Home is where …

1 07 2016

Home is…where? Home is where your heart is. Home is where you wanna be when you’re not there. Home is where you sleep. Home is where when the wind slams a door shut and it locks…you laugh outloud and know right where to reach for the crochet hook to poke through the hole to unlock the door. 

I’m in the space the Mrs. has called “home” for just about 50 years. Twenty of those years I probably thought of it that way too. The last pair of years, her home has been wherever she could have me in her line of sight – we were here or there – but certainly joined at the hip. 

Last month we came to what I thought was the most “sacred” space with all her familiar stuff in just the right places (unlittered with my stuff) in order to go to a doctor’s appointment and another to get her hair cut and permed. On the first evening back when it was time for bed she said ,”Maybe we should get back home?”  I suddenly realized that that door of her memory had slammed shut behind her. We WERE in her home. 

Little did I know that the next morning’s events would fast forward my well-thought out plan to find her a more adequate care set-up before winter.  A few days in the hospital, lots of tests and zero definitive answers took her to a new place to lay her head. She’s got a full ride scholarship for a 20 day stay at a rehab facility – or in other words- 20 days for me to get a lot of ducks into a lot of rows. 

For some reason this morning I back tracked through years of blog posts to see where I was 8 years ago today. I think I’m in very familiar territory but I’m not sure yet. No one but God has a handle on when someone is home at long last. 





Oh Lorde!

10 05 2015

Maybe by the end of today there won’t be any more TV ads for charm bracelets, twinkling diamonds, perfumes with weird story lines in the sixty second mini-movies or yet ANOTHER “One Day!” sale at Macy’s. You’d have to be living under a rock to miss Mother’s Day. None of those things will be part of Ggma’s day. Not happening.

lordeThe highlight of her week was the much anticipated birth of HRH Princess Charlotte of Cambridge. Thanks to the CNN loop, she was surprised time and time and time again with the long awaited news. At one point I had to explain that the Royals weren’t here in the States but that those cameras were taking pictures of them in England.

Her day usually winds down about the time that the network evening news is finishing up. On occasion she’ll push the envelope and still be watching when the programming switches to entertainment gossip.

Criminently!” was her assessment of Jay Z and Queen B’s arrival at the Met Gala. Ggma only likes certain Royals.

Before dawn on Friday I had two important things to grab at the grocery store before she was out of bed: milk and magazines. I figured one of the dozen or so at the check out aisle would have that new little princess’s sweet face on it. I scored TWO! I didn’t expect her to do more than hone in on those particular pages but she pretty much had her nose buried in those pages all day long. I had to pry them from her grip to set her night time pills, ham sandwich and a few chips in front of her at the end of the day on Saturday.

Ggma: “Is there any way you could possibly find another copy of this magazine?”

me: “Why?”

Ggma: “Well, I’d love to have one of my own to keep.”

me: “I bought those for you.”

Ggma: “Oh,really?”

me: “Happy Mother’s Day a day early!”

Ggma: “OH THAT MAKES ME SO HAPPY.”

She went on to tell me that she’d add them to the articles from the newspaper that Billy was keeping. (Whoa – where did THAT come from??) Translated: I bought her a couple of commemorative magazines when Prince George was born two years ago that have become a precious commodity not to be misplaced or thrown away. Billy’s newspaper collection days quit seven years ago in August.

Earlier in the week, I asked her if she remembered celebrating Mother’s Day with her dear Georgia. She supposed that she had made some things at school like Donny Diva did for Shop Girl this week. Those memories are so vague save for the summer of her 14th year when her mother died so suddenly and unexpectedly. rac Without warning the only daughter became a very young “mother” to her dad and three brothers and demented paternal grandmother. So, like others doing their own grief work on this day – mothers buried too soon, others wrestling with the sad reality that they long to have children wondering if that will ever come true, or who’s moms have been emotionally or physically absent or abusive – there is yet another sense of loss. The one I live with and watch fade away right before my eyes. Who’s to say how many more Mother’s Days we will celebrate together – I sure don’t know. As far as Ggma is concerned, this year I gave her an exceptional gift. Each and every one of these long strange days together now will be a gift to me in the future. I’ll treat her like Queen G today.

