Her advice made you think, she really did listen well so she would always make you feel like she knew right where you were coming from. She also had a wickedly sarcastic tongue that cut right to the chase, but again, had you laughing. She would tell me that her job had it's moments when she wanted to just tell off some people, but "I always kill them with kindness" is what she would say. That was also a trait that my mother felt strongly about, if you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all. Now, I am not saying that she did not stand up for things, she always did that. But her way of doing it was so sweet, so sincere that even if she did tell you off, you wouldn't know it until later. She just had a way with words and a wonderful sense of how to deliver them.
Now, in my absence from my beloved St. Louis, I missed out on visits with my daughter, Bella. I had a very open relationship with the adoptive parents and it worked very well on both sides. I always made a point to send them letters to tell them of where I was, how I was doing professionally, how I was doing with the loss of my daughter, and how I was very strong in my feeling that I did what was best for her in the situation that I was in. I made it a point to reaffirm that I was healthy and making my way through it, not to mention how much I appreciated their communication with me, ie: pictures, updates, more pictures. This all paid off for my mother because she was the one who would make plans to see her in my absence. Yes. How fantastic is that of Bella's parents? They understood that I was not the only one who was feeling loss, they knew that Sande was a part of Bella's family and they liked her just as much as everyone else did. So, my mother did go and spend time with my daughter. Many times. My daughter even came to her house on one of those visits and she even played with my dog, something that I think is very special. My mother and I loved our dog Lucas and Bella got to play with him, hang out with him. Maybe that seems odd to you, but it is a connection that I hold dear. My mother even went shopping with my daughter and her mother, Sophia, for her First Communion dress. Now, if you have been following the story, you know that Sande was raised by a devout Catholic and was herself a Catholic, so to be able to shop for the dress that her granddaughter would be wearing to her own First Communion....well, let's just say that she was a crying mess when she received the invitation. That was, I know, one of her all time favorite things in her entire life. My mother was so very proud that Sophia had called to ask her to go. She told me that it felt like Bella wanted to know her just as much as she wanted to know me. My mother beamed through the phone after every visit, I could hear her ecstatic heart through the AT&T lines. It never made me sad that she was seeing my daughter more than me. They knew that I was far away, and they always sent me beautiful notes of sentiment and pictures to accompany it after a visit with my mom.
So we were moving right along in life, things were progressing with me and Bruce. I had a back injury at my management job which was a set back so I had to change professions. I did well with graphic design and computer courses I took so I worked hard to move up the ladder to get a job that I loved doing design. Before we I knew it, I was on the verge of 28, entering a new profession, in a relationship that was going on 7 years strong, and best of all...we were making a life, our life. My mom grew to love and respect Bruce over the years. Before we left Missouri she told him that he had to take care of me, and if he didn't he would have to feel her wrath. Bruce had proved above and beyond that the not only could take care of me and protect me, but that he loved me for all that I was. The wonderful points to my character, and also the flaws, he loved them all. I felt the same way about him. There was not a day that went by that he did not make me belly laugh. There was not a day that he did not say I love you. There was not a day that we went to bed angry. Somehow, we were making our relationship work. And for two kids from single mother homes who had no real father figures around to lead by example, that was a pretty big accomplishment. He admitted to me that moving to California was the best thing he had ever done because it had taught him that if you believe in someone, they can surprise you with their strength. He told me that the move was healing for him, that he felt a little more open and free here. We were still finding new things everyday about each other that helped us both heal along the journey. We talked occasionally about the children, and we were beginning to smile more during those talks. There were not as many tears as the years went by because we could see that they were all taken care of, loved so very much and also knew that we were thinking of them. We were all in a good place in life, me and Bruce, me and my mom, he and his mom. I was in love with my life for the first time in a long time, and it felt fantastic!
September 1998, Bruce planned a trip to Catalina Island (pictured above) to celebrate us for a weekend. I thought it was a lovely sentiment. It had been recommended by my cousin to go there, so we took a day off work and left for a long weekend on the small island just off of Long Beach, CA. I almost did not make it across on the ferry. I have a tendency to get car sick, sea sick, sometimes turn around in the car to talk to my kids sick...I do not do well with motion. But, we pulled up just at the perfect time to get off the rocker from hell! It was a beautiful little town called Avalon that was also a pretty popular spot for many Southern Californians, mostly for the small feel and old world style main street. There were only 30 cars on the entire island and everyone got around in golf carts. We found our hotel and it was charming, but we were ready to get out and enjoy the day. We rented a cart and decided to take the path tour of the island. We hoped in and drove up the hill to overlook the bay. There was a giant Navy ship just off the coast, there were bobbing boats with small dinghies riding out to meet them in the middle of the cove, there were spectacular views of the famous casino there that was built by Mr. Wrigley back in the late 1930's. We felt like we were in a different world. It was wonderful driving around that island except we think we may have been ripped off about the cart because there were people passing us on the trail and we could not get the cart to go any faster. It was hilarious and irritating at the same time. We really wanted to get all the way through the tour, but needless to say we arrived back at the rental place seeing just half the island but tears rolling down our faces from the comments made during the ride.
