Posted on | April 2, 2015 | No Comments
I want to tell you about the beauty of sitting with my grandmother as she took her last breaths, about the love that filled her house as my aunt and cousins, my mother and sister and I pulled and pressed and loved the things she held dear in her home. I want to tell you about how it felt to sit on the sofa in the boxed and folded house and to feel not so much the presence of my family, but the absence of my grandmother.
But I’m not sure those are things I can share. I’m so afraid that if I give them life on this page, they will lose their life for me and so I choose to keep them there, treasured, in the safest corners of my heart.
Today, I got up in my own home for the first time in a week. I got showered and dressed among my own things and packed J’s lunch as though nothing on Earth has changed in the past seven days. I repeated “socks and shoes” like a mantra, encouraged tooth brushing, and did all the normal, every day things that I did before that soft and still moment when my Granny slipped away.
But this morning, I made lunch in the company of pots and pans my grandmother lovingly cooked in. I drank coffee beside her living room painting, by the light of a bright milk glass lamp that sat in the room I slept in when I’d visit my Granny after Papa died in ’98. This morning I touched the glass of the Lilac painting that hovered over her living room table as I fed Riley out the back door.
I pinned a small, gold brooch to my dress just before I walked out the door… a brooch my granny wore to church, or perhaps a wedding… perhaps even my own. And all the while, I applauded myself on my return to “real life,” my re-awakening to life in Macon, life at work, life at least seven hours from the people who treasured my Granny as I did.
Because that’s what’s the hardest, you know.
I sit here in a city, and an office full of people and not one of them loved or even knew my grandmother.
But I did.
And I know that even as I sort papers and return phone calls and emails, I’ll be doing it with those memories of her gently pressed like the flowers of the sweetest corsage, and tucked in the safest corners of my heart.
Posted on | March 28, 2015 | 2 Comments
(I know. It’s not a blog post. But I doubt I will have the chance to share this with anyone any where else, and my Grandmother deserves to be loved and remembered just as all of us do. So bear with me while I just write.)
Before, there was a stillness about her… even in motion.
A type of timeless energy wrapped and coiled around
The inner workings of her mind, though
She didn’t have much to say.
Or did she.
There may have been no boisterous love,
No fierce hugs or tender kisses that would neon sign a familiar
Or familial relationship.
But there were quiet dinners, with clink of fork on plate tapping it out,
And an array of plates and baskets
Painting artwork of her emotions toward us all.
There were softened days when the constant tick of the mantle clock
Beat a timely heart song along with
The shush and shuffle of her movement through the rooms.
But there was love. Always.
Before and after.
There was love.
After, there was motion,
Even in the stillness.
Her words hit places, corners,
Curves and softness you forgot you had.
Places she knew better than most
Because, perhaps, she had those places, too.
After, there was a pouring out
That life was short and important
Was so important.
She could move you to tears
With the barest word.
She could move mountains
With the pat of her hand,
With the “woo‐hoo” call of a woman found.
But then in a moment,
In the briefest pulse of a lifetime,
She was gone.
A swirl of perfect biscuits,
Perfect pound cakes,
Perfectly flawed perfections
That you didn’t know you’d miss so much
Until they disappeared
Into the stillness.
Even in motion, she was still.
And now in stillness,
All that remains is the soft, breathless movement of her soul.
Posted on | March 24, 2015 | No Comments
Since we got home from North Carolina, I’ve been hovering in between two worlds. One foot rests firmly in my day to day, get up, get to work, come home… but the other wanders the road between here and Greensboro, wondering when the call will come in that summons me home to re-celebrate the almost 99 years of life my Granny has spent on this Earth.
It’s strange to sit and wait for a loved one to die.
J keeps asking me if Great Granny is dead yet, but it’s not so he can grieve, it’s because he knows that when she goes, he’ll get to see his cousins again. That little bit of five year old always makes me smile. He’ll ask with an almost hopeful look, and then, as if he realizes that his question might upset me, he says “I really want her to get better, though.”
But we both know that she will not get better.
