Henry – autumn in NYC

My friend Ayun, who started the whole Henry travel photo project to begin with, just sent me two new AWESOME pix ffor Henry from her neck o’ the woods. Ayun is a terrific writer, indie ‘zinester & actress, and she’s married to Tony-winning playwright Greg Kotis.  Plus, they have two supercute kids.  Their daughter India wrote me one of the loveliest, most thoughtful condolence notes I received after Henry died. Ayun and Greg are among the most fascinating and creative couples working in the arts today (and as you can see, even the New York Times agrees) Plus, they are just Good Peoples.

Here’s what Ayun wrote me about these two new photos for Henry.

Every time I pass this location (frequently – my favorite Chinatown 99cent store is downstairs from this temple) I want to take a photo for you. So last time, I did, and only wish that I was a better photographer, or a bolder one. A Buddhist nun (lay person … as close to monk status as a lady can get) came out and was very curious as to why I was kneeling next to their incense burner – almost as curious as I was with regard to the wilting cabbages spread atop the guard rail on which I was balanced. A language barrier prohibited either of us from explaining. Anyway, this is looking south to the Manhattan Bridge from the intersection of Pike and East Broadway, one floor above street level, and from what you’ve shared about Henry’s sense of humor, I think he would’ve dug some of the wares downstairs at the incomparably named BJ99 – where I once bought a small notepad featuring an unlicensed Barbie, under the legend I Ate You.

Beautiful fall.

xo Ayun

henry manhattan bridge

kuan yin _ henry street

(You can see all of the incredible photos taken all over the planet (really!)  for my son, Henry Louis Granju since his death on May 31, 2010 right HERE and HERE. The wonderful photo project was started by my friend Ayun Halliday, a fellow mama and writer. Every time I get an email with a new photo, I get really excited. It’s like opening a gift for my son. Receiving a new photo makes the day for me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. These photos are treasures that will be passed down as heirlooms in our family. )

Henry travels to Spain

Huge thanks to the sweet and very talented K. Emily Bond, who took this photo for Henry in Spain, where she lives with her rather beautiful family these days. Here’s what Emily wrote about the photo.

I took Henry along with me to see La Macarena make a rare pilgrimage across the Guadalquivir for the beautification of a saint, whose name escapes me. I’m told she’s a very important historic figure in Seville, as evidenced by the fact that the Virgen (heralded by her cult-like following as the most beautiful in the city) was taken out. She only leaves her basilica on the Madrugada, Good Friday during Holy Week. As you can tell from this video taking her out for a spin is a laborious process and my battery died before I could photograph the occasion.

Nevertheless, I did capture this shot while waiting on the banks of the Guadalquivir, the river Columbus sailed on his way back from “discovering” the New World. Magellan also sailed it in 1519 on his way to circumnavigate the globe proving once and for all that it is, indeed, round.

Not sure if Henry got the chance to see “the great river” but he was certainly there in our thoughts last evening.

Thank you so much Emily. This is absolutely gorgeous. And I loved getting to talk to you this week 🙂

Henry Travel Spain

(You can see all of the incredible photos taken all over the planet (really!)  for my son, Henry Louis Granju since his death on May 31, 2010 right HERE and HERE. The wonderful photo project was started by my friend Ayun Halliday, a fellow mama and writer. Every time I get an email with a new photo, I get really excited. It’s like opening a gift for my son. Receiving a new photo makes the day for me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. These photos are treasures that will be passed down as heirlooms in our family. )

Road trip = clean house

On Thursday of last week, Jon made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. He told me that if I could get everyone out of the house for the whole weekend, he would deep clean our large and extremely filthy abode to the nth degree.

Occasionally, our 100 year old, 3800 square foot, half-renovated house with its six residents (two in diapers; yes, 3 year old C still isn’t out of them yet), three dogs, two guinea pigs and two cats gets a little out of hand. We occasionally get to a point with the general level of filth and mess in the house where a time-out has to be called and the whole place has to be kind of turned upside down for a the housekeeping equivalent of a hazmat emergency. That’s where we were last week. The house was GROSS. Plus, we had Dr. Neighbor and his dog Thor staying with us because of his recent house fire (he moves into his new rental tomorrow), so there was even more activity – and dog hair – than usual. The place was really at a state where child protective services might have been taken aback. Or we could have ended up on that cable show about being buried alive in mess and disorder.

So anyway, Jon offered to do a super cleaning if the kids and I would vacate for two days. J was already gone for the weekend on her special trip to the Bahamas, which meant I only had to pack up E, C and Baby G for our roadtrip. We decided to head down to Bell Buckle for the weekend and hang out with family while Jon decontaminated our living space.

