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While we were in New Orleans, we had to take our son to the emergency room. He’s fine, and was fine at the time, but he had bronchiolitis/RSV and was wheezing a lot. We called his pediatrician, who said it was probably not a big deal but since he’d never wheezed before we should have someone check him out. Due to insurance restrictions, we ended up in the ED. They declared him a “happy wheezer”, didn’t even think he needed a breathing treatment, and sent us on our merry way with an inhaler and mask gizmo, just in case.

When we checked in, I had to fill out an admissions form. This form had an extensive section for information on all three of us, more so than any form I’ve previously encountered. I was rolling right through the baby’s section — social security number, name, birthdate — when I hit a blank that gave me pause.

Religion: ___________________

Nobody had asked me this before. Mine and his father’s, yes, but I’ve never had to mark down baby J’s religion. I paused and looked at BWB, who shrugged. Just put both, he said. Oh, right, of course. So I filled it out: Christian/Jewish. I was proud of us, satisfied with that answer, and moved on.

The clerk at the desk, an older gentleman who had been telling me about his pre-Katrina job in real estate, looked apologetic. “I’m sorry, mama, but the system only lets me put one in.” I frowned, and started to explain that it wouldn’t be accurate. “Should I put down other?” Um. Okay? So my son got marked down as “other”, and he apologized again. He said he was Cajun, and they never had a good box to check for that, or for Creole either. I smiled and nodded, and we moved on.

But I haven’t moved on. My son is other? No. Other implies not belonging, lack of definition. My son is not other. My son is loved and accepted by two communities, has two sets of ladies at coffee hour and oneg who want to hold him. My son was blessed by a rabbi and a priest, he hears both Shalom Rav and Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing sung to him as lullabies at bedtime. I reject your checkbox, fancy computer system.

Yet even as I write this, I know that this is only the beginning. We have a long road of other-ness ahead of us, and I am sure this will be far from the last time that we find ourselves in this position. We are still confident in our choice to “do both”, and still certain we will make this work. That doesn’t mean we’re not aware that it would have been easier to just pick one. Sometimes the right thing isn’t the easy thing, though.

Someday, my son will speak for himself. He might choose to identify as Jewish, or Christian. He might call himself Buddhist, or Muslim, or Wiccan. Maybe he will continue to claim all of his heritage and defy the checkboxes on his own. Until he gets old enough to make those choices, though, it falls on me to try and make the world accept his religious reality.

So no, not “other”. How about, All of the Above, Yes, or Both? It’s Complicated. More Than Meets the Eye. Answer Unclear, Ask Again Later. Clearly, the form needs to be updated.

In the meantime, we’ll keep doing our thing despite the boxes. My son and our family are many things, and we are okay with that. Even if sometimes we don’t fit neatly on a form.

Eight months. Wow.

I went back and read the last update, from six and a half months, and it’s amazing how much has changed. My son is now super mobile, crawling mostly army-style with his belly on the ground. For short distances, he will stay up on hands and knees, but he’s not fast enough that way and switches when he wants to go farther. Lately he has been pushing up into down-dog, and I wonder if he’s going to crawl hands-and-feet in the near future. He pulls up to standing with increasing confidence, and falls over often because he tries to grab all the things and forgets he can’t stand unsupported yet.

This morning he pulled up on a box, then the box began sliding across the floor. Instead of falling, though, he just moved his feet and basically walked along behind the moving box. Be still my heart, and stop changing so fast, little boy.

Little boy. More and more when he looks up at us, we see his soon-to-be toddler face, instead of the tiny baby we brought home eight months ago. I absolutely cannot believe how fast this is flying by. He is on the cusp of so many things — walking, talking, signing — and shows no sign of slowing down in growth or development. Not that I want him to! Maybe it would be nice if time slowed for a little while, though.

I love watching him explore his world and discover new things. Unfortunately, some of his absolute favorite things are cables and cords, plastic bags, and dog toys, so we spend a lot of time taking things away from him. He adores cups and has since October, but now he seems to be really getting the hang of using them properly. In the last week or so he has become very interested in things that go in and out of other things. Animals of all kinds, but especially dogs, make him shriek with delighted laughter. We started taking swimming lessons and, like his mother was at his age, he is a water-loving little fishy.

