March 15, 1928 - January 12, 2012
I was in the living room of our vacation rental when my MIL's cell rang - the unfamiliar tone didn't register quickly enough. About a minute passed and she came through the front door and bounded down the steps, just flitting back from the 'well' house, the un-quarantined of the two we rented for hubs' family's as-close-to-Christmas-as-we-can-get annual gathering. I was just getting back on my feet from the barf bug that stowed away with his sister's adorable children and traveled from California to Idaho.
She sat down and checked the message. "Something must be up," she said, because Aunt Nanny said "call her back as soon as you get this".
My stomach sank a little. We knew that Grandpa Bud had somehow broken a hip, and that they weren't sure what they were going to do about it, whether they were going to fix it. She hung up the phone.
"Bud passed away."
Those words never get easier to hear, ever. No matter how prepared you think you are. And here we were, hundreds of miles away, feeling like there was just nothing we could do. This had been easily the shittiest vacation ever. We packed it up and left a day early, not so much because there was anything we could do, but because we needed to.
When the paper ran his obituary today, it struck me as I read the words under the 'survived by' section: step-daughters, step-grandchildren, and step-great-grandchildren. Nobody is necessarily offended by that, least of all likely my MIL who falls in there along with the hubs and my kids. It just made me so happy to the depths of my heart that in this family, this fun and funny and sometimes overwhelmingly huge-when-all-together family, the only steps my kids have ever known are on porches or lead to basements or upstairs attics. These grown-ups in this family, where a parent of one is not the parent of another, have done such a seamless job of loving inclusively and left out those words such that my kids are blissfully unaware of the step-ness and half-ness that make up the heart of this family.
They know they have friends who sometimes live with their dad and sometimes live with their mom, and they do get jealous that they don't have a step-dad, etc.
This is what I'm working with, people. Help me.
I am so grateful that my babies landed in the soft, nurturing nest of extra grandmas and grandpas, of all the aunties and uncles that have loved them so this far in their little journeys. Especially this one, Grandpa Bud, who from the beginning nuzzled them in his wool Pendleton shirts, then gave them candy from his pockets, then cough drops when he forgot it wasn't candy and maybe he couldn't remember their name, but he didn't care. He knew that he was happy and he belonged with them, our sweet babies. And he did belong. I'm glad he was a part of my kids' lives. Their Grandpa. I suspect more angel kisses will start showing up on the boys' lily white skin as one more of our loves' souls is there to stand watch over them as they sleep.
Also, I am anticipating that the count will be uneven and that the boys will fight about it.