THREE PAIR OF GLOVES

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THREE PAIR OF GLOVES

The words “Thank you for your service” seem to be the best we have to thank our service men and women.  It’s what I say when I see one in uniform and I reach out to speak to this stranger.   It’s meaningful, and it is always appreciated.

It’s also what I say to the veterans I know when I want to express my gratitude for what they have done for me, for you and for our country.

If I dug a little deeper, put a little more heart in it, I might find something like this:

There are no words strong enough to express my gratitude for the sacrifices you have made.  I want you to know how much I appreciate your service.”

I have one veteran in my family.  My father-in-law Marvin served in the Korean War.  I called him yesterday to offer my gratitude on Veteran’s Day.

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I sent an unspoken thank you to all the others.

Just like Thanksgiving Day, we should make Veteran’s Day every day.  We should go out of our way to thank them.  Be it for their service, or any other gifts from any other giver, we can never express gratitude too much.

The words “I am sorry for your loss” seem to be the best we have to express sympathy.  I say it to some people, but now that I have been on the receiving end, I try to dig a little deeper.

In the 150-plus cards I received after my parents died, there were three friends who sent cards—not even close friends—who wrote these words of gold I will never forget, and words of gold I now use:  “My heart breaks for you.”

I cannot find words that go any deeper in my heart.

If it is a parent of a friend or loved one, I also offer this:

We are never old enough to lose our Mom/Dad,” because we aren’t.

**

Our dad escaped the draft because of his flat feet.  Now, several of his seven children—including myself—have flat feet.  I don’t complain; I may not be here without them.  He was never outfitted in a military uniform, but he did wear another uniform for very special occasions.  The gloves were part of the uniform, and if not for a third pair of gloves, I may not be here either.

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I wrote the following piece earlier this year. 

I will never forget the gloves.  I gave them to Mom as she sat under the green tent at her mother’s funeral.  It was a cold, but bearable early March day in Wichita, Kansas.  I was standing behind her, and I noticed she had her hands clasped tight in her lap.  I wanted her to have them; she was burying her mother and I wanted to comfort her in whatever small way I could.  So I gave her my gloves.  Her hands were in mine, so to speak.

I wore those gloves five days later as I stood under another green tent—it’s always green–to bury my father and my own mother, the woman who, just five days earlier had these same gloves wrapped around her living hands as she buried her mother.   I held the hand of one brother and one sister; we held on to each other literally and figuratively in order to get through.

I retired the black leather gloves soon thereafter.  I panicked for a moment when I thought I had lost one of them, but it showed up.  I tucked them away in my bottom dresser drawer alongside other keepsakes.

**

My father was a Fourth-Degree Knight in the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization.  They were knighted and outfitted in a regal, caped tuxedo with a plumed hat fit for a prince, a red-white-and-blue band that stretched from shoulder to the other side of the waist and a sword in a sheath on the opposite side of the waist.  The final touch was a pair of thin, bright-white gloves.

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The Fourth-Degree Knights would stand in full regalia in a majestic honor guard fit for a king when one of their own died.  Knights from nearby towns would come if they were available.  It was a solemn duty; one to be fulfilled if at all possible.

I remember my dad donning his tuxedo and all the extras.  As a child, it seemed mysterious when he would leave the house for a funeral fully garbed, but as I grew up, I saw the majesty.

I didn’t realize it until his own funeral, but apparently, he was the one who would cajole and beg other Knights to find a way to travel far and near to stand guard for one of their own.  One of the other Knights told me this, and took it upon himself to assume his powers of persuasion, and assemble a sizeable group for my dad’s funeral, since he did it for everyone else.

And it was sizeable.  He had a salute fitting for the earthly, humble king he was.   The Knight and his dame of 50 years got a special salute—women don’t normally get the honor guard treatment.

Along with other precious possessions, we were left with his tuxedo and accoutrements.  We turned in the tux, the sword and the hat in order for some other Knight to use it.  My brother was going to take the gloves and band and turn them in as well, but I stopped him.

Do we have to give those away, or can I keep them?”  I asked.

“No, they are his, we can do whatever we want with them,” he said.

So I kept them.  They are sitting in the bottom drawer, next to my black leather gloves that Mom wore.  They are sealed in a thin plastic bag, apparently they had just been professionally cleaned.   I kept the band too.  It bears the insignia of the Knights of Columbus.

I plan to let them rest there.

