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.”

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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?

 

 





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!!





it ain’t what it used to was…

1 09 2010

A few days ago, late in the afternoon, there was a knock at the front door.  I crawled over the barriers we have erected everywhere to keep Donny Diva corralled to see who it was.  A young guy, 18 or so, Semper Fi t-shirt, buzz cut, ruddy complexion – haltingly started with saying, “I hope you don’t think I’m weird or anything…”  I was expecting to turn down his suggestion that I buy magazine subscriptions from him so he could finance his first year of college but that wasn’t the case.  “I grew up in this house and …”  He lived here until he turned 8 years old and it still lives on in his dreams.  His family has since moved on to two other houses and he’s soon to take up residence at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California hoping to dive head long into the world of “re-con” to live in a tent in some place in the world no mother would want her son to live.  I take that back – she’d want her son to live and not to die.

My brain was scrambling.  I knew what I knew…it was a recipe for disaster but I couldn’t tell him that – he had to learn the lesson the hard way.  We stepped into the entry way and I could immediately see him questioning his impulsive request.  It didn’t look anything like he remembered.  Of course not, I thought.  The first order of business 10 years ago when we moved in was to remove a disaster of a “re-muddling” they’d made of the livingroom / entry hall.  Lucky for us, we found most of the solid oak trim hidden behind the sheet rock they’d put up.  We had gone to great lengths to take it back to the original floor plan.

We moved through the rooms on the first floor then wandered out to the deck.  “I thought this was a lot bigger…”  It usually is in our memory, I explained.  Chatting for a few more minutes till there was really no more point, we moved back to the front porch.  Had his visit been two months ago, he would have at least recognized the color scheme on the outside.  But since we’ve had the trim painted, all the landscaping done, the ugly old pine tree removed from the front yard, etc. even good friends drive by the house – not recognizing the place.  And frankly – I couldn’t be happier.

That’s the thing about change…sometimes it makes us feel sad that things aren’t as they always were.  But for every person that feels sad – there is someone who was longing for their version of a home improvement.  The universe must just get used to living with that tension.

It’s been two years now that Billy has been gone.  I don’t think I’d want to answer the door at the Mrs. place if he stopped by to say he’d like to have a look around since he used to live there.  We just had two massive 40 year old half-dead pine trees  removed from the front yard. He’d be mad that his imagined bird santuary of an overgrown disgusting invasive Honeysuckle bush has been gone those two years…but not the birds.  He’d be complaining long and loud about the color of the TV room that the Mrs. picked out that was graciously painted by Sister Sib and her Nascar Guy.  And don’t get me started on the arguments we would have about the basement clean-out / drain system install / new plumbing / and paint job.

But there it is.  All those changes.  All those things that weren’t worth fighting you over.  Like I heard you say a million times, “It ain’t like it used to was…”  It’s not.  One thing hasn’t changed…we miss you.  The “you” that we remember from lots of years ago when you felt good and whistled all the time.  Truth is – you’re a changed house now too.  I’m sure you like the improvements and would have a hard time explaining all the process you’ve been through.





a real page turner

25 08 2009

gldnpth1

From C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle:

And as he spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read; which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.

You can read more about the events of a year ago here.





spelunker

22 08 2009

kyAfter a hard week of soundtrack work in Nashville for Shop Girl, her swelling belly brought about a rabid desire for nesting.  Homeward bound – nothing was going to stop my Fast for a minute longer than a necessary pee and some peanut butter crackers for sustenance.  Early morning fog softened the vistas through Tennessee and Kentucky taking me to places long forgotten but dreamy in the recesses of my memory.

Vacations for Billy were generally spent close to home doing the things to keep the house in repair…painting inside and out.  Finances never allowed those fantasy vacays to Disney.  But somewhere along the line, I don’t suppose I was more than 7 or 8 (sibling memories could help here), we headed South.

