{December 19, 2011}   ‘Til Death Did They Part

58 years. That is how long my great-grandparents had been married before Friday, Dec. 16, 2011. That is the day my great-grandmother was taken from me. She was 86. She’d had Alzheimer’s since 1999 and on March 8, 2007 (my birthday) we put her in a nursing home.

I was told that she’d died early Friday morning, a little after midnight. When I found out I thought about what it was that I was doing while she was taking her last few breaths. I was on Twitter talking about how I was going into my last day volunteering at the middle school.

When my mother told me I remember shaking my head and grabbing her as the tears fell. I believe the image of that moment will forever be somewhere in my head.  We went to eat shortly afterwards with my grandmother and great-grandfather. Well, they ate, I wasn’t hungry. Halfway through the meal my great-grandfather tells me that he has nothing else to live for. She was his world. He wears an old, dirt red colored picture of them when they were younger on a chain around his neck. He took it off and gave it to me telling me to keep it so that I could always keep them together. He told me to fix it up if I had to which meant get a new chain for it if need be. I promised him that I would.

Today, Sunday, we went to view Grandma Grace’s body. She looked good.

It was heartbreaking to be up there looking at my lifeless great-grandmother. But what was worse was watching her husband grab the edge of the casket as if he was unsure if it would’ve been okay to touch her. He and I both had begun to cry even before we’d walked into the room to see her body.

I wanted to scream upon seeing her but nothing came out. I only spoke a word of thanks to the lady who handed me some tissue. At the time I couldn’t put what I was feeling into words so I just stayed quiet.

I wanted to yell at her to wake up so we could go home. I wanted to kiss her with the hope that she’d open her eyes, start complaining and calling me Kissing Kate (the name she gave me b/c I was always kissing her).

I also wanted to shake the life back into her or at least breathe it into her nostrils which were wide open. But, my name is Ashley, not God.

Even in the state of having a lifeless body you could tell she was a well endowed woman. She is where I get my monsters from, as they’ve been called.  Her nails were long like mine yet unlike her daughter and granddaughter’s, so maybe I get that from her too. They had her hair nicely curled and her make-up was good although I did want to take some tissue and wipe just a bit of the lipstick off her lips. I studied her body as though I was being given a test on it later. I noticed a mark on the side of her face that I’d never seen before.

I’ve been close enough to touch the body of a dead loved one before but I’ve never wanted to, until today.  I touched her hands and the flower she was holding. It was real which kind of shocked me. I even touched her hair which is grayish-white.

I’ve experienced death before but there have only been 2 people close enough to me in lineage to where my opinion on the funeral arrangements would matter. The first was my daddy but of course I was way too young to understand the entire process of planning a funeral. This is the first time I’ve been asked my opinion on what the funeral program will look like, what they’ll be buried in, which pictures will be put in the program. I’ve even been asked to read a passage or two from the Bible.

This is also the first time I’ve heard the classic phrases people use when someone has died and they not be enough comfort for me. They normally work but not this time. I mean I appreciate them of course but this time they just weren’t enough.

I wanted her suffering to stop more than anything in the world. But I wanted it to stop while she was alive, here on Earth with me and the rest of us. That’s selfish I know and I have to keep telling myself that God is the only one who could give her the peace I badly wanted her to have. I also have to keep telling myself that Heaven is the only place she’s able to get it. Deep down I know these things but it doesn’t mean I don’t want her back.


{August 10, 2011}   I want a love like theirs

today (August 10,2011) marks 50+ years that my great-grandparents have been together. I hate that I can’t remember how many years exactly but I can tell you that they’ll be hitting the 60 year mark sooner than later though

Wesley and Grace Calhoun are their names

the movie The Notebook is a bit similar to the love my great-grandparents have for each other in that the last name of the couple in the movie is Calhoun (just like my great-grandparents), their love endured a lot (just like my g-grandparents) and the woman battled Alzheimer’s disease (so does my g-grandma).  I have no plans on seeing The Notebook though b/c it’s too similar to them. My mama has seen it and said watching it was like being told stories of the lives of my g-grandparents

