Thursday, December 29, 2011
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Dear Grandaddy and Joan,
I couldn’t let this Christmas pass without telling you how blessed I feel to have you in my life. What an amazing gift to have been loved by not one, but five, grandparents in my lifetime.
As you know, the past year has been one of change and growth for me. I couldn’t have gotten through it without the support and generosity of my family. And you are both at the forefront of that. Thank you so much for giving me the car. You not only made it easier for me to sleep at night, but Stella & Sophie can actually get in and out without a boost!
It is an awesome feeling to be a granddaughter. To know that two people love you no matter what. That they are interested in who you are and what you do. I was so proud to show you both off at my conference this year… and my friends are still talking about you and wishing you well!
So this year I wanted to give you a little something extra. To remind you that I thank God everyday for making us a family.
I hope you enjoy much health and happiness in 2012. And here is to celebrating many more special times together.
All my love,
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Sunday, December 18, 2011
- An Uncle and a Great-Aunt to death
- Another Aunt to her choice
- 50 pairs of shoes
- My nerve at golf
- My married name
- 8 unwanted pounds
- My domestic side
- My creative side
- A renewed identity
- A safe place
- I may not understand people's choices but I have to respect them.
- I am not alone.
- Not always knowing the answer has to be OK sometimes.
- I can trust.
- You can't always gain closure.
Friday, December 16, 2011
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Sunday, October 9, 2011
I am a Godmother. I know, it's incredible to think of me that way but I am. My best friend Melissa asked me to be her youngest daughter's Godmother just after Kate was born and I was holding her. I immediately started to cry and then responded, "Wait! This isn't an April's Fools joke is it?" Because it was indeed April 1st.
Kate is now 4 and I believe Beyonce wrote "Runs The World" because of Kate. Even when she is, um, not on her best behavior, you smile. She is cute as can be, smart, funny - you know, the whole package. She is also fearless. God help us when she is a teenager! But thankfully she has her amazing big sister Carly to watch over her...
I have passed down one thing that is clear and probably won't surprise you... Kate loves shoes! (Going shopping on girls' day outs is a hoot - especially when the little ones start trying on flip flops!) For her first birthday, I gave her Uggs (and yes they were sturdy so she could walk in them - her mother approved!). Her second birthday brought light up Stride Rite sneakers (among other things including a snow suit that she loved). But her third birthday, I outdid myself. Her mother and I both wished these came in our size! Kate got her first pair of Stuart Weitzman ballet flats. They are green and silver sequined with a satin embellishment at the toe. And they were about 3 sizes too big... (Her fourth birthday I bought her doll shoes at Kate's request - so yes, the theme is still intact.)
Last Sunday, I was delighted to see Kate show up to dinner wearing aforementioned Stuart Weitzman's. Apparently, since they now fit, she doesn't want to take them off. She wears them to Church, to cheerleading, to dinner, etc. And I was delighted! See, not only was Kate wearing her sparkly shoes, but Carly was sporting awesome silver ballet flats and I had on my sparkly sneakers. We were twinkle toes times three! (Mel, you've got to invest in a pair so we can all be in sync!)
The only thing better than getting new shoes for me is getting them for Kate and Carly. They are so excited with whatever gifts I give. At one point, Melissa asked me to stop giving for a while because the girls got disappointed when I showed up empty handed. I realize that was my fault - how could I not bring anything?! :)
When Mother's Day rolls around each year and I am feeling blue, there is always a card from Kate to brighten my day (and something from Stella and Sophie - how do they do it?!). And most important is the fact that I have a forever friend who trusted me enough to have me stand up next to her and her husband in front of God, family and friends to show that I would always be there for Kate. And their vow to always be there for me. I am blessed. Love you, Bestie!
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
For the past 14 months I have been in limbo. It is hard enough when you feel like you are the only one fighting for your marriage. At least you know where you stand. But to be the only one actively participating in a divorce - when you know your spouse doesn't want to be married to you but doesn't want to grant the divorce either - that is a different type of existence. I'm not married yet I'm not divorced. Limbo.
