TRUE LOVE

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TRUE LOVE

I used to call it “The Minefield.”  I never knew where the landmines may lie; when they may detonate.  In the weeks and months when my grief was young, there were certain things, events or memories that would send me reeling backwards, straight into a pit of sadness for the rest of the day.  Certain things, simple things like a shirt Mom used to wear.  Or, as I returned to my work as a traveling speech therapist in the nursing home circuit, certain patients would remind me of them.  Shortly after they died, I was working with a patient with swallowing problems.  I visited with her in her room, asking her the typical questions:  “What is hard for you to swallow?  Do your dentures fit?” 

“Yes,” she said.  “My dentures fit fine.”   She said this as her dentures started to fall out of her mouth.  This is truly funny now, but then, it reminded me that sometimes, Dad’s dentures would come loose and start to fall out.  I lost my professional composure.  I told her that was all I needed to know that day, and I got out of her room quickly before the detonation.  I had to hang it up and go home.

I was hollowed out for the rest of the day.

It used to be that I was incapacitated, stuck in the landmine.  Any wrong turn, any misstep, and another would detonate.  They were suddenly everywhere, and I was defenseless.

As the months wore on, I found I could rally and gather my strength; I could easily extricate myself from the minefield and avert any further danger, coming out victorious. As the years wore on, I no longer felt trapped.  I could let the moments of grief wash over me quickly, and move on to complete my task; finish out the day.

In about 4 weeks, it will be eleven years since our parents died.  I rarely have these moments anymore.

I had one last night.  I was innocently unloading the dishwasher, getting ready to go to dinner with my husband and son and a friend.  I had The CBS Evening News on the kitchen TV, and one of my favorite features came on.  One of their special reporters, Steve Hartman, spoke of his most frequent interview subject, a subject who would no longer be featured, as he had just passed away:  his father.  I stopped unloading dishes to watch.  I always enjoy his On The Road With Steve Hartman stories.  This one would become my favorite.

He spoke lovingly of his father, a kind, loving and unassuming man who always put others before himself.  He didn’t know a stranger, and was adept at striking up conversations with strangers, quickly turning them into friends.

Our dad was that way, too.

He featured interview clips with him, sharing some of his favorite memories of his favorite man on earth.

He then reported that his father had recently died.  His mother died several years ago.

His next statement stopped me in my tracks and brought tears.  I felt, for a few moments, that it had detonated another landmine.  But this time, it was sweet-bitter.  I knew it wouldn’t last long.

He said something to this effect: “I was now an orphan.  The two people on earth who knew me the longest and loved me the strongest were both gone.”

For one searing moment, I felt ice cold pain burning through my heart.  I knew too well how this felt.  The grief came roaring back—but just for one moment.  I dried my eyes and resumed the dishes, knowing I would have to appear happy for my dinner guests.  And I did.  They didn’t know I had just hit another landmine.

This morning, my husband and I watched morning TV while we sipped coffeeThey featured a chef who spoke of foods that reminded him of home.  Something about how home is where your Mom and Dad are.  I looked away for just a moment just in case I had to shed a few tears.  I didn’t want my husband to see.  I bit my lip and kept it together.  Perhaps I was still lingering on the edge of the minefield from last night.  Perhaps, with all this talk of Valentine’s Day love in the air, I am feeling more sentimental than usual.

This love, the love a parent has for a child, I am convinced, is the strongest love on earth.  Perhaps the love the child has for one’s parents is a close second.  I have children.  I know both forms.  These are true love.

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LOVE may very well be the most beautiful word in any language.  In its purest form, it is what we all live for, how we all keep going.  It is what allowed our parents to care for us as infants and children, and how those of us with children care for them.  It is the most difficult job on earth.  But it doesn’t stop there.  I know as a grown woman who now has grown children that it lives on in a new form, in a way that lets us see the beauty of unconditional love that now no longer needs to be nurtured as tenderly and carefully as it did when our children were young.   Infant humans require more care and parenting than any other species, so it’s a good thing babies are so lovable.

I remember when my boys were babies, and every new stage they reached made me a bit nostalgic for the one they had left, but I welcomed each new one, deciding that this one is the best one yet.  This is where I want them to stay, because it can’t get any better than this.  But it just kept getting better, and I kept thinking this as they grew.  Now that my boys are grown, part of me still thinks that.  I miss some of their earlier days, but seeing the fine young men they have grown into makes me happy they are where they are, and not younger.

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I know now that our parents loved us unconditionally as infants, children and adults, just like I love my children.  They loved us when we lived with them, and they loved us when we moved out.  They loved us as we married and formed our own families.  They loved us until the very end.  And we loved them back just as fiercely.

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Monday of last week was just another day.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  I worked, keeping my appointments and other obligations.  Something kept nagging at me, making me ask myself did I forget something important?  It felt as if I was neglecting some responsibility, some required task.  Something I had committed to.   Late in the day, it hit me.  It was the 4th of the month.  For the last 131 months, the 4th of the month rarely escapes me.

Our parents died on the 4th of the month.  Every month, for the first 18—if I recall correctly—I knew the 4th was coming around again.  I knew it would be another monthly anniversary.  I believe it was 18 months before it hit me late in the day.  Still now, most months it hits me at some point in the day on the 4th: “Oh yeah—it’s the 4th again.”  This month was the first one I had to stop and think about it.

I consider that a good thing.

I will never forget that 4th of the month nearly eleven years ago.  I will never forget that day, but the pain is no longer a beast in control.  I am in control, and my memories are letting more sweet in, and not so much bitter.

They got to go together.

The most pure form of love for another person is that which cares more for them than for oneself.

It was so hard for us, but so easy for them.  So easy for them. 

We loved them deeply; lost them tragically.  But true love never dies, and their love lives on.

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Happy Valentine’s Day.  If you still have your parents, please let them know how much you love them.  While their love for you will live on forever, they won’t be here forever. 

This post is dedicated to my parents, of course, and to my three boys as well.  

 

FITTING FINAL FAREWELLS

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FITTING FINAL FAREWELLS

When the former leader of our country shed tears on live television this week, I shed them, too.  He was saying goodbye to his father, another former leader of our country.  At this moment, his most important role was that of son, and the purpose of the funeral was to celebrate the life of a father and husband first—perhaps even a friend—before the life of a former United States president.

I had a lunch date with a home health patient at the time the funeral was televised.  He was watching it, and my job was to watch him eat to make sure he was not having problems swallowing.  So, with a few sideways glances to lessen the feeling I was indeed staring at him—its my job, I, too, watched the funeral.

This man was almost as old as George H.W. Bush.  He, too, had lived a long and storied life.  Unlike George Bush Jr., though, he didn’t shed tears when his own father died, he told me in between bites.  When he was thirteen years old, his father died suddenly.

