18 More Nights

My youngest one, Michelle, the one who is headed to college in approximately 18 nights including this one which is about over, and I ate dinner at the Players Retreat tonight over by NC State.  The PR is an old Raleigh haunt – I went there in college.  Great food.  Good service.  Sort of a know you by your name hangout.  The atmosphere makes the summer flies bearable. 

We had a great dinner with an appropriately attentive waitress.  Our conversation ranged from spring rods and curtains for the college dorm “closet” to recanting old day camp cheers that she might be able to recycle tomorrow at work as a youth counselor at the downtown YMCA.

When we got home, I plunked out the melody of a few tunes, and she casually sang along.  She has a beautiful voice.  At one point, I moved to the den to pay the VISA bill, and she practiced a song we’re trying to convince her to sing at our wedding later this year.  I held it together when she walked through the room, but had she checked the credit card statement, it would have been damp.  I sure am going to miss that voice in the house.

I’m not sure which of us has the most angst about her going away, the kid who is headed to UNC or the parent who is watching her grow up.

It seems so surreal.  Poof.  All three of them are grown. 

I saw a commercial yesterday with a father holding his kid on his shoulder.  For some reason the baby’s onesie caught my eye.  I have held that same child, in that same outfit, in that same position, and in my mind not so long ago.

I try to convince myself it won’t be different – she’s only 30 minutes away.  I don’t see her that much when she lives here full time.  Things won’t change.

They will to some extent.  They are supposed to.  They are supposed to for her.  They are supposed to for me.

I am happy in my soul for Michelle.  I am excited for her.  The world is her oyster!  The future is bright for us all.

But for the next three weeks, I think I might just lament a bit.

Sunday Post 5: The Pinnacle of Despair

Posted by Danny

Does anyone like February?  As I struggle to get through this month, I’m thankful Lisa didn’t die in April.  February already stinks – why not maximize the suffering?  It seems that much of the progress I’d made with my grief has flown out the door as we approach the one year anniversary of Lisa’s death.  I can write about Tupperware, but my mind is on her.  I’ve turned off the car radio this month – too many memories.  There are memories in the den, memories in the bathroom, there are even memories in the refrigerator – her favorite stir fry sauce right there on the door next to the Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls.  Magazine articles take me there; the newspaper takes me there.

I was reading the News and Observer yesterday and was drawn to an article entitled Talk, don’t just treat, docs say.  As I read, I was reminded of our visit to UNC Hospital last February for a second opinion.  I picked up my journal and opened to my entry on February 12, 2010, less than two weeks before Lisa died. 

2/12/10

Went to see Dr. Goldberg at UNC yesterday for a second opinion.  I think what he told us was:

1) Your cancer is very, very serious, aggressive and unique

2) There is not a lot of hope for long-term

3) You have few options

4) Prepare for the worst

Lots of tears yesterday.  Held hands with Lisa in bed, cried and talked about the future – sadness and fears.  I’m so scared; I’m so very sad.  I think I’ve been in shock since September.  Lisa is still on significant pain meds.  In some ways maybe that is easier for all of us – perhaps keeps the intensity of emotions down.  She says she has the easy part – sleep, some sedation – if she dies she’s done with it all.  She says I have the hard part – putting the pieces back together and carrying on.  I’m not sure if she’s right.  I guess it really doesn’t matter.  It’s just hard all around.  In writing, it seems that hard is not a strong enough word.  It is so much more.  The prep work for an emotional colonoscopy – I emotionally ache – to the depths, deep, deep depths of my soul.  I don’t know how much more is in me – is it like boogers?  You just make more?  Or a glass of water that eventually is empty?

I’ve had many hard days over the last 18 months.  The hardest was this visit to UNC.  It was the day that we, together, had to face her impending death.  We’d both had thoughts about her dying.  When one of us wanted to talk about it, the other would dodge the issue.  This time there was no dodging.  We both heard the same thing at the same time. 

Our doctor at Duke was so emotionally attached to Lisa and me that she could not bring herself to give up hope.  Dr. Goldberg was an outsider to our situation.  He felt a responsibility to be honest –

Lisa sat in a chair, black stretchy pants and a white zip up sports jacket.  Her fanny pack of pain meds and her husband by her side.  She had her pad with questions she wanted answered.  I had mine, the proven scribe.  He said, “You’re young.  You have kids.  You need to prepare.  Your last hope is chemo. With your platelets this low, it is very dangerous.” 

Lisa asked, “What if the chemo doesn’t work?” 

He responded, “Your time is limited.” 

“What does that mean?”

“Months, maybe weeks.”

