Tag Archives: home

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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Home again – an Etheree

She

jumps up

When my car

Pulls in the drive.

So glad to see me

She can’t contain her joy.

Warm brown eyes seek out my own.

She follows me into the house,

Lies at my feet – asks only for love

And the occasional treat after tricks.

Asleep beside my bed, then bounding

Up at the sound of the alarm

Eager for outdoors, patrols

The boundaries of her world.

Anxious at jingling keys,

Knowing I will leave,

Be gone all day

And then I am

Home again.

Home.

Every morning when I leave, Shelby and my beloved husband see me off.   I see them in my rearview mirror as I drive away.   When I return at the end of the day, they greet me so affectionately.  That makes the leaving hard and the return joyous.  Like them, I cannot wait for that moment of homecoming, the simple joy of seeing the love in their eyes, and knowing I am responsible for the happiness on their faces.

My grandpa told me once “If you ever meet someone who is always as glad to see you as your dog – marry them”.  Good advice.

Shelby waits for Mama

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Suffering Succotash

Today is my sister’s birthday.  She is a little older than I am (although most people assume I am older since I stopped coloring my hair years ago).   We are in the back row (I’m on the left).  She is the only person left on earth who has known me since the day I was born.  She knows me probably better than anyone and loves me anyway.  We make quite a pair – she has a hearing loss and I am very forgetful.  She can remember anything if she can hear it, and I can hear everything, but can’t remember it.  I wish I could give her a birthday hug in person, cyber hugs just don’t cut it.

Alice Marie Flannery

Happy Birthday, Sis.

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I am recovering from a 3 day weather-induced migraine/sinus splitting headache combo.  It was pretty rough.  I may, or may not, have left stupid comments on some blogs.  If I did, I apologize.  If I didn’t, I wish I had, I can be pretty entertaining on medications….

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

I attended a memorial service Monday evening for one of my nursing students who died from a heart attack.  He was a great guy – an older student (35), large, loud, bright and funny.  He was a husband and father of 5.  He came from a very large family with 13 siblings, many adopted.  His cheery presence will be greatly missed both in the classroom and in the nursing lab I run for the college.

He worked full time, went to school full time and was a father – full time.  He laughed about burning the candle at both ends.  He lived on Red Bull and other “energy” drinks to keep himself alert and constantly moving.  His wit was razor sharp and his capacity for absorbing minutiae was incredible.

His widow, his children, and his siblings each read a letter written to say goodbye.  I have never, and probably never will, write words as poignant as those read that night.  I pray that I will never have to.

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

Imagine my surprise to find that I am a finalist in the caption contest over at the Good Greatsby’s Blog.  Please, I am BEGGING you, go there and vote for my caption.  I will owe you, big time.  I will do all kinds of things for you, like belch when you feel full, sleep for you when you feel tired, and bottle up some sunshine and send it your way on gray and gloomy days.  I don’t make offers like that to just anybody, either.  So get on over there, and vote.  Thanks.

Here’s hoping the rest of the week will be better.

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Honey, I’m Home

I have returned to my steamy Southern nest after a 7 week hiatus (actually 51 days, but who’s counting?).  I enjoyed my time in Michigan very much, but am so happy to be “home”.

Home, I’ve decided, is a very relative term.  I have a home in Florida.  It has taken me a long time to consider this domicile my real home.  I have a home in Michigan (currently rented to our son, Lefty).  It is hard to visit your “home” when you don’t live there anymore, and it really isn’t your home any more, even though you still hold the deed and you decorated every room in it.  It is strange to see other people’s belongings in the “home” you lived in for 23 years.

I have a summer “home”, of sorts, a 35 foot travel trailer in a private campground/resort in the woods of northern Michigan.  It is like camping, but not.  After all, I slept in a real bed every night, had a stove, fridge, microwave, toilet and shower (albeit very tiny).  I had hot and cold running water.  Hardly camping.  We slept 10 people inside one night when record high temps drove us to turn on the AC – like I said, hardly camping.  I usually had 2 or more grandchildren with me at any one time, sometimes all 5 of them at once.  It was a magical summer, filled with daily swims, long walks, campfires, fishing, pine trees and lots of love.

When I was in Florida, I wanted to be in Michigan.  When I was in Michigan, I missed parts of my life in Florida.  You know, the parts where I have phone service, internet, more than 2 television stations with really bad reception, my own roomy shower, and access to real stores.  I missed my beloved Sweet Cheeks most of all.

