What was originally going to be a short trip to Las Vegas for my newest tattoo turned into a 5 day trip that started Saturday, September 30, in La Cañada, California for my darling Emily’s bridal shower!
Emily has been a close friend of mine since she moved to Fresno and started playing for the same volleyball club as I did between 7th and 8th grade. A few months back I visited her and her fiancé Bobby in Santa Barbara. Since then, more wedding plans have come to pass, and we are now a few weeks away from their big day! The shower was brunch in a family member’s backyard. I’m proud to say I won the game that was guessing Em’s age in a collection of 16 pictures!
One of my favorite features of the shower was the video Emily’s sister-in-law Amanda made with Bobby that consisted of Amanda prompting 20 questions to Bobby and him guessing Emily’s response. His answers were so genuine and honest, and Emily’s reaction to some of his answers was priceless.
I ended up staying with Emily’s mom that night near Anaheim. Being the Disney addict that I am (and knowing I was going to bite the bullet and get an annual pass again), I decided to take a quick detour on my way to her home. I was hellbent on seeing Disneyland in all of it’s Halloween glory, so I reinstated my annual pass (I went with the signature pass, I previously had a signature plus pass.. I’ll go more into this on a later post), and went into Disneyland with the intent of walking up Main Street, looking at all the decorations, and riding Haunted Mansion. Yes, that is all that I did in the park that day.
The next morning, I got up and drove to North Hollywood where another dear friend of mine lives: Catriona. We planned to spend a portion of our Sunday at Universal Studios exploring the Harry Potter section before her show that evening.
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While there, we ended up seeing a friend from high school who is currently in the frog choir, and went on a studio tour tram narrated by another cast member of the show she was in that night.
Overall, I thought the Harry Potter section was very well done, and the food was fantastic! The “big” ride that part of the park features, though, is not one that sat well with me because I cannot do 3D or copious amounts of movement in rides (for comparison, I can’t do Star Tours at Disneyland because it gives me motion sickness).
The show Cat was in that night was called The Scarlet Pimpernel, one I wasn’t familiar with. It was a very small production, but the actors were all talented, so it was enjoyable.
The next morning, October 2nd, I started my drive to Las Vegas.
Every few weeks, I get lucky enough to have either a Friday/Saturday or a Saturday/Sunday scheduled off work. With that “rotation” I had Saturday March 3rd free, and so did my dear friend Emily. As such, we made plans so I could visit where she is currently living in the Santa Barbara area.
Due to work, I got to Santa Barbara late Friday. Fortunately, my leaving Friday after work gave us all day Saturday to do fun things. After some brainstorming, we decided that we wanted to make sure the day involved brunch, local restaurants, historical buildings, and getting close to the beach (getting in the water wasn’t a requirement for me on this coastal trip).
For us, the day started off with meeting Emily’s fiancé at her favorite breakfast place, The Cajun Kitchen. Although we each committed to our own entree, we also split a bowl of beignets. From brunch, we regrouped and then decided that our next stop for the day would be the Santa Barbara Mission.
After wandering around the outside of the mission, we decided to do the self-guided tour that goes through the garden, cemetery, church, and museum.
This part of the day made me particularly happy because I love the California Missions. As I have previously talked about with reference to National Parks, I took California for granted before I moved to Colorado, and I decided years ago that I wanted to make it a personal goal to see all of the missions. Before this trip, I had toured the missions at San Juan Bautista and Carmel, and had been on the grounds for (but not inside) the mission at San Luis Obispo. At a later date I am sure I will do a more in depth explanation, but in part, I’m drawn to the missions because of their architectural beauty, the fact that parts are still in use, and that people can still be buried there (regardless of religion).
After we finished the tour, we decided to head into Downtown Santa Barbara. There, we went to the County Courthouse to climb four stories worth of stairs to get to the top of the tower. The first two floors of this building consist primarily of public and private offices as well as courtrooms (two of the Supreme Court rooms were actually in use that day). The third floor on the west side of the building had only a small room with the internal components for the clock on the exterior of the building. The fourth floor above the clock was solely an observation deck, and each side offered a panoramic view of the city and it’s surrounding natural features.
