Sunday, March 26, 2017

Bluebonnets and sunshine make up for a a lot

We made it! 2000 miles, give or take a few and we crossed into Texas five days after we left northern Idaho. The trip felt a little like a Pony Express crossing, since we hit snow in Montana, fog in Wyoming, insane wind gusts in Colorado and New Mexico, and blinding morning sunshine as we crossed west Texas.

But we made it, and Miss Lily never threw up in the car, so we're calling it a success.

We also saw umpteen antelope as we drove down, bringing back fun memories of our family road trips. When our son, Dan would get bored we'd somehow talk him into counting antelope - possibly because there are not many different license plates to count crossing Wyoming or Kansas.

Along the way we listened to The Woman in Cabin 10, on audio books. Not great. Not horrible but not great - I can't say I'd recommend it. I'm hoping there aren't many women on the planet who truly use the F word that often. We should have stuck with Killing Lincoln, but that'll keep for another road trip.

We're now in a hotel near our new home, waiting for closing and the movers to deliver all our junkola. Lily is currently in dog prison, waiting for us to rescue her. I went and visited her yesterday at the prison and she almost jumped into my arms, making pleading squeaky noises that I believe could be translated into 'please take me back with you.' Alas, we didn't. We've got enough to do that eight lbs of fluff just isn't helpful, although I sure do miss her. Life is better with Lily in it.

We went and checked out our new home yesterday, thinking it would be just about ready to go. Not so much. No appliances, trim to be touched up, towel bars to be hung, and a pretty decently long list of stuff to be done. Instead of fretting over any of it, we're going to keep a good attitude, and pray that about 99 gazillion people show up the next two days to work miracles before our Tuesday walk through. I'm hoping someone notices the potty in the front guest bathroom as I have no intention of touching it with a ten foot pole....

Today we spent a good part of the day shopping for furniture and stuff we've been planning on for months and months. It was such fun to finally walk into the stores and order some of it. A lot of fun purchases that we're looking forward to using in our new little home. Bright patio furniture where family and new friends will gather, bar stools just right for our Littles to climb up onto and eat lunch with us, a new table to hold the TV (we're going to be behind several weeks watching Survivor).

My possibly favorite purchase was a new Apple iMac, which counted as my anniversary gift since Cub Sweetheart will only love it 10% as much as I will. It has a huge screen and great resolution which should be great with my less than stellar vision. Somehow 36 years have already gone by since we said "I do". It's gone so much faster than I imagined it would, so I've told God I'd like us to have 30 more. Seriously. After 30 more we might both be old enough to say we've had enough. He'll be 96 and I'll be close to 92, so maybe 35 more.

We're hoping to bring Miss Lily back home with us by the weekend if all goes well. Right now she can walk right under the new fence and go exploring, so that too has to be fixed before she can move in. And a dog door added so she can come and go as she pleases when we're away for the day.

Cub Sweetheart also had a reoccurrence of shingles, just in time for the road trip. Apparently once you come down with them, they can make a reappearance. Not great timing, and doesn't seem fair since he got the vaccine five years ago. Probably feels even more unfair to him than it does to me.

So there's a decent length list of not so greats going on right now. Shingles, nasty potties, lots of stuff still to be done at the house and we close in four days, we're living in a hotel for a week (not sure if that's a plus or a minus), and Lily is in dog jail.

But we're also having tons of sunshine and blue skies; the sides of the roads are covered with blooming bluebonnets and indian paintbrush and buttercups, and as of tonight 99% of the guests have checked out of our hotel, after having been here all weekend for a baseball tournament. Last night the pool and hot tub looked like Shamu was swimming about; tonight it's completely deserted so I'm headed there with my kindle to finish up the evening. Back soon, maybe. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

A First For Us

We're just about to climb into the minivan and drive south(ish) for 2200 miles. Right now we don't even own a computer in Texas, and everything we do own is in a big storage unit, waiting to be delivered and unloaded, so I'm thinking, after this post, I'll be out of the loop for awhile.

