Tag Archives: family

Alone, Again. Naturally.

 

sleepy lioness

You visited me last night, as I knew you would eventually.  It was my first night completely alone and instead of feeling lonely and sad, there was a certain peace over the household.  I held your pillow – and your unwashed shirt, the one that says “I’m the reason the beer’s always gone” – and drifted off easily.  Your presence is very much felt in this home, as it always will be.  Your chair, your dreadfully messy desk, your pictures…your scent which is fading daily.

You smiled your sweet smile and told me that I would be all right and for a second I believed you.  You said I was strong, and for a second I believed you.  You said you loved me and that I did believe completely.  You said I would be happy again someday and I laughed and called you a liar.  You smiled your sweet smile again.  You told me to go ahead and laugh, swim, play, write, and yes, cry if I must.   I asked you what it was like where you were – but you were gone, as quickly as you had appeared.

I woke, as I often do these days, with damp cheeks and a huge empty hole in my heart.  And I was alone again.  Naturally.

Alone Again, Naturally

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I. Will. Never. Forget.

wedding day

 

I lay facing my sleeping husband in the bright moonlight.  It was nearly as bright in the room as if we’d left a light on.  As usual, at least one part of our bodies was touching…no matter the size of the bed, we found each other.  In this case our knees were touching.  I stared into his face – so brightly illuminated, and listened to his gentle snores.

I traced his features with my fingertips, over and over, as if trying to memorize them.  The scars from skin cancer removals and drunken teenage car wrecks…the wiry eyebrows I had promised to trim but somehow had neglected to find the time to attend to.  The smooth upper lip that had carried the moustache for so many years that I loved – but that he had come to hate.  The lips I had kissed countless times.  I knew every pore, every scar, every inch but I kept tracing, studying, reveling in his face so close to mine.  He opened his eyes briefly and looked into mine.  “You’ll never forget me” he said and gently kissed me…and we fell asleep.

Thirty-six hours later I lay next to my husband in the grassy median of I-80 in Nebraska, under a clear blue sky in the warm sunshine, as paramedics worked frantically over him.  I held his hand and looked for the last time at the face I had loved so much for so many years.  I whispered my goodbye, and promised never to forget.  And I never will.

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Tea with My Mom

My Mom.Photo credit:  k8edid

My Mom.
Photo credit: k8edid

My mother is sitting at my dining room table with a book and a cup of tea.  I remember that she loved to read, and loved tea.  Although, in all honesty, I don’t remember ever seeing her actually sit down with a cup of tea. Or a book, for that matter.  Eight children and mounds of laundry, cooking, and housework were what I remember.  I remember slurping the dregs from her neglected, cold teacups and getting into trouble for “borrowing” her library books as a child.

“Mom, what are you doing here?”

“Reading.  Having tea.”  She set her book aside with a smile.  She didn’t look tired, or sick, or any of the ways I remember her looking.

“I see that, Mom.  But…you’re…” my voice cracked.

“Dead?” she asked softly. “Yes, I am.  Grab a cup, sit down and join me”.

“Mom,” I am truly stymied. “Really, I have to get ready for work.”

“Pfft.  They can wait.  They don’t deserve you.”

“You know my employers?” I asked incredulously.  I take a seat at the table.

“Oh, of course I know them.  Certainly you know I’ve been there with you more than a few times.”

I knew exactly the times she is talking about.  Wait.  Hold on –  is she really here talking?  To me?   My mom’s been gone for more than 30 years.  But she’s at my table this morning and wants to chat.  Who refuses their dead mother’s request for a visit?  Not this gal.  I have wanted this for years – no, dreamed of this for years.  Work can wait. Work will wait.

“You were there when I told my students about colon cancer, and colostomies and screening and how you died so young,” I said, remembering one of many times I felt her presence in my classroom.

“Yes, I was there,” she said, her voice soft like I remember.  “ You weren’t going to tell them.  About me, I mean.”

“No, I…I didn’t think I could talk about you without crying.  I felt you there, though, and I didn’t want even one of them to know what it was like to lose a parent so young.  I wanted them to nag their parents if they had to so they would get screened for cancer.”

“I’m glad you told them.  They love to hear about your stories, about being a nurse and nursing school and your kids and grandkids.  Your surgical scare, your broken ankles.  Your concussion.  They just love your stories. ”

“I know,” I smile.  “I try to always tell them the truth – about how hard it is to be a nurse sometimes.  How saving someone isn’t always the happy ending you think it will be.  How dying isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you.  How some patients fill your heart with joy, some with sadness, some with terror,” I laughed.