His first tooth arrived on Christmas Day, and the second one came on New Years Day. In the process of teething, he stopped sleeping through the night. Now I have a ridiculously distractible baby who nibbles all day but won’t eat a full meal because there is so! much! to! do! — as a result, we are back to nursing semi-constantly overnight. I am grateful we have the hang of sleep-nursing, because otherwise I would be a zombie. As it is, I am more than a little exhausted, and as much as I love baby cuddles, I hope he goes back to sleeping through the night (in his crib) again at some point.

He has gotten very mama-focused and clingy, especially in the evenings and when he is tired. I know it’s very frustrating to BWB, who feels like he can’t help or comfort his son. It’s not a picnic for me, either, as the demands to be held constantly can be very draining, as well as making it hard to fix dinner. I am sure this, too, shall pass, but in the meantime we’re all a little cranky.

My son loves food. He wants ALL THE FOOD, and gets very upset if we are eating something and don’t offer it to him. This has definitely affected my food choices, as I try to make sure there is always something baby-friendly on my plate. The list of food he has eaten is long, varied, and includes scrambled eggs, watermelon, peas, green beans, sweet potatoes, carrots, king cake, croissants, mashed potatoes, grits, squash, rice, baguette, goat cheese, pizza crust, yogurt, goldfish crackers, rice crackers, Cheerios, oatmeal, gelato, broccoli, and pasta. He starts at a new day care Monday and they tell me they have to keep him on purée until he’s a year old, unless I get a note from his doctor. Given his impatience with food lacking texture, I think I will be talking to his doctor.

We’ve had a lot of firsts this six weeks: first Hanukkah, first Christmas, first train trip, first Mardi Gras parades. He loved opening presents, loved lighting candles, and charms his grandparents (again) at every opportunity. He was a champ at the parades, sleeping through some of them and giggling at others. He loved the music, of course. My little guy loves music of all kinds, and sings along often.

I love this baby so much. I could (and do) go on and on for hours about him. It kills me every time he outgrows something, or hits a new milestone, and I am torn between bursting with pride and wailing that he please slow down, stop growing up so fast. Too fast, it’s just going by too, too fast.

It seems as though many of the year-end posts I’ve seen on social media are glad to see 2012 go, but I can’t say I feel the same way. As much as it has held some dark moments for me, this year was the one which brought me my son and all of the amazing moments that come with him. I am a little sad to see it go, when it comes down to it. Still, time marches on, and now is the point in the year where we all tend to take stock of where we are.

I love being a mother more than anything in this world. I was made to do this, and I feel more whole and balanced in my life now than I ever have. I am amazed at where I am now, and I am so happy to be here. My goal in the new year is to stay focused on where my son is right now, of being present with him as much as I can, and treasuring his little moments as much as his big ones. I don’t think that one will be all that difficult, really. 2012 will always be the year that made me a mother, the year that made me James’s mama. Anything else is really just a side note, when you get down to it.

Of course, there’s the really big side note. For years, my driving (career) goal has been to become an OB/GYN. 2012 is the year that broke that dream into tiny little pieces. I keep looking down at all the little fragments and trying to figure out how to put them back together again, but it occurs to me that first I have to figure out what shape I want them in. It’s true that if I am still determined to deliver babies, I can (probably) make that happen for the summer of 2014, which then leads to the question of whether that’s actually what I want anymore. To be honest, I don’t know. There are so many emotions and complications around the whole issue now, among them that I am very, very burned out on fighting tooth and nail in my career. This year I will have to come to some resolution with all of this, or at least begin to make sense out of what I want to be when I grow up (again). For now, I am trying not to worry over it and instead giving God and the universe time to work on untangling and putting back together.

