Dear Grandma

Today I find myself paying the high price of mortal love. I should have written you long ago. I’m bad about writing. You wrote the sweetest letter to me when Garry got sick, in your shaky script. You were 102 years old and still handwriting letters to your granddaughter.

I’ve cancelled our flight, hotel and rental car that I had reserved for our annual visit on your birthday. You told me last year I wouldn’t be back because you weren’t having anymore birthdays, but you’ve said that before. However, I believed you and we all said goodbye. Then the months dragged on and you were still beating everyone at Uno and Bingo, and I booked a new trip. I figured we take you to Red Lobster. You’d jump out of the car and run in the building before anyone had a chance to help you walk, because you hated help. You’d get a margarita and my son would ask you questions about growing up in Chicago. Instead we will make other travel plans to say our forever goodbyes at your funeral. I will have a margarita.

When I was twenty-four you told me “in my time you would have officially been considered an old-maid” and you suggested that I marry the first boy who was nice to me. I followed your advice, but it took me six years to find a nice boy and another four to convince him to marry me.

You referred to yourself as dopey because school was hard and you never finished. School was hard for me too. I’m dyslexic and it’s genetic. Perhaps it’s one of the many things I shared with you. You were never dopey. You read more in a year than I will probably read in my lifetime. You raised three brilliant boys and you were so proud of their academic and professional accomplishments. I have lost track of the total of degrees between my father, uncles, cousins and brother and me. Not to mention published works. You loved books. You loved history and westerns. You loved big band music and you could dance. You love teddy bears.

My dad loved teddy bears and would buy them for me when he traveled, which was all the time. I love teddy bears and still have part of my childhood collection. My son is literally swimming in them. Garry has a strict “no more stuffies” rule that I make a practice of ignoring and getting the lecture when I get caught. Today after I received the call that you had died, I decided my broken hearted boy and I needed bears. I defiantly told Garry I was getting more bears, and his response was a simple “as you should”. It was extenuating circumstances after all. You always had bears on the door of your apartment, on your bed, and on the walker that you tried not to use. You began to give them to the other residence in your facility because they brought so much joy and comfort and you would say “everyone needs something to hug”.

I remember you told me that you grew a cup size with every pregnancy. You warned me that other women would tell me my boobs would shrink with pregnancy, but not to believe them. You were right. It’s a good thing I only had one baby. You had three and you had a rocking figure all 104 years and 50 weeks of your life. You were a babe, Grandma.

The single greatest thing about you was my dad. He attributed his phenomenal parenting skills to you. He read to us until we were late into our teen years, and his love of books was decidedly from you. When my Dad died the hardest part for me was calling you. I was a mom of a little boy and couldn’t fathom a call like that. It didn’t matter that you were 97 years old. You are not supposed to outlive your children. I’m so sorry that happened to you.

When I shut my eyes and think of you the image that stands out the most is one I saw countless times. It’s of my dad rubbing your soft wrinkled cheek with the back of his hand and saying “you are a very good mommy.” There is no greater legacy than that. I hope someday I have that in common with you. When my son is a grandfather if he still looks at me and thinks “you are a very good mommy” then I will have succeeded in the very best part of life.

Why CrossFit? Why Now?

The first time I heard about CrossFit was from my brother in law Kyle who had gone to a WOD with his soon to be mother in law (whom we lovingly call Christmas Carol). Christmas Carol had started doing CrossFit and was hugely successful with her overall fitness and weight loss. Kyle, who is a bit of a beast, figured he’d try a class and crush it. Kyle tried it, probably crushed it, and promptly threw up. This was nearly a decade ago, I was pregnant, vomiting daily already, and not at all looking for a new exercise program. Kyle however was hooked on this new emesis producing fitness regime.

Alice, Kyle’s soon to be wife, joined shortly after Kyle. I remember Alice telling me she had to have her wedding dress altered because she had not anticipated how much CrossFit would change her measurements. By this time I was trying to lose the baby weight and getting my boobs to fit into anything and not look obscene was a miracle. I contemplated CrossFit briefly, but I wasn’t sure it would pair well with lactation. Additionally, my dad was dying, I was a new mom and working full time. Sandwich generation guilt prohibited me from taking on anything that meant less time with my dad or son. Meanwhile Garry was all in. He went from 0 to 60 overnight and I was not prepared or supportive, but I was very resentful.

Garry completed his “check off session” and literally HAD to go to CrossFit five days a week. This was quickly followed by some new fresh hell he called the paleo diet. Apparently paleo people who had not discovered corn or potatoes, BUT were master brewers and distillers who died at the ripe old age of 35 had cornered some kind of market on healthy eating, and we were going to emulate them. Garry declared himself Paleo one night before bed, and woke up the next morning with nothing he could eat available in our home except maybe a banana and some frozen breast milk.  I found it hilariously unrealistic and figured he’d give it up like his plan of opening a bar on a beach in Thailand, but he did not. HE ACTUALLY WENT PALEO. He was Paleo for years. I complained incessantly, but I started cooking paleo. I can do amazing things with a plantain (insert inappropriate joke here). I even tried the paleo diet for a solid month, and have never been more homicidal in my life, aside from my first trimester because I am a very angry pregnant woman.

