Wednesday, January 11, 2017

IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD




I have been reticent to address “controversial” topics on social media.  Though I enjoy spirited conversations and healthy dialogue, I am by nature more reserved about expressing my views. I value family. I treasure friendships. I want everyone to get along and play nice.

 I respect the rights of all to choose when to speak, what to write, who to vote for, who to believe, who to trust, and who to love. Last year ushered in times like I’ve never known. Though I respect the rights of all to freely choose, I’ve concluded that every choice comes at a cost, and sometimes it’s a price tag we can’t afford.

So I’m using my voice now in the hopes that some will hear. I fear we will bankrupt our individual and collective conscience if we don’t heed the escalating signs around us. It is time to listen. And it’s time to speak. I cannot be silent.

 In my neighborhood, this week.

YMCA: One of Tillamook’s central gathering places. For the fit and firm among us, and for those aspiring to be, you can’t beat it. A place devoted to health and wellness. I’m deeply grateful for this grand place where my children “grew up” and where I myself have spent countless hours. A “safe” place for all, or so I thought.


I know this story through a 20-something young Hispanic woman whom I would trust with my life. She shared the following story which brought tears to my eyes and stirred anger in my heart, an anger I must heed. 

Her cousin went to the Y Tuesday evening sporting his Christmas gift, a new iWatch. After hearty exercise,  he went to the sauna, noticing as he went that a white woman was following him. As he sat down to relax, the door opened and the woman declared, “So you think just because you have an iWatch you’re not going to get deported now!  It’s just going to be a lot easier for them to track you.” And she shut the door. 

This is only one of the stories I’ve heard. Some I’ve witnessed, such as the man who told me in front of a Hispanic friend (completely out of the context of the conversation) that when he went to Tillamook High School in the early ‘60’s, “There were NO racial problems. None!”

I want to believe these stories are the “exception.” Are they? ONE is too many.  

I hear people sometimes say, “I’m not racist,” as though they must prove their beliefs and actions come from someplace holy. I like to think of myself as being inclusive and aware and caring and not like “those” bigoted “others.” Yet I must examine my own heart. I must humbly listen to the stories of people with skin different than mine, language not spoken in my home, attractions foreign to my own. 

When I search, I sometimes find those “hidden” areas with lurking prejudices that surprise me, those ways of thinking that betray what I value most—relationship. Sometimes I must say, “I’m sorry. Help me understand.” I pray for discernment and wisdom to know when to speak and when to be silent, and for a pure heart to love.

So getting to the nitty gritty. Are these just fancy words, anecdotal stories? Tomorrow will I have forgotten today's passionate reaction?  Now is the time. It’s why I will talk to the YMCA director. It's why I will watch and listen and speak up in grocery stores and banks and schools and doctors’ offices and wherever I am. 

 Now, this moment. I must say, “No more. Not ever.” My friend’s cousin deserves it. Our vast human family in all its wondrous hue and color is worth the cost. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

27 Very Good Years

September 26, 1989. I entered a new era of mothering. Our son Joseph turned 13. I'd been hearing the solemn and foreboding words since he was a baby in my arms. "Just wait until he's a teenager!"  Words of warning and dread, said almost on the sly, as if to tell me a secret I did not know.

On that day in 1989, Lee and I embarked on the first of nearly 27 years of parenting teenagers. 5 sons. 2 daughters. In the wee hours of this morning, February 10, 2016, like a morning not so very long ago, Lanessa arrived, wanted and welcomed by us, and her three teenage siblings and three in-betweens. She turns 20 today. I say good-bye to an era. No more teenage children. Though I wouldn’t want it any other way, I will miss the teenage times. I’m nostalgic. They were good years. Not perfect. Not without challenges. But very good. Years I wouldn’t trade for anything. My teenagers taught me much, and loved me more. Blessed, I am.