From that point in, he was taught, boys and men don’t cry.  A series of further tragedies befell his family.  Still, he reported, he never cried. I tried to hide my obvious tears as I, too, held my hand over my heart in a salute, just as they did on TV.  Unlike him, I wasn’t very good at not crying.

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The next day, George H.W. Bush’s body arrived in Houston by train for burial.  It was noted during the television coverage that the last president to be transported to his final resting place by train was Dwight D. Eisenhower, 49 years ago in 1969.  He was carried by train to his boyhood home in Abilene, Kansas, the very place I was at that moment.

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71-456-279 Funeral of Dwight David Eisenhower – Abilene, Kansas 2 April 1969 The funeral train arrives at the Union Pacific Station 2 April 1969

I tried to imagine this small town of less than 7,000 residents alight and alive with glory, respect and honor for their hometown boy; a meaningful, but sad parade of people from far and near.

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I was three years old in 1969, living two hours away from Abilene.  Now that I am aware enough,  I wish I had been old enough and close enough to Abilene to witness the history of Eisenhower’s burial.

Now, in 2018, this town still resonates with the spirit of the Eisenhower presidency.  I see it around town, especially when I visit or drive by his museum, which includes his final resting place in a small chapel.

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I wrote about Abilene in Someplace Special (September 10th, 2017). If you have never visited Abilene—and especially the Eisenhower museum, I highly recommend it.

 

 

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I recall a funeral procession I was part of in Wichita in 2006.  My aunt Jeanne—my mother’s sister—passed away, and her funeral was on the east side of town.  Her burial was on the far west side of town.  For a nominal fee, she was allowed a grand police escort on her final ride, with the procession cutting all the way through this city, stopping all traffic along the way.

And it was grand.  I wish you could have seen it.  I wish she could have seen such a procession while she was alive.  You see, she couldn’t see.  She was blinded at 18 months of age from retinal blastoma—cancer—in both retinas.  She never knew sight, but it didn’t stop her from leading a full and vibrant life.

Then, the day before our parents died, we were back in Wichita for our grandmother’s funeral.  Gail, Suzanne, several of our brothers and I were in one vehicle in her procession to the cemetery from the church.  In his signature dry, monotone comedic style, our brother Ryan posed this deep question: “If a funeral procession meets a fire truck or ambulance, who has the right of way?’

We laughed it off, knowing such humor was his gift to us.  We left the cemetery after the burial to go back to the church for a dinner, no longer in procession.  It was a large cemetery, and yet another funeral procession was headed to the cemetery as we left.  Then, as if he had sent out a freak vibe with that question, a fire truck headed swiftly toward the oncoming procession.

Apparently, urgency for the living supersedes respect for the dead.  The procession had to pull over.

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We paid loving respects to our grandmother, celebrating her 90-year, long and blessed life.  We had one day of reprieve after her funeral before we started planning another one.

Now, we are not a family to brag or gloat over our achievements, but we will hold fast to the honor of having received the most floral arrangements for any funeral ever in the lone church in our small hometown—95, if I got the number right.  Granted, it was a double funeral, but it was still one funeral, so we will argue that should the record ever come into question.

We had to find joy in whatever small ways we could.

In those four days between their deaths on Tuesday and the funeral on Saturday, we clung to each other; cried mostly, but laughed some, too.  We propped each other up and picked each other up, with grace and faith ensuring that a majority of at least four of us seven were relatively strong at any given moment to pick up the other three or less, both literally and figuratively.

The only good thing about the time between the deaths and the funeral was the fact that our actions were already prescribed.  We didn’t have to figure out what to do.  We simply mourned, made arrangements, accepted food, flowers and friendship, and waited.  We were in the socially expected shroud of mourning, and we did that well.

Still, knowing exactly what we had to do, the pain was unparalleled for all of us.  No one is prepared for such soul-searing pain, but I am glad we weren’t warned.  That would have been worse.  We loved them fiercely, just as they loved us.  We collected ourselves for Saturday morning, and even found ourselves comforting some of the mourners who had come to comfort us.  We were experts at comforting each other by this point, so we had it down.  We found strength to make it through the funeral.

Since then, we have all became stronger than we ever dreamed we could be.  They are still with us, and we celebrate them in our own ways now, every day of every month of every year.

Their funeral helped us do this.  There were tears, of course, but just like President Bush’s funeral, there were happy moments, too.

When George W. Bush eulogized his father, I felt his pain.  I recalled the eulogy we delivered for our parents.  All seven of us composed a written eulogy before the funeral, and Gail, Suzanne and I delivered it.  We agreed ahead of time that we would take turns reading, and if any of us were to become emotional and unable to read any further, we would simply step down, handing the baton to the next one, even if it were mid-sentence.

None of us faltered.    I suppose we were perceived as strong, at least at that moment.  I suppose we were strong, at that moment, anyway.  This isn’t to say that anyone who does falter while delivering a eulogy is not strong.  We simply were given grace and composure to get through this difficult moment.  We know where—or shall we say who—provided it for us.

At this moment, let me interject my expert advice on how to comfort the mourning.  I hate to brag, but we are sort of authorities on this subject:  It is not accurate to gauge how the bereaved are handling the loss by the way they are acting at the funeral.  The real test comes in the days, weeks and months—perhaps even years—after the funeral.  Trust us on this.  Trust me when I say that it is never too late to express condolences.  There is no statute of limitations.  For me, I found some of the most meaningful expressions of sympathy arriving not immediately, but after some time had passed.  It let me know that not everyone in the world had moved on, there were actually some people who knew that we were still suffering.

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Because funerals really are joyful celebrations sometimes cloaked in heaviness and sadness, it is important to keep a positive perspective regarding them.  Which is why I asked Gail for her contribution of funeral humor.  This is what she came up with:

A woman is sitting at her deceased husband’s funeral.  A man leans in to her and asks: “Do you mind if I say a word?”

“No, go right ahead,” the woman replies.

The man stands, clears his throat, says “Plethora,” and sits back down.

“Thanks,” the woman says. “That means ‘a lot.’”

Just before press time, I asked Suzanne for any large or small contribution to this post.  I wanted to keep it light, I told her.  And she is just the person to give me that.

Um, you are writing about five funerals, five funerals for six different people.  Good luck.”

I knew she would give “light.”

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We did cry a lot.  But more important than that, we found joy in those early days, even laughter.  Ryan, our dry-witted younger brother was 34 when Mom and Dad died.  Gail is his godmother, one of two adults appointed at baptism to be a spiritual leader to the child as he or she grows.  In earlier times, this meant also that they would be the guardian to the child should something happen to the parents.

