It was a dark and stormy morn…

I awoke this morning to the guttural rumble of thunder and the heavy, constant drumming of rain on the roof.  A morning to roll over and sleep indefinitely.  A lazy Sunday.  I had family most of the week and felt a little tired, in a good sort of way.  I had passed off my Sunday morning duties at church to someone else.  Time to take a break.  Aaahhh.

Just as I was settling in for the long haul, my brain jolted and my body bolted and I realized I had a soccer match to attend.  I grabbed the phone and texted my daughter to find out if the game would be canceled.  Delayed by two hours.  Not bad.  Unfortunately the activity had thoroughly awakened me and I went down for coffee.  I guess my mother goddess didn’t intend me to sleep this morning.  The powers-that-be sent out a cancellation once I reached the point of no return.  I have no doubt the field was flooded.  We got a lot of rain.  (Soccer ball photo, Wikepedia.)

I’m happy to say, though, that I have spent the day on the couch with Lulu, reading, doing crossword puzzles, and some more mindless endeavors which I will not enumerate here.  Lulu loves all the attention.  She reminds me of Sam, a chocolate Labrador Retriever I had (my last pet).  Sam couldn’t get close enough to me.  Neither can Lulu.  I’m starting to think I may be allergic to her long hair but I’m trying hard to ignore the signs.

As the rain started to subside I stood looking out and remembering how I loved rainy days as a child.  Rainy days meant we didn’t have to work in the garden or the yard or the tobacco fields.  Then, as now, I spent much of the day with a book, or several.

Now that the rain has ceased to fall and the sun is trying to take center stage, I feel regret deep in my soul.  Why regret?  When I was a child, even a teenager, I would have put my books aside and gone outside and welcomed the downpour.  I would have squiggled my toes in the mud and I wouldn’t have worried about how wet my hair and my clothes got.  I would have felt joyful and free.  So why didn’t I do that this morning?  I didn’t think of it.  I think that’s sad.  Why didn’t I think of it?  My mom wasn’t here to give me permission?  Ah, but she was here.  She’s always with me.  And I could always talk her into letting me play in the rain as long as there was no lightning.

I’m making myself a note.  I’m going to stick it to the door or the fridge or both.  Go outside, Pat.  Play in the rain!  That’s what it’s for!

There are numerous songs about rain, and I like most of them, but this is my favorite.  It’s called “Baby the Rain Must Fall” and was featured in the movie of the same name, starring Steve McQueen and Lee Remick.  The artist is Glenn Yarbrough. 

The time Momma quit smoking.

Years ago my brother and two of my sisters went to a hypnotist because they thought they wanted to quit smoking.  It was one of those seminars where the hypnotist addressed the entire audience and then sold tapes to reinforce what he taught the would-be, hoping-to-be, future nonsmokers. (Some racket, eh?) They decided they could buy one set of tapes, then take them to Mom’s house.  That way they could go visit their aging mother and listen to encouraging words on tape all at the same time.  Great plan.  A sort of “kill two birds with one stone” proposition.  Taking care of Momma and easing off their addiction to nicotine.  I always thought the whole scenario was funny.  For one thing, Mom smoked like a smokestack.  Weren’t they going to see and smell her smoking and want to smoke themselves?  And the cheapskates–why didn’t they buy their own tapes?!  I guess I would say that they didn’t seem particularly committed to the project.  But what do I know?  I’ve never smoked.

Well, my siblings swore at first that the hypnotic tapes slowed their smoking down a bit.  I think they were fooling themselves.  They wouldn’t smoke while the tape was playing but they wanted to, especially my youngest sister.  I don’t really know, but if I were a betting woman, I would bet that all three of them lit up before they even got out of sight.

I was visiting with Mom after a week or so of the no-smoking pretense when she said to me, “You know, Pat, I have hardly smoked at all the past few days.  I don’t know why, but I really haven’t much wanted a cigarette.”  I laughed and told her it sounded as if the tapes were working for her, that she’d been hypnotized.  I laugh gleefully now as I remember the unsettled look on her face as she said, “Well, they can just play their tapes somewhere else.”

I spent many years, starting when I was three or four years old, begging my mom to stop smoking.  I so wanted to be near her and I hated smoke.  I still do.  When we took her from the hospital to the rehab/nursing facility, she wasn’t allowed to smoke.  I remember driving up to the mountains to visit her one day and she informed me with a big smile on her face that she had quit smoking.  I exclaimed how proud I was of her.  God, how I miss my feisty, sweet momma.

I remember Momma.

Today is my mom’s birthday.  She was born on this day in 1920.  I’ve been thinking about her all day.  She died two years ago just shy of her 89th birthday.  You know what I miss most?  Her hands.  All my life she wore her nails long and painted with a polish that I would call a cherry color, but more like the juice of a ripe Bing cherry than the cherry itself.

I remember her hands smelling like Jergens lotion when I was a little girl.  Those hands worked hard when she was a young woman and the Jergens was important because it kept her hands soft.  She always wanted to feel feminine and to look feminine despite the fact that she wore blue jeans all the time just as I do.  Unlike me she always wore a starched and ironed blouse with her jeans, tucked in.  And she loved her purple-y red lipstick.

For years I have wondered how she kept her nails so well-groomed.  There were five of us children in the family and I can remember her washing diapers by hand when the old wringer washing machine went on the fritz.  She milked our cow twice a day.  (I wonder how old Bossie liked those long nails.)  She worked in the tobacco and cabbage fields (as did we all) and she kept a garden.  She canned the produce from the garden and she cooked three meals a day for years.  When did she have time to give herself a manicure?

