The end of the crustacean era

Yesterday we said goodbye to another member of our family.  The remaining hermit crab, Lumpy, went to his (her?) final resting place under the pine tree, alongside Bumpy, who was buried earlier this year.

Poor Lumpy.  Probably died of a broken heart, living a solitary life in the tank.  No one to climb the wall with.  No one to fight with over the crab house.  

Maybe not.  We noticed him looking poorly and grew concerned.  When he stopped moving and seemed limp, we knew something was up.  But our research led us to this conclusion:  the crab was molting.  Aha!  Experts say that it’s crucial to leave a molting crab alone, so that’s what we did.  We hydrated it, changed water, kept it warm.  The process was supposed to take up to 8 weeks.

And it went on and on.  Since there was no smell, we figured it was okay.  (I mean, dead animals smell, come on.)  But 8 weeks came and went, and eventually we decided that poor Lumpy didn’t survive the change.

So yesterday we had his funeral, poor little petrified Lumpy (I mean, stiff, fragile, like an egg shell molded to a crab form.  Every molecule of water completely gone.  Just a little crumbly skeleton.  No one wanted to touch it, because when you did, a leg or claw fell off.).  We buried him shell and all.  

Mitzi wasn’t upset to say good-bye to crab number three.

Next time, she says, she wants a better pet.

Grandma’s rose

As much as I love gardening and flowers and a pretty yard, I’m not much of a gardener.   I’m kind of lazy when it comes to tending the vegetation around my house.  But the other day I got a nice surprise.

After Grandma’s funeral last spring, as we were packing up to return from Connecticut, my mom offered me some plants that had been given by friends as condolences.  I chose a small tea rose, knowing my inability to nurture house plants.  I figured this lovely, delicate bloomer was not intended to last that long, so when it went it wouldn’t be my fault.  I’d get to enjoy it for a few months, as I mourned my Grandma and Grandpa, both now gone, and its beauty might help as I struggled to take solace in the memories of my short time with them.

So it hung around in my dining room, perched in front of the big, sunny windows, and it bloomed for a while.  When the last petals faded, I was surprised to see that the leaves and stem remained healthy.  After the June rains, when I got motivated to dig a new bed in the backyard for some perennials, I added the rose.  What did I have to lose?

Again, I was surprised each day at its survival.  Normally I try to choose plants that don’t require much from me — no pruning, good in drought conditions — definitely not a rose.  Maybe thanks to a somewhat wet and cool summer, the little rose dug in and grew.


Then the other day.  There it was.  A single bloom in the bright September sun, opening just as the kids started their new year at school.

I’ll enjoy the little bloom while it can.  I don’t know what to do with the plant to ensure it comes back next spring.  Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.  Because that’s the way things work.  You do the best you can, but so much is beyond your control.  At some point you have to step back, bask in the wonder of the ever-changing, unpredictable, and often glorious nature of the world we have such a short time to live in.  Much of the time, there’s not much more you can do.  

The wonder of this rose, that it hung on, flourished, even, has nothing to do with me, I’m sure.  But maybe my grandparents’ love had something to do with it.

And maybe that’s the key to it all, what you can always do when nothing else seems possible.  

You can love.

Eunice Kennedy and children of grace

I never gave too much thought for the Kennedy women.  Ray has a certain affection for the Kennedy legacy, specifically, an admiration for the general philanthropic nature of the clan.  The accomplishments of the men (as well as their foibles) are legend.

But the women?  Eh.

Then today brought the news of the passing of Eunice Kennedy Shriver.  Much will be — and has been — written about the various accomplishments of this grande dame.  She was clearly someone to admire and applaud.

Were there more like her!  And why had I never cared before?

Her passing calls to mind many issues she championed, but most strongly the need for valuing those in our society who are born with differences.

Four times I have been blessed with healthy children, a son and three daughters who so far have needed little extra care (okay, there were a few hospital stays with nasty diseases, but those were thankfully few).  But I could have gotten a different hand.

After all, all but Mitzi were, well, surprises, babies conceived when no babies were expected.  (Ages 7, 5, 4, and 3 — do the math!)  And I’m not a perfect person.  That no mistakes made were held against us is a miracle.

When we learned about Ellie, I was more than a little upset.  My life was chaotic.  I already had two small children, one for each hand, who in themselves were a struggle to manage most days.  Ray was finishing law school and took a job far away from our young home, requiring us to stay with my parents for a long time.  Grandpa had just died.  My heart was stretched, torn beyond anything I’d ever felt, and suddenly I was expecting a miracle?