At the wake the night before the funeral, Ryan was seated next to me.  He leaned in and whispered, “Does this mean I have to go live with Gail?”

As we greeted people arriving at the wake, our childhood dentist, who lived across the street from our parents then, arrived with his condolences.  He re-introduced himself to me very seriously, thinking perhaps I would have forgotten him.  I hadn’t; he was a good dentist and is a good man.

“Of course!” I said.  “I remember you.”  Then I flashed him a wide smile, and asked: “Do you remember these teeth?” 

“Yes, yes I do!  They still look great,” he replied.

Thank you,” I said.  “I floss every day.”

“I can tell,” he said, smiling as he walked away.

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To weep is to make less the depth of grief.”—William Shakespeare

It takes a strong man to lead a country, especially the United States.  I think George W. Bush’s tears as he bade farewell to his father were a sign of strength.  I cried with him at that moment, sweet-bitter tears for a life well-lived.  Sweet-bitter tears that recalled fond memories of my own father.  Tears of strength that keep me going through my life, reminding me of all I have to be thankful for.

And all I have to keep laughing about.

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AND YOU WILL GO ON

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Once in awhile, as you know, I post something that isn’t light and funny, and this is one of those.  It is heavy, but it has a happy ending–I promise. Thank you for sticking with me through all the seasons of my writing, just as the one and only picture at the end shows a beautiful change of seasons as well.  

I wrote this two years ago tonight, the Sunday after I returned home from the event I described.   I have held onto it since then, and I decided it was the perfect time to post it. 

Besides, just as last time, it wasn’t my Plan A.  This post is actually Plan D, with Plans A, B and C to follow in good time–I promise.

No matter if it is Plan A or Plan Z, the important thing is that we all continue to GO ON.

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AND YOU WILL GO ON

It took eight years, seven months and eleven days, but I finally did it.  I had several dozen opportunities to take the short detour, but I never did—until tonight.

In my mind, there was a permanent, dark gray—if not black—cloud hanging over that spot.  This evening, however, it wasn’t there.  It was dusk, with a hint of daylight and the full moon rising.  It wasn’t too dark to see it if it had been there.

It was the full moon that confirmed to me I had chosen the right night.  Not just big and round, but full, as in, according to the calendar.  My mother knew I loved the full moon.  It rose clearly with crisp, sharply defined edges in the clear October evening sky as I took this road never travelled by me, not even in the years before that day.

That day, March 4th, 2008, was the day my parents died as they tried to cross through this intersection.  I had thought many times about visiting this spot, this dreadful place where they drew their last breaths.  It was a mere ten miles out of my way home when I had travelled many times to west Wichita to visit my brother, several friends, and, of course, to shop since that day.   But I never did.  It never felt right.

Today, however, it occurred to me that it might be the right day to expel this demon—or as close as it could ever be. It would never be right. I was returning from Tulsa after a Friday evening of unparalleled fun and memory-making with a dear friend.  One of her quests was to see Toby Keith in concert, and I was game.  To a lesser degree, it was my quest too, and Tulsa was the closest stop on his tour.  Since we both recently had a Big Birthday—which we had already celebrated with a week-long girls trip—we were up for still more fun, so we made the trip.  Besides, having fun is now a priority for me, since I learned the Life Is Short So Have Fun Now lesson the hard way.  I remain an enrollee in the Life is Short class, choosing to study in it for the rest of my life, because this lesson is too important to forget.  I am the annoying student in the front row, always raising my hand, asking questions and making comments to everything the teacher says.  The other students roll their eyes whenever I speak up—again.   I get my homework done ahead of time, do the extra credit; suck up to the teacher.  I don’t ever want to forget The Lesson.  I always carry an A-plus.  I spend whatever time and money I can to Have Fun and Make Memories.  My hope is that all the other students can learn it the easy way.

My friend came from Kansas City, and I met her in Tulsa from my small city in central Kansas.  On Saturday afternoon after a late lunch, we went our separate ways.  After  2½ hours in the car, I needed a break, so I turned west off the interstate in Wichita to my familiar favorite store.  Then, on to another favorite store that put me even closer to that place.  Perhaps this was an auspicious time to conquer this demon, to move past this literal and figurative spot on the map and in my mind.   I wasn’t sure yet if I should go to that spot yet, and perhaps that’s why I lingered with no potential purchases in my hand in the second store as daylight waned.

It will probably be dark by the time I get there,”   I thought.  “But maybe that’s good.”

I speculated there were at least 27 minutes of daylight left to make this trip as I checked GPS, which would put me there only a bit before dark.  I left the store after a small purchase, and headed in that direction.  I could still back out; I had several alternate routes I could turn on to take me home before I had to make the defining decision.

“Go West Young Woman,” a voice inside said.  So I turned west, leaving those other two routes home behind me.  This road, I realized as I headed down it, was the same road my dad took as they left west Wichita that day.  I was, in essence, retracing their last steps.

“I’m really going to do this.  This feels strange.  I hope I made the right decision.”

After four miles west, the GPS told me to turn north, so I did.

There it was.  The full moon, which had been first obscured by the city, then was at my back as I drove west, was beaming its approval to me through my passenger window.  The man in the moon—and perhaps the woman too—let me know I was headed in the right direction.

Eighteen minutes later, I was there.  I stopped at the stop sign, the same one my father stopped at.  He did stop, it was reported, but then he did go.  He should have waited.  I waited.  There were no headlights from either direction, but for a moment, I was frozen there.  Then I accelerated with a quick stomp and drove through.  Through the threshold they didn’t cross over.  I pulled over on the other side into an abandoned driveway, and sat for a moment.  This strange new world I had just entered into took a few moments to enter into me.

“I did it.  I made it through.”

Just to make sure I had indeed expelled this demon, I drove back across the intersection, turned around and did it one more time.  This time I kept going.  Going down the road my parents would have gone on.  Going down the road home, to my home, eventually taking a different road than they would have to arrive at their home.

And I went on.

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I continue to go on.  Every day, I go on my own road.  I stayed on their road in some ways, but in many others, I took the divergent road.   The road they paved for me by instilling their faith in me.  Their faith in God, and their faith in me and my six siblings.  This faith allows us to follow our own paths and make our own ways, lives of our own choosing, lives that let us be who we want to be, even if it’s not exactly what they may have expected or hoped for us.  They gave us the metaphoric roots and wings.

We all continue to fly.

 

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I believe in Heaven.  I believe there is a place beyond this world that is free of all evil, a place that is an unfathomable, ineffable, fabulous evolution of love and the human spirit.  These two elements of mortal life must carry on in some way.  They are not accidental or secondary by-products of human life.   They are why we are here.

