My grandparents gave me a piano over 40 years ago. I was about 5 years old. I had shown an interest in playing any and every keyboard that was near me. If I was in a church, I found eventually found my way to the piano. I loved to play on my aunt’s old pump organ. The neighbor girls were teaching me how to play on the piano in their dining room. I’ll never forget the day Grandma and Grandpa followed the truck carrying my piano to our house. Through eight houses or apartments, that old piano has been a part of my life. I have pictures of me, my grandma, and my great-grandma sitting together on the bench. There is another picture of my sweet dog, Susie, sitting next to 8-year-old me while I practiced my lesson. My parents and I posed on the bench one year for our Christmas card photo. My long gone pets, Abe, Hank, Pete, Puffy, and Violet all sat by my side as I played. Boo and Pepper sit on the same bench now. Continue Reading »
When I was a young(er) woman, I often used my great-grandparents as my mental guides.
Hazel and Clifford were a wonderful, happy part of my childhood. They lived on the family farm where Grandpa’s own Great-Grandparent’s had lived. To me, it seemed like they had been there forever, almost like characters out of a fairytale. Great-Grandma was a tiny, little woman who always wore a dress, old-fashioned lace-up boots, and a smile. She taught me how to gather eggs. I can see her bending down before me, the bun in her hair streaked with gray. She may have been old, but her eyes were youthful and sparkled with merriment. Continue Reading »
“As T and I sat on each side of her bed, we talked quietly of the other deaths we have witnessed together. There have been too many. I looked at him and I thought, “One of us will be here in a bed like this while the other sits in a chair holding a hand.” Just as I had that thought, my mom opened her eyes. It was the first time all night that she was aware of our presence in her room. She turned her head and looked at T. A big smile lit up her face. She reached for his hand and said, “You are a good man.”
She asked him where I was, and he said, “Right here by your side,” and he gently turned her head. She said, “I love you,” and reached for my hand. It all only lasted a moment and she was asleep once more. There was no more conversation or consciousness.
T and I sat there on each side of the bed holding her hand. This mother who caused me grief, strife, and years of conflict held onto our hands, the three of us connected. Forgiveness should not be something that is given lightly, freely, or without justification. Forgiveness is earned. Tonight, I forgave my mom huge, vast quantities of past injuries. She confirmed the one thing I know to be true. T IS a good man.”
I wrote those words a little over a week ago. I was writing them during the final moments of my mother’s life, perhaps I wrote them even as she died. That late night/early morning I sat alone in the living room cuddled under a blanket with my feet propped up on the coffee table and my laptop warming my lap. I needed to write so that I would not forget those peaceful, touching moments. I didn’t know that they would be our last moments together. I knew the end was very near, but I thought she might make it through another day.
That night, I finished writing, shut down my computer, and headed up the stairs to get ready for bed. Only moment later, my phone rang. It was 1:30 a.m. A nurse was calling to tell me that my mother had passed. She had been alive at midnight when the nurse had checked on her, but now she was gone. I was naked when I received that call, stripped bare and standing in the bathroom. I stood there holding the phone, and my first thought was how ironic it was that I was nude.
I didn’t know what to do next. The nurse wondered what funeral home we were going to use. She wanted a phone number. She said that they needed to make arrangements for “the body.” I was naked, standing in the bathroom. It was 1:30 a.m.! I didn’t necessarily carry that kind of information around with me. I wrapped myself in a towel, woke up T, fired up the computer and began making calls. The ball was set in motion. There were an amazing amount of details, arrangements, and phone calls to make.
This past week has been exhausting. I was still borderline sick. T ended up getting sick, and Lola woke up on Thursday with a 102 degree fever. We have had a funeral, cleaned out an apartment, and had a son home for the weekend. It has been a roller coaster ride of emotions. There have been wonderful visits with family that I haven’t seen in years. Our friends have been kind, caring, and supportive. I love my friends who instead of bringing casseroles brought the ingredients for chocolate martinis. In the midst of pain, there was laughter, friendship, and love.
