. In honor of Grandpa, I am going to love life, live it fearlessly, and never let anything break me. He never let anything break him, not the Depression, or World War II. Not even having his wife and half of his children precede him in death. He kept going through it all and his smile always came back.

I am grateful I had him for 32 years. He was at my graduations and my wedding. He knew my son Max and was there for his first Christmas and his first birthday. He knew there was going to be another baby. I am so grateful for all of that.

I wish my son and his new sibling had a chance to play with Grandpa on the floor. I wish they had known what it was like to nestle into the crook of his arm in the red leather armchair and watch the evening news and Looney Tunes. I wish he wasn’t gone.

But every time I sing, he lives.

Every time my nephew Thomas dances to Neil Diamond, he lives.

Every time I look at my son’s face, he lives.

Every time azaleas bloom, he lives.

Every time a family member retells one of Grandpa’s corny jokes, he lives.

I am the granddaughter of an extraordinary man. For the first 14 years of my life, he was a father to me as well as a grandfather. Thank you so much for your humor, your grace, and your zest for life, Grandpa. Thank you for the example you set and for your love. Thank you for everything.

Grandpa as a little boy

Grandpa as a young man

A professional photo with my grandmother. I used to stare at this for hours as a little girl.

One of Grandpa's favorite poses

Posing on the boat at Kentucky Lake

I love his smile in this one.

Leaning on Grandma

With my mom

Enjoying music with Uncle Bill and Mom

With me as a baby

Playing with me on the floor

Happy to see my Grandpa

Telling Santa (Uncle Ben) what he wants for Christmas. It was usually his two front teeth. 🙂

Celebrating his catch with Uncle Don

With my brother Chase in the red leather armchair

Cutting the cake with Tiny at their wedding reception given by the family after they eloped.

With me at my high school graduation. I don't remember why he had the neck brace.

With Chris and me at our wedding

With Max at his first Christmas

With Max at his first birthday party

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Isn’t there a culture that considers them good luck?

My husband told me the funniest story on Monday night. It was about our second date in March 2006. We went to a Persian restaurant named Ararat. (It has since closed.) For whatever reason, things didn’t really catch fire between my future husband and me until the following summer and this date was going a bit awkwardly.

However, my husband had heretofore unknown (to me) reasons for feeling awkward. Apparently, a cockroach ran up his pants leg. He gallantly squished it and sat there for the rest of the dinner without telling me. I don’t know how he stood it. I also don’t know how I would have reacted at the time if he’d told me. (Although I now think that it would be difficult for any restaurant in Texas or really anywhere to never encounter the odd cockroach.) I hope I would have thought how funny, sweet, and gallant it was of him to endure squished cockroach on his leg in order to salvage our date. Regardless of how I would have reacted then, now it makes me love him even more.

Feeling thankful that …

my mom and I can have a whole conversation about whether Kimberly Williams-Paisley was prettier during her “Father of the Bride” phase than she is now. Mom thinks now. I voted for her “Bride” era, but mainly because I like her hair curly. Although, come to think of it, she was prettiest of all in Father of the Bride, Part 2 when her hair was short and not curly at all.

Super-Husband

I swear my husband can do everything. Everything. The only things I have discovered that I can do that he can’t are give birth and breast-feed. I am also better at planning meals and shopping. That’s it. I swear. He either knows how to do everything or he figures it out, seemingly effortlessly. He removes a poo stain from a onesie as effortlessly as he mows a lawn or installs a new garbage disposal. He is Super-Husband.

You’re thinking, “This is wonderful, right? This can’t possibly bother her, right?” Well, it doesn’t exactly. I just start to feel a little superfluous sometimes. I mean, there are ways to have babies without a wife. There are ways to feed a child without a wife. What it boils down to is – what the heck am I bringing to this relationship? Especially when I am so difficult to deal with sometimes??? I am so grateful for him and everything he does and I love him so much, but is that enough? Does a super-husband need a super-wife? What is my superpower?

Baby mine

I’ve decided I don’t appreciate this biological hooey where the baby looks like the dad the first few months, so that the father can be sure the baby’s his. Not only is it insulting to the mother, but it’s also just plain not fair. I carried my son for forty-one and a half weeks and spent 12 hours giving birth to him. (Drug-free, thankyouverymuch.) I’ve been breast-feeding him round-the-clock for almost two months now. Also, he has all of my facial features. My eyes, my nose, my mouth, even my forehead. Yet, he looks like my husband! Only one person has said he looks like me! I know it shouldn’t matter, but come on. I’ve already put a year of my life in to this kid. He’s half mine. By rights, it should be more, considering all of the extra effort I put in. 😉 He’s already got my husband’s last name! Where’s the MOM’S evidence that the baby is hers?? Believe it or not, we need some reassurance on that point, too.

Diaper-changing on the road

Picture, if you will, a Brookshire Bros. grocery store in Buffalo, TX. A young couple are in the parking lot attempting to change their newborn’s diaper. Actually, the mom was driving, so she is in the front changing the diaper while the child lies in the front passenger seat. Almost everything that can go wrong does.

First – The child in question keeps pushing off the back of the seat with his feet. Consequently, his head is already hanging off of the seat before his mother even has his diaper off.

Second – The mother mentions that her open can of Diet Coke is in danger of being sprayed if the cloth diaper covering her son’s penis does not effectively block the spray if he pees. Due to extreme sleep deprivation, she does not notice her husband reaching right in front of her and removing the can.