In Florida I miss things like seeing my sons, Pancho and Lefty, often and providing them with the best motherly advice (usually unsolicited and -equally – usually ignored).  I miss grandkid hugs, seeing them grow overnight, cool summer evenings around a campfire, hearing the loons before falling asleep and upon awakening, and cold, springfed lakes.

I returned to Florida earlier than planned as I accepted a job offer that required me to begin working this week.  So, I guess, for me “home” is several places – wherever I am at the moment – places where memories are made, love is shared, and laughter abounds.

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Grandma – Rest in Peace

When I left you last, I was on day 3 of what turned out to be a 4 day migraine. https://k8edid.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/the-pain-in-my-head-is-a-pain-in-the-arse-and-wheres-the-pizza/

On Day 3 I received word that my grandmother was in the hospital and not expected to live.  You may be asking yourself “Self, what is that woman with an AARP card doing with a Grandmother still alive?”  Good question.

Grandma became a grandma at an early age when her only child (my stepfather) married my mother, who had 2 small children.  She was probably 38 or so at the time (my head is still tender and math is beyond me at this point).  I was saddened by the news, and then received another phone call – Grandma had, indeed, gone toward the light.  This presented a dilemma to me as I received a 3rd phone call.  The service for Grandma was going to be held on Saturday and I was 1300 miles away.

I had planned on driving north on Saturday, and by my calculations I could not even jump immediately into the car to reach my destination in time for her memorial.  Never mind that I had a migraine and could possibly kill myself and others by even attempting a long-distance trek such as that.  I did what any prudent migraine sufferer would do, I popped some pills and went back to bed.

The next morning I debated (as well as I could with a throbbing head and nausea washing over me) about just proceeding with my plans for travel and missing the service or flying to the Midwest, attending the service and flying home, only to turn around and drive north within a few days…..What to do, what to do?  In the end, I decided to pay my respects.  I booked a flight, arranged a rental car and packed what I could manage given the state of my head (and mind).  I am surprised I actually ended at my destination given that I couldn’t see or think straight at the time and was under the influence of powerful drugs. I am also amazed that I remembered to pack underwear and medications, and even managed a suitable outfit.

I loved my grandmother; she didn’t treat me differently because I was a step-granddaughter.  She pretty much treated everyone the same – and that is not to say that she was sweet to everyone (or really – sweet to anyone).  She wasn’t a cuddly, loving grandmother – although she could be on rare occasion.  She often had a sharp tongue and shrill voice.  She didn’t want people making a mess in her immaculate house.  She was stubborn and opinionated, and looked out for Number One.  She feuded with family members and at the time of her only child’s death, was not on speaking terms with him.  My grandchildren loved her, none-the-less and I took them with me on my visits.

I gave my grandmother monthly injections of Vitamin B-12.  Once when I was giving her the injection, she yelled loudly.  I was mortified – every month she received her injection without a sound.  Turns out she was only trying to scare my 2 grandchildren who had accompanied me on that day.  She thought it was hilarious – and often retold the story.  I did not see the humor – but it was classic Grandma.

One Christmas Day I went to see Grandma with my younger son, Lefty,  in tow.  She met me at the door and said “Duke is dead”.  Duke was her elderly dog – and sure enough, he lay dead in a box, covered with a blanket she had crocheted.  She asked us to bury the dog for her.  Lefty gathered a few tools from the garage, a pick axe, a shovel and proceeded to the back yard where Grandma had a sort of pet cemetery.  Lefty could not budge the frozen earth and he and I took turns with the pick ax chipping away molecules at a time until a hole was big enough to hold the dog, the blanket and the box (but only if we smashed the box in).  Neither Lefty nor I were dressed for sub-zero outdoor work and our fingers froze to the pick handle.  After many hours of pick work, we managed a shallow grave and unceremoniously shoved the box and contents into the hole.  We covered the crumpled box, tamped the frozen earth back into place and drug our shivering selves into Grandma’s always superheated home.  She was bawling uncontrollably and we (almost) felt bad about our treatment of her departed companion.

Lefty and I laughed about that incident on the day of her service.  I stayed a few more days and made a few more memories with my grandchildren.  I pray one day they will remember me fondly.  And bury my dog if needed.

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