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I started writing this after I found a little ditty I had already written about my gloves some time ago.  I felt like writing more, so I sat down and let it flow.  Not knowing what was coming, or what I would eventually do with it, I just kept writing.  It felt good.  The part about Dad’s gloves came to mind, and it seemed fitting to add that to the story.

I sent the first part to my older sister, ending just after describing Dad’s gloves.  She is my sounding board, my cheerleader, my positive and constructive critic.  What she replied back with took my breath away for a moment.

I had forgotten the story about Mom’s gloves.

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My parents met on a blind date.  They lived three hours apart; Mom in the city and Dad on the farm.  They wrote letters to fill the hungry gaps of time when they didn’t get to see each other as often as they wanted to.

This was 1955, and long-distance telephone charges applied.  So letters it was.

Mom saved hers, and Dad saved his.  When they married, they combined them in a box.  When they died, we got the box.  I couldn’t bear to read any of them early on, and my sister took the box.

“Don’t you remember the story about the gloves?”  she asked when she replied with immediate feedback.  “In one of the letters, after one of their first dates, Mom said she left her gloves in Dad’s car on purpose so he would have to get in touch with her again.”

Without those gloves, I may not be here.

I knew I needed to honor my gloves that Mom wore. I knew after I almost lost one of them that I needed to keep my black leather gloves in a safe and special place, and then place Dad’s white gloves next to them.

**

I wish I had Mom’s pair of gloves from their date.

I wish I could offer my gloves to my mom again.

I wish I could see my dad in his Fourth-Degree Knight regalia again, gloves and all.

I wish I could hold both their hands right now.

I wish the damn cemetery tent could be orange or maybe even yellow sometimes.   Perhaps a little twist with a paisley print or maybe some tie-dye would brighten things up a little.

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First, Dad wasn’t drafted.  That kept him here to meet Mom.  Next, the gloves.  Finally, to complete the trifecta that fate perhaps orchestrated, I must tell another story, just like the one about the gloves, one I recently learned from Gail.

Mom and Dad met on a blind date.  This I knew.  What I didn’t know was that Dad was not the first choice in this fateful match.

We’ll call him Fred.  Fred was the man my uncle had lined up to meet my mom, but Fred apparently had too much fun the night before.  By the time the scheduled date came around, Fred was in no shape to meet my mom.  My uncle rounded Dad up as a fill-in at the last moment, and the rest, well, you know.

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I am so thankful for the series of events that allowed me and my siblings to be born.

I am so thankful for the service of all veterans that continues to allow me to live freely in the United States of America.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.

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I wish you the peace I feel now over nine years later, knowing their hands are guiding me along my path every day, in every way.  Hands that no longer need gloves.

I wish our veterans peace every day, peace of mind to continue to live their lives to the fullest, despite the sometimes unimaginable pain and suffering they have seen as part of their service.

MY HEART BREAKS FOR YOU.

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Gail’s beloved mother-in-law Mildred passed away peacefully on Tuesday with her family at her side.  She was an incredible woman whose smile will never be forgotten.  She  became the Thanksgiving Matriarch for my family at Gail’s when Mom was gone.

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She will be missed, because we are never old enough to lose our mothers.

My heart breaks for her family.

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Recall that my plan was to dress as Rosie the Riveter at Halloween.  Because this blog is dedicated to optimism, Rosie will be my final image and thought:

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WE CAN DO IT!

 

SISTER SARAH

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As I prepare my post for publication in three days, I am reflecting back on this day.  Today, Thursday, October 19th, 2017, would have been our parents’ 60th wedding anniversary.  I am celebrating their day in peace, remembering the party we had for them ten years ago just a few months before they died.  It mostly brings me joy.  It wasn’t always that way; it has been a long journey. 

My parents, Ed and Liz, at their 50th wedding anniversary celebration.

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I pray, hope and wish for the same joy and peace for anyone enduring grief–new or not-so-new–anyone I know or don’t know who struggles along their way in this journey.  

This post was written in April, and this week I am honoring my dear friend Marilyn for her birthday, with a tribute to  her sister Sarah.  Wednesday, October 25th is Marilyn’s birthday; send her a wish if you know her!  The picture below was taken after Sarah’s funeral. As always, I am honoring my two sisters; I am so grateful for them.

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Laughter after the tears.

