When I Grow Up

Although I’ve been going to the lake since I was an infant – with Nick joining me for the past 20+ years and the girls spending virtually half of their summers there – last Sunday we did something for the very first time: we spent the day and night there, all by ourselves. No extended family. No friends. No Phoofsy.

I hadn’t realized how much I’d been… anticipating? dreading?… the anniversary of her unexpected passing a year ago this past weekend until I found myself reliving each day last year. Today was when we gave Gram the last-ever lake book… A year ago today, we played The Lake Game and she challenged Ella so she wouldn’t lose a chip… This was the day we spent the night in the hospital… And so on, right up to the phone call from the nurse telling me that, shockingly, Phoofsy was gone.
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Phoofsy giving Ella the business while playing The Lake Game last Memorial Day.

I’ve gotten in the habit of checking the On This Day function on Facebook as part of my daily morning media roundup. I love the memories (especially posts where the girls said something particularly amusing), but that week leading up to the day we lost Phoofsy was really hard. My status updates were so… normal… giving no hint that my world was about come crashing down. How was it possible? How did we not know?

Then, finally, came the post where I shared that Phoofsy was gone – a memory that probably should have been miserable and unsettling. Instead, reading through friends’ comments (most had never even met my grandma), I was consoled and made whole. Comment upon comment expressed sadness not only for our family’s loss, but their own personal sadness that Phoofsy was gone – because she had such an influence on them, simply through my photos and stories.

“I’m heartbroken.”
“I loved it every time you posted a story about her!”
“She seemed like the most incredible lady!”
“The time you posted the picture of her on the scooter made my horrible day so much better.”
“I feel like I knew her.”
“Thank you for sharing her with us.”
“I was in love with Phoofsy from here.”

A good half dozen people said: “I want to be Phoofsy when I grow up.”

Who could blame them? A strong, smart, independent lady who was always game for anything, was an amazingly good sport, had a fierce sense of humor, and kept an active Facebook account at the age of almost-95? Yes, please! I want to be Phoofsy when I grow up, too.

She wasn’t perfect, of course. I mean, no one is, and Phoofsy definitely had her flaws… But she was crazy about me and Nick and Ella and Annie and told us so whenever she got the chance. That’s a pretty awesome thing, to be loved and to know it.

Often, when we told the girls we were headed over to Phoofsy’s apartment, they would groan and drag their feet (usually literally). “Do we HAVE to?” And every time I would tell them that yes, we have to. Not out of obligation, but because that’s what you do when you love someone: you show up. You’re there for dinner and to take them to the store when they can’t drive themselves. You check on them when they’re sick, bringing soup and crackers. You accompany them to events you’d never otherwise attend, simply because they asked. You call to say “hi” when you’re out of town. You show up.

(Okay, usually I just said, “Yes, we have to. Because she’s my grandma and your great-grandma and nothing gives her greater joy than seeing you. She probably won’t be around much longer, so we need to spend time with her while we can.”)

I’m so freakin’ glad I dragged them over.
And you know what? They’re glad now, too. Funny how that works.

Three days before Phoofsy died, I got a call at midnight saying she’d been taken to the hospital. As I hung up the phone, I groused to Nick. “Damn it. Grandma’s in the hospital again. But the doctors just told her they think this is nothing; I don’t even know why she’s bothering to go in.”

Nick asked if I wanted to go.
My first reply? “No. I don’t want to go. It’s midnight, for God’s sake, and I’ll be exhausted tomorrow and there’s nothing I can do anyway and I’m sure she’ll be released soon but if she’s not I can check in on her in the morning.”

Nick was quiet. We let my words just hang there for a moment.

“Shit. I need to go, don’t I?”
“Yeah. I think you do. Or I can… but one of us needs to go.”

Thirty seconds later, I was reaching for my shoes.

I spent the rest of the night with my grandma, navigating several areas of the ER and finally settling her into a private room on another floor. In between being seen by medical professionals and being taken away for tests, we talked; we used her iPad; we browsed magazines and looked at old photos. The entire time, she kept insisting that I should go home – “But it’s so late! You’ll be so tired! This is silly!” – and I kept insisting that I would stay until I was sure she was settled.

At last, around breakfast time, I was convinced that it was okay to leave. Before I did, she reached over and squeezed my arm. “Thank you so much for staying. I love you a lot, you know.” I told her that I knew.