I spent time on Saturday afternoon, kneeling in the dirt of my “garden” that has been woefully mistreated since sometime last spring. I remember my Granny this way, pushing my hands into dirt, feeling the sun against the back of my neck. I remember that her yard was always full to the brim with life… plants and children and birds and butterflies. My sister and I used to beg my Papa to toss us into the hammock to create a “storm” where he’d pull the netting back and forth ferociously and nip at our backs and legs with his fingers. And all the while, Granny would garden.
J came outside to sit with me for a while, asking me about Great Granny and if she’d known him “his whole life.” I told him she had… told him that for every second of his life she had not only known him, but loved him. He smiled big.
“When she dies, will Great Granny be able to walk again?” He asked with the hopefulness of someone who only tenuously grasps the idea of life and death. I told him I thought she would.
“Will she be able to see me again?”
Again, I told him she would. He thought for a moment, fingering the harmonica in his hand and looking around the yard.
“Then why doesn’t she go ahead and die?”
His question was serious and straight to the point and not for the first time, I had to wonder why we force our bodies to linger long past when they need to be moving and breathing and suffering. I started to answer him, started to go into a long and in depth explanation of life and death and Heaven and J’s sweet Great-granny… but as five year olds do, he stopped me with a question.
“Oh! Mom. When Great Granny dies, will she come back from the dead like Jesus or like a zombie?”
And we laughed.
And it was just what I needed.
Posted on | March 19, 2015 | Enter your password to view comments.
Posted on | March 18, 2015 | 2 Comments
I’ve never been much of a hugger.
I don’t really like it when people do that lean in thing where you know that at any minute they’re going to put at least one arm around you. My body goes stiff and I fall into an Ally McBeal moment where I wonder what would happen if I just stepped back and let them fall or maybe put up a karate high block like “No. Just…. no.”
Because of my … under-appreciation of hugs, I’ve always been really careful to let J know that he’s not required to hug anyone he doesn’t want to hug. When some people get offended by this, I just explain to them that he’s the master of his own body and he chooses who he lets hug him and who he hugs. Usually, my kid is a hugger, so it’s not an issue, and as I said, I generally don’t force him to make physical contact with anyone.
However, when we stopped by to see my Granny, his Great Granny, on Sunday when we left North Carolina, J asked if he could stay in the car and I could just tell her bye from him. Initially, I said that was fine. Initially, I fell into my routine of “he chooses,” and told Banks to just let it go. Then we got to my grandmother’s house and I realized that this was it. This was, without a doubt, the last time I would ever hold my Granny’s hand, kiss her forehead, or make her laugh that hoarse half-chuckle that she does when she get’s just a little “tickled” by something.
I told Banks to bring J in.
He didn’t want to hug her, of course he didn’t. She was lying there, so old and worn by time that there was barely any of her left to hold. Her hair was disheveled and her eyes were barely seeing anything and she looked, for the first time in her life, like the almost 99 year old woman that she is. He didn’t want to step closer, didn’t want to meet her outstretched arms and I knew, without asking, that he wasn’t interested in kissing or hugging this frail old woman before him.
So I did something I’ve never done.
I pushed him forward and leaned down to tell him that he absolutely, 100% HAD to hug his great-granny. And he reluctantly did it, stilted in his walk and leaning in like it pained him to even touch this woman who had greeted him into the world with the purest and happiest of loves.
And I realized that sometimes, hugs aren’t for giving, they’re for receiving. Sometimes, it’s more about what you are offering to the person before you… the love, the warmth of your touch, the comfort that comes with just being held. My Granny always says “come here and let me feel of you” and what she means, I think, is just that… she wants the comfort of holding her loved one in her arms, to feel the warmth and life that they exude.
So I made my son hug her and then I hugged her as tight as was allowed by her tiny, fragile frame. I made him hug her, not because he owed it to me, but because we, both of us, owed it to her. We owed her that gift of letting her feel the strength and life in his small body and in my own. We owed her the knowledge that after she’s gone, that strong little boy she held briefly will still be here, carrying her genes into the world. I think maybe that when you’re losing your own strength, there’s something uplifting in the physical feeling of someone elses.
Though I still don’t love hugs and I still will balk slightly when someone leans toward me, I think I’m learning that sometimes it’s not about the taking of my personal space… it’s about giving some of my strength to someone else who needs it. And I think my son is maybe learning that, too.
