Baseball Memories

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Lucy_300

 

When I was a little girl, my father gave me the most important gift, the gift of acceptance and unconditional love.

I was in the midst of those awkward middle school years.  I was trying so hard to be cool, to be like everyone else.  Above all, I wanted to fit in.  All my friends played softball, so of course, I signed up to be on a team, too.  I hated every single moment of it.  I was afraid of being hit by a ball.  I couldn’t catch, pitch, throw, or hit.  Yet I kept right on trying.  I went to each practice.  When I got home, my dad spent countless hours trying to teach me and trying to help me improve.  Nothing worked.  I didn’t improve no matter how hard I tried.  As hard as I was working to be better, my heart wasn’t in it.  I wanted to be reading a book, or playing the piano, or spending time with my pets.  The only things I liked about playing softball was sitting on the bench, visiting with my friends, and going to the concession stand after the game. Continue Reading »

July 3

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I spent some time tonight looking at old pictures.  They weren’t really so old, just three years ago.  July 3, 2009.  My dad looked so happy, and yet he would only be with us for a few short months longer.  I’m glad we didn’t know.  I’m glad it was sudden.  That July 3, 2009, his last July 3, he was happy and surrounded by his family. Continue Reading »

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.

Just Say Goodbye…

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I have been remembering a scene from my childhood.  For the last few days, this particular moment has been nudging me at the oddest moments.  The memory is so vivid, I can almost smell the dinner waiting for me on the table.  The memory is set in my parents kitchen.  I was probably an eighth-grader, 14 years old.  Dinner was on the table, and we were about to sit down and eat.  I was standing next to the table talking on the corded phone that was mounted on the wall next to the counter.  My dad was looking at me, and he wasn’t very pleased.  He had asked me to finish up my phone call so that we could all sit down and eat together.  I don’t remember who I was talking to.  It was probably my friend, Kara.  (Ugh….I hate to even use the word friend in association with that girl!)  Well, whoever it was…they were not too happy that I had to get off of the phone in the middle of whatever extremely important middle school tale they were telling.  I kept saying, “I have to go, Okay?”  And my dad was saying, “Don’t ask OK.  Just say Goodbye.”  I was trying to please both this demanding teenaged girl AND my father all at the same time.  It was impossible, and I was stuck in the middle.  I kept telling Kara (or whoever) that I had to go (OKAY?) and she kept talking.  Meanwhile, my dad, who NEVER got mad at me, WAS getting madder by the second.  If I remember the story correctly, my dad walked over and flicked down the silver bar that hung up the phone.  I was horrified.  I could imagine Kara calling up all of the other girls in our little group.  “Pam hung up on me.”  Or…”Pam’s dad is psycho.  He made her get off the phone to EAT DINNER.”

My middle school years were a turbulent time.  I was in the “most popular” group, and it was horrible.  Girls are so darn mean to each other at that age, especially at that particular social echelon.  In eight grade, there was a vote among the student body for a number of silly things:  Best Couple, Cutest Boy, Cutest Girl and so on.  I was voted “Most Popular Girl.”  When I came home to tell my mother, she said, “The way you treat people, the way you act, I can’t believe you have ANY friends.”  Well, that’s my mom for you!  What she said rang true, though.  It made me think about what kind of person I really was.  What kind of friend was I?  I attended all the right slumber parties, but I hated it.  I had a cute boyfriend, but he was a mindless jock that didn’t even interest me.

The summer before high school, I realized how unhappy I was with my friends and with MYSELF.  When I look back on that summer, I look back with pride.  I was a young girl who was on the brink of a major change.  I took my life back into my own hands.  I realized that my dad had been right.  “Just say Goodbye.”  It was as simple as that.

I spent the summer before my freshman year in high school doing what I enjoyed.  I didn’t go hang out at the baseball diamond with the other girls to watch the jocks.  I hated that kind of thing.  Instead, I remember playing a LOT of piano that summer.  I planted a garden.  I went to spend a couple of weeks at my grandma’s house.  I cultivated friendships that summer based on the people who I truly liked, not their level of popularity.  I remember calling a girl named Kim and explaining to her that I wanted to hang out with her because I liked her.  How weird is that for a 14-year-old?

I have good memories of that summer.  I think of it as the summer I re-positioned my life.  The changes I made that summer impacted all of my high school years.  When I went back to school that fall, I was a new, more self-confident person.  I joined choir again.  I joined the Drama Club.  I spent my time with people who were like-minded and who were actually nice to me.  I had friendships based on friendship, not popularity.  Yes, some of my friends were out-and-out nerds, but they were wonderful friends.

I have been thinking a great deal over the past few months about what true friendship really means.  Having horrible life experiences really weeds out the REAL friends from the casual acquaintances.  Once again, it makes me think of orbits.  Some friendships sail out of our daily orbit from time to time, but when a friend is really needed, they come back like shining stars.  Other friendships are part of the orbit of daily life, but when the going gets tough they speed out of the orbit and are nowhere to be found.

I often remember my daughter Grace’s funeral.  It was a cold winter day very close to Christmas.  The funeral was in a remote country church an hour’s drive from our hometown.  It still hurts my heart to remember the number of friends who were not able to give up an afternoon during the holiday season to be by our side as we laid our dear daughter to rest. On the other hand, there were others, who I would never have imagined even cared, who made the trip and touched our hearts.  I will never forget a dear man from our town who made a cross from pine bows to lay on her grave.  I saw him as I sat in the pew waiting for the ceremony to begin.  One of the few memories I have of that day is seeing him pass by the window of the church with a cross of pine bows carried on his back.  I looked past Grace’s casket and out through the window.  I thought of Jesus carrying the cross as I watched that man trudge up the hill to the cemetery behind the church.  This one good deed has lasted a lifetime in my heart.  It’s almost 24 years later now, and that good man is no longer alive.  He died two days after my father’s funeral.   I spent Christmas Eve morning crying at his funeral, but my heart remembered with love and kindness how he touched my life.   While I had not seen him often over the years, his act of friendship will forever be special to me.

Through the years, I have been amazed time after time by the people who have proven to be true friends.  Often times, it has not been those whom I most imagined would be there when I needed a friend.  Thankfully, my best friends don’t let me down, and while we may lose touch from time to time, they are there, a part of my life like family.

I’m feeling a little bit like that eight grade girl again this summer.  I have been trying to please too many people.  I’m not sure if some of them are worth my effort.  Are they really my friends, or I am once again trying so very hard to be liked or to be popular?  Thirty years later, and again I am feeling like that 14-year-old girl who was so afraid of rejection.  Once again, I am hearing my dad’s words ringing through my head.  “Just say Goodbye.”

I wish I could plant a garden, but I don’t have time.  I wish I could go spend a few weeks with Grandma, but she is no longer there.  This summer will be different from that summer so long ago, but I am determined to once again make this a summer of change.