The McManual

Blogging my little heart out in poetry and prose.

Category: Family

A New Morning


It’s a new day today.  I hope that you awoke feeling refreshed.  After all of this grief and loss this month, it feels good to have a lot of rain – it feels refreshing and cleansing.  I am not saying that I am ‘over’ any thing – not sure that I will ever be, but the sting is abating and acceptance is taking its place in my heart and mind.  We are still assessing damage done to long standing relationships – thought they were mighty oaks, but I guess they were as shallow as willows.  There are still a lot of hurt feelings, and I’m not sure that will ever be resolved.  Still going to take it one day at a time, and for now I’m going to go make a batch of pancakes.

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Symbolism isn’t enough.


Hey.  I try to be chatty and casual in these here blog posts, but I’m just not feeling it lately.  I am so sad about my father-in-law passing away.  I can’t think about anything else.  Even the Drop Kick Murpheys didn’t help.  I am also doing something different for me – I am not telling people how I feel.  In person, I mean.  I am telling you… I guess that has always been my MO – I write about my feelings.  Sometimes I talk about them, but that’s usually when I am having good feelings, not sad ones.  So maybe it’s not different.

This death is hitting me hard.  It’s reminding me of the first death that was significant to me, as I recall:  Grandma on my Dad’s side.  Maybe it’s reminding me of that because we had gone up North for a wedding; Grandma lived with us, so she was going to stay in the hospital for the weekend.  She insisted that she would be fine, and that we should go and enjoy ourselves.

We stayed at my Aunt Carol’s house, no doubt we had dinner with Kenny, who I wrote about a blog or two ago.  We were sleeping downstairs in the bedroom behind the woodfire furnace when the phone rang.  Uncle Bud came down to tell my dad that it was for him – this was at 3:30 in the morning.  My mom must have made a remark that we know what phone calls in the middle of the night mean.  I didn’t really know, but I found out soon enough that they usually meant someone had died.

Grandma had a heart attack in the hospital.  I think I went into shock, or maybe I didn’t really understand what it meant, but I remember Dad kneeling at the side of the bed and telling me that she died.  Then I think I remember him looking up at me and saying, “aren’t you going to cry?”

I felt bad.  I didn’t know why I wasn’t crying already, and I probably did start crying then.  I really don’t remember.  What I do remember is that I kept a photo of her and made myself cry while looking at it.  I did this well through high school.  I don’t know why I felt so guilty – like I had done her wrong somehow by not crying instantly.

Jay and I were up North visiting my parents when we got the call from Linda that Jim wasn’t doing very well and was in the ICU.  We came home, and it seemed like he was maybe doing better.  We had averted the curse of leaving town when a loved one isn’t in top health.  But it didn’t last.  Three weeks, can it possibly have only been three weeks?  Three weeks later, it’s over.  A delightful person is gone from this world, lost to us.

Maybe I’m grasping at insignificant similarities in a hope to make this meaningful or symbolic somehow.  I don’t think it’s going to work, though.  Even if it did, I don’t know if it would really help with this big gaping hole in my life.  Guess that’s going to take time. Time and thinking.  And talking.  Guess I’ll go do some talking right now and let the healing process begin.

Memories of Kenny


My cousin Kenny died last week.  He had a heart attack.  He was only 56.  The story I heard is that he was working in the yard, came in and said he was tired, went to rest on the couch, and died. This story, while shocking, reminds me a lot of the story of how my grandmother died, except that she had an anerurysm, and she wasn’t working in the yard, she was cutting cake.

My memories of Kenny are vague.  I remember playing at his house, which was very close to Aunt Carol’s house, I remember sleeping there, it seems to me that I remember celebrating Easter and maybe Christmas there.  I definitely know that his house is the only place I ever got to see Captain Kangaroo as a child.  I remember STP stickers, Kenny being outside and working on cars.

I also remember a lot of laughter.  All my memories of his home are colored in a sunshiny warm yellow glow – although I don’t remember talking much, which is unusual for me.  Oh, and they always had Alphabet cereal.  I don’t remember the actual name of it.

