Sunday, October 11, 2015

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Orange Sherbet

Surely I've lived through several lifetimes since I was last here. That was when summer was in all her glory, tomatoes were ripening, pools were filled with noisy, splashing kids and we had plans for a lot of nothing to fill our days. 

In the past two months we've driven 7300 miles back and forth across the country; had three groups of visitors in Idaho; two family reunions; moved my mother into a memory care facility and cleaned out her apartment; and two days ago I had my long-awaited cornea transplant. 

I'm one of those sappy people who can watch a re-run of Price is Right, and when they announce the winner and she cries, I cry. I cry happy tears, sad tears, and everything in between. What I don't do is not cry. 

But since my brother died unexpectedly back in late January, I've been operating in an emotionally clogged 'make-it-happen' mode. No time to fall apart, to consider and grieve, just deal with whatever is in front of you and keep on going. 

There were a few moments, over those past six months, that I knew if I started, I'd just flat fall apart and that wasn't going to help anyone right then. This summer, with all of her living kids fully realizing the shape our mother was in, and me being her medical and financial power of attorney, we stepped everything up. We kept meals and housekeepers and family checking on her as much as possible, knowing every day she was less safe where she was. Finally, on the birthday of my brother who just died, she walked out of her little apartment, and into the nursing home without a word of complaint. Rather, she said she was happy to know there were people there to take care of her. 

Everyone's life has a handful of pivot points, or at least moments that, when they happen, you know. You will never forget them. 

When I finally got to visit Mom at the facility where she is living, she'd been there over a week. I walked down the hall toward where her room was supposed to be. Saw a group of old ladies sitting around in a circle, singing and clapping their hands, while somewhere off to the side a man was singing and playing a banjo. One gray haired head caught my attention and I knew it was her. That moment, seeing my mother sitting there. Knowing this little area is now her world, and it is exactly what she needs to feel safe. Seeing that she doesn't wear a watch because she doesn't need to, she doesn't have a purse anymore. She wears slippers. A hard moment that I will not forget.

She, on the other hand, was just happy to see my face, and jumped up to hug me. She introduced me to all her new friends. Then we sat outside, in the little garden area and talked about how she was doing. Was she happy? Did she like it there? Was the food okay? It is the first time in a year she hasn't been agitated or stressed when we talked. Her hair is combed, and someone helped her dress. She is eating three times a day. She has someone to eat meals with. Church comes to her, and they take her on drives in the mountains. There is a puppy dog named Ginger that comes for daily visits. 

After being concerned for a couple of years, and worried sick for the past six months, I know she's finally okay. She's content. She's well-cared for. I also know whenever those years were, that she was the mother and I, the daughter, and she was concerned about me - they are gone. Forever. 

Hugging her to me, feeling how tiny she has become, and knowing I don't know when I'll see her again; not being sure she will remember me when I do - it took my breath away to try to say goodbye.  Still I held in tears because nobody would have been blessed by a flood of them down the hall right that minute. 

I came home to Texas, and cried at the drop of a hat, over just about anything anyone said to me. I greeted everyone I know with, "I'm a bit of a wreck." "I need time to put myself back together." As I cried.

Then two days ago I had a cornea transplant - apparently a very common eye surgery, but pretty major for me. It looks and feels major. Cub Sweetheart has done a wonderful job of caring for me, tender and attentive. Trying to anticipate every need I might have, he asked me what I might like from the grocery store, I only added one thing to the list - 'please bring me some orange sherbet.' That's what my mother always gave me when I was sick. It's unimaginable to me that one would be sick, and expected to recover, without a tub of it in the freezer.

This afternoon my oldest daughter, in the middle of moving day for her family of six, called me. She said, "I only have five minutes, but I need to know that you are okay." I was amazed that she even remembered to check on me, as much as she has going on. Four kids to get to bed within a few hours and the beds are on the truck. Where is the toilet paper? Clothes for tomorrow? The dog? The hamster? Yet she called to check on her mom.

Oh, this mothering thing - this unexplainable, twisting and curving  - full of looping back, overlapping, covering where the other one used to, and the longing we all have, sometimes, for a cold bowl of orange sherbet. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Dad's 90th birthday bash photos

We looked forward to it for so long, had a blast, then I didn't post a single photo.

Without further ado, here's a smattering of our fun three or so days in bustling Goodland, Kansas.

Family trickled in, and the ones who got there early were blessed with some one-on-one time with Grandpa Chester.

Our grown up son, with his son, and Grandpa. It'd been over 15 years since they'd seen each other.

D2 thought Grandpa Chester's golf cart was way cool. I think it's way cool that at 90 he plays golf 3-5 x a week.

It wouldn't be a trip to Goodland without checking out his garden. At 90 he hand hoes it, impressive!

these are the photos that are dear to my heart. 

Checking out Grandpa's tamed ducks, who live on hole 9. 

Birthday boy - he was a good sport to wear anything we gave him. 