It was the summer of McGuire and Sosa. For those of you who do not know, the former mentioned baseball players were in the home run race that jump started Major League Baseball back to the juggernaut that it is today. We were from St. Louis and we loved our Cardinals so we stopped off at a sea side bar for some lunch to watch the game. It was September 27th to be exact, it would soon be a day in St. Louis history. On that gorgeous Indian Summer day, Mark McGuire beat Sammy Sosa (Cubs) to the single season home run record. That afternoon, sitting eating nachos and drinking beers we watched as McGuire hit the 63rd home run of the season. It was very exciting, we of course were very enthusiastic fans, but you have to understand the the whole country was rooting for these two guys to break the record. So when it happened, everyone was yelling. I thought to myself, I will never forget this day. We were lazy the rest of the afternoon, did some shopping, bought some things then we finally went to clean up for dinner. We made reservations at a place we saw while lallygagging and we were actually a few minutes late to the eatery. Bruce ordered a bottle of wine, and he never ordered wine. He said that he had always wanted to try wine so why not now? I thought it was great so we ate and drank until the place was closing, yep they had to finally ask us to leave.
The moon was glowing off the ocean and the boats were still bobbing up and down in the cove. I took my shoes off and we walked in the sand. I said something about being on an island in the Pacific and that there was a really nice string of islands we should visit further out in the Pacific, hinting at a possible trip to Hawaii, perhaps? He turned to face me and said, "Well, if we were in Hawaii then I wouldn't have this..." I saw his hand go into his pocket and when I saw the little box I knew what the whole trip was about. Bruce dropped to one knee. He took my hand and began to speak the most soulful words that I had ever heard from his mouth. It all ended with, "I cannot imagine my life without you, so please Kelsey, will you marry me?" "YES! YES! YES! GET UP!" I yelled at him as he put the ring on my finger. There was no fanfare, there was just us and the beach. It was so perfect, so romantic and just so Bruce. He surprised me, I really had no idea that this was going to happen. As we walked hand in hand I heard the voice of Fanny Brice in my head singing..."Sadie, Sadie Married lady". I was going to be a bride. Bruce tried to tell me to call my mother just after he proposed and I said it was way too late. It was 11 pm in Cali so that meant it was 1 am for her. I told him that I would call her in the morning and that she would understand. He told me that she knew about it. I was shocked. I asked him how she already knew. He said, "Well, I know that you do not talk that much to your dad and I figured that I should really ask your mom for your hand in marriage. I called her and told her that I wanted to marry you and told her how I was going to take care of you for the rest of your life." I cried. He did not understand. I told him that I thought it was the sweetest thing I had ever heard that he would ask for her permission to marry me. I told him that he really scored some brownie points there because I was sure that my mom got a huge kick out of him asking her, and not asking Phil. I was right. And he was right. I called her from a pay phone first thing the next morning and after I told her what happened she said, "What took you so long to call?"
Happy Thought #7. Yes, she asked to be in our wedding. We were thrilled to have her there. It was a day filled with love, filled with hope, filled with so much joy for everyone. We waited 8 years to get married and we were never so sure about anything in our lives. We kept a big secret that we revealed to the wedding party the night before: we were pregnant with our own child. All of our friends and family were there so everyone was doubly joyous because they knew me and Bruce's whole story. They knew that not only were we starting our married life, but we were starting a family as well. But you know who looked forward to it more than me? My mother. She was absolutely thrilled that this baby was on his way. I had come to St. Louis for a wedding shower and I told her and my mother in law about it back in July. She was actually beside herself and got permission from me to tell some of her close friends early on. She made plans to retire from the VA and come out to California to live with us. She was ready to love that kid and spoil him in ways we never thought were possible. We were all so happy that day. Bruce, my mom, his mom, Bella and her parents, and me. Bruce and I were going to have a baby boy and he was due on March 16, 2000. I so looked forward to that day.
Next post...the pregnancy and the birth of my son, Bodde and the thrill it brought my mother just to hear him breath.