I now offer the words whispered to me, passing them on to parents of the young, “Just wait until they're teenagers!” I say it delightfully, shouting with a “wow” in my heart, as I anticipate the parents’ good times ahead. New adventures, animated conversations, energetic thought, passionate dreams, unbounded laughter and a new kind of tears. They sing and they dance. They stay up late and sleep in if they can. They clean out the fridge and (sometimes) clean up the mess. Some fill the house with their friends while others retreat to fill their own souls. They question and they test, challenge and cheer. Their hopes and their hollers become music to ears. They go from riding bicycles to driving cars (or motorcycles), and on to dangers unknown. They play and they plan, some off to college while others stay home. New styles and slang, new language and longings, mystery and might, wrapped up in these teenagers so loved and enjoyed. They’re kind and courageous, forgiving and strong. When the door opens and they’re home for the night, all seems right for awhile.

Okay. I turned poetic for a moment. I know parenting teenagers isn’t prose. It’s in-the-trenches hard work. It’s late nights, early mornings, and a frenetic pace in-between. Some days it’s building bridges and tearing down walls. While it stretches and strengthens the bond between, it’s fertile soil for words left better unsaid, and for actions with cause to regret. I have memories of times I’d like to rewind and do over. Do better. Do right. I know firsthand parenting teenagers is a time when much of a parent’s own “stuff” gets triggered, replayed, rehashed, …and if we’re lucky, resolved. I know it’s tiring, and taxes any reserve we think we may have (I’m thankful my children have kind and generous hearts).

I speak only from my own experience (which is all I have). For whatever it’s worth (and I think it's a lot), I add two words to that often-heard phrase “Just wait until they’re teenagers.” These two words. “Have FUN!” Not the roller coaster exhilaration of a fast ride ( fun that goes faster and lasts longer, methinks!).  The FUN of relishing these precious years. The FUN that brings joy and peace and makes memories to nurture their souls and ours in all time to come. Whatever it takes!  All for the love we knew the first moment we held them to our hearts, and knew it would be forever.

So goodbye, teenage years. It was a great ride!

And to my precious daughter Lanessa, Happy Birthday! I love you soooooo much. You made it easy—and FUN!    xoxo

Postscript: Lanessa has a  headline taped on her bedroom wall that boldly asks  “What’s Next?”  I don’t know the details of what’s ahead, though I often try to guess. Not mine to know, but there is One who does, who loves her more (how can that be!). Like that day 20 years ago, and every day since, I thank God for gifting her straight to my heart.



Saturday, January 31, 2015

GRAND

"Grand."  A word used to describe events, scenery, pianos, places, positions, a jury, and even a thousand dollars.  There's the Grand Canyon and a grand slam and the Grand Prix and  Grand Tetons and a grand finale.

The word connotes something large. Something impressive. Something out of the ordinary. Something that "wows" the senses and captures the heart.

Though grand these may be, they're nothing in comparison to the "Grand" in my life.   Grandchildren. Two Girls.  Two Boys.  They "wow" me in ways  I never dreamed possible. I am blessed beyond measure. I count the days till I see them, and when I do,  I want to stop the clock for awhile.

Today was one of those days. I spent a few (too) short hours with Magdelana, 7, and Johannes, 4.  I arrived at the specified meeting place a few minutes before they arrived with their Daddy, my son. He jumped out to greet me, stealthily letting me know they were "asleep" in the car. I peeked in "Ohhhh....maybe I better go home. They're sleeping." I heard a giggle, then another, and another, and soon, uproarious laughter. They had "tricked" me. Kisses and hugs. Goodbyes to their Daddy and off he drove. Just us. The day began.

No fancy plans this time. Just time together, planning as we went.  Making memories. Good ones. A stop at Panera Bread for bagels and fruit (A young couple sitting at an adjacent table eyed us. She smiled. "I love children." Always nice to share space with kind people!). Barnes and Noble to choose a book (Ivy and Bean for Magdelana. Star Wars with a souvenir Lego for Johannes). A stop by Great Harvest Bread (delicious samples of cinnamon bread. Two loaves to take home). Taking a surprise treat  from Panera Bread to Auntie Meilani and friend Ranee' at the conference office. Playing on the play equipment at Gladstone (We sailed the oceans to a far-away country, with Captain Magdelana navigating and First Mate Johannes watching for pirates. Johannes fell overboard, a shark ate his leg, and he replaced it with a wooden one). Stopping by Home Depot (had a  spare key made, but couldn't leave without a roll of orange duct tape  for  creative pursuits imagined by Johannes). Meeting up with their Daddy who treated us to lunch at Baja Fresh.