“And we’ll never be royals (royals).
It don’t run in our blood
That kind of luxe just ain’t for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz
Let me be your ruler (ruler),
You can call me queen Bee
And baby I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule.
Let me live that fantasy.”





Ggma Reviews Airbnb

27 04 2015

Last summer Best Boy bought the Dr. a big toy for his birthday – a “mid-life” motorcycle. Two safety courses and MDOT endorsement secured had us planning a week long trek mid-September from LA up the Cali coast on the Pacific Coast Highway-Route 1 and back down via Yosemite and the Mojave. The guys on their bikes with Mimi and me in their GTI (chase vehicle), we were off. IMG_0027IMG_0028-1

This adventure will be recounted eventually but for now it’s just to set the scene. I was going to be MIA for a bit. Ggma was all set-up safe and sound tucked in at TOH (The Old Homestead).  Meanwhile we were exploring abodes via Airbnb. Each one of the places we stayed had a unique charm.

Airbnb isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – opening a home to complete strangers or being the stranger inhabiting someone else’s space. Nightly, with great expectation we’d drive up to an address, secure the keys and play house. There were a few places we wanted to pocket the keys and become squatters while others weren’t more than a lay-over for our weary heads – glad to move on down the road after a few hours rest. Nothing was so scary or strange to make us want to pack up and leave.

Surprise sleeping arrangements weren’t much of a stretch for Best Boy, the Dr. and me. In our previous life, it was called a furlough. An ironic term -“furlough”. The standard scenario was a missionary family would report to churches that had financially invested in them (you know Return On Investment and reporting to the shareholders type of thing). I think we had 30 churches to visit. Typically we were hosted in parishioner’s homes. I shudder as I write those words. 99% of the meals and accommodations were perfectly lovely encounters (especially if you, dear reader, happened to have hosted us at some point). But that 1% is like gravel imbedded in a leg after laying a motorcycle down on a curve – too painful to dig out every last piece and just barely visible under the skin so as to never be forgotten. Again, I go on record to declare I have writing material for years to come as this is way cheaper than any therapy.

It takes some serious chops to continually be in someone else’s personal space and not go bonkers. An overnight might not be long enough to notice things that would be a complete creep out. Since being hosted was part of our lifestyle, we had zero reservations about letting others use our apartments in Spain (yes, plural because we lived in five places in a little over a decade). If we were Stateside for the summer visiting those churches, our empty place was open to house travelers with co-workers managing the bookings. Sometimes guests would leave behind thoughtful hostess gifts. One in particular was  unforgettable and left in the most interesting place – peeking out from under a bookshelf in our bedroom – a hot pink thong. Honeymooners. ’nuff said.

Back to the story at hand. Having returned from the West Coast, I went to catch up with Ggma and immediately assessed she was no longer comfortable with any kind of absence on my part. We were at another fork in the road. By December, with nasty weather threatening our doorsteps, a new plan was improvised. Ggma would now be “riding in a sidecar”.  She’s in our space at the Money Pit or I’m in her space at The Old Homestead.

After about two months journeying on this new path during an extended stay at the Money Pit she asked,

“Where’s the lady who owns this house?”

“Well, the Dr. & I own this house.”

She scowled at me with that look like I was lying through my teeth. Clearly we were having one of those moments. This can’t be fixed.  This can only be managed. This I know: in her eyes, at that moment, I couldn’t possibly be the owner of the Money Pit and she wanted a word with whoever was in charge.

“Well, (with a tone of disgust) I am ITCHING to get at that filthy front window I’m staring at all day!!”

Distraction is the best course of action to move us along this road to ruin. Trying to go over the fine points of the family tree is futile. I had opened the drapes and sheers so that she could enjoy a clear view as she monitors the comings and goings of UPS, FedEx, USPS, garbage trucks, day-care drop offs and pick ups across the street, and oh, yeah – school buses. I hear it all. She’s got an eagle eye on when school is out and those kids are running hither thither and yon – when they aren’t wearing jackets and they should be headed indoors to get at their homework.

mcscWith a subtle move, simultaneously opening the front door to grab the mail,

the sheers were drawn shut.

Out of sight. Out of mind. End of discussion.

But this place where she’s staying – whoever owns it – needs a housekeeper.