In the meantime, I have determined that this year I want to get my creativity back. My job has me working “normal-people” hours, albeit with an annoying commute thrown in for good measure, and I get TWO WHOLE DAYS off every single week. I hardly know what to do with myself. Our new(ish) house has a dedicated craft space, and this year one of my goals is to carve out time to journal, to write, to work on memory books (I am a huge fan of Project Life), to knit, and to quilt. I have so many I need to finish, and so many I want to start. I want this year to be the year I make time to make things again.

My other goals for 2013 are the typical ones: get fit, pass (and then improve on) my fitness test, run another half marathon and maybe tackle a full, continue to hammer down (and then improve on) our financial status. Win the lottery. You know, run of the mill New Year’s resolutions.

When I look at the overall picture of where I am right now, I’m really in pretty good shape. I’m happy, for all the foibles and pitfalls of the last year. I want to stay happy, and improve on it. At the same time, I feel that I am at a significant juncture in my life, stable but with many options about where I can go from here. It’s not a bad place to be, but I need to think hard about what the next step is. It seems as though I have the seeds of good things planted where I am right now, and this year is about nurturing them, letting them grow, and seeing what fruit comes of it.

Here’s to a fruitful 2013 for all of us.

When the baby was first born, my parents came and immediately exclaimed about the cleft in his chin. Just like his grandfather (my dad), and his great-grandfather! Our family chin! Finally, after several rounds of excited discussion of the remarkable chin, my husband (who had been very patient) pointed out in a slightly injured tone, “I have a cleft chin.” OH. Of course! A cleft chin just like his father! Ahem. Cough.

It’s funny though, one of the first things that happens when people meet or hear about a baby is often to inquire who he looks like. It usually comes right after, “Is he a good baby?”, one of my all-time least favorite baby questions, and somewhere before a question designed to determine his developmental status, ie if he is rolling over yet, or if we have introduced solids. (No, and no.) I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about why it is so important to determine if he looks like one parent or another, especially to uninvolved parties. I can completely understand why my mother sees so much of me in him, and why BWB’s mother swears she has a picture of him at three months which is indistinguishable from our son’s, but why does it really matter to someone I just met? My theories range from it being just one of the standard conversational topics about a new baby to something more along the lines of ensuring the baby’s status as a member of the tribe. One way or another, it is one of those things which almost always comes up.

I wonder too sometimes if we read into it, as if his face is an array of tarot cards or tea leaves. Hmmm, he looks like his mother, clearly he will have a penchant for salty things and enjoy knitting. Aaah, he has his father’s chin, obviously he will put entirely too much sugar in his tea and excel in the martial arts at a young age. Of course it doesn’t work that way, but maybe that is what we are trying to see when we study our babies’ faces?

So, after all that, who does our baby look like? Sometimes I look at him and I see his daddy’s cheeks, or an expression that is totally BWB. I tell him, Baby, you have your BWB face on this morning! Other times, he screws up his little nose and I have to laugh, since I know how that expression feels from the inside of it. I think he has his father’s nose, and frankly the cleft chin could have come from either of us but we’ll call it BWB’s for the sake of paternal pride. Most people seem to think that overall he looks more like me, at least so far. My mother-in-law is, of course, a notable exception. I have not yet seen this photographic evidence that she says she has, but my husband insists our son looks nothing like he did as an infant. Among other things, BWB says he was an ugly baby. (No, I don’t believe him, either.) We do have a couple photos of the baby where he looks a great deal like the photos of me at his age. (Well, actually slightly older than his age, since I was a tiny baby and he is not. But you get the idea.) He has such an expressive little face that he can look quite different from one moment to the next — my mother calls him the little face-dancer because of it.

Sometimes I look into his eyes and it is disconcerting, because it is like looking into a mirror. I would say if nothing else, he definitely has my eyes. How very strange, to see so much of myself in someone else’s face. It takes my breath away.

In the end, though, I think the answer as to the question of who he looks like is pretty simple: He looks like himself. That’s all he ever needs to be.