Then came the good-byes. They begged me to come to their home. I promised I will soon. Good byes take awhile. Hugs and squeezes. Multiplied.  I've begun counting the days....again.

Driving home, I thought of 4-year old Stella. I reminisced about my trip to her home a couple weeks ago. Seeing her love for Tom the Cat and Conan Seahorse, her puppy, watching her fearlessly grab a chicken from the hen house and hug it to her heart. Hearing her chatter and seeing her delight as she "helped" her Mommy and Daddy.

Next I thought of the newest one, the Little Man, who I know only by the shape of his Mommy's belly and her recounting of his movement within. "He's an active one!"  I love him already, and can hardly wait to meet him. Less that nine weeks!

GRAND!  Grandchildren. Truer words never spoken.

There's no one quite like Auntie Meilani!
Great Harvest samples. Yum!

Heading into Barnes and Noble.

Captain Magdelana takes us on many adventures!

Friday, September 5, 2014

My Baby's going to College!

My Baby’s going to College!

Letter to my daughter 

My precious Lanessa,

I was 43 when you came. People thought we were crazy, and some told us so. They were right, but not in the ways they imagined.  We were crazy-in-love with you, our beautiful newborn daughter. You grabbed our hearts from the beginning. 

We already had your six siblings, each one, “one,”  unique and special. Each of your 5 brothers and only sister took turns cuddling you, falling in love with you even then.You found your place of belonging in our midst, and always will. You were wanted and loved from the start.

I did not comprehend how all 6 pounds 10 ounces of YOU would transform our world, re-define parenting, tighten the sibling bond, enlarge our friendships, and color our world. I partially understood  the “work” of having another child—more  laundry, more diapers, more sleepless nights, more demands on money and time, more schedules to maneuver, more responsibility, and the list goes on. I had an even greater understanding of the joy that could come—the awakening again of a new love, a child to hold to my heart forever.  I remember thinking “I’ll be 61 when you graduate from high school.” It seemed so far away. How did it pass so quickly? I had NO concept of how fast the day would come when you’d be leaving “home.” 

I will miss you!

18 years ago you crawled at my feet, following me wherever I went. I would bend down to your outstretched arms, pick you up and hold you close. You cried if I stepped out of sight and reached for me when I returned.

You’re the one leaving this time, and it is now my time for tears to flow, though still I smile. I will smile even more when you’re back in sight, when you return, when you come “home.” I will run for you and hug you close. You are forever cherished and loved.

Would I want it any other way? Would I want to keep you “home?” Though I’d like to capture the fleeting moments, re-live the joys of yesteryear, it’s time for you to go, to spread your wings and fly. You dream big. You dream of a vast future overflowing with love, joy, peace, beauty, and music of the soul.

As I reflect on these past years, I think of dreams I held, plans that never materialized, ideas and events that never happened. As your mother, I think of things I wish I’d done differently, or better. You’ve forgiven me for mistakes along the way, and I’m grateful for the largeness of your heart. I contemplate the things I didn’t do with you, the places we didn’t go, the people we didn’t meet, the untraveled paths that may have enriched your life in ways we’ll never know.  In the busyness of making it through the days, the weeks and years passed. 

At the same time I ponder the things we did, and we did a lot. Not often the “big” things, but a thousand small things. Ordinary stuff that maybe isn’t so ordinary. Day to day routines and rituals that glued us together—eating home cooked meals, tucking you in at night, driving you to music lessons, listening to you practice, worshiping together, celebrating holidays, knowing your friends, cleaning the kitchen and washing the car, walking the beach, hearing your laughter and wiping your tears. 

