Saturday, August 04, 2018

Odd and Ends

I decided the other day that since we are closer to Christmas than not, I would leave up my nativity set that has sat on the fireplace mantle since last December.

My mom had little joy in January and February every winter. She hated the gray days that seemed to never end. In retrospect I would've benefited from taking a leave from work this past January and February. Mentally I just wasn't in the game. Grief zapped my energy in every which way.

I was cleaning out my car the other day - well the laundry basket that sits on the front seat with an extra blanket and odds and ends of things I think I might need. Nestled in between the blanket and the wall of the solid basket were two parking stubs from January of 2017 - hospital visits - the day before my dad died and the day he died. I peered closely at the times on the tickets. I relived a bit of those days in my mind.

Last month I stayed in my childhood home sans my parents. Blocked out the sorrow for the duration. It was the best I could do. This photo seems fitting, especially when I think of the nativity set sitting there gathering dust.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Gritting My Teeth

I've been going swimming several mornings a week for over 6 months now. Ahead of tests that will determine whether I need oxygen for night or not, I decided I would try and get in shape as best I could. I started out being able to do 5 minutes worth of (slow) laps.

Over time I've been able to increase it so that now I can do 30 minutes. I savor every single moment of it. I can't put my face in the water and hold my breath due to my issues with oxygen but I can do a slow breast stroke keeping my nose, not unlike a dog, above the water as I go. I love the water like I have never loved it before. I feel free and relaxed. I feel no body shame. For an introvert who spends the bulk of her day interacting with students and the public the quiet of those 30 minutes is wonderful.

There's a small handful of regulars that brave the weather and early mornings to swim. You nod and say hi. Occasionally you talk. I haven't gotten past the nod and smile and wishing someone a good day phase except for a retired husband and wife couple who I've known for 20+ years. After my laps I wade into the hot tub and feel like I've found a little piece of heaven.

Today, in the relaxing space of the hot tub, I was reminded again how hard it is to be content to be me when it comes to my spiritual life. I talk to God mostly when I'm driving my car. At times I must look to passersby like someone with road rage the way I pound the steering wheel and throw my hands up in the air all the while talking a mile a minute. The remainder of my prayers are mainly silent.

One of the retired couple came over to talk to me in the hot tub recently. They relayed about how they'd woken up a few days ago with a sore joint and how after two days, and the help of a brace, 'ta-da' there was no pain and the good Lord had taken care of it. How wonderful was that? they asked me.

Inwardly I gritted my teeth. I smiled. Well, it felt more like a grimace. I shut down when someone talks to me like that. It feels like an affront. It makes me grit my teeth. I immediately distrust when someone gives God the glory for their problems being solved like a magician waving a magic wand. I wonder what they do when it doesn't work out quite like that.

There's also a part of me that envies people who have a free and ready voice to give God the credit for every little and not so little good thing that happens. There are areas of my life where I do this. Big things. My sobriety. My marriage. (that story includes praying my first novena and is literally a miracle but I'd be hard pressed to tell it to anyone.) The fact that my grown kids talk to me.

Sometimes I wonder if not being vocal about my faith means I am ashamed of it.

Yesterday I watched a clip of  Brennan Manning saying that everything is grace. I believe it is.

My spiritual life continues to be a paradox.

**I initially wrote this  a year ago and never posted it. I ended up needing a CPAP machine, not oxygen, for night. Who knew it was possible to wake up rested?! I still go swimming. The retired couple still come to the pool, too. All of the words up there, and the passage of time, have brought me no closer to any conclusion.**

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Looks Like In Heaven

It's a snowy winter land out there this morning. For many mornings in a row I've woken up to the song above going through my mind. I'm guessing the grieving goes on even while I sleep.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Simply Human

Today is my mother's birthday. The first without her. I've had such an up and down week emotionally. All these firsts for both my parents. I think I'm finally to the point where I can acknowledge I have little or nothing to give. My older sister suggested to me the other day that I tell people that I need to be on the receiving end instead of the giving end in this season of my life. So many protesting 'but, but,  buts...' rose up within me. Maybe I can allow myself to simply be and stop expecting so much of myself. I don't know who I am trying to impress.

The other day a friend I hadn't seen in a while told me she thought of me, in respect to all that this year has held for me in terms of crisis, as super human. She said it in a way that left me with the impression that she'd said it to mutual people we know. I shuddered. I'm simply human. The more people in my life die the less I hanker after pedestals, for myself or others. I feel haunted by watching my mother die. (that last line reverberates within me like a needle stuck on a record, around and around it goes.)