Here we are again, another month down. Another month of waking up every morning to exclaim how big he’s gotten overnight. Another month of marveling at how very different he is now than he was (insert time frame here — yesterday, last week, last month). This month I celebrated the anniversary of the day I found out I was pregnant, and as a result we’ve entered a time frame where I remember where I was and where he was this time last year. I remember those feelings of wonder, pressing my hand against my still-flat(ter) stomach and thinking of the tiny life inside me, barely more than a bundle of cells dividing rapidly. I have all of his ultrasound photos up on the bulletin board still, and in a few short weeks we’ll be at the date of the first series. Baby, the label says, with a small arrow in case you missed the appropriate smudge. He was the size of a poppy seed, an apple seed, a peanut, and now he’s being referred to as my bruiser, the future linebacker, and mistaken for a six-month-old. What a crazy thing this life-building process is.

My parents were here this month, helping to take care of the baby while I went back to work. I thought for certain I would be ready to have my house back by the time they left, but instead I miss them more than I think I have since I watched my father leave me alone at boarding school 19 years ago. I have gotten used to peeking into their room (aka my craft room) in the morning and seeing them there, sharing coffee over breakfast, having them here when I come home. Some of my missing them is missing another set of adult humans to share baby-holding duties with, but more than that I miss them in particular. Watching my father with his grandson was a daily delight — the two of them have a special bond, that’s all I can say — and listening to my mother talk to him brought back memories of those sing-song tones being used with me and with my sister. The morning after they left, my mother called me on her way to work and I held the phone up for the baby. She said, “Hello my little pookienoo!” and his eyes got very wide; he looked at me as if to ask how did I get his grandmother in that tiny box? As I write this, he is having his morning nap, and all I can think is, he should be napping on my dad, this is their nap time. I miss them. It was a joy to have them here in a way I never imagined it would be, and I miss them terribly.

About two weeks ago, my mother spotted two little tooth buds in the baby’s mouth, lines of white on his lower gums. I had seen them earlier but thought I was misinterpreting what they were. With that information, his increased fussiness and the part where his sleep schedule has gone crazy make a lot more sense. We gave him Tylenol and he napped for three hours that afternoon, poor little guy. I’m trying not to use it too often, but it does seem to help. He hasn’t liked the cold teething rings, preferring instead to gnaw on cloth or rubber. I acquired the oh-so-trendy Sophie the giraffe and she has proven to be tasty. I keep hoping those little white lines will pop through and give us both some relief, but so far they are hanging out under the gum, content to give my poor baby fevers and discomfort.

Also new this month are the oh-so-close-to-rolling-over maneuvers the baby does on a regular basis. By the end of this week, he has flipped almost completely over, with his belly and hips flat on the ground, but that one arm still tucked under so it’s not all the way done yet. I was really hoping he’d get the hang of it before my parents left, but he hasn’t yet. I am told that he is supposed to go from belly to back first, since it is easier, but he shows absolutely no interest in doing so. I probably don’t give him enough tummy time, but when he is on his belly he’s either perfectly happy to just hang out or totally frustrated and over it, so rolling is not really on his agenda. I’m not worried; he’ll figure it out eventually.

I have to put toys on the table now while I am eating with him in my lap. It’s usually a little Eeyore with a mirror/rattle on the bottom that my mother got for him. I have to do this because he has decided that reaching for stuff on a table is the best thing ever, and as a result he will grab my plate, food, silverware, or anything else within grabbing distance. I am also discovering this means he wants to help mama type, or move the mouse. Busy baby is very busy!

A few days ago I was in the baby stuff store and saw an 8-day-old. It was startling to see him next to my baby and realize how much has changed in just four months. Our pile of outgrown clothes is getting big and now includes a stack of 3-month sized items, while the wardrobe he is actively wearing is increasingly made up of 6-month size clothes. It seems like every day I try to put him in something only to discover it doesn’t fit anymore, and I look at some of these outfits thinking how tiny they look, then remember they were big on him once upon a time. Given that his father and I were both in the less-than-25-percentiles growing up, I expected to have a small baby. Surprise! The growth charts continue to insist he is mostly average height and slightly above average weight, but he seems huge to me.

