Revisiting

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The old family church

 

I didn’t go alone.  Why would I have even wanted to go alone?  Last night, Emily asked me why I would do this.  She offered to go along with me.  That meant Lola would also have to go along.  There wouldn’t be anyone home to stay with her.  Lo was a little apprehensive, but I assured her that this wouldn’t be a trip filled with sadness.  PLUS…she would get to see The Other Lola’s grave.

The day started off well.  I woke up very early, too early to wake the girls.  I checked emails, then I took a nice, long bath.  Eventually, I went in to the girls’ room to wake them up.  “Hey, girls!  Wake up!  It’s cemetery day!!!”  They were both bleary.  Just like their mother, neither of them are morning people.  I didn’t hurry them.  I had no schedule to keep.  We had planned on toaster strudel for breakfast.  That’s something I don’t normally buy with 6 people in the house, but today was special.  We were having a day of relaxation and togetherness.  The day was off to a great start.

Of course, there were messages from work, a call from the hospital, but I was determined not to let outside influences ruin the day.  I know, it sounds strange considering the fact that we were on our way to a cemetery, but the day felt festive.  Then Andrew called.  He was stranded.  He had a tire blow out.  He changed the tire, and then the spare had blown, too!  I was still in my robe, but hopped in the car to rescue him.   ( OK, I am not a car guru, so don’t laugh.  If I have some of the facts wrong, I am just reporting what I remember)  We later found out that the front struts were shot and were rubbing on the tires.  That’s what caused the blow-outs.  $1,100 later, the car is back in business.  OUCH!

We hit the road before noon.  The drive was beautiful.  We remarked over and over at the beauty of the things we saw on our drive.  We twisted and turned through the countryside.  We sang.  We laughed.  We talked.  Emily said that she had no idea we would be having so much fun on our trip to the cemetery.  I was so happy.  This is just as it should be.  What would this drive have been like had I chosen to go alone?  So often, I have chosen what is not good for me.  I have chosen not to rely on those around me.  I wonder why?  I hope these are lessons that I take to heart.

I was happily excited as we rounded the corner of the family farm.  There was Aunt Lillian’s little house nestled in the bottom ground.  I knew that around the next corner, I would see the cemetery up on the hill.  The taller stones would reflect in the sun to guide us the rest of the way.

We rounded the corner, and there was the little country church.  Next door was Aunt Bertha’s house.  Once widowed, she had lived there with her brother, Uncle Jesse.  They are all long gone now, but their memories remain.  I remember Aunt Bertha with her cord of  garlic tied around her neck.  Uncle Jesse claimed that he was the oldest man in the county.  My grandparents were quick to tell me the truth once we were alone, but I loved hearing Uncle Jesse’s tall tales.  Uncle Jesse and Aunt Bertha were my great grandpa’s siblings.  He lived in the big, stone farmhouse next door where they had all grown up.

The big house has fallen into dire disrepair, but I remember it in better times.  I remember Great Grandma and Great Grandpa, and collecting eggs, deliciously famous chocolate cake, and a pump handle at the kitchen sink with a tin cup for drinks of well water.

Floods of good memories washed over me as I turned down the old country road.  I felt the spirits of memory all around me.  I stopped the car and waited for a moment to let them settle down.  I sat and looked up the hill.  Dad was there.  They were all there:  my babies Adam and Grace, my brother, my grandparents, great grandparents, great-great, great-great-great.  On and on…

I took a deep breath and headed up the hill not knowing how I would feel to be there among the dead, the dead that I loved so fiercely.

Walking up the hill to Sand Hill Cemetery

 

The picture below is where my dad’s body was laid to rest.  I felt a quiet sadness, but this is important, I did not feel him there.  Yes, I had memories of being in this place WITH my dad, but I did not feel his spirit in this place.  I have felt him in other places, but not here in this place where earthly remains are interred.  That in itself was a huge comfort to me.  No, I did not have to drive for over an hour to be near my dad.  He is right here with me in my heart…always.

He would have liked this journey of mine today.  He would have been proud.  He would be happy that I am honoring these memories and passing them along to my daughters.  The trip was worth it. I felt peace.  I remembered those people who have shaped and touched my life.  What I passed on to my daughters today was that sense of peace.  Someday when they stand by my grave, they will be comforted by the love I have for this place and this land.  Just as I am comforted by the knowledge of the love my dad had for this place, they will know that this place is where my heart will be happy and at rest.

