Motherhood & Words

I’m sorry I’ve been quiet the last week. (And I’m sorry I was late on drawing names for the autographed copy of Hot (Sweaty) Mamas. I just had one of my fine coffee shop friends pull a name from a bowl, and it’s Cath C! Cath, send me your address, and I’ll get the book in the mail. Thanks to all of you who commented!)
Part of the reason I’ve been quiet is that I’ve been writing. June 1st is just around the corner, and I have a ton of work to do on Use Your Words to have it ready for my editor by then.
But the other thing I’ve been doing is sitting next to my grandpa, watching and waiting. Last week he took a turn—his heart was racing and he felt dizzy. On Monday, he realized he was going to fall before he fell, so he lowered himself to the floor and luckily didn’t break anything. But it took something out of him and he has been in bed ever since, sleeping most of the time, not eating much. And he may have had a mini-stroke on Thursday morning. As I sat next to him that afternoon, watching him sleep, I couldn’t help thinking how small he seemed, wrapped in the cocoon of this blankets, his body undergoing a metamorphosis that I wasn’t fully ready to accept.
I realize that he’s 102. He’s had an amazing life. But still, I’ve been hoping he’ll bounce back (as much as a 102 year-old bounces anywhere). I’ve been in that weird place, so excited about the book, about spring—feeling generally hopeful—and then I sit next to him, and watch him, and hold the straw to his lips, and it’s as if I cannot let the possibility of his death into my consciousness.
Yesterday after egg hunts and before dinner with the in-laws, D and I went to visit him. Grandpa was awake and seemed a little confused, but he was definitely better than he had been a day or so before. He asked whether we thought he had more color than he had earlier in the week. We said yes. Then he asked me to get the mirror from the bathroom, and I held it up for him. He turned his head slightly from left to right and left to right. I’m not sure what he was looking for, what he recognized in the image staring back. I’m not sure if he thought he’d look better or worse than he actually did. Finally I said, “You look pretty good, Grandpa.”
When I put the mirror down, he said in his no-nonsense way, “Sometimes a little bullshit goes a long way.” Ha!
So maybe he IS bouncing back, maybe he’ll be around a little longer. I don’t know. In the meantime, I’ll write and teach and sit beside him as much as I can, and I’ll let some of my hopefulness spill into his room. I’ll spin as much bullshit as necessary, and maybe it will make a difference.  

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. cath c on April 25, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Thank you so much, Kate! i bet the book will inspire me toward more consistency of self-care effort.

    Yay to more writing!

  2. kristenspina on April 25, 2011 at 10:01 am

    This is beautiful. Any your grandpa sounds like an amazing man… but then look at you! How lucky you both are to have each other.

  3. jenn on April 25, 2011 at 10:25 am

    this brought tears to my eyes, he's lucky to have you, as we all are!

  4. Ironmom (Julie) on April 25, 2011 at 10:29 am

    He sounds like a great man. 102 wow! I hope he does bounce back.

  5. Elizabeth on April 25, 2011 at 11:12 am

    I'll be thinking about you and your grandpa, Kate, sending hope your way.

  6. cath c on April 25, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    yes, your grandpa has an excellent attitude about this darn aging business. i hope i last as well as he. (i didn't mean to skip about him earlier, i was rushing through a lot of things in a bad multitasking mode earlier)

  7. Mummy mania on April 25, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    This is so lovely. We just cannot imagine our world turning without the people that have shared our space in it. He sounds amazing – and still so wise!

  8. Mary on April 25, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I'm cracking up through the tears. Such a beautiful post, Kate. Your grandpa is such an inspiration, even to me who only knows him through your blog. Thinking of you! xoxo

  9. Gwen on April 25, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    So sorry that it isn't looking good for your grandpa. Of course, 102 is awesome. But it's never enough, is it? My grandpa died 7 years ago, he was 77. I loved him so much, and still miss him every day. And I remember those days sitting next to him, watching him sleep, and feeding him ice chips. So sad, and so grateful, all at once.
    Gwen (from class)

  10. Andrea on April 25, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Oh, I do hope your grandfather bounces back…such a neat person and such a great relationship you have. Good luck with all the writing, too.

  11. kate hopper on April 26, 2011 at 9:12 am

    Thank you all for these warm and encouraging comments. Honestly, they mean so much to me. That you are out there, thinking of him and me just blows me away. Thank you! Thank you!

  12. Natalie on April 26, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Wonderful post! It sounds like he still has quite a bit of kick in him. 102! that is so amazing. Take care.