Sister Sarah

I have something very important to tell you.   Put your phone down, listen close and focus:  you won’t want to miss this.  I’m only going to say it once, and there will be a test.  It is important to say the least.  To say the most, it is the secret that, when realized, can bring you boundless joy.  It is a lifelong quest, and I work toward it every day.  Here it is:

Life is short.

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I went to Sarah’s funeral today.  I didn’t know Sarah well; that didn’t matter.  It was my turn to be there for Marilyn.  Sarah was a 42 year-old woman:  a wife, a mother of two sons and a daughter, a daughter of living parents, a professional in my field; a beloved sister.  I put the professional part before the sister part for a reason, I’ll explain in a bit.

Six months ago, Sarah was a vibrant, healthy woman.  Her smile and her spirit surrounded those around her.  Then she was diagnosed with neuro-endocrine cancer.  Extremely rare; no cure.

I met Sarah several times when she was perhaps ten, and then again briefly in her teens.  I don’t remember how many times or when, but I do remember her smile.  It was the same vibrant one beaming from her grade school picture on the table of memories at the funeral dinner today.  It was a smile of knowing, even then.

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Marilyn was my potluck roommate in the dorm my freshman year of college.  She was a sophomore, and advancing quickly toward her bachelor’s degree, with her sights set on a master’s degree in her field.  I was intrigued by her major, and, like Sarah, her smile and spirit surrounded the people around her.

That was 33 years ago.  I am still intrigued, and Marilyn’s smile and spirit still surround me every time I am around her.  

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Four years after I graduated with a bachelor’s degree from that very college, Marilyn, unwittingly, inspired me to go back for an advanced degree in her field.

She inspired Sarah too.  Sarah went through graduate school in the same program at a different college.  Married.  With a baby.

Sarah is Marilyn’s little sister by 10 years.  I met Sarah when I went home with Marilyn during college, and likely saw her at Marilyn’s wedding, birthday party and the like.  I have kept in touch with Marilyn throughout our lives, and I remember her speaking of Sarah—and her other four siblings—often. They are a close family, much like mine.  They have incredible parents, much like mine were.  It all seemed well and good, all of them living happily ever after.

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Then, in the one second it takes to deliver the diagnosis, all their lives changed.  Six months later, Sarah was gone.  For us, the one second was the final second.  Either way, we both now speak and understand that language, the foreign tongue no one wants to be forced to learn.

Marilyn helped me work toward a degree to help others improve their language and communication, now I will help her with her advanced degree in grief-ese.

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I love, adore and cherish my sisters.  I hope I have made that abundantly clear.  Marilyn’s love, adoration and cherishing of her sisters is no less than mine.   We didn’t lose the same loved ones, but it’s all the same language.

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Above left to right:  Angela, Joyce, Sarah, Marilyn.

Below left to right:  Marilyn, Angela, Joyce, Sarah.

 

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Just like my sisters, they, too, know the importance of smiles and laughter.

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In our profession of speech-language pathology, we separate language into receptive—that which we take in from others typically by listening, and expressive—that which we put out to others, typically by speaking.  A newborn child is exposed to receptive language in their environment (hopefully), and it usually takes a year for the baby to speak.  One year, one word.  That is our general guideline.  They must first be exposed to their native language to understand it, then they can begin to speak it.  They must take it in before they can put it out.

In the language of grief, this process is reversed.   Those of us who have endured loss may never understand this foreign language, yet we speak fluently in this new tongue in an effort to understand it.  We express in order to receive understanding.   Sometimes we know what words to say, we just don’t know how to find the meaning in loss, how to comprehend the what and the why of it all.

Marilyn had six months to receive this meaning, yet it cannot be grasped before the loss, if ever.  I had one moment, and while my learning process is slow, I continue to learn.

Sarah began making plans shortly after the diagnosis.  Plans for her children, plans for her children’s future children, plans for her own funeral.  She accepted her short future with faith, grace, bravery and action.  She knew, short of a miracle, that her life was indeed short.  Not many of us get that kind of warning for ourselves, or our loved ones.  She took it and ran.  She lapped most people with her energy, optimism and grace.  She only stopped when she was physically unable to do anything else, but left no business undone.  She brought peace to situations that needed it.  She got her affairs in order in grand style.  She traveled and lived it up with her family until she no longer could.    She knew the life is short secret, and worked it.   Her short life was boundlessly joyful before the diagnosis, and, as Marilyn reports, was even more joyful after the diagnosis.