One of our stops was at the famous stables of the Kentucky Downs racetrack.  I was thoroughly entrenched in that love-of-horse phase that so many pigtailed girls go through and I still remember the marvel of the sleek chestnut bodies and silky black manes towering over me.  The wonder of wonder was being allowed to stop in the souvenir shop and three items were purchased specifically for me.  Somehow I recall some whining from the bro/sis combo to the tune of, “She’s a spoiled brat!” and “Who cares about dumb horses anyway! I just want to get home!”… if I was about a 3rd grader – that made them tweens and what is worse than being stuck in the backseat of a family car with no air conditioning, dvd player, radio or space for that matter.  This was sometime before 1965 or so, people!

mmthBut the pièce de résistance of that trip was a tour of the Mammoth Cave.  I am not even sure if that was actually our final destination or just another stop along the way.  Regardless, it marked me for life.  Fear gripped me as we began the steep descent into the bowels of the earth.  Shivers worked up my spine not just from the change of temperature but from the mere fact that I was being held captive by tons of limestone.

Eyes wide open, peering down crevices that could swallow me whole – my heart pounding so loudly in my chest it buzzed in my ears…once all senses adjusted, it became the most spectacularly magical space.  Colored lights highlighted the stalactites and stalagmites.  Underground rivers flowed silently by into inky black. Musty, dank air hung thick.

When Best Boy and Shop Girl were about that same age we read George MacDonald’s children’s fantasy novel  The Princess and the Goblin and its sequel The Princess and Curdie out loud around the dinner table.  MacDonald launches into his ideas of mountains and caves within the first pages of the second book:

A mountain is a strange and awful thing.  In old times, without knowing so much of their strangeness and awfulness as we do, people were yet more afraid of mountains.  But then somehow they had not come to see how beautiful they are as well as awful, and they hated them – and what people hate they must fear.  Now that we have learned to look at them with admiration, perhaps we do not feel quite awe enough to them.  To me they are beautiful terrors.

He continues a few paragraphs later,

All this outside the mountain!  But the inside, who shall tell what lies there!  Caves of awfullest solitude, their walls miles thick, sparkling with ores of gold or silver, copper or iron, tin or mercury, studded perhaps with precious stones – perhaps a brook, with eyeless fish in it, running, running ceaselessly, cold and babbling, through banks crusted with carbuncles and golden topazes, or over a gravel of which some of the stones arc rubies and emeralds, perhaps diamonds and sapphires – who can tell? – and whoever can’t tell is free to think – all waiting to flash, waiting for millions of ages – ever since the earth flew off from the sun, a great blot of fire, and began to cool.

Not too many months later, we found ourselves on a sweltering day under a blistering Washington D.C. sun, queuing up at the Smithsonian with Shop Girl and Best Boy in a full melt down.  Once inside we mapped out our visit including my one MUST SEE.

We were ushered into a room where all the lights were turned off and told to stand in the center and wait.  Suddenly, the recessed display cases set deep into the walls like mini caverns were set ablaze and sparkled with the most gorgeous display of gems in every color of the rainbow – exposed from where they had been hidden miles below the earth’s surface for centuries.  Suddenly the deep underworld of Curdie, the miner’s son, was brilliantly brought to reality.

Caves.  Me.  Facing fear.  Getting choked by the demons of claustrophobia or delighting in spelunking to discover precious veins buried deep within?  That is where my mind has taken me in the last few days.  Sparked by a conversation on the porch with Shop Girl and Mimi about facing our greatest fears and finding buried deep within ourselves those treasures – valuable resources – veins of gold and silver that steel our souls and weave through us – belying the hard, gray exterior that can seem cold to the touch.  Who are we really – deep in the core?

During my treks back and forth to Indiana over the weekends of the last few years, I had spent a good deal of time fearing the death of my father.  How was I going to face that?  What would it look like?  Feel like?  I planned the funeral in my head.  I talked through eulogies.  I wrote in notebooks while I drove.  What would his face look like when the real Billy was headed through the ceiling of the room that confined his physical body?  How would the Mrs. survive?

We have crawled through some dark twisty passageways this year.  The Mrs.’ voice echos off the walls.  But the thrill of every caver’s life is finding yet another tunnel, another underground waterway, another secret grotto – slogging through the mud and muck to chart new passages. These twelve months have been that journey for me.  Sometimes coming out into a wide space – a chamber – where standing upright I blindly pat the perimeters of the hard space. Other days I find myself crawling on my belly – squeezing through impossibly tight spaces.

