The signs were all there, just hard to read. Colton was not his usual cheerful self. He was moody and having a hard time finding something to do. Second grade is "boring." Playing with a friend - "boring." All the things he would normally like to do... held no interest for him. Friday after school he had been looking forward to a birthday party. But he didn't want to go. He had a stuffy nose and crawled in bed to watch tv. This is not our Bubba.
We snuggled in bed and talked. Repeatedly he shook his head no when I asked him about what he wanted to do for the weekend. Finally, with tears in his eyes he said "what I used to get to do was go and play ball with Grandpa. But now, I can't, and I just don't know what to do."
Oh my heart. How had I missed that? All of the times he'd go "play with Grandpa" instead of going to Nolan's football games, or hockey games. The hours of cards, go fish, war, and made up games of ball. They taped a stick onto a broken mirror and used it as a paddle to smack a plastic ball all around the house. Or they got out the old battleship game and even though they rarely managed to sink a single ship, they played for hours.
Of course he missed his Grandpa. I've just been too caught up in my own hurt to recognize his.
So we set out this weekend to help him through. And sometimes, the exact thing you need rises up to meet you when you need it. Colton was chosen to be the "Star Attraction" for the next school week. We got busy this afternoon pouring over his baby book, searching for pictures of him and describing all of his likes and dislikes. He likes hockey, baseball and golf. He dislikes, eating meat, doing chores and bees. He wants to be a famous baseball player when he grows up, and in his spare time he likes to play kickball.
This activity helped all of us put Colton at the center of our attention again. It was such a gift to revisit and celebrate his journey through life. I began to see my sweet Bubba smile again.
But I wondered how this afternoon would go. We needed to go and spend some more time at Grandpa's old house. It was a beautiful sunny day. We saw the butterfly as we rounded the corner going into the house. He was a shy little bugger and didn't let me get too close with the camera without abruptly taking off.
Back and forth past the flowers we traversed, loading items into the truck. Each time the butterfly floated nearby, as if hovering over us. I'm not quite sure what made me say it, but at some point I said, "the way that butterfly is keeping a close on eye on us reminds me of Grandpa, maybe its Grandpa supervising our work. The boys giggled at the thought. We sat on the step watching. As we sat there talking about Grandpa's spirit, the oddest thing happened. The butterfly began to fly up high over the house, then came swooping back down to the flowers. In a flash it was off again zipping to the neighbor's yard, then back. It would zoom one way, then practically dive bomb us as it dove towards our heads. Colton could hardly contain himself, "look he said, Grandpa is dancing for us." Indeed, that little butterfly was putting on a show for us all.
It finally came to rest back on the flowers again. This time it let all of us get very close to it and I got several shots of the butterfly.
It was such a simple thing. Maybe it was just a wayward Monarch butterfly. Or maybe it was the spirit of a grandfather coming out to play with his grandchildren.
Either way, that butterfly carried our sorrows away, while wafting joy and sunshine down to the earth from on high, for a few brief moments.
#57 has not given up his Favre dreams. Although he doesn't get to "air the ball," and "fumble" is on the tip of our tongues as we watch the football dangle loosely in the palm of his hands. Regardless, he sure knows how to celebrate a touchdown. Thank you Madden 11 and xbox 360. The Redskins are now 2-1-1 on their season with just a few weeks to go before we turn in our cleats for our skates, and our Favre flavored dreams become Crosby coated.
who woke up on a Sunday missing her Dad. Not just any Sunday, but his birthday when he would have turned 81. And she was sad... and the skies were mottled and gray, dripping with her grief...
Until she noticed the pink around the edges of the grey, or what some would call the silver lining.
And so she started to think of happier times. The crazy, goofy, silly times they had shared.
And how last year a great, big, huge, gathering of people squeezed themselves together in 1 tiny house to celebrate eighty years of a life well lived. And the girl smiled, knowing exactly what she would do.
So she gathered up her family and went back to that tiny house.
And even though her father's shoes and his hat with the big cow on it were exactly where he had left them, she smiled. With her family at her side she packed left behind belongings, cleaned up the yard, and sat wrapped in her memories.
Then the family loaded up the car and visited the Dad in his final resting place.
And when they tired of swatting at mosquitoes they left and enjoyed one last stop.
A little ice cream...