This building a home and moving into a brand spanking new house is a first time experience for us. When you're in your sixties you don't get to say that very often. There are a few things I could still say that about, like hang gliding or bungee jumping or hiking Glacier park, none of which I plan to do, but for the most part I'm not going to do anything that I haven't already done at least once.

This is what our lot looked like back in summer, 2016. 
The first time we went to look over the location of our future home, it was 35+ acres of field, with wild sunflowers blooming. I took home armfuls several times, to have a marker on my kitchen sink, that eventually we'd be living there.

Seeing this photo, I tried to imagine where everything was; a challenge for someone spatially challenged. I could see the front door, the garage and where the plumbing went, which helped figure out where my soaker tub and kitchen sink were.
Within days it looked like this, and I could tell where more rooms were. 
For awhile the house was green. It looked like a little house on the prairie to me. 

 We added a covered patio to the back postage-stamp sized yard, because we've always, always, always spent mornings and evenings outdoors, sipping coffee or wine. 
Inside the front door, looking out. That's not the real front door, but the construction one. At this point I couldn't actually remember what the real door looked like anyway. We'd picked it out over a year before.

They'd also gotten a good amount of our bricking and stone work done. I think the hardest thing to pick out of everything was the brick. Trying to visualize what an entire house would look like from one 12 x 12 board was beyond me. 

We've lived in houses that were almost one hundred years old, several that were only a few years old, and everything in between. But we've never looked at a field, and chosen to put a house on it. Everyone warned us that the building process was awful, but we didn't find it too bad. This house is semi-custom, with limited choices and that suited us well. I don't need endless possibilities for faucets or cabinet hardware - a handful is plenty for me. More than anything, we had a hard time remembering what we'd chosen. Walking in at closing will be a bit like Christmas morning - surprise, surprise!

Right now I'm realizing the brand spanking newness of it all. Nobody has ever bathed in my soaker tub. or showered in our master bath. Nobody has cooked on the stove, or run the dishwasher. Ever. Lit the fireplace, baked a cake in the oven, filled the pantry, sipped coffee or wine on the patio, watched TV in the living room, scrubbed the toilets (I'd say flushed but then I'd have to think about all the workmen who likely used those bathrooms while they were building the house so we won't go there). No one has celebrated a birthday or Christmas or cooked a turkey with dressing, and watched Macy's parade and celebrated Thanksgiving, or made breakfast or grown flowers on the front porch. Nobody has rung the doorbell and stood waiting for the door to open and be let inside. Nobody has sat at the desk and paid bills or filed income taxes or sent sympathy or anniversary cards.

Nobody has lived in this brand new little house. But the three of us are about to - me, Cub Sweetheart and Miss Lily. We're about to embark on a brand new adventure, a brand new town, with brand new people, and a brand new church and brand new friends. Hopefully we'll laugh more than we'll cry, and if we do cry, hopefully most of those tears will be happy ones. Right now there's no tape stuck to the ceiling or the dining room light fixture from hanging streamers, but we'll fix that. There have never been stockings hanging from the fireplace, and no flag has been put out on national holidays. We'll have family and friends come to visit, and we'll pull out of our garage and drive away to see others - for the day or for awhile.

And eventually, at some point, we'll pull into that garage, turn off the car, and walk in the door and it'll hit us that it finally feels like home.

It's almost ready! Shutters, address on the front, and us to show up. 
But for now we need to order furniture and refrigerators and replace the Keurig I was dumb and gave away. I'll take photos along the way, and post all about our new place as soon as we come up for air. Feel free to pray for our safety - we've got a few mountain passes to cover and anyone who's lived north of Texas knows snow storms can still sneak up on you this time of year. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Like tulips pushing forth from the snow

This was the view we woke up to*
After being here in northern Idaho for almost seven months, it's finally time to head south again.

After two years of planning and talking about it, our little Texas home is FINALLY just about ready to move into! (insert bells, whistles, shouts of fanfare here.)