 

Resting Place ~ The grassy area in the foreground is mine!

 

Our little Lola is named after my great grandpa’s sister who died in 1893 at age nine from scarlet fever.  We have her little wooden pencil box.  If you slide the lid back, there are still graphite pencils inside the box.  Her name is written in child’s handwriting on the bottom of the box.  After Our Lola was born, my dad was on a mission to find a picture of his great aunt Lola.  One summer day at a family reunion, he was successful.  He found a picture of Lola.  We have it framed and sitting on a special shelf next to the pencil box.  Today was the first time Our Lola has visited the grave of her namesake.  It was really sweet to see.  Hard to explain, but very, very sweet.  Below is her picture sitting on the stone.

 

Lola at Sand Hill

 

This may be a journey or a day spent in a way that doesn’t make sense to some, or to most, people.  It wasn’t morbid.  It wasn’t sad.  It was strengthening.  I felt years of love, family, care, and happiness wrapped around me.  I felt grounded.  I felt a sense of purpose as I shared this day with the girls. We all came away changed.  Maybe changed just a tiny little bit, but it was a good bit of change.  Below are a few more pics from our day.

 

 

View of the farm from the top of Sand Hill

 

 

Where I learned to fish

 

 

 

 

Missing Most of Me

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This weekend sucked.  Pure and simple, it was not good.  I won’t go into the minutia of all that is going on.  By this afternoon, I was counting the hours until Monday morning.  Work may be stressful, but it’s not thankless.  Often, work seems to be the only part of my life that I seem to do well.  It’s stressful, but most of the time, it is logical.  The rest of my life is like a roller coaster.  I feel like the ball inside of a pinball machine.  I am bouncing around all over the place.  When I land in one spot, I am flung across to the other side.

Added to the mix of a career, four kids, and a husband is my responsibility for my very ill mother.  I am all she has.  Please don’t ever be envious of anyone who is an only child.  I have yet to see ANY benefits to that situation.  I miss having siblings.  I always have, especially now.  My mom has end-stage kidney disease.  Since my father’s death, we have situated her in an assisted living facility, although she has been often in and out of the hospital for an endless variety of complications.  She was admitted to the hospital again last night/this morning.

The fact that the responsibility of my mother has 100% fallen to me has been fascinating.  Well, mostly it has been horrifying.  I haven’t lived in my parents’ home in almost 30 years, yet the moment my father died, I was “given” sole charge of my mother.  It has been hellish to navigate.  Hellish!  I won’t go into all of that right now, it has been almost two years of incidents.  Last night was another.  At almost 2:00 a.m., my phone rang.  My mom had been taken from her apartment, which is connected to the hospital, to the emergency room.  She was vomiting.  Sadly, this is not an unusual ocurance.  Of course, I would expect them to call me to let me know.  What I wasn’t expecting was for them to basically demand that I drive there immediately with a list of her meds.  WTH?  My mom takes over a dozen different medications on a daily basis.  I have arranged for them to be bubble packed.  She gets them each week.  There is a card with AM MEDS, one with PM MEDS, and another with BEDTIME MEDS.  The pharmacy she uses is IN THE FRICKEN HOSPITAL.  Her assisted living facility is ATTACHED to the same hospital.  I live of a hour hour’s drive away.  Plus, and most importantly , as I told the nurse who had awakened me, “I don’t have a list of her meds.”

“Well, you should,” was her answer.  Sure, yeah, I know.  There are a lot of things I “Should” do.  I will add this one to the list.  To think that I had been patting myself on the back for making all of the arrangements for her meds to be bubble-packed for her.  Frankly, I was pissed off.  It seems that no matter what I do, or how hard I try, there is always someone waiting around each corner to tell me that I hadn’t done something right.  I went back to sleep after being reassured that my mother was now resting comfortably.

A few short hours later  at 7:00 a.m., and I assume a bitchy-nurse shift change, I was once again awakened by a phone call.  “Yes, I am calling about your mother.  I need you to bring us a list of her meds.”  Jesus!  Wouldn’t you think that it would make more sense to call the pharmacy (located IN the hospital) or maybe even pick up the phone and call her doctor?  Yes, I did suggest these things.  Turns out the pharmacy is closed.  Closed?  Yes…closed, because it was Sunday.  As for the doctor, they didn’t want to call him.  He would be in later when he made his rounds.