I am sad that I never even knew Kenny.  He was already grown up with kids of his own by the time I knew him, and I never saw him once I became an adult.  I would go to the funeral tomorrow, but my husband’s father died yesterday, too, and we have a lot going on down here in the Cities.

My heart goes out to Kenny’s children – all younger than me – and his wife, a woman I never met.  I hope that they will cherish their good memories and pull together as a family, just as we are trying to do here.

Three Coins in a Fountain


You never know when a song is going to go from something you know as a casual acquaintance to a song that will forevermore make you think of a certain place, time, or person.  This happened to me recently.  Today, in fact.  My father-in-law, a unique character, is in the hospital.  They are moving him into the hospice today. 

We shan’t be able to speak with him again.  And we will not hear him sing.  He won’t tell stories until our sides ache, and he won’t be able to tell us that he loves us, as he always did when he was able to speak.  Letting him go has always been one of my most difficult things – being with him in person had a magnetizing effect, and I was always stuck on him.  More than once, a dinner turned into sleeping over  because we simply couldn’t stop talking.  Or rather, we couldn’t stop listening to him talking.  It might have been easier if he wasn’t headlong into the next story – but a moment of silence is a rare moment in the life of a born story teller, salesman, and charmer, and we wanted to listen, anyway.

I have been trying desperately to think of the stories he would tell – they slip out of my grasp whenever I reach for them.  If I’m not thinking, I will get snippets that come to me.  I never memorized or wrote any of them down.  I took for granted that I would be treated to a retelling at some other time.  I don’t know whether I regret this or not – time will tell.  Maybe as the grief I’m in now starts to ease and acceptance takes it’s place I will be able to command more clear memories.

At the time of this writing, it has been about four days since he has said anything beyond one syllable clearly to me.  This is where the song comes in.  Jay and I were visiting, and the family had brought in a cd player, with one of his favorite cd’s, a Frank Sinatra.  As we were chatting and trying to make sure he was comfortable, we brought up the music a couple of times – we asked if he could hear it alright, ‘yeah’ we asked if he liked it alright, ‘ yeah.’ 

As we sat and held hands and just spent time together, Sinatra was simply background music to me.  Then he repeated a line from the music – he sang the words, “three coins in a fountain,” and that was it.  He hit the notes, as musical as could be although I have never heard him sing before.  I looked at Jay, and he was crying and laughing at the same time.  It was a delightful moment, surrounded by the dull gray of the intensive care unit.  I’ll miss that sparkle.  I’ll miss that person who sang that song in that moment.  And that song will never sound the same to me again.

14/30 NaBloPoMo09 Back from Vacation


Hi. It seems like more than four days since I’ve written.  I am trying like hell to start a new novel.  I did start one in January, and I might continue it.  I’m not sure.  The fact that my father in law is in critical condition in the icu seems to be taking a front seat in my thoughts.

I don’t know how it’s possible that I am so sore, so tired, and so disoriented.  I always think that summer break is going to be relaxing.  Ha.  Ha ha.  This year is different than last year, in that we had an odd vacation – up north with my Mom rather than going somewhere touristy, and we cut the vacation short to come home.  We have been at the hospital every day, hoping that my fatherinlaw pulls through his illness.

All of this takes my focus from writing, and in fact, gives me a darn good excuse not to write.  I would use that excuse, too, if it weren’t for the fact that writing is calling to me.  It’s pulling me. Even as I know I am writing with half a heart, I must write.  It’s summer.  I have a month.  I need to get a good chunk of American Girl – Lyrics to Living Life as a Modern Mythical Creature under my belt.  I need to get these characters walking around, living, breathing, talking…mostly talking, considering my other writings…

So, guess I’ll go do that.  And if you have time, please send good thoughts and wishes to my father in law.  Thanks.  Sheila

13/30 NaBloPoMo09 Planning for Vacation


Jay and I were supposed to be gone already for vacation, but I guess I mixed up the dates and everyone thought we were going tomorrow.  It’s nice, because it gave me a little time to get some things tidied up here at home, and it gave me some time to do some research (aka dink around on the internet) about what to do up there by my parent’s place.