This weekend is the first time in two years that I haven’t been drawn to visit a hospital or an assisted living facility. I tried to see Mom on most weekends. On the weekends when I wasn’t able to make it to visit her, I felt a weight of guilt. This weekend has been the first time in over two years that I have been able to choose without conflicting feelings the activities I engaged in. Still, it has not been a great weekend. I am drained and exhausted. My emotions are fragile as hell. I looked at a tree today, and it brought back a memory that made me cry.
These past two-plus years have been terrible. There is no other way to describe them. It all began in December 2009 when I lost the person I thought was my best friend. By choice, this person turned away, ran away, changed paths. However you’d like to phrase it, this person who meant so very much to me, decided that I didn’t really mean that much to them. A handful of days later, I lost my dear, dear father. Losing Dad left me with the sole responsibility of my very sick mother. Eventually, I was called upon to support her through the withdrawal of treatment and the weeks leading to her death. Two years of senseless hell. At times, it has felt like I have been trapped in my life, and there was no way out, nowhere to turn. At times, I have crumbled and fallen apart, but for the most part I have just dealt with the circumstances. Like a drone, I have learned to deal with what life threw my way. I coped as best I knew how. I trudged through the days, the weeks, the months, and it all added up to two-plus years.
In the sadness of this past week, there have been moments where HOPE has popped through like bright sunshine. I can take a trip now without feeling guilty. I will have a summer of working in my yard on the weekends instead of running to the hospital. Little by little, I am beginning to see that I have a chance to reclaim my life. T and I are talking about a short trip to Vegas or to a beach sometime soon. I’m planning a trip this spring to visit a friend in Georgia. We will be able to have moments of doing NOTHING, and not feeling like we should be doing SOMETHING.
The apartment is empty. Now it is time to turn our attention to the house. We need to sort through the rest of my parents’ belongings. We’ll keep a few things that have sentimental value, but most of it will go on an auction in a month or so. This afternoon, I went to the house alone. I haven’t been there in weeks, and it was the first time to stand in my childhood home knowing that BOTH of my parents are dead. It hit me hard. I have no one left who shares my memories. I went from room to room, and the memories were vivid. I saw things. I saw my parents as they were years ago. I saw a little girl and her little black dog. I remembered where the piano once stood, and the Christmas tree, and where Dad sat to drink his morning coffee. I remembered addressing my wedding invitations as I sat on the floor of the living room. I remembered my own now-grown children coloring at the little table in the sunroom. Where did my life go? Where did my family go? I wandered from room to room, and I felt like an orphan. I cried and cried. I finally let it all out. Two years of loss and pain.
I couldn’t stop crying until I walked into my dad’s room. I stood in his closet and put my arms around the one special shirt of Dad’s that I had saved. It was just a silly polo. I had bought it for Luke, but he hadn’t liked it. Grandpa liked it, though, so Luke told him to he could have it. It cracked the boys up to see Grandpa wearing a purple American Eagle shirt, but I think that made Grandpa love it even more. I stood there looking at that purple polo alone in the closet. I put my hand out and touched the fabric. My dad had been here. He had been real, wonderful, and loving. Oh, how I miss him! As I stood there, I felt his love. Yes, lives are too short, but the love lives on and on.
There is so much that I no longer understand about the world. I’m not sure what happened. It seems that most of my life, I had certain things in place. For years and years, the pillars of my foundation surrounded me, grounded me, protected and guided me. For many years, my life was very much based on the examples of my past and the people who held great influence over me. My great-grandparents and my grandparents were sturdy, sensible people. They cared for their land, their families, their church, and their God. The did nothing to excess. I would not think that I am not wrong in assuming that when their heads hit the pillows each night, they did not begin to wrestle with their personal demons, but instead, they drifted off to sleep imagining the chores of farm-life that would await them the next day.
