When I was a newer mom, I always sent perfectly drafted letters tucked into Christmas cards that I spent hours choosing, just so they were the most perfect holiday cards I could find. As an older mom, I know now that the holidays – Christmas especially – are never quite as perfect as the picture on the Christmas card or in the carefully worded holiday letter. So this year, I am posting our 2018 Year in Review – the real one. The one without kids who should have already been declared saints by the Pope. The one without the people who are so overwhelmingly happy you want to know what drugs and how powerful they have to be to get that level of happy-citement. Here is the Skamarakas Family Year in Review – warts and all.
I got a call from my stepdad. He’d been battling cancer for nearly two years, but had only begun intensive treatment at the start of the holiday season. He was having trouble breathing and wanted me to come over and wait with him while I called for an ambulance.
I arrived about 25 minutes later, and found him sitting, panting for breath, on the sofa. He was surrounded by his two best buds – John and Ron. All three had Crown Royal and Ginger-ale poured into tall glasses on the coffee table. Had I known it would be the last time he’d be in that house, I would have taken the picture. It summed up his life so perfectly. He enjoyed a good Crown and Ginger, loved being with his friends, and lived and loved in that house for more than 40 years. It was, in retrospect, poetic.
He fought hard to live for the first week of the New Year, but by the start of the second week, he was tired. On January 12th, my sister and I went into an early morning meeting to admit him into hospice care. He died just a couple of hours later, and about half an hour after he died, a woman came into the room to have a serious talk with us about transferring him to the hospice care building. With him, dead in the bed. No, I mean obviously dead – like his eyes half open and his mouth agape. She stared at him in the bed on and off as she explained the process to us of moving him before my sister, God love her, finally looked the woman in the eye and said in not quite an indoor voice, “HE’S DEAD.” Add this to your list of party games if you are ever hosting hospice care people for an event – it was HYSTERICAL. I mean it – first time we laughed in two weeks.
March – After weeks and months of trying to get the house ready to sell, cleaned up and cleaned out (oh my God, my sister and brother-in-law were amazing in making sure this task was completed), we got some heavy rain, and the basement flooded. Faced with repairs in the $10,000 range, my friend Joy and the next door neighbor helped us clean up the downstairs, we hired someone to clean out the gutters, and voila – dry as a bone. The house sold for more than we expected, but in the unexpected financial gain, we lost our childhood home. For my sister Meg, it was the only home she’d known growing up. Closing was a day filled with stress and tears, but then there was a great celebration of Bob’s life. Friends and family gathered one last time in his honor, drinks flowed, food was plentiful – it was the kind of party he and my mom always threw. He would have loved it. Okay, well, he would’ve hated the fact that he was the dead guy, and he probably would’ve sat in a chair in the corner with his drink and not really talked to anyone that didn’t come to him first, but yeah, he would’ve loved it.
Who would have thought, just a couple of months after going through some of the most difficult moments in our lives, we would be so joyful? Calder James Tracy, our very first grandbaby, arrived after more than 24 hours of labor. He was healthy, mom and dad were happy, and he was absolutely perfect – every tiny inch of him. He was – and is – the silver lining to a dark cloud kinda year. And boy oh boy was I glad he arrived early. We had a vacation planned over 4th of July, and I couldn’t cancel – and didn’t want to miss Calder’s arrival. He is such a cooperative little guy.
Summer Vacation – It was the best. Part Disney World and part cruise, we were with some truly terrific people who brought the best out in our kids. The girls tried new things, thanks to this great family, and had fantastic experiences. I love those guys.
August – We moved home. Oh, did I forget to mention? Our house has been under construction since December of LAST year, and the initial contractor caused so much damage to our home, we had to vacate it in order for a new contractor to come in and make the repairs to the house was habitable again. To anyone who has ever thought it would be awesome to live in a hotel with daily housekeeping services, shut your face. It’s awful, it’s crowded, and you miss your dogs, who have also had to relocate to their trainer’s house through the process. With litigation pending, I can’t say much other than some people suck.
Fall – Jim got his Bar exam results – HE PASSED!! We were so freaking proud of him. But in the midst of his academic success came much struggle for my girls. Which college would Eilis choose? Which high school would Granuaile choose. They don’t warn you there are tears involved with these big decisions – not just on the part of the hormonal teenagers. Both have made their decisions, gotten fantastic scholarships, and can continue on a path of empowerment and enrichment. All three of my daughters inspire me. #GirlPower
Thanksgiving – It’s the first one where we’ve all been apart. I’ll never do it this way again. But, having said that, Granuaile and I had the most amazing time at Walt Disney World, seeing sights and doing things we haven’t done before. The other two girls have had mother-daughter trips, but Granuaile had not. It was great to be away with her, enjoy our favorite place, and get to connect on some things – school being the biggest – we had been kinda putting off.
Winter – After a whirlwind trip to Walt Disney World for Calder’s First Haircut, we settled in for the holidays. Law school exams were done, shopping, well, is it ever really done? Wrapping – well, if you count leaving crap in the shipping bag it came in “wrapping”, then yeah, it was done. We woke up Christmas morning at Brighid and Brent’s house, seeing Calder open his gifts and play with his new stuff. I’m not gonna lie – this is the first year in a LONG time we haven’t been at Disney for the holidays. And being home right now, thinking of the people we no longer have here to celebrate with, makes it a little sad. But there is nothing that can replace the experience of the baby’s first Christmas, and I’m so glad Brighid and Brent allowed us to share in the day.
What’s next? Well, Jim is awaiting his New York State Bar exam results, and he takes Pennsylvania in February. In 2019, the Skamarakas house will get a little quieter as Eilis gets ready to head off to college. Granuaile becomes a high schooler later in the year, and Brighid and Brent have big plans for the coming year, starting with a vacation to Napa in January. We are scheduled to go to court in February against the shady contractor that messed up our house – please say a prayer the jury sees clearly what was done here and how bad it truly was. I’ll be plugging away at law school – Lord help me – and practicing my grandmom game as often as I can.
Thank you, to friends and family who have shared our sorrow and our celebrations this year. You are only as good as the people who surround you, and we have been so very fortunate, more than I can even express, to have some truly amazing, incredible people in our lives.
My New Year’s Resolutions:
Have more fun
Have more parties
Oh yeah, and if I could lose a few pounds – well, that’d be awesome.
There it is – our year, in review. The good, the not so good, and the downright ugly. But through all things, you learn and you grow.
May you be blessed with love in the coming New Year. If you have that, you have it all.