Tag Archives: Bob Plummer

Unfinished Projects | Raw Thoughts On Milestones

Two years ago today, I found an embroidery hoop, some fabric from a scrap bag I bought at Silver Dollar City, and an old baby shirt. And I turned it into wall art. 

Which I never ended up putting on the wall. It’s still behind the girls’ rocking chair. With four other things I meant to hang on that wall. I just never finished the project. I was waiting on a friend to make a canvas for me. And then life kept happening. 

Two years have rushed by. In those years, Bess and Graham have reached all their milestones plus some. Adelaide has not. 

When Adelaide was a baby and not reaching milestones, they sent us off to get an MRI. I remember begging God for hours, “Please let her sit up so we can cancel this MRI. Or make her MRI normal.” Neither happened. 

Adelaide didn’t sit until she was much older. And her MRIs showed a brain that was severely malformed. Six malformations. One of them, colpocephaly, is pretty rare. There are about 150 people in our online support group. 

Her second MRI came during a trip to Kansas City. Our second neurologist. And we heard ‘polymicrogyria’ for the first time. I eventually joined an online support group. It was reassuring to find other families with these long words typed into longer reports. Our rare kids reaching milestones at different times, so we can rejoice together over the most mundane things. 

Bob bought the shirt for Adelaide a few months before the trip. Said the girl on the shirt had a big head like Addie, and they were both adorable. We were checking on Adelaide’s mega cisterna magna, so the shirt seemed like a perfect match. 

I don’t keep lots of things. Our house is small, and I tend to fill it with things we need in the moment. And books. Books got me through my abuse-filled childhood. But I kept this shirt, and I turned it into something else. Something I was proud of. 

Two years later, it’s still not on the wall. But that’s the beauty of it. In its own time, it will get there. Along with a few other things. It represents Adelaide’s journey…she operates on her own timeline. Meets milestones when it suits her. She stood up on her last day of preschool. They worked on that skill for almost 2 years. And she pulled it out of her hat on the last day. It’s so Adelaide. 

And it was so Bob to buy that shirt for Adelaide. Until he could no longer talk, Bob asked about his Adelaide. He fiercely loved all his grandchildren, peppered across the United States. He had special nicknames for each one. Inside jokes. He called them, video messaged them, and bought them weird/overpriced/silly gifts. He talked about his grandkids to everyone. He was a proud Papa. Very proud. And he was proud of every milestone Adelaide achieved. And if she didn’t achieve something: “Who cares? Addie can do whatever the hell she wants!” He had a soft spot for her. 

And it’s so me to have so many unfinished projects. It’s been 4+ years, and I still haven’t finished the girls’ room. Now we’re trying to build a special bed for Adelaide, and wall art seems less important. But I’ll still put it up at some point. I’m taking my time. And looking forward to Dave completing their bookshelves, so I can fill them with books Adelaide may never be able to read. Or maybe she will. You never know with her. She’s never seen those MRIs, so she doesn’t realize she’s done more than they said she’d  ever do. 

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Real Wooden Bookshelves 

“Of course he did. Of course Gil f***ing died.” I mumbled it under my breath. In the front seat of our van. We were driving home from Iowa. From Bob’s funeral. I opened up my phone to see that Jonathan Crombie had passed away. 

He was Gilbert Blythe. On VHS. Several places were warped. I didn’t own a copy. They were always from libraries. Too many libraries to count, because we moved so much. 

When we moved into a new house, I would unpack all my books. Before my clothes. Most of my belongings stayed in cardboard boxes, ready for the next move. But my books were always freed and put on the white shelf. Not even a real bookshelf. It was one of those veneer over pressed board shelves that bubbled up when I accidentally left a glass of iced sun tea to sweat on it. It was wobbly. But it held my books. And I always unpacked Anne and Gil first. Their covers completely falling off. 