We had a really nice weekend, although I am always a bit melancholy in Bell Buckle since Henry’s death. Bell Buckle was Henry’s “happy place,” where he felt safe and completely loved. My other kids feel the same way.

Downtown Bell Buckle



My brother and sister in law’s house in Bell Buckle (except it’s purple now. Really! They painted it purple)


My cousins JNA and JGA threw a gorgeous and tasty dinner party on Saturday night. That was fun. I love both of them, but it’s extra nice for me to spend time with them now because they, too have lost a child, their toddler son in 2005, and so they understand how I am feeling. We’re all in the very undesirable club of grieving parents, and they have been really supportive of me through losing Henry. JGA was Henry’s Godfather, and is one of his dad’s best friends since college.

E is very close to JGA and JNA’s two oldest sons, his cousins – particularly 13 year old cousin J (so many Js!!!). So the two boys spent the whole weekend hanging out together, riding bikes around town, playing lacrosse and generally being goofy and cute. The boys have always really enjoyed each other’s company, but now they share the terrible experience of losing a brother. I am glad they have each other to lean on if they ever want to talk about what it’s like. Being middle school aged boy cousins, however, I’m guessing they don’t talk about it too much with one another.

E and cousin J hanging out in Bell Buckle

jack and elliot 2

Jack and Elliot 1

Baby G was very jolly all weekend. She’s really starting to smile now. She turned 12 weeks old yesterday. I took these at my brother’s house this weekend. G was enjoying some floor time.




The only time G was NOT happy this weekend was in the car. She fussed and cried all the way down to Bell Buckle from Knoxville (about a 3.5 hour trip normally), so we had to stop every 30 minutes to get her resettled. It made for a looooong trip. Then on the way back, she fussed a lot and C – whose cold seemed to morph into possible walking pneumonia while we were gone for those two days (she’s going to the doctor today) – screamed for the entire trip back.

I don’t know what I would have done without E in the car to help me with his two frantically unhappy little sisters. He never compained, even though all the crying was stressful. He just worked as hard as he could to soothe and entertain the two of them until we finally (FINALLY!) got home at about 9pm tonight.

Here is E, helping with Baby G when we made a road trip pit stop for some dinner. He is so good with the babies.



It was a looooooong trip back, but when we walked in the door at home, my jaw dropped. THE HOUSE WAS SO CLEAN! I couldn’t believe everything Jon had managed to get done in only two days. He’s a rockstar of the domestic arts. It looks – and SMELLS – fantastic. Oh happy, happy day.

How I was ALMOST the worst. mother. ever.

Tomorrow, J gets to fly with her very close friend N and her family on their private plane to spend a few days in another country – a tropical paradise of a country with amazing beaches. At a very posh resort.

Yeah. Really.

J is very lucky to get to do this, and she knows it. She doesn’t take it for granted. And N is just about the sweetest, most unspoiled kid I’ve ever met, despite the fact that she leads a very privileged life. I have HUGE admiration for her parents, who have turned out three great kids. N’s older brother S was one of Henry’s best friends until Henry began getting involved with drugs. Then the boys kind of parted ways.

But anyway, tomorrow J is leaving on this awesome mini-vacation with N and her family. She’s especially excited because they will be seeing one of her favorite bands in concert during their three days away.

J has had a terrible, terrible past few months, and I have been so happy to see her getting more and more excited about this trip with one of her very bestest buddies.

J and N, who have been close since kindergarten


Tonight I was getting together J’s travel documents when I suddenly realized that I couldn’t find her passport. Anywhere. At all. Jon and I proceeded to tear the house to pieces trying to find the missing passport with no luck. I knew I’d had it only 2 weeks earlier, when I gave N’s mom the passport # via email, but tonight it was absolutely nowhere to be found.

Finally we gave up. I had to face the fact that I was about to have to call J at her dad’s and tell her that she would NOT be going on her super special, much anticipated trip with her friend tomorrow. I knew she would be devastated, but honestly I think I was probably more devastated. I knew that J would one day be telling her therapist about the time her incredibly careless and disorganized mother lost her passport the night before her special trip.

The weird thing is that I have had this frequent, recurring dream for many years in which I am about to leave on an important trip and I’ve either lost my passport or let it expire. I have some variation on this dream at least once or twice a month. Losing a passport and being unable to travel on a planned trip is one of my weirdest phobias, even though I’ve never had it happen in real life. But tonight I realized that my worst nightmare was actually coming to pass. (okay, my worst nightmare already came to pass, but this was kind of unpleasant at least. An unpleasant nightmare)

I put off calling J at her father’s for as long as I could, but I finally had to call her and ‘fess up. It was really, really hard to tell her that because I’d lost her passport, she wouldn’t be leaving to go to the beach resort tomorrow.

