Tuesday, September 09, 2014
In the grey dark of dawn, gentle hands began to minister to my little mama and with that human touch, she took a breath ... and then she slipped away.
And with that snip the last thread that held her body here on earth was cut. My precious beautiful little mama - who had grown so tiny and so soft - has died. And how I will ever be able to pay tribute to the mama she was to me ... I haven't a clue. This cut is so deep that I'm not sure the words can bubble up through the loss. She left us so gently. There wasn't any drama to rip away the scab and make grief easier to empty out. With Daddy (see? he is still butting into her story with his drama) there were crises and there were hospitals and sneaking of dogs into rooms and beeping monitors and all that stuff. With Mama there was just a whoosh. And then emptiness.
How to pay tribute to the Importance that was Mama. Mama was the sun around which I orbited. She was my lodestar. She was my mirror. She was even a Wrong Way Sign I heeded, making different choices with my life so that I did not wind up quite where she was. She was the font. She was where the stories came from and the songs. She was the only Druid I ever knew - and not some sort of cute modern day Wicken Druid but a woman who would look at me slightly vaguely and say "I'm sure God can hear our prayers in the woods."
In my two earliest memories, admittedly mostly about me, she is there - on the edge, close enough to pick me up if I fall. In the first she was in a car with the rest of my family listening to my 15 month old self cry. I asked her how long it went on and she said, airily, "Oh - the whole trip" which was from Richmond, VA to Lake Worth FL. 1,000 miles. I asked her how they could stand it and she said "The trip was planned and paid for. You were going to cry that long anyway and we were going to have to listen to you." Which is exactly the sort of Glenda the Good Witch pragmatism she practiced throughout her whole life. What must be endured will be accepted with a shrug and some sort of management procedure will be brought to bear upon it.
What a woman.
I have a-zillion memories of her - and though I shan't fill up this post with them, I have promised myself and LD that I will write them all down into The Story Of Mama - for him and for P and if we are so blessed, any grandchildren that come along. I love those memories. I like to pull them out of the treasure chest of my brain, like so many rubies and emeralds from a jewel box, and look at them, savor them - feel them again.
She and I had a special time together in those early years. By the time I was born, my older sister was in school so I had long days of being her Only Child and yet, because I already had a sister, the New Babies who came along were something she and I shared. There was never any sense of being supplanted. We were a team.
This team had formed before there were New Babies, of course. We did stuff together. She did not know how to drive before I turned 4 so we had to go everywhere by bus. We'd take a county bus to the city line and then walk across the street to a different corner to catch the city bus. Once when we were coming home from downtown - which is where people shopped when I was little - I started to cross the street to catch the county bus. She asked me what I was doing and I told her I was going to the bus stop. I was across the street by then. We argued for a while about which side of the street was the correct one and then she said "When the bus comes to my corner, I'm getting on it."
Well. I knew one thing - nobody was going to let a 3 year old get on a bus without her mother so I walked back across the street. And then the bus came to my corner, paused a moment, and seeing nobody at the stop, drove off and left us. We had to walk home and we laughed the whole way.
It wasn't long after that, she learned how to drive. Not because public transport was so difficult but because of a near disaster caused by me. Big sister had started school so it was in the fall. Mama was heavily pregnant by then with the first of the New Babies. (those poor girls were still being referred to as TheBabies when they started high school) She was napping in the afternoons then and usually I loved to nap with her because she'd let me sleep in her bed with her. But this particular time I kept thinking about the candy in the bathroom - I must have just gotten over a cold. That candy in the bathroom was so delicious. It was orange flavored. It melted on your tongue. And if you climbed up onto the toilet and from there onto the sink you could get the cabinet open and you could pry the lid off with your bottom teeth. I took a few and let them make my mouth juicy. I went back to bed to try to nap. That candy called my name. I went back for another few. Then back to bed. Then back to the bathroom again. When there was only one candy left I figured I'd get scolded for eating the candy without permission but so long as I hadn't eaten it all it, I would probably not get a spanking. Much of our childhood decision making pivoted around the odds of the spanking. And then I went back to sleep with mama, on the Big Bed.