Cub Sweetheart and I have a list as long as our arms of stuff that needs to be done before we hit the road next week. Interestingly, our little Idaho townhouse never felt completely lived in until this stay. I've realized you have to really live in a place for it to ever feel like home, and that's been a good thing. Shelves are filled with books to be read (likely never going to happen), piles of yarn to be knit, the desk is covered with piles of papers to be filed or shredded, etc. etc. etc. We've been so thankful to spend this much time here. This time it wasn't a 'visit'; rather it was just being home and that made it feel all the more cozy. In spite of living through 111" of snow, we also got to spend hours and hours with our Idaho kids; we got to go to church with them, we babysat and loved on our six grandkids who live here; we had so many fun family get-togethers, and lots of impromptu lunches, etc. I'm sure God knew how long we needed to be here, and we were blessed to store so much up in our hearts this time.

So while we're busy making plans to load up the van with us and Lily and all the other stuff we dragged up here for this long stay, we're also having last lunches, dinners, trying to finish up library books that have to be returned, and cull out the stuff we didn't use, wear, eat, read, etc. I've got a trunk full of stuff to take to Goodwill later this week. I've found the end of a season is the perfect time to cull out your wardrobe. If I didn't wear it at all this winter, I likely never will, so off it goes to a new home.

I also found a house cleaner here in Idaho, who will come in as I need her, clean for however long it takes to get things back into ship-shape for seasonal visitors, and send me a bill. So one thing I won't be doing before we leave is scrubbing, mopping, vacuuming, dusting, or changing sheets.

I'll take that last one as proof that 'his mercies are new everyday."

Much like the buds popping out on the trees around us, I'm feeling myself rejoining life all around me. When someone you love dies, you die a little bit yourself, at least for a little while. Then slowly, like the tulips pushing forth from the snow, you re-emerge and life starts to flow back into you.  I'm feeling thankful to be alive, to experience the wonder of spring, to gaze on the faces and hear the voices of those I love and hold dear. The world is feeling more full of promise and hope, and I'm thankful the weight of responsibility that has been on me for the past few years has been lifted. I know my mother would be proud of how all of her kids rallied around her, to be sure she was taken care of. I also know she would be okay when that weight was gone. So I'm going to be okay with it too.

I slipped away for a girl's night sleepover with my two girls - in 22 hours we had pedicures/manicures, ate pizza and sipped wine, sat and talked long, went out for dessert and decaf, stayed up too late, ate omelets (and sipped coffee with lots of caffeine to make up for lack of sleep) at a table with a killer view, spent an hour in the hot tub, checked out of the hotel and perused the hotel shoppes that are full of beautiful things ridiculously expensive, and had one last little lunch before we went back to reality. Sometimes escaping is just the thing the doctor ordered! 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Thank you, God, That Kids Say the Darndest Things

Art Linkletter's show, from 1945 - 1969
It's been two weeks today, since my mother passed away, and honestly I'm still weirdly at the point where I think it's a big mistake. Grief seems to be an awkward dance, with the head and heart fighting to see who gets to lead. Not seeing her again, and not having a funeral right after she died makes it hard to take it all in. Time - I know it just takes time.

In the meantime, I'm doing things like trying to understand insurance policies, and figuring out what to put on her head stone, and sending thank you cards to helpers and Hospice, etc.

My thoughts tend to swirl all around me, with no sense of order. One minute I'm remembering what her laugh sounded like, or the time when she asked me to fix her hair for her, so she could go on a date many years ago, or when I went to visit her (more recently) and her teeth were a mess, and she seemed completely unaware of it. There was the time I went to visit her and she was wandering around the parking lot where she lived, waiting for me to pull in. The last time we face timed, just days before she fell and broke her hip, and she saw my face, and said, 'that's my daughter, Beverly.' It took us a full five minutes just to get through saying hello to each other. She not only had difficulty registering that it was me, but seeing my face on a computer screen completely confused her - understandably so. Who knows what technology will baffle  me twenty or so years from now.

I'm finding the strangest thing about working through losing someone is that you kind of feel like you're walking around as a shadow. Not fully present in the room, not fully engaged in conversations, because you have all these other thoughts going on inside your head. A constant re-remembering, considering, trying to grasp it all, while all around you life goes on.

