family


Here I attempt to describe my admiration and adoration for a wonderful man who, among his myriad accomplishments in his 91 years, let me live in his basement for nearly half of my life to date, one 6th of his own productive life. This isn’t any sort of tribute, just things I’ve been thinking about, through the crying headache I’ve had since yesterday. I wish I could have held his hand one more time. I wish he had been able to kiss my cheek, just one last time.

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As words escape me, I think of how kind Grandpa was in sharing his house with me and my family. I moved into the basement in 1993, my freshman year at BYU. I had many roommates over the course of the 8 years it took me to get my bachelor’s degree (something Grandpa never berated me for, though his own education had been thorough, and he didn’t dilly-dally like I did), including my cousin Liz and my best friend Sheila. We were in “the apartment,” which took up half of the basement, and was closed off from the rest of the house, with it’s own outside entrance.

When I got engaged, Grandpa and his second wife, Leah, offered to let me and Derek live there while Derek finished his BS. That was to take another 8 months. We kicked out the girls, who didn’t seem to mind. I was pregnant by the time Derek finished, but by then he had decided to continue on through a Master’s degree. Grandpa let us stay, and our first baby was born while we lived there. With the resulting increase in laundry, and the beating my body had been through, Grandpa let me start using his laundry room, and we unlocked the door to the other side of the house. This was a really big deal for me, as I understood that it meant I was intruding on his space, but he didn’t seem to mind. Or he didn’t let me see if he minded.

Grandpa’s wife died in the meantime, and he remarried again. His new wife was also very accommodating to us, and let us continue using the laundry. The, when Calvin got too big for the baby bath, we asked Grandpa if we could bring Calvin up to one of the main bathrooms for bath time. This began an almost daily ritual that I would not trade for anything, though I didn’t take advantage of it nearly enough. We would bring Calvin up in the evening, Derek would run the bath and watch Calvin, and I would go into Grandpa’s room and chat. Sometimes we watched the daily episode of Jeopardy that he had recorded an hour before. Sometimes I knew the answers, but Grandpa almost always did. He shared with me the books he was reading, the events in the paper; I told him of Calvin’s exploits, Derek’s successes, and any news I’d heard from the family or the neighborhood. Derek would bring Calvin in to say hi. When Calvin was walking, he would come in on his own, wrapped in a hooded towel, and jump on Grandpa’s bed. When Zeeb came along, there were two little boys streaking and jumping and cavorting in what they started calling “flying towels.”

Sometimes Grandpa would peek into the bathroom during bath time, and witness the destruction that was going on and smile.

For several years we sat with Grandpa at church, until the kids got so unruly that we had to find a spot with fewer opportunities for escape.

Grandpa was a gardener. He kept a large garden with tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, peas, and acorn squash. He always shared his bounty. After I got married, he offered me half of the garden to keep. I tried my hand at gardening, with a very unorthodox approach that was, I’m sure, an eyesore to Grandpa, whose garden was always orderly, in beautiful rows, free of weeds. I planted a bunch of tall wildflowers right in the middle. I divided my spot into smaller squares and planted as many things as I could think of: chard, green beans, peas, spinach, basil, oregano, thyme, parsley, sage, beets, 15 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, leeks, fava beans, strawberries, lettuces. It was a mess. I was never consistent about weeding, so my half was inevitably overgrown, like a forest. The last summer we were there, I tried to grow pole beans. I put in a trellis made of pipes and netting. It was ugly, and eyesore. It turned out that the beans I bought were bush beans.

Grandpa also let us put a sandbox under the cherry tree, in the shadiest part of the garden. My little boys would go out there, get naked, find the hose, and fill up the sandbox. They called it “mudbox.” Lots of sand mysteriously found its way into the garden.

When, after Derek finished his Master’s degree and we spent the summer of 2004 in Ohio, Derek decided to continue his education and pursue a PhD, we looked for another place to live in Provo. We felt like we had taken advantage of Grandpa for far too long, and with baby Zeeb, it seemed like we should graduate to a larger apartment. I don’t know what Grandpa really thought of that decision, but in the end, he asked us to stay, and remodeled the kitchen in the apartment so it resembled a real kitchen, and not the kitchen area of a mobile home. He had originally done the retrofitting in the apartment, installing the plumbing, some of the electricity, and the cabinets himself, but this time he hired a contractor, and let me draw up the plans. I felt like I could never deserve his generosity, but I’m glad we decided to stay, since we got to spend so much more time with him. Derek and I even tried to “improve” the apartment as well, replacing walls that had been damaged by water, covering the cinder block, painting, recarpeting, and adding new furniture. Most of our improvements backfired. The plaster on the cinder block peeled off, with the paint, the carpet was trashed by our little family, we ended up taking the furniture with us, unsure if Grandpa wanted to refurnish with items of his own choosing. Even the garden was left a disgrace after my continued lack of weeding resulted in a second lawn.