Last night, as I was putting him to bed, he leaned in and put his head against my shoulder.
“I’m glad I got to say goodbye to great granny,” he said softly. “I think she liked it when I hugged her.”
Posted on | March 16, 2015 | 3 Comments
For as long as I can remember, I have collected stories. I suppose it’s part of what makes me, well… me. I collect the bits and pieces of other people’s lives and I store them in my heart and I take them out and examine them piece by piece as though they were gifts; because in a way, they are. The stories people tell you about themselves and their lives are tiny gifts offered as a way to say ‘Here. Know me.”
My father’s mother is a teller of stories. She has always told stories in a way that makes you laugh and picture yourself right there beside her, waking up on a cold winter morning to the stocking on the end of the bed. For a while, she told many stories, but as the years have passed, she’s told the same stories, each one meticulously groomed and shared like little charms on the bracelet of her life. There’s the story of her brother being pushed through the mud, the story of her sister taking off a shoe and beating her boyfriend and the girl she found him with through the window of a car. There’s the story of my father locking the car doors and sliding back and forth on the back seat to keep her from getting him out at the doctor’s office, the story of my father wearing the aviator cap, the story of my father playing in the fireplace, and crying over the Poky Little Puppy not getting his supper.
There are, sadly, very few stories of just my grandmother. She’s always been the sort of person who tells you about others, leaving her own childhood painted in a soft watercolor of surrounding people. But there are stories of her in the stories she tells of others… just as there are with all of us. There are pieces of her woven into what she chooses to tell us about the people she has loved, about the things she has seen. She presses her love of stubbornness, her admiration of the joy of children into the stories of my great uncle, and her pride in the gumption and zero tolerance in the stories of her sister. She weaves a blanket of love through her stories of my father… of the love of his tender spirit, the love of his silliness as a boy, and the reminder to us and perhaps to him that those are the pieces of him she still loves the best. She repeats the stories as though to burn them in our memories, to push and prod and sear on our hearts the parts of her she is scared she’ll lose.
This past weekend, I sat beside her with my sister and we encouraged her to tell those stories again and again, letting her smile with the memory of her children, the memory of her brothers and sisters. We encouraged her to remind us of what is most important about her life as it trickles out the corners of her eyes and down the sides of her cheeks. And as we stood to leave, she grabbed my hand with a soft ferocity and pressed it to her heart.
“Do you know my stories,” her hoarse voice questioned, and I told her I did. And then with tears in her eyes, she asked a promise of me that I willingly gave. “Will you raise that boy of yours to know my stories?”
I promised I would. I promise I will. Because even when the light is dying, the memories of it and the stories it holds are seared on the softest underside of our eyes and hearts. And the storied seeds that my grandmother has passed to me, will be tended and treasured and it’s fruits will be carefully passed along in the thread and fiber of my own collected stories.
Posted on | February 25, 2015 | 3 Comments
Mornings aren’t always easy at my house. Some days I repeat myself so many times that I want to pull my hair out. Some days I feel like the words “Get. your. clothes. on.” are tattooed across my forehead and they’re all I’ll ever say, ever, for the rest of my life. Some days I just want to grab and shake my son and say “DON’T YOU KNOW I’M IN A HURRY?!”
But no matter how our morning goes at home, we always make it to school. Sometimes we race up the walk way. Some days I’m still pushing at him to unbuckle his seat belt, open the door, and use his feet to walk to class. It’s like a constant push and pull of who is in charge, who is making the decisions. And sometimes I let him win, because I think that’s what parents are supposed to do. And sometimes I let him lose… because I think that’s also what parents are supposed to do.
But no matter how much we argue on the way to school, no matter how much I want to strangle him for talking back or not listening or throwing crazy fits over buttoning his pants or cleaning up his breakfast plates… no matter all of that, we start our day away from each other the same way.
