T came to visit us early last weekend. He had to be in Milwaukee for a second interview on Friday, so he came to my house to stay the evening before to cut down on travel time and the need to get up ridiculously early. He had never been here for a visit on a “regular” work/school day, and he asked a lot of questions. “Is this what you guys usually do?” “Do you want me to do that for you?” (As we all prepared our own dinners and did the evening household chores.) He seemed like an observer in his own “home” as the girls and I went about our regular routines. He observed it all with a smile. The three women in his life may not be doing things the way he would do them, but we had somehow managed to come up with a routine that worked for us. Four months apart, four months in separate homes, has changed all of us. We have all grown, and we have all found the strength to face a multitude of changes. With all of the growth and strength, we have also discovered something else. Even with all of this new-found independence sprouting up all over the place, we have learned (the hard way!) how very much we all need each other – not to do things for each other or because we can’t live without each other. We have found that our lives are BETTER when we are together. Continue Reading »
I called my son Andrew last night, and I told him, “I hate this whole f’ing growing up thing!” He said, “Whoa, Mom!” He knew what I meant. We had been talking about his brother’s visit home last week. While Andrew wanted to hear all about it, he hated the fact that he had not been able to come home, too. He said, “I wish that I could be part of the antics, Mom.” Continue Reading »
Last night I spoke to my younger son for the first time in three weeks. That is the longest time I have ever gone without hearing his voice. We had exchanged a few texts, and I knew that he had talked to his dad. Of course, T filled me in on his conversation with our son, but that was nothing compared to having Luke on the other end of the phone. Continue Reading »
I held Lola’s hand to cross a busy street in Milwaukee. As I hurried her along, she said, “Mom, you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl. We go slow in the country.” I immediately smiled at her words. I don’t know where she has heard that phrase, but I do know that she was speaking the truth. No matter where she is, now or in the future, she is a country girl. I was so proud to hear those words, at that time, and in that place. What my little daughter’s words reminded me was that fact that the things we instill in our children stay with them no matter where they go, or how far away they are from home…or from us. Continue Reading »
I love my brother in-law. I’ve known T’s brother longer than I’ve known T. We were in the same grade from Kindergarten through high school. We went trick or treating together. We went to the same birthday parties. As kids growing up, our families lived within a couple of blocks of each other. I don’t ever remember a time when my brother in-law, Jack, was not a part of my life. He’s one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. He was with me when I was in labor. He was the first person I saw when I woke up from almost losing my life. Our families have vacationed together, mourned together, and celebrated together. Jack and his wife have raised their children about a block away from our home. Continue Reading »
If Hell is a hot place, then sign me up. The past couple of weeks have been miserable on so many levels. Hell, right here on Earth. Underlying all of it has been COLD. I haven’t been able to warm up. I have been taking hot baths and drinking tons of coffee. I’ve made pot after pot of hot, nourishing soup. I dress in layers and huddle under blankets when I am home. Nothing I do seems to warm me up completely.
Mom is still hanging in there. She is failing, but it is a slow process. We have begun hospice care, and she seems to love the extra attention. She isn’t in any pain. Something hovers around the corners of the room, though, and it chills me. She is often confused, and she has lost her hearing. Visits are brief and quiet. I spend more time talking on the phone talking to the legion of healthcare providers than I do to my mother at this point. Of course, life does not stop while we wait for death. Four kids, work, my own physical needs, all of these things keep inserting themselves into the mix.
Last weekend T and I took Luke and his girlfriend back to school in Milwaukee. I couldn’t/wouldn’t commit to going along until practically the last moment. Mom was stable, and T insisted that I come along. Luke wanted to show us the house where he would be moving at the end of the semester. He had been looking forward to the four of us hanging out together on his turf. It meant a lot to our son. I knew that, so I went along.
I had been doing a pretty good job of concealing (denying!) the fact that I was sick. I had too many things that needed my attention. My mom was dying, for God sakes! What did I have to complain about? I pushed through it and collapsed at the end of each day. The trip to Milwaukee took things over the top.