I suppose with time I'll become more and more truly present, and less drifting mentally. With time this won't feel so odd and unreal.

Friends and family have asked me if her death was unexpected. She was 83, almost 84, had Alzheimers and had really begun to decline over the past few months. Every day was a struggle of one sort or another, and I was getting calls from the nursing home almost daily.  But I still didn't see it coming. We were in Idaho, babysitting our four grandchildren when I learned my mother had fallen and was gravely ill. That was morning. By evening I realized she was not going to recover, and was declining at a faster rate than I could get my head around. Two days before she passed away we flew to Texas to deal with details of the home we are building there. So I was 2200 miles away from Idaho, and 1200 miles away from her when the nursing home called to tell me she'd passed away.

Being with our family in Texas was a comfort. Our son's and daughter-in-law's house is typical of anyone at the stage of life they're at. Kids and school and pets and lunch money and laundry and bedtimes and such - the stuff of life - kept us in the present and often brought relief from emotions that threatened to topple me.

In the middle of it all - I'd just taken a call from the funeral home, trying to work through arrangements - then got in the car to drive our grandson to pre-school. We had this conversation:

Papa: "Daniel (who is five years old), do you have a girlfriend at school?"

Daniel: "Well, I did. Her name was _________, but I broke up with her because she digs in her bottom. I have to find a new one."

Papa: "Oh, well, there you go. Do you have any boyfriends?"

Daniel: "Papa! Grand Jan and Mama told us boys don't have boyfriends."

Papa: "Right! How about any buddies?" .......

On our best, and worst days, all we can do is live fully in the present. Take it one day at a time. Remember how precious life is, and love those who are still with us.

I have full confidence my mother is in heaven, talking her head off with all sorts of people she hasn't seen in a long time, and probably asking all sorts of tough questions. Or maybe there's the blessed relief that those tough questions finally don't matter anymore? I'm pretty sure where she is now trumps anything going on here on earth, but I also know if she'd been along for our ride to school conversation with a precocious five year old boy, she would have laughed as loud as I did. In the midst of everything else swirling around in my head, I'm enjoying remembering how my mother loved a good laugh. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Rigor Mortis Reptile

The only person I've ever known who is worse at telling a joke than me is my mother. I am terrible at it and she was worse, so I suspect it's genetics. Like me, she'd get all the lines mixed up, and ruin the punch line, or forget it.

I loved that about her.

She'd get into the middle of a story she loved telling, and she'd start laughing so hard, she couldn't get out the last few lines. She'd hold her hands to her stomach to stop the pain, happy tears flowing, and she'd finally make her way through to the end of the story, spitting it out as she gasped for air. Usually, at the end, we were laughing at her telling more than the story itself. There's nothing as funny as someone who cracks themselves up.

My all time favorite I'd get her to retell, all the way up to a year or so before she died, was the dead alligator story.

Mom had an older sister, Edie, who lived up to her naturally red hair, with a feisty personality and penchant for getting into trouble. Mom, being a few years younger than her, was usually quick to agree to all sorts of nonsense.

On a hot, southern summer day, Mom and Edie were walking home from somewhere. They decided to veer off the path a bit, and walk along side the bank of the canal that wound through town. A nasty smell pulled them over to investigate. In the middle of a clump of tall grass, they found a true treasure - a dead alligator, rank from laying there for awhile. Alligators were pretty common in the southeast part of Texas where they lived at the time, and this one was several feet long.

As soon as they saw it, they knew it was too good to pass up. Somehow the two of them dragged that alligator out of the weeds, and back over a few streets. They picked a good spot, and hid the alligator and themselves inside the cover of the bushes.

I can only imagine how it smelled to sit in those bushes with a stinky dead alligator, waiting in the hot Texas sun. Sure enough, pretty soon someone came strolling down the road, and right when they reached the spot where my mom and Edie were, the two of them grabbed the middle of that smelly, dead alligator and shoved  it out into the path of the stranger passing by. Of course the stranger screamed their head off, and took off running. Mom and Edie reeled the dead alligator back into the bushes, and waited for another victim to come strolling by.