I hover for a moment as he puts his jacket on the hook in his cubby. I wait while he slides his lunch box into it’s place and smile as bright as I can while he surveys which of his friends are in the room already. Then I stretch out my arms and say “Okay… I have to go!” And he bends down into a runner’s stance and takes off towards me while I do my best Westley impression, saying “Gently! Gently!” before he barrels into my arms. Then I back out the door, waving, and make my way down the front walk way, stopping every few moments to check the windows beside and behind me.
I don’t check them because I worry he’s unhappy.
I don’t check them because I think that he may need me.
I check them because I think that’s what parents do.
We check the windows for little faces pressed tight against the glass. We check the windows for silly faces we can return, for smiles we can bounce back, for kisses we can catch and press to our cheeks and foreheads. We check the windows not for them, not for the sake of our child but for the sake of ourselves, for the knowledge that the last moment they saw us, we were smiling. For the understanding that the last words spoken between us were cheerful and loving. For the reality that we need those tiny smiles and gap-toothed faces to remind us that WE, not they, are okay.
Sometimes J and I make silly faces for a few moments. Sometimes we blow kisses and catch them, bouncing our love for each other off the windows between us. And those mornings feel just about perfect because he needs me and it satiates my need to know that he is good and well and fine. And some days, he never notices me pull away, too enthralled in whatever is going on in his classroom. Those days are perfect, too, because he doesn’t need me… and it reminds me that this, too, is what parents do. We let them move away from us, from needing us for any and every thing.
No matter the day, or the weather, or the amount of madness piled onto my plate before and after I leave the house and make my way to my desk, I have to check those windows. And because I do, I always know that for at least five minutes… everything is exactly right with my world.
Posted on | February 24, 2015 | No Comments
Most days, I feel like I walk a very fine line. Well, “walk” is probably a generous word. It’s more like a teetering balancing act where I’m hovering thirty feet above a round pool of sharks, just waiting for me to take a wrong step. Behind me, there’s the world of my past, the world where… if I enter… I may never get out again. The world where I second guess every thing and every one, where I wonder what people are saying and doing behind my back. The world where I think that nothing could ever be good, ever again, because why would anything good ever happen to little old me?
Before me, there’s the world of my potential future. The future where I’m strong. The future where I make decisions with authority, make choices with compassion and clarity… the future where I am complete and whole and healed.
And then there is me, teetering somewhere in between, close to neither, wondering which foot fall will send me plunging down into the pit I can never get out of.
I am not a fan of this person I find myself to be some days … this indecisive, scared, confused person, who wonders about each step… who questions every movement. Some days, I feel infinitely closer to the me of my past… the one who would and did let any one and every one walk all over her. Some days, I feel that I’m one half-step from the safety of the platform, even though that platform is the me that lets things happen… not the me that makes things happen.
Today is one of those days.
A day when I find myself so achingly close to stepping backwards onto the platform. I am so close to giving up on the quest to make myself that me I want to be… the me who waves at me from the platform so many thousands of feet away.
But on these days, when my past creeps up on me, when my feet want to carry me back instead of forward, I have to stop. I have to stop and regain my balance and look below and see that, yes, there are sharks. I have to stop and see that yes, I have many steps to go before I reach that other side. I have to stop and recognize that although I’m only a half step away from my past and it feels scary and overwhelming and tastes so much like the dripping sweat of failure… I am still balanced.
Maybe I’ve moved backwards.
Maybe I have a very long way to go.
But I’m still here.
I haven’t fallen.
And as long as my feet waver here, balanced on the thinnest rope of my hope for the future… then I can still choose to move forward.
Posted on | February 10, 2015 | 2 Comments
When I was knee deep in divorce, my house was almost spotless. I’m not sure if it was to prove to myself that I could keep it clean, or to prove to him that he shouldn’t have left, but for whatever reason, I worked diligently to keep the laundry done and the dishes done and the counters clean… and, and, and. I’m not going to lie and say you could eat off my floor, but when you came in my house, even unexpectedly, you were going to find it very neat.
It turns out, for me, having a perfectly clean home is a sure sign of a perfectly messy life.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love having a clean house. And I work hard to keep this little home of mine as tidy as possible. But there are times the dishes sit in the sink. There are times when I don’t wash the pots and pans immediately after dinner. There are times when the beds just… don’t get made.