It was bitterly cold when we left that morning. I got chilled and couldn’t seem to shake it. (uh….a fever tends to do that!) We moved the kids back into their dorms, T and I checked into our hotel, and we all headed out for dinner. By the time we finally settled back into our room, I was shaking with cold. I took a hot bath, but I still shivered. By the time I crawled into the bed, T was concerned. He wrapped me in his arms and held me close to warm me up. Eventually, I stopped shivering, but my sleep was fitful.
The next morning, hours from home, I was still freezing. I tried to ignore it. I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible and make the drive back home and to the hospital to check on my mom. I jumped into the shower, and I don’t really know what happened. Suddenly T was there. I had passed out. My first thoughts were disappointment in myself. How could I be sick? I had too many things to do! I had too many people depending on me. I couldn’t be sick now. Not now.
I saw the doctor on Sunday when we returned. Of course I didn’t listen to his advice. Take it easy? Uh huh. No. My mother was dying. I couldn’t take it easy right now. I was planning a meeting later in the week in Chicago, an important meeting. Very. “Taking it easy” was not possible at this time. Thanks anyway.
I visited my mom, unpacked, did laundry, ironed, and went to work on Monday. By Tuesday, I wasn’t even able to get out of bed. I tried. Believe me, I tried. At 6:30 a.m., I dragged myself into the bathroom to get ready for work. I sat in the chair by the counter and laid my head down for a moment. I thought it would be a moment, but I fell asleep in the bathroom before I was even able to begin getting ready for work. That was it. I was toast. I had to admit it. I was sick. I spent the day sleeping, and sleeping, and sleeping some more.
I was back at work the next day. By now, everyone was looking at me like I scared them. I must look like hell! “Why are you here? Go home!” I couldn’t. I had meetings all day in preparation for the trip to Chicago on Thursday. I had to meet with the hospice staff in my mom’s room later that afternoon. I had too many things going on and too many people depending on me to go home and be sick. I pushed through. I kept going.
On Thursday, I huddled in my seat on the train to Chicago. I froze the entire time, wearing my layers of clothes, wrapped in my scarf and coat. At the hotel, I begged for some coffee from the front desk. A kind woman brought coffee and cream to my room. I sat on the heating unit, looked out the window, and drank my coffee while I warmed my feet. I looked down at the people below. Everyone was scurrying to get where they were going. The wind was biting and bitter. I could feel it sweeping into the cracks around the window far above the people I was watching. I had hoped to see my son while I was in Chicago, but he had been given tickets to a concert. I told him to go. I insisted on it, and then I sat in my room crying because I was so cold…and now alone, too. I had come to the city hours earlier than the others so I could see Andrew. Now I had four hours to sit there freezing and alone until I met them for dinner. Once again, I hated Chicago. The city felt impersonal and uncaring. I was just a speck, a cold, lonely speck. Pathetic. I really, really hate feeling sorry for myself, but I was doing a stellar job of it!
The dinner was work. Schmoozing is work. I had to be ON. We all had to be ON. It was OK, though. The whole dance of egos was interesting to observe. I soaked it all in. The parrying and the posturing amused me. Several people attending the dinner had obviously spent a good deal of time in the bar before they arrived, so things were interesting from the word go. Once again, I was glad that this is my job, but not my LIFE. While some people live and breathe this kind of thing, I have my secret. In my heart, I am a country girl. At the end of all of this, I will be smack dab in the middle of a cornfield, safe and sound, with my ego checked at the door. The reality of my life, mom, wife, daughter, hillbilly at heart, keeps me grounded. I was amused as I watched the dance of self-importance at the table.