My grandma Grace has had Alzheimer’s since Dec. of 1999 and has been in a nursing home since March 2008 (she actually went in on my birthday which made me feel some kind of way that year)

I don’t have any recent pictures of them together b/c I didn’t have a digital camera back then. I only have separates now

celebrating the birthday of my favorite 87 year old

kissing him

I’d prefer not to put a picture of her on here b/c I don’t like taking pictures of what Alzheimer’s disease has done to her physical state

I hate that this disease has morphed the lady who used to make me re-wash the dishes if I left them in the rack too long into a woman who no longer recognizes me.  The woman who used to call me Kissing Kate b/c I was always kissing her, the woman who enjoyed watching me cheer when she was in town. In the early stages she’d hear my voice and turn her head in the direction and acknowledge me that way.  My great-grandfather bought her this little talking cheerleader. If you press her tummy she cheers “we’re numb. 1, we can’t be numb. 2 b/c we’re gonna beat the whoopsie out of you” and he’d play it for her and she’d mumble my name.  When she could she’d squeeze the doll’s tummy and it was a representation of me.  She still has the doll but she’s no longer able to squeeze it let alone hold it in her hand.

I also hate what this disease has done to her husband’s soul, mind, spirit, etc. It’s heartbreaking to watch him learn to live without his life’s partner. He still loves her dearly, he will be the first to tell you that even though she’s in a nursing home he still has a wife. He still wears his ring and has a picture of them from the olden days on a chain worn around his neck.

It’s heartbreaking to watch him visit her and she  not even know that he’s there. that right there makes me cry b/c I know that it’s not her fault that she no longer knows him.  She’s just existing these days and it kills me to use the word “existing” instead of living but that’s the harsh reality we as a family are facing.

My g-grandfather has forgotten the actual date of his anniversary and how long he’s been married but he’ll never forget that he has a wife. and of course, she doesn’t remember. Back when he could remember we’d take a cake down to the nursing home and he’d celebrate with her and the nurses who take care of her.

I want a love like theirs one day. For them it REALLY is “til death do us part”

{July 18, 2011}   3 Years Old

*this is my most emotional piece yet, I cried myself to sleep  when I finished this piece. It was after 3am and I BADLY wanted to call somebody but I didn’t want to interrupt any of my friends’ sleep. I sobbed uncontrollably until sleep overtook me*

I looked at my desktop background (which is a picture of my 3 nieces) just now and realized that two of them are the age I was when my daddy (their granddaddy) passed away. That age is 3, my other niece is 5.

I think about their comprehension level and figure that I had that same level when I was that age. I think about how they look at me and probably believe that I’ll live forever because at 3 they don’t know any better.

They have yet to experience death. {{Well, the 5 year old has, she lost her grandmother last year}}

Which ultimately led me to believe that I had absolutely NO clue what was going on around me when my daddy died. I’ve heard stories about how I almost got left at the daycare and how I only cried because my mama and brother were crying. I’ve seen pictures too. But that doesn’t mean I understood what was going on.

I had no idea that the man I called daddy would be physically gone from me forever. I had no idea that from then on he’d only live in my heart and the hearts of those who knew him.

I can only imagine how my mother explained to me that I’d no longer be able to SEE my daddy and I often wonder what EXACTLY it was that she said to me. How did she start the conversation and when she asked me if I understood, what did I say? I’ve yet to ask these questions because I can’t bear to hear the answers. Maybe when I’m 30.

I look at the picture of my 5 year old niece and wonder would I have understood it a bit better had I been 5 instead of 3? Her level of comprehension is more advanced of course but she looks at me the same way the other two do, as if she’s sure that Auntie Ashley will be around forever.

So I know I looked at my daddy and was absolutely positive that he’d be around forever.

And now I’m starting to wonder what my mama said to me the first time I asked about my daddy after he’d been buried. Did she remind me of whatever talk we had during the days leading up to his funeral? Or did she simply re-explain the situation to me?

How many times did she actually have to explain the ENTIRE situation to me before I got to the point where I understood and stopped asking about him?

Thinking about these questions bring tears to my eyes and even wondering what answers I got to these questions bring them on.

But the last question I must ask myself is, how would I explain this to MY child if I had to?

