Notes toward a Eulogy
Aug 2nd, 2017 by Dr Karma

This weekend, we will put my Daddy’s ashes in the ground.

It will be the first time I’ve been home since we buried Grandma.

And I feel awful about that–and guilty. I know Daddy would have wanted me to come home more often, but it was logistically and financially difficult (and the onus to fly to see family has always been 100% on me).

I also didn’t get to say anything to him the day he died. I called, but he was asleep–I was going to call again, but before I got the chance, he was gone.

We hadn’t been able to have a good conversation for a while–his mind had gone so much that he couldn’t follow the thread.

But he did say goodbye to me, in his way, last year.

We were on the phone; when it was time to go, he said, “I love you. The way you are.”

I was stunned, and found myself quickly in a conversation with my therapist.

Therapist: He said that?!?

Me: Yes. It means he’s getting ready to die.

He’d said he loved me before, but I know that I was a disappointment in so many ways, so I wasn’t expecting the second part.

I wasn’t always a disappointment, of course. I went to live with him when I was two–his memoirs say he became a father again that year. He had just retired from the military–as a very decorated man–to take up his dream of being a gentleman farmer.

And that made him a different dad from the one he’d been before. I, the oldest granddaughter/youngest daughter, was treated differently than my mother and her siblings had been. I got to be with him 24/7. He was nurturing and patient–and didn’t physically discipline me as he had the others. He taught me how to milk goats, how to make concrete–because I followed him from task to task.

He taught me to rhyme and to find new ways to end the stories we read.

He threw marbles into the deep end of the pool to teach me to dive. And them built me a box–by hand–to keep my marbles in.

When my mother took me back several years later, it was awful–because I wasn’t with him. One day, I told her I felt like Heidi–despondent, taken from her loving, gruff grandfather and the mountain into the cold world of the city.

She slapped me.

Which, let’s admit, proved my point.

It was me growing up, and making choices and mistakes, that really messed things up between Daddy and me. I read the platforms of the two major parties–and discovered I was a Democrat. I spent my summers working instead of basking in his light. I got pregnant and had my child.

He wanted me to go to college so I could support myself, but he and the rest of the family put pressure on me to be an accountant. He didn’t want me to like “liberal arts.” When I showed him the recruitment letter from UCD, one that promised me healthcare, which I could not access in Florida, he said he was disappointed in me and went to his room for the rest of the night. When it became clear that I would be a teacher in higher education, he was disappointed again–he said college makes people communists and said I’d been brainwashed into being progressive.

And as I was getting more progressive, he was moving to the other side–toward racism, hysterical gun rights fears, thinking he needed a garden again for when Obama started that race war.

I wrote him a letter a long time ago, asking him to consider that my job–my beliefs–are my efforts to make this country better–that they are in fact acts of patriotism, not the intentional dismantling of the country. I tried to argue that we wanted the same thing–a better country–but that we went about trying to get it in a different way.

He wrote back and said he knew I’d come to my senses when I left academia.

(I pictured myself, leaving my packed up office several decades from now, having a flash of insight: oh, right! I do hate people who are different from me! And fuck the poor! They deserve it! Even if you’re an orphaned infant with severe health issues, my tax dollars shouldn’t be used for your benefit!)

So it’s been hard.

And I know I’m not alone–all of his children are afraid of disappointing him. And people kept parts of themselves and their pasts from him (like one person’s couple of weeks on public assistance forty years ago).

And now I am in the process of mourning–him and the closeness we once had.

I become an absolute puddle when I think of him being disappointed in me–it’s why he never had to spank me, I guess.

This man had a truly happy marriage.

This man used his words carefully.

This man was a decorated war hero–one who didn’t want a gun salute–because that’s not how he wants us to think about him this weekend.

This man had a wonderful sense of humor.

This man cut a flower from the garden every morning for his wife in the last years of her life.

This man tried to retire from the military after serving in Korea. Then his wife got pregnant–with triplets. And so, needing to provide for his family–he went back in for another two decades and another war.

This man worked hard to get my weight up when I was small–when a doctor said I wouldn’t make it to five feet.

This man pocketed cigars on the way to taking me to the ER when I couldn’t breathe. He told grandma, “If she has to stay, I’m staying with her.”

