Being a teacher, I always looked forward to snow days because it was an unexpected day to catch up, get some things done around the house, or just wake up when my body was rested instead of when the alarm clock gave the command. (I especially loved those snow days when the meteorologists’ predictions were wrong, or when the weather was cleared up by lunch time.) As a mother, the best thing about a snow day is having an unexpected day with my kids.
This photograph was taken outside of Turoni’s in Evansville, Indiana. We were attending a surprise birthday party and were surprised with all the snow when we left. Taken with my iPhone 5S. Phoneography Challenge, the Phone as Your Lens. Week 4: Challenger’s Choice: Night Photography.
On October 6, 2011, my father lost his battle with lung cancer. Soon after, my sister’s best friend lost her father to lung cancer as well. The following spring my sister and her friend suggested that we walk in the Fight for Air Walk to raise money for the American Lung Association. My step-father had also been living with COPD for some time so lung disease was profoundly affecting all of us “girls” (all in our 30′s & 40′s). I thought participating in the walk would help my healing process, so I volunteered to captain the team that we named “Daddies’ Girls.”
My step-father continues his struggle with lung disease and Daddies’ Girls continue to walk. This year will be especially important for me. Not only will I be raising money for a good cause and supporting family and friends affected by lung disease, but I will be walking after being in an accident last fall which left me unable to walk on my own for 2 1/2 months due to multiple fractures in my pelvis and a fractured hip. I also had 9 fractured ribs which made breathing difficult.
I am currently receiving physical therapy to regain the strength in my legs, and the mobility in my hip and knee (which was also broken and lacerated). I also had several other injuries that didn’t affect my ability to walk, but have required rest for the healing process. I began walking on my own a couple of weeks ago, and started focusing on this year’s Fight for Air Walk. I am looking forward to being out in the May sunshine, with my “girls” beside me, as I continue doing something that makes a difference.
I walk because I can.
Today I finished the process to obtain my coaching certification. I am ecstatic, as this is something I have dreamed of and only recently had the intestinal fortitude to do. I took what could have been a tragedy (traumatic injury) and used it to create something good (Alchemy-turning base metal into gold).
Tomorrow, I embark on a journey I had begun 2 weeks before my accident in November. I planned to optimize my health through an exercise and eating regimen that I abandoned when my accident prompted me to accept meals prepared by caring souls whom I would not ask to meet all of my dietary needs (although they did a great job of keeping me Gluten free). It is time to reinstate my transformation.
I am also happy to celebrate my son-in-law’s 24th birthday. He and my daughter dated for several years before they married in November of 2012. I have watched him grow from an unsure teenager to an admirable young man that I am grateful to have as my daughter’s helpmeet. (My oldest son’s birthday was on Wednesday, making it a week full of celebrations.)
To top the day off, today I was asked to write for an organization I support. I nonchalantly shared my experience with them, and later they asked me if would share my story. I am finally beginning to feel like a real writer, even though I know the only thing necessary for me to be a writer is that I write.
For Valentine’s Day I made a list of 14 things I love. (They are in no particular order… unless stream of consciousness qualifies as an order.)
1. baby giggles… especially my granddaughter’s
2. exercising, especially outside
3. frozen Margaritas
4. when my kids ask for my advice… and really want it… and take it
5. reading (especially non-fiction, spiritual, and self-help books)
6. my family (the whole crazy bunch!)
8. learning new things
9. Sunday lunches with my kids
10. spicy food
11. when my dog curls up on the couch with me and keeps my feet warm
13. swimming pools and beaches
14. hanging out with my husband
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Since my accident in November, so many people have stepped up to help me in so many ways. While I am grateful to them all, I want to take a moment and thank someone who has been beside me every step of the way.
My husband helped his dad build me a wheelchair ramp when I came home from the hospital, and built me a low stool when my physical therapist recommended it. He let me take over his recliner, and didn’t complain when I kept him awake moaning and groaning at night. He tolerated my moves from the recliner, to the couch, to bed, and back to the couch so I could sleep comfortably.
My husband has taken on all the household duties I am unable to do. He has managed to work from home with only a couple of exceptions, and has altered his schedule to fit my doctors’ appointments. My husband has bathed me, shaved my legs, and cut my fingernails and toenails.