And limbo sucks. Sorry, I can't mince words today. Am I Sharp or am I Radford? I know what I want to be but the state of Virginia hasn't yet agreed. All he had to do was sign the damn papers. He doesn't want me but he doesn't want to give me my freedom. Who is this person I married?
And yet I can't help but correlate my situation to shoes. Take these sling back pumps for example. Are they gold or are they silver? Depends on how the light hits. Kind of like limbo for shoes... not knowing what color they truly are.
And so I wait. Each day I check my email hoping to hear the news. Waiting for good news is one thing. Waiting for bittersweet news is a totally different experience. I never thought I'd be divorced... the same sentiment shared by many divorced people I am sure. Yet I also never thought I'd find out I was married to a complete stranger. But I was. And soon my limbo will hopefully end. I will once again be Melissa Radford, divorcee. Can one find closure without answering the question why? I'm not sure. But at least I will be me again. Whichever me I decide to be. And I will wear these shoes with silver and with gold. After all, the only one who controls who I am and want to be is me, right?
Sunday, September 11, 2011
My phone rang that morning with my mother letting me know a plane had hit the first tower. I worked at a restaurant and didn't typically get to bed until very late so was still sleeping when she called. Her friend's son-in-law was in the tower and Mom was rushing her home to pack and head to NYC so she could be with her daughter who was expecting their first child. Her son-in-law never made it home.
I spent the day like many of us - trying to get in touch with loved ones, watching the news, praying, hoping, being frightened. I was living in Boston and my house overlooked the harbor and Logan airport so I had a direct view of the emergency response. I had never felt so lonely or detached from my family. I say this in spite of the fact that I was living with my (now ex) fiancee.
To say I was in a destructive relationship would be a gross understatement but we should leave it at that. His reaction to the events of that day were cruel. Empathy was not an emotion he could feel. I finally admitted what I had been denying for so long because I was ashamed, too proud, scared what would come next... I admitted I needed my family and it was time to go home. And so, that night, I started packing.
Box by box, I hid them in my car. As much as I could hide without him noticing. And a month later, I left. A family friend's wedding being the excuse I needed to drive to my parents house. I'll spare you the gory details of what came next. Mostly because it is too painful to recount. But I got out. I survived.
So as I remember 9/11, I remember it with sadness and despair for all those lost. I also remember it as the catalyst for me to change my life. To say I am not living alone or in fear any longer. I can go home again.
Ten years later, I am writing this from the home I own, with two amazing sleeping pups by my side. I have a job that has been truly life changing. I have family and friends who support me no matter how good or challenging life becomes.
Yesterday I got to listen to my 84 year old Grandaddy talk about his service in the Navy and his careers after that. I spent last night toasting our patriotism at a Toby Keith concert under a full moon with my favorite person and today with my Bestie. There aren't words accurate enough to describe how blessed I am.
So all this is to say thank you. Thank you to those who have felt true hardship in their lives and had the courage to make a change for the better. Thank you for those who choose to fight for our freedom and protection. Thank you to all who have given their lives so I would have choices in mine.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Friday, July 1, 2011
When I was thinking about how to describe Grammie, the phrase “pure of heart” immediately popped into my mind. Because that is who she was. A person with a heart so pure and full of love – willing to share that love with her family every day. In both large and small manifestations. And never asking for anything in return – except to know how you are and what you have been up to. Anytime you would call and say, “how are you doing, Gram?” she would reply, “same old, same old. Tired, achy, sinuses, etc. Now, what is going on with you?” And she would listen to you as long as you need to talk. She was the most interested audience any of us have ever had. Fascinated in every aspect of our lives – thrilled when we were happy; devastated when we were sad. Always helping simply by believing in you.
It is easy to believe in yourself with Grammie on your side. What I don’t think she ever realized, though, was how wise and impactful she was to so many people. She didn’t think she was worldly or very intelligent, but she had knowledge of the heart and years of experience that helped each of us in a different way. And we know she will continue believing in us.