And yes, there are times when I have to wash a load of laundry three times because I somehow forget that it needs to be transferred to the dryer.
At first, I thought I was falling behind. I thought that maybe I was falling apart because didn’t I handle all this before? Wasn’t I able to do the dishes and the laundry AND everything else, before?
Last night, I was in a tailspin, trying to get the house back in to shape. I was stomping around and getting aggravated with myself. I mean, how could I have done it all then and can’t seem to do any of it now? Why are there dishes in the sink? WHY IS THE FLOOR SO DIRTY? I had worked myself into quite the tizzy when it suddenly occurred to me that when I was in the midst of my divorce, having a clean house was, well…
It was the only thing I had control over.
I was exercising control over something small because all the big things were crazy and crazed and sad. I was putting my foot down and saying “This. This I can do, dammit. Look at how well I can do this.”
I’m honestly surprised that I didn’t take pictures of empty sinks and folded clothes and put them all over social media because that’s how it felt. It felt like I was trying to prove that I was worthy of something or maybe everything.
Well, last night as I worked myself up over dishes and dirty laundry, something occurred to me. Now, I have a life for myself. I have a job I love, a boyfriend I love, a life that I love. I don’t have to prove my worth to anyone… not even myself.
And if knowing I’m worth the world is what I get in exchange for my clean house, then so be it. It’s a pretty good alternative. I’ll take the dirty dishes with the smiles over squeaky clean tears. I’m learning to cut myself some slack, to give myself the break I deserve. And if that means sitting down to watch television with Banks and J instead of immediately cleaning the dishes, then that’s what I’m going to do. Because my house may be cluttered and in need of a good clean, but my life is pretty perfect.
And that’s a trade I’ll take every day.
Posted on | February 9, 2015 | 5 Comments
Yesterday I did something I’ve never done in my life. J was sitting on the sofa, begging for some play time on the iPad or something different on television or even the use of my cell phone. I was getting frustrated. He has a room full of books and toys and none of them were being used. None of them.
All he wanted was something electronic.
I threw out suggestion after suggestion and he wasn’t having any of it. My patience was worn thin and finally I told him to get his shoes and coat on. He wasn’t really sure what was going on, he probably thought we were about to head somewhere with video games, but he did what I asked. I took him by the hand, walked him to the back door, and pushed him outside.
“One. Hour,” I instructed. “Go play.”
I have a fenced in back yard. He couldn’ get out of the yard unless he asked for help on the latched gate or climbed the fence, so I wasn’t all that worried. I brought Riley inside so there wouldn’t be any issues with the dog getting in his way, and I just… shut the door.
He stood there for a moment, dumbfounded. He stared at me in the window with a look of abject horror on his face. I mean, how DARE I put him outside in the 60 degree sunshine? It took about ten minutes of us staring at each other through the glass for him to realize I meant business. And then something happened…
He went and played.
Granted, it wasn’t for long. And yes, there were moments when he came to the back door and begged to come back in. And yes, I gave up after thirty minutes because I just hated standing there and reminding him to go play in the wide expanse of our back yard. But still… he played.
And I realized that I’ve been doing him a real disservice by always being with him. He doesn’t quite understand the joy in playing alone… in being out in nature and discovering things. While I was slightly appalled at myself for literally locking my child outside, I also was appalled that I hadn’t done it before. I’m appalled that I’ve been fostering this couch potato lifestyle on the weekends that doesn’t really jive with the type of person I want my child to become.
We spent the second thirty minutes on a walk with the dog and we talked a lot about how good it is to be outside. He still isn’t quite buying the idea of being alone outside in the protected back yard, but I’m sold on it. Because it’s not always easy for me to get him to a playground or take him to a museum. I can’t spend my entire weekend entertaining my son, even if I wanted to, because there’s work to do around the house, and yes, I actually need some time to myself. And when I’m sick, I can’t be the fun, playful parent I like to be. I see all these facebook pictures of kids playing in the yard, of kids riding their bikes and being, you know… kids. And mine prefers to sit and stare at a television.
So these one hour “lock out” sessions will continue until my child starts asking to play outside. Because I think I owe that to him… even if he doesn’t understand it right now.« go back — keep looking »