After Phoofsy died, the attending physician called me at home. Among other things, she told me that my grandma thought I was fantastic, and that it was the girls and me who helped keep her going all these years. I’d never met this doctor; her comments were based solely on whatever my grandma had told her about me.

So yes, Gram. I knew.

I am so grateful for the time we had here in Rochester with Phoofsy – for every stuffy dinner, every comment about how our house was too small, every grumble about how apples cost too much. Yeah, sometimes it wasn’t exactly convenient… but we – Nick, the girls, and I – got to be a part of such a tremendous story. We got to witness, firsthand, what it meant to grab life with both hands and hang on for the ride, to always be up for something new, to be a true friend. People would tell my grandma that it was lucky (for her) that we lived nearby; truly, we were the lucky ones.

I don’t think I understood how integral she was to our lake experience, though, until we found ourselves there without her last summer. Even when our extended family was in town, the house just felt… off. Incomplete. To quote my aunt, being there alone made Phoofsy’s absence all the more pronounced. No one yelling down to the kids to wear their lifejackets properly… No sound effects coming from her iPad as she played online bridge well into the night… No one sitting in her favorite blue chair. Just empty.

It hurt. A lot.
So we made a point of never staying at the house alone.
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Crazy sky, Memorial Day weekend 2016.

I missed it, though. A well-loved home should be… well, loved. It’s practically illegal to not have someone enjoying it – empty chair and all. And so, this spring, I made up my mind that we would try. We would go down more often; we would stay overnight. It might be lonely and strange, but we love it there, so we would try.

My cousin, Andrew, and his girlfriend had been visiting the lake in the week leading up to Memorial Day. I’d thought they were staying through until Monday, but they left at lunchtime on Sunday instead. At first, Nick and I considered inviting friends to join us; staying there alone seemed too sad, especially over Memorial Day, a holiday we always spent with Phoofsy.

But then I decided – out loud – that we would do it. Just the four of us. The house is here and we are here and it’s not the same, but we need to try to find a new normal. The moment I said it, I had this instant realization that this might be how my grandma felt about the lake after my grandfather died almost nine years ago.
But she kept going. She made new memories. I’m sure it wasn’t easy. I’m sure she dreaded going to the lake without him. But she did it. She hung on for the ride.
I decided to hold on, too.
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Going for a ride… with Jitter.

~~~~~~~~

We had a delightful Memorial Day weekend. We grilled. We went in the boat. We played The Lake Game for hours – literally – and laughed until our sides hurt. No, it wasn’t the same without her… but it felt good. Right. True. I even sat in Phoofsy’s beloved blue chair – and instead of feeling lonely, I felt comforted.

If I want to be Phoofsy when I grow up, now’s as good a time to start as any.

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Giving Me Grief

It was the squash soup that did it.

I thought I remembered how to make it – we’ve had it as an appetizer for the past five Thanksgivings – but I wanted to be sure. The recipe, however, was nowhere to be found.

I lost my shit.

Not just a little sniffle, but a full-on, body-heaving, gasping-for-air sob fest. ‘Cause this wasn’t just any recipe; it was one that Bill had given me years ago, his favorite. After it became a favorite of mine, I shared it with my grandma and it became a favorite of hers, too — so much so that, when we put together a video for Bill’s 68th birthday, my grandma’s well-wishes included thanking him for “that wonderful squash soup recipe.”

On Thanksgiving eve, everything came crashing down. The build-up of weeks of fear and sadness, the longing and the heartache. When Nick was, understandably, a bit taken aback to find me in hysterics over a missing recipe (“You can just email Mary! I’m sure she has a copy!”), I found myself explaining that although I knew I could, I didn’t want to… because I wanted none of this to be happening. I wanted Bill to still be here to call him for the recipe. I wanted my grandma to still be here to call her for the recipe. And, by God, I wanted her to still be here for Thanksgiving. The very thought of celebrating without her, of allowing these holidays to pass without sharing them, was more than I felt I could take.

I miss my grandma so damned much.

~~~

About a month ago, I had one of those Ah-Ha moments. Nick, the girls, and I were hanging out and Annie was telling a story… and I suddenly realized that, although I’d been standing there, smiling and nodding and probably even laughing, I hadn’t really heard a word that she’d said. It was as though I’d been floating above her, above all of them, detached — there, but not there.