Grammie did not have an easy childhood. She grew up very quickly to assume the role of caretaker. When she married Grandaddy and had children, grandchildren and then great-grandchildren, she poured all the love she had always wanted and all the love she had into her family. She taught us valuable lessons: respect, how to be fair to one another, how to listen, how to forgive, to believe in the power of love and to believe in yourself.
Love. I don’t ever remember having a conversation with Gram that didn’t end in I love you. Until the very end, when she couldn’t move around as freely, the last thing we would see when driving away from the house would be Grammie standing in the window of the front door, waving. A symbolic I love you.
Forgiveness. Grammie embodied this trait. Any and all transgressions were forgivable – sometimes you didn’t even have to ask for that forgiveness. Sometimes all you had to do was say you were sorry. And all was right with the world when Grammie would smile at you and you knew everything was going to be OK.
What did Grammie like to do? Besides spend time with her family, she learned a hobby in later years that kept her very busy. Scrapbooking. This was almost more than a hobby… it was an obsession. As a matter of fact, when she was in the hospital this last time, she said she couldn’t go yet because she was on a mission. She was determined to finish scrapbooks for my Mom, Aunt Mary, Uncle Johnny and Aunt Peggie and she said then she could rest. And finish them she did. And these aren’t just any scrapbooks. They are masterpieces of creativity and Grammie poured the love she felt into each and every page. Unselfishly, she never made a scrapbook for herself.
Her next favorite hobby was shopping. I will never forget one particular marathon shopping trip. We were in Marshall’s (of course) and I noticed Gram’s oxygen was running low. She was standing in the shoe section of the store when I ran out, grabbed the other tank from the car, and came back in to change it. I said, “Gram, why didn’t you tell me you were running low?” She said, “I didn’t want to bother you, Hon, we are in the shoe section after all!” Selfless shopper – that was Grammie.
Birthdays. Sonny & Cher, Captain & Tennille, Miss Piggy & Kermit… they’ve got nothing on Bud and Anne. That’s right; the greatest duet that ever lived is Bud and Anne. Every birthday you could count on one thing – hearing the 2 of them serenade you with Happy Birthday. The best would be if they messed up and had to start over… their fits of laughter during the song were as great as the song itself.
The only thing better than hearing them sing you happy birthday was Grammie’s birthday. Giving a gift to Grammie is one of the best experiences anyone can have. She would fuss over you and the gift like you’ve never seen saying, “Oh Hon, you shouldn’t have!”… But definitely glad you did – every time! At her 75th birthday, the entire family went in on some wrought iron bookshelves for her to put her family pictures, books, etc. on. When she opened up those boxes, it was as if she had been given solid gold! I would show you the picture of Grammie with a big yellow bow on her head but she would not be happy with me. The pictures of Grandaddy in the same bow are equally priceless!
Grammie’s devotion to her family was rivaled only by Grandaddy’s devotion to her. Their love of 56 years is an inspiration. Grandaddy loved waiting on Grammie and she loved bossing him around. She would invite you to dinner, ask what you wanted, and then inform Grandaddy what he was making. He would pretend to be peeved about it but you know he loved every minute.
Humor. Laughing was an integral part of Grammie’s life. And she laughed up until her very last days. The true beauty of Grammie’s humor was in its innocence. Sometimes she had no idea what she said was funny and was shocked when everyone laughed. One night, as Mom and Uncle Johnny sat in Grammie’s room chatting, she tried to speak. Mom said, “Mom, are you trying to say something?” Thinking she was ready to pass on some wisdom. To which Grammie responded, “Th-th-that’s all folks!” Another night, a week or so ago, Mom and Grandaddy were sitting on the bed next to Grammie talking about what would come next, who she would see, etc. Suddenly, Gram opened her eyes, turned her head and said, “You all are scaring me to death!” Laughter erupted… that was her, laughing and enjoying life until the end.