We’ve packed in a lot these past weeks. I’ve been on a frantic pace to steal every moment I can with you. Last weekend it was a long drive to the amphitheater in the Gorge for the Jack Johnson concert. A few days ago it was a trip to the orthodontist and shopping for “wheels”—a bicycle to get around wherever you need to go. Today it was church and family and pictures and goodbyes. Tomorrow we’ll begin our 17-hour drive to CalArts. I will savor each moment. The car’s packed. It’s nearly brimming over with the makings for a dorm room, a bicycle and cello and dreams for tomorrow. We’ll leave together, and I’ll return alone. 

It will be a hard good-bye.

I’m scared for you. I know too well there’s a cruel world out there. I know life can knock your socks off and leave you reeling. I know life’s hard. I long to protect you from the horrors that nightmares are made of. I want to keep you safe. I want you to keep believing dreams come true. I want you to keep your innocence and trust the world to be a kind place.  If only I could!

At the same time, I’m beyond excited for you. In a great paradox, I know the world to be warm and wonderful, a safe and good place. You will make loyal friends. You will meet people who care, people who will mentor you in the dreams you dream, people who will push you to your limits, see your potential and not let up. People who will believe in you when you doubt yourself. You will have opportunities and options. You will soar.

I will not hold you back  (though I’ve got your back!). I will do all in my power to support and encourage you. I know you’ve prepared for this day. I know you’re ready, and I know you’ll thrive no matter what.

Some say they “send off” their children when they get to your age. When I hear this, I picture a countdown beginning, just before the child rockets into an unknown universe at an accelerating burst of speed and power. Bystanders watch in awe-inspired silence, just before high-fiving each other and bursting into applause. 

Though there’s elements of this picture I resonate with, for me it’s more like a “send-on”—on to the life you imagine, an unlimited world ready to be discovered and savored. The send-on that isn’t a countdown at all, but a count-up, as we count the precious memories of the past, count your dreams for tomorrow, and count what you do best—living with lavish wonder and delight, truth, beauty, care, kindness, music and laughter, and mostly, enormous love. These are the things that fuel your send-on and will propel you forward. I’ll be cheering you on!

I’m not big on giving advice, or telling you what you “should” do. When you were little, if I demanded you hold my hand and grabbed for yours when we crossed a busy street, you’d resist. If instead I asked to hold yours, you’d eagerly reach for mine and we’d cross safely. Though there were situations when direct commands were appropriate and necessary, I discovered early that you have the ability and good sense to make smart decisions, especially when you are empowered with knowledge and get to do the choosing. You’ve had 18 years to practice. I pray you have a long and joyful lifetime to keep practicing. (I’ve had 61 years to practice, and I still don’t have it all down!)

What if I’ve missed important “stuff” you need to know! Do I trust you? (Yes!) How do I not worry? (Yikes!) You’ve never lived 965 miles away. You’ve never had a roommate. You’ve never lived “on your own.”  You’ve never been as independent as you’ll now be. You’ve lived a safe and sheltered life. What’s next?

Here’s a few tips. Maybe you’ll find something useful. And you will surely add to it!

1. Make mistakes. You don’t have to be perfect. That’s how we all learn.
a. If it hurts mind, body, or relationships, DON’T! (No-brainer).