{July 13, 2011}   Love and Hate Relationships

I have a love and hate relationship with quite a few of my personality traits. What amplifies these relationships is that these traits are here for an eternity, they’re not going ANYwhere no matter how many times I try to change. I’ve actually given up trying to change and will tell people who have issues with it, “You know me, or you say you do, you should know this is just how I am”

They are but aren’t limited to:

  • being overly emotional
  • being overly sensitive
  • my inability to get (and stay) mad
  • being too nice to the undeserving
  • caring too much
  • treating people the way I want to be treated
  • having detailed and intimate dreams

Now, don’t get me wrong, these are all WONDERFUL characteristics to have and I do love having them until I get overly emotional or too sensitive about something really petty or something NOBODY else would understand. Until I start hating how someone can hurt my feelings and within 24 hours I’ve forgiven them and gone back to loving them. Until people start taking advantage of my generosity, or when I can’t STOP caring about someone who has obviously stopped caring about me. Being nice and treating people the right way when they treat me like crap. Having these dreams and not being able to act on them for whatever reason.

And then I go back to loving these traits when I see that some people appreciate them.

It really is a never ending cycle.

So, in essence, I have a love/hate relationship with my personality. This is just who I am and though I don’t like it at times, I’ve accepted that I will never change.

{July 9, 2011}   My Laurabug

I’m not even sure where to begin this blog but I guess the right way would be to begin by saying how we met.

During my junior year of high school my JROTC teachers thought enough of me to send me on a National Youth Forum retreat in DC. Here is where I met one of the nicest girls ever. Her name was Laura and she was from New Jersey. We’d been assigned to the same group and our hotel rooms were next to each other. (Boy I wish I knew what I did with the pictures from that trip, I have them somewhere though).

my bug

It was in February, the week of the 22 to be exact. I remember this vividly because that same day my twin god brother and sister were born.

At the end of the forum as we were packing to go back home she and I exchanged addresses, emails and numbers. And we’ve been communicating that way ever since.

Yes, this means that we haven’t seen each other since we first initially met. Can you imagine how many letters, emails and phone calls we’ve exchanged over a 9 year period? A lot, more than a lot actually. We’ve sent pictures of course. She’s gotten taller and has cut her hair but it has since grown back. I’ve cut my hair twice too and it’s growing back.

We’ve been through so much together, drama with family, friends, boys, everything. Some people are shocked that we’ve kept in touch for so long without seeing each other and therefore call us merely pen pals instead of friends. We are SO much more than that though.

I swear she’s the ONE person (outside of God) that REALLY knows how to make me feel better about myself. And she does it as if it’s second nature to her. Even when I feel that NOTHING is going right in my life she’ll send me an email chronicling nothing but good things that I have overlooked.

She’s part of the reason me and someone else are still friends because when I thought I’d had enough and was ready to let go she told me how much I’d benefit if I stuck it out and held on. I did and she was right.

She’s been in med school for what seems like forever but she graduated recently and is a now a doctor.

my med school graduate

Even though she just recently graduated I’ve been asking her about certain medical issues since she first got to med school. She helped to educate me when my family first learned that my great-grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease.

She’s been everywhere doing research, working in hospitals, etc and I’m so happy for her.

teaching in Peru

in Australia

Abel Tasman hike in New Zealand

I remember when she first told me that she was going to Johns Hopkins University. My first thought was Dr. Ben Carson and I spoke with her about him. Told her how I came to know of him. I believe I sent her a copy of the tv movie that was made about his life. The then Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick spoke at her graduation from JHU and then she went on to the University of Chicago for medical school. She’d sent me an email and was excited to tell me about the speaker b/c she knows I’m a huge Ravens fan.

For my 21st birthday she sent me a box full of little things that kids play with to remind me that just because I was getting older didn’t mean I still couldn’t have fun. Included was Play-Doh, a miniature slinky, one of those little bendable stick people, a squishy ball and more. She also sent me 3 shot glasses that had her Frisbee team’s logo on it. Unfortunately 2 of them got broken (not by me) but that third one has been put away, never to be used. Other than the two broken shot glasses, that I’m still upset about, I still have everything from that box.