This man then gave up smoking. Cold turkey.

This man showed me what strength was–what dependability was.

This man is the only one who hasn’t abandoned me.

May we all have the romance, the humor, the wisdom, the devotion, the intelligence, the determination, and the sisu to honor his legacy.


My brother, Granddaddy, and Grandma



Karma Has Three Fathers
May 23rd, 2017 by Dr Karma

In my grief, I have not thought about you, my readers. The word “daddy” could technically belong to three people, even though I’ve only ever used it for one man.

I have three dads.

My father was James Dean Norris. (I was born Karma Jewreen Norris.) He and my mother got divorced fairly soon after my birth. He died when I was four, and I don’t remember him. He didn’t see me much in between–I don’t know the whole story, except that my grandparents were afraid that if he had access to me, he’d take me.
I have spent a fair amount of time in therapy dealing with growing up without knowing much about him. My mother only told me a few good things about him when I was young. I heard the bad stuff from others–who thought I knew.
That he cheated on her.
A lot.
That when she finally left him, she had to do so with a black eye.
I know he wanted me and was excited about my birth, but I don’t know why he didn’t fight to see me.
He left me two poems, for my 18th birthday (he’d had a premonition that he’d die at 35). They were about reincarnation–I wanted them to be about us. He was an American buddhist (yes, he named me).
I wanted, for a really long time, to understand him, in hopes of understanding myself.
My mom always told me that I got my intelligence from him and from her father (my daddy). I think I was also lucky enough to get whatever inspires loyalty from one’s loved ones.
My therapist once said that my dad could have been a cult leader. The two women I know who loved him loved him completely. He cheated on them, but they both swear he was their soul mate.
I don’t claim to have that kind of power, but when people talk about my cult following on campus, I think of my father.
I have come to terms with the fact that I won’t have the answers I want and the fact that those answers wouldn’t have answered questions about me anyway.

I went to live with my daddy, my grandfather, when I was 2 and my mom couldn’t take care of me. He wrote in his memoirs that he became a father again that year. No one ever thought it was strange that I called him that. He was just retired from the military, but he was only in his 40s. Every time I called home after living there, my grandmother would tell me where my “daddy” was and what he was doing.
In my EMDR therapy for PTSD, when I’m asked to picture a figure of protection, I think of him.
After my father died, mom gave us both daddy’s last name.
It was he who came to pick me up from the hospital after my son was born–when I was 17 and alone. To take me home when my son’s father and my mother couldn’t/wouldn’t take care of me.

I had a step-father in between, from when I was 5 to when I was 17, when he became my estranged ex-step-father. Our relationship was always difficult, and his request that I call him daddy seemed ridiculous. When my mother finally left him, he took us both out of the will. He also used his lawyer to take half of my money, not just half of my mom’s (I had just over a hundred dollars in a shared account from working the previous summer). (He, like my father, had cheated on her (a lot), but he managed to use his money to lie about everything and to screw her over again after so many years of practice.) I dream about his house fairly frequently–I’m always there, looking for something. (A therapist, long ago: “duh–your childhood!”) The thing I would most want from that house likely isn’t there anymore–a dollhouse my daddy handmade for me that didn’t make it out during the Waltonen woman exodus.

For all those years in between, I was still with my daddy every summer and most weekends.

It’s my daddy who’s died this week. The best man I’ve ever known. I didn’t get to say goodbye or to be there.

We won’t be having services this week–my family, the backwoods people that we are, don’t have regular services with pastors or with non-family people.

A couple of years ago, everyone waited to put my grandmother’s ashes in the ground until the boy and I could get down there.

The boy and I will not be able to go down for more than a day or two until August, so daddy’s ashes will wait above ground until then.

I’m the black sheep in my family, the prodigal daughter. But I get to be home to bury daddy, just like the stories promise.

W3 Story 1: The Honeymoon
May 22nd, 2017 by Dr Karma

My daddy died on Friday. Wallie William Waltonen is no more.
I can’t write about what that means yet.
But I can tell you some of his stories.