My great-grandparents raised three fine children in the big stone farmhouse. There was a well pump in the kitchen with a tin cup for all to drink from the cold icy water. You could see the little hen house from the kitchen window, and Grandma would take her towel-lined basket out each morning to collect the eggs. Look a little to the left, and you would see the horses standing by the barnyard fence waiting from Great Grandpa to come feed them. Beyond that was the hog lot, a field for the cows, and rows and rows of sparkling cornfields. More often than not, there would be a tall chocolate cake waiting under a glass dome on the sideboard.
On the day of Great Grandma’s funeral, I walked the path from the church back to the big stone house holding Great Grandpa’s hand. He had sought me out. He asked me to leave with him. I wasn’t much older than Lola at the time. It was after the funeral, and everyone had gathered in the church parlor for the funeral luncheon. Great Grandpa told me that he couldn’t stand to see them all visiting as if it were just any old day. He had lost the love of his life. He wanted to mourn, not pretend that everything would be OK. It was then that I realized that it was sometimes OK for everything NOT to be OK.
We walked silently along until we reached the edge of the fields. There was a fence with a large swinging wooden gate. Most times it was closed and would have to be swung open to let the tractor and wagons into the field. Sometimes the cows were in this field. On this day, however, the gate stood open. Bright spots of green were just beginning to poke through the early spring soil. He took me through the gate to where a lush patch of clover was growing. We stopped and he stood looking down at the cushion of clover while he told me how much Great Grandma had loved this particular spot on the farm. He said she would come down here and sit like a girl among the clover looking for a lucky four-leafed clover. His blue eyes twinkled and his face crinkled into a smile as he remembered. She had found many lucky clovers on her years here on the farm. He took me back to the house and showed me a bible where hundreds of lucky clovers had been pressed between the pages.
Great Grandpa and I wandered all over the farm that afternoon. He had not told anyone that he was leaving the church or that he was taking me with him. My dad and my grandpa spent some time looking for us, and I will always remember the look of relief mixed with curiosity when my dad finally found us. He didn’t say much, didn’t ask questions, he simply joined Great Grandpa and I on our walk around the family farm. I can still remember the warmth I felt standing between those two men.
The memory of that day is one of the happiest, saddest, and strongest memories of my life. Great Grandpa passed something down to me that day. I felt the strength of his love and the importance of remembering those we have lost. We may lose the person who dwelled by our side on this earth, but we never lose the memories of the love we shared. Now these people are all gone from my life. Great Grandpa lays by his wife’s side. My Grandparents are on the hill below their feet. Dad lies next to them all. The strength of their guiding influence still resonates strongly through my life, but all too often, I feel that I have let them down. The family potion of strength, courage, and integrity seems to have been watered down in me. While my great grandparents were a hardy stout, most times, I feel more like a tepid weak lemonade. That is what I am working on. I need to become a better me not only to honor the memory and strength of those who have come before me, but so that someday, I will be able to pass this along to those who follow in my footsteps.
I’m not sure why I am remembering all of this today. Maybe it’s because I am watching my own children as they begin to take steps down their own paths, paths that they have chosen for themselves. I feel a sense of pride and wonder as I watch them forging their own lives. I look at T and I marvel at all we have faced, and conquered, together. I see the age in his face and wonder where the boy I once knew has gone. I look in the mirror, and I know he must see the same thing. I feel old, and proud, and sad, and elated all mixed together. I feel the baton being passed, and it feels heavy in my hand. This is no longer Great Grandpa’s family, or Grandpa’s, or Dad’s, it is now mine. It all happened in the blink of an eye. Once here, and now they are gone. Once young, and now I am getting old. Once children, and now adults.
Inside, I don’t feel much different now than I did as that little girl in the pink dress and black patent leather shoes holding her Great Grandpa’s hand. I trusted where he led. He was the guide, and I followed. Now it is up to me. There is no guide for this part of my life – only the lessons I’ve been taught and the love I have been so generously given.
I’ve spent a great deal of time these past few weeks and months revisiting the places that hold special memories for me. Sometimes those visits have been deliberate. Other times, I have revisited those old memories quite by accident. Today we took an unplanned trip to a place near and dear to our hearts.