Not long ago I thought of a woman who I've looked up to in a motherish kind of way for years. She doesn't know that. I've long been aware of my tendency to see her this way. With my own mother now gone I realized the reaching for mother approval was finished. If not now, when?

It's a weird stage of life. I look to the grandmothers, aunts and my mother behind me and to the daughter, daughters-in-law, and two granddaughters in front of me.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

13 minutes and 46 seconds

The last time I talked to my mom on the phone our conversation lasted 13 minutes and 46 seconds. She told me she felt 'like crap.'  She was sitting in her chair, the phone cradled to her ear, a cooking show humming on the TV across the room.I could tell by her voice that conversation wasn't high on her list of things she felt like doing so I cut our conversation short. I looked at my phone as I hung up and noticed the time. Our regular Saturday afternoon conversation had been cut short by an hour.

As the day wore on and my sisters and texted and called, we hemmed and hawed as to whether or not it was time for me to come home. My mom had been diagnosed with kidney failure in late January - the stress of her diagnosis being what we thought had led to my dad's stroke and then death two days later.

My mom liked to say she had nine lives and during our last phone call I told her she'd used up 27 of them. That night I booked a ticket home and was at the airport 6 hours later.

My mom passed away 48 hours after I got home. It's still too raw to write much about but I will say that sitting with someone as they do the hard work of dying is a sacred experience.

Sunday, August 06, 2017


As my feet hit the floor this morning I thought, "I'm always going to hate August." My dad's birthday is coming up in a few weeks; the first without him here. He wouldn't want me to hate it. Not that I do really, I just hate that he is not here to celebrate it. He loved being alive. He had a curiousity about the world around him right up until the end.

The first time he appeared in a dream after he died he was telling me that the world spun at a specific speed not known to everyone and if we knew the secret we could come back and be born again. I don't know how to make sense of that dream but I did like that it was a sunshine filled day with us in a prairie landscape when he told me this. His face was radiant with light.

My dad and I never talked about religion or faith. It was one of those taboo subjects in my family. I was going to say right up there with politics (except if you were drunk) but my family has long discussed politics and even with a great span between us having faith and no faith I've found that our politics are largely the same. I don't know what to make of that, either. If we had a mantra I like to think it would be 'treat people right.'

I've been reading quite a few books lately about death and dying. It's made me wonder what I will be remembered for. After my dad died my siblings and I were cohesive in what we felt our father's legacy was to us in terms of how to navigate the world around us. One of them was that he didn't care what we did for a living but he sure cared about how we conducted ourselves while we did it. It's amazing to me that when we put everything in the obituary, when we saw it all in black and white print, how much of a drive there was to make him proud that we were his and were living up to the values he espoused.

Today is my youngest son's first wedding anniversary. They've weathered miscarriages, emergency surgeries, and cancer and more cancer this past year. The future looks uncertain. My dad made the trip up here to attend their wedding. When we went to take family photos my dad stood alone with my son and his wife and pulled himself up as straight as he could before looking directly into the camera. That action said so much about him.

One of the songs we played at his memorial service was Humble and Kind. I hadn't been able to listen to it since his service when Dearest One played it for an overnight guest in our home the other day at the breakfast table. I buried my face in my hands and cried.

I did not expect to miss my dad this much. I've called home every week for about a dozen years. Ever since my mom was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Outside of his birthday or a call about his beloved Roughriders,  I rarely talked to my dad, relying on my mom to ferry pertinent information to him after our calls.

Every trite saying there is to be said after you lose someone rings true now.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Notes From the Bottom of My Computer Screen

"We must bear patiently not being good....and not being thought good." ~ St. Francis of Assisi 

I can bear patiently not being good but not being thought good is the harder part for me.

"God sometimes looks like someone finally, finally telling the truth." ~ Anne Lamott

Another little bit of wisdom taped to the bottom of my computer screen.  I like to think of myself as a truth teller. I'm humbled at how blind I can be to the truth. Particularly when it comes to myself.

"Find a bit of beauty in the world today. Share it. If you can't find it, create it. Some days this may be hard to do. Persevere." ~ Lisa B. Adams

Lisa passed away from metastatic breast cancer over 2 years ago now. I keep her words where I can see them.

Today I am doing my part in planning my dad's memorial. Even though he passed away nearly 4 months ago we put off having his service until the weather was warmer. The majority of my family is buried in a tiny little church cemetery in the middle of a field. Up the road is the one room school house that my mom attended. The community has worked hard at its upkeep so that at times like this, people can use it for the luncheon that follows a funeral.

It didn't matter what life looked like for my dad as he aged he always said that it beat the alternative.