My grandfather was in the Air Force and stationed in Northern Florida. He was set up on a blind date with Winca Jewreen Graves.
50 years after they were married, we asked her why she agreed to a second date.
She said he was a perfect gentleman.
We asked him why he wanted a second date.
“Her legs!”
Right after they were married, they drove up to a cabin in Michigan (where W3 was from) for their honeymoon.
W3 was nervous–they hadn’t spent a lot of time together before. He was worried that they would run out of things to say.
So he made a list–a list of things to talk about while they were married.
He said he never needed to use it.
I am happy to report that they didn’t get very far North very fast–they didn’t seem eager to spend all day on the road.
By the time they made it, though, my grandfather was having stomach problems. Grandma gave him ex-laxx, which apparently is even less fun when one is honeymooning in a cabin in the woods with an outhouse.
He told this story for the rest of their longs lives together, to explain why he wouldn’t let her medicate him.

My grandparents’ hands, as they renewed their vows.


Osiris Begins the Journey to the West
Aug 8th, 2016 by Dr Karma

Earlier this week, Facebook reminded me that I lost Jareth a year ago (FB suggested I might want to repost the announcement of the loss).

This week, something is wrong with Osiris.

Osiris is an old man now–15 years–and he’s definitely showing it. He’s skinny in the same way my great-grandfather was at the end (though he still has an appetite, especially for human food).

He’s beginning to become a bit unhinged–he tried to pee by the front door two days ago, isn’t coming upstairs to bed with me, etc.

Years ago, Isis had something similar happen. She lost her mind in a similar way (and similar symptoms) to my great-grandmother. Eventually, she wandered off, and we never saw her again.

I fear we’re entering the start of the great decline with Osiris.

Osiris and Jareth, 2013

Osiris and Jareth, 2013

The real bad news today: about my Daddy
Mar 30th, 2016 by Dr Karma

Earlier, I posted news about my denied raise. Because I know how to process that. But it’s not at all the worst news of the day.
(And there have been five contenders for that title.)

My Daddy–my grandfather who raised me for several years when my mother couldn’t–has been officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

And he doesn’t know yet because my mom doesn’t want to tell him yet even though she told me I’d better tell her if it happens . . .
Anyway, I just can’t really write about this yet.
I can cry in my chiropractor’s office, but that’s different.

While I’m processing a bit, here’s a poem about him. I wrote it many years ago when he went in for heart surgery.

Atlas Has Surgery

They do tests
stress tests
which we joke about.
They schedule the time
and so you move
away from the burden
taking no relief
in the respite
of a short forced sleep.
This too is a burden
if you don’t do it,
you can’t get back to work.
You leave the earth to hold itself.
I don’t know if you trust it to stay
if you’ve read the physics;
even if you have
there may be little comfort;
Newton and Einstein are at odds;
better to do it yourself
so it’s done right.
Newton says we fall because of
weight and mass;
Einstein says we fall because of
the curve of time and space.
Either way, we start to shift
The issue is not the fall
but the landing.
In a picture of our fried egg shaped universe,
we do not think of above and below
we fall off the edge of the page;
in a diorama—the bottom of the box;
in a middle school science fair project—
we simply land on the table.
This is where most end up—
on a table
our gravity sinking hard
onto a surface
that does not yield
as your shoulders
sometimes do.

The Year So Far (February edition)
Feb 24th, 2014 by Dr Karma

I haven’t been in the kind of contact that I want to be with most of you. Part of it is that I’m busy. Part of it is that I don’t necessarily want to talk about how I am.

I was really hoping that this year would be better than last. Last year was busy (no surprise), but also difficult due to my gall bladder, an amazing cervical spine headache that started in summer, and a car accident, which resulted in hours of physical therapy each week (it’s only ended last week).

This year hasn’t been easier so far. I’ve already written about my grandmother dying last month. What I haven’t said yet is that, while she was sick, this particular time of death didn’t have to be. What I haven’t said yet is that I’m angry about some of my mother’s decisions and angrier about her refusal to acknowledge them.

Next month, I will return home during Spring Break. My family is waiting to put the ashes in the ground until I get back. I need to try to have a calm conversation in which I explain to my mother that she can’t change my grandfather’s medicines, etc. without notifying the doctor. But she’s going to get defensive, and we’re going to have a fight, and I’m stressing about it.

