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.”





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?

 

 





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.





counting candles

16 01 2010

Oh this wasn’t just any birthday celebration…no, this one was special.  There was something quite different about this one as compared to the one a year ago. My  83 year old mother got her driver’s license renewed.

Months ago the State of Indiana was kind enough to send out two separate letters reminding us of the need to renew her license.  They sent TWO (count them – TWO) letters outlining the multiple documents we needed to present so that she could get the new SecureID  – “to ensure that you can use your driver’s license to board commercial airplanes and enter certain federal buildings.” Now there’s something new for 2010.

We had to have an original certified copy of her birth certificate.  Fortunately for me, she’d gotten a copy of that back in 1984 when she got the other “SecureID” called a passport when she and Billy crossed the pond to come visit us in Spain.  In this last couple of years of practicing my new hobby of document gathering, it had been filed in a folder with a tab that said “Birth Certificates.”  Imagine my surprise when I found the REAL deal right there for me to use!

We also needed to have a social security card (NO idea where her original is of that), a W-2, tax form, an SSA-1099 form, or a pay stub showing name and Social Security number.  And to prove “residency” we needed two statements issued within 60 days from a utility company, bank, credit card company, doctor or hospital, federal or state agency showing her name and residence.

So the afternoon before her birthday with a wad of documents in hand, we made the trek to the BMV.  It was late in the day so there wasn’t much of a line – save a handful of teens with parents in tow – so we didn’t wait long before our number was called.  The clerk began asking for the docs in a certain order…the birth certificate – check…

Next she wanted the marriage license…”Excuse me, what?”  “The marriage license to prove the name change from her birth certificate to the present…” “OH DEAR GOD.  ARE YOU SERIOUS?”  The ONE STUPID DOCUMENT I HAD FAILED TO INCLUDE!!!  I should have known better by now…after all, my book, The Boomer’s Guide to Dying is about to break into the New York Times Bestseller List.  I could have bloodied my toes kicking myself for being so stupid as to not put the entire fireproof filing system in the car before we left the house.  Never, never, never again…

I get it.  It was my fault.  I needed to connect the dots for the state.  After all, she’s only had a driver’s license in this state since Heck was a pup (click here to figure out where this saying came from) and now we need to start verifying she is who she’s been pretending to be since she moved here at the age of 16 or so?  We can’t connect the government dots that this person has held a valid passport in the past – our most vetted document?  Wait – what is this for?  This makes it secure for us to get on airplanes and to get into government buildings?  Hummmm….will that really make a difference?

Anyway – then and there, I opted for the straight up license renewal.  We will give the state another $11 at a later date and be able to sleep more soundly knowing that SHE has a SecureID in her possession.

Adding to the excitement of that outing, we tacked on two doctors appointments the next day and put a bow on yet another year by getting a store bought cake topped off with twenty little polka dot candles to mark her milestone.

As she was on her way to bed after the cake and ice cream dessert we had, she poked her head into the TV room and thanked me for making it easy.  She would have been overwhelmed with 83 candles she said.  Twenty was just enough to remember it was her birthday.

I go back and forth with this stuff – personally I wouldn’t be offended at all if my kids never lit the candles on a cake and stuck it in front of my face.  But for her, at least it is a way to mark a special day in the year – a date she doesn’t have to think much about…she doesn’t hesitate a lick when you ask her when she was born – month, date, and year.  And maybe a day made a little less lonely – after all, since the day after she turned 21, she had Billy by her side up until two years ago. She reflected a bit on that too…and was glad to have had those long years with him walking beside her.

What’s it like  when suddenly you don’t really have a wedding anniversary any more?

Anyway, back to where we started…we have three more years till this new driver’s license expires.  I wonder how many more documents it will take to renew the document.  I wonder if the State of Indiana will ask itself if it is wise or safe for her to be driving.  I wonder if we’ll still be able to use those SecureID’s for anything at all.  But if she’s around – there’s no doubt that we’ll be having more chocolate cake and ice cream.  Maybe I’ll do 40 candles for dramatic effect.





christmas cookies

19 12 2009

The Mrs. was a working girl.  When I was in elementary school she went back to working full time and continued to do so until after she and Billy had put three kids through college and I was married.  Elaborately decorated Christmas cookies were never her style but she’d find time to bake between doing laundry and housekeeping on those weeks leading up to the Holidays.  Mexican wedding cakes, pecan tarts and peanut butter blossoms to name a few would be around the house for snacking and sharing.