When I made it to the hospital this morning, the first thing my mother said to me was, “Pam, they said you needed to bring a list of my meds.  Did you bring it?”

“Mom, I don’t have a list of your meds.  I didn’t know that I needed a list.  I thought the pharmacy and your doctor had a list.”

“Well,” she sniffed and said disapprovingly, “your Dad always kept a list of my meds.”  Too bad no one ever told me!

The rest of my day didn’t go much better.  I came home from the hospital to a messy kitchen and a yard that needed to be mowed.  T was grouchy, because he had wanted to spend the day painting the garage, not standing around a hospital with me.  There was so much that I needed to do, because company was coming for dinner.  Andrew had invited a girl over for dinner and to meet the family.  Others would be there, too.  That is just a normal Sunday in our home.

Dinner wasn’t the problem.  We were having a simple meal, just burgers on the grill.  The problem was, once again, trying to please everyone.  I don’t seem to be doing a very good job of it lately.  Instead of digging in and cleaning things up, I wandered back to the patio.  I sat there staring and trying to figure out why my life doesn’t seem to fit me very well sometimes.

T came back to find me and sat down to talk.  I looked at him, just looked at him.  Where was that guy I knew so long ago, the one I married?  I asked him that.  I looked at him “real hard” as he would say, and I said, “Hey….are you still in there?”  How in the hell did our lives get so unenjoyable?  Why are we responsible for so much and enjoy so little?  While he agreed with me, neither one of us really had an answer.

Our moment together on the patio didn’t last long.  Soon, we were joined by a kid or two.  We delegated the work.  The burgers went on the grill, corn on the cob was put on to boil,  a fire was built on the patio.  Other friends stopped by to visit.  We made s’mores.  We had a few drinks.  The mood lifted and lightened.  I felt peace for a few moments.  I felt love and friendship and caring.  It is hard work to keep the ship afloat.  All of these people relying on sameness, stability, security.  I’m not sure if they realize the hard work that goes into making our lives as a family simply a routine.

I need my dad.  I miss my dad.  What I miss most is the stability that he provided in my life.  He loved me.  He listened to me.  He understood me, and I trusted him.  Mostly, what I miss most is the unconditional love he gave me every moment of my life. There was never a moment when I didn’t feel it.  I feel it still.

I haven’t been to visit my dad’s grave since the day he was buried.  It’s time.  The grave stone is up, and I want to see that, too.  I need to be near my dad again and feel the strength  of his unconditional love once again .

My dad called the cemetery Sand Hill.  I’m not sure if he was the only one to use that name, but I doubt it.  The land is part of the old family farm.  My great, great grandpa donated a portion of his farm ground for a church and family burial grounds.  It’s a tiny cemetery with only a couple hundred graves.  I know, or know of, most of the people who are buried in that cemetery.  I walked on Sand Hill with my great-grandpa, my grandpa, my dad, and my kids.  Sand Hill has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and Sand Hill will be a part of me even when I am long gone from this world.

My babies and my brother are buried at Sand Hill.  T and I have our spots all reserved.  All we had to do was mark it on a map.  I have actually laid in the spot where I will be buried.  I still remember that sunny day.  I laid there laughing and rolled over in the grass, “Hey, look at me rolling in my grave!”  My dad was there that day, too, and I remember his smile.  Sand Hill is not a place of sadness.  It’s a place where I played as a child.  I took many walks with Great-Grandpa over from his big, stone farmhouse to Sand Hill while he told me stories of people long past.  Sand Hill is a place of love and family.  It is where my history rests, and where I will rest.

I have decided to make the trip to Sand Hill to visit my dad.  I’m going to go alone later this week.  There are so many things weighing heavily on my mind.  It would take me an hour to drive there from my home if I took the interstate, but I won’t.  Instead, I will meander over the two-lane country roads I know and love so well.  I will revisit the places that I hold dear in my heart, and I will remember.  No doubt, this won’t be an easy visit.  For sure, I will cry, but I will also talk.  I have so much to say to my dad, so much that has been stored up this past year and a half.