The other thing I haven’t said is that it really sucks to be the only woman in the world with the middle name Jewreen. Before, there were two of us.

As for myself, three things are going on physically. Today I have a tube going from my stomach, out of my nose, and to a recorder. It’s testing the ph of my acid reflux and also checking to see if some of the reflux ix actually bile, now that we know I have some bile in my stomach. I am very uncomfortable, doubting I’ll be able to sleep tonight, and looking forward to getting it out after my classes tomorrow. Some of what we’ll learn will determine if the doctor thinks I need surgery for the hernia in my esophagus.

My inclination is not to have surgery; however, the drugs I’m on haven’t been controlling my reflux symptoms like they used to. And I’m on the highest dose of things.

I was finally able to see someone at the pain clinic for this cervical spine headache in December. We are looking at doing a nerve burn in my neck–pain medication isn’t doing anything, nor are the non-invasive things like massage, etc. Friday, I had a nerve block, a sort of test to see if the nerve burn would work. The very temporary block had wonderful effects, although I’m sore and swollen from the procedure. My insurance company wants me to have another test block done before they approve the burn, which would be longer lasting.

Lastly, one of the drugs I need, xolair, is expensive and weird. When my insurance changed at the start of the year, I had to try to get reauthorized for it. It’s now almost the end of Feb–I’ve been off my drug for almost two months. Both my nurse and I have spent hours on the phone with insurance and hours on the phone with the specialty pharmacy. It looks like I might finally be able to get back on the drug next week, though my copay will be lots higher. And then the insurance company wants to reevaluate in June. Every dose they can prevent me from having saves them thousands of dollars.

The other big news is that my aunt Mindy is not doing well. She is now basically too disabled to work. She has been living with my cousin for the past few months. My cousin’s husband, however, is getting transferred to Guam. My aunt has been unsuccessful so far in getting insurance, etc. (The Southern States have not expanded medicaid to poor adults.)

The short version of this is that Mindy will be coming to live with me at the end of Spring. It will be a bit tight–I don’t have the money right now to move us to a three bedroom. But I at least should be able to get her the care she so desperately needs.

Work is fine. The students are understanding about papers coming back two days late the week Gma died. They are understanding and sympathetic about the awkwardness of a tube coming out of my face today. My stand-up class is a joy.

I gave a smart and amazingly attended presentation at a Writing Teacher’s Conference in January. Had a good MLA. I’ve applied to be the coordinator for the Upper Division Comp exam. I’ve got a paper coming out on (a)sexuality in Sherlock. The Prized Writing Ceremony went swimmingly–the Chancellor was there for the first time, and she enjoyed it so much that we’ve already scheduled next year’s so she can be there. I’ll present at pca/aca in April (no more conferences for the year, though–too broke). The Margaret Atwood journal is going online. I’ve been contracted by Cambridge for an Atwood collection. The authors are writing now. Denise and I are putting together a Simpsons collection. Melissa and I are putting together a collection of best comp paper assignments. There are and will be plays and movies and, in April, Willie Nelson. Book group still gathers here for food, wine, and cats. When HBO or BBC is doing something good, there are weekly movie nights too. The boyfriend cooks for me and distracts me and pleases me. Alexander is generally in good spirits. He doesn’t love all of his classes. (His classes are part of me being broke.) But we get along well.

Just today, he reminded me that I wasn’t allowed to use the microwave (due to the weird machine I’m wearing). Then, when I thoughtlessly went to the microwave half an hour later, I got the same tone from him that the cats do when they jump on the counter.

My friends are lovely. I miss you and love you all.

Saying Goodbye to My Grandmother (+ the Best Meatloaf Recipe in the World)
Jan 23rd, 2014 by Dr Karma

I’m about to write a eulogy for my grandmother. First, I need to write this.  (I wrote about the renewal of her marriage vows here.) SONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSC

SONY DSCMy 85 year old grandmother (Winca Jewreen Graves Waltonen, who always went by Jewreen) died on Tuesday. She was married for 63 years, has 4 children, 9 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren.