This year it was just before Thanksgiving that she started to make noises about getting the ingredients for the peanut butter blossoms – those ones with the chocolate Hershey’s kiss on top.  It used to be Billy’s job to unwrap the candy as she prepared the dough. It goes without saying that lots has changed since those days.

There was a profound bewilderment in her eyes as she said, “I just get all screwed up…I don’t know what’s wrong with my memory.”  She wonders out loud about why a simple recipe that she’s done so many times before with such success seems so overwhelming to her now.  I talk about the realities of aging (I chose to not use the D word – dementia) and motor planning.  I’ve been witness to hundreds of hours of physical and occupational therapy working as an interpreter at a rehab hospital and with wonder been a casual observer of the fragile nature of our gray matter.  Sometimes I’d get to see the lights come back on and other times – the lights were out for good.

She insisted that she’d made the peanut butter cookies and another batch. “You know those ones with the cereal and the melted marshmallows?” I got excited thinking that I’d be soon snacking on rice crispy treats while I balanced her check book, filed bills and spent time on the phone taking Billy’s name off all the utilities and switch over the auto-pay billing to a new checking account we had to open in her name alone.

But she couldn’t remember where she had put them.  I defaulted to what I had told the Fabulous Mrs. T not long ago. “There is always a thread…there is always some logic behind the twisted thinking.”  A few months ago our dear family friend had stopped by for a cup of coffee with the Mrs. and as soon as she got home to her computer – she quickly pounded out an email to me concerned about the confusion in the Mrs. mind about when Billy had passed away, etc.  I could easily explain all the faulty thinking probably because I am a lunatic myself at this point and it all makes perfect sense.  Some call it denial – I call it coping.

Back to the missing cookies – as if I am a a principal actor on CSI, I try to uncover the truth.  She had gone to the store to gather ingredients – the receipt I found proved that she’d found the baking aisle and brought home brown sugar, powdered sugar (enough to make cookies from now until next Christmas) and a box of puffed wheat cereal.  She explained that she’d not been able to find the one that was specifically listed and figured if she just got one of the same brand (Post) then it would all be the same.

I had a hunch…I went to the front closet and there sat a pan of “cookies”.  See, that closet is cold and not insulated and if the recipe says to “store in a cool place”…then why wouldn’t she put the cookies there?  And once I got a look at the pan, there was even more clarity.

There is a fine physics involved in baking.  Baking powder and baking soda can’t be substituted one for the other.  Rice crispy cereal can’t be substituted with a puffed wheat cereal – or at least not without a very distinct result.  I gently reminded her that a Ford Fiesta is not the same as a Ford F-150 truck…but when she doesn’t really understand or comprehend she gets this look on her face and nods with a half smile like you do agreeing with a two-year old about some preposterous statement they’ve just made. To her it was all the same.  And in a way, it’s all the same to me too.

She just wanted to make some cookies for the Holidays.  I learned a valuable lesson.  I need to hear her words…listen to the intent behind them.  I need to stop my busy life and with grace – as much as is humanly possible –  just help her do those things that give her some sense of fulfillment.  I could have avoided this whole mess if I would have taken the time to be with her while she made those cookies she felt she needed to have in the house.  But I live on a teeter-tooter full of tensions…struggling to keep my balance between the things I want to do, should do, have to do and those that are my responsibility to do. Always straddling the center – never really in one world or the other – always somewhere in the middle.

I feel her slipping away – tired of things that once made her excited.  Maybe it is happening to me too – I haven’t decorated for the last three Christmases and if I stop to review I find the thread that I told the Fab Mrs. T about…this time of the year has become sad to me.  One year it was a Dec. 17th pink slip for the Dr., another was a Christmas morning visit with Billy that I called 911 when he couldn’t get out of his chair – (the paramedics were sure it was nothing but I stood there watching him have a TIA), another was spent in the hospital with Best Boy having his gut re-opened.

There will be new memories soon enough when Donny Diva is up and running around and I’ll be that Momo that decorates and bakes. I’ll get it back.  Right now I’m stretched…doing it for the Mrs. makes me not want to do the same here and have two messes to clean in January.  Mine own is mess enough any time of the year.

So here’s a big head’s up to Sister Sib and Nascar Guy about the cookies awaiting them.  Enjoy them with big smiles on your faces next weekend as you sit with her around the tiny little pitiful tree sparkling away in her TV room.  Know they were made with lots of love.  And please let me know if you find the peanut butter blossoms she supposedly made.





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