Her Airbnb rating: Two stars…maybe.





when the cicada sings and the blue moon rises

25 08 2013

blmcs

This is the time of year when the crickets, frogs and cicadas put up such a racket at night that it can be a little annoying. That cacophony buzzed its way deep into the recesses of my brain during the final days of Billy’s life five years ago. I wouldn’t give you a nickel to go back there or to even step back another decade when Best Boy almost died in China at this same time of year. Sure, a month in the hospital here “saved” his life but not without great physical and emotional pain for every single one of us. The incessant whir, click, buzz of the IV pumps became the soundtrack of long nights punctuated by morphine induced night terrors.

Sounds will do that for me – punch holes in the present vortex of life and send me spiraling out of control into a time machine.  On the weekly pilgrimages to the Mrs.’ I will often listen to a channel on SiriusXM that transports me back 40 years and smack dab into high school. I missed the reunion that was celebrated a few weeks back. I had been sick and was headed to an out-of-town family wedding but I wasn’t sure I could have pulled it off anyway due to memory overload.

I never know where I will be or what I will be in the middle of doing when one of my senses will be a gateway to some memory. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of Billy at least once or that I don’t see hints of him in the goofy grin on Littles 10-month old face or in the pale hint of blue of his eyes.bnscu

A “worker man” walked by me the other day and if my eyes had been closed, I would have thought it was Billy climbing out from his NIPSCO truck, pockets bulging with booklets, pens, gadgets that had to do with work. A huge key ring jangling its unique jangle. It was the smell that got me. The blend of hot skin from hours of exposure to the sun and a hint of oil, gas and the distinctive sulfur smell added to the odorless natural gas. Fingers that wore their print mazes obvious to the naked eye as the deeply stained grooves could never really get 100 % clean, Billy spent hours a day exposed to the elements as he inspected high pressure meters from one end of the county to another.

But for all ways the dark tunnels of my mind are assaulted by unexpected sights and sounds that scream “something is missing”, I wouldn’t want to re-walk those summer weeks waiting for him to draw his last breath. I’d much rather be here in the journey. I’ve learned so much, laughed so much, cried so many tears, welcomed a new generation, celebrated gorgeous weddings, and weekly rubbed lotion on the parchment covered arms of the Mrs.

It is no surprise to me that life plows ahead. Travel schedules, day care drop off and pick ups, doctors’ appointments…so many calendar pages torn off, crumpled up and thrown away.  Just the stuff of life.  The sun rises and sets.  The moon gets fat and skinny right on schedule.  But once in a Blue Moon,  I get a second reminder,  that some days are special and I need to just stop the crazy and stare into space.  So when the cicadas can’t shut up to save their souls and a big Blue Moon is hanging low in the sky…I’m right back there.





I’ll fly away, Oh Glory, I’ll fly away… or Just Another Black Friday

22 11 2012

How is it possible that it is Thanksgiving? This week – this year… hell, this decade plus in fact, has been what it’s been (past tense for “It is what it is”).

Two Saturdays ago, the Mrs. saw me answer my cellphone then turn to tell her that her younger brother had lost his year-long battle against stomach cancer. Instantly, her shoulders heaved, sobbing like I don’t remember seeing four years ago when Billy took leave of us. It occurred to me that just her reaction to that news could have sent her careening off into Glory and I’d be liable.

Not five minutes later, the front door flew open and in bounced Donny Diva, happy to see his GGma. He brought his younger brother to meet her…their ages spaced just about what the Mrs. and her brother had been. “Littles” was tenderly placed in her trembling arms and through a watery lens, she met her 10th great-grandchild for the first time. After all, this was the intent of the trip north. Little did we know how good it was that she was here with us to get the sad news.

I can’t get over how this works – how we are constantly in this mix of intense pain and joy at once. Held in the tension, we precariously place one foot carefully in front of the other as we make our way forward on that tightrope stretched thin over the Niagara Falls of Life. The last decade and a half for me has been at once exhilarating and exhausting. I feel closer to God and further away than ever (at least in the eyes of others). While it is often a silent, still place, the roar of voices in my head can be deafening. I both love it and am terrified by it – all at once.