Generous. Grammie would give you anything she could. Literally, if you complimented something she had she’d sometimes try and give it to you. Even if it wasn’t hers she’d try to give it to you. Like the time she was out to lunch with one of her girlfriends and her girlfriend admired the creamer on the table. Outside in the car, Grammie produced the creamer from her purse – cream and all – for her friend! Thievery was a rare occurrence, but she would do anything for the people she loved. Every single one of us in the family was spoiled by Grammie (and you too Grandaddy), and I’m not ashamed to admit it!
The last gift she gave her family was the ability to say goodbye. During her last weeks, Grammie was surrounded by her family – day and night. And each of us shared some private moments with her – a time when we were able to say what we need to say; to share how we felt about her; to kiss her forehead and squeeze her hand. And she was able to do the same with each of us. This is a special blessing we will thank God for the rest of our lives. Grammie left us without a single doubt as to how much she was loved and how grateful her family was to have been loved by her.
To know Grammie was to feel loved, understood and accepted. Imagine everything you would want in a spouse, mother, sister, grandmother, friend and that is what we had in her. To say she will be missed is a gross understatement. But her legacy to each of us is to love, to be fair, to listen, to laugh and to never miss an opportunity to say “I love you”. Her family and friends loved her and will continue to love her more than words can express.
And if you close your eyes, and sit very still, you can feel her presence here – waving I love you to all of us.
My Uncle Johnny passed away suddenly this past Sunday. He was 58 years old. I had the honor of holding his hand until he passed away, an hour after last rites were given. Yesterday, I was granted the privilege of giving a tribute on behalf of our family at his funeral. Here it is:
Uncle Johnny loved simple things. Animals, fishing, golf, a good joke, crabs, Christmas, his family – not necessarily in that order. He always asked about my dogs, Stella & Sophie and would listen to any story I would tell about them– indulging me with his ear and his laughter. But his heart really belonged to two special creatures: Honey and Pretty Boy.
Honey is Joan and Grandaddy’s dog and Uncle Johnny was his Bubba. As Uncle Johnny would drive up to the house, Joan would say, “Is that your Bubba coming?” and Honey would run to the door to greet him, toy in mouth, tail wagging. And Honey would only jump on the couch if Uncle Johnny was sitting on it. She loved the amount of attention he gave her and how they played together.
But his long-time companion was Pretty Boy, his bird. To say Pretty Boy is spoiled would be the understatement of the century considering Grandaddy can actually fit in his cage. It’s like a birdy mansion. With a 25 year history together, Pretty Boy and my uncle were definitely best friends.
And friends to Uncle Johnny meant fishing, golfing, and crabs. Uncle Johnny used to go on golfing trips with my dad and his buddies to Myrtle Beach every year. Uncle Johnny was the designated driver and the butt of many jokes. One in particular my dad was sharing the other day was when Dad and his buddy Greg woke Uncle Johnny and his friend up to tell them it was time to get ready and leave for their tee time.
Now you may not know this, but John was very particular about appearances. From blow-drying his hair to making sure his outfit was put together, he didn’t get ready in a hurry. Anyway, when John and Russell headed for the door they were shocked to find Dad and Greg laughing their way to sleep. It was 3:30 am – John and Russell had turned in early so the party boys decided to play a practical joke on them. And you know who the first person was to share this story? Uncle Johnny. He loved the fun they had and loved to share it with the rest of us.
Uncle Johnny looked forward to the crabs Cousin Donald gave him every year. And when Cuz would call him to get them, he never kept them all for himself. He always dropped some off for Grandaddy and some for Mom, who loved them as much as him. Normally this occurred in August, around their birthdays. August was always a celebratory time in our family with Uncle Johnny’s birthday on the 19th and Mom and Grandaddy’s on the 20th. We would come together as a family, for dinner, gifts, and lots of chatter. This August will surely be bittersweet…
Christmas was his favorite holiday. He used to delight in decorating under Grammie and Grandaddy’s tree every year. And he always put special thought into his gift for the women of the family. But Christmas 2010 was definitely the most memorable.