It is a tremendous feeling to roll out of bed when I wake up on my own instead of to the trill of our three alarms back home. The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was the gentle Gulf of Mexico shimmering beyond the three giant windows in the bedroom. I threw my legs over the side of the bed and went to grab a cup of coffee. I joined T on the balcony to drink my coffee and look out at the water. We sat for a while and then decided to throw on our suits and head down to the water. We spent a lovely morning on the beach. The weather here was perfect today. While it is 100 degrees in the shade back home, we have traveled south to 85 degrees and a soft, cooling breeze coming off of the water.
As we relaxed in the sun, Emily asked if we could drive to Dauphin Island later in the afternoon. Dauphin Island. It has been years since we have been to Dauphin Island, before Katrina, and we all knew that the island had suffered tremendous damage. But yes, we agreed. We all wanted to go back to that special place. We were so close, and Grandpa loved Dauphin Island.
We all enjoyed the drive, and cheered when we crossed the border into Alabama. Almost instantly, the memories flooded back. We remembered so many things. We remembered places we had shopped and eaten. We remember the boat rides, the walks, the funny things that had happened on past trips. We all remembered Grandpa. So many times today, I wanted to pick up the phone and call him! I wanted to tell him that certain things had remained after the hurricane. I wanted to tell him what had changed.
The changes were astonishing. Third row beach houses were now beachfront. The homes on the bay no longer had bay access. Their docks and piers were sitting on sand. The entire west end of the island had shifted. We drove as far west as the road allowed. Several times, we had to drive through standing water. The island had been cut in several places. Gulf and bay were now only separated by the narrowest strip of land.
We looked for places we remembered. Que Sera, the weathered beachfront house we loved, was gone. We stopped where the home had once stood and looked at the vacant stretch of beach. Posts remained. That’s it. She was gone. I could see the house super-imposed in that spot. I could see my little kids playing happily. I could see Dad, too. Yes, the memories were still there. The memories were so real. I had forgotten so very much, but it all came rushing back.
We were happy all afternoon. We found a spot on the beach and walked across the sand as smooth as sugar. We floated in the Gulf and remembered happy times. Emily and I walked down the beach. We explored a tidal pool and waded into the warm water with the birds. Em is grown up now. Dad is gone. The boys no longer travel with us. This afternoon, though, I had them all right back with me for a few hours. They were all in my heart.
As Em and I walked back to where T and Lola were playing in the waves, I thought of all I have forgotten. It seems that I have forgotten years of my life. I have forgotten so many good things. I have been caught up and preoccupied. I have been focused on all of the wrong things in life. So much is right in front of me, and I have lost sight of it all. Why? How does that happen? How have I allowed that to happen? I have wasted time. I have wasted years and missed chances on nothing worth my time, energy, or efforts. Pure Waste.
We were all worn out by the time we decided to pack it in. We laughed as we changed into dry clothes in the car and attempted to make ourselves look presentable. We had one more thing we needed to do. We had one more memory to revisit. We headed down the road to the best part of the day. We were on our way to a little place, not too clean, and nothing fancy, but with the best delicacy in the world…in our opinion. We were on our way to deep fried crab claws.
We ate them piping hot, and licked our fingers after each bite. We smiled from ear to ear as we enjoyed something we hadn’t even known we were missing until today. When we returned, T smiled at me and said it was the best day he has had in years. Me, too.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I would like to apologize, dear blog readers. I have been down, and I have been venting on the blog. That makes me upset with myself, because I created this new blog in order to concentrate on the good and get rid of the bad. I guess old habits die hard (in may ways!) and I was back to feeding the gloom and doom within myself. For that, I apologize, but I would also like to thank those of you who reached out in support. Even if you didn’t reach out, I would still like to thank you for your patience and tolerance as I work through a rough point in my life.