In that moment, when I snapped back into focus, I realized what this drifting detachment must be:
Depression.

The same faceless but ruthless enemy I’d battled in 2009, the one who’d been trying to claw its way back into my life ever since but who I’d successfully held at bay… was back. Upon further reflection, I became aware that I’d been feeling this way for months – since the beginning of the summer, really. (I suppose that losing so many people – Angel, my grandma, and Sara – in such a short period of time can do that to a person.)

It explained why summer had been “just right” instead of too fast or too slow or too anything: in reality, I’d distanced myself from summer entirely, so it was… fine. It explained why, despite the countless amazing things in my life that should have had me walking around with an “I’m All That And A Bag Of Chips (Preferably Doritos)” sign — traveling, family weddings, healthy children, my 40th birthday (holla!), the gloriously decluttered house — I still didn’t feel joyful.

Happy at times? Sure. Grateful? Hell yes. But genuine elation, something better than merely happy? Nope. If my emotions had been charted in one of those line graphs, the line would have remained remarkably flat.

As soon as the lightbulb turned on, I was relieved; I’ve battled this a-hole before. Let’s do this. And then I was pissed. For years now I’ve been preaching about how important it is to be open about depression — and I didn’t recognize that I, myself, was depressed?? WTF? Plus also, I was mad as hell that all of these great things were happening and I wasn’t able to fully enjoy them. DEPRESSION, YOU SUCK.

I’d been going with that assumption for a few weeks – that I was facing another bout of depression – when my Facebook timeline linked me to a blog post I’d written after Bill’s death. At the time, I’d felt kind of insane — soaring highs and crashing lows — until my therapist informed me that it wasn’t insanity; it was grief. All of the highs and lows, the near-obsessive drive to do and keep busy, were actually part of what fancy-pants psychology folks call Manic Defense.

I was protecting myself from my own grief by trying to be wildly active, then falling down when the sadness caught up with me.

Upon reading the post, it occurred to me that maybe I’m not depressed because I’m mourning those who are no longer here. Maybe I’m simply mourning and just having a helluva time with it.

I asked my therapist about it the next time we met, saying that I wanted to write about The Return Of My Depression — that I feel it’s really important to do so, that I think it’s critical that we reach out and let others know they’re not alone — but that I also thought it was pertinent that I be honest and identify things correctly. Is this depression or is it grief??

