Tomorrow is my last day of work for this week. Thursday, sometime around mid morning, M & I are heading for New York City.
I’m not sure what we’re going to do once we get into the city on Thursday. Aside from hoping to meet up with a friend for dinner in Brooklyn, we don’t have plans. Friday is jam packed, though. We’re starting out the day at Rockefeller Plaza to see Rob Thomas in the Today Show Toyota Summer Concert Series. We have lunch reservations at Maze by Gordon Ramsay at the London, then we’re headed to the Guggenheim Museum for the Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit.
I know that I’ve mentioned this before, but I am not a fan of New York City. So why this getaway? A couple of reasons. 1) It’s going to be nice to go away with my husband without the baby. We need a chance to reconnect the way that I think only a trip out of town can make people connect. 2) The concert is on July 3, which is not a very good day for me. I think this is a last ditch effort for me to have a good July 3. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but humor for the things that go wrong on that particular day for me. At least… now I do.
July 3, 1998 my great grandmother, called Sugar by everyone in the family thanks to me, passed away. To say that it was devastating to me is an understatement. She & I were close. I was the first great grandchild. Sugar always said that if she’d known grandchildren were so wonderful, she’d have skipped children. Then she said if she’d have known great grandchildren were so wonderful, she’d have skipped children and grandchildren. I grew up calling both of my grandmothers “Grandma.” Sugar always called me her sugar baby, so when I was able to talk, I distinguished her by calling her my Sugar Grandma, eventually shortening it to Sugar. It stuck [what can I say, I’m awesome like that]. My Sugar was, without a doubt, one of the strongest women that I’ve ever come across in my life. She taught me more in 14 years than I can ever hope to teach anyone. There are things in me that I believe I get from her – a quiet strength in certain situations. A love of learning. The one thing I always wish I’d gotten from her [and maybe if I work hard enough, I might be able to develop even a fraction of the talent she had?] is her green thumb. My Sugar could take a twig & turn it into a tree, she was just that good.
She got really sick. And I remember really hating that. I have a big, floppy stuffed dalmatian called Splinter that was a gift to her on her last Mother’s Day. He still has the hospital bracelet on that the nurses put on him. It says “I’m Splinter. I belong to Daisy B.” [Someone once suggested I cut the bracelet off. I’m not sure how he managed to get out of the room with his head still attached.] We called him Splinter because she was coughing a lot then & she’d had abdominal surgery. If you’ve ever had a surgery like that [caesarean sections included], you know that coughing is awful & that it helps to press something to your abdomen as you do it. He was her splint to help with that pain. More than once, Splinter has been there for me. I hugged him while I cried after she was gone. Whenever I get really sick, so sick that I can’t get out of bed, he’s there with me, without fail. It may seem silly to you for a 25 year old woman to cling to a stuffed animal, but he’s so much more than that. He’s a piece of the woman I loved love so much. I used him a few times after Butter arrived, because laughing and coughing really, really hurt.
The weekend that she passed, I knew she wasn’t doing well but I had a festival to participate in. For a year of my life, I was a Tamburitzan. The big festival is always held over the fourth of July weekend [this year, it’s in Chicago] & that year it was in Washington, D.C. My mom was supposed to go with me, but because of how sick Sugar was the closer we got, she decided not to come. She & my dad promised to come see our big performance on the fourth, though. I promised to have a good time that weekend & I really did. The morning of the fourth was our big performance. I knew that my parents were going to be there & I really wanted to see them before we went on stage. My mom was so much smarter than me, though. She talked to my director’s husband & told him what had happened, then asked him to make sure that I didn’t see my parents until after we were done. She didn’t want me to have to try to get on stage & smile for people after having my heart broken with the news that my Sugar had passed away. The week after that is kind of a blur for me. I don’t remember much & I’m not entirely sure that I want to remember it. Her funeral was … the worst thing I’ve been through in my life.
Since then, no matter how hard I’ve tried, July 3 has been a bad day for me. I laugh about it now. I wake up & laugh because I know that something’s going to happen. For several years, I tried not to work on that day. The comedy of things that have happened on that day culminated a few years ago when I happened to still be awake just after midnight & got a call from a friend to please come bail him out of jail. That was when, instead of crying, I burst into laughter & shook my head.
This year, I’m going to do my best to have a good July 3. I’m going to see an artist that I really like perform for free. I’m looking forward to the lunch that M & I have planned. I’m even looking forward to the Guggenheim. I want to live that day in the spirit of the loving, amazing woman that my Sugar was & with the hopes that I become even one eighth the woman she was. The best thing is that I know, no matter what, that she’s with me. We still talk sometimes, in my dreams. Call me crazy but those are my favorite dreams, the ones that I never want to wake up from.
So that’s why we’re going away. Because I need to do something that will make me forget what day of the year it is, that will hopefully turn my bad luck around. Because my husband realizes that sometimes, a person just needs to get away from life, to relax & to enjoy time with someone that they love. I tried to talk Butter into arriving on July 3 last year, but he wasn’t having it.
Sorry to get sappy on you, but seriously? Sugar was one of the coolest people ever. I wish that you all could have met her.