SONY DSCGrowing up, I only had one grandmother–her–though I had two great-grandmothers. My grandmother was more like a mother in my childhood, however, as she raised me for three years when my mother couldn’t and had me for every summer and school break thereafter. Granddaddy (whom I call “Daddy” since that’s what he’s always been to me) had just retired from the military when I went to live with them. They were building a house–all by themselves–on the land my grandmother’s ancestors had claimed in Bay County, Florida, before Florida was even a state. (She has certificates for being both a descendent of Florida pioneers and of the confederacy.) Although she had moved with her Air Force husband to various points in the US and Europe, now it was time to go back home. I was the first extra child to move in with them in a small, round, two-bedroom house in a Florida forest, but not the last. They have only rarely lived together without a child or grandchild who needed a soft space to fall. When I had nowhere else to go after Alexander was born, Daddy picked us up from the hospital and took us home.

My grandmother was a unique and strong-willed person. Granddaddy often teased her about being a savage, based on a homestead without paved roads, childhood pets that included a deer who was allowed in the house (and even to eat off the dining table), and a strong desire to never wear shoes (this is where I get it, people!). She met my grandfather on a blind date and married him the same year. When her first daughter was 2, she gave birth to triplets. She often had to raise them alone for long stretches, as my grandfather served in both Korea and Vietnam. Grandma is still angry about Vietnam protestors (she has no pity for the Kent State students)–she won’t watch movies with Jane Fonda or anything by The Smothers Brothers. (It was my grandfather, though, who introduced me to The Smothers Brothers via audio cassettes he was hiding on the porch.) Although she’s traveled, she never lost even a bit of her Southern accent, but would get mad at waiters who would bring her ranch instead of french dressing, even though what she said was invariably “franch.”

She was a great cook, a solid disciplinarian to her children, a sewer of matching clothing. By the time I lived with her, though, she didn’t do much sewing. She seemed to retire a bit when Daddy did, so she would mend, but not sew. She stopped canning and baking. When I was very little, she and Daddy would visit friends and go square-dancing, but, fairly quickly, they retreated deeper into the forest. The few friends who hung on had to visit them, as they only left the homestead for groceries and doctors’ appointments. Grandma, who was a great lover of nature, spent more and more time indoors. Daddy continued to work outside, to farm, to master computers so he could do extensive genealogical research, to read a variety of texts. Grandma read romance novels contentedly.

Her family became her whole life (instead of the maybe 85% they were before). She worried about us, prayed for us, praised and chided us to each other.

She was not as hands-on as Daddy with the grandchildren. He would read to us and play with us. She wanted us in her lap. I became a Daddy’s girl, following him around the property, having him teach me rhyming games, teasing and being teased lovingly. Grandma nurtured me with food. When I was very young, I was under weight, so I was plied with small amounts of beer to increase my appetite. When it was discovered that I would eat almost any part of a pig and any fish that was fried, they were produced in abundance. We shared a belief that the best thing about a fried chop was gnawing on the bones (Daddy didn’t do that with us). My trips back home always included fried fish–both from her kitchen and from my favorite fast food fish place–and lots of fried okra.

When I was a teenager and started becoming interested in cooking, Grandma and I were really able to bond. Her recipes were not written down, nor did she ever use a measuring cup. I followed her in the too-tight kitchen, writing down what she did with the most loved recipes. A few I adapted later, but most remain the same in my kitchen. Measuring cups are still unused.

She has not been happy with my life choices–I shouldn’t live in California, I should be married with more children, I should be a housewife, I shouldn’t like The Simpsons because it’s an immoral show since Bart talks back–but she has always been very proud of me because I can cook. It is what she brags about with me and what the men in my life who’ve met her always brag about to her.

I have to admit that it hurts to know how unalike we are. Our tastes differ in entertainment (except TCM), in politics, in social policy, in intellectual pursuits, in beliefs about equality/race relations, etc. There’s no way she would have liked me if we hadn’t been family.

It hurt her very much when I moved to California to pursue my PhD and, more importantly, my place in the world, which, frankly, was just not in Northern Florida. She wanted me to give up Alexander, so he would be raised apart from California values and in the bosom of the family. She said, when it was clear that I was leaving, that she might as well die. It was only a little easier when some of the younger grandchildren followed my example to be beyond a few hours’ drive away.