My husband does the cooking and washes the dishes. He washes my hair for me and blows it dry (which I won’t even do for myself). He does all the shopping and errands (including taking the dog to vet). He makes sure the kids’ needs are addressed, as well as mine.
I am also grateful that my husband still makes me feel like a wife, in spite of all the things I cannot do. He knows I love to have fresh cut flowers in the house, so he took over my habit of picking them up with the groceries. He slips me squares of dark chocolate, and pops popcorn for me.
Before I was cleared to bear weight, he wheeled me to movies and out to dinner. When we went out of town for a funeral, he lugged all the devices necessary to make my trip more comfortable (wedges, stool, styrofoam tube, neck pillow). And before I resumed blogging, he made sure all of my technology needs were met.
I am fortunate to be married to a good man. Thank you, Kelly, for all you do for me. I love you. (I know he will see this because he creeps my page nightly.)
As it turns out, my step-father was not able to attend visitation at the funeral home last night. The roads were treacherous due to snow and he was having difficulty breathing. In fact, the symptoms of his COPD were so bad that he didn’t attend his mother’s graveside service today either. In fact, my sister and her husband (with their baby), and my mother decided to head home as soon as they could round up their van load.
They left before the funeral in an effort to get my step-father closer to home and the hospital where the doctors and staff know him and his history. Because he would not be attending the graveside service, he sent word through my mother that he wanted me to put a flower on his mother’s casket and to say it was from her son.
I wasn’t quite sure when I should do this: before I sat down, at some orchestrated moment, or when the funeral was over. (Incidentally, the officiating preacher spoke about the awkwardness of the whole losing a loved-one thing.) I quietly waited, hoping for some cue. Finally, when the last prayer was spoken, the pall bearers removed their boutineers and placed them on the casket. I took this as my cue to place the rose.
I hobbled forward with my cane and set one foot onto the edge of the platform on which the coffin rested because I could not reach the top of the casket. As I tried to speak, my vocal chords tightened. I had the thought that this message was between a mother and her son, so it really doesn’t matter if anyone else can hear it. I inaudibly spoke the words, “This is from Jimmy.” As I mouthed the words, I heard them clearly in my own head. I placed the rose amid those in the spray. I touched the smooth, cold wood of the lid, choked back a few silent tears and returned to my seat on the front row. At that moment it occurred to me that I had been appointed a sacred task. I was the messenger… the conduit between the here and the beyond. I was the surrogate son.
I am writing this post from a hotel room in a town where I spent my adolescent/teen years. My husband, brother, and I are here to attend the funeral of my stepfather’s mother, who passed away on Thursday. Although she was not our biological grandmother, she was always kind and welcoming to my brother and me.
My step-father isn’t doing well. He has been dealing with COPD for some time now, and has just lost his mother. The four-hour drive here, a change in elevation, and recent illness have left him unable to attend the visitation tonight. We aren’t even sure he will be able to attend the graveside service tomorrow.
Earlier today, a snowstorm came in from the north, so traveling on back roads leading to tomorrow’s destination will be dangerous. Quite frankly, if the roads are not clearer tomorrow, my husband, brother, and I may not be able to attend the funeral ourselves.
Amid the sadness, however, it has been good to spend time with my brother. We don’t see each other much, even though we only live an hour away from each other. It felt very strange to drive into this town we hadn’t spent any significant amount of time in for decades (20 years for me, 30 for him). It brought back long forgotten shared memories for us.
When we arrived, we met a mutual friend for dinner. We reminisced about our middle and high school days. We laughed about things that weren’t funny back when they happened. We talked about our families and just enjoyed each other’s company over dinner.
Now, as I sit in front of this screen, I am thinking about so many things. The sadness of losing a grandparent, the worry over a sick parent, the love for siblings and children, the gratitude for good friends and a loving spouse, and the nostalgia of a place I used to call home.
So tonight I will allow myself to set aside the present I so often try to stay in, to go down memory lane. I won’t stay there too long, but while I am away from the responsibilities of home I will indulge myself.
For the past several years, I have acknowledged my parents on my birthday, thanking them for the ultimate gift… life. Some years I sent them cards. Sometimes I expressed my gratitude to them on Facebook. This past year was no different.