2.  Say “Yes” and “No” with conviction.
3.  Get places early.  “You never have to apologize for being early.” 
4.  Sleep. Go to bed! You’ll sing better.
5.  Eat healthy. Fruits and veggies.
6.  Drink water. Lots.
7.  Hang up your towel.
8.  Make your bed.
9.  Know your your new “family” by name and listen to their stories
10. Keep informed with what’s going on in the larger world.
11. Keep in touch with your smaller world—call, mass text, shout, whatever, however— 
       remember the “others” in your life who love you. Set a scheduled reminder if it helps.
                  a. Me. Daddy, too!
          b. Brothers, sister, in-laws, nieces and nephew, aunts, uncles
                  c. Friends afar
12. Keep your phone charged! (Plug in every night).
13. Check your phone messages regularly—texts and voice mail.
14. Thank others often—anyone who makes your world a better place. Verbally, in 
       writing, song, or whatever way you come up with—make gratitude an art! 
15. Acknowledge and encourage the creative ability of others.
15. If your roommate’s sleeping, don’t talk on the phone.
16. Participate in a community of Faith—intentionally, regularly, and in keeping with YOUR 
      convictions. 
17. Think clearly, feel passionately, choose wisely (duh!)
18. Set goals and make a plan.
19. Ask questions.
20. Ask for help.
21. Offer help.
22. Treat others like you’d want to be treated yourself if you were them. 
23. Remember the Sabbath—worship,rest and rejuvenate!
24. Use who YOU are—your unique creative ability.
25. Don’t drink from an open container someone hands you, ever.
26. Balance your checking account
27. Know what to do if the earth quakes. 
28. Go running with someone—don’t go alone.  Be aware of your surroundings. 
29. Love God, love others, with heart, soul, and mind.
30. Have FUN!                  

OK, maybe I got a little carried away (Though I could say more!).

All this simply says, “I love you.” 

Daddy and I chuckle as we reminisce about your childhood tantrums over perceived injustices (no laughing matter then!). If I picked you up to restrain you from flailing on the floor and held you too tightly, you screamed. If I put you down, you kicked harder and screamed even louder. When I held you loosely in a soft embrace, whispering quietly, you calmed and settled in my arms. Not too tight. Not too loose. Freedom to move within safe confines of human arms and your mother's heart.

Though your temper tantrums passed long ago, your passion remains, something I would never want to change even if I could. You thrust your whole being into what you value, into what moves your soul, into what you do and who you love. And everyone knows it. You don't do it  selfishly or without consideration of others. Not blindly or without reason. You do it deliberately, conscientiously, on purpose. Passionately.

You’ll soon be at CalArts, a place committed to nurturing your creativity, to growing your abilities, to enlarging your vision, to fostering imagination and realizing possibility. And I pray CalArts will be a safe place to move freely within the arms of a shared humanity. I pray for you to remember your past as you move to your amazing future.

You go, Girl!

Always, forever, with my prayers and love,

your Mama  xoxo


POSTSCRIPT:

I wrote this mostly last Sabbath, before we left Tillamook on Sunday morning. A trip I'll always remember. Now we’re here, and I’ll soon be leaving. You’ve already found a “home.” I’m warmed by the welcome and impressed with the care. CalArts “fits” and I couldn’t be happier for you. I see your eyes sparkle and hear your excitement. Yay!

See you soon.

Mama  xoxo



Friday, December 20, 2013

Room In the Inn

                                        

I’ve known the story as long as I can remember. Every Christmas Eve I’d hear it again. As a child my family gathered in the living room after a candlelit dinner. Basking in the warmth of family, Christmas lights twinkling, and anticipating opening gifts under the tree, we’d listen as the family patriarch read the second chapter of Luke’s Gospel from the Bible. “And it came to pass in those days…”. Joseph travels with “Mary, his betrothed wife who was with child,” to Bethlehem to be counted in the required census. On the way pregnant Mary goes into labor. Her Son is born, wrapped in swaddling cloth, and laid in a manger because “there was no room for them in the inn".

In my imagination, fueled by Christmas pageants and nativity scenes, I see Joseph frantically knocking on doors while full-term Mary sits on a donkey. Finally a reluctant innkeeper is awakened, comes to the door, and agrees to let them stay in the stable. That night the angels sing and shepherds come, for the Savior is born, bringing “glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!” 2000+ years later, lights still twinkle, music fills the air, and followers of the Child come.

In the wee hours of the night I lay in bed pondering my life today, December 18, 2013. Our children have listened to the same Story, heard the same Scripture, adopted the same traditions. However, I wasn’t much thinking about the Story. Instead I was feeling sorry for myself. Thinking of what I’d be missing this year. Home and hearth. Laughter from the kitchen as we make tea time tassies and fudge. Squeals of delight as grandchildren scamper through the house. The Christmas tree we cut down the day after Thanksgiving. I played out different scenarios, mentally trying to finagle a way around circumstances to re-create the Christmas of my dreams. Searching for ways to “make it the same,” a place for family to gather and laugh and love and celebrate and make memories together.