I was a little less than enthused.  “Miracle” was not the word I would have chosen just then.

The pregnancy was very stressful.  My life was very stressful.  So when Ellie finally came (neo-natal team at standby due to a small complication), and she was normal, healthy, I was grateful.  (I was also grateful that my birthing complications were destined to become faint memories in the grand scheme of parenting.)  Sure, she suffered from extreme reflux which led her to prescription formula and two medications, but she eventually became a happy baby.

Today at four, she remains happy, healthy and on track.  So many mistakes by mom, yet this bundle of complicated perfection.

The same is true for each of my babies, all my surprises and the planned baby.  I should be more mindful of the daily gifts, but too often life gets in the way for that.

When Joanna was identified as having positive testings for cystic fybrosis, I was not entirely panicked.  Through earlier testing with my first pregnancy, I knew I carried the CF gene, but Ray did not, so we were confident baby number four was healthy.  And she was.  She’s a carrier, like her mom, but no disease.  Still, the newborn had to endure a painful (and scarring) procedure that would not have been necessary without that test.

Today, the passing of Mrs. Shriver highlights that were my experiences different, my world would be no less filled with grace.  I always had prenatal testing to determine various health factors of each baby.  For me, I needed to be prepared for what might come (including which gender baby box to open).  For some, this information too often leads to a decision about whether that particular pregnancy is continued.

I am a huge supporter of women’s rights, particularly of the right to choose what happens with one’s own body, be it booster shots or pregnancies.  Since becoming a mom, my views haven’t entirely changed, but my heart has.   Looking at my kids’ sleeping faces, no matter what this day has given us, I couldn’t imagine life without any of them.  Warts and all.  Hospitalizations and all.  Whatever has come, it has brought me to today.

I can’t judge others for their decisions.  But somehow I wonder if we are burdened with too much information these days.  It’s easy for me to say that, having a fairly typical experience of motherhood.  I’d like to think, though, that I would still be me if the cards were different.

I see the children of friends who are challenged in any number of ways.  Perhaps my own are challenged in ways yet to be revealed.  Do those differences define the children, determine their fate, or are they simply a facet of that complicated mosaic that makes up our souls?

Mrs. Shriver, and so many like her, answer question, reply, no.  Differences are not determinations; facets are not fate.

Look into the eyes of any child, and that’s all the answer you need.

Another one bites the dust

Well, I’ve done it again.  Speaking too soon.  Setting in motion the wheels of Fate through casual remarks.

Yesterday a writer friend posted on Facebook that she had gotten her daughter a pair of hermit crabs.  Many comments followed with advice and experience, including mine:

“Ah, Mitzi asked for some for her last birthday. Bizarre pets! She does an okay job taking care of them — luckily, they don’t need too much attention! Ours are called Swirly, Jr. (after the first, which died) and Lumpy. Or is it Bumpy? I can’t remember.”  (For a refresher, read my blog post on that one in January)

Later on I remarked: “We’ve been lucky since, though. Seven months without incident!”

Soon after it was my bedtime.  I checked on the kids, one by one.  As usual, I also checked on the hermit crabs.

It happened again.  There was poor Bumpy (or was it Lumpy?).  Out of his shell, limp, like an icky rubber slug.  I poked him (or was it a her?).  Nothing.  I picked it up.  Nothing.  I washed my hands and went to tell Ray.  (It is my strong belief that fathers are responsible for taking care of dead pets.  Mothers handle the emotional aftereffects.  Call me a traditionalist.)

After the corpse was tagged and bagged, Ray told me that he suspected foul play.  Apparently, Swirly, the somewhat bigger and more aggressive of the two, had been harassing poor Lumpy (or was it Bumpy?) just the day before.   We are convinced it was a crabicide, though without evidence Swirly remains a free crustacean.

Luckily, Mitzi was not that upset.  

(An aside:  This morning there was another post in the Facebook discussion, from the original writer, who was responding to another friend’s comment on her own crab’s death:  “are you sure it was dead, or was it molting. A friend of mine kept throwing away one that were just molting.”  Uh.  Hmmm.  Well, if he hadn’t been last night, 7 hours in a zipped baggie surely did the trick.  But we won’t share that information with Mitzi.)

A mid-afternoon burial in the shade garden is planned. 


On the left is Bumpy (or was it Lumpy?) as we remember him best.  

Now with his friend Swirly, in crustacean heaven.