My sister-in-law’s birthday was last weekend and as they turned the calendar on a new week, her 91-year-old mother turned suddenly ill and was gone within a matter of hours. Of course the family knew their dear, sweet mother wouldn’t be on this earth forever – and no, they weren’t ready to let her go. In an email she shared,

“Earlier though, something happened. When she was still battling the pain and going in and out of consciousness— her eyes were closed and I was holding her hand and silently praying—- then she turned her head toward me, and opened her eyes —- she looked up not focusing on me, but past me—-and her eyes became wide and blinked in what appeared to be awe or incomprehension –she faintly smiled but then looked almost as if she could cry—all I can think to describe it is that her face had the look of someone seeing a returning loved one whom they had not seen for a long,long time. Almost as quickly as her eyes opened then they closed and from that point on she remained unconscious until she slipped away. K was standing at the foot of the bed and she saw it too and we both felt as if (Mom) had seen past the veil of this earth—-

Exactly a week ago now I drove the Mrs. five hours to the south for the memorial service for her brother. It was a really joyous occasion yet punctuated by many tears. It wrapped up as he had requested. Singing one last favorite bluegrass hymn. I too was able to see past the veil…and it was good.

For that song – stuck in my head now for days – I am grateful.
And you do NOT want to get me started on what I think about Black Friday, or do you?

 

 





Resting

15 02 2012

Does our society have watchers – those who sit and wait? Do we know how to sit Shivah when that moment comes?

Do we know how to be still? Be silent?

Not ask questions. Not look at our watches. Not fidget. Not fret.

Why am I wired to sit in these quiet spaces in the waiting room of life? Not the room where feet are held to the ceiling, a wail heralding the start of the race. What is she called – the opposite of a midwife? She who can so easily walk out of a days events to sit and watch the chest slowly rise and fall?

The last foot falls in the hall-not the pitter-patter but the stilted shuffling of feet too tired to leave the ground save that final jump. Life boils down -simmers down-simples down-quiets down. No feet to the ceiling. Just a soul searching for an open window to make its final flight.

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Somethin’ to smile about…

31 10 2011

The house is silent save for the sounds of the dog as she re-positions her weary old bones on her bed.  There is nothing I have to do today – at least until sundown.  A bowl of candy perched by the front door, not as full as it once was, stands ready.  I know what day it is -it’s Halloween.  AKA : my Dad’s birthday and the birthday of a few other friends of mine.

My very evangelical, protestant upbringing doesn’t bode well for what I’m feeling today but I’m not about to entertain any kind of discussion about the matter so kindly keep dissenting comments to yourself – thank you very much.  The day in August (3 years ago) that Billy’s soul passed through the roof of that hospice facility doesn’t do much for me.  I have to stop and think about what date that actually happened.  In contrast, on the day he was ushered into the world some 89 years ago today– I am surrounded by his presence.

Maybe since the house is so quiet and I have no one to attend to – nothing pressing to do except clean up a half dozen shows stored on my dvr – maybe that is why I’ve been surprised by tears today.  Then I stood at the kitchen sink rinsing out my coffee cup and looked up, only to be met again by his gaze as it stared back at me via that silly cat.

There was no such thing as “take your daughter to work” back in the 50’s and early ’60s but I know of at least a time or two that I was inside theNipsco building in downtown Gary.  I remember a central staircase that was very ornate that stretched up through the center, floor after floor , like the spine keeping the building erect.  Somewhere on the first floor, toward the back of the building was an open space where it seemed to me that our basement was replicated.  Work benches piled with tools – the space smelling of grease and hot metal.  Over his “bench” was hung this little photo of “Smile! Kitty.”  There was great irony in that since I remember him to be distinctly vocal about his dislike of cats.  Nonetheless, it seemed that his whole life long was driven by that juxtaposition – something he disliked reminding him of something that he should do – and eventually something that would become a hallmark of his life.

Joy.  Laughter.  Joker.  An avid whistler.  Friendly.  Outgoing to strangers.  Generally a very pleasant guy to be around regardless of the circumstances.  Cool under pressure.  Not prone to lose his temper except when watching a Cubs game.

It is fitting that Jack-o-lanterns sport silly grins as he did most of his life.  Happy Birthday, Billy!  We miss you more than words can express but we know what to do to really honor you – we’ll smile instead.

p.s.  Picked the King of Pop to honor our ‘hood.  Here’s to Gary / Westside!!