I respect your beliefs if they do not agree with mine, but just for one second, please suspend them and think about this point my mother made about death many years before her own:  if babies could choose to stay in the womb where it is comfortable and familiar—not that they could–they likely would.  If they did, however, they would miss this incredible world that awaits them.  The transition from womb to birth may be painful, but it is necessary to move on.  Such is birth.

We don’t know what awaits us after this world, but if we chose to stay here—not that we could—we would miss out on something so spectacular that is beyond any life here, even if the crossing over is painful.  Such is death.

If you have lost a loved one/ones, my wish for you is that you will embrace the belief that we are here to await a better place, and that those you loved are there.  Grief is for the living only, the deceased don’t benefit from it in any way.  I am sure of this.

There is so much life here to live, so much happiness that can be found, as sad as life can be sometimes.  Still, there is so much love and so much good out here, if you simply stay open to it.  Please stay open to it.  Please choose to find this love and goodness.

And you will go on.

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I recall something so profound that a priest told us after Mom and Dad died:  “Grief is like the backside of a beautiful rug.  It appears to have no beauty, no reason, but when you get to the other side, it all comes together, and the beauty is there.”  

This post made me think of that, and this tree I saw yesterday made me think of it as well.  The backside of this tree was nothing splendid, but when I saw it from this side, it took my breath away–in a good way.  

That’s what I imagine it will be like in Heaven–at least, for starters.  

 

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD

“You’d better get that timing belt changed.  If that goes, nothing will work.”

And so goes the memory of one of the most important things my dad ever taught me as a young, independent woman.  I don’t think I ever got that timing belt changed on my car, but I traded it off soon thereafter, so it didn’t matter.

Turns out that in life, just like with cars, it is indeed all about timing.  It is what makes things work out the way they do.  The lesson went much deeper than a simple rubber automotive belt.

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Dad was born in 1934 via Cesarean-section.  In that era, it was an inexact science, and his mother wasn’t able to have more children.  She died when he was eight.  He told us that the doctors told his dad it was cancer, but she was never well again after his difficult birth.  After she died, he was raised by his dad and his dad’s two sisters–Madeline and Marie, who, because they played the parts, were like our grandmothers.  They were never married, and Dad was like their only collective child.  They were a gift to him, and I’m sure he was to them, too.  His dad never remarried.

Life as an only child was very lonely, Dad said.  He knew he wanted a big family, and got one:  we were their Magnificent Seven, they said.

 

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One of the earliest pictures we have of Dad; it’s condition tells a story, too.

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Dad and Grandpa in the wheat field.  Swheat boy.

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Dad–left, with childhood friends.

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And, with his best friend.

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Grandpa and Madeline playing Monopoly with Dad.

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Grandpa, Dad, Madeline and Marie.

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Dad had a brilliant mechanical mind, but more than that, he was wise beyond what he could feasibly put to work.  He knew about all things automotive and mechanical, and used this brilliance on his farm machinery and vehicles.

As an only child, however, the family farm was his destiny, no questions asked.  He was a steward of that family legacy until he turned 65, at which he time he promptly handed the reins over to two of my brothers.  One of them still farms it, living on the original homestead.  The house that built me, the farmhouse that was in our family for four generations, was torn down last fall.  Mold overcame it, and it was time for a new creation.

Dad and Mom moved into Osborne in 2000, the small town of about 1,300 people, the town where all three of us girls, and two of our brothers were born.  They lived there until they died, both of them immensely enjoying the “city” life, as well as the social connections they made.

Dad was a local conversational legend.  He was known far and wide as a gifted talker, and could strike up a conversation with just about anyone.  It was reported that when he would frequent the small hospital there to visit someone he knew, as well as the nursing home, he  made rounds as the self-appointed visitor extraordinaire, making new friends with patients/residents he didn’t yet know .  I made my own rounds to that nursing home in the year before they died, visiting them every time I came to town.  I treasure that opportunity to have seen them perhaps 15-or-20 times in their last year.  I left a “really good” hospital job to travel the uncertain nursing home circuit as a speech therapist, deciding—against all reason—to do so exactly a year before they died.

I know now, in crystal-clear hindsight, why I was supposed to listen to that little voice that, for no apparent reason, nagged me to go.  I would have gravely regretted it if I hadn’t.

Not long after they died, I was called there to see a new patient, an older gentleman who was having problems swallowing.  He was cantankerous; I was warned.  He wanted nothing to do with me when I arrived and introduced myself.  I knew that my dad had recently befriended him, so I pulled that strategy out of my arsenal.  I told him who my dad was, and he softened immediately.

“He was your dad?  Why sure!  You just come back to see me anytime!”

Dad’s reputation preceded and succeeded him, always in a good way.

Suzanne, when asked to recall something he had said that stuck with her, came up with this generalization, an exchange that was safe to make between a father and his adult daughter:

Suzanne:  “Every time you tell me something that I might question or doubt or might not like, it turns out you are right every time, and it’s really starting to piss me off!”

Dad laughed, knowing his opinion was not always the most popular.  He was a man of integrity and honesty, always calling a spade a spade, whether you liked it or not—even if you were his daughter.

Mom loved to write; I’ll claim that trait in myself from her.  Dad was an ardent reader, and I will credit him for my love of reading.  He loved to learn, and much like me, he read mostly factual and informational reading, rarely—if ever—works of fiction.  He read biographies, and so do I.  I really didn’t want to know that much about Lee Iacocca, but after listening to Dad talk about his autobiography, I decided to read it, and I’m so glad I did.  Likewise, I learned–from the book he had just finished reading—the multiple theories surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  I will never look at just one side of that historical event ever again.

Very simply, Dad was a brilliant man who educated himself further by reading.  He knew at least a little bit-if not a lot–about everything.

And, like Dad, I am an expert sleeper.  At least, I try harder than anyone else in my family, and for better or worse, it is something I am recognized for among my siblings, as well as my own family.

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Gail frequently speaks of Dad’s greeting upon your arrival to his home:  “Sit down, stay awhile.”  And when you did, you were in for an informative and informational conversation, for as long as you were able to stay.  He always had time to talk.

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Dad, while his guest sat down and stayed awhile.

On our way to my future husband’s first meeting with my father, I warned him that he would likely talk his leg off.  He indeed did, but Mark loved it; loved him.  We all did.  I don’t know if Dad had even a single enemy, but if he did, it was likely because the other guy didn’t like his words of truth.

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Dad would have been 84 years old this Friday, March 30th.  I found the following piece I wrote four years ago on his birthday.  I hadn’t read it for a few years, and I was struck by how much stronger I have become, how time continues to heal.