I’d read them dozens of times before I even saw the movie for the first time. But once I saw it, Megan and Jonathan were now the faces. And they were perfection. As I read and reread the entire series from Green Gables to Ingleside, I couldn’t shake them. And their voices recited the lines. Jonathan’s Canadian accent replaced the voice I had created in my imagination.

I hated saying goodbyes. You trade addresses with a kid you know you can never write to, because you have no stamps.  You make promises to see one another again someday. My friends would send one card, with a new school photo. I had no photos to send back. We always bought the cheapest package and my photos went to family members I saw twice a year. But I did this ritual over and over again. Crappy rental after crappy rental. Nodding that I would write, and hoping maybe we could afford stamps this time around. But we never could.

I didn’t need money to read my books. I didn’t need money to ride my bike to the library. I didn’t need money to daydream about Prince Edward Island or how amazing it would be to have a “dad” like Matthew Cuthbert and get a scholarship to college and marry a man like Gilbert.

And as a 32-year-old me traveled home on a long stretch of highway with a grieving 5-year-old who actually had me photograph him with the coffin so he could always remember how weird the embalming fluid made his Papa’s hands look, I grieved losing the person who was the closest I had to a dad. Bob was finally dead. The road to being destroyed by cancer had been simultaneously fast and drawn out. But he was my Matthew. Taking me in and making me his own, even though he already had children. And I cried over Jonathan’s death. A brain hemorrhage. His family didn’t even get to say goodbye. They had waited 3 days to announce his death. 

It’s probably why I never want to leave this place. This house we’ve been working on for 11 years. Because it’s the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere in my entire life. We came home to this place after our honeymoon. We brought all four of our newborns here. We came back to this place after leaving two of our children with hospital pathologists. We were here when Bob lived. We were here when Bob died. Dave surprised me with my own copies of the movies, which have been the centerpiece of many date nights in this house. And my tattered, yellowed books are on a real wooden shelf in this house. A shelf bolted to a wall we own. 

Two years later, I miss Bob nearly every day. I think about how he teased me for having so many books that Dave had to keep building new shelves. And he would’ve teased me for crying over Jonathan’s death. And he would’ve teased me for being so sappy. I miss the teasing so much. That was the worst goodbye of the countless goodbyes in my life. And a stamp can’t fix it. 

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When My Life Changed Twice On Tuesdays

My water broke with Graham one week before his due date. Everyone said he would be late. First babies are late. But I woke up on Monday morning and almost didn’t make it to the bathroom to pee. My water broke in the bathroom. Gushing. I yelled for Dave. We didn’t have everything ready. I still had a week. Was the camera even charged? My legs weren’t shaved. My legs. Oh no. We gathered up the hospital bags as my water just seeped through so many towels. We headed out the door, texting our moms. It was hospital time. October 5th. As we drove the few minutes to our hospital, I turned to Dave. “Our son is going to be born today or tomorrow! I hope there is sunshine!” Our faces were slightly panicked. I was planning on a natural birth. No pain meds. Lots of breathing. And I wanted lots of light in that birthing suite.

On April 14th, we got the text from my mom-in-law. Bob was done suffering. At 2:10 am, he had breathed his last. We changed the girls’ diapers, grabbed a diaper bag, and loaded into the van. I had been preparing for this moment for more than nine months, but I wasn’t ready. I knew just two days before that I had said goodbye for the very last time. Graham told me on Sunday that it was time for Papa Bob to go to Heaven. I had been praying for hours upon hours that he would just go. Be released. But as we drove past the hospital where all three of my children came into this world, I couldn’t stop sobbing. My dad was gone. I should’ve prepared better. I should’ve spent more time telling him how much he meant to me.