I remember the look on her face.  She sort of laughed with tears in her eyes.  “Well, I think it’s good that your being candid.”  And she changed the subject.  I looked out of the window.  A cold but sunny day.  And yet the fog in my mind allowed zero visibility. 

As direct as he was, I still don’t think it truly hit me that Lisa would die.  I still have a hard time believing it today.  Looking back on it, I don’t believe there is much that could have been said to prepare us for what was to come.  However, I think that day may have been a turning point for Lisa – she may have fully come to grips that this was the end. 

Not me.  I wrote what I heard that day, but still had full faith that she would be spared. 

My grief counselor recently asked me why I thought God would answer my plea for her survival and not all of the other requests that he gets on a daily basis.  My response?  “Because I’m Danny Tanner.”  She told me that grief is the great equalizer.  I liked it better when I thought I was special –

Breeding Tar Heels

POSTED BY JESSE

Of COURSE Stephanie's favorite Tar Heel is Rasheed Wallace

I feel the need for 'Sheed

As a child growing up in the Triangle in the 80’s, I was adrift as far as my allegiances were concerned. I don’t even remember when I learned that my father began his college career as an undergrad at Duke (he later dropped out and joined the army and finished at Maryland) but I know they had already been nixed from the list of possibilities. But as a reared Raleighite, I was able to attend a number of N.C. State games growing up, and some of my pre-school friends’ parents swear I was a pretty big Wolfpacker in my time.

 

I’d like to think that I was already seeing the light (blue) by the time Lisa attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (I believe I was 9 at the time), but I do know that is what sealed it. Lisa was a proud North Carolina alumna. I wouldn’t say she was fervently passionate about the sports teams, but we tackled it in tandem: she gave me my first behind-the-scenes, in the dorms, in the Dean Dome experiences in Chapel Hill, and I, in turn, kept her abreast of anything significant she needed to know about the basketball team for the next 20 years.

I remember Lisa taking me to see Jeff Lebo and the Tar Heels take on John Crotty and Virginia in 1989. I got to stay with her in Cobb dorm and I felt like the coolest kid on the planet. I remember sitting next to my family’s only other known sports nut, my maternal grandfather, and watching King Rice throttle Bobby Hurley in 1990. I can’t remember if Lisa got us those seats or I just assumed she did because Lisa had become my tour guide to Chapel Hill.

So it is with no shame and much Tar Heel pride that I have and will continue to evoke the memory of their late mother as I strive valiantly to ensure that all three Tanner children are Tar Heels. I have a couple things going for me:

Michelle has no idea how cool she is wearing a Ray Felton jersey

  1. Danny is not a huge sports guy. Like my sister did, he cares about his school’s sports teams. At times he likes to attend a game and socialize with fellow fans. However, he has never broken an appliance, lied to a girlfriend, or made other questionable decisions with lingering long-term effects based on which team he pulls for. You know, things that passionate fans do. Simply put: I care more than he does.
  2. Danny is an N.C. State grad. I will save the petty taunts and not-so-subtle digs for another day (or another team), but even Wolfpack fans would have to admit: it’s kind of a tough sell bringing in newly recruited fans over to team NCSU these days, no?
  3. I’m dedicated. I realize this is not an overnight process. I am slowly implementing my strategy. I also recognize that picking a team to root for is not high on the Tanner girl list of priorities, so I don’t push too hard. But when I find a moment to point out that their mother was the embodiment of a UNC fan–graceful, elegant, intelligent, classy, and incredibly humble–I do it.
  4. I’m conniving. Aside from the aforementioned plan to guilt them with their mother’s wishes that they all cheer for UNC (I’m not positive it was one of the priorities she wrote out for Danny about raising the girls, but I am certain it was on her heart), I am sneaky about it. For example, when Danny and I took Michelle and Stephanie to an N.C. State hoops game a few weeks ago, I didn’t say much. I watched like a casual fan, chatted up some folks around me, and was not bothered when the girls were asking Danny to use his phone to play games on. When I take them to a Carolina basketball game, we will get there early, go eat some place they’d like, point out people the girls might know, find things that will appeal to them (like Carolina girls in cool clothes), and generally “sell” the program a lot more. And I’m not above resorting to lying and overplaying stereotypes.

next we gotta work on that undershirt

I also look for spots where I can make some headway, and a great one presented itself at St. Timothy’s Spirit Week. After Pajama Day and Wacky Tacky Day, the week ended with Team Day, where kids could wear hats and shirts showing off their favorite team colors. Danny and the girls have a few Wolfpack red shirts, but they were no match for my collection of UNC jerseys and other gear. I put Stephanie in a Rasheed Wallace get-up, Michelle rocked a Raymond Felton jersey-gown, even DJ donned an old collared Carolina shirt until some teacher gave her a huge generic XXL jersey to drape over her.