After listening, my therapist gently assured me that I’m grieving, not Depressed. She then mused that I should write the post anyway – because depression and grief can feel remarkably similar and we, as a people, are terrible at dealing with both.
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Last Christmas, my grandma insisted that we make some pinecone wreath she’d seen in a catalog. It nearly did me in, but we succeeded. The wreath is now hanging in our front hall. 

~~~

So that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m putting this out there because we are awful at handling all of this messy feelings crap, especially if it makes us sad. When someone dies, we’re expected – we often expect ourselves – to “get over it,” to reach this magical place, cross some invisible line where, finally, we will feel better. All of the steps have successfully been taken! The grieving was done! It is now in a box over there and we are moving forward! Hurrah!

Staying with someone in extended grief is absurdly uncomfortable. It’s been, what? Three months already? Six? A year? And you’re still sad? Ugh. No one wants to live in that world, so we avoid it. We don’t ask questions. We don’t talk. We don’t share, because no one wants to hear it.

(I’m hardly immune. Two weeks ago, I was at the Y and noticed, from behind, a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. I remembered that she’d just lost her mother and the very first thought that ran through my head was: I need to go the other way to avoid her so we don’t have to talk about that. BECAUSE TALKING ABOUT GRIEF IS SHITTY. Thankfully, I got ahold of myself and deliberately sought her out to give her a hug… BUT SERIOUSLY. I SUCK AT THIS.)

Likewise with depression. Some people don’t get it at all (“What do you mean you feel depressed? But you seem so happy”). Still others do get it, at least to some degree, but they want it to fit into a tidy parcel that’s easily defined and overcome. Have you tried medication? Talk therapy? Exercise? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you making time with friends? Are you eating well? Are you getting outside? GREAT! You have officially treated your depression! All better now!!

Don’t get me wrong – all of those are important and can be keys to fighting depression – but becoming un-depressed isn’t that simple. Those gross, sad, blah, detached, scary feelings can persist for months or years, even with consistent treatment. But does anyone want to hear that you’re still feeling low three months down the line? Nope. Not so much.

Depression and grief are terrible. Among their worst faults is that they cause us to feel isolated. People tell you to reach out, to not keep it inside – but ironically, we often are isolated – because no one likes talking about depression and grief. No one likes hearing about it. We like to fix things; when someone isn’t “better,” when they’re still sad, it’s a total turn-off. No, thanks.

I’m really sick of it. I’m sick of not wanting to mention that I’m afraid of Christmas – afraid to put up the decorations that I inherited after my grandma died, afraid to trim the tree without her, afraid of looking over on Christmas morning and not seeing her sound asleep on the couch amid all the hubbub – because I don’t want to weird people out. I’m tired of us not talking about depression because it makes people feel uncomfortable. I’m tired of avoidance being the first thing that comes to mind when I run into a friend who’s grieving.

Please don’t misconstrue what I’m saying; if anyone is an Eeyore all the damn time, it’s a real drain. Even your bestest friends don’t want to hear the unhappy, negative stuff every minute of the day. But depression and grief don’t always fit into neat packages. They can’t necessarily be “fixed” no matter how much time has passed or what steps a person has taken – and that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the person who’s still upset.

Grief and depression are normal parts of life – normal parts of living. Certainly, I work to compartmentalize my sadness – mostly because it can be annoying to be sad when I’m doing something happy – but it’s still there, commingled with the rest of things. It is fully possible to be missing someone so much, it physically hurts while also – at the very same time – absolutely reveling in the wonder of the present. Mourning and celebration. Depression and joy. Crappiness and awesome. They coexist together.

Negating or ignoring – or, worse, shaming – the bad parts doesn’t make them go away. It just makes them seem lonelier, which is really stupid because we’re all in this together.

So I’m going to try to be less worried about how other people feel when they hear I’m missing still my grandma. ‘Cause I miss her like crazy, and that’s okay. I’m also going to try to not be so uncomfortable around people who are depressed or grieving – or, at the very least, to still be there for and with someone even in my discomfort. I want my girls to know that my missing their Phoofsy doesn’t take away from my being ridiculously excited to decorate the tree with them; I want to show them that sadness isn’t something to be afraid of.

I just have to work on believing it myself.

~~~

As for the soup? After some sleuthing, I found an old email – hidden in the depths of my computer – that contained a copy. It was delicious.
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Click on it to see it in its glory. You’re welcome.

To Say Hello

My grandma (Phoofsy to Ella and Annie and many others) – always said that life was worth living so long as you were having fun. A little less than two weeks ago, unexpectedly and suddenly and to our stunned shock and heartbreak, Phoofsy stopped having fun.

You guys. I just… It’s simply not okay.

Living so near her these past eight years was one of the reasons that moving to Rochester was such a fantastic decision. My grandma was our guidepost, our touchstone, our sounding board and cheerleader, our adventure buddy, and our constant partner for dinner, games, and talking. We have never lived here without her and, honestly, I feel as though we’ve been cut adrift; Nick and I hadn’t realized how much she grounded us and made us whole.

I miss her so much, I cannot begin to put it into words.
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We have spent every Easter with Phoofsy since we moved here.
This year was no different.

Losing Phoofsy has been difficult for Ella and Annie as well. Sadly, they are quite familiar with loss (most importantly, their Grandpa Bill, and to a much lesser extent – although fresh on their minds – our Madison), but never before have they had to say goodbye to someone who was an integral part of our daily lives, someone whose presence would be noticeably absent at soccer games, swim meets, birthdays, evenings beside the fireplace, Sunday brunch, Wednesday nights, and every day in between.

This is an active, different kind of grieving, for all of us.
Not better. Not worse. Not harder or easier. Just different.

My mom and stepdad drove up to the lake the day after my grandma passed away and immediately got to the business of sorting through Phoofsy’s affairs (and providing lots of hugs and memories and laughs); we loved getting the chance to see them, even under these circumstances. As our little family foursome was driving back from the lake last weekend – the first-ever we’d spent there without my grandma – the conversation naturally turned toward Phoofsy.
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Playing The Lake Game on Memorial Day, my grandma was absolutely tickled that she managed to successfully flip her cup. We were absolutely tickled, too.