Of course, I had forgotten all about the moral dilemma by the time my sister came home from school. Instead, I bragged, "I had some tandy" (Always fun to get one up on the Big Sister) "Where's mine?" big sister demanded and I remember Mama saying "she didn't have any candy" and, completely forgetting the strategical advantage of silence I said "Yes I did. I had the tandy in the bathroom"
After that everything was pandemonium. No car. Couldn't drive anyway. No ambulance service in the county. Call Daddy. Call the neighbors. Most of the women neither drove nor had cars at that time. We were starter families in starter homes during the recession following the Korean War. Finally a neighbor took Mama and me to the hospital and I distinctly remember her saying "Now be a good girl and don't kick" so I asked her to hold my legs, which she did for me .... and then great big men with noisy silver machines did things and I threw up.
Yes. I was the sort of kid that inspired those pesky childproof caps on medicine bottles. Sorry.
After that Daddy made her learn how to drive, left the car at home while he took the public transportation - for the rest of his working life. He found he liked not having to be bothered with a car during Richmond's modest rush hour.
Oh the memories. Oh the flood of memories. Mama knew more songs and more stories than any other mother in the neighborhood - in the world, I was sure. and I would brag on her and tell my friends they ought to hear my mother sing. And then I'd take them to her and she would sing. And when the ballet teacher wanted wooden milk buckets for her little tap dancing milk maids, it was mama who suggested using contact paper printed like wood to cover old paint cans. It was also mama who sewed our tutus and the milk maid costume. Black and white striped satin over red net tutus. Oh mama. mama mama mama.
and it was Mama who had the faith to drag me to every violin teacher in the city till she finally found one who would take a chance on a 5 year old. This was before Suzuki and the wunderkinds of today. And it was Mama who kept a scrap book of every program I ever played, every newspaper article, every award, certificate and medal. And when all her kids grew up and moved away ... she bought herself a violin and learned how to play it - and even won 2nd place in the Chesterfield County Fair Fiddle competition.
And Mama could draw. And she sewed. Oh she could make anything. She taught me how to make the Seven Dress for my dolls. You say you want to know how to make a Seven Dress?
You fold a square of cloth in half and then in half again
Snip out the corner where the folds all meet, diagonally opposite the 4 loose points.
Then cut away those 4 points in the shape of a 7. Open it up and you see a t-shaped garment with the neckline where the first snip was cut away.
You can leave it like it is to make a pull over or snip it down the center to make a coat. So long as you make the body wide enough to wrap around your doll or teddy bear or G I Joe, you can just tie it at the waist or if you want to get serious you can glue the edges or sew them. I've taught countless little girls how to make the 7 dress but it came first from Mama.
Mama Mama Mama. Oh Mama how could I ever describe all that is you? How to explain that you didn't believe God could only hear you in a church. How to demonstrate the tenderness you showed us when you said "don't come crying to me. I can't help if you're crying" How to tell the pride I felt when you told me "If you need a day off from school, just tell me. I'll write you a note. But never tell me you are sick if you aren't"
How does one describe the utter joy of sipping coffee with the grownups after being invited by Mama into the living room, to sit on the sofa with her in the morning before school. What about the lessons in How To Catch A Man - which was the title of a book she bought and shared with us. "Stare directly into his eyes, then lower your own - twice, swiftly - and say "You are just so cute."
What about the hilarious laughter we shared watching comedy shows together. The way she managed to get us in the summer children's plays, the youth orchestras, the drama classes and the art shows. We were always everywhere doing cool stuff because Mama thought it would fun to try. "I mean, what's the worst that can happen? You had a few hours of trying something new." and the complete freedom in the kitchen - so long as you cleaned up after yourself. Yes. It was Mama who taught me to always have good toys - and to share them with abandon. Just ask any little girl who's spent time at Bess' Girls Camp.
Oh Mama. Mama. How could you go away?
And yet she has been going for a long time. She has been in a skilled nursing home now for almost 3 years - bedridden for the most part - and probably as much by choice as anything else. She no longer drew. She no longer read. She knew us all and remembered the new family members - the grand-daughters in law. The great grandchildren. But she only really roused herself when she talked about the old days. Old photos. Old stories. Old diaries. I had them all and I took them all to her bedroom. We could spend hours with these mementos of decades gone.
But on our last visit things were different. She is right handed but she picked up her diet Pepsi with her left hand and poked her face with the straw. She didn't recognize any of the photos, though I took big ones of her and Daddy and TheBabies. She smiled and did the polite thing but if I asked "recognize her?" she'd say "No. Who is this?"