I will close with that, but not before I say this:  If you still have your own father, pay him a visit if you can.  Sit down and stay awhile, even if what he has to say pisses you off.  There will come a day when you will not regret it. 

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD

My dad was a Kansas wheat farmer.  As I type, I am facing a bookshelf with a framed picture of him on his International Harvester “H” tractor, an antique, working tractor that was one of his favorites.

Today, March 30th, 2014, would have been his 80th birthday.  I wonder, especially today, what he would be like if he were still with us.  He had struggled with heart problems in the past, but always—sometimes miraculously—pulled through.  I want to believe he would have still been going strong.  In light of that thought, I am celebrating his life today.  In honor of his wheat farmer heritage, I am grinding wheat.  Wheat that was planted, grown and harvested by my brother John on the farm my dad was the steward of before my brother took over.  My dad was the third generation of family farmers;  John is the fourth.  John’s two sons show promise to be the fifth.

Sometime around 1995, Dad purchased a small wheat grinder in hopes of grinding all the flour we would ever need so as not to ever have to purchase it again.  For a while, he kept us all supplied.  I have fond memories of him at the kitchen table with this new grinder, showing off its features and ability to turn his personally harvested fruit of the earth into a fine powder that was the foundation of so many things we ate.  For a while.  Then, the new wore off, and he didn’t grind as much, as often.  Then, the grinder got put away.

I became interested in grinding my own flour somewhere down the road, and I borrowed it from him.  He and Mom retired as active farmers in 2000, and moved into a small town nearby, so John was now providing the wheat.  I took the grinder to my home on a long-term loan.   It has been here since.

Every year when I make my trip to the farm to partake of harvest, I bring back several gallon buckets of wheat to be ground.  Today, after looking yet again at the three remaining buckets on the shelf in my garage, I decided it was time to grind.  It was a warm and windy spring Sunday afternoon, so the dust and mess would blow away.  I set it up and plugged it in on the patio, and ground away. Before the grinding began, I took the large sifter that came with the grinder and I separated the wheat from the chaff. I realized the metaphor fits my life now, as I pride myself on getting better at sorting the unimportant from the important things in my life.   I even drank a wheat beer as I ground it, just for good measure.  I sent up a happy birthday to my dad as I did.  It felt right.

On my daily run this morning, I had a great idea, like I do so many mornings when I run.  My husband, our teenage boys and I would celebrate Dad’s birthday by having brunch at IHOP.  So we did.

After my run and before we left, I succumbed to the guilt from not dusting my furniture and shelves for far too long, and I broke out the dust rag.  I dusted the bookshelves where Dad’s picture on the tractor sat.  As I moved past it—I don’t know how I did it—I knocked it off.  I didn’t think I was very close, but it fell to the floor.  I sat down next to it and picked it up gently and sorrowfully as if it were a living thing that had I had unintentionally inflicted injury upon.  I cradled it, making sure the glass or frame wasn’t broken.  It wasn’t.  I felt myself become awash with tears.  I felt myself entering the minefield.

In the past six years (and twenty-six days), I have frequently found myself in this minefield, not realizing it as I entered.  Once in the minefield, I was typically stuck there all day, and any false move could bring another detonation.  I never knew which way to step, never knew where the mines might be hiding.

Today, however, I fought back.  I wasn’t willing to spend Dad’s birthday in the minefield.  I made a conscious decision to back-step, to find a way out before entering any further.  So I did.  And, as of 5:11 pm, I haven’t found myself back in.  I am winning.

My sister-in-law Lara—John’s wife—stopped by to see me on her way through town today.  I needed her visit, as she always picks me up and encourages me as a writer.  I needed her today more than ever.  I showed her how I grind their wheat with Dad’s grinder.  She seemed impressed, and she’s not able to fake being impressed, so I know she was.  She, as the vintage picture on her kitchen wall says, is a “Nice, Swheat Girl.”   I  like the play on words/letters, being the word nerd that I am.  For so many small graces like this one, I thank her.  For many other graces from my siblings and their families, I thank them as well.  I am blessed.

I choose to focus on these gifts that I have been given all throughout my life, not what I have lost.  I chose to back out of the minefield today, I’d had enough.  I celebrated my father today with gestures and positive actions, instead of wallowing in any residual sadness.  It is there, but, again, not today.  I can feel him smiling down upon me, and I will focus on this.

Happy Birthday Dad.

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Special thanks to Lara for bequeathing me the “Swheat Girl” picture when they moved into their new house.  And to Gail, who is crafting a frame for it. 

Thanks, too, to another sister-in-law Joni, who enlarged and reproduced the picture of Dad on the tractor, and then shared it.  It is a treasure. 

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Thank you for your support and readership.  I wish you a blessed Easter next Sunday; there will be no post then as I will be enjoying the holiday next weekend.

 

ROCKY MOUNTAIN ‘HI’

 

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ROCKY MOUNTAIN ‘HI’

**I believe in signs.  This one was from my favorite calendar, the day before we left.**

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Speaking of signs, we finally did it.  After saying we should on every other trip, we finally stopped at the state line by the iconic sign for pictures.

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The rest of the state line story comes with a price.  If yours is right, Gail and Suzanne will tell you the rest, but only if I get a healthy cut.  Remember, we are not telling all.

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Waking up to this sight in Manitou Thursday morning, just as I said we would last week, can only bode well for the rest of the weekend.

And it did.  We lingered a bit in Manitou Springs on Thursday, taking in shopping and a tasty lunch—and a game of shuffleboard—before we began the ascent.

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In our effort to satisfy Suzanne’s love of ferris wheels, we attempted to stop at The North Pole on the way up.

While I have laughed through the movie at least a dozen times, I have never before been able to empathize with the Griswolds in Vacation:  The North Pole was closed.

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Closed Until May 1st.  The ferris wheel, noted to be the tallest in the world given it’s altitude, wasn’t even there; wasn’t visible from the road as it usually is.  We found out it had been taken down for refurbishing, refreshing and renewing.  It will be ready for us next time.

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And so on westward we went.  John Denver did his part on CD, getting us into Cripple Creek.  Cripple Creek, where the gold-mining mother lode was struck years ago, and where The Sister Lode idea was conceived only one year ago.

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 And the real fun began.

Our friends who own the Hospitality House were ready for us:

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They look forward to our return trips, as do we.  We love them, and we love their place.  We savor the spirit of the place, as well as the space.

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We do a lot of enjoying their space; simply sitting and sipping is one of the simple pleasures we enjoy.  Sometimes that’s all we need to fulfill our expectations.  Sometimes, it takes a little more.

This time, there was a full moon to greet us.  While pictures can never do it justice, the moon was in grand splendor along with the mountains it rose up above.

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From a full moon to a Blue Moon–in honor of my favorite libation, there was this good omen in the street in Manitou on our way there.

