Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rest in Peace, Grandma

Grandma's Self Portrait
My maternal grandmother passed away on Sunday.

It's been almost a year since I saw her. I wanted her to meet Rory, and was glad she was able to last year when he was 5 months old. It was really beautiful. He reached out and touched her hand, like he knew her. I'm glad they had that moment, and am sad they couldn't have had more. There is part of me that felt like his magic and life could somehow cure her Parkinson's and everything else that ailed her.

Before that, the last time I talked to her was before I was pregnant with Rory. I called her from Hawaii, after doing my half Ironman. We had a really good talk. I can't remember everything she said, only that she told me about an artist she was interested in.

She was a remarkable person, probably in more ways than I know. She was an athlete, an artist, a college graduate, and a business woman. Not all that many 92 year old women could say they were all of those things.

I wish I could have known her better as an adult. I moved hundreds of miles away after college and never returned. My love for her is that of a child for her grandmother, not of a best friend or her confidante or peer. She fed me, held me, took me to exciting places, helped me with my bandaids, watched over me so I would be safe.

One of my first childhood memories of her was when I was probably around 4 or 5. We were out to dinner at "The Smoke House" in Los Angeles with our extended family. They are famous for their prime rib, which everyone else at the table ordered but me. I wanted steak. I loved steak, and my family never had it for dinner. I was given a hard time by a lot of people at the table about passing up the famous prime rib, but my grandmother sat next to me and cut my steak up for me. I felt grateful that she helped me when a few others at the table kept making fun of me.

I loved her also because I felt like I was part of her in some ways. I wanted to be an artist like her. I inherited her absentmindedness and her love for food. She had fine taste, and I wanted to be like her in that way, too.

I'm not grieving heavily about her loss. Maybe grief will hit me will at the funeral. I had a horrendous day yesterday, and I felt guilty that inconveniences like a sick child, fatigue from a long weekend, a car breaking down, ants in the kitchen, waking up at 4 am, a sore throat, Rory climbing out of his playpen for the first time, and a painful 18 mile run somehow overshadowed the loss of someone who has had such a role in making me who I am. I guess life goes on, and caring for the next generation's immediate needs makes it hard to deal emotionally with anything but the here and now.

It has been heartbreaking seeing her get older, sleep more, get thinner, and become less aware of what is around her. I'm glad that she has moved on to a better place. I'd been depressed the week prior to her passing, knowing what was to come, and now I think I actually feel lighter knowing she isn't suffering.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


In the past, while racing, I used to think of it as a battle between myself and some metaphorical demons. When I was a preteen, my dad used to tell me that there is a little green demon inside you that makes you want to give up. Whenever I'd run in P.E. class in junior high and high school, I'd thinking of defeating my little green demon. I'd think about this when training and racing as an adult when I felt uncomfortable enough that I wanted to stop racing.

Since I had Rory, I started disliking this metaphor. I don't like to spend so much time in an aggressive state, even if the aggression is just against parts of myself. I'd rather be my own encouraging teacher, parent, or coach, who gently points me in the right direction and cheers me onward than someone who tries to violently stomp my less desirable inclinations into the ground. I just have really needed to be kind to myself in order to survive motherhood, and I'd also hate to have that angry voice come out whenever Rory does something "bad." Not that he ever does anything "bad."

While it is possible that the aggression might make me go faster while racing, I don't think it is worth it. I do so much racing and training that if I called on my aggressive instincts every time I thought it would make me go faster, it would probably affect my personality. I've also learned by watching Rory grow up that aggression is a natural inclination. We all have it, it's not bad in itself, we just have to learn to keep from feeding it and acting on it. I'm sure it has its place, but for the most part, I think my daily life would be better if I didn't make it a focus.

I thought about this a bit when blogging below about low blood sugar. What I used to think of as a metaphorical demon I had to combat, the voice that asked myself "Why am I doing this?", was probably just the very essential part of me that just wants to not starve my brain of glucose. There probably aren't too many parts of our thoughts and emotions that are always bad. Sometimes they are inappropriate or inconvenient for the situation, but in some context they make sense, and there is a good reason for them being part of us. We might have to reign them in, but there's no reason to get impatient or judge them.

I ran a half marathon on Sunday. After thinking about this for the past week or so, I decided to enjoy this race and feel good about it the whole time by being careful about fueling. I had a fun race, and didn't question "why am I doing this?" at all.

Anyway, that is a long serious buildup to something funny that happened. Since Sunday was Halloween also, there were a lot of costumed runners at the race. One of them that passed me a little before the halfway point was one in a red tutu and devil horns. I thought it would be kind of funny if at the end of the race I decided to chase down this Halloween demon instead of my metaphorical one. (I didn't chase her when she passed, because I was just trying to stay within a specific heart rate zone, and couldn't have chased her without going over it.) I didn't see her after she passed me, until the very end. I didn't catch her. She was near the finish line, and I had about an 8th of a mile to go. Once upon a time, I might have tried to find meaning in this. Does the fact that I was racing a devil mean I should rethink not trying to defeat my metaphorical ones? Would it have meant something if I had in fact beat the devil versus having her beat me? If this was a movie or book (it would have to be a goofy one), maybe it would. But this is just real life, so I'll just take it for what it is.