Once we were done at the top, we took the elevator back down to the main floor and sat in the courtyard for a little while (we also probably definitely accidentally photobombed a wedding).
From there, we decided to drive down the pier and then park by the harbor and walk around some more. We walked past an array of personal boats and a gathering of the Santa Barbara Ukulele Club before reaching the building for the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. We didn’t go in the museum here, but went to the top floor observation deck.
For dinner, we went to Sandbar in Downtown. After eating more fish tacos than I had intended, I started my drive back to the valley. Although I took no pictures this time, I stopped at the Madonna Inn (which I LOVE) on both the drive down and the drive back.
While I live in the valley, these little trips help keep me sane and active, and I am grateful that I’m living in a place that affords me the freedom and fulfillment that my soul finds from travel. I don’t mind traveling by myself, but adventures are that much better when shared. I’m so thankful to Emily and Bobby for spending the day eating delicious food and looking at old buildings with me. I look forward to the next adventure I have with you two!
It wasn’t until 8.5 years following my maternal grandfather’s death that I was able to begin to process it.
My last memories of him take place in his home a few weeks before he passed. By that point, he was so far gone that going to the hospital (which was followed by in-home hospice care) did nothing but confirm what we already deduced. I don’t remember visiting him in the hospital. What I have is the memory of how frail he was coming out of the doorway separating the back of the house from the front, shuffling across the floor toward the kitchen.
I remember wondering how his wife let him get to that point before contacting us.*
I remember we had pleasant enough conversation as he leaned over the counter in his usual place, but he was obviously uncomfortable with us being there. And he should have been.
I remember being told I couldn’t tell anyone. I couldn’t tell anyone that he was sick or that he died.
When he died, we got a death certificate. No funeral. No memorial. No article. No grave. None of his ashes.
We couldn’t tell anyone until his wife deemed it permissible. By the time that happened, I had pushed the feelings so far down I didn’t think they existed anymore.
I suppose we could have done something, but that scene would have been the 7 of us who were allowed to know sitting around a table awkwardly staring at each other or his death certificate.
I was 13 when this happened.
Early August 2016
After I moved home from college at 22, we got a call informing us that my grandfather’s wife had died.
The weeks that followed were strange and to some extent felt like I had accidentally stumbled into a soap opera and was not allowed to leave.
I came home from Disneyland with my mom to almost literally meet the mailman delivering a rather large envelope that contained a sizable stack of copies of a trust, various amendments to that trust, and last wills. There is no way to describe how it felt to not only receive that packet, but to sit and read through papers containing my grandfather’s wishes and signature (as well as his wife’s).
For a number of weeks, I didn’t fully believe it was all real; they waited a week after she died to make the initial contact. In the following weeks, I finally began to come to terms with what all of this meant.
During that time, the death of James Preston Grant finally felt real.
On September 3rd, Deborah’s family held a memorial for her at the house she and my grandfather had shared. Myself and four other family members from his side were able to attend.
Walking back into that house was surreal. I started crying as soon as I crossed the threshold of the sliding door because the inside of the house reminded me of a mausoleum. The absence of my grandfather and his wife was beyond noticeable, though her niece had done a beautiful job setting up the house and yard for the memorial. It was interesting to see that as much as things had changed, they were still very much the same.
We arrived at the house about an hour before everyone else was supposed to be there because we wanted to walk through the garden and take a moment for ourselves. The five of us walked to a bridge at the edge of the property and toasted to Grandpa and Deborah individually with their respective drinks of choice.
The memorial for Deborah started a little after 5 p.m. PST; the group at the house was joined by a collection of her family and friends via video chat from New Zealand and other locations throughout this country. Her son and niece had each prepared speeches, both of which made reference to my grandfather.
They gave us an opportunity to say something about Jim, but we all declined (this gathering was about Deborah, and we did not want to detract from that). For me, what they had done was more than enough – simply the acknowledgement of his passing by people outside our immediate bubble was enough. Truth be told, even if I would have known ahead of time that they would offer us the floor (my mom had received an offer in advance, but declined), I don’t think I would have had anything to say.