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Perhaps it is the Midwestern, hospitable farm girls in us.  Perhaps it is the fact that we are away from home and in a higher altitude; a higher place.  Maybe it’s just who we are.  Maybe it’s all the above, but we find ourselves saying “hi” a lot while we are on our trips.  Not that we don’t do it when we are home; it’s just that there are so many more people to meet in a place like this.  Chances are, we already know most of the people already in our circles at home.

We reach out, we strike up conversations with strangers, we somehow have other people do the same to us, and most of the time, we welcome it.  Most of the time.

If we hadn’t reached out, we wouldn’t have made friends with these fabulous hotel proprietors.

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Given that they are now our friends, we asked for Rick’s advice on a predicament we found ourselves in, likely in part due to our outgoing natures, and in equal or greater part to a misinterpretation of our intentions.

Rick (in front) simply said: “stop saying ‘hi.’”  Sounds like a simple, obvious, easy answer, sure, but we can’t do that.  It’s not who we are.

If we’d stopped saying “hi,” we wouldn’t have met this dear, delightful young woman who became our favorite waitress at our favorite restaurant several years ago:

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Kaitlin serves us beyond and above, and she is preparing to do the same for our country.  A few days after our visit, she will become a member of our armed forces, joining the Unites States Navy.  We thanked her for her wonderful service as our favorite waitress over the past few years, and we thanked her in advance for her future service to our country.  We wish her so much love and joy in her new venture.  She will likely be replaced in the restaurant, but she will never be replaced in our hearts.

Godspeed, Kaitlin.

And where would we be without Christine?  Less bejeweled, that’s where.  And that’s no fun.  Our favorite shopkeeper in Cripple Creek keeps us shopping and adorns us with the most beautiful baubles and gems.

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Her shop, 9494, is cleverly named after the town’s altitude.  Given her charm, grace and allure, we feel even higher than that when we are in her store, and especially in her presence.

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The native donkey herd that roams the streets freely in the spring and summer (as shown here on our Labor Day trip)

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is taken to pasture for the fall and winter–with shelter.  Tourists who miss them in their off season—like us—are urged to visit them in their winter home just outside of town.  The shopkeepers supply the donkey treats, and we do the rest.

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Perhaps the three of us—at times–have something in common with the asses…

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Rhonda, however, doesn’t appear to let that affect her.  She became Gail’s neighbor at the Blackjack table on Friday, and came back on Saturday, too.  We hung out there too; Suzanne even tossed a few chips out next to Gail.

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In an unprecedented joint decision between the three of us, Rhonda became our honorary sister for the weekend.  She was one of us, and we welcomed her into our circle.  Gail typically befriends the others risk-takers at the blackjack table, and by the end of the weekend, she has either renewed her friendship with, or created new ones with the dealers and pit bosses.  Only Gail has that skill, the ability to turn tough guys—and girls too–into butter.  We tried to take a picture of one of our favorite tough guys, but he assertively reminded us that pictures inside the casino were not legal.  Sorry JR, we snapped the one above accidentally on Friday before you told us that on Saturday.  Oops!

An honorable mention and a shout-out (pun intended) goes out to Dave and his wife Charlie, our other new friends at the blackjack table until Dave’s excessive decibel level created the false notion that perhaps he was breaking another casino law:  no gambling while intoxicated.  We know better, and JR was just doing his job.  Still, they are keepers in our memories.

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Speaking of memories, March 4th was a memorable date; a bitter-turned-sweet-bitter date.  A date that will never be forgotten in our family.

My work keeps me closely acquainted with death as a fact of life.  Before my parents died, I would see this stark reality, and somehow push it aside, not letting myself actually believe I would likely lose each of my parents to illness.  I didn’t let myself go there in my mind; I somehow managed to avoid it, magically thinking “So far, I’m lucky.  Perhaps I won’t have to deal with that.”  The thought of losing either of them was too much to bear.  Seeing the illnesses that some of my patients succumbed to, I simply assumed that if they were to die, it would be due to illness.  Never in my wildest nightmares did I think I would lose them the way I did.

A part of me died with them—at least for awhile.  At the moment the news was delivered, I felt a death blow myself.  Crawling up out of that dark pit, first on my knees, then eventually pulling myself upright again, took more strength than I ever wanted to possess.

But I did possess it; we all did.  It was there.  And we keep growing stronger.  But that’s not to say I don’t still have my moments.  Like on the morning we left Cripple Creek, the morning of March 4th–the ten-year anniversary of their deaths.  We played John Denver on our way out of Cripple Creek that morning.  The morning of our departure is always blue, but this one was closer to black.  For me, for a brief moment, it was a Rocky Mountain Low—but just for a moment.  I don’t even think Gail and Suzanne knew I shed a few silent tears in the back seat.  Then, as quick as they came, they were gone, and I was okay.  I was tired and still blue, but, just as I have known for many years now, they are still with us.

I wouldn’t have believed anyone who said this if I hadn’t experienced it, but if you believe that love never dies, you get to carry the most precious part of them with you at all times in your heart, and that can never be taken away—not even by death.   I feel them within me; their spirits will live on through all of us, and all we need to do is look within.  They are always there—just as Mom told us she would be in The Letter.  And dare I say this:  sometimes it is even more whole, more powerful than when they were here on earth with us.

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The darkness always turns to light, and the blues always give way to brighter colors and brighter days ahead.  Remembering the importance of something to look forward to, I came home Sunday night with ten minutes to change clothes and turn around to go to the beautiful art-deco theater in the downtown of our small city to take in this incredible performer:

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Mom knew how much I always loved his music, and I know she had a hand in this.  Plus, the theater director has a long history of scheduling the most incredible shows on important dates for me like birthdays and anniversaries—thanks Jane.

The blues faded, and by Sunday night—even though Gail and Suzanne didn’t go to the show, we were all Back in the High Life Again—thanks Steve.

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Soon, the skies will be mostly blue, with perhaps only a cloud or two.

29103692_2048586151822965_5939430490325909504_n[1]The green grass will soon return, and our smiles and laughter will be in full bloom again.  And, in our usual style, we will continue to March Forth.  

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MARCH FORTH

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MARCH FORTH

“Our lives are made by the deaths of others.”   Leonardo Da Vinci

This may very well be the shortest, but hardest post to write.  Yet it may carry the most meaning, at least for the three of us.

I write as I sit alone in our beautiful, spacious, Victorian-style room in Cripple Creek, Colorado on Saturday, March 3rd.  Gail and Suzanne are off doing their things, and I am doing mine.  We love our togetherness, but alone-ness is great, too.   We are relishing this time away in this beautiful mountain town.