Things began simply enough, sharing stories and memories, but soon moved onto more metaphysical, abstract thinking. It started with Nick telling them that he was comforted by the idea that, one minute, Phoofsy was here and healthy, the next there was some brief confusion, and the very next, she was seeing Great‘s face as he said to her, “What took you so long?”

Annie and Ella were intrigued by this and wanted to hash things out, so we kept talking. “Where do you think Phoofsy is right now?” “If there’s heaven, do you stay the same age as you are when you die?” “Can people who have already died leave ‘messages’ for those of us who are still here?” 

As they discussed their conceptions of heaven, Nick and I grew more and more entranced. The girls’ ideas were absolutely fascinating and far more interesting and nuanced than anything I’ve imagined in my nearly-forty years. In fact, their thoughts were so lovely, so simultaneously comforting and thought-provoking, I asked if I could share them with you.
They graciously agreed.
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Chuckling that her poker hand was better than Ella’s.
Even when you’re 84 years older than your great-granddaughter, victory is sweet. 

—————-

“In heaven, you can be any age you want, and you can change that age whenever you like. So, if you had a really great time when you were twelve, you get to be twelve. Then, if you want to feel what it was like to be fifty again, you can be fifty for a while. Oh! And the person you’re with – like, if Phoofsy is with Great – can be another age, too. ‘Cause you know how Great was 86 when he died but Phoofsy was almost 95? That might not be fair, for her to be older, just ’cause she got to live longer. They might want to be the same age again – so they can be, together.”

(I don’t know what age I want to be yet, but that sounds pretty much like the best idea ever.)

“I think, in heaven, you can live out a dream while you’re awake. Like, you know how when you wake up after you’ve had an awesome dream and you suddenly realize it was just a dream and you’re so sad? Well, in heaven, you actually get to do the dream while you’re awake – you never have to miss anything! So Phoofsy and Great and Grandpa Bill can live out all of their dreams, for real – not just dreaming – every single day.”

(OMG THAT IS AWESOME.)

“But it’s okay to sometimes miss things. I think people in heaven might sometimes be sad. I mean, they’re mostly happy – it’s heaven after all, and they can see their friends and they can travel all around the world and have those dreams – but I think there’s a little sadness… Because life has sadness. We have to have some sadness to appreciate the happiness. Without a little, tiny bit of sadness, heaven wouldn’t be real.”

(Appreciation and perspective, even in heaven. Very cool.)

“When you’re in heaven, if you get to travel all around the world and be any age you want, I want to be a baby for a little while.” 

(Interject our incredulity. A baby?? But wouldn’t that be… boring?)

“Well, that’s the thing. We think it would be boring right now because we can’t see inside a baby’s mind and we don’t remember what it was like to be a baby. But if I could be a baby, but have my regular mind, I could see what life was like when I was a baby and actually remember it.”

(Scratch what I said before. THAT may be the best idea ever.)

“And I know that, once people are dead, they’re gone and all that. But I think they’re still with us, too — not just in our hearts, though, like people say. I think – and I know this is kind of weird – but I think that people can come and visit for a while. You can’t see them, you can’t feel them, you don’t even know they’re there… But they are. Maybe they walk with you to school. Maybe they sit next to you at dinner. Maybe they ride beside you in the car. Then, suddenly, you have a good memory of that person and it makes you feel better… and it’s because they were right there with you for just a little bit, visiting. Not all creepy like a ghost! Just a good feeling, because they came to say hello.”

—————
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Mother’s Day 2015

Ella and Annie don’t talk too much about being sad, but I know that Phoofsy is on their minds. Every day since she died, both girls, of their own accord, have made absolutely certain to keep something of hers with them; Ella now carries her books in one of Phoofsy’s old purses; Annie wears her hats around the house. Hardly a day has gone by when they haven’t worn one of her necklaces to school even though, normally, necklaces aren’t their thing.

Every time I see them toting her bags, donning her jewelry, adorned in her hats… a fleeting, glowing smile crosses my heart.

And I have no doubt Phoofsy has come to say hello.
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Auld Lang Syne

There’s so much I could write tonight – stories of our trip (both fantastic and disastrous), of the girls’ escapades, of how (just yesterday!) we were standing in the middle of Times Square where the tens of thousands of revelers have gathered tonight, or thoughts on the passing of another year and the beginning of a new one…

But, right now, I just want to savor what’s right in front of me, while still remembering New Year’s Eves past.