It’s so odd to write these little posts; I’m never sure what to include. Surely I will remember the big things, like rolling over and teething. So do I comment on minutiae, those little things which probably don’t mean anything to anyone other than me? He has developed incredibly thick earwax this month, gobs of bright orange stuff. My husband thought I had been scratched by the cat until he realized all those lines on my chest were courtesy of our son, whose fingernails remain talon-like even after being trimmed. He snores. He has a tiny patch of eczema over his right eye which is intermittently itchy. When he poos, wait for the second (or third) round before changing his diaper, because they never come alone. His stork bite gets very dark when he cries. His belly button still occasionally seems to ooze a bit.

One time this month, he was fussing in his pack-n-play and just as I leaned over and his eyes met mine, his sound of choice was “MAaaa.” I know it was pure coincidence, but my heart still skipped a beat. I know the day will come soon enough that he says it and means it “for real”, but I can wait. I’m learning the value of taking every minute for itself, this baby time is flying by so fast, and so I can definitely wait.

In all of the talk leading up to our move, BWB has been very focused on it only being for a year. It’s been so heart-wrenching to say goodbye to our friends and to leave our city that he kept telling people we would be back next year. And hopefully, we will be. We have our fingers crossed that the match this year will finally work out for us, and that we’ll find ourselves back in New Orleans again this time next June.

Still, the way he kept saying it was bothering me, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. After some thought, I came up with an answer.

When I was four, we moved from a small town to a small city. It was supposed to be just for a year or two, and so I approached the situation as temporary. It wasn’t until six years later, when we moved from one permanent house to another, that it dawned on me that we were not, in fact, moving back to the small town I still for some reason thought of as home. This perception of impermanence colored how I interacted with the city I grew up in. After watching the documentary BRATS: Our Journey Home with my father, I realized that not only did this movie give me insight into his childhood, but it explained a little bit about mine, too. The expectation of leaving made it harder to feel rooted to any place or person, even though in my case that expectation was false.

It would be easy to approach New City with this same transience, to resist putting down any solid foundations or making any solid connections here. After all, we think we’re only going to be here for a year. Or will it be three years? Or five? It could be five. And even if it is a year, aren’t we doing a disservice to ourselves to spend a year feeling disconnected and disjointed? I brought this up with BWB, and we talked about it.

It’s true that this town is only going to be home for a year. It is, however, still going to be home. Rather than rest here only long enough to take off again, we have made the decision to land here with our full weight, build a nest, and settle in. It might make leaving harder when we go, but the time between now and then will be richer for it.

Nearly six years ago, I raised my right hand and swore an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Today, I said a similar oath, except instead of second lieutenant, I said captain.

He was supposed to be here.

Last year, my husband and I went to visit my grandfather and his wife of five years in Florida. BWB was terrified of The General, but we were both delighted to discover we had an amazing time. My grandfather took me out to the driving range to the first time, and I can only wish that I had let him do so many years earlier. It was so much fun, and such a bond with him. Over the weekend, he told me how they’d found a tiny little spot on an MRI, nothing to worry about, and that he promised he’d be here this year when I had my promotion ceremony.

He was supposed to be here.

Last summer, when I was on active duty for a month, I could not for the life of me figure out what the etiquette should be at the gate coming on and off base. I mean, there I was in a sundress and pigtails, headed out to meet my friends, and the young airman checking my ID wanted to salute me. Should I salute him back, despite not being in uniform? Not return the salute? Either option seemed disrespectful. My father said I should call my grandfather and ask his advice — he’d like that, my dad said. I called The General, and he reveled in it.

As summer faded to fall, an irresponsible oncologist and my grandfather’s naive fighter’s soul conspired to end his life.

Last fall, as I filled out the pages and pages of applications and forms required by the military for the match and graduation process, I agonized. How do I do this? How do I balance my family, my career, and the needs of the military? How can I possibly be fair to everyone and to myself? I needed him, I needed to speak to him, I needed his advice, but he was beyond my reach.