But I bit the bullet and did it. However, before I could get out even two weepy apologies, J calmly informed me that the passport was AT HER DAD’S HOUSE. ACK! Apparently I’d totally forgotten giving her stepmom the passport two weeks ago when she took J to get her learner’s permit. Totally forgotten.

My relief is indescribable. No one wants to disappoint her children, but this would have been the mother of all disappointments.

I’m so glad that I am NOT going to be the mother of all disappointments.

And I know J is going to have an amazing time.

Raisin’ a little heck in the SLC

So I am in Salt Lake City for the first time ever. Actually, I’ve never been to Utah at all, although I’ve always wanted to visit, both because all those panoramic exterior shots in Big Love look absolutely gorgeous, and also because I’ve always – and somewhat inexplicably – been something of a Mormon history buff. I’m fascinated by the way the LDS pioneers persevered against unbelievable odds to create their own nation within a nation here in Utah. One thing I noticed right away when I arrived is that people here are exceptionally tidy-looking. And they just exude industriousness. Just being around these people, I feel lazy, messy and inadequate. The Latter Day Saints – both past and present – are fascinating folks, fo sho.

I am sitting here in my hotel room, trying to get a little work done before I go meet up with Jon and Heather to visit and talk about some business stuff. I am really looking forward to seeing them, and checking out their new digs. H is apparently feeling a bit puny today due to a cold, so I may not be able to drag her out with us after our meeting this afternoon (I plan to try though!), but in any event, I am really looking forward to meeting up for dinner tonight with another fave blogger of mine, Monica B, otherwise known as The Girl Who. (Isn’t it kind of weird that Salt Lake City is so loaded up with super-gorgeous, hilarious, more than slightly profane, ex-Mormon girl bloggers? What if Knoxville were all covered up with tall, blonde, cursing ex-Southern Baptist girl bloggers? Yeah – it would be kind of like that.) But anyway, Monica and I , and maybe her hubby are going to take downtown SLC by storm tonight – or at least have dinner and drinks and check out the very fascinating Temple Square – right up the street from my hotel – on foot. (I’ll have to drink Monica’s beer for her though because she’s knocked up. But I don’t mind. I’m happy to shoulder the burden.)

I was feeling very, very, extra sad about Henry yesterday. While traveling to SLC from Knoxville – via Atlanta, I saw so many sweet, healthy 17-20 year old, shaggy haired boys, guitars and duffel bags slung diffidently over their still-growing shoulders, happily striding through airports on their way to college or travel abroad or wherever. I wanted so much to see Henry have the chance to travel, to go to college, to see the world and then tell me all about it. Instead, he’s gone forever for no reason I can quite figure out. I miss him so much that it aches. There’s an ache that just never stops, even when I am otherwise feeling joy or having fun. I brought his journal from his first three months in treatment with me on this trip and I read it last night before I fell asleep. He was such a special, quirky, tortured person. So funny and creative and loving. The world is dimmer without him in it.

Okay, gonna shake off the blues right now and enjoy the day ahead. The Wasatch mountains out my hotel window are beautiful.

My child’s travel on Southwest Airlines as an unaccompanied “unaccompanied minor”

Last night I drove to Nashville to pick up J, after her week-long visit to California. She made the trip at the invitation of my Aunt Judy, my father’s only sibling, with whom I only recently reconnected. There had been some estrangement between my immediate family and my father’s side of the family – all of whom live in California – for the past 10-12 years. It was related to my father’s decision to divorce my mother. The distance meant that my children have grown up completely unfamiliar with their California kin, which made me sad. But we all came back together as a family in the months late last summer just before my father died, as we all tried to figure out how to help him, and during this process, we all realized we had missed too much time with one another. Forgiveness and forgetting were offered from both sides, and now all is well. These days, my Aunt Judy and my mother even chat fairly regularly. Who woulda thunk it? It gives me hope for all kinds of possibilities in relationships and life. It’s wonderful. I only wish it hadn’t taken my father’s rapidly deteriorating mental status last year, followed by his sudden death, to make this happen.

Anyway, a few months ago, my Aunt Judy invited my daughter J to come spend a week in Southern California this summer. J was thrilled at the idea, and I just love this about her; she doesn’t know these people at all, and has no idea what such a visit would entail, but at only 13 years old, she’s adventuresome enough to say heck yeah I want to go to the other side of the country for a week all by myself!

