teaser tuesday

Teaser Tuesday asks you to : Grab your current read, Open to a random page, Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. I’m reading The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer. I don’t read a lot of mysteries or thrillers but sometimes I think it’s good to step out of your reading comfort zone and shake things up a bit. I’m really enjoying the read and when I went to his website I also enjoyed his snarky sense of humor! He has fake movie trailers and in one video he’s got family members reading some crummy reviews of the book. It’s totally hilarious, you gotta love a guy who can laugh at the critics! And if those are real reviews I certainly don’t agree with them. I plan to read more of his books, he’s an interesting guy and a good writer.

My teaser sentences are from page 44 where he writes, It’s so damn easy to judge. But Paulo knows from his niece, no matter how much you want someone back in your life, sometimes it’s the letting-them-back-in part that hurts the most. I reread that second sentence several times. It struck me how true it was, and not just about letting people back in, but about letting anything back into your life that you associate with heartache. Years ago, I had to stop painting because I was very ill. When I finally regained my health I didn’t go back into the spare bedroom where my easel was set up for many months. I thought it was because I was afraid I wouldn’t remember how to paint, that I may have lost the ability to be creative after going through so much physical and emotional hurt.

One afternoon, I finally got up the nerve to venture into my little studio. I opened a can of turpentine and squeezed a selection of oil colors onto my palette. Facing a blank white canvas, I breathed in the scent of my paints, dipped my paintbrush into a swirl of cadmium red, and promptly burst into gut wrenching sobs. It was at that moment that I realized it wasn’t the fear of not being able to paint that had kept me away from my art, it was the fear of losing it all over again if my health problems returned. I had grieved long and hard after first losing that part of me, did I really want to let it back in? So I agree with Mr. Meltzer, that simple little sentence says a whole lot about human nature and I imagine most of us can relate to in one way or another.

circle of life

I took this photograph over the weekend during a family barbecue. Aunt Bessie is 98 years old. My new granddaughter Brooklyn is only 8 weeks old. When I look at the two of them it feels as though I am looking at the whole of a woman’s life – the history of girlhood and school days, of friendships and lovers and work and marriage, the fierce new love a young mother feels when she holds her sleeping child, and the fierce grief a woman lives as she strokes her dying husband’s hand. Can you see it? All that has happened in the creases and lines of Bess’s beautiful face, and all that is yet to come in the smooth angelic face of my baby granddaughter. A life nearing its conclusion and one that is just beginning. The circle of life, strung out between their two ageless spirits like the glistening white pearls of Aunt Bessie’s necklace.

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.  ~Havelock Ellis

See other (nearly) Wordless Wednesday participants here.

skywatch friday

I wandered over to the fishing pond across the street to take a few pictures and two swans were conveniently floating around enjoying the bright sunny day. It’s finally starting to feel like spring around here. I must admit to feeling a little blue today however, it was a year ago this week that we lost our first granddaughter at only five months gestation. Last spring was tough with my mom being so ill and then the baby’s death. Thinking about those days and weeks reminds me that I have so much to be grateful for; that Meagan is pregnant again and doing well, that my mother is no longer suffering and my dad is adjusting as well as can be expected to living alone.

I suppose what they say is true, time heals all wounds. Or perhaps it just puts some much needed space between you and the pain. And in that space, if you are lucky, you may find a little peace. Near the end of one of my books I write …when the earthly lives of my daddy and brother had safely made that transformation from flesh and blood to mist and memory, when the grief had finally settled itself comfortably into the undercurrent of my days and nights, my voice came back to me. I wrote that not long after losing my beloved father-in-law Hank, and I was remembering that shift, that soft gray place where grief slips quietly into the background and we begin again. That is the joy and wonder of spring too, and it is here at long last.

soul sisters

Julie and me, 1970

At my mom’s memorial two weeks ago my cousin Julie and I found a quiet corner in the living room and talked for a long time about aging parents. She was worried about her own mother and wondering what is was like for me having to say goodbye to my mom. Julie and I were very close growing up, more like sisters at times than cousins. Yesterday my aunt called to tell me that Julie’s husband Rick Bach died suddenly Monday night of a massive heart attack. Me and Mr. B  just got home from the service. The chapel was packed with friends and family who spoke lovingly of Rick and his passion for life and sports, one of The Four Tops sang a beautiful a capella song, and my little cousin Jules is simply crushed. Before she left the day of my mom’s party we all promised to get together soon for dinner and Julie gave me a CD of a band that records at the studio she manages. I found one of their videos on youtube, hope you enjoy it.

missing mom

My mom’s dog Ellie on her perch keeping watch

For many months now my family has been struggling to understand why my seventy-four-year-old mother was so sick and what we could do to help make her better. She has a somewhat rare form of COPD called bronchietasis, the cause of this illness is not well understood and unfortunately the treatment for it has been limited and unsuccessful. For quite some time we have been walking that heartrending line that those with serious illness and their families must walk, that difficult path where hope and acceptance meet and retreat then meet again. My mother has grown weary of the dance. She has stepped over to acceptance and she is asking us to do the same and so we are going to begin hospice care.