I was up at 5:30 this morning to get ready for the meeting. I was excited and the adrenaline was flowing. This was it! This was an important step in a development project that I have been a part of for several years. The results of this project will have a significant and lasting impact on the entire region. I was/am thrilled to be able to be a part of this process. The Willis Tower (forever the Sears Tower to me) is where we held the meeting. As I stood in the lobby, I remembered a time years ago, when Luke was 3 years old. He had broken his leg months earlier, and the treat that kept him going was knowing that once his cast was off, we would take him to the Sears Tower. That day, years ago, had been a victory for him. Now, years later, I was humbled once again. As I stood in the lobby, mentally preparing to make my presentation, I took a deep breath. The Sears Tower! I was giving a presentation in the SEARS TOWER today! Well, look at this little country girl! I squeezed my eyes shut and soaked in the thrill of that moment. People strode purposefully past me. Everyone seemed to have somewhere to go. Everyone seemed confident. I was a part of that! REALLY?? Me??? Yet again, I felt amazed by the journey of my life. The meeting was amazing. All of the planning and hard work paid off. More meetings are set for next week, and our project is not only on track, but it is gaining momentum. I am so very proud (and lucky) to be able to play a small part in this project.
Several hours later when we stepped outside, the snow had begun. It was beautiful, yet daunting. This was not going to make the trip home an easy one. I had train tickets for late in the afternoon. By the time my train arrived, it would be dark, and I had an hour’s drive to make it back home. I cancelled my train reservations, and accepted a ride home with a co-worker who had driven to the city. Once we got on the road, I wondered if I had made a mistake. It was a white-knuckled four hour drive in the snow. We saw one accident after another and had a few near-misses ourselves. All the while, I was freezing.
I’m home now. It’s pitch dark outside. No city lights here. The wind howling up from the fields is the only sound I hear. I’ve been snuggled under a blanket ever since I got home. I took a much-needed nap, and I am finally beginning to warm up. There are many things I should be doing tonight, but none of them will get done. Tonight I am taking care of more important things with a dose of Great-Grandma’s blanket and a warm, cozy house in the country.
When I saw the snow coming down, I thought of each of my kids. I knew Lola would be sitting in her classroom with wide eyes looking out at the snowfall. Em was probably doing the same. I thought of the boys and wondered if it was snowing in Milwaukee or Chicago.
Thank you, SNOW, for giving me happy thoughts today. There is something exhilarating and exciting that comes along with the sight of the season’s first snow. People may have been grouching and exclaiming around the office, but there was a twinkle in their eye as they complained. The child in them remembers winters from long ago…
I have been one lucky woman this past week. I spent time with each of my kids. Spending time with my kids was once something I took for granted. I am their mom. They woke me up in the morning, and they were by my side all day long. I remember craving time for myself during those years. Mommy sometimes took a 15 minute break when the kids were little. I would sit quietly in the living room for a few peaceful moments and enjoy a cup of coffee while the kids peeked around the doorway wondering why I wanted peace or quiet. How could that be fun?
Where did that time go? Where are those little blonde, big-eyed children who always had hundreds of questions? I can close my eyes and see the faces of those little children so clearly. Now they, except for Lola, are all grown up. Their lives are busy. My life has changed, too, since those days of sunshine, swings, and the sandbox. While I miss those days, there is something equally exciting in seeing them become adults. Their choices are their own. Of course, as parents we try to help and guide them, but now it is up to them to fulfill their own destinies and make their own decisions. It is rewarding to see them become such fine adults.
Luke was home from Marquette for three days. T and I drove to pick up Luke and Shannon from the train station late on Wednesday evening. It had been a long week for them of mid-term exams followed by a day of travel. They were travelling home together for the first time. I felt such joy to see them stepping down from the train. They have such deep love and friendship between them. Beneath all of that is a steady mutual respect. I love seeing my son become a good, kind, considerate man who treats his girlfriend with admiration and support. I savored those moments as the four of us drove home on the winding country roads. I felt so safe and secure to be snug in the car with people I loved so much as we drove through the dark. The girls were waiting for their brother when we made it home. There was laughter and LOUD once again in our house as we all welcomed Luke back home.