I opened my laptop, and turned on the TV, searching for inspiration just to begin this post.  How do I find words on this day, this sacred day ten years ago when we last saw our parents alive at our grandmother’s funeral?  This day before March 4th, the day our  parents died?   What words of adequate weight can I possibly conjure?  Common sense told me to leave the TV off to let the thoughts gel into words, but I turned on a rerun of Criminal Minds, just for some noise.

As it began at 4:00, the first words spoken for this episode were “Our lives are made by the deaths of others.”  Sometimes the perfect words just show up at the perfect time from sources we would never expect.

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Gail, Suzanne and I are having more fun and adventure than mere words can possibly confer, but my attempt to do just that will wait until next week.  Of course, it won’t be a tell-all; it never is.  A tell-some is what you will get, as usual.  There are some things we don’t share with everyone, and this, I feel, is the way it should be among sisters like us.

Sisters like us who loved our parents beyond words, and lost them beyond words too.  But this loss has made us who we are; it is the crucible that forged us into the women of strength we are.  When their deaths brought us to our knees in complete and searing heartbreak, it also planted within us seeds that would grow from barren devastation into amazingly strong, resilient and joyful living beings.

And so here we are.  Here we are every day, for the last 3,653 days. And every day builds on the next.  Every day we move forward, and every day we do what we can to find joy, to make even more joy for ourselves, for those in our lives, and hopefully on a grand scale, it will be shared and spread far and wide.   Every day we try to live our lives in honor of our parents, trying to further their legacies of love and peace.  Every day we March Forth.

Our lives are not perfect or painless, but they are full, rich and beautiful, just like theirs were.  Our lives—as we know them today—were made by the deaths of our parents.

Thank you for joining us on our weekly adventure.  Next week, I promise, I will share enough to give you a really good idea of just how much fun we are having this week—but I won’t tell all.

This week, I ask this of you:  whatever your hardships or heartbreaks are today, please know there are brighter days ahead.  With faith, love and a little elbow grease, things are going to be okay.  They might even be more than okay.  If you forge through the pain, do the work and have faith, you, too, will find yourself marching forth into a place of greater strength, hope and happiness.   We are living proof.

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If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, so my child can have peace.”   Thomas Payne

The Criminal Minds episode ended as I finished this post, and it closed with this quote.    Sometimes the words really do come at the perfect times.

MARCH FORTH, my friends.  

 

SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO

 

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SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO

When my boys were perhaps ten and thirteen, I asked them what their favorite day of the week was.  Without hesitation or delay, they resoundingly answered:  “Friday.”

“But you are in school on Friday,” I replied.

My older son responded quickly:  “I know, but you know that you have the weekend ahead.”  Sullied already at this tender age.

We normally kept their intake of candy and soda to a minimum, which made them look forward to getting it.   So, in an effort to ease their Monday pain, I decided they would each be treated to a can of pop and a candy bar after school on Mondays.  For several years, this worked well.  I kept both on hand, and they loved it.  They tell me now it helped them get through Mondays.   I gave them something to look forward to.

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ADVISORY:  This post is heavy stuff, and not really funny.  I am writing about it only because it is something many of us share, but don’t share with each other.  I know the power of the group, and if I can make even a few of you feel a bit better by knowing you are not alone, then my work for the week will be done.

Oh, and there are few pictures.  Sorry, but you don’t really want to see pictures of most of this.  I promise I will do my best to bring you back up by the end.

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The post-holiday/dead-of-winter blues came calling last week.  These unwanted visitors found me, perhaps they found you, too.  They typically make their rounds this time of year, probably because they know the field is fertile, and the targets are easy to hit.  Quietly, in their sneaky fashion, they ambushed me.  I wasn’t prepared.  As the temperature outside hovered near zero, I felt my personal weather inside freeze over too.  I tumbled, slowly but surely, down into the abyss.

I have been down there before, so I recognized the terrain.   I hate it.

Their vague, dark presence shape-shifted slowly into a single creature, thus leveling the playing field to one-on-one.  This would be to my advantage in the end.

“Damn you!”  I said to the beast.  He had found me again.

Then, as suddenly as he accosted me, I made a snap decision, a choice:  “This doesn’t work for me.”   I decided to fight back.  I realized I was in control, not the other way around.  I wasn’t powerless, as I often think I am.  Neither might you be at times like these.

I’m sick of your crap,” I said to him.  “I’m not going to take it anymore.”

Then, the coup de grace, my death blow to him:  “You’re not the boss of me.”

And I got up.  I was still at the bottom of the pit, but I was standing up.  He threw his weight around, trying to hold me down, but I fought back.  I moved.  I pushed forward.  He pushed back.

I started to act.  Action begets action; this I knew, so I simply moved.

I vacuumed.

I put my laundry away.

I tidied up my room.

I was feeling better already.  I still felt his presence, but I was edging him out, and he wasn’t too happy about that.  He wanted the stage front and center, but I had effectively shoved him off to the side a bit.  I kept moving and doing.  I did things I enjoy doing.

I read a good book.

I did a few yoga stretches.

I got my colored pencils and color book out and filled in the black and white with color.

He was still lurking as I crawled back to the surface.  He was pissed because he knew I was winning the battle, and I would continue to win the war, too.

And I did.  He moved on, hanging his head low in defeat.

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There are times in life when it’s not that easy.  I have had long periods of time when I couldn’t shake the blues, or when I needed help beyond my own powers in order to pull through dark days.

About two weeks after my parents died, I took off out of my driveway for my daily run along the highway, but well into the grass on the side of the road.

My beloved doctor, the healer who had delivered my two babies and had cared for our family for over ten years, lived just past my rural home.  She drove by my house every day on her way to heal many other people.   On this day, she stopped.  Pulling over into the grass next to me, she got out of her car and, exercising her healing powers right there by the side of the road, gave me a hug.

I am so sorry,” she said in her genuine, heartfelt healing way.

“I’m okay,” I replied, as a tear fell from my eye.

She wiped it, and said, “No, you’re not.  I will do anything I can to help you.  I will write you a prescription if you need it to get through.  Anything at all, I will do what I can to help you.”

And then she got back in her car, apologizing for being in a hurry, but she had surgery to attend to.  She always found a moment to help, no matter how busy she was.

Perhaps I should have taken her up on that.  I saw her several months later for my annual physical, and after listening to my heart, she said, “It’s funny, you can’t hear a broken heart.”

I chose not to take any medication.  Sometimes I wonder if it would have helped me through those darkest of all my dark days.  It may have healed my broken heart a bit sooner.   It helps many people, and it may have helped me, too.