For those of you who knew me during this period you knew that I hated two things, CrossFit and the Paleo diet. I declared CrossFit a cult. In my mind it met the definition of a cult because it took all our money, told him what to eat and worse still stole his relationship with family. I was so convinced that the later was true that I did a time study on how much of BD’s life Garry was missing while he was at CrossFit. I like data. I love anything measurable, peer reviewed, and if possible replicated in a lab. You rarely hear me use the word “anecdotal” without immediately following it with the words “bull” and “shit”. For example I will frequently say things like “that’s just anecdotal bullshit” or “anecdotal evidence is bull shit”. So I gathered the data and formatted a point by point presentation on how CrossFit was robbing our son of his father. Data is best when paired with a story to support the data. Having been a hospice nurse for 15 years I am absolutely swimming in stories of what people do and don’t regret at the end of their lives. Let’s just say everyone wishes they spent more time with their kids and no one has ever said “I wish I worked out more”.

I like to pride myself on my powers of persuasion and I’m usually successful because I’m willing to give a little. If everyone walks away feeling like they “won” something deals are more likely to hold. The base of my argument was not that he leave CrossFit entirely or give up the Paleo diet, but it was to cut back from 5 days a week to 3. I gave my presentation and presented my data in WEEKS a year not spent with BD. WEEKS not hours, WEEKS. I was actually pretty proud of myself. He didn’t budge. He defended his position by stating that he was doing all of this so he is in good enough shape to DO all the things he longed to do with BD as he grew up, such as rafting and snowboarding or whatever BD wanted to do. He was simply playing the long game and the time away would pay off in time together later.  Needless to say, Garry has unrepentantly been going to CrossFit five days a week for the last eight years. Not that anyone is supposed to win or lose at marriage, but if you’re keeping score, I might be losing.

About three years ago I signed myself up for adult beginner swimming through the city. I took swimming lessons as a kid, but I am and always have been deathly afraid of sharks in all bodies of water. I know it’s not rational, that’s why it’s a phobia. As a kid this notion grossly impeded my advancement through swimming lessons. To this day I’m no longer afraid sharks will show up in puddles or the bathtub, but I’m pretty sure they are everywhere else. So although I can swim, I’m not very good at it. Oddly enough I have no fear of drowning, which being in a landlocked state and married to a raft guide is probably much more likely to happen.

It’s being married to a raft guide and giving birth to a human fish that made me decide I needed to learn to swim, and swim well. That and I’ve basically had an orthopedic surgeon on retainer since I was twenty-one. Swimming can be done long into life with minimal risk of injury and that seemed about perfect for a girl like me. I’ve become a regular at the senior center. I swim at least three times a week, and I’m pretty solid. But my bubble was burst when my knee started hurting so bad I was walking with a limp. The only time it didn’t hurt was when I was swimming. I was pretty sure I needed another surgery, but opted for the steroid injection and physical therapy instead. In physical therapy we reviewed all the great things about swimming but kept coming back to the fact that swimming is non-weight bearing, and it doesn’t do much for bone density or muscle mass, and muscle mass is what I need to compensate for my genetically inferior knees. Damn it. CrossFit builds muscle mass.

Over the years I have created several theories about CrossFit that have not held up under scrutiny. As a result I’ve decided my favorite pie is humble pie, because I eat so much of it. I like to wash it down with tequila and Xanax. Delicious.  I think I’ve mentioned that I like data. I spend a lot of time with data at work and in my free time I read every study and journal article I can on melanoma. I also dabble in literature related to cancer survival rates and recurrence. It’s actually an exciting time in the world of cancer. Survival rates are increasing and prognosis in becoming a moving target with new treatments. Currently there is a growing interest in making sure cancer survivors are able to age in a healthy way. We never worried about their long term cardiovascular health when they weren’t expected to live long enough for it be a problem. The day of telling them to eat whatever they want because calories are calories, or to only exercise if they feel like it are gone. Recently there was a study on breast cancer recurrence that showed women who workout five days a week, even if it’s a brisk half hour walk had a 30% decrease recurrence of breast cancer than their counterparts who worked out three days a week. THIRTY PERCENT! That’s what we call statistically significant. It didn’t matter how many hours a week they worked out. The data clearly demonstrated that working out five days a week was key. Remember my little time study tantrum about Garry working out five days a week??? Humble pie is delicious. Those extra hours at the gym are theoretically giving my son years with his dad that he may not have had otherwise. I LOVE humble pie. So tasty!

To make a long story longer I joined CrossFit three weeks ago, and I have never been so grateful for our new comfort height toilet seat. I also realize that for the last eight years when my husband would tell me what he did at crossfit I was obviously tuning him out.  For one thing they speak their own language, and I don’t speak crossfit. Additionally, hearing about someone else’s workout is boring. Nobody wants a play by play of your yoga poses anymore than they want to hear about your reps and Rx and PR’s (see they have their own language). I have decided it’s only a matter of time before my boob/boobs fall out of my top while attempting one of the many horrible inverted exercises they make you do. I spend most of the pre-workout huddle questioning my life choices and thinking I’ve made a mistake that I dearly regret. BUT life between the workouts is better. It’s a new thing I share with my husband, and it’s palpable how much he loves sharing this part of his life with me. My waist is smaller. I will need new pants and swimsuits sooner than later. I think my kid is proud of his mom. More importantly, I’m proud of myself. I used to be pretty competitive. I loved competing in martial arts, and my husband has always said “you’re a good little athlete when you want to be”. It’s like waking up. This feels like me. I feel like me. I’m going to bitch and moan about it but I’m going to keep going back, and that speaks for itself.