Third – Her elbow strikes something on the console between the seats while she is trying to wipe her wriggling son’s butt and keep the makeshift “pee-pee teepee” in place. At first, she thinks it is the bottle of formula her husband was feeding her son moments before. However, she soon discovers it is her can of Diet Coke, which is now upside down between the well and the passenger seat, covering the floorboard with Diet Coke.

Fourth – Wife yells at husband “Why in the world did you put that there???” Husband proceeds to calmly tell wife not to yell at him as Diet Coke continues to leak on the floorboard.

Fifth – One of the parents (Can’t remember which one.) finally collects their scattered wits long enough to grab the Diet Coke can. Mother tells father to stop telling her to quit yelling at him and help her clean up the Diet Coke on the changing pad before son puts his foot in it.

Six – Mother explains to father that she wasn’t trying to yell, just exclaiming in wonderment over the fact that he thought it was a good idea to put the Diet Coke can there. He’s usually smarter than that. That’s what sleep deprivation will do to you, kiddies.

Seven – Father helps clean up the Diet Coke, goes to grocery store gas station to get paper towels.

Eight – Son spits up as soon as father leaves. Mother is still holding him on front seat. Burp cloth is in backseat.

Nine – Mother makes do with a wipe until father returns, retrieves burp cloth, and finishes the job. Afterwards, mother realizes she no longer knows which cloth diaper is “pee-pee teepee” and which is burp cloth.

Ten – Son is returned to backseat unscathed. Parents have a good laugh at themselves. Son laughs at parents from car seat. Parents drive out of the parking lot after that stunning display of mental acuity and coordination.

Although it doesn’t sound like it from that story, our first trip as a family went very well this weekend! Our son barely fussed in the car. He is the most amazing baby ever.

Day in the life of a mommy

7:30 a.m. Wonderful husband bottle-feeds son, so I can get some extra sleep after my horrendous Saturday night.

7:35 a.m. Realize that my Mommy radar won’t let me sleep when the baby is awake and in the immediate vicinity.

7:45 a.m.-ish Go back to sleep with baby after he has been duly fed and burped.

11:30 a.m. Awaken next to squirming baby. Rush in to bathroom to test milk on Milkscreen to make sure glass of wine consumed 12 hours ago is safely out of bloodstream.

11:32 a.m. Rush now-screaming baby in to be changed after Milkscreen’s thumbs-up.

11:35 a.m. Am now feeding baby, who falls asleep after one side. Right boob, which has not been feed or pumped off of in over 12 hours starts to pulse  ominously.

Noon: Place smiling, giggling, but totally uninterested in eating and relieving Mommy’s discomfort baby in swing. Silently curse the Fates for making me have to put him in the swing when he’s happy, yet deal with him when he’s screaming his bloody head off. Realize will have to pump while having breakfast.

12:05 p.m.: Find pumping equipment still dirty in sink and vitamin container empty. Breakfast moving farther away.

12:30 p.m.: Finally start making breakfast after cleaning pump, filling cats’ water bowls and disseminating Fancy Feast and about a thousand cat treats. Hear Nature calling just as toast pops up.

12: 40 p.m.: Finish spreading soupy butter on room temperature toast.

12:45 p.m. Realize all of my nursing and baby paraphernalia still need to be moved from bedroom to living room in case the baby wakes up hungry or cat plops itself on my lap, rendering me unable to move.

1:20 p.m. Finally sit down to breakfast. Baby starts to stir. Start wondering whether to pump or wait.

1:30 p.m. Baby asleep. Must pump before boob explodes and obliterates Tokyo with typhoon of breast milk.

1:40 p.m. Crisis averted. Tokyo safe.

2:20 p.m. Baby awake. Finished all of breakfast except yogurt. Place yogurt on mantel to protect from cats. Change and nurse baby.

3 p.m. Tummy time.

3:30 p.m. Try to place baby in bouncy seat, so can pick out husband’s birthday present. Baby suddenly hates bouncy seat.

4 p.m. Discover all birthday ideas are not available until after birthday.

4:30 p.m. Baby asleep in swing. Rush to finally dress and brush teeth and hair.

4:45 p.m. Eat lunch.

5:20 p.m. Change and nurse baby.

5:45 p.m. Attack poor, unsuspecting husband for being late and calling while my phone was in the back and I couldn’t answer it (due to nursing).

6 p.m. Make up with husband after we catch each other smiling at Friends.

7 p.m. Eat dinner from Baby Greens, watch season premiere of 90210.

8 p.m. Nurse baby, watch series premiere of Melrose Place. Already looking forward to next week. Good sign.

8:45 p.m. Discover yogurt still on mantel.

10 p.m. Shower.

11 p.m. Nurse baby.

12:30 Blog, eat ice cream, go to bed. Start all over again tomorrow.

Awkward parenting dialogue

Me: I think the batteries are out in his (our son’s) monkey mobile. What kind does it take?

Husband: It takes wind-up batteries.

Me before I notice smirk spreading across husband’s face: Really? There’s such a thing as wind-up batteries … ooookay. I get it. (In pitiful tone.) Don’t make fun of me like that. (Thinking in not-so-pitiful tone.) The postpartum reunion just got postponed indefinitely, smart ass.

Bless you

I found out today that my husband actually had some doubt as to whether I would eat food with cat snot on it. He seemed to think I might, if I was hungry enough. Just to set the record straight, I have never been THAT hungry. Now I wonder what kind of man I married, since he was apparently willing to marry someone he thought could maybe, possibly, eat cat snot.

Unexpected parenting dialogues

Me: The baby stuck out his tongue while I was kissing him today. Very bad timing.

Husband: Are you telling me you French-kissed our boy?

Me: Well, technically, HE french-kissed ME.

Oy.

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