In 2010, we celebrated December 31st with Grandpa Bill and GranMary. The girls made their own hats.

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We do so like to be thrifty.

We laughed and clowned around.grandpa bill laugh
Another tickle game? Must be so.

We watched videos of previous ball-droppings in order to ring in the New Year several hours early.
countdown musicBill’s face, as he delights in his granddaughters’ shenanigans – complete with homemade crown atop his bald head – makes this photo awesome.

There was much merriment, believe you me.

As we ring in 2014, we are, again, with some of the girls’ grandparents, this time my mom and stepdad, Grandma and Pops. And again, there has been merriment and celebration and goofiness and laughter and laps-sat-upon and hugs abounding and noise-making and just pure joy.

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All the coolest grandfathers wear pointy hats on New Year’s Eve.

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Excellently festive photo courtesy of Pops. 

It is sad and bittersweet, this passage of time, but it is also just plain sweet. With family (and friends) and noisemakers and hats and crowns and these two girls and more love and blessings and generosity than we can possibly count, how can it not be?

I don’t know what 2014 will bring, but with these folks by my side, it’s bound to be damn good. Crazy… loud… maddening… exhausting… chocolate-filled (one certainly hopes)… and really, really damn fine.

You Never Know What You’re Gonna Get

We spent last week at the lake with some of my extended family – a dozen of us in all – a “stolen” week, as Nick called it, because the weather was supposed to be horrendously thunderstorm-y every single day, but somehow, only one day was too rainy to be on the dock. When we’re down for just an afternoon or a weekend, I (try to) keep the girls and myself eating relatively normally — fruits and veggies, snacks devoid of too many unpronounceable ingredients, dessert food reserved for dessert. But when we dig in for a longer stay and my relatives are in town, I officially give up and accept that my aunt will give them chocolate chip cookies and Diet Coke for breakfast, my mother will sneak them candies and sips of iced tea throughout the day, and my cousins will invite them to help finish off entire family-sized bags of potato chips in one sitting. It’s still totally “everything in moderation” with 51 weeks mostly on and one week ridiculously off, right?

I prefer to save myself for Doritos. There is a reason that I don’t keep them in my house, and it is because they are filled with crack and made by the devil. I believe I ate my weight’s worth in Doritos last week, although I did manage to save room for several Magnum bars. And Fourth of July cake (for breakfast). And about half a cup of Helluva Good french onion dip. Daily.

During these weeks together, everyone is in vacation mode, where calories don’t matter and bacon is a food group, and it becomes a snack free-for-all, a mob mentality frenzy to see just how many Pringles or donut holes or Cheez Doodles we can load into the pantry. It is also every person for him or herself, because with twelve people sharing a kitchen, that organic lemonade you purchased just for you, or the leftover chicken salad you were planning to eat for lunch, magically disappears the moment someone else decides it looks tasty. Unless you put your name on it (which I have done, quite literally), it’s fair game.

I do sometimes try to show a little restraint, to ascertain the item’s intended-for consumer, if only because I’m hoping karma will smile kindly on me the next time and save me the one remaining perfectly ripe peach I’ve been eyeing. Hence, when I opened the refrigerator last weekend and discovered a beautiful little blue chocolate box containing just one of its four original specialty chocolates — a bon bon in the exact same shade of robin’s egg blue as the box — I simply closed the door and walked away. Surely, by leaving only one chocolate in the box, someone was saving it for themselves… Also, I could eat the Magnum bars in the meantime. Moderation, people.

When the little blue chocolate was still sitting there the next afternoon, however, all bets were off. I took the candy out of the box and examined it, saying aloud to my cousin, “I wonder what’s in this?” (because a blue-coated chocolate doesn’t exactly scream out caramel [yay!] or cherry [omg, no] or nougat [maybe]). A sniff didn’t provide me with any clues — it just smelled, you know, like chocolate — so I broke it in half and was delighted to discover that it was a perfect combination of milk chocolate and mint. I’d love to say that I savored each morsel, but really, I scarfed that puppy down in a single, satisfied bite, threw away the little blue box, and went on with my day.