I might actually end up posting some pictures for a change, but I’m really not ready to make a committment to that.  Our plan so far is to leave tonight, (for all of you worried about our pets – no worries!  Allie (she of the canine persuasion) is coming with us, and Jay’s sister is staying at our house for the week to watch over the cats.  (Athena, Trot, Luci, Arun, and Phyll.)  Oh, and the fish (Quincy) should be fine, too.  🙂

Bill is happily off at Camp Courage for the umpteenth time.  He started going when he was 21, missed only one year, so this is his 45th year, I guess.  Dang. That’s a long time.  And he absolutely loves it. His only complaint is that it used to be 2 weeks, and now it’s 5 days.  And since he has 5 days, we have 5 days.  🙂

Sawyer MN, where my parents live, is near Cloquet, which is near Duluth.  Our plan so far consists of going to Jay Cooke State Park tomorrow for a program about what to do if you are lost in the woods.  We are bringing my mom and the dogs.  It should be fun.  We might also go up to Duluth to explore the Enger tower and the gardens.

On Saturday, we are going to buy these Explore Duluth passes from the Vista Cruise company.  It’s only $24, and we get to go on a 1 1/2 hour cruise, a 2 hour train ride, and we get to go to the aquarium.  We will also be having dinner (not included) at Pizza Luce, the official favorite pizza of our branch of the McMahon family.

Sunday, I guess we are pontooning and swimming at Mom and Dad’s.  Hopefully we will also get to see some of my relatives.  Other than that, we are pretty open.  Jay wants to rent bikes, which you can do at Canal Park, I like to go to Park Point, and we will explore Duluth on foot, too.

One other thing I’d like to try is this Superior White Water rafting on the St. Louis River, part of Jay Cooke State park – or just north of it? – they have white water rafting for $40 each, or we can rent a 2 person kayak for $10 an hour and explore the calm lake… I have to see what Jay wants to do.

I’ll be reporting back on whatever we find interesting.  My only fear is finding enough vegan food on vacation, but we are bringing a cooler with fake hotdogs and sausages, lots of spinach, some pasta stuff, soy milk and so on, so I’m sure we won’t starve.

4/30 NaBloPoMo09


Writing about my thoughts today might prove to be difficult.  Recent family events have turned my mind to the process of aging as I experience the beginnings of middle age and as I watch family members.  I’d say the worst part is the pain of prolonged illness.  There is one member of my family in particular who seems to be displaying some symptoms of dementia.  A few weeks ago, I didn’t really know what dementia was.  Frankly, I still have a whole lot to learn.

Hopefully it isn’t dementia, but bouts of depression that he is suffering with.  The doctors are still figuring it out.  What I know is limited to what I have seen, but there are different moods and personality changes that concern me.  This is a person who I have gotten to know pretty well over the past decade, and we have gotten along well.  There was one time when we got into an argument over something that they said, something racist and irrational, but for the most part things have gone well.

That said, the time that we got into the argument reminds me of what we are seeing now when he is irrational and angry.  I don’t know, looking back, if that was a warning sign or if it was just how he acts when he is angry.  I don’t know about a lot of things…his wife would sometimes call and tell us to not come over because he was in a mood – she would describe him as unbearable.  I took it at face value, and none of us even began to wonder if there was something wrong.

Not all of the examples of aging that I see in my family are on such shaky ground.  My parents are doing well – they are still pretty young though.  Just thinking about what it would be like if my parents had dementia… well, it makes me automatically think of how the elderly in my family have not tended to have those kind of diseases.  Rather, we have died young of anuerisms and bronchitiosis (sp?) and other quick deaths.  Maybe that’s enough thinking about that for today.  Hope you’re well, thanks for reading.  Sheila

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