Lee’s been in rehab for double knee replacements. Great! We planned that. He’ll be discharged today. He's doing well. In time for Christmas. Wonderful! What we didn’t plan was icy weather and spewing water pipes at home in our absence. No kitchen right now, and significant damage in the family room. We won’t be “home for the holidays” in the ways I had imagined. Although our homeowner’s insurance is providing accommodations, it’s not the same. Christmas in a motel? Right now we’re in a Residence Inn. We drove up in my Toyota Highlander and were cheerfully greeted by the hospitality team. We didn’t have to beg for a place to stay. Though I’ve been pregnant several times, those times are past. No pressing need for immediate care. Our Inn has nine floors with elevators. Clean rooms. Tastefully decorated. Comfortable. Even a refrigerator and small kitchen. Someone else changes the sheets, washes the towels, empties the garbage. There’s even a nice breakfast buffet. A swimming pool and hot tub. A place we might even dream of being under other circumstances. But it’s Christmas. Time to be home. Time to celebrate. Where will we gather?

As I lay pondering these thoughts a sudden revelation came. There’s room in this Inn! That night long ago, the reason for the season, there was NO ROOM in the Inn! I suspect the travelers on that moonlit night long ago had other plans for welcoming the Child. Plans of which we know nothing. Those plans don’t even get a note in His-Story. For the Child was born that night in a manger, and nothing else mattered. The world’s never been the same.

The Story tells nothing of despair over barnyard accommodations. It tells nothing of failed birthing plans, or plans at all, except the plan to bring peace, joy, and love to a hurting world. It tells nothing of loss and disappointment. It tells nothing of shepherds grumbling about conditions around the manger. It tell nothing of cranky angels singing in the cold night air. Instead, all eyes focus, all ears hear, all hearts worship, the Child.


Where will we gather this Christmas? My plans failed. But I know there's room in the Inn. For some, it’s a street lit night in downtown Portland, or under a bridge in Tillamook, or a refugee camp in Manyplace, Earth, or a tent behind a warehouse, or a cardboard box in places I don’t generally go. For others it’s a cozy home with stockings hung by the chimney with care, or a resort in Hawaii or a cabin at Whistler.  I’m not sure who all may show up. Our children with their children, but who else? Perhaps shepherds and wise ones? Angels? For I now remember in my nighttime musing what matters most—seeking and finding, gathering together, wherever, to celebrate the Child. 

Merry Christmas!



                 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!"
                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                    Luke 2:14