And a little cake to celebrate as the girl knew her daddy loved to do. And even though she still missed him, her sky that day, was no longer dripping with grief.
"Lord, it is time. The summer was very big. Lay thy shadow on the sundials, and on the meadows let the winds go loose. Command the last fruits that they shall be full; give them another two more southerly days, press them on to fulfillment and drive the last sweetness into the heavenly wine." - Rainer Maria Rilke
I get this question a lot these days- how is your mother doing? Where is the "easy" button when you need one? The truth is, its never been an easy relationship between my mother and I, for either one of us. And with Dad gone, I am fully awakening to just how much he was a buffer for us. So we are both navigating the edges of this new landscape together, her and I. It's still not easy, but as much as I am finding my way, I can't lose sight of the fact that she is too.
So this is me trying. I'm reaching, beyond the usual "Westra World" confines and blogging on my old resurrected blog. Since my outlet is writing, I decided to share a bit of honesty about this journey. For today, feel free to join me HERE.
We wrapped up our weekend in the cities with some back to school shopping. I don't know why we keep trying, but going to the Mall of America, is a colossal waste of time with Nolan. It is completely too much stimulation, noise, crowds, etc., for him to take in. He gets irritable and frenzied in his actions. We recognize the signs sooner, but each time we take him I guess we think this may be the time he will actually handle it. Score after this excursion, Mall 1, Westra Family 0. In fact the light rail train ride from downtown out to the mall and back was the best part of the whole mall experience.
The other challenge we face is how to juggle a little adult fun with the kids in tow. Rick would love to just take his camera and walk downtown taking photos. I managed a few on the way to dinner. Show at the orpheum?
Cool building shots?
Stop at First Avenue?
Hard Rock Cafè?
No. Just no. Score, kids 1, parents 0.
Dinner was Pizza Lucé and a giant Ruby Rae. Zesty just scratches the surface of this pizza. Score, Westra Family 1+
Monday we hit the outlet mall at Albertville on the way home. We have much better luck not being enclosed in a mall with Nolan. He lasted long enough to get some jeans and shoes for school. Sadly, I knew he would not last long enough for me to get into the Coach store. They had a huge clearance sale going on and made everyone stand in line outside the store. When someone would come out the store, someone else could go in. The line hardly moved, but when I saw the sale prices, I could see why. Score, Westra family 1, mommy 0
Finally. Two tired out boys, begrudgingly got dressed on a rainy, overcast Tuesday, for the first day of school.
Nolan, 4th grade
Colton, 2nd grade
Score, kids (0) so they think... parents +++++++ to infinity and beyond...
If summer must go, this was the way to do it. We ushered summer out with a spontaneous trip to Minneapolis to see the Twins play at the new Target Field.
We actually "Hotwired" out hotel rooms and got great accommodations for under a hundred dollars a night.
Nolan started waking at 4 am to ask if it was time to leave for the Twin's game which started at 3 pm. We are so on to him. We darkened the room, moved the clock and told him he couldn't go if he asked again. He lasted till 7 which was a bit better time to get up. These Joe Mauer statues are everywhere downtown. Uber cool.
We were lucky to be just blocks away from Target Field. Of course, we had to be there at 11 if you understand the persistent nature of Nolan, even though the gates wouldn't open until 1 pm.
Nolan never left his first-in-line spot by the gate. And he was duly rewarded for it. One of the ushers noticing our Moorhead Hockey coats talked with us quite a bit. So when Jim Thome hit a ball out of the field during batting practice, the usher got it and gave it to Nolan, still waiting at the gate. His streak of luck continues. Thome proceeded to hit two home runs during the game.
Finally inside and Target Field does not disappoint in any way. No words necessary, the photos say it all.
If you don't have quite the lucky streak going for you, never fear, super dad has been known to snag a baseball or two. It was equally as fun to see the joy spread around the seated fans as they realized it was an 8 year old shouting and leaping over getting a ball, as it was to actually see his daddy hand it to him.
I was 21 when Rick took me to my first Twins game. And now a "few" plus years later, its like a rite of passage for our kids to go when they are young. On reflecting back on the events of the day, Colton duly noted, the only thing missing was Grandpa. Dad being a huge Twins fan would have taken such delight in knowing his grandsons were there. In spirit, I am certain he was with us as well.
PS... Madi and Alex, it wasn't the same without you either. We could not leave without thinking of you and getting you a little something...