So here’s to facing fears and finding the gemstones hidden deep within.  New adventures, new discoveries, new pains, new joys await. It takes hours of tumbling in the grit for the shine of those stones to come to light. Keeping my headlamp burning bright and forging ahead – daring fear to block my way.

After weeks of spelunking in Billy’s basement with all its similarities to the Mammoth Cave, I feel like yesterday my eyes had become so adjusted to the filtered gray light that I finally looked up and could almost see three of the four walls.  I have dug deep this year – quite literally – and as each layer is uncovered, I am in awe of the precious gems I keep unearthing.  Do you still have all your marbles?  I sure don’t.

Just in case you are lying around today with nothing better to do and you’ve never read MacDonald’s books you can read them here and here for free on line.  No need to even get off the couch.  Thank you Google.

mrbs





Requesting the pleasure of your company

28 07 2009

dressBefore the leaves started to fall last year,  the save-the-date photo/magnet was carefully placed front and center on the fridge.  Patiently waiting through the long days of winter when the hope of spring brought another invite for a lovely lunch to celebrate a bridal shower.  Gifts were ordered and another date on the calendar noted.

When the large double enveloped invitation arrived she marveled that such lovely things could be sent through the mail.  It found a resting place on the room divider between the kitchen and dining room where it could be seen one hundred times a day and wouldn’t get tossed with the lowly newsprint that daily occupied the kitchen table as word puzzles were worked.

By mid-June, she had enough time to ponder just what she might wear and searched through closets till she found the dress last worn to her grandson’s wedding a few years ago when she was proudly accompanied down the aisle on Billy’s arm.  It still fit and she knew it was way too fancy to ever wear to a regular church service now that her place of worship has dropped its Baptist moniker and in liberation has her wearing pants.

Two weeks ago, appointments were made for hair and nails to be done the day before.  She was a little disappointed that it couldn’t be the day of – but we could work with that.  Anything was better than nothing.

There was also fasting blood work scheduled to be drawn at the lab that morning.  I was glad to have something to fill up the hours before the early afternoon ceremony.  An early drive to the doctor’s office and stopping for soggy french toast after barely filled 90 minutes of the long wait ahead.

Once we were home, I encouraged her to take it easy so as to rest up for the long day ahead.  By noon, there was no holding her back.  In a careful inspection of the dress, she found what she thought was rust on two of the buttons.  Actually it was gravy from the grandson’s wedding feast.  Spots cleaned – three more discovered – disaster averted. Panty hose mined from the bowels of a drawer that is brimming with unused pairs, would do the trick.

Two hours left till her ride came to fetch her.  The pacing began.  I could feel the static in the air.  I promised I’d help repair any damage done to the coif but only after her dress was on. Curling iron plugged in and heated up.  The safety clasp on the pearls secured.  Purse items checked.  A lacy hankie from Spain added to the contents.  It was time to stand guard at the front door.waiting

We are at such different times of our lives.  Events can be chores for me.  For her, they are reminders that she is still desired company.  Someone thought enough of her to send an invitation.  She wouldn’t think of declining.

When she came home before Round Two, we poured over the details of the program, the paper cone filled with rose petals to be thrown in lieu of rice, the grandeur of it all.  Sugar plum fairies danced in her head while she kicked her feet up to wait.

She apologized for abandoning me – a loud guffaw exploded from my lungs – and before she knew it her carriage arrived once again to whisk her off into the evening.

It wasn’t until almost 10 p.m. that I heard a stirring in the kitchen as she was accompanied to the door.  She could hardly carry all the tchotchke that was her’s for the taking.  I was just relieved she hadn’t lifted the salt and pepper shakers, silverware or floral arrangements.

There are a few more exciting party dates peppering her calendar this summer…a 50th anniversary dinner for friends, a baby shower for Shop Girl.  Details and dates for other reasons are the things that keep me awake at night have her dreaming of things to do.  Things to break up the monotony of word puzzles and weeding.  shoes

But here we are – a year past the time when days were counted in hours until Billy would wear the floor thin pacing back and forth because he couldn’t sleep at night.  A year of change – a year of adjustments – a year of no answers from the empty recliner next to her – a year where she marks these celebrations reflecting on her life with Billy as she requests the pleasure of his company forever and ever.