After a while there were no more pictures. She lay back. She stared at me and said "I love you so"
And I crawled into bed with her and I held her close and I whispered to her all the words of pride and love and tenderness I had. I told her that she was the best mama ever in the whole wide world. I told her I loved her and would always always always love her. And we cuddled till the lunch staff came with her lunch.
And I went away thinking "she's going. She will be gone soon."
And now she is gone. In fact - she may have gone before that nurse gently touched her in the darkness of a Saturday morning. I hope they came for her - the way they did for Daddy. Perhaps it was Daddy himself. However it was, though - I am glad it was gently and I am glad the last words we shared with each other were I Love You.
Mama. Oh Mama. Goodbye.
Monday, September 01, 2014
Early in the summer I set a new goal - to find an additional form of exercise to add to my routine. No - to add to my life. I love the gym. I love the stationary bike. I love the elliptical. I love weights and strength training. But I wanted more. I wanted some exercise that was more like play or sports; though the problem with me and sports is that ... ugh. competition. Bleh. Yuck. I mean - let's just take all the fun out of movement, activity and exercise. Let's just coat things with words like Failure, and Looser, and You Loose and Score - just to be sure you don't have any fun.
Yeah. I am the calisthenics girl - NOT the sports girl.
Okay - off the soap box. The opinions expressed here are strictly personal - they're NOT a comment on anybody or anything in general.
So - I was longing for More Active Play. I set the goal for Summer 2014 to Find a New Sport to Add to My Life. I knew this would be fun to do as well as enriching. In July we took a long bike trip in a state park and oh my goodness did I ever love it. We actually came home thinking we'd like to buy a bike but after a day or so I knew that since I live at the end of a long dirt lane, at the end of a long dead end paved road - I would either have to bike over the same 8 miles every time I wanted to go someplace or I'd have to load it on a car and take the bike someplace.
Uh. I know this. If it involves getting into a car and going somewhere ... it ain't going to happen.
I wouldn't even go to my beloved gym if I weren't already in town for working or grocery shopping.
I will still go on bike trips but they will be on trails where there are bikes to rent.
So. What else?
Ahh - well, remember, I live on a river. Or rather, I live up a little gut that's up a little creek that's on a river. That means I can walk to the water. WALK that's important. I will walk almost anywhere. Walking through field and forest ( or city or town, or even shopping mall) is my main outdoor play.
Now - we have boats here. Even boats that I can handle - with effort. But they're really more Big Strong Guy sized boats. Our canoe is an 18 foot Grumman aluminum ship - and if I'm the only person in it - the bow comes out of the water and has no steerage. I have to either take dogs - who move around and even jump out - or fill up buckets with water to hold the bow down. Like Goldilocks, this boat is Too Big.
And there was a kayak - but again - guys have altered it, taking out the seat, so it's ... another Goldilocks allusion ... It's Too Hard.
And then - there is always the fear that the most darling, wonderful, Himself in the world, will try to dominate me if I step into his hobby. (He's the Boat Guy) He's extremely bossy. Most of the time it's hilarious and I just laugh and make faces and ignore him - but when it comes to his areas of expertise I tend to yield. And loving him as I do - I don't want to resent having to yield my pleasure to his instruction.
Still and all there was this little voice inside me that said "You are always sniping at people who live on the water and never go out on the water ... and You Are No Different From Them!"
Yes. There was a spiritual component about the lure of the water. There was almost a spiritual duty to connect with it. When I go out with Other People - while I love it, love them, love sharing .... I am coming out as a tourist. What about getting to know my water - my marshes - my little birds and dragon flies and marsh roses? When am I going to go out and honor the blessed gift I've been given?
So I began to make kayak murmurs. Then I tried someone else's kayak. Then I talked about kayaks to Himself - who immediately leapt into action! He looked up every dealer in Virginia. He made calls. He read articles. He had a list. He tempted me away from work early on Wednesday so we could go look at a shop. And he took me to Fredericksbug and the Virginia Outdoor Center where I could try some out.