I think I’m winning the battle. Stephanie looked way proud of her mesh Tar Heels hat. Michelle seemed to enjoy being one of the elite in light blue. Even Kimmy Gibbler was happy to don a Jerry Stackhouse 76ers jersey (so what if none of the other kids at the school realized he was a UNC player).

They might even watch the UNC-Duke game with me tonight, since they’ll do almost anything to stay up a little bit later and watch TV. I may just have to show them last night’s episode of Glee during halftime to keep their attention.

Go Heels!

When The Cat Is Away….

POSTED BY JESSE

The mice work on school projects and go to the mall. And need a lot more chauffeuring.

The division of parenting labor in the Tanner household is greatly misrepresented by this here blog (although Danny has been grumbling about how much more than me he’s been writing, so maybe the blog is representative). It is not a 50-50 deal. I wouldn’t even say 60-40. No, if you totaled up the time spent with kids, chores, driving etc. to calculate the total parenting time and then split it between us….I’d say it comes out closer to 80-20. Or 90-10. And then on weekends it goes to about 95-5…or sometimes 99-1.

But there is the occasional weekend when Danny is out of town, like he was this past weekend with Michelle. Here’s a recap of how I held it down with Stephanie and DJ:

Friday night Stephanie had a basketball game. I had to use a picture of her on the bench because I was using my phone’s low tech camera and all the action ones stunk. Sports are not the Tanner family forte (more posts to come on this for sure), but I think she genuinely enjoys team activities and you could tell she had friends on the team. And she got a rebound! She didn’t remember it, but the first shot of the game that went up bricked off the rim, hit the floor, and bounced into her hands. And that, my friends, is a rebound.

Stephanie also has become aware that she’s not wearing cool mesh basketball shorts (I think she payed in pink soffe shorts all last season) and wants to get a pair. I completely respect this, and even tried to find the smallest pair of mesh shorts I had to cinch on her for the game, but she said they were still too big. I need to remind Danny to pick up a pair of black mesh ones for her.

Afterwards we went out to dinner with friends who had a game on the other court at the same time. Bruce actually paid a babysitter to stay with the girls Friday night (because he didn’t want me to give up two weekend nights. as if I got plans.) and was peeved that I was late bringing them back because it meant he was paying the world’s best baby-sitter (she is. I have mentioned her before. we are not giving up her info because we want her as available as possible for when we call. sorry.) to just sit at his house. But you have to go out to dinner on a Friday night after a YMCA basketball game, right? I’m pretty sure it’s required. Besides, the world’s best baby-sitter was holding court with DJ and her friends when we got there. All joking aside, it reminded me how “non-female” Danny and I are (and I mean that in the most biological sense. we’re not macho by any means.). That despite the fact that he is a super-caring and attentive and a doting father, and I can be a decent listening ear at times, neither one of us can hold “girl talk”. Fortunately we have a rotating cast of characters who fall through the house to do some of that. We need to make sure we continue to.

You can knock her hoops game, but the girl can do some WORK. I smell a Sallie.

On Saturday morning DJ had to go sort potatoes for community service hours for a club she’s in, so Stephanie and I worked on her Helen Keller book report timeline project. I am not all that helpful with school projects and it’s not because I take a principled stance against parents who do their kids’ work for them, it’s because I’m lazy and easily bored (but sometimes I do hide behind my “fostering independence” justification).

I am, however, great at suggestions for projects (I’m like a golf caddy for life). I explained how the illustrations didn’t have to be literal interpretations, so for a picture of Helen Keller’s mother dying, we didn’t have to find a picture of Mrs. Keller’s actual coffin, we could merely cut out a picture of a graveyard from a magazine. And I helped make her a little chart to organize which points on the timeline go with which years, and which pictures, and which captions so we could then see what we still needed to collect.

She cut them all out perfectly in, like, 3 minutes. See? I AM fostering independence.

She asked for help in cutting out all the pictures, and I didn’t even have a good basketball game to say I needed to watch. But I was saved by the rubric: 4 points for neat cutting . “I really don’t think I should cut pictures if that’s part of what you’re getting graded on.” Whew, that was close.

I texted a friend that I was working on a Helen Keller biography project. The text I got back: “Are you going to throw in some Helen Keller jokes to show she’s still a cultural icon?” I didn’t have the heart to tell Stephanie that those horribly cruel jokes are the only thing I can recall about the poor woman.