She once sent me an email saying that she’d heard about bad flooding outside of Atlanta and was checking to make sure that my family and I were safe. We were. Not too long after that,  I’d heard about bad shootings in Baltimore and realized that they weren’t too far from the hospital she was working at. So of course I returned the check-in/are you safe email. She was and was taking precautions to keep it that way.

I love her with all my heart and would do anything for her. She’s been a wonderful friend to me and she says that I’ve been a great friend to her too. I hope so.

{June 29, 2011}   Settling in a relationship

TP (TwinPisces) sent me an email with the following question(s):

Is there a thin line between settling and being flexible/realistic? What is settling?

My answer was:

I think that to a woman who’s unsure of what she wants there’s a thin line between the two. But to a woman like you or me, there’s a solid difference between settling and being flexible

to me, settling is being with someone just to say you have someone. It’s lowering your standards because you’re either tired of looking or you’re not sure how to change the results you’re getting in the dating pool and you feel that what you’ve found is all there is out there

being flexible is being with someone who may not have all the qualities you’re looking for but they have most of them. It’s learning to live with the little things (like he leaves his socks on the floor, something minor like that) because the big things are way more important. He may need a reminder to start the dishwasher but the trash is always taken out, he cooks on occasion, he’s working, providing for himself (and you) and a bunch of other stuff that REALLY matters.

A woman will take a man in, do everything for him just to be able to brag to her single friends that she’s with someone. the only time a man will take care of a woman in a similar manner is if that’s his wife.

I do believe that women settle more than men do though. Men grow on women, but if a man isn’t interested in you in the least bit, there’s pretty much nothing you can do to change that. Yeah, he may date you b/c the sex is good but everything else you’re NOT doing is going to outweigh the good sex and he’ll leave.

I asked a male friend of mine what his take on settling was and this is what he said: I think especially black women are forced to settle more than men simple because of the numbers game and the fact black men aren’t where we need to be mentally. We all should be flexible b/c nobody is perfect. 

TP also asked me to make a small list of what matters and what doesn’t. I did

Would you rather nag your man about leaving the toilet seat up (when you can spend less than 10 secs putting it back down) or be happy he cleans the entire bathroom every week?

Would you rather nag him because he constantly watches porn on the Internet or be happy his income (combined with yours) is able to pay the bills, one of which allows you Internet access?

Would you rather nag him because he forgot your birthday or appreciate the “just because it’s *insert any given day of the week* flowers on rare occasions?

Which is more important to you? His imprint on a church pew or the fact that he knows (trusts and believes) that whoever he prays to will be with him through ALL things, good and bad?

Which is more important? Him driving a fancy car or the fact that when you hear a funny noise in your own car he either knows what it is and how to fix it or takes it to the mechanic for you?

Like my friend said, nobody is perfect so figure out which of your “must haves” for a mate you can live with and the ones you can live without. Also, keep in mind that someone out there will be doing the same for you.

{June 11, 2011}   You Don’t Deserve My Tears

I guess that’s why they ain’t there

and some other lyrics in Beyonce’s Best Thing I Never Had I can relate to.

it’s really the only reason I like the song

the blue boy (what I’m calling him b/c he’s a Sigma) turned out to be the best thing I never had. Because had I gotten him we’d probably have been broken up not too long after I got fired because he was using me for my money.

I thought I loved him but I didn’t, I loved the way he looked and by that I mean he has a really handsome face. but I realized that I could never love his personality and the way he treated me.

More than happy we never dated. When I got over him I was a bit shocked I didn’t cry about it but then I realized that he wasn’t worth my tears (and I know that sounds cliche’ but still it’s true)

Needless to say, other than us being friends, everything that has happened to me where the BKS is concerned never would’ve happened had me and blue boy been together so me not getting him was a blessing in disguise.

He never once apologized and had the audacity to tell me late last year that had I given him a chance he’d have tried to devirginize me. Really? b/c I gave him PLENTY of unintentional opportunities, ask any of my close friends.

Oh well now, he will have to just join in with two or three other guys with their hopes that the BKS is willing to dish (he won’t dish though).

et cetera