Marilyn, in her trademark intuition, wisdom and advanced comprehension of all things linguistic, is unwittingly enhancing my understanding of this language of loss.  The language no one wants to speak, and especially not to understand.    Sarah, who was a sister in profession to me and Marilyn, and a beloved sister to Marilyn,  gave me joy through Marilyn.  She taught me, and I thought I was a master teacher.

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It has been said that if we could put our problems out on the table along with everyone else’s and have the opportunity to take back someone else’s instead of our own, most of us would take our own back.

I know I would.

I tell people who were given time to prepare for their loved one’s death that they got the better deal because they got the long goodbye.  Except that I tell myself that I got the better deal because I got no suffering.

Now that I have made peace with my own form of loss, I wouldn’t trade it.  I would, however, trade the valuable insight and the resilience I didn’t ask for to have them back.  Even for a day.   I have, however, grown quite fond of this insight and resilience.  It is a part of me now, and it has enriched my life.

I have come to an understanding with my grief.  It is mine, it knows me and now, after nine years, I know it too.  The now-docile beast resides peacefully next to me, and only rears its ugly head once in a while now, instead of most of the time then.  I have trained it well, and it usually behaves.   Triggers like holidays and sad movies are its obvious green lights, but it sneaks in its turn even with obscure things like a certain song she liked, or a plaid shirt just like he wore.  I have turned the lion tamer’s whip and chair around and am using them on the caged beast, instead if it using them on me.  It obeys me.  It knows I mean business.

Still, sometimes like today, when a patient’s family member talked about losing the love of her life in an accident, I got a little teary.

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I was once sure I would have to be buried next to either of my parents when they were laid to rest.  I was sure I wouldn’t make it.  Just bury me too.  I didn’t let my thoughts go to that dark and scary place in my mind where, somewhere in the future, one of my parents would die.  It was too much, and I was sure I couldn’t face it.

But I did when we buried them both on the same day.

On March 4th, 2008, our parents were killed in a car accident.  They were driving home the day after our grandmother’s funeral.

Now, nine years later, I would take it all back if it was put on the table with everyone else’s losses, because, I am sure now that I got the better deal.  Most days, I am at peace with my loss.  It wasn’t always that way.

We have done our best to turn that black square on the calendar into March Forth, and for the most part, we have left the darkness behind.   Sometimes, it is one step up and two steps back, but we are so far ahead of where we started.  It is a hard-fought, ongoing war, but we continue to win battles both large and small.

My wish for Marilyn, her family and anyone enduring grief is that you will arrive at a place where you can say you have made peace with the beast of grief.  The beast typically never leaves, never vanishes, but we can learn to live with it, control it and shout at it from time to time, proclaiming “You’re not the boss of me,” and really mean it.  “Maybe you once were, but not anymore.  I am stronger than you now, so leave me alone.  Get away.  Shoo.”  And it will.

I pray for strength for your journey.

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So here’s the test, and a lab assignment I didn’t warn you about:  If you lost a loved one in the next second, or in the next six months, would you be ready?   And would you survive and experience joy again?  Or, if you were given a short time to live, would you live it to the fullest, like Sarah did?

And here’s the right answer:  Yes, if you have fully embraced the non-negotiable truth:  Life is short.

Now get out there and prove it.  Have fun and be an Instrument of Peace where need be, just like Sarah was.  Your lab assignment is life itself.   Go live it like your life depends on it, because it does.

Every day. 

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I had a great half-hour phone conversation with Marilyn one week ago.  Among other things, she spoke of a visit we had one week after the funeral.  Tracy and Denise, our other two former roommates from the 1985-86 college year, gathered in Wichita with us to celebrate Marilyn and the wonderful life of her sister.  

Both Tracy and Denise have lost sisters.  They, too, understand.  We talked, laughed, reminisced, and enjoyed each other’s company.  Mostly, we laughed.

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None of us would have missed this opportunity to re-connect, but Marilyn told me in our phone conversation that this visit meant the world to her.  One week later, when she felt the world had forgotten, and that life surely could not go on without her sister, we were living proof that there is joy to be found after loss.  

I wish all of you this same joy.  It is out there to be found after loss, so please hold on and keep looking.

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Dedicated to the memory of Sarah Hageman Probst:  September 22, 1974-April 15th, 2017. And, as always, to the loving memory of my parents.  Happy Heavenly Anniversary Mom and Dad. 