I had an idea I'd like the Old Town Vapor 10. It was small (Important to me) and seemed comfortable enough. and best of all, they have some. I tried it and liked it. Very stable. Very easy to paddle - though even an 8 foot paddle knocked against the gunwales. It was good. But there are quite a list of kayaks in my price range, at several different places around VA. This was just my first stop. I was still shopping.
Then the owner brought down an Old Town Loon 11.1
From the moment I stepped into it I knew this was a different experience. Even the launch felt different. It was narrower and slightly tipsier. I don't really mind tipsy because heck - I go on the water expecting to get wet. But it wasn't VERY tipsy - just slightly more so. Then I sat down and it clove through the water like a fish. The first try to cross the current in the upper Rappahannock was a success. I shot across like an arrow.
This did not feel like a boat. It felt like an extension of my body. It made me think of my sister, a dressage horsewoman and when she sits a horse you can't tell where she ends and the horse begins. This was what I was dreaming of but hadn't realized I would find.
I had to get back in the original Vapor and then back in the Loon and after that - well - I didn't really need to try any more boats. I thought I ought to. I did. We drove all over VA to look at boats - even up to the James River State Park where I could try out some other brands of kayaks.
But the memory of feeling like I was a boat, instead of I was paddling a boat, sat in the back of my mind whispering "you already know - you already know". So at the end of the day I told Himself "look - I have seen enough boats. I know what I want"
I still had to give Other Good Reasons for not looking any more ... because I was with a man with Boat Fever - On A Quest.
II can borrow one from Bill for a few weeks and see if I reallio trulio want one.
I can get one used - so I won't be timid about dinging it up
I can save on the boat and spend on a better paddle
I can sell it easily if it turns out I don't really use it
And so on Sunday we called up our friend and I borrowed a lime green Old Town Loon 11.1
And doesn't it look like fun?
And don't I have a lovely place to play?
Saturday, August 23, 2014
No doubt about it, I'm an autumn baby. My birthday is in September (I like to celebrate all month long) and I live in the south - in the muggy buggy sleepy swampy coastal land of Virginia. Secretly ... well, not really all that secretly ... I am proud that I can endure a tidewater Virginia summer. But most of all I have always been glad to see those mosquitoey days draw to a close. I can't wait for the crisp bite of a north wind, the clear blue of a humidity free sky - I even like the song of the cricket - so long as he stays outside to do his wooing.
It has always been a mystery, why so many of my friends (including Himself) prefer the summer and sigh wistfully at it's closing. Till this year. This year we have had AIR CONDITIONING! I have only spent one summer in my life living in a place that was air conditioned and I had a sore throat all that summer. So I have always known what the weather is like out there. I have always felt the stifling heat of a second floor bedroom, gasping beneath a wet washcloth on my chest as I waited for sleep to take me away from the hotness. I have kicked off the sheet in my sleep. I've gotten the ice pack out of the freezer and wrapped it in a towel so that I could lie on it till my chilled blood circulated through my body to cool it down.
Not This Year.
This has been a summer of closed windows, clean floors, bug-less window sills. This year there have been no stuck dresser drawers, no mildew spores creeping across leather shoes and no no-see-ums whining in my ear. But this has felt like the year without a summer. This year, since I haven't "felt" summer, I can't really feel like there has even *been* a summer. I know. It's a Right Brain Thing.
And here we are, facing the last week of it. (you might think summer lasts till the 21st of September, but ask any 4th grader and she will tell you it's over on the first day of school) I feel like I've been caught off guard.
And what does this girl do when she is caught off guard?
She pulls out her Notebook and Starts A New List!
First I listed all the wonderful things that have filled the past 10 weeks. Then I wrote down everything I could think of that I want right now. And then I started the list of steps I need to take to get the things I want right now.
And number one on the list - no duh - is to drop the added lbs that an air conditioned summer has allowed to creep back onto this body.
ooooo. Notice how I found SOMETHING ELSE to blame for the weight gain?
No - just joking. The weight gain came from choices made over and over and over again. One more bite; an extra ice cream bar; wine AND dessert at the same meal - two days in a row. Hel-OH-oh.
But there is nothing like a new month, a BIRTHDAY month - heralding in a New Season - to inspire a girl to revamp her could-be-more-healthy lifestyle. First on the agenda is to do a new assessment with my WW ActiveLink activity monitor. I will start that tomorrow. The initial assessment was done at a time when I was lifting weights with a personal trainer. I haven't done that since my shoulder problems flared up in December. I can plug my little monitor in to the website and it will assess my daily activity and suggest ways to improve it. I'm ready for a fresh start and new challenge.