Last December, we buried him next to my grandmother on a hill at Arlington.

Today, I had to say that oath without him. Today, the Lt. Commander from the Navy base across the river read my words off to me, after making sure he knew my name by checking it in the program. He was articulate and heartfelt, clearly honored to be there with us, with wise words of advice for his fellow military physicians, but he wasn’t my grandfather. Today I felt his absence more keenly than I have felt any loss before.

I can almost hear him, the cadence of the words he would have said, the look in his eyes, the expression on his face. I can imagine the way he would have pointed, gestured with his index finger at me and at my husband. I can picture the way he would have looked, reading off an oath he took himself decades before I did, bursting with pride at his grandchild

It would have been our moment, his and mine. It was our connection, our shared history, our Air Force.

He was supposed to be here.

BWB and I have fallen in love with cruising. It helps, I think, that we got engaged on a cruise and then had our honeymoon on a cruise. Cruises are like a little sampler platter of a handful of different places, with water, sun, and a huge boat thrown in for good measure. We’re planning on more in the years to come, hopefully longer and with even more exotic locations.

One of the most fun parts of cruising is picking out shore excursions. They give you a long list of activities, about three-quarters of which sound amazing, and then you decide on something awesome to do at every port. It’s exciting just thinking about it — do we want to go on a zip line through the rainforest canopy? Learn to scuba dive? Horseback riding? Snorkel in a coral reef?

After our last cruise, I told BWB that I thought we needed a shore excursion list at home, too. Let’s make a list, I said, which has all of the fun, touristy, unique things we want to do when we’re at home. He thought that sounded like a good idea, and then we promptly didn’t quite get around to it. The remnants of that list make up the previously mentionedNew Orleans bucket list.

We’ve talked about it, and have decided that when we move, we will start a shore excursion list for New City. We want to explore all that it has to offer, and from our initial inquiries, there’s an awful lot out there! The theory behind the shore excursion list is that the number of days we will have off will be limited, and the number of days we have off simultaneously will be even smaller. With this list, we don’t have to find the stuff to do together on the fly; instead, we can just pick something from the list. That sounds like a lot less trouble for two tired interns, and a lot more likely that fun activities will actually occur.

I’m looking forward to declaring a shore excursion day and tromping off into the great known of our backyard. Who knows what we’ll find, and we’re certain to have fun doing it!

It’s about time for a lighthearted post, and I have just the thing. Food!

Specifically, my mama’s gazpacho recipe. This is one of those foods which will forever be associated with summer for me, since it was one of my mother’s favorite things to make for picnic suppers. She would make up a huge batch and bring it to the pool, setting it out on the wire patio tables in an enormous pottery bowl. Crusty bread was a must, the obligatory green salad, and beer for the grownups. We would usually be meeting up with another family, and the grownups would be carrying on with grownup things while the kids did kid things and argued that we could totally go back in the water even though we just ate. I can’t tell you how much I treasure the memory of those lazy summer evenings, running around the pool, in the pool, or in the grass along the treeline behind the tennis courts where we knew the best spots to find blackberries and honeysuckle. Gazpacho has become a summery comfort food, reminiscent of those firefly-chasing, barefeet-in-the-grass, chlorine-laden nights.

The ironic part is, I hated gazpacho. Detested. I thought the idea of cold soup was hideous, and I was fairly certain that my mother had radically misunderstood a recipe she read somewhere for (hot) tomato soup. In fact, I had a very strong suspicion that she was making the whole thing up, which would explain the crazy-sounding “gazpacho” name in the first place. Nasty, nasty stuff. I groaned every time I heard that was the dish of choice for the evening. I really thought it was one of the most disgusting things on the planet, truly and honestly.

I’m not entirely sure when I changed my mind about the stuff, but the first time I remember making it was right after I moved to New Orleans. At the time, I was living in a house without central air, only window units. The unit in the kitchen, bless its little heart, wasn’t strong enough to overpower the heat of the oven, and so I was left with the options of either cooking all of my meals in the wee hours of the morning when the summer heat slightly lessened, or finding foods which didn’t involve the oven. I made gallons of gazpacho. It was delicious. The rest, as they say, is history.