 

SWHEAT GIRLS PART TWO: NOTHING IS SURE BUT SISTERHOOD–AND THIS BRAND NEW TATTOO

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WELCOME BACK TO THE SISTER LODE!

This week I am honoring not only my sisters, but a special pair of sisters who have been an integral part of my life for many years.  Thanks for joining us!

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Left to right:  Tana, me, Amy

**

I wish I would have rolled that word around in my mouth a little longer back then, like a piece of hard candy.  I wish I would have realized its bitterness before I uttered it, before it had to be swallowed all these years later.  Now, it tastes more sour than sweet.

NEVER.

As in, “I am NEVER going to get a tattoo.”

I don’t know how many people I likely uttered it to in the last, oh, say, 30 years or so.  Probably at least several, because I thought it many, many, many times.

Life has a strange way of turning us into liars, even when we don’t want to lie.  Especially when we so desperately wanted to hang on to the truth as we once knew it.

The truth, however, is that the truth about ourselves changes.  It changes with us as we grow, as we evolve into that better person we are now today, different from the person we were yesterday.

And this is a good thing.  This is a thing to be honored at all costs.

**

Eight hours ago, I waved the big driveway wave as my dear friends drove away.   They were here for six days, and those six days raced by like six hours.  The other half of the group left before sunrise yesterday; we bade adieu before bed two nights ago.   Back to Phoenix they went.

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These two groups consist of two dear sisters and their families.  These two women have been in my life since 1984 when I was a mere 18 years old, and they were 12 and 8.

I was their babysitter. Now, their children are older than they were when I met them.  I wasn’t so much a babysitter as a household manager and a companion.  They lived with their farmer father during the summers, and their mother in Phoenix for the school year.  Their dad was a busy man who covered a lot of ground—farm ground– and he needed help with his daughters during his busy season.

And so it began.

We have pictures from their visits from the last 20-plus years; one such picture shows both me and the older sister pregnant with our now-almost 17 year old sons.   And here’s one from several years after that, with my sons flanking hers:

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Then, in just a few blinks of an eye, here they are again:

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They haven’t missed a year.  Their children, they tell me, start asking weeks ahead:  “How soon until we leave?”

We do essentially nothing.  We drink coffee until noon, work on a puzzle, talk, eat and then swim in our small above-ground pool.  We may enjoy a cold libation or two.   For the 4th of July, however, we become more festive.  We shoot fireworks, go fishing, and the boys hunt bullfrogs— as they are preparing to do above, and cook them for all of us to eat.  We have an annual water balloon fight.  We simply have fun, because, if you remember from my first post, fun is generally under-rated and under-exercised.

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And, of course, we do a puzzle.

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The girls and I love to bake; their mothers don’t.  This year, it was fresh cherry pie with cherries from our backyard tree, raisin cream pie and baklava.

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They enjoy my siblings as well; we stopped to see Suzanne at work.

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Gail passed through on her way to Michigan to see her daughter, taking her younger daughter along.  Those two sisters got to enjoy each other’s company, something they don’t always get to do.

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There are four children and one husband between them.  They are the houseguests extraordinaire.  They don’t stink after a few days, as the saying may suggest.  They are beloved by my husband and boys as well.  They know and love my siblings.  They keep the wheat separated from the chaff.  They make me laugh.  They make me cry.  They made me get another tattoo with them.

**

Tana and Amy have stuck together through thin and thick.  Through their parents’ divorce.  Through the loss of their beloved stepfather.  Through a divorce each. Through infertility, adoptions, the loss of one child’s father, estrangements, life and all it had to throw at them.  Through it all, they kept coming to see me.

Every summer, they join us for the 4th of July.  Every summer, since 1984, we have enjoyed jigsaw puzzles together.  Last summer, I was touched and honored by Tana’s idea:  “Let’s get matching tattoos of a puzzle piece with the American flag.  You have to get a border piece, because you have always held us together.”

And so we did.

This year, to celebrate our wheat farm-girl heritage, we had the same idea separately, from a thousand miles apart:  “Let’s get wheat tattoos.”

And so we did.

A single stem of wheat, with the writing of our choice woven into the stem.  Tana’s simply says “home,” because she will always think of The Wheat State as home.  Amy’s says “ad astra per aspera,” which is the motto on the Kansas state flag.   It’s Latin for “to the stars through difficulties.”  Mine, because I saw this on an antique poster long ago and have always loved it, says “swheat girl.”   Imagine that.  It is in my own handwriting.  My father likely would have rolled his eyes and laughed at this on earth, but I feel him beaming with honor and approval from above.