If Grandpa ever complained about us, I never heard about it. I was always, always deeply ashamed of how poorly I kept house, when his own house was so immaculate, so orderly. I sometimes did a load of laundry, then forgot about it for a week, leaving it in the dryer. If it bothered him, I never knew, though I would be filled with mortification each time this happened.

Grandpa and his wife would invite us upstairs for dinner, the ubiquitous roast beef, peeled tomatoes, and green beans. Grandpa sat at the head of the table and tried to participate in conversation, though his hearing aids didn’t give him nearly enough aid.

All three of my kids were born while we lived under Grandpa’s roof. He welcomed each one, and loved them. They loved him, and his bolo ties.

Edward L. Hart was born in Bloomington, Idaho, in 1916, on a farm.

He was a conference champion miler in 1939. (You all wondered where the running gene came from.)

He got a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Utah, a Master’s degree in English from Michigan, and a D. Phil. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes scholar.

He married Eleanor May Coleman, with whom he had four children. He has nine grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

He taught 18th century English literature at the universities of Washington, Utah, California (Berkeley) and BYU.

He was the president of the Rocky Mountain MLA.

He was a poet. He published and won awards for his poetry, notably, his collection To Utah, which won the 1980 AML award for poetry.

He earned a Fulbright lecturing scholarship, and spent his year in Pakistan.

He loved and quoted Shakespeare.

He loved Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.

During the depression, he went two weeks on eating only onions. He has not eaten an onion since.

He didn’t like to be alone. He married three times, in reverse order of when he met the women.

He had a heart attack in 1996, and after the surgery, drastically reduced his intake of red meat and fatty foods, and went on to live another 12 years.

He was a lifelong Democrat in a part of the country where his vote really never counted. He thought George W. Bush was an ignoramus who couldn’t be bothered to learn the correct pronunciation of nuclear.

He did a crossword puzzle every day.

He sat on the porch swing with my kids.

He fed the scrub jays out of his hand.

He always kissed me on the cheek.

One of his beautiful poems is widely loved by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

Our Savior’s Love shines like the sun, with perfect light,
as from above, it breaks through clouds of strife.
Lighting our way, it leads us back into His sight,
where we may stay to share eternal life.

The Spirit, voice of goodness, whispers to our hearts
a better choice than evil’s anguished cries.
Loud may the sound of hope ring till all doubt departs,
And we are bound to Him by loving ties.

Our Father, God of all creation, hear us pray
in reverence, awed by thy Son’s sacrifice.
Praises we sing. We love thy law; we will obey.
Our heavenly King, in thee our hearts rejoice!

So does nobody remember that skit from Sesame Street where the mother sends her son to the market and makes him memorize the list? A loaf of bread, a quart of milk, and a stick of butter. He repeats it all the way there, mixing up all the items, over and over again. I don’t know why I remember that.

I woke up this morning a little cold, but ready to try to get something done today. I don’t clean very often, and it shows, so I had decided to make today the day. I would get the living room tidied, get the mountains of (clean) clothes out of all the bedrooms, scrub the bathroom sink (for the first time since we’ve lived here, I know, ew), and do some laundry.

I hate having a messy house, but it seems so futile to pick something up, only to turn your back for 5 seconds and have something else appear where it was. Or even to have the same item reposition itself from whence you took it. I hate explaining to my kids how to hang up their towel, or their coat, or the dishcloth, and having them forget before I’m finished speaking. I hate cooking and not having anywhere to put the dirty dishes, or not having anywhere to chop, because of the dirty dishes. I hate following the tornado trying to repair the damage in it’s wake, only to look behind me and see another tornado following me.