My morning was horrible. I went straight to the hospital after emailing morning instructions to the office. I needed to be at the office, but I felt that I had to go to the hospital first. I wanted to speak to someone who could explain all that was going on with my mom. At this point, most of my information was coming from her, and it was confusing at best. Things were not good when I arrived at the hospital. I couldn’t find the nurse assigned to my mother, so I waited and waited. Mom was much worse today. It is a sad and humiliating thing to watch what she is now going through. When I came into her room, she was sitting on the edge of the bed attempting to get up. I rushed over to see what why she was trying to walk. She CAN’T walk unassisted, and there is an alarm on her bed that was chiming. She said she had called for a nurse, but no one had come to help her. I told her to wait just a moment until someone came in, but she couldn’t. She needed to use the toilet. What good was the alarm when no one reacted when it rang? In fact, what good are the nurses if they won’t come when they are called?
Things with my mother got very bad, and I hate to even write about it all. I helped her to the bathroom as shit trailed across the floor of her room. Four times, back and forth. Finally, I was able to get an orderly to at least come in to clean the mess on the floor. Her clothes were soiled. Her bed was a mess. Her socks were soaked. I ran out and found a nurse, but she informed me that she was not my mother’s nurse. (Bitch!)
My only help for about an hour was the cleaning lady. After the fourth trip to the bathroom, Mom started to vomit. She was sitting on the bed, and it went all down the front of her gown. The cleaning lady brought a basin. I will add that I am NOT someone who does well with bodily fluids of ANY kind. Not at all! I have never had the least desire to be in the medical profession. Like my Dad, blood and shit and vomit make me feel like fainting. I was light-headed, and all I wanted to do was run as far and as fast as my legs would take me. It was demoralizing for both my mother and for me. Neither of us wanted to be in this particular situation together.
One time as she vomited, her upper dentures flew out of her mouth, onto the bed…..and dropped to the floor. I picked them up. Teeth, fake teeth, streaming with vomit. My God, she was in the fricken hospital. Is this the kind of care she should be receiving? I was livid by this point, but afraid to leave her side. I got on the phone, and called the nurses station. My bitch hat was on, and finally one of the nurses was able to take a moment of her busy day to care for a patient.
It was a miserable, disgusting, horrifying, emotional morning. I left when they were preparing my mom for her biopsy. I was shaking as I walked out to my car. It was hot as hell outside, and my hands were cold as ice. I was alone, foolishly alone. T had offered to go with me. He had texted me while I was there. Once he realized how badly things were going, he offered once again to come support me. Each time, I said, “No, that’s OK. I don’t want to mess up your workday.” I am an idiot. It’s true. I prove just how stupid I am on quite a regular basis.
When I got back to the office, things weren’t much better. I was three hours behind on what would have already been a busy day. One thing I have to say again is that I LOVE the people I work with. They are the most kind-hearted, friendliest group of people I have ever had the honor to know. They showed genuine concern. They offered to help in any way. They actually CARED, and that meant so dang much to me.
I had a late lunch with T, and we didn’t really talk much. I love that about him. He allows me to be quiet, and I am rarely quiet. Seems that I am sometimes quiet with him, only with him. He is a quiet man himself, very self-contained. He doesn’t care if I talk, he just wants me in visual range. Now that I think about it, we communicate a great deal without words. Most of the time, I am too wound up and dumb to connect all of those subtleties. Thankfully, today I was able to “get” it. I was able to see his kindness. Maybe because I was thinking about “Slap An Asshole Day.” T is not an asshole. He may be many things, but one thing is true, he has never knowingly hurt me. Sure, we have argued and bickered. My feelings have been hurt. So have his! But never, ever would T be an asshole to anyone. He is not selfish, arrogant, self-centered, or spoiled. He is has kindness in his heart. Always. I felt much calmer and more in control of my feelings after our lunch.
On top of all that was going on in my day, I had to host a concert on the plaza tonight. It was the first of 10 summer concerts that we produce. This year, I won’t have to attend all of them. I am passing that torch, but tonight I had promised to emcee and show them the ropes. Getting up and speaking in front of a crowd was about the last thing I wanted to do on this particular day. I wanted to go home, pour a drink, cry, take a bath, and harvest my Frontierville crops on Facebook!