Sunday, April 28, 2013

Orphans Now



She was ready when we arrived at Town Center Village. "Ready to go, Mom?" She looked up and smiled. With gentle hugs and misty eyes others gathered. They said their good byes. She pulled one caregiver close and kissed her cheek. She said “Thank you” to another. My eyes welled. My Mother.  In only a few short weeks she had made her mark on the hearts of those around. 
She sat regally in her wheelchair as my son rolled her from the care facility to the car and gently eased her in. Her last car ride. Home. The Home that would become ours because she was there.   90 miles later we arrived at Country Havens. Her room was ready, a place of beauty. She smiled. We went every day and stayed into the night. We, her children,  wished her good morning, kissed her goodnight, and held her hands in between. Nineteen days more. Our home--it was our  mother's heart for as long as we could remember.
Now she's gone.  I miss her. We’re orphans now, my brothers and sister and I. She never told us how hard it would be. 
60 years ago she birthed me, her first daughter, third child. She and Daddy gave me my name.  I was theirs. They held me, stroked my head, gazed into my eyes, told me they loved me. In the end I did the same for them. Now it's over. They're gone. Can it be?
Ours was a long good bye, the good bye of children for their Mother. Alzheimer’s Disease robbed her of who she was, and stole from us the Mother we had known.  Some say, on hearing of her passing, “It was a blessing. She’s no longer suffering.” Right in so many ways, dreadfully wrong in others. Conceived through love and passion for our father, we were borne of her flesh, birthed through her tears and joy, and from her deep desire to be our Mother. She gave us life. She defined us from our first days to her last. She still does, for her imprint is on us forever. We became known as “Bob and Betty’s children.”   In the beginning she and Daddy defined us. Somewhere along the way, I’m not sure when, we came to define them, in the circular paradox of the universe. They gave us our identity, only to have us give them theirs. 
Mom loved being Mother. Her heart embraced not only her own children, but the “others” who came with us. She welcomed and loved our friends.  I was 14 when I introduced her to the boy who would one day be my husband, and make me a Mother.  She loved to tell the story. With a twinkle in her eye, she would say to him, “I met you when you were 14.”  She became his Mother, too, the Mother he never had. Finally, in her last years, she believed that he was her son not only through her choice, but by birth. She claimed him as her own, and indeed, he was.
As I watched her struggle “comfortably” during her final hours, I pondered my history, and that of my brothers and sister. Mom was a determined mother. She wanted the best for each of us. She had dreams. She wanted us to have happy homes, a decent education, good jobs, health, friends, live with integrity, serve others. She wanted us to go to church and obey the rules and look good, but even more, to be good.  Encompassing all was her longing for us to love God and get along with others, and to someday be together in an Earth made new. 
Like all mothers, she made mistakes. I believe these mistakes were motivated out of her desire we grow up to follow God and love others.  She told of a time when I was a toddler. I refused to kneel for prayer at our family worship. Though I have no memory of it, she said she spanked me. She was still apologizing 50 years later. She was  quick to ask forgiveness and ready to forgive, no matter the infraction. 
She and Daddy wanted peace and sometimes relinquished their own “rights” in hopes of saving a relationship. At the same time, they had a keen sense of justice and would not tolerate meanness. We weren’t allowed to call each other bad names or to even point imaginary guns at people  (I’m not sure how well that worked--ask my brothers!). “Shut up” was forbidden, though “hush up” was an acceptable alternative. 
Mom loved hair. When I was a little girl, she braided my hair and tied ribbons at the ends Sometimes at night she’d deftly twist strands of my damp hair around her finger. She’d hold two bobbie pins between her lips and at exactly the right moment she’d extract her finger, take the bobbie pins, and pin my hair tightly to my head, until my head was covered with little mounds of pinned hair.  She’d tie a bandana over the top, then do the same to her own hair. The next morning she’d take out the bobbie pins, and we’d both have curly hair. She liked curls. During these last years,  I’d take the curling iron and do the best I could to make her hair beautiful. She was always appreciative as she admired herself in the mirror. I will miss those times.
Mom loved to sew. She didn’t buy my clothes in my growing-up years.  Instead, she bought yards of fabric and carefully fashioned my school dresses (no pants yet!). She loved pretty fabric, and even in her last months, she found contentment in holding a piece of colorful cloth. 
She baked bread and cinnamon rolls and pies. She stretched the food budget by canning hundreds of quarts of fruit, cooking beans and rice, and making powdered milk. She enjoyed her kitchen, and took pride in setting a pretty table with her fine China. She insisted on good table manners. Even more, she was a gracious hostess and enjoyed good conversation. 
There’s another empty place at the table now. 
Mom married young. 18 years old. She sewed her own wedding dress, veil and all. She became a teenage mother a year later and quit college, never looking back. But she did look forward. She returned to college and graduated from nursing school at 40.  For the next 18 years she  delighted in being a neonatal nurse.
When grandchildren began to arrive, her world changed again.  11 grandsons, 3 granddaughters. Next year, her youngest grandchild will graduate from high school. It will be the first grandchild’s graduation she won’t celebrate. She loved all her grandchildren dearly. In 2007, not even 6 years ago, she and Daddy drove alone in their own car to Vancouver to welcome their first great-grandchild. 
Mom, I found you sitting on your bed the morning after Daddy died. With tears streaming down your face, you looked up at me and sobbed, “He’s gone. He died. He’s gone now.” Then you wiped your eyes and declared, “I’ve got to pull myself together.” That’s how you lived life. Pulling yourself together when you needed to, to get the job done.
 It’s strange to talk of Mom in the past tense. “Was” and “were”  feel unfamiliar and awkward. It’s going to take a long time to change my language. 
We’re orphans now. First Daddy, now you. You’re gone. There’s much I’d like to ask. Life crept up on us all, and here we are. How was it for you, Mom? You went through the losses of your parents. I saw you cry quiet tears, not the sloppy weeping of my own grief. I didn’t see the wrenching of your hearts like I feel in my own.  I know you felt the pain. I know you missed them, for I know you loved them deeply. What was it like for you? How did you go on? Was it a resignation that life comes and life goes? Was it the assurance this life is a harbinger of the next, you would see them again, your parents were no longer in this “veil of tears”? Did you stuff your feelings? Did you lay awake at night with an inconsolable ache in your heart? Did you and Daddy hold and comfort each other when I didn’t see?  Did you trust God more? Were my eyes blinded to your grief, because you were the parent, and I was your child? The natural order seems to be for parents to comfort their children, not the other way around.  Is that why I’m missing you, because you’re not here to tell me it’s going to be okay? What was it like for you to be an orphan? I’ve had no training.
Your children watched you grow old. Not a bad thing. You lived  through countless joys and sorrows for 84 years.  In your final days  all your children encompassed you. Hospice helped manage your pain. We had time together. We said “See you in the Morning.” Horrible, unexplicable, sudden tragedies occurred last week. The Boston Marathon bombings. The fertilizer  plant explosion in Texas. Car crashes. Famines. Wars. Avalanches. Storms. More. These made headline news, while your obituary will be tucked in a back page of a newspaper. Yours was anticipated and ordinary, as deaths go. But for us, you were no ordinary woman.  You were our Mother, and there is not another you. We will miss you as long as we live. 
So good night Mom, goodnight for now.  We’ll see you in the Morning.  xoxo