My uncle, his twin brother separated by 15 years. I hadn't seen him in 50 years.

Mom was celebrating her 82nd birthday that day, so she got her own cake. 

Lots of family came in, enduring crazy heat, fussy babies, etc. to celebrate his big day.

Not great photos but all I got!
These two cousins are separated by 27 days, and their baby girls are pretty close in age too.

They've known each other for 69 years, it was sweet to see them together reminiscing. 
It was such a great time, having about 75 people there to let him know how loved he is. The day ended with a county fair, complete with rides, country singing and dancing, corn dogs, and great fireworks.

Worth every mile we all made to be there.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Life Interrupted

We interrupt this broadcast for baby cuteness.

Not sure....

Mama's girl

Wispy mohawk

She figured out walking, went right to running!

Perhaps some gel to tame this....

and Phantom, born under the porch, has started poking out his/her head.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Angry with Elizabeth Zimmerman

It's been awhile since I've been here; rather than 'lazy, hazy days of summer', July flew by, a hot blur of family, friends, ice cream and grilling. Fun, albeit tiring, niceness.

August is moving at more of an ooze, as it should. Every day we accomplish something, but not enough to call it work. Days topping out at 75 to 80 degrees are hard not to love, especially if they involve limearitas (my new favorite thing) with chips and salsa on someone's patio.

We'll be here in northern Idaho til mid September, then point the minivan towards Texas, which is now over 100 every day, and likely will still be stubbornly holding onto upper 90's when we pull into the driveway. She doesn't let go of summer easily. Along the 2000 miles of way, we'll drive through Colorado for another family reunion, then I'll stay behind for doctor checkups with my mom. They'll be challenging, and possibly frustrating, but a sad necessity we're thinking. Cub Sweetheart and Lily will continue on the way home alone, and I'll catch up with them via plane, a week or so later.

Which brings me to being angry.

This stage of life, where my mother pivots between denying and being completely ignorant of her situation, is hard. Harder than I think I would have thought it would be, if I'd seen it coming, which I didn't. Somehow I didn't expect this. Being raised by a mother who, for as long as I can remember, preferred writing a poem to cooking tuna casserole or doing laundry, made it hard to see that she was losing grip with daily life. When they don't use the stove anyway it's hard to see that they don't remember how.

Humor is needed. Lightness. Mental gymnastics with something other than keeping track of her dropping weight, having protein drinks shipped to her, going through a verbal game of charades every time we talk, as we struggle to find the words to communicate - what she's trying to tell me, what I'm trying to understand or get across to her. I'm sad for her. I'm sad for me.

So I'm going to relearn to knit. Rather than put my head in the sand (which many days calls my name hard) I'm going to occupy it, at least sometimes, with other things. Perhaps those times when everything in me wants to punch a wall or hang up the phone or sit down and have a good cry. Being a firm lover of new year's resolutions, I made one in January to improve my knitting skills. After over five years of knitting I'm pretty much still where I was soon after I began. I moved beyond making scarves for everyone I knew; there have been caps and a few baby sweaters, a toy or two. My one pair of socks that took about 200 hours. So I've got some knitting under my belt, but everything ends up a bit much for even non-perfectionist me to bear.

When I first learned to knit, which I did NOT want to do, it made me so angry Cub Sweetheart kept asking me, 'why do you do that? It makes you SO angry?' In my defense that was after I'd started and ripped out the same sweater SEVENTEEN times.

Something about the mental gymnastics grabs me, the trying to get my brain around something that does not come easily. Sort of like algebra, but with yarn.

I could pick up another knitting project, work my way through it, but I'd likely end up with a lumpy, uneven garment or more likely, an unraveled ball of yarn that was intended to be a garment. Instead I've decided to do the Julia and Julia thing. Instead of cooking through an old cookbook on a small stove in a smaller apartment, I'm going to work my way through Elizabeth Zimmerman's 'Knitting Workshop'. One chapter and one project at a time. No promises that I'll ever hit 'master knitter' but I might come out at the end of the book still sane. That's far more valuable than any fancy-schmancy sweater out there.

Ms. Zimmerman's book, and lessons, starts with winding a ball of yarn. Which I'm actually not that great at. It tends to make me grit my teeth and mutter under my breath, not always nice words. I think this would be same as Julie pulling her pots and pans out of the cupboard, and possibly purchasing measuring cups.

I'll be back in a few days, maybe, with a ball of yarn, and words regarding the lovely art of knitting. Once in awhile, when life gets too much, when it feels like my hair is on fire, I might dribble on about Alzheimers and dementia and caregiving; hopefully you'll hear more from me about dropping stitches or life or how I feel about capital punishment or the upcoming election process and why it has anything to do with Donald Trump's horrid hair. All with a humorous slant, of course, because life is way too short, or long - depending on how you look at it, to do otherwise.

Off to grab pointed needles!


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

'I have a problem'......