It was only much later, after the kids had gone to bed, that my grandmother began to ask about the chocolate. “I just can’t imagine where it’s gone! I gave the rest away when the ladies came for bridge last week but I was saving that one for myself.” When asked why this particular piece of chocolate was so important, she replied that it was a Godiva chocolate, and never in her life had she had a piece of Godiva chocolate (ninety-three years is a long time to wait for Godiva, y’all), and she just wanted to know what it tasted like — but more importantly, she simply wanted to know who ate it.

At first, I didn’t answer because she hadn’t actually asked me the question (I was in another part of the house and was informed by a cousin that my grandma was making inquiries), so it totally wasn’t lying because I wasn’t saying anything at all. An hour later, while we all played cards and my grandmother again bemoaned the mysterious missing chocolate, I feigned ignorance because, quite frankly, I wasn’t so eager to confess being the culprit – and really, I was doing her a loving favor because ignorance is bliss, no? Several hands later,  however, I could avoid her inquiries no longer, and admitted that yes, I had taken and eaten the candy. The little blue chocolate. The specialty Godiva chocolate, the one she had been saving. I had taken away the one opportunity she’d had in her entire life to eat a piece of Godiva. I also might have admitted to clubbing baby seals, allowing hair feathers to become popular a couple of years back, and not properly recycling my batteries, but I don’t think she heard me.

Because they’d become a bit giggly during The Great Chocolate Interrogation, slipping me sideways glances and trying not to laugh as I sat, silent, pretending not to hear my grandmother asking plaintively why someone would deny her this one pleasure in life (she didn’t actually say this, but, c’mon, her one shot at Godiva chocolate!), and also because they’re just awesome like that, my aunts and my mom were not about to let me take the fall — at least, not alone. The moment I ‘fessed up, all three of them piped in, “Actually, Mom… I ate the chocolate.” “No, I ate it.” “Really, Mom, it was me!“, which successfully muddied the situation and offered me a small reprieve. (Are they not wickedly fabulous?!) My cousin, however, was more than happy to chime, “But Emily! I saw you eat it!
Way to be a team player, dude.

In all of the laughing and confusion (and maybe because she was starving, having not eaten the chocolate), I truly don’t think my grandma knew that it was I who’d been the thief. Nevertheless, I vowed to rectify the situation, adding “Godiva chocolates” to the family shopping list that had been lying on the kitchen counter.

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“FOOD” pretty much sums it up.
Doritos. Word.

As it turned out, I had an errand to run, and so I was the designated shopper, a task that is usually reserved for at least two people because the amount of food necessary to feed all of us for a week requires more than one cart (the chocolate chip cookies alone can fill an entire bag. I’m so not kidding). When just one person is doing the shopping, however, you’re forced to stuff the cart to the brim, utilizing every single square inch of available space — and some unavailable space — like some sort of grocery store sherpa.

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The Godiva is in there somewhere…
Yes, the paper plates are balancing on the beer. That’s called ingenious.
And yes, the paper towels are leaning precariously and might have fallen off twice. That’s called stupid.

Because my grandma’s box of chocolates had been a “fancy” collection, I wasn’t able to find its duplicate at the grocery store, and so instead I bought her a bag – an entire bag! – of multi-flavored Godiva truffles. White! Milk! Dark! With so many amazing choices, surely she’d never even miss the little blue mint one that I’d stolen from her.

Upon arriving home, my grandma was presented with the glorious, new, gleaming bag of truffles. She looked at them, seeming puzzled, and I assumed that she was simply taking time to revel in this incredible moment. At last, Godiva for me! Then she looked up at me and said, “What are these for?”

I told her that I was giving them to her. Just for her. Because I’d eaten hers, the one special chocolate. And I was trying to make up for it with this enormous bag of delicious chocolates. Paying it forward. Improving my karma.

She paused, chuckled, and then handed the bag back to me and said, “Oh, Emily! If I’d really wanted that chocolate, I’d have eaten it already! Besides, don’t you think that Godiva is awfully rich for someone with diabetes?”

If anyone would like some Godiva truffles, they’re in the fridge at the lake. An entire bag. Truffles. Delicious. Be sure to put your name on them, though – just use a sticky note; we’ve got plenty – unless you don’t mind sharing.

But save at least two for me, please. I think I’ve used up all my karma for a while.