My body never kicked into labor on its own. My water had broken, but my body didn’t know how to get this baby out. I labored without pain medication for 18 hours. Progressing. Praying. Regressing. Reciting Scripture. We would stop the pitocin and my body would stop labor completely. My birth plan was spiraling into an abyss as I couldn’t get past an 8. Then, the words came, “Lyndse, you need to have a c-section.” I fell apart. I was sobbing so hard I couldn’t breathe. Dave was furious. We had tried everything. We had followed all the books. All the ridiculous articles. All the tips to birth my baby like Caroline Ingalls. I felt darkness creep in as my mind filled with thoughts of failure.

The kids and I were up watching Disney Junior at their great-grandma’s house while Dave was with his mom. Between 3 and 4 am, Graham asks me why Daddy went to be with Grandma Linda. I am not having this conversation alone. In the middle of the night. “He is helping with Papa Bob.” Helping. Helping with the Sheriff. Hospice. The mortuary transport. Standing with his mom as she is widowed for the second time in just over a decade. “I know what Daddy, Grandma Tracy, and Grandma Linda are doing wight now.” “Really?” “Yeah. I fink dey are making me Rice Krispies Treats. Because I weally want some and dis is da weirdest night ever.” I got up to go cry in the kitchen. I actually found a Rice Krispy treat and took it to him. Yes, on the weirdest night ever we can eat treats before the sun even comes up.

We started to prep for the c-section when Graham’s heart rate became dangerous. “This is an emergency now. Get her ready!” Nightmare. We were now entering my worst birthing nightmare. They quickly gave me a spinal and wheeled me into the OR. You never forget those smells. The straps. The voices. I had slept two hours since Sunday morning. It was Tuesday. I couldn’t stop crying. “How are you doing?” I couldn’t answer. I had prepared for everything but this.

Dave came back at about 6:30 am. Graham wanted to know why we were up at night, instead of sleeping. We packed up the kids and headed home. Drove past that hospital again. This time the sky looked just like it did when we arrived as two scared-but-excited parents about to meet their first son. Five and a half years later, we put that kid and his sisters to bed. Cried myself to sleep. It doesn’t matter how long you prepare for someone’s death, it is always too early. Even when Bob’s body tried so hard at the end to get blood to all his organs, it was too late. Have you ever prayed for someone to just die? I did. And when my prayer was answered, I was still lost. And we still had to tell a little boy.

Graham came right before 4 am on a Tuesday. His head was large, and stuck sideways inside my tilted pelvis. He was in distress. I saw him above the curtain. He was so beat up. People were telling me he would be taken with Dave. “Come on, Daddy.” By the time I was finished and rolled back to my birthing suite for recovery, I had missed his vitals. His first bath. His screams. He met our families through the window before I even held him. I felt cheated. And guilty for feeling cheated, since he was alive.

We waited until 1 pm on the day of Bob’s death to tell Graham. Our son punched, kicked, screamed. This child who had watched his Papa dying, couldn’t take the news. We didn’t expect anything else from a five-year-old. Graham did what I wanted to do. What I had done in my heart. “God, how dare you take away my only dad? My kids’ only papa? How the hell do I get through this?” I was thinking of myself. Graham was thinking of himself. Bob was free, but we felt trapped.

Graham wouldn’t have made it without a c-section. I was no pioneer mother birthing under a tree. But he was no statistic either. Because everyone wants to say that babies should be born naturally and unimpeded and overly romanticized. The truth is that Graham and I would’ve died at many other times in history. Under a tree. Or in a cabin. But we were saved in an operating room.

Bob wanted to die at home. He told me many times that he wanted to be in his cabin. He was scared of dying in a nursing home or a hospital. And he got his wish. He died with his wife and his twin sister at his side. No alarms blaring. No strangers. Just his family and the skylight he always had a love-hate relationship with. I once told him that skylight reminded me of the bright light they shone over me when they took all three of my babies by c-section. Bob said he would buy a cover for it if it bothered me. “No, I’ve made my peace with that hospital light. Some women just don’t get to give birth the way they want to.” And Bob said, “I don’t get to give birth at all, so you’re tougher than I’ll ever be. You can remember that when that f***ing light shines in your eyes.”


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