After the more traditional portion of the gathering, Deborah’s son planted a Japanese Maple in her favorite spot in the garden to commemorate both of their lives. The majority of us then stayed down in the garden and conversed.
We knew we could not leave the house without a current stair picture, especially because it is unclear how much longer the house will still be in the Grant family.
Following the memorial, there was a relatively quiet month or so of corralling ducks (they are very reluctant to do anything that resembles lining up). This process is far from over and there is still much to be done. Nowadays, this mostly consists of periods of waiting, followed by the need for “real” adult decisions to be made, which reinstates the waiting period. Despite being open about this, there is a lot that either cannot or will not be discussed (even among family members), and that is in part what is keeping this whole situation in a state of surrealism.
It has become increasingly clear that this whole ordeal is supposed to teach us patience and organization. Hollywood does a horrible job of depicting the aftermath of death – nothing happens in a timely manner, and it does not appear that there is much incentive otherwise. My advice is to take a moment and really consider how many trips to county clerks, the IRS, banks, and lawyer offices you want your family members to have to make.
This situation has also taught me that you truly never know what is just around the corner for your life.
What Comes Next
Looking back, I know that I could have defied Deborah’s requests for almost total privacy regarding my grandpa’s death. But, that’s not who I am. I dealt with it the only way I (at the time) knew how: bottle up my feelings and hope that bottle would never be reopened.
But it was.
I realize now that a lot of my behavior leading up to and following his death was a result of the complex emotions I was ignoring rooted in the resentment I felt from this situation. In no way does that excuse any of my behavior towards the people I cared about following that event, and I want to take a moment to apologize for the hurt I caused during that time. I also think it’s important that I acknowledge for those who were affected that I am more than aware of my actions, and fortunately I now understand the cause.
How do you even begin to process something that you had cast aside for the better part of a decade? How do you even begin to grieve? The truth is, you don’t have a nice “clean” beginning. You don’t get to decide when or if those feelings come back. They hit you like a freight train.
I have to say, I’m thankful that I went through the grieving process alone. I had enough trouble the first time, and I didn’t even want a chance to see if I could do it better the second time. Though I have grown a lot since then and have developed exceptionally better ways of processing emotions, I found myself keeping everyone at an arm’s distance. I did this in part because I couldn’t even begin to explain what was going on and how I was feeling. I genuinely felt like no one understood how to empathize with the situation aside from two people who are also involved with it (and to some degree I still feel this way).
All I am sure of is that after nearly a decade I can finally put that part of my life to rest. I am thankful for everything I learned about myself and the way the world is, though there are some things I wish I could have learned in a different way.
I do believe that everything (to some extent) happens for a reason, and that things happen in their time. With that, I am thankful that I made it through my last year of college before this happened because the combined stresses would have been a disaster.
I look back on all the memories from my childhood with my grandfather and his wife fondly, but it’s time to move forward.
* In the event that I did not articulate this point well enough by the end of the piece: I have no ill feelings towards my grandfather’s wife and I was saddened (albeit confused) by her passing. Do I agree with all the choices she made towards the end of his life? No, I don’t. But I don’t have to, they were hers to make, and I accept that. It is important to the narrative, though, that I share my truth. In my 13-year-old mind, not being able to acknowledge his passing seemed unfair, especially because a year and a half earlier when my paternal grandmother passed it was something everyone knew about. My feelings about what happened in 2007 and 2008 are just as valid as the right she had to make her choices in all the situations she faced – they were complex, and more than one person should have had to handle. It is equally important to note that my grandpa was a very strong willed man, and it was not her fault that we were shielded from the severity of his declining health.
2016 was one hell of a year. From start to finish I never quite knew what was coming around the corner, and for some of that I am thankful.
I will start with the bad that the year brought, because I don’t believe it should be skated around. This year took 2 family members from us, and both were shocking. In late July, my late grandfather’s wife died, and the beginning of November took Colin. I lost others in my life this year, but in grossly different ways. This year was also the year I had to leave Colorado, a state I fell in love with.
The bad of 2016 was pretty bad. There is no way to sugarcoat it. It would be very easy to write the whole year off as a loss. Despite that, there were some great moments.