Later that day Stephanie went with Nana (my mom) to get a haircut, and then I took her to a birthday party. She said this birthday party was for one of her BFFLs (best friends for life). There are a lot of things that are different about the way the Tanner girls have grown up and the way I did, but I realized a glaring one this weekend: as a child my closest friends were literally my closest friends (the latter geographically speaking). I could ride my bike, if not walk, to all of their houses in under five minutes. None of the girls’ closest friends live within a 30-minute driving round-trip of them. Score one for public schools, I guess.

The second half of Saturday had only two objectives: finding DJ a dress at the mall, and watching the N.C. State-UNC game. Unfortunately, these events coincided. My only hope in winning out in this conflict was if DJ couldn’t find anyone else to go to the mall with, because she had told me, “I’m not going to the mall with just you.” Well then.

I don’t know if she put out an emergency all call “stuck with UNCLE for mall trip! please help!” text or just got the first person she tried, but she quickly had someone. Darn. Off to the mall we went.

I dropped off and parked and assured them I would try not to be on the same floor, much less the same store, as them. But I got bored after looking at some basketball shoes, so I started cruising some of the stores I thought they were likely to be browsing to see if I could embarrass them. Therefore, at 2:10, the approximate tip time of the Pack-Heels game the, here was my view…

…of H&M. But they weren’t there. I tried J. Crew, too, but gave up when I didn’t see them there. We were supposed to meet up at the food court so I texted with DJ and eventually we did. Honestly? I didn’t mind not being in front of the TV at tip, and I kind of enjoy being the person that makes it possible for DJ to technically be at the mall without any parents. In today’s world of DVR, I’m a lot less up tight about seeing things live (and, really, it was just the State game).

DJ and Kimmy Gibbler entertained themselves when we got back while I watched the game on a slight delay (I was caught up by mid-second half). Side note: the scheme to convert all three girls into full-fledged Carolina fans is going swimmingly. Thank you, Sidney Lowe.

If you bought this dress to wear to Friday night's dance, TAKE IT BACK because DJ's wearing it.

Later DJ and I went to get some yogurt at this place called Freshberry, where you get as much frozen yogurt as you want and can pile on your own toppings. My favorite part about one-on-one time with DJ is how much she is like an adult. You can level with her, gossip with her, she fully understands sarcasm in humor, you don’t have to change the song because it has one bad word in it, we can make fun of Danny, etc.

Then she rode with me to pick up Stephanie and we tried to steal things out of Steph’s party favor bag. I can’t even remember the comment, but Stephanie said something that made me laugh out loud. It also made me realize how close she is to being an “almost adult” like DJ.

I tucked Stephanie in that night and tickled her a lot because I realized that as they become more fun to talk to like grown-ups, the sacrifice is you can’t pick them up as much. By contrast: I stuck my head in DJ’s room (she was doing homework because she had missed some days being sick. what a kid.) and asked her if she needed me to tuck her in. She said “nah”, she’d probably be asleep soon. I said “cool” and fell asleep on the couch watching Saturday Night Live.

Sunday was another busy day for Stephanie: early service and 11:00 church because her group was doing a moment for mission (but someone else gave her a ride down for the early service. THANKS!), then eat lunch and change for basketball practice, followed by another outfit change for cotillion. For lunch I made grilled cheeses with DJ on my back about how they weren’t the way Mae (Danny’s mom) makes them.

After I dropped at cotillion, Danny was back in town, so we resumed our 90/10 ratio. All in all, though, a solid weekend.

A Very Important Announcement!

POSTED BY JESSE

Attention, attention! I have a very important announcement to make: Stephanie has decided that her favorite TV show has changed.  That’s right, “Avatar: The Last Airbender” cartoon is out. The teen mystery “House of Anubis” is IN, baby. (her interests in the Meet The Fam have been updated accordingly).

I don’t know much about this show, but it has been captivating the two youngest Tanner girls lately. Michelle says “there’s a lot of lip locking”. I might need to keep a closer eye out. I am sure this is the last time Stephanie will ever switch her favorite show. It’s “House of Anubis” from here on out, if you’re keeping score at home. I bet we’re gonna see a lot more of this show on the DVR.

Fortunately the girls have an incredible baby-sitter tonight (in.cred.ible. I think she spends more on babysitting supplies to bring than Danny pays her) so they’re getting a lot more stimulation than dumb ol’ TV.

But we’ll be watching TV tomorrow. I’m gonna see if I can sway two girls to pull for the Tar Heels tomorrow in the N.C. State-UNC game, because Danny’s going camping with Michelle. Somebody’s gotta set these girls straight, right? Go Heels!

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