Year five, age four: September 1986-1987.
After Mom died, some major changes happened over the next few years. First off, my dad had my long hair cut short into the mushroom cut that was so quintessential of little girls in the 80's. Then we got into some routines like going out to eat every Saturday night as a family and eating Sunday dinners at Grandma and Popo's house. Those were my mom's parents and they lived about six miles from us. There were transportation and baby-sitting logistics to work out and it felt like someone was always either coming or going at our house.
We also had several family members come live with us for a while. I'm pretty sure my grandma-- Grandma-Down-the-River, as we called her-- was living with us at this time. She was my dad's mom and she lived south of the river (hence her name, although her real name was Caroline) and we lived north of the river, which, if you are from Kansas City, means something. I remember it being kind of hard to live with her because she was very old and she made me do all kinds of things I didn't want to do, and not just in the way that all kids need to do things they don't want to do. What I mean is that I generally felt like she didn't really understand me all that well; like she just made me do things because she felt that little girls my age should do certain things and not because it was something I needed. I remember that she used to make me take naps with her on my brother's bed, for example. I hated this because I didn't understand why I couldn't nap in my own bed, and at a certain point I started thinking that she just made me do it because she wanted to take naps. Because I would just lay there, awake and entertaining myself with my brother's Snoopy comic strip wallpaper, while she slept.
I came from a pretty big, Catholic family and I know that Catholics can get a bad rap for being so religious in a works-oriented kind of way (a criticism that I think does have some merit) but I have to say, from personal experience, that they do a lot of things right. The Bible, which mostly comes down quite harsh on religiosity, does say that the one "religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27). Having been orphaned and raised by a widower, and having seen so many others lose loved ones, I can say that Catholic believers have impressed me the most in the way they comfort and support the mourning. Even though it wasn't easy all the time, I respect and appreciate the fact that we had family members who put their lives on hold to come live with us; to look after orphans and widows in their distress.