I kept running.  That was my drug; my solace. It still is.  As long as I can move, I plan to get out there every day and crush the blues; stomp on the demons when they call.  And they do call from time to time.  They do still win a few battles, but so far, I am winning the war.  They’re not the boss of me.

I did seek out a grief support group in the summer after my parents died in March.  I knew the power of the group, a group that has been there.  I attended one, and I realize I should have researched it a bit more, because it consisted mostly of elderly widows and widowers. I left feeling worse than when I arrived.  The prevailing mood of the group can be summed up in the comment made to me by one man:  “It’s been five years since my wife died, and it hasn’t gotten any better.  You just have to live with it.”

While I do believe firmly in the power of any organized support group, I realized there likely was not group specifically for middle-aged women who had recently lost both of their parents in an accident, so I resigned myself to the notion that my family and friends, and especially my sisters would be my best support group.

And they have been.

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There are skilled, knowledgeable and experienced professionals who can help turn even a locomotive around to a new destination, who can offer a new perspective on old problems, and generally can help get a train wreck back on the tracks.  I have sought out such help in the past, and I urge anyone who may feel the need to consider it.  I am a better woman for it.  Our mother used to say it was a sign of strength, not weakness, to ask for help.   We owe it to ourselves to use every tool in the shed we need to get through these tough times.

We all feel pain, and we all deal with it on our own terms.  I look up to Gail in so many ways, and her way of dealing with such pain works for her, but I needed more than my own powers.  She believes in the need for help, but provides her own.  Keeping busy, spinning all those plates in the air and reminding herself she is stronger than all of that crap is her way of moving forward.  I think the blues are scared of her, and they should be.  It would be a losing battle from the word GO.  So they stay away.

Perhaps they are learning that they shouldn’t mess with me, either.  They are learning I am cut from the same cloth as Gail.   I’m on to their sneaky ways, and that simply doesn’t work for me.  Perhaps Gail’s inspiration to beat the blues is finally reaching me.

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WHY I POST ON SUNDAY NIGHTS

This was the original title for this post.  I wanted to share my weekly blog on Sunday nights, which, to me, is the darkest of all evenings.  I have long fought the temporary blues that begin to settle in the late afternoon hours on Sunday, reminding me that the night is coming, followed by the hardest morning of the week.  At least, what I perceive as the hardest morning.

Except that Monday morning usually turns out just fine.  I realized I spend an entire evening dreading its arrival, making that evening worse than the following morning, effectively wasting a perfectly good evening.

I have learned I am not alone.  This seems to be the prevailing notion among those of us who work a standard work week.

During the four year period when I was between degrees, I led a gypsy-like lifestyle, holding several jobs in an effort to utilize my illustrious degree in sociology.  One of my many endeavors was waiting tables.  It turned out to be one of my favorite jobs of all time.  I typically worked Friday-Saturday-Sunday nights, and the manager kindly gave me Mondays off.  I loved Mondays then.  It didn’t take me long to welcome them after dreading them all my previous working years.

It didn’t take me long to return to the Monday morning dread when I returned to the standard workweek.

We seem to be programmed that way, so whatever we can do to undo that pattern is a good thing.  Which is why I chose Sunday evenings as my weekly post night.  Just as much for me as for you, dear reader, I hate to admit.  Of course, I wanted to offer some positivity for my readers, but committing myself to a weekly Sunday evening post gave me some purpose, a goal to achieve, and something to look forward to.

I cannot put into words my gratitude for the positive change I have felt on Sunday nights since I began this endeavor.  Your readership and feedback have made me look forward to Sunday nights now.  Some of you have mentioned that you look forward to Sunday nights to read my posts, and my heart swells to know I actually helped you through this evening, which many of you likely dread as well.

Our parents gave us so much wisdom, so much positive influence that should be shared.  I remember this advice from Mom:  “Always have something to look forward to.”

This advice has helped me beyond measure.  When I find myself battling the blues, I focus on something—anything—in my near future that will bring me any measure of joy—even something so slight as getting back to a good book before bed that night.  In these short, dark, cold days of winter, I especially need to have something on my calendar to anticipate, something to look forward to.  Throughout the year, too, I try to keep something planned, even if it is a movie night, or a lunch date.

Something to look forward to.

I have read that when planning a big trip, allow yourself plenty of time to plan, and especially to anticipate it.  Don’t deny yourself the joy of looking forward to it, because, if you think about it, that really is half the fun.  When the time arrives for the trip to commence, we all know how quickly it flies from there.

Which is precisely why Gail, Suzanne and I plan our trips twice each year, knowing full well how much fun the anticipation is, how much we enjoy looking forward to it.  As soon as we return from one trip, we begin to anticipate the next one.  It’s how we get through.

On March 4th of this year, our family will observe the ten year anniversary of our parents’ passing.   We have turned March Fourth into March Forth, and we will continue to do so.  Gail, Suzanne and I are planning our usual Colorado trip, plus a little something extra for the ten-year jubilee—we really are celebrating their lives, not mourning our loss—but we’re not sure just yet what it will be.  We likely won’t give any details ahead of time, and we may not even share the juicy details afterward.  These trips and our experiences on them are our secret, sacred shared bond.  We’ve earned it.

When we return home that Sunday night, March 4th, 2018, I will then attend an 8:00 pm concert with my husband and neighbors in my small city.  My mother knew how much I have always loved the classic English rock music of Steve Winwood, and she has arranged for him to play live for me—and several thousand other people—on that special night.

I have so much to look forward to.

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I read this long before my parents died: psychologists theorize that if a person loses a loved one, given enough time, they will return to their former state of happiness or unhappiness.  They referred to it as a “fixed point,” meaning that after the fluctuation smoothes out, the dial goes back to where it was before the loss.

I wasn’t buying it.  No, not me.  I would have to be buried next to my loved one.  Throw in the towel; I would be done.

But I wasn’t done.  I moved on, we all did.  At that point, that is the only choice.  And now, almost ten years later, I can say that not only have I returned to that fixed point, I have blown past it.  It took precious time and effort, but here I am; here we all are.  Life is so good.

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My hometown lost a legend this week, an iconic figure who was a close friend of my parents, whose large family grew up with mine.  My heart breaks for them, but they are living the faith their father died in, and they, too, will return to that “fixed point” in time.  My prayer is that they, too, will blow past it.

Edgar was a comedian in his own right, and a musician as well.  He couldn’t read a note of music, but he could play the piano by ear like you’ve never heard.  He delighted in playing for groups large and small.

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Godspeed to you Edgar.  May you rest in peace, but also in laughter and music.  Heaven gained not only an angel with you, but an entertainer as well.  I will do whatever I can to help your family realize that while they feel the pain right now, they, too, have so much to look forward to.  And please tell my parents we are looking forward to seeing them again someday.