She told me that they were able to scare the daylights out of quite a few people, shoving that alligator out onto the path, then quickly reeling it back in before anyone could see where it'd come from (at least that's what they thought). The rigor mortis of the reptile made it a bit easier to shove and reel, repeat.

Eventually another pair of legs came strolling along; they shoved the alligator out into the path, but the person didn't scream or run. They just stood there, calling out "Judy Ann, Edie, you get your sorry tails out of those bushes right now. She told me they both got the whippings of their life, after which their Mama just about scrubbed the skin off of both of them. By the time she'd get to this point in the story, she'd be wiping her tear-covered face, shaking her head, gasping for air, and quite possibly clenching her knees together, because she should have made a pit stop before the retelling.

Picturing my mother as a silly, mischievous snip of a girl, who loved scaring the daylights out of anyone who passed by, shoving a smelly, stiff dead alligator at them - well, that's one of the memories I'm so thankful she shared with me while she could. I'd say to anyone out there with older parents, ask them about their childhood. Get them to share their favorite stories with you. Someday you'll be so glad you did. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

My New Reality

It's a funny thing about Moms. You don't have a first memory of them. They've just always been there. Then they're not, and the shape of your world is forever changed.

These past days I've been trying to get used to the idea of a world without my mother in it. Since she's been with me for almost 62 years, and only gone for a little more than a week, I'm expecting this to take some time before it feels at all normal.

The past several years with her were a real struggle, and the last few months were exhausting - for her and for me. She was living in a state of constant confusion and anxiety, and I was keeping my phone close at hand for the inevitable calls from the nursing home where she lived. Declining health, I've learned, isn't very pretty.

Now it feels strange that nobody is calling about her. It feels strange when reminders pop up on my phone to facetime with her, but she's not there anymore. I'm sure this is a very normal part of the grieving process, but so far I keep waiting for someone to tell me she didn't die after all, there was a mix up and my world hasn't actually turned upside down.

She's been on my mind almost constantly, and especially late at night when I'm about to fall asleep. So many memories float to the surface, and the sound of her voice still comes through. I imagine that will fade with time, so right now I'm enjoying that I can still hear the ring in her laughter, envision her putting her hand up over her mouth as she giggles over something. "Hey guy" or "hey lady" (how she greeted just about anyone she knew) keep coming through.

I never actually liked Bruce  Springsteen, but she sure did. Right now the memory of the two of us driving through Glenwood Canyon, headed for Grand Junction, sun roof open, and the CD player turned up way too loud, two gray haired ladies singing the lyrics to 'Born in the U.S.A.' off-key - well, that's my definition of priceless right now. Seriously, if it was up to her, I bet she'd want that song played at her funeral. I'm expecting we'll go with Amazing Grace, or something similar, but if she was allowed to choose...... there's no telling.

There were years when we didn't see each other very much. We never lived closer than 1000 miles apart from when I was about 25, and sometimes life situations and finances kept us from visiting as much as we'd have liked to. But once in awhile we got it right, and took off for adventures. For the next week or so I'm going to re-remember those adventures and share them here. My mother was a writer at heart, so there's no better way to honor her memory than to write about her.

There's the story of her and her sister dragging a dead alligator out to scare people. And when she wore that raincoat and stood up in the Maid of the Mist to see Niagara Falls, and the road trip we took across Texas to see every beat up house we'd ever lived in, drinking margaritas by the Riverwalk in San Antonio, while singers serenaded her with Yellow Rose of Texas; the road trip where I drove right into the woods in pitch black night.....

And maybe after I work my way through a few of those stories, I'll have come more to grips with the fact that she's really gone. It's quite okay with me if the sound of her laugh still rises to the top now and then. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Judith Ann McMillan Boaz - July 4, 1933 - February 23, 2017

Judith Ann McMillan Boaz, age 83
Judith Ann McMillan Boaz, 83 years of age, passed away at Genesis Bear Creek Health Center, the Salana Memory unit in Morrison, Colorado, on February 23, 2017 after battling Alzheimers. In her last days she was surrounded by family, and was lovingly cared for by the nursing staff of Salana, as well as Hospice and other nurses.