My poor kids have suffered my wrath this morning. I think I might be more stressed on the days that I try to clean than on the days I just let the piles pile. There comes a point where my blood starts to boil. It’s usually around the time when I’m making lunch and instructing the kids to get dressed, because they never get dressed after all the millions of times I ask them to all morning. Inevitably, there are no socks in the drawer. Because someone has worn four pairs of socks per day, and discarded them in various corners of the house, and someone else just can’t be bothered to look in the drawer where we pretend the clean socks live. And a third someone’s socks are just the right size to plug up those pesky holes in the heating vent grates.

Because I’m too lazy to clean up after breakfast, that youngest someone is adept at finding whatever vessel is teetering on the edge of the dining table, ready to empty it’s inevitably liquid contents onto the floor and/or very small someone’s person. Inevitably soymilk.

Because we don’t have any shelves, but we do have too much stuff, the piano is covered with junk again. Piano music, a digital camera, library books, movies, several knitting projects, a big box with a few tiny homemade Christmas tree ornaments, lotion, magazines, a tiny violin, some framed photos wrapped in bubble-wrap, and a hunting horn.

I think I’ve grown up with an inflated notion of the importance of my own talents, and finding ways to use them. House cleaning is not one of my talents, so it feels like such a colossal waste of time, when I should be getting a PhD in music, translating at the UN, finding a vaccination for AIDS, painting masterpieces, writing novels, hosting my own show on the Food Network, working as a forensic anthropologist at the Jeffersonian, designing low-income housing with no environmental footprint, and knitting washcloths.

In the meantime, does anyone know of a support group for people who love their kids, but HATE being a stay-at-home mom?

I’m sitting here listening to the cello quartet going on in the other room and trying not to be desolate. My family always does this. When they all get together, they break out the cellos. Sometimes there are violins and violas tossed in for variation, but it’s still string quartets. I don’t play any of those, and I get feeling so left out.

It’s not an exclusionary thing. I know how they feel, they just love playing together. But something in me just wants so badly to play with them. When I was studying trombone, I brought my horn to Thanksgiving that year and played the bass part. It was fun(ny) but not the same. Trombones can’t really do justice to string quartets. They sort of overpower everyone else.

My little Calvin found a 1/8 size violin and has been practicing his sawing technique all day. I think we might let Santa know that Calvin would appreciate a violin for Christmas. Someone asked him last night what he was going to ask Santa for, and he replied, “I will just be happy with what Santa wants to give me.” No lie. Good thing Santa is personally acquainted with one of Calvin’s grandpas that makes violins for a living.

Well, we moved into our beautiful tiny house. OK, it’s really not that tiny at 1300 square feet, not including the 800 square foot basement, but the kitchen really is freakishly tiny, and there is almost no cupboard or shelf space. Ah, well. I guess that’s the price I pay for rushing into buying a house. That, and the nightmare of a shower.

Anyway, here’s how it went down. Two weeks ago today, I went to volleyball practice and came home to find Derek cradling his arm. He said he had planned on cleaning up the living room and doing the dishes while I was gone, but upon his exit to take out the trash, he misjudged the outside steps to the parking lot and came crashing down on his left elbow. The next morning, it was swollen, so he decided to go to the nearest urgent care. Sure enough, he had a spiral fracture of his radius. Yes, my strapping husband broke his elbow taking out the trash. My brother said it was the sissiest bone-break he’d ever heard of, and someone from church suggested we come up with a more manly story. In any case, his little accident exempted him from packing or moving.

So I got some people from church to come over to load the truck, and some different people from church to unload it at the house. And I was left with millions of boxes of stuff thrown in at random to sort through and find a place for. That was Saturday, and now it’s Wednesday. I still have many, many boxes to put away, and I finally found the spoons. There are already many hand prints on the glass of the front door and on the stainless steel fridge that I didn’t want, but my realtor insisted on. Because, of course, what idiot would want a white fridge? One with three excessively greasy little kids, I say! I’m still mad at him for that.

So far I’ve hit my head on the chandelier about 5 times, and Derek has once. I’ve slipped on the carpeted stairs, but I didn’t break any elbows. Our next door neighbor mowed our lawn when she found out we had no lawn mower and Derek had his little ailment. She also trimmed the ivy from our porch. (We have a porch! We have ivy!) Two other neighbors helped me move in the dining table I bought. You all would be jealous of my great table. It’s a solid wood expandable table with turned legs that have acorns half way down. The matching chairs have the acorns too. The lady who sold me the table (for practically nothing) also sold me a cute cabinet with carved panels and a glass door. I might have to post pictures, because this stuff is too great. That will be after I get the real computer hooked up, after we figure out how to ground the circuits in the outlet so we can put in a 3-prong outlet.