“They love you,” she smiled.

“Well…” I can’t think of anything to say.

“Did you ever want to have a job?  I mean besides being a wife and mother?” I ask her.  I am ashamed that I don’t already know the answer to this question.

“Oh, that doesn’t matter.  I was too busy with such a big family.  I wanted to get my high school diploma someday, and would have if…” her words trailed off.  “Women didn’t have careers so much then, you know. They were expected to stay home, care for their families.  I really did want to finish raising my kids though…” her voice trailed off again.  We are both silent.

“But look at you.  A college professor and all.  A nurse,” she changed the subject brightly – and I remember her doing just that, always deflecting the focus away from herself.

“Mom, “ I start slowly, not sure what words would come next.  I remember her playing along with Jeopardy on television – keeping score and for an uneducated woman, knowing so very, very much.  I remember seeing her standing at the stove, silent tears streaming down her face, stirring another pot in an endless stream of meals.  I remember sitting beside her on the couch when she told me, without looking at me, that I could leave if I didn’t feel safe but that she hoped, no – prayed, that I would stay.  I remember her pain and her terminal illness.  Her wasting away before our very eyes.  Her selfless, shy ways.  The wit and humor which never left her.  I remember her hands, so much like my own, with short puffy fingers and soft, flimsy fingernails.  I remember her hugs; her soft arms and cushiony warmth.  The way she smelled of Jergen’s cherry almond hand lotion.  And, sometimes, like onions.

“Mom,” I close my eyes and start again.  I want to ask her so many things – how she managed so much sickness and pain in her 42 years on earth.  How she managed abandonment, infidelity, cruelty, and disappointment without anger or bitterness.  How she forgave so easily.  How she asked so little for herself yet always had so much love to give.  How she could bear to leave her children.

I am suddenly ashamed.  Mortified by my whining and bitching and the definite lack of grace I have been exhibiting lately.  Ashamed of my pissy attitude and ungratefulness.  I am embarrassed by my incessant irritation with my first world problems; by my impatience and unhappiness.  Ashamed for not appreciating the health and bounty and opportunities placed before me each and every day.  For not appreciating that I am given, undeservedly, a new and beautiful chance at happiness each and every day.

“Mom,” I open my eyes to try again.  She is not there, of course – but she is not really gone, either.  I get up from the table and go to the kitchen to start my morning coffee.  I stop.  I reach into the cupboard and take down the tea instead.

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When I Said I Do…

k8edid and Sweet Cheeks – Two Wild and Crazy Kids, circa 1979 (photo credit – my Mom, I think, maybe my sister, I don’t remember).

When I said I do, I meant that I will ’til the end of all time
Be faithful and true, devoted to you…
That’s what I had in mind when I said I do

          – Lyrics – When I Said I Do

by Clint Black

Thirty-three years ago today I said “I do”.  And I meant it.  In the cluttered office of a town judge, with a couple of friends and a couple of German Shepherds as witnesses, we joined our hearts and our lives together.

It hasn’t always been easy, and it hasn’t always been fun, but it has always been the best thing that ever happened to me.  There have been low points, fabulous high points and a lot of mundane times in between that we slogged through side-by-side – sometimes shouldering the load together – sometimes depending on the other to be stronger, tougher, more resilient.  There have been disappointments, setbacks, and challenges.  There have been many lessons learned, periods of intense joy, and an abundance of blessings.

A lot has changed in 33 years.  I am no longer the frightened, insecure young woman who needed constant reassurance – but he provides it anyway, showing me each and every day that I am loved, needed, and wanted.  He endures my moods, laughs at my jokes, devours every word I write and believes in me in everything that I do.

He is not perfect.  He has a preoccupation with sports that is beyond annoying.  The sound of his chewing makes me want to pick up a steak knife  and do some damage to his lateral pterygoid (his manners are impeccable, but his jaw muscles just make so much noise when he chews that I want to scream).  He snores, can’t cook, and his handwriting is legendary in its illegibility.  But in the ways that matter – he is a rock star.

I know that I’m not perfect, either.  I am perpetually cynical, sporadically foul-mouthed, incredibly impatient, and occasionally passive-aggressive.   Okay, maybe more than occasionally.  I sometimes take advantage of his easy-going nature, and a lot of my “jokes” are at his expense.  I like to be right.  And I like to be told that I’m right.  Repeatedly.  Am I right?