This afternoon my almost-five-year-old granddaughter painted my fingernails.  She used a pretty girly pink.  For the record, I didn’t inherit my mom’s fingernail fetish; I try for clean and neatly trimmed.  But when a grandchild wants to give me a manicure I never say no.  It’s an important part of our relationship.  Since they don’t get to experience Granny’s sweet hands, maybe they will at least have some sort of fond memories of mine.  I do hope so.

I miss you, Mom.  I miss your hands.  I wish I could hold them one more time.  (Sigh.)  I think I should go have some Bing cherries.

Little spoken; much understood.

Sunday, September 21, 2008–a journal entry.

It’s Tuesday afternoon and I’m sitting in my mother’s room at the hospital.  Her roommate’s daughter has gone home for the day.  The room is quiet except for the occasional snoring of Miss Edna the roommate.  Mom’s name is Edna, too.  It was apparently a popular name back in the early 1900s.  Mom has never liked it but she accepted it as her lot in life.  She had to accept hardships much worse than her name over the years.

She is in extended care which, the best I can tell, is the last step before the nursing facility, which entails a quick move upstairs to the second floor.  Before the move the physical therapists are working with her twice a day to make her stronger.  Some days she participates enthusiastically;  others she tells them she doesn’t want to go, she’s too tired.  Her emotions have run the gamut from anger to sadness to reluctant acceptance since she came here about two weeks ago.

Today she’s calm.  On days like this she wants me to pull my chair up close so she can hold my hand.  In fact she wants to hold both my hands with both of hers.  She rolls on her side facing me.  I get as comfortable as I can and we soothe each other.  There is little conversation between us.  Little is needed.

It’s sweet that she thinks of my comfort.  She says to me, “Are you uncomfortable, Honey?  I don’t want you to be uncomfortable.”   I reassure her, “I’m fine, Mom.”  And because of her increasing dementia she asks the same question five minutes later.  I lie to her again.

In a while she tells me, “Patty, I appreciate your taking care of me.”  I say, “I’m glad to do it, Momma.  You took care of me for a lot of years.”  As the tears roll down both our faces, she adds, “I wish I still could.”

We remain silent then until she starts to doze.  I kiss her cheek and whisper, “I love you, Mom,” as I take my leave for the night.

Mom died less than a year later on August 13, 2009.

Your story matters. Tell it.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~ Maya Angelou

I often hear the statement, “Everyone has a story.”  And I believe it.  Right now I’m wondering what the bird’s story is, based on this photo.  I hang this little bird house in my back yard because I like the pretty copper roof.  I’ve never seen birdie activity in it.  That stuff hanging out is like a big puff-ball of something that looks like the  seed-carrying fluff from dandelions or from cottonwood trees.  It looks as if the bird got interrupted before finishing the nest.  I’ve been watching it today but I haven’t seen any action.  I guess I will never know Birdie’s story.  Too bad.

I used to imagine titles for a would-be story about my mother.  I knew she would never write it but I thought I might.  Actually, I didn’t really intend to write it.  I just had fun making up titles.  Things like Momma Will Suck the Blood Right out of You.  Or Mom’s Picture is in the Dictionary Right Beside Enabler.  Another one is I Don’t Really Think Mom Wanted Children.  You get the idea.

In her defense, I will say that life wasn’t kind to my mother and she wasn’t kind to herself.   But she was kind to me and she was generous with what little she had to give.  She’s been gone for almost two years and now I wish I had asked more questions.  Things only she knew.  I know some pretty heavy-duty things about her that I won’t enumerate here.  I think she is one of those people Maya Angelou is talking about in the quote above.  Her story was a heavy burden.  She managed as well as she could.  And she mothered the best she knew how given the circumstances of her family of origin.

I started to write this evening with the intention of talking about telling my story via this blog.  I tend to wander off task.  My fingers take off as if they have some mission that I don’t know about.  Maybe they do.

I think I’ve mentioned this before, or at least alluded to it.  Writing regularly (more or less) has given me a voice that I never knew I had.  What my divorce took away from me, my writing has given back.  I have regained a sense of who I am.  I never completely lost my sense of humor but it’s with me now stronger than ever.  I love art.  I love music.  I can pursue any and all interests as I see fit.  I love that you are reading my blog and I thank you for that.  Life is good.  (So it says on my many t-shirts.)

Emerge and fly.

 

Love this picture. It hangs in my laundry room.

 


“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”              —
Anais Nin

Sometimes I get so comfortable in my misery that I won’t make the effort to get out of it and move on.  I wrap myself up in my cozy little cocoon and try to ignore the butterfly that needs to get out and fly.  Fortunately my butterfly gets restless and starts to squirm and won’t allow me to hibernate indefinitely.  I think that’s a special gift which I’ve done nothing to earn.  I watched my mother isolate herself and I know I don’t want to follow her example.  Now my mom had many good qualities I would like to emulate.  I think I have her smile, one of the things I loved most about her.  I always knew that she loved me no matter what.  I hope I have conveyed that notion to my own daughters.  It is certainly how I feel.  Mom was generous to a fault to everyone regardless of social status, race, or any other measure I might think of.  But I will take great care not to isolate from society, family and friends the way she did.

I remember when I told my mom that D and I had separated.  I had put off telling her because she had a degree of dementia by then and I didn’t know what I would be getting in to.  How could I have doubted her and her loyalty to me?  When I told her we were separated and why, she went immediately into “mother mode” and vowed that she hoped never to see him again.  And if she did she would give him a piece of her mind.  She talked and talked (part of the dementia, I think) about how she had liked and trusted him.

Shortly before Mom died in the nursing center, she asked me about D and whether I ever talked with him.  I told her I did not.  She said, “You know, I always liked him.”  She stayed true to herself and her inability to hold a grudge right to the end.  Not a bad legacy to leave a daughter.  Love you, Mom.