Even though I was out of her physical orbit, however, I was never out of her heart. And even though we were so fundamentally different, there were some very important things that link us: We both believe the moment when Yul Brynner puts his hand on Gertrude Lawrence’s waist in The King and I is one of the sexiest moments in movie history. We both know about the pleasure of a pork chop bone. We both laugh more than most people, especially when we’re in pain. We both know that the first thing you should do when coming home is removing your shoes. We both know that she is lovable–when she turned 80, I gave her a list of the 80 reasons why. We both know that my last meal will include fried okra if I have any say in the matter. We both give people recipes with vague measurements because we just “know” how much of everything there should be. We both believe her husband is the best man in the whole world.

I’ll put up some recipes of hers over the next few weeks. First, want to share her BBQ Meatloaf. It is the only meatloaf I’ve ever had. When I was younger, I didn’t understand why people spoke of meatloaf with derision, as it was one of my favorite things. What it was, of course, is that they hadn’t had my grandmother’s, which was never dry, never flavorless. When I first saw someone else’s meatloaf, I decided to stick with what was great. Here it is; measurements are approximate.

Grandma J’s BBQ Meatloaf

1 lb. ground beef

1 tsp onion salt

salt to taste

1/2-1 c. bread crumbs

1 8 oz can tomato sauce (my change in the recipe is to use a 16 oz can so I can have more sauce)

1 egg

2 TBS brown sugar

1/2 tsp dried mustard (Coleman’s)

2 TBS vinegar (I use a bit less)

a few ounces of water

Mix the ground beef, onion salt, salt, egg, and 4 oz of the tomato sauce. Form a loaf. Place the loaf in an 8 oz greased baking pan.

Mix the remaining tomato sauce (in the can) with the sugar, mustard, and vinegar. Add enough water to reach the top of the can. Pour over the meatloaf. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour. (No need for ketchup on your leftover meatloaf sandwiches–the sauce will be even better!)

PS–I tried for over an hour to insert a couple of pictures into this post. It’s just not working. However, you can see pictures of my grandmother at the link in the very first line.

Rarely a Bridesmaid . . .
Jun 8th, 2013 by Dr Karma

Most women my age probably can’t say that they’ve been a bride more often than a bridesmaid. On the 22nd of June, I’ll break even, as I stand beside two of the most important people in the whole world to me.
Our story is a bit uncommon, however. I knew the groom, Chaz, first. In fact, Chaz and I dated when I lived in London for the summer of 2006.
Carmen was the woman who came after me. I used to tease Chaz that he’d replaced me with the Spanish me, especially since he kept telling me how alike we are. We’re both pale skinned, dark-haired, strong, intelligent, geeky, museum loving women. How could he resist us?
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I actually got to meet Carmen, though. I was in London for a conference, and they offered me a place to stay. Chaz was right when he said Carmen and I would love each other. We became instant friends, spending many a late night drinking and talking (often about a problem she diagnosed–that I needed a man who would make me tea [and now I have one!]). Poor Chaz would come home to find us up and have to decide which of his girls to give a hello peck to first.
Carmen and I talk more often than Chaz and I do now. She is a great treasure in my life, and I’m so thankful to Chaz for bringing us together.
Part of the reason we’ve been able to bond so well is that Carmen was never threatened by the fact that Chaz had been with me. Early in their relationship, he’d explained that he wouldn’t be able to be with her if he hadn’t been with me. Our relationship was healing for and important to us both. And Carmen thus appreciated me before she even met me.oxford20
Some people still find this odd. For example, the day we went bridesmaid dress shopping, we ended up having a discussion about how we wouldn’t want to marry virgins.
“What if the guy is terrible?” Carmen wondered.
“Of course he’ll be terrible,” I said. “A man needs women to say,

Carmen drinks out of a Karma's Bitch mug!

Carmen drinks out of a Karma’s Bitch mug!

‘hey, stop doing that!’ How else can he learn?”
Carmen leaned over, kissed me on the cheek, and said thank you.
The other bridesmaid then said, “And that’s why you two and your relationship are weird.”
(For the record, the women before me had Chaz all ready–I never had to tell him to stop it.)