I do not know how many more years we will have together, but I know they will not be enough.  I hope he knows that today, and everyday, I meant what I said that afternoon so many years ago.  I do.  And I will.

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Cops + Doughnuts = Yumminess

First Note:  This post was scheduled for yesterday, Friday July 20.  When I woke up and saw the news surrounding the tragic events in Colorado, I pulled the piece.  Given the carnage that law enforcement, trauma centers, and families were dealing with, it seemed highly inappropriate.  I’m not sure today is really better, but when I re-read this post, I saw that it celebrated law enforcement, family, and hope  –  so I published it today.  I hope you read it in that spirit.

Second Note:  Please, please, please – if you are a member of the law enforcement community – do not attack me for mentioning your chosen profession and baked goods in the same breath.  I love cops.  I was once madly (and sadly – he was not good for me) in love with a policeman.  He was guilty of felony heartbreak.  I admire and support the brave men and women who serve their communities in that career.   I do love doughnuts (also, sadly – they are not good for me) although our relationship has lasted considerably longer than the one with the cop.  They are always there for me (as in by my side, on my hips, in my arteries).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Michigan, especially in the summer time, is a very lovely place.  While its economy may be struggling, and its population dwindling,  its citizens are resourceful, resilient, and stalwart.  If you need reasons to enjoy a Michigan adventure, check out this post by Pithypants, as well as this post.

On a recent visit to Michigan, I met the lovely Peg-o-Leg.  It was determined during that brief interlude, somehow, that calories consumed in Michigan do not count.  I believe the precise formula is something like this “Expenditures made to support the economy result in the automatic removal of calories and saturated fat”.  Or some such.  I returned from my whirlwind trip over the 4th with a considerably lighter wallet and pants that would barely button.  So perhaps that theory is slightly flawed.  Whatever.

We spent a couple of days with all five grandchildren at our campground.  On the trip to return them (sunburned and bug-bitten) to their parents – we stopped in Clare, Michigan, at the Cops and Doughnuts Bakery.  This magical place is part museum, part bakery, part retail establishment and pure blood-glucose-raising fun.

When the century-old bakery was in within weeks of going under, the Clare police force (all 9 members) pooled their resources and purchased the enterprise.  They opened Cops and Doughnuts Bakery in 2009 and business has been expanding as rapidly as the waistlines of the multitudes of tourists who flock there for the baked goods, but stay for the fun.  Some of their merchandising slogans include”  DWI (Doughnuts Were Involved), Cereal Killer, and Cuffed and Stuffed.

They have their own “Cops Coffee” brand of coffee, merchandise of every kind from coffee mugs to baby clothing, and have even opened the “Traffic Stop Diner” in their third expansion just this year.  Menu items include “Stool Pigeon Sandwich” (chicken salad), “Sticky Situation Sandwich” (peanut butter, shredded carrots, sunflower nuts, raisins and honey), “Misdemeanor Weiner” and “Undercover Misdemeanor Weiner” (coney style), and “Grounds for Investigation Sandwich” (ground bologna) – as well as “Electric Chair Fries” and “Cold Case Slaw”.

The business has been showcased in several national news features.  They were designated one of Michigan’s  “50 Businesses to Watch” in 2011.  They now employ 28 employees (none are family members of the police-owners and in a small town like Clare, that is impressive) and are going to 24/7 operations this year.

The real draw, of the place, though is the bakery.  The aroma hits you from the street – yeasty, cinnamon-y, delightful aroma.  I did not get any good shots of the display rack as there were many, many people lined up its entire length and I was trying to corral 5 grandkids and one testy grandpa with low-blood sugar, but believe me when I say it is a feast for the eyes.  Racks of freshly baked, handmade cinnamon and pecan rolls.  Rows and rows of doughnuts, turnovers, and pastries of every size and shape.  The cinnamon rolls and pecan rolls are roughly the size of a salad plate ($2.79) and are easily the best baked goods I have ever tasted (including my own).

I applaud the Clare Policemen who rescued this gem and their business acumen, as well as their ability to laugh at and with the stereotypes inherent in such a venture.  It is a reminder that law enforcement does much more than lie in wait for me in speed traps serve and protect, they support their communities in a multitude of untold ways.  I wish them continued and rampant success.

As proper grandparents, Sweet-Cheeks and I spoiled them and loaded them up with sugar prior to giving them back to their parents.  I will leave you with these pictures – snapped during the feeding frenzy that punctuated a family adventure that included lots of hugs, a few tears, and sweetly-frosted memories…

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