She is preceded in death by two of her sons, Jerry Clyde Boaz and Gary Alan Boaz. She is survived by her ex-husband, Chester Boaz, four of her children – Barbara Ann Reid and son-in-law Rob Reid of Grand Junction, Colorado, Beverly K. Gibson and son-in-law Don Gibson of Mansfield, Texas, Dwain Calvin Boaz of Englewood, Colorado, and James Derrell Boaz and daughter-in-law Stacey Boaz of Parker, Colorado, as well as thirteen grandchildren and twenty-three great-grandchildren. A private memorial service, celebrating her life, will be held at a future date, in Goodland, Kansas. Memorial donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association or your local Hospice chapter.

Judith, also known as Judy (depending on the mood she was in) was born at home in Jasper, Texas on a hot, stormy 4th of July night. She always said she loved that the entire nation celebrated her birthday every year. Her father paid the delivery doctor in produce and eggs. She grew up in a family that eventually split apart, with her grandparents doing much of her raising. At age 15 she dropped out of school and married her sweetheart, Chester Boaz. By the age of 24 she’d birthed her 6th child within 7 ½ years.

In her twenties she became determined to finish her education. She studied and passed her G.E.D. on the first try. After doing so, she went straight to the local community college and signed up for classes. She eventually went on to earn an Associates degree, then a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Walking across that stage, in cap and gown, may well have been the proudest moment of her life. She also earned an LPN nursing license and worked into her 70’s as a nurse. One of her last nursing jobs was at the health care center in the Alzheimer’s unit, where she eventually went to live the rest of her days.
Judy, age 17, expecting her first child, Barbara

 In her lifetime she saw Niagara Falls, The Alamo, the Pacific Ocean, and returned to see her hometown, the house where she was born, where her grandparents lived and the cemetery where her Granny was buried.

She had a deep love of learning and the heart of a writer. While living in Texas she decided to write an article on the Cuban Refugees coming into Texas, and was able to talk someone into publishing it in the local newspaper. A romantic at heart, she also loved to write poetry.

In her 40's, she grew more beautiful with age. 

The things she loved most: life-long pursuit of education, southern manners, good barbeque, ice cold striped watermelons, shrimp, all flavors of ice cream, Mexican food that included a margarita and chips and guacamole; dancing, music of all kinds but especially Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the U.S.A.’, long walks in the local park, gardening, flying on an airplane anywhere, puppy dogs, games of scrabble that she usually won, road trips across the country, the local library, long talks and deep thinking, the Rocky Mountains; baggy, comfortable clothes, staying up all hours of the night, then sleeping as late as she wanted to. Ever hopeful, she loved buying a weekly lottery ticket at the local King Soopers. She loved shopping at the local Goodwill, always on the hunt for a good bargain, and almost always bringing home an armful of books to mail off to grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She also loved a hot cup of black coffee, any time of day. She loved, loved New Year’s Day and making a long list of resolutions, which she’d post over the kitchen sink where she could see it every day.

She was the kind of mother, grandmother, great-grandmother who let kids make tents over the clothesline with freshly washed sheets; cut fish out of construction paper and let the grandkids ‘fish’ over her sofa; spent the family tax return to buy a kid an old piano; give all six of her kids a box of icicles to throw on the always-scrawny Christmas tree, and let them stay when they landed in big globs. She was a champion for her kids, and generally let them make messes out of whatever was on hand if it sparked an interest in them. She liked having her front yard be the one where all the kids gathered at night to play Red Rover or catch lightening bugs.

The things she didn’t love: math, rudeness, male chauvinism, bullying, housecleaning, cooking, soldiers being sent off to fight wars, fixing her hair or bothering with makeup, being confined to give gifts only on holidays, having to live by the clock, and trying to understand anything technical.

Her one goal in life was to write a book, titled “On Thin Ice”. While it wasn’t finished on paper; instead, she wrote her book on the hearts of all who knew and loved her. Her last wishes for her children were for them ‘to Love the Lord your God, and wear your bloodline well.” 

We’ll do our best to make you proud, Mom.