Monday, March 18, 2013

Good bye, Mama


Dear Mama,

The long good bye is almost at its end, so it seems. You're in a hospital 90 miles away. They're keeping you "comfortable" (What on earth is that?). How can you be anywhere near comfortable when you can't eat, can't drink, can't walk, can barely open your eyes, and have an interminable cough? Will the sound of our voices, the touch of our hands, the "knowing" of our presence bring comfort? I hope so. 

Nearly six months ago you leaned over Daddy's lifeless form, felt his forehead, and kissed him. You turned, looked  into my eyes and solemnly whispered,  "He's gone. He died." You kissed him again, and again. You left the room where he lay and kept returning, until you finally closed the door for the last time. Your life has not been the same. It seems as though you've been racing to follow the man who stole your heart a lifetime ago.

My mind is traveling to years long ago, when I ran to keep up with you. Now I only want to run--to get there fast--so I can keep you forever. I don't want to let you go. I want to be there by your side. I want to hold your hand. I want to fiercely tell you that I love you, and hope you know. 

When I was a small child, I called you "Mother," the endearing term you had used with yours. Later you became "Mommy." During my teen years, you became "Mom," the name that stuck the longest. I sprinkled these with others: "The Hostess with the Mostest," "Madame Chairwoman," "Mother Superior." These past years your vulnerability brought me to "Mama," an endearing term that all your children now use. Though the Mother of our memories, you've become our Child. We long to protect you, to comfort you, to make the going easy. What can we do? We love you!

Mama, I will miss you, though I will keep you forever. In ways that defy explanation, I will travel beyond my memories to  a place where tears will be no more, where there will be no more sickness or dying, where all will be love and joy and peace and beauty. We'll be together again. Thank you for showing the way. 

Your daughter      xoxo

P.S. I'm on my way--please wait.


                                          Last Friday 3/15/13 at Town Center Village