I sit and talk with her about her death now. She wants to know how long it will take. I tell her I don’t know but we will do everything we can to keep her comfortable. She says there are things she wanted to do, get organized. I tell her that she is still here and we can still do them. She says she wanted to write each of her children a goodbye letter. I tell her that she can dictate the words and I’ll write them down for her. She says she wanted to clean out the desk and throw away old bills. I reassure her that my dad will take care of that. She told me that her little dog Ellie is going to miss her and I said, “Yes, you’re right mom, she really is going to miss you.”

I could add a few words of wisdom about now, something about it all being okay because it’s the natural cycle of life, or she’s crossing over to a better place, or she’s had a good long life. And sometimes that is how I feel. But the truth is, most of the time it’s not okay. My mom is dying and any way you look at it…it is simply unacceptable.

*I wrote this post the day before my mother passed away. It’s been two months now and I just came across it while cleaning up my draft files on WordPress. This Saturday we are having a big open house in honor of my mom and I really do look forward to seeing family and old friends we don’t often get to see anymore. I’m still searching for those words of wisdom that will make everthing okay, but the thing is I want to lay my head down on my mother’s lap, feel her stroke my hair gently, and hear them from her.

sweet dreams

I went to a baby shower for a friend’s daughter on Sunday. At first, as I watched the radiant mom-to-be open one cute pink gift after another, it made me happy. But I have to admit that by the end of the afternoon I practically ran out of that room. While slipping into my coat before I made my great escape, I overheard another friend say that she had just finished addressing her own Christmas cards as well as her mother’s cards. I had just finished addressing the invitations to my mom’s memorial. My own granddaughter was due on September 7th, my mom died on September 30th. As I drove home under a canopy of golden autumn leaves, I had one of those moments that sneak up on you, that suddenly wash over you just when you thought you were doing really great handling the trials of your life. I let the tears fall freely and I remembered a dream I had when the kids were still pregnant.

Two weeks before Andy and Meagan found out that the pregnancy was in trouble, and three weeks before they lost the baby, I had this dream. In the dream we had a house full of family and I was scurrying around like I do when I suddenly saw this little baby sitting in a highchair at a table. The baby wasn’t part of the crazy dream, it was slightly transparent, blond and blue-eyed with a faint glow surrounding it. I sat down across from the baby as the rest of the dream paused and fell away. I asked the baby if it knew what the sex of the coming baby was. The baby looked at me, smiled, and answered, “Can’t you just be patient and wait two more weeks until they find out?” I said, “No, can you tell me?” (not at all surprised that the baby, who looked to be about nine months old, was talking to me). The baby giggled, a sweet, sweet little laugh like the sound of peeling bells, then it looked down shyly and said, “It’s a girl.”

Of course, now I wish I had asked the dream baby if the baby in my daughter-in-law’s belly was healthy, if everything was going turn out okay. After they lost the baby (it was a girl) I was angry that I’d had that dream because a part of me was hoping that the baby in the dream was the baby that I would be holding in my arms by my birthday come September. If I could ask for any dream right now it would be one where I see my mom, young and healthy, her arms cradling a blond, giggling blue-eyed baby girl.

just be

As we were getting ready to go to the hospital to see the kids when they lost the baby last week, I was trying to think of something to say, you know, something all motherly and wise that would help them feel better. Suddenly, two words came into my head, a gentle whisper from the universe that quieted my racing mind. I heard “just be” and I realized that there were no words that would make them feel better. No matter how powerful we mothers like to think our mother-love is, sometimes we just can’t protect our children from life’s sorrows. Sometimes all we can do is just be and let them know that we love them.

The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

september dreams

When I first heard Josh Groban and Charlotte Church sing that song at the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City it brought tears to my eyes. Not because it was such a beautiful song, which I think it is, but because it was just after 9/11 and as I watched that moving production, in my minds eye I could also see the twin towers falling. The contrast between such beauty and such grief was simply overwhelming. I find myself overwhelmed once again today by these contrasting emotions because my son and our daughter-in-law are no longer expecting their first baby in September.

After a difficult year with my mom’s continued illness and financial worries at our small business, the news that we were going to become first time grandparents brought my husband and me much joy. Unfortunately, with the possibility of great joy comes the possibility of great sorrow. When you go through tough times you tend to grab on to that one ray of bright light and hold on for dear life and when that light goes out you fall fast and you fall hard and boy does the landing hurt. But most of all we hurt for our son and his wife. Before they even had the opportunity to know the joy of holding their first baby in their arms, they have had to face the pain of letting go, of saying goodbye to their sweet September dreams. Our hearts are broken. Yet surprisingly, rising up from this sea of grief my husband and I have found a new light, a new blessing to be grateful for as we witnessed a loving young couple grow stronger in spirit and closer together during some very dark days. We are so proud of them, we feel honored to be their parents and we now know more than ever what wonderful parents they will be someday.