I completed a 10-week senior thesis with my sanity intact and I graduated college with University Honors. Course schedules brought a long-time Facebook friend and I into each other’s paths, and our friendship is something I am so grateful for. I got to spend a few short months with some people who made the bulk of my last semester in college tolerable. I got to stand by one of my best friends as she married her best friend, and I got to see a life-long friend get engaged as well. I got to meet extended family members whom I might not have otherwise met, and reconnected with others I hadn’t seen in nearly a decade. Better yet, a cousin that lives out of state got to visit because she wanted to, not because she had to. This year gave me a very real look at the people in my life, and I gained a new appreciation for those who are by my side. There were also a lot of new relationships that formed and opportunities that presented themselves, and they have paved a road that I am excited about continuing down. I was fortunate enough to travel quite a bit as well. I got to finally take my family to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. More than that, I got to go to Redwoods National and State Parks for the first time, and I got a Yosemite National Park annual pass which I have been taking advantage of.
2017 is sure to be another year with highs and lows, and I am ready to see what it has to teach me about myself and those in my life.
Thanks to Pinterest, I come across hundreds of quotes a day. Many of them I agree with, but few as strongly as this:
I think back to what my life looked like a year ago, and it was dramatically different than it is now. One year ago, my dad was about to retire for the second time, and his long overdue knee replacement surgery had been completed (little did we know, he was going to be having a second one in the coming weeks). With all of this, I was looking for an advisor for a thesis topic I thought I was sold on. Thanksgiving 2015, Colin provided the turkey for our family’s dinner and we actually got to have our family gathering on the federally recognized day. Sounds like a lot of great things, doesn’t it?
Well, one year changed everything.
I watched my dad fight a horrific staph infection that required him to have a PICC line put in so he could receive Nafcillin on a drip for 20 minutes every 4 hours for 6 weeks, and (fortunately) make it out of that strong as ever without needing a third surgery. After seeing my dad flawlessly go through at least 7 other surgeries leading up to this, I hadn’t been more scared in my life with what happened (which was 100% not the fault of his replacement surgeon nor his orthoscopic surgeon preceding that).
I picked a completely different thesis topic than originally planned, and it turned out beautifully. My original thesis idea was not anything I was passionate about, and I would have hated every minute of the process with that topic. My advisors were tough and that entire semester was trying, but they pushed me to ensure the finished product was the best it could be.
This year, we effectively cancelled Thanksgiving. My Thursday, November 24 consisted of work for the bulk of my day, followed by pumpkin cheesecake and hard liquor.
I’m not meaning to sound tragic, rather, I want to emphasize the importance of being thankful for what you have while you have it. As difficult as some of it has been, I have learned so much about myself and others; I’ve had people walk out of my life I thought would be there, and I’ve had others that I was certain were gone unexpectedly walk back in, I’ve been blessed in ways that I can barely fathom, and I have experienced some of the greatest loss I’ve known in my life to date.
There is only one thing I can guarantee – my life this time next year will once more look completely different than it does right now.
In many cases, I believe that the things most people chalk up to coincidences are more than just that. Since Colin passed, there have been some things that simply cannot be ignored. I attribute it to one thing, and his mom attributes it to another, but we are very much in agreement that his spirit is still with us. This afternoon, I experienced yet another blatant sign of this that I felt inclined to share.
I found myself in a conversation where I was asked about how my family celebrates holidays. I explained that I can probably count on one hand the number of times that my family has actually celebrated holidays on the internationally recognized day because of my father and my aunt’s chosen professions. I also commented that this Thanksgiving is likely to be different, too, but went no further into the explanation and dropped the topic. Despite that, Colin (and the struggle that the upcoming holiday will present) was on my mind the entire time.
During the conversation, I was working on a project that featured examples using names. In everything I had seen up to that point, names used in examples had been rather obscure (as in I knew no one with the names used up to that point). I’ll be damned if the example I moved on to after I ended the conversation didn’t have his name clear as day in the middle of the page.
For me, this simple occurrence was a world of assurance that Colin’s spirit is still with us in what we do, and I cannot begin to describe how comforting that feeling is.