Yes–we are weird. And that’s why we love each other so much & why I’m so honored to be a part of this wedding.

Here’s to the happy couple!

What the cool kids are wearing
Jan 22nd, 2012 by Dr Karma

Earlier this month,Tiffany gave birth to our little Jack. “Our”? you might ask. Yes, as proven by the annunciation dream I had at exactly the moment of his birth, I am his fairy godmother. Well, maybe not fairy. Lecturer? Simpsonologist godmother?

A few weeks before his birth, book group and the book group hangers-on gathered at my house to decorate onesies for the baby. (Mindy later airbrushed two more.) Here are the results:

top: Karma; bottom: Ann; then April and Vanessa
PS–I’m sorry about the sucky layout here. This system won’t let me move pictures easily. And after I upload things,  it refuses to show me the cursor, so it’s hard to know where the next thing will go.



my label



April; Kevin

Alex; Nathan

by Mandy Dawn
My Grandparents’ Christmas
Jan 1st, 2012 by Dr Karma

Earlier this year, my cousin told me that I would be going down to Florida this Christmas. She told me several times, in fact. It was important because my grandparents are in ill health. With few exceptions, we all headed down. Descending on a house made for two is never a good idea for a septic tank, but my grandparents were still happy to have every available surface covered in children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

On Christmas Eve, my cousin Kelly and her family decided we would do our first ever bonfire. This Christmas in Northern Florida was mild enough for it, and we live way out in the woods. How far out? We live in an unincorporated area without any official buildings (post office etc) right next to the Pine Log State Forest. That’s why home is called Pine Log.

Once we got the fire up, we got out the smore materials (I’d never had a smore!) and got the grandparents (although I was worried about grandma’s oxygen unit being at all near flame).

My brother, Granddaddy, and GrandmaMost of the Gang








Although the bonfire was very much enjoyed, it was only a precursor for what was to happen the next day.

In my family, the adults draw names. My cousin Tessa had gotten Grandma’s name. She decided to give Grandma something unique–a wedding.

You see, my grandparents had their sixtieth wedding anniversary this year. However, they did not get to spend the day together because Grandma tried to bleed out in a hospital instead. (Granddaddy got her back by having to go the ER on his birthday.)

Tessa got ordained online and then “Operation Cobra” went into action, as we warned Granddaddy, got flowers, a cake, a veil, etc.

After all the rest of the presents were opened, Tessa took Grandma into her room and told her what was about to happen. As Grandma got dressed in her veil and garter, Granddaddy snuck into the suit he had hidden in his office. Then he went to await his beautiful bride.

Uncle Marty walking his mother down the aisle

Most of the family was convinced that they wouldn’t be able to make it through the ceremony with dry eyes (I somehow thought I would be an exception). Tessa decided to break the tension by turning around like this:










She only kept it on for a moment. Quickly into the ceremony, I found myself able to see my grandfather’s face. Here was the man who raised me renewing his vows. I would not be able to contain my tears for long.

After a few words, Tessa asked them if they wanted to say anything. My grandfather, usually a man of few words, launched into a long speech that started with “Let me tell you about this girl I met 62 years ago.” He then spoke of the early days, of how Grandma gave him a daughter and then doubled their household to six with the next birth. He talked of how they built their retirement home for two, but how they’d never been left alone in it since they always had at least one descendant in it (I was the first, moving in as they were building the house!). He spoke of having to leave her on her own to fight in Korea and Vietnam and how so many soldiers didn’t get to come home to their wives.

How was I not supposed to cry, as I watched my strong and wonderful Granddaddy break down, while Grandma couldn’t stop smiling out of pure joy?

When given her chance, she said simply that she would do it all again.

Everyone had a tissue. I thought about how I would never end up doing what they were doing. I thought about Margaret Atwood’s poem, “Habitation.” I thought about how lucky I was to have been raised by these people.

Then there was cake, and removing the garter, and champagne. Kativa, my aunt, explained where the champagne came from. She and her husband had bought it to have for their 25th anniversary, but his brain tumor many years ago kept them from being able to make it to that anniversary.

If I hadn’t been crying before . . .

at the wedding

Merry Christmas!
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