Second will be to commit to eating in the weight-loss zone. I know what that needs to be. Time to be like Nike and Just Do It.
Between those two choices runs the golden path to the body I really do want; the body with the energy to do all the other Fresh Start Things on my Autumn 2014 list.
So. That is my pumped up post for a Saturday morning - at the tail end of August in my Year Without a Summer.
Tuesday, August 05, 2014
In looking for something else deep in my blog archives I found the first post I'd ever made from The Brains. I hadn't realized I'd been doing this quite so long - but then - in my 60's now I tend to forget just how long ago something happened. It ALL seems like long ago.
Anyway, rereading the first Right Brain/Left Brain conversation woke them up and now they're chatting. Let's listen in:
* * * * *
Hey look at this! A record of our first conversation! Isn't that cool?
Well - that's not exactly true - we have always communicated.
You would say something like that.
Just stating the facts, m'am
Huh. And missing the point. It's the first time I ever had a chance to articulate.
(smiling) True. It was good to hear what you were thiniking
I wasn't thinking. I was feeeeeeeling. Nothing more than feeeeeeeeling
You nut. But yeah - it was great to hear in words I could understand - what you were feeling. It's so hard for me to understand your feelings when they just come as ... well ... feelings.
I know. I can feel that too. Or rather - when you're not trying to hear me I get all tense and feel worse and worse ...
Yeah - till you act out and consume an entire bag of cheetos.
heh heh. Haven't done that in a while, though - because you ARE listening to me a lot more now.
(looking sanctimonious) I do my best.
(giving RB a pinch) Smartypants
Just teasing. And I am really glad to hear from you too, because when I do listen - well - I can be me - only better. Like last night. Remember? How we were sinking into the black and gloomy pit, arguing with Himself. All the Iron Gates were clanging shut. but we really have to not just work this issue out but carry the day. And after a while I just shut down and quit answering.
Yeah. I did notice. And was just beginning to feel hate and rejection. It was awful. Till you opened up the channels and let me flow into your mouth so I could say the right words.
Yeah. Boy. That was magnificent. You were really fabulous.
But we're not out of the woods yet. We still haven't actually won this fight. And we must.
Sigh. Yeah. I know. But maybe we've figured out how to win it.
You know, I think you're right. Hmmmm.
(nodding, smiling gently - peacefully)
Hmmm. Hmmmm. You know you're absolutely right. This looming argument has been so daunting - so ...
I know. I feel it. I've been almost sick about it. Yet afraid to bring it up. Afraid to go there because ... gad - that man can swamp us with words.
I know. And I really think he's .... well ... well ... so WORDY.
(laughing) And so WRONG!
(laughing with her) Oh la. He is, isn't he?
And we really have to change his mind.
Yes. we do. Sigh. Oh well. We have time. Thank God we have time.
uh oh. I can hear you now. "I'll think about it tomorrow. At Tara"
LOL. Well. you're the one who pushes me to procrastination. Besides, I don't think I'll think about it all that much. I think I will tap into your deep honest true good strong and CORRECT feelings and let you do the talking.
Woo woo. Me? Cowardly me? In charge?
(smiling) yes. You. Cowardly you who will still do what's right when it has to be done.
Oh. My. what a nice thing to say. (gives LB a kiss)
(hugs RB tightly) We're a team, aren't we?
Yes. We are. And we'll get this thing sorted out. I feel it in my bones.
And I know it in my heart.
So. How about that spa visit in Colonial Williamsburg. Don't you want to do that again?
Oh la yes. But we're a little short of cash right now. And time. That's an even scarcer commodity.
Oh but wait! Isn't a window opening up in that 3rd week of August?
Oooo. It IS. Hmmm. Let's talk to Suzanne today. I'm sure she'll want to have lunch with us. Let's just see what we can plan.
Sounds good to me.
Great. Off to werk we go then. High ho, High ho. It's off to werk we go.
* * * *
Well. Who knew? Those two brains can really come up with some plans when they work together. I never know what's going to come out of one of their conversations but my goodness, I really ought to listen in to them more often.
Now it's time for ME to get to werk. Ta.
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