Daddy in his garden patch
My cell phone rings, and it's Daddy. Daddy who rarely calls my cell phone, but he remembers I'm in Idaho, not Texas. We don't have a land line in Idaho, not that he would call it that. He'd call it a telephone...

He starts by telling me a cousin I haven't seen in 50 years died yesterday, Pedro who was about the age of my older brother, Gary. Pedro who was a lot like Gary, and died of the same thing Gary did this past February.

As Daddy put it, they were both 'wild as a briar patch hare'.  Ten years from now I'm going to want to remember all those sayings Daddy had, so today I grab a pad of paper and jot it down. And I smile for maybe the first time today.

Baking Snickerdoodles with Daddy in his little kitchen. Please ignore bra rolls...

We talk a bit, then he says, "Beverly, I have a problem." It's been one of those mornings when I can feel the tears just behind the surface, pressing to get out, but if they start they might not stop, so I hold onto them. Frustrations with my mother, whose world is spinning out of control faster every day, have started my morning off tough. So I'm not at all sure I can handle hearing about yet another problem, especially if someone is counting on me to fix it.

'Okay, what's wrong?' I ask, not really wanting to hear.

'Well, I've got gallons of beets sitting here in my kitchen and I can't find whole allspice. I've been to Walmart, and the spice store here in town, and nobody has any. I need the whole allspice to can my beets, and they're already picked, so I wondered if you can get them on that Amazon?'

Oh Daddy! Thank you, thank you, thank you that at 90 years old your only pressing problem is whole allspice. And that you are clear enough to remember Amazon, even though you don't own a computer.

And thank you, whoever invented Amazon, that for $9.62 I was able to ship him a pound of whole allspice, scheduled to be delivered in two days to the edge of Kansas.

And yes, Daddy, you can pay me back in a jar of beets. That would be absolutely perfect.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Family Gatherings

We're not the kind of family that draws together very often. Mostly for funerals, sad to say. Once in awhile for a wedding, or a big birthday, but mostly for funerals. 

But Daddy is turning 90 this year, and that's a big deal in anybody's book. So we're coming in from all corners, to make a honkin' big deal of this one, for him.

I've been working on a memorabilia book, based on a journal he filled out for me 12 years ago. Sidenote: do it now, have those older members of your family write down their memories. You'll want to know later, to share the stories. I'm so glad I even thought to do this awhile back.  I took the book to the printer and had 20 copies made, for him, for us kids, for grandkids, and a few extras for him to hand out as he pleases.

Here are a handful of photos from his life's journey book:

This man - Jessie Calvin Boaz,

and this woman, Frances Levador Seago,
met. He was 32, she was 16. He needed some sons to work the farm. They married. That was the way they did it back then.

My father, sitting on his mother's lap, when he was two years old, in 1931. 

This is my grandmother's house, the one I remember. She got indoor plumbing a few years before she died.
My father met my mother, and they married when he was 23 and she was 15. He said she was the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen, so he married her. 
Within 7 1/2 years all six of us came along. Here we are in birth order.  Barb, Jerry, Gary, Bev, Dwain, Derrell
Another of our family, sometime in the 1960's. We drove, all 8 of us, in that dinky station wagon.

This was taken in 1965, the one family vacation we ever went on, to Estes Park, Colorado. 
My parents on our Colorado vacation. I love how young they look here.
Daddy worked a lot of jobs, often more than one at a time, but the one he did for the most years, the one he retired from was as a mailman. I don't even know how many times he was bitten by dogs. 

The four boys who survived to adulthood. One died from pneumonia when he was 4 years old. 

My Dad and his big sister, Jessie Mae. He said they fought like cats and dogs when she bossed him around. 

My father and his brother, Dorman. He was 20 and Dorman was 22. 

Here they are many years later. Both have / had a life-long love of gardening. 

My father and his second wife, Mary. They were married 12 years before she died of cancer. 

The second family Mary gave my father. Dad still lives in Kansas with his step-daughter, Sharon and her gang, all nearby. 

Dad started playing golf in his mid-50's, and still, at 90 years old, plays 18 holes 3 days a week. 
Dad and Mom when they remarried about 12 years ago. Sadly, they didn't stay married, but they did remain life-long friends. 

So we've got big doings planned. An open house for family and all the friends Daddy has made in the years he's lived in his small town in Kansas. Then we'll all head to the fairgrounds for a carnival, watermelon eating contest, a country band, and finally fireworks. It happens to be Mom's 82nd birthday that day, so we'll have two birthday cakes to celebrate both of them. 

Daddy will be seeing his one surviving brother, who he hasn't seen in a good number of years; also grandchildren he hasn't seen in two decades, and he'll meet for the first time many spouses of grandkids and great-grandkids he's been sending birthday cards to for years and years. All in all we are so excited to have this day to celebrate a remarkable man, one whose only goal in life was to have all six of his children graduate from high school, own his home and be able to pay his bills. 

Well done, Daddy. You make us awfully proud. 

I'll be back in a few days with photos from our big day of celebrating.