As he watched QVC one night, he called my mom and said “Are you awake?” (Apparently he said this every time he called, no matter the time of day.) He had found the perfect gift for each of us and wanted to make sure he chose the right color. Fast forward to Christmas day at Mom and Dad’s and I wish I had taken a picture of his face as he watched Joan, Mom, Aunt Mary and I open our Wolfgang Puck knife blocks. My knives are apple green, the color of my new kitchen and he was so proud when I said that the color was perfect. And we all cracked up at his bravery in giving the Downs/Radford women knives at a family holiday. Yesterday, when Mom went to feed Pretty Boy, she noticed that Uncle Johnny had bought himself a set of those knives as well. His are black – I guess that’s a little more manly than apple green.
And last night, as Mom was cutting the rolls for today with one of the knives Uncle Johnny gave her, she apparently sliced her finger. “His last act of violence toward his big sister”, she said.
And Uncle Johnny was always good for a cooking tip – even if he had never prepared the dish. He’d say, “that’s how they did it on food network.” My uncle actually knew everything about everything – a gene he inherited from the Downs side of the family.
Less than 2 weeks ago we were together, Grandaddy, Joan, Mom, Dad, Uncle Johnny and me for the second to last time. We were having breakfast at IHOP to celebrate Father’s Day. We told stories of Honey, Stella, Sophie and Pretty Boy. We talked about the US Open, where Dad and I had been that Friday. We talked about Robert Duvall, whom I had the pleasure of meeting the week before. Grandaddy sang some of his high school fight songs. Joan cleaned her plate, as always – what a big appetite for such a wee thing! And I made fun of my uncle as he buttered his toast – not one morsel of that bread went unbuttered – and it was perfect. Like it had just stepped out of a butter salon! We laughed, we ate, we enjoyed each other’s company…
My uncle was a simple man. He loved a good cup of coffee, a cigarette, Maryland crabs, a home cooked meal, Christmas, animals and his family. He was a caring man. He called my parents and Grandaddy and Joan almost every day. He was a giving man. He mowed his neighbor Cat’s lawn. When he visited my house, he always offered to walk Stella & Sophie – no matter how cold it was. He was a sensitive man. He mourned the loss of Grammie, his mother, alongside the rest of the family. Keeping vigil during her last days. And he then celebrated the marriage of Grandaddy and Joan 5 years ago, standing next to them on the altar in the role of best man.
John didn’t live an easy life. The past few years have been the hardest as his health presented one issue after another. And as much as we all knew that, getting the call on Saturday that he was in the hospital was still a shock.
Because when I think of who my uncle is to this family, he’s like the first day of Spring. You didn’t see it or celebrate it every day, but you always knew it was just around the corner. Would always be there. You never expected a time to come when there would be no Spring.
We were given a gift the past 2 Sunday mornings – the ability to say goodbye. And as we crowded around his hospital bed, I believe that he could hear us all there, telling him how much we loved him. “My Beautiful Boy”, Grandaddy said, “Go to God.”
As I held Uncle Johnny’s hand while he took his last breath, I saw one tear slide down his cheek. And I believe this was a tear of relief. My uncle was going home. He was going to a place where he would be at peace, with no more pain. And Grammie was waiting for him there.
And we may not see him any longer, but just like Springtime, we can feel him around us. His spirit of love, loyalty and the simple things that matter continue in each of us.
I learned a valuable lesson this week. I don’t think my uncle knew how special he was to me until I held his hand during the last moments of his life. So today, as we honor him, please learn from my lesson. Squeeze the hand of those who mean the most of you today. Do not wait another moment.
May you rest in peace, Uncle Johnny.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
2. You must know how to order and enjoy a cocktail.
4. You must be willing to make time for the FPs no matter what city you are in and what else is going on.
- You have a group of friends who will never judge you... even when you may judge yourself.
- You get to have cocktails.
- You have fun.
- You always know another adventure is just on the horizon.