Each of these are small, meaningful, tastefully and discreetly placed.  That is all you need to know.

Through these difficulties, these “swheat” girls will always have a home in my home as long as they wish to come.   May they continue as long as we are all able.

**

So now I have these tattoos.  I swore I never would.  Never say never.  Greater than that, I am thinking about how I judged—and still judge– others for things besides their tattoos; other actions I have no right to pass judgment on.  Few of us ever have the right to do that.  Few of us ever have all the information.  Few of us can prove a spotless record and the authority that allows us to determine when others are doing something “wrong.”  And the definition of “wrong,” as we think we know it, may change over time, or from situation to situation.   Or our definition may be different from theirs.   I strive to make every day Non-Judgment Day.  It will be a lifelong effort for me, but I am trying.

**

In those early weeks and months after my parents died, I know my actions reflected my state of mind.  Unlike tattoos, however, this grief was hidden deep inside, invisible to anyone who didn’t know what was going on in my life.  I was likely–in alternate and unequal measures–sad, angry, flippant, depressed, crying, laughing, unaware, grouchy, sullen, short-tempered and any other emotion imaginable.  I likely treated people poorly in my efforts to make it through the day—or the moment.  If someone had treated me like that, I likely would have judged them—without having all the facts.

Now, when I encounter a grouchy waitress or an unkind stranger, I think, perhaps, “maybe her parents just died.”

I have a friend who has multiple tattoos.  She wants more.  She swore she never would.  Then, her college-age daughter died of cancer.  She pays tribute to her in this way.  It is one way she honors her daughter’s memory, and that, even though she once thought it was, will never be wrong.  Ever.

This post was hard for me to write.  It was hard to expose this part of myself.  Most of you don’t know me, but if you do, this may surprise you.  I was a wallflower for many years.  Now, I realize, I have become a wildflower.

“I never would have thought Kathleen would get tattooed.”  I hear your thoughts.  I still hear them in my head, too.  But, in order to honor that truth I spoke of in the beginning of this post, I got them.  And I am writing about them.  They are meaningful to me, just as other’s tattoos are meaningful to them.  They are art for the body, and art is a good and necessary thing—no matter what form it takes.

It’s more fun here on the wildflower side.  There was nothing wrong with life as a wallflower, but it was time.  Time to listen to the little voice that begged for expression through writing, my other favorite art forms and through the tattoos.

It is highly unlikely that my sisters will ever decide to take the tattoo plunge, and that’s the right thing for them.  They have supported my decision, and I am grateful for that.

**

No regrets, my friends.  This is as sure as sisterhood—and the tattoos.

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Once again, Happy Independence Day.  Keep it alive every day by separating the wheat from the chaff, and honoring the truth about who you are deep inside–even if it changes.

Special thanks to Brandon, our go-to guy for tattoos. Let me know if you need his expertise.  And, without the one-and-only Edgar Hake, I would have never met these “swheat” girls.

 

The Sister Lode

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I sat in 28B holding my sisters’ hands.  The take-off and landings are the hardest for me, so when I booked the trip, I put myself between them.  They are not scared.  I am.  I squeeze their hands for the first five minutes, those first five when the flight is most likely not to make it—extremely infinitesimal chance, according to one of our four brothers.  He pilots one of these silver birds; he knows.  But then, he always acted like he knew what he was talking about anyway.  We still love him, we love them all.  But this is only about sisters.

My sisters are used to my in-air neuroticism by now on this, the last of four flights to complete our trip.  We have never before flown on our travels, always by car.  We take off out of O’Hare, we will land in just under two hours.   The sun is setting to the west, and on the opposite horizon the full moon is rising.  We climb above them both.  This is something I have never seen before and may never see again.  It, like our latest adventure, is priceless.

We have had the time of our lives.  We always do.  This time it was on a beach.

**

I have always been close to my sisters, but over the last nine years, they have become my best friends.  They are always there for me, and I do what I can for them.  We don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, but that’s okay.  We respect each other’s differences.   We don’t argue.  We keep peace; we have to.  We have no choice because our mother saw to that in The Letter.