My dad passed away in October of 2011. The following May I celebrated 47 years on the planet. As I reflected on the previous year, I decided to express my love and appreciation for my mother in a letter. I penned this letter, in my own hand, on May 24, 2012.
In the letter, I thanked my mother for standing by me in spite of my bad decisions regarding money, marriages, and “a million other things.” Having raised children of my own, I now understood the challenges my mother faced raising me and my siblings. Her willingness and acceptance helped me to grow. My hope is that I inherited those qualities.
With my thoughts on paper, I folded the letter, placed it in the addressed envelope, put it in the mailbox, and went about my day.
On that same day, my mother also wrote a letter. The letter she wrote was also a result of reflecting on my birthday. The letter was written to her mother, my namesake. My mother’s letter would never be mailed.
When my mother was eleven years old, her mother took her and her younger brother to their grandmother’s house and never returned. My mother has spent a lifetime trying to process this traumatic event. Although she will never “get over it”, my mom has worked hard on forgiving and healing.
In her letter, my mom gently expressed the anger she felt at being abandoned. Her mother’s mood swings caused my mother great fear and dread as a child. This translated into fear and self-loathing in her adult life, but my mother didn’t place blame in her letter. In fact, she expressed an understanding of her mother’s pain and a hope that she had experienced some happiness in this life. She expressed a bittersweet love and compassion for a woman who missed out on the joy of motherhood.
Although the relationship with her mother could never be replaced, my mom chose to focus on her relationship with her own children. Even though she has forgiven, my mom has never had closure because it is uncertain whether her mother is living or deceased. As she closed her letter, my mom cried and prayed for a sign that her mother could somehow see or feel what my mom was feeling… that she somehow knew my mom loved her in spite of everything.
Ironically, that sign would come in the form of a letter. A letter from her daughter. A daughter who bears her mother’s name.
When my mother received my letter, she immediately called me. She was stunned that our letters were written on the same day. It was her sign, loud and clear. My mother keeps both letters in her journal to this day.
I called my mother today and asked her to read both letters to me over the phone. As we talked about it, my mom noticed that she wasn’t as emotional as she had been on that day. I suppose more healing has taken place since then. And I decided to call this The Letter (singular) because I saw whatever we had experienced individually on that day as parts of one event.
My mother called me today and I could tell by her tone she had something important to tell me. She said she had to tell me about an almost spiritual moment she had, that she knew I would understand. I could hear the emotion in her voice as she began her story.
She had gone to have her hair done, which she normally doesn’t do during the week. When she arrived, another woman was in her hairdresser’s chair. The woman had long salt-and-pepper hair which she was having blown dry. She was apologetic because she had been a walk-in and she knew she was cutting into my mother’s appointment time. My mother was happy to be out of the house for awhile and assured the woman it was fine.
My mother, who claims she is not good with names, readily remembered Karen’s. Karen explained the she was going to donate her hair, as she had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. But first, she was going to go out to a local state park to have her picture taken for her memorial service and she wanted her hair to look nice for the picture.
My mother was surprised that this woman that she had only met minutes before was sharing these intimate details of her life, and impending death, but she just listened. Karen had been a writer for the Chicago Tribune. She had a falling out with her family, so she had moved here to the south. She added that her family has since mended their relationships, yet she is still here alone.
She had only been diagnosed the week before, yet was carrying a binder with the plans for the memorial. Karen shared her music playlist for the service, which included a couple of Beatles tunes, and (One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying) Purple People Eater. She’s obviously maintained a sense of humor.
She is sixty.
My mother connected with Karen in many ways. We had lived in the Chicago area. My youngest son is a Beatles buff. And my mom knew about illness. She has been caregiver to several people the past few years, and is now caring for my step-father who is living with COPD.
Taking care of people that are sick has heightened my mother’s sense of compassion and her appreciation for life. It has also reinforced her priorities. My mother said she didn’t ask Karen questions, except whether she had family.
When Karen’s hair was done, she told my mother that she needed a hug. My mother hugged her for what seemed like minutes, and Karen left.
My mother was so touched by this moment she shared with a complete stranger, that she had to share it with me. I could hear the tears in her voice, and knew that we share a gratitude for our family. We are always here for each other, in sickness and in health, and with hugs to spare. As for Karen, I don’t know what the rest of her journey looks like, but I think my mom made today a little better for her.