My aunt bought J’s plane ticket, and sent me the details. I was a little nervous about my 13 year old girl flying cross-country alone, since her flight both directions involved a layover of two hours with a plane change – one in Denver and one in Phoenix. But I figured I’d just hook her up with the airline’s “unaccompanied minor” program, and that some airline person would literally walk her through the plane changes. Because I assumed we could do this, I put off checking into it until the day before her flight.

Well, as it turns out, Southwest doesn’t offer this in loco parentis hand-holding service (for which they charge $25 per flight, by the way) for kids over age 11, and they don’t offer it on any flights with layovers or plane changes. The first part of this policy I can understand, but the second part makes ZERO sense to me. I mean, those are the situations where kids actually NEED an airline employee to help them; if it’s a direct flight, it’s not as big a deal for a child to fly alone.

But anyway, it was what it was. J is 13, not younger than 11, and her flights involved changing planes. No unaccompanied minor status was forthcoming. So I explained to J that she would have to handle this all by herself, and she said fine, no problem. J is lucky enough to have done a lot of traveling by plane already (often because her grandparents take her wonderful places, like France), so she didn’t seem too intimidated by getting herself to California without any assistance. I, however, was a little freaked out last Saturday as I watched my little girl confidently navigate her way through airport security, solo, and then turn and wave goodbye to me as she headed away through a crowd of people in the terminal to find her flight and take off.

She texted me when she found her gate, and then again when she located her gate in Denver for the flight change, and then she let me know when she touched down in California. And unlike in days of pre-9-11 yore, no adult was able to be there to greet her as she disembarked from the plane. They had to meet up with her at baggage check, so she had to find that part of the airport by herself, too, and then she had to locate and introduce herself to these relatives she didn’t know. She handled all of it with total aplomb, both coming and going. She is social competence personified. She was born with this amazing emotional intelligence that serves her really well.

Once she arrived in California, my aunt and cousins showed her an AWESOME time. One of my aunt’s granddaughters, M is just a few months older than J. These two second cousins who had never met immediately bonded and ended up spending every minute together for the whole trip. They went to Malibu, rode 4-wheelers on my aunt’s ranch, went to Hollywood, hit the mall several times, and jumped on the trampoline. J also got to go trail riding with Aunt Judy, who is a very accomplished endurance trail competitor. J had an awesome time. I was thrilled that she got to spend a little time with her great-grandmother, my father’s mother, for whom J is named. My great grandmother is in frail health and lives with my Aunt Judy, but J said she seemed really happy to have one of her Tennessee great-grandchildren visiting.

I had told J to be sure to save at least $25 of her spending money for her return trip so she would have funds for food, etc during her full day of air travel. She did, but then when she got to the airport, Southwest charged her $25 to check her small suitcase, which they had checked thru for free on her trip out there. J didn’t want to trouble her Aunt Judy by telling her that this was her last $25, so she paid the airline, and then spent the next 8 hours of cross country travel with NO money for food or drinks. All she ate all day were the free pretzels she got on the plane, plus some water. When she and I texted back and forth during her layover and flight change in Phoenix, I asked her if she had eaten, and she said “yes,” because technically she had (pretzels), but she didn’t tell me the truth – that she had no money or food – until she landed in Nashville because she didn’t want me to worry about her. I would have worried, a lot, so that was sweet of her. Needless to say, she was ravenous when she got to Nashville, so I immediately got her fed before we headed back to east Tennessee.

Oh, and on her flight from Phoenix to Nashville yesterday, J chatted with the woman next to her, and the woman began asking questions about J and her siblings. J, trying to be polite, answered all the questions, but she realized after a bit that the woman thought that J was some poor little urchin with cruel, uninvolved, divorced parents (J said the woman almost whispered the word “divorce” when she asked about her parents) who had callously and casually shipped her off to California with no adult accompaniment. J said the woman seemed to feel very sorry for J’s sad, sad circumstances. I told J she should have explained to the woman that her (J’s) parents would still be married, “except my mom wouldn’t stop with all the Satanic rituals, and after a while my father had just had enough of the headless chickens and skulls full of blood around the house.” I told her that this line probably would have ended the woman’s nosy and condescending inquiry. J says she’ll try it next time some stranger expresses misplaced pity over her terrible and pathetic broken family situation. I suspect she really will, too 😉 I hope so.

So that was J’s California adventure. She’s already spent a week in NYC this summer with her church youth group, so she’s had a pretty amazing vacation so far. The next two months are unlikely to measure up. But she and her new best friend/cousin M are already making plans for M to come here next, and J can’t wait to visit SoCal again.

Here are a few photos of J and her cousin M from the trip.

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