I enjoyed having my grown up son home for a few days. I had missed his sense of humor. I had missed his banter with his sisters. There was a sense of celebration for those days when our son was back home. He took Lola to the corn maze and the pumpkin patch. We celebrated with extended family. We shopped with him for a few things he needed to take back to school. We had a final night as a family at our favorite pizza place. That last night, Luke and I sat up late together in the living room and watched Netflix. I don’t even know the name of the show. It was about aliens. It was stupid, really bad, but that didn’t matter. I loved being snuggled on the couch under a blanket. I loved sitting up late, sipping a Pepsi, and munching on popcorn with my son.
Luke headed back to Milwaukee early on Saturday morning, and I headed to Chicago to see Andrew. Andy needed a few cold weather things from home. He had tickets to a movie screening on Saturday night and wanted company. I was happy to bring him the things he needed and to have a chance to hang out in the city with my son.
I was apprehensive about seeing him. I hoped that he was adjusting well to this move. I had been concerned after his recent visit home. He seemed to be homesick at the time, but I had not mentioned it to him. My oldest son, this young man who has faced more challenges in his young life than most people will face during a lifetime, oh….how I worry about him. I want his life to fit. I want him to feel self-confidence. I want him to succeed. As I rode along on my way to Chicago, I wondered what I would find. A mom “knows.” I would know the moment I saw his face if he was doing as well as his phone calls would lead me to believe.
I was thrilled the moment I saw him come around the corner. His eyes sparkled. He looked GREAT! OK, other than the facial hair and the fact that he needed a haircut! 🙂 He was happy. He was actually happy! He had so much to tell me. He told me about a girl he had met. She’s a teacher specializing in ADD. We laughed. Where had she been all of his life? He talked about school. He laughed about cleaning his apartment furiously the night before. He had graded papers from school strategically placed on the kitchen counter. He is doing fabulously! The very best part of all, though, was the huge squeeze he gave me and the genuine smile on his face.
We had a wonderful day and night. We took the train around the city. We walked for miles and miles. We shared wonderful food. We tried new beers. We went to the zoo. He took me to his favorite neighborhood hang-outs, and it was so good to see people call him by name. It was good to see that he is making a life for himself. The visit was short, but it was perfect. I am so happy for him and so darn proud!
Back home now, and while I love the city and have developed such a soft spot for Chicago, I am experiencing a new-found appreciation for my quiet country home. I’m beginning to see this wonderful place where I live as the best kept secret in the world. It’s safe and calm, beautiful and peaceful. I’m happy to be here….right here.
Tonight the girls and I were happily catching up and enjoying the whole “Girls Rule” feeling in the house again. As much as T pretends to be horrified to be the only male in the household, I know he secretly loves being surrounded by the female members of the family. He often looks baffled as the conversations swirl around him, but I can see his enjoyment as he witnesses his daughters becoming young women. Lola was happily chatting about her Halloween costume choices, and Emily was telling me about her fantastic weekend. Em’s boyfriend had been home from college, too. They had a great time together, and she was sharing every detail. She seems to be shocked that he “really likes her.”
Later, the girls and I were all in the bathroom painting our toenails while T was watching football. We were still being silly, talking, and enjoying our time together. Em told me that she had bought some Nair over the weekend, but hadn’t tried it out yet. I laughed. The last time she tried Nair on her legs, she freaked out in the shower. She accidentally touched her head and was afraid that she was going to end up bald. We laughed as we remembered that day. She had screamed bloody murder in the shower, and I had come running. I had to scrub off her legs for her while she protected her head hair. Knowing that her last Nair experience had been traumatic, I asked her why she would even want to try it again. “Oh, you know me, Mom. I make the same mistakes over and over before I finally learn.” Ha! I laughed. Like mother, like daughter! I certainly hope she learns to stop doing that much earlier in her life than her mother did.