Calvin is successfully transferred to his new school, which turns out to be not the one 3 blocks away, but a separate Kindergarten building more than a mile away. I was so worried about getting him there every day, since we still only have one car, and I really can’t drop Derek off every day to keep the car. Then I found out the there is a school bus (which is called a shuttle here, because of the local aversion to school buses) that picks up at the elementary school to take the kindergarteners to their building. So I will only ever have to walk my kids to the 3 blocks away school. I almost cried from relief when I found that out. It would have been fine if I only had one kid, but I think making Zeeb walk the mile and back twice a day would have been too much. Plus, at the pace my kids keep, it would have taken an hour each way. As it is, it took us 13 minutes to get three blocks today. And we didn’t even stop for Zeeb to puke on the sidewalk, like he did yesterday.

Hey, I’m not that bad of a parent. He puked because he was coughing, which was a natural result of his crying hysterically, which really came because I wouldn’t hold his hand while we walked, which was because I had to carry my 20 pound Kiki, which I can’t do for 3 blocks with only one arm. Which is Derek’s fault. He was clearing off the porch the night before, and he decided the stroller should go in the car, so we would have it in case we needed it somewhere. Anywhere except at home, of course. So anyway, Zeeb has a pretty sensitive gag reflex, and if he ever gets crying, he coughs until he pukes. Tons of fun. Mostly this only happens when he’s at home, safely ensconced in his own bed, in the middle of the night. Calvin has developed this amazing talent of leaping out of his own bed and running into our room, wailing, “Zeeb’s gonna puke!” And we can pretty much catch it in time. By that, I mean that we can catch it before it gets on anything other than Zeeb, his jammies, his pillow, his buggy, his pippo, and his bed. We haven’t had to clean it off the floor in quite a while, knock on wood. The other night, when he woke up coughing, I grabbed a bowl from downstairs and made it in time to save everything but the pillow and the jammies. But then I had to take him to the emergency room, because he couldn’t breathe. Turns out he has croup. They gave him some steroids and a chest X-ray, and he’s a lot better now. It’s been a long time since I stayed up that late.

This has gotten way too long. I’m tired. I have boxes to unpack. I’m sort of lonely, so if you are ever in Ohio, come visit me.

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For all of you who are not related to me by blood, I’m sorry, but this will make no sense to you. For those of you who are, cheers.

I’m goin on a trip to Heber and I’m taking my accordion, my Nabisco crackers, my sleeping bag, my goobers, my stand-up comedy kit, my Tahitian Treat 24-pack, my killer tree tape, my effervescent tablets, my sister’s swimming suit, my tasty Fig Newton, my nimbus, my solar-powered automobile, my egg costume, my epilepsy medicine, my eccentric family, my Yanni CD, my disco shoes, my slippery sandals, my Spock mannequin, my nappy rotten banana, my anabolic steroids, my Stradivari, my irritating blister, my right-on-feelings-of-brotherly-love, and everything else.

1. Patty
2. Paul
3. Liz
4. Mike
5. Barbara
6. Greg
7. Isaac
8. Camille
9. Sarah
10. Dave

Another person told us the other day that Calvin is going to grow up to be a CEO by the time he is 18. He certainly has a few qualities that I don’t think I had when I was 5. He started with brainwashing, and has developed more skills as time goes by.

We were at a gas station, buying treats that I had promised. Calvin had a 6-pack of AirHeads, and I had a bag of Circus Peanuts. He began while we were still waiting at the register for the cashier to notice us. “Mom, I’ll give you one of my AirHeads for one of your peanuts.” Then, a few seconds later, “Mom, actually, I’ll give you one of my AirHeads for 6 of your peanuts.”

The cashier looked at him, and said, “Good bargaining!”

Today, he asked me for a chocolate. I said he could have one, and like we practiced, said “OK, thanks.” Then, “Can I have two?”

He really wanted a shower this morning, and Derek said he could have one later tonight, after mud box. That’s what happens when you get a sand box, a 5 year old, a 3 year old, and a hose. Calvin said he didn’t want mud box. Five minutes later, he came in the house, naked and muddy, and said, “I’m ready for my shower now!”

What do I do?

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