I had a couple of hours between time at the office and the concert time, so I drove home. Ah, the drive home. What would I do if I didn’t have these wide-open fields to calm me. I am so tied to this earth when I see the fields. I understand the tie my family has had to this place and to this land and soil. I understand the connection, the love, the care and husbandry. When I see this fields, I see history and generations of families. I felt my stress ebb as I once again let the land soothe and speak to me.
As I pulled into my long driveway, I saw the gentle shadows dappling the pavement. Lola saw me, and her face lit up. She ran to the car to tell me about her day. I walked in the door, “Hey, babe!” from T. Emily was standing there to give me a hug. She knew how bad my day had been. I had called to talk to her about Grandma earlier. She told me that she was going to come to the concert with me to help out. Aww….love that girl! T warmed me a plate of last night’s leftovers while I sat down for a moment. I had an hour at home, but it refreshed me. I didn’t want to leave, but I felt more like myself again. Yes, this is a bad, even terrible time, but there is still so much to be thankful for. There is still so much beauty in this world.
For a few moments, I allowed myself to feel good, to feel the blessings and beauty of life. Just for a few moments, because I can’t forget the pain and suffering that my mom is going through. No wonder we fight so hard to keep living even when it is well-past the point of a healthy existence. She is so sick, yet she wants to go on and on. The beauty and joy of the world around us what we struggle to hold onto. I hope that the beauty on the other side can compare, because this world we live in is almost more beauty than I can take in.
As I drove back to the city for the concert, my phone rang. It was a young mentally handicapped woman who has volunteered for me in the past. She was asking if she could help out tonight. She sounded so happy and excited when I assured her that I would love her company. This young woman has been damaged from birth. Each and every day is a challenge for her, and yet she has such joy in helping others. She is a blessing in my life. I need to remember all these blessings big and small.
The concert was fine. The weather was fabulous. The night was hot, but there was a cool breeze off of the river. The plaza was beautiful. T designed all of the planters this year, and they’re glorious! I felt a sense of pride. I love my job, and almost four years into this, I am seeing real, tangible improvements. I (not just ME, but my program) am making a difference. I’m a perfectionist, and I am hard on myself, but tonight I felt so proud.
As we sat there watching the band and the crowd, my phone buzzed. A friend sent me a text asking about my mom and what my plans were for the weekend. I felt happy that she was thinking of me at that moment. A while later, my phone buzzed again. When I opened the text, I laughed out loud. It was from a friend that I see only at conferences. It was a silly picture he had taken with his phone. He had a big, fat cigar hanging out of his mouth. This wonderful man brightened my night just by sending a picture and saying “Hey!” I miss him. He has been a true gentleman and a friend. I’m not sure why he entered my life, but I know that I am glad that he is a part of it now. I sent him a text thanking him for the smile.
Tonight I held on tightly to all of these small, unrelated, but dear, acts of kindness. A text, a phone call, an offer of help, a plate full of leftovers warmed in the microwave, these simple little gestures lifted my heart and my spirits. Yes, there are some fine people in this world. I don’t HATE being me as I said last night. Oh, I did in that moment, but that moment is past. I am afraid. I know that what lies ahead is not going to be easy. The Pollyanna in me is going to be challenged. I will falter and fall down, but hopefully, I will remember these good people in my life. Hopefully, the next time someone offers to help shoulder my burden, I won’t be too proud and bull-headed to allow them to help.
I am breathing deeply tonight, and my heart feels full of peace and love once again. My day is finally over, and my feet are propped up on the coffee table. T is asleep in a chair (as usual!) and Andrew is across the room. Lola is dreaming the dreams of an 8-year-old on summer vacation. The other two kids are romancing the night away. These are my moments of quiet and restoration for whatever life has in store for me tomorrow.
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.