Gazpacho Ingredients This recipe is my mother’s recipe, with a few tweaks. Most of the things I have changed are actually things she does anyway, but when she writes down the recipe she puts down the original version and then verbally reminds you of all of the things she does differently. I consider myself lucky that she writes anything down at all, as one of my favorite stories she tells about her father is when she tried to get him to write down his recipes for her. It ends with her endless frustration at his inability to quantify how much salt that was, or how much sugar went in that. The tendency to vagueness in recipes is, apparently, genetic.

The only thing I have really added is cilantro. Have I mentioned that up until a few years ago, I thought cilantro was a horribly nasty herb created to make things taste like soap and ruin perfectly good salsa? Yeah. Anyway, I love cilantro now, so I have added it to this soup. If you leave it out, it’ll be fine and the anti-cilantro people will be grateful they don’t have to eat something that tastes nasty. Assuming they are down with cold soup in the first place, of course.

(Mostly) Mama’s Gazpacho
2 medium cucumbers, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 medium tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium-sized green pepper, deribbed, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 medium-sized red pepper, deribbed, seeded and coarsely chopped
l large onion, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
3/4 cup fresh cilantro, unchopped (roughly — I admit it, I didn’t measure. It was a handful. See: Granddaddy.)
32 oz V8 juice (or similar vegetable cocktail)
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt

In a food processor, pulse the cucumbers until they are finely chopped. Don’t overdo it! You want them to have a good texture. Transfer them into a large bowl, and then process the tomatoes in the same way. Continue with the peppers, and finally the onions, garlic and cilantro all together. (You can do these batches in any permutation, this is just what worked best for me and my processor.)

In the end, you’ll have a bowl of little chopped up bits of veggies (as pictured to left). Add the red wine vinegar and the salt. Now add in the V8 juice until you get the consistency of soup that makes you happiest.

(My mother’s notes say: Here you can whisk in 4 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon tomato paste. I do not. Since she does not, I do not either, but I figured it was worth mentioning.)

Cover the bowl tightly with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until thoroughly chilled. Just before serving, whisk or stir the soup lightly to recombine it. Ladle into large chilled tureen or individual soup plates. Top with croutons, bagel chips or bagel croutons, or finely chopped peppers or cucumbers.

Optional: Take to pool. Torture long-suffering daughter by serving. Enjoy!

My father called me to tell me that my grandfather was very sick.  He’d been in the hospital, but it seemed to be worse than previously anticipated, so I piled into my car with the dog and drove to Florida.  When I got there, I was able to talk in doctor-speak to the doctors and translate for the non-doctors.  My grandfather was so happy to see me, and I was happy to be there when he was transitioned to a rehab facility.  In May, he came to my promotion ceremony and administered my oath — his face was full of pride as I stood there next to him in my uniform, a symbol of our shared commitment and service.

My father called to tell me that my grandfather was very sick, in fact even worse off than we had feared, and was being put into hospice right away.  I piled into my car with the dog and drove to Florida.  I got there in time to see him one last time and tell him I love him, I’m proud of him, and that I hope he’s proud of me, too.  I brought with me a copy of the captain’s oath, and with the help of a relative, he was able to go through it with me right there in his hospital room.  It’s not official, but it means so much to me that he was able to do it before we had to say goodbye. I was there when we all told him it was okay, that he could go and be with my grandmother now, and I was there when he finally did so, peacefully and surrounded by love.

My father called to tell me that my grandfather was gravely ill and being moved into hospice as we spoke.  I piled into the car, but before I even left home, my father called me again to let me know he was gone.  I still took the dog, and we are still going to Florida.  I’m a little less clear on how this story ends, but I keep saying I’ll figure it out when I get there.

My grandfather died Saturday night, and as my sister said, the grief comes in waves.  These are the stories I have been telling myself since the first phone call on Friday — only one of them reflects the actual course of events, but I like to think that in some way, all of them are true.

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