We know of many women who don’t feel such peace with their sisters.  Women who may want to feel it, but don’t know how.  Women who have the choice to opt out of peace and harmony.  We don’t have that choice, and that’s okay.  We don’t need it. We do feel the need to share our peaceable ways, to share the love.  We don’t always know how, but it usually involves simple advice like, “Figure it out,”  “It’s not about you,” “Let it go,” or “Life is too short.”  Advice that sounds easy, but is harder to put to work.   Most importantly, we teach by example.  This, my friends with and without sisters, is how we do it.   We would like to help in whatever way we can.

Perhaps we can help you too.  That is why we are here on this blog.

**

Life is short. We learned the hard way, and will never forget that lesson.   We use it now to celebrate our sisterly bond, to find all the joy we can on our travels, and to simply have fun every day, traveling or not.  Fun, we have observed among others, is generally under-exercised and underrated.  We refuse to follow that example. We try to compensate for all the fun our mother never had the time or the money to have, as well as our own share for our lifetimes.  And then some.

We post some of our antics on social media, but not all.  Some things, however, that happen on our trips, well, you know where they stay.  We don’t share it all.  We do, however, share enough to show people we have unparalleled fun; experiences that most people don’t think of having; don’t think is possible.  It is with us.

Many people ask—some in a coy, shy, roundabout fashion—if perhaps they might possibly be able to come along on one of these trips someday with us, maybe?  Perhaps? They see the fun we have, and they want to be a part of it.  Who wouldn’t?

The short answer is no.  The long answer is hell no.  Our sisterhood is the exclusive price of admission.  Nothing personal.

These are sister trips for us only, because only we three understand the importance of this time together as sisters.  We celebrate the joy in the moment, remember the good times of the past, and relish the lessons life and loss have taught us.  We stay positive.  It is a choice, and we choose positivity.  By and large, we don’t let crap creep into our lives.  We ain’t got time for that.  There is too much fun to be had; and we are out here having it.

 

**

It is fitting that our usual getaway destination is an active gold mining town.  Cripple Creek, Colorado is nestled behind Pike’s Peak, and in its heyday, it’s gold production rivaled the California Gold Rush.  The mother lode was struck there, and it became a boomtown.  There are beautiful mountains there, but no beaches.  And it was time for the beach.

We had already hit the mother lode, and the father lode too.  They were, quite simply, the best.  Now, we celebrate our sisters in the Sister Lode.

**

Most people wait five years to observe a milestone cancer survival date.  We’re not like everyone else, so my sister chose to celebrate it at four. Besides, she knows.  She has an unshakeable faith in God, in her good health and long life ahead, so why not celebrate now?

So we did.  On the beach.  Her choice.

Since we can easily make friends even with someone as cold as a snowman, we had no trouble signing up a fresh batch of folks we now call our friends in and around our new favorite warm, sunny beach town.  No snowmen here.  We have new BFFs in this delightful place; we could probably eat Thanksgiving dinner with them if we asked. We might.  Except that our oldest sister hosts Thanksgiving every year, so we probably won’t.  We will all be at her house.  Perhaps we will invite some of them to join us there.

In order to make these friends, we may need to go against some socially prescribed norms.  I’m all for that, rules are meant to be broken, or at least stretched, so we do.  Anyone who might have the good fortune to be around us when we are in this friend-making/rule-breaking mode will easily see that we mean business in our fun.  We make our own rules, and if we need to break them and remake them, we do.  For example: We just met this group of locals in this hole-in-the-wall bar, and most outsiders like us wouldn’t even talk to them, but we do, and when we leave, we will hug them and tell them we love them, and we will mean it.  Or, it’s probably not generally acceptable to most people to hug the manager/host as he greets us upon our arrival in his restaurant, or to dance with the owner—complete with a dip– as we leave, but we do it anyway.  We’ve told our life stories to the hotel clerk within five minutes of meeting her, made her laugh like never before (she says), then made her an honorary sister on the spot. 

Most people wouldn’t dream of these antics.  We don’t dream of it.  We do it.  That’s the difference between them and us.  We are doing it, and, if you want to, we want you to do it too.  Whatever it is.  Whatever makes you happy, sister.  Whatever brings you peace.

I will celebrate the wonderful sorority of true sisterhood through the bifocal lenses of Real Life and Real Loss, always from a place of peace and positivity.  I’ll double down—no, triple down–on optimism, with a healthy shot from each of us.  We want to share the love with you.

You, and perhaps your sisters—if you have any.

We’re here for you; right here in this blog.  Thanks for coming along.