The search for normal

We drive our grandkids to the boardwalk.  Lights and rides and cheap stuffed animals surround us — then a young man runs out of a storefront — “Stay the F— out of my store, you hear?”

We search for normal.

We sit poolside, toucan floats and cheesy pizza at our side.  I check twitter, only to learn of another shooting in our home town.

We reach for normal.

We run to the ocean edge, scooping shells and searching for sand crabs for bait.  I hear an elderly couple speaking of the newest health care changes being considered.

We yearn for normal.

I can not help but worry that my grandchildren, aged 8 to 2, will never really understand this normal that I look for.  They are growing up without peaches with a quarter inch of fuzz, without open doors and barbecues.  They hear of shootings and presidential “tweets”.  Will they be able to sit on their front step, a half hour before sunrise and smell that sweet morning nectar, see the golden rays jump up behind the neighbors house?  More and more I doubt it.  And more and more I search for pieces of light to share with them, pictures and memories of days gone by when the ocean was clean, the rivers and creeks safe to swim in, woods were for exploring and friends spent the night.

I cry for normal.

thanks wordpress

WordPress sent me a note today.  I registered to blog with them 4 years ago….not sure how that feels, like yesterday or several lifetimes ago….

I write less lately.  Please don’t mistake that for a lack of opinions :).  It is the result of spending too many hours at a computer screen during the day.  this job of mine has turned into its own sort of monster.  My eyes, and brain, are tired at the end of the day.

This retirement thing seems to have taken a leave of absence.

I promised myself that the job would be “fun”. that i would not slip into old habits of caring too much, working too much, worrying too much.  Right.  There are great moments of joy in my work, but the push is palpable:  do more, bring in more funding, bring in more schools, up your numbers, be the best supervisor ever, understand millennials, don’t let people walk on you, check on this and  this and this.  I’m exhausted.

But, this too shall pass.  In the scheme of things I have nothing to complain about.  Life is full, the beach house is awesome, you know the drill.

However, I am going to do some serious thinking after the first of the year.  Maybe it’s time for some changes….

Oh, and Happy Anniversary WordPress.  Glad you stuck around.

 

 

 

Not my mother’s daughter

I am SO not my mother’s daughter.  I tell myself this regularly.  I pray at night that my wish will come true and that I can hold on to the precious few memories of bonding with my mom and let loose of the pain and the wound tight persona she embodies.

And, today I am reminded of just how much I am not my mothers daughter.  Packing one more box for the dual moves we are making over the next month,  I came across two poems written to us by our daughters.  the first, from our oldest, musing about her memories of car rides and long talks, full of joy and melancholy and family.  The second, a sort of apology and gratitude piece from our youngest, who often feels she has to apology for her past.  This is not true, she does not have to apologize.  She is the most caring, involved, loving person I know.  her passion has led her astray a few times when she was young , but she has nothing to apologize for.  her experiences have made her the amazing woman she is today.

But, anyway.  As I picked up these two poems and read them, I remembered the last notes I had found tucked away in drawers and boxes.  The hate filled notes my mother had written for me to find when, she assumed, she was dead and I was organizing her life’s clutter.  I found them early, but their bite was just as strong.

And I am happy that the notes I have chosen to save are filled with hope, and joy and love.  With good memories and praise.  Notes that will make everyone who reads them, now or in years to come, know that this family faced things together, and loved each other through every heartache.  I am SO not my mother’s daughter….

She’s in

mom is in the Assisted Living home.  She has a sweet little apartment, complete with refrigerator and microwave, coffee pot and toaster. And most of her beautiful stuff, her antique desk and her grandmother’s rocker were the first pieces of furniture we brought in.  I had them all set up before she came into her room.  It made her smile, and I like to think, gave her a sense of home.

I am left to clean up the mess that was her home.  whenever you walked into moms it was dark.  Since I was a child she avoided turning on lights in the house.  her home always looked neat and tidy.  When we began to ready her move and I had to open drawers and cupboards I found out that she has kept every piece of paper to enter that house since dad died over 5 years ago, along with a multitude of bills etc. from when he was alive.  And, among these bills, checks, receipts and contracts, I found no less than 15 letters and notes   where she detailed a variety of wrongs my brother and I had done to her.  Hateful notes full of self pity and accusations of neglect and anger.  Not one, not ONE of them spoke of her great grandchildren, or her grandchildren.  Of visits to dads grave, or shopping trips or Christmas meals.  None of them spoke of her sorrow at dads passing or her memories of their past together.  Each was a scathing hit at one of us, or dad. She kept one from 1956 that she wrote to dad, a private note between a young wife and her husband, full of hatred and threats.  And they were scattered throughout her troves of papers.  You couldn’t miss them, and, for all except one dated October 2012 and the one written to my father, you couldn’t tell when they were written.  And even if now she doesn’t remember they are there — if her fog is that deep— when she wrote them, when she placed them in with these papers, she knew we would find them  .  She wrote them to cause us pain. We were meant to find them after she died, when we couldn’t confront them or her, when we couldn’t question her or dispute.  She wrote them to cause us pain.  What a pitiful, angry life.

And a lesson for me to surround myself in gratitude and joy and let the anger and pain roll off. It is just cruel to cause pain to those who love you — and to do it when it is too late for them to make it right.

Details to follow

today we move mom into her assisted living apartment.  Even as i write this I have trouble believing it.  She should have moved in with me sometime in the past 5 years.  She should have sons who care enough to help with this massive undertaking.  I should further appreciate this husband of mine, who, once again has jumped in to make my life bearable.  Details to come.

I have accepted

that I am part of the “sandwich” generation.  However, right now I am about out of peanut butter and this whole “caretaker” roll is getting stale.  So self involved, I know, but, I’m exhausted.

How did we get here?

We took our five year old grandson to Disney last week.  It’s a tradition with us, once a grandchild turns 5 we take them on a trip — he is the third one, and the second to pick Disney as his destination.

I’m not a Disney girl.  It often feels staged and pushy, the crowds get me confused and I don’t have the patience to wait for 20 minutes ( with fast pass ) for a four minute “attraction” which may be little more than a loud neon painted carnival ride.

But, it seems to be an American Right of Passage and the grandkids love it, so I suck it up and ultimately get pulled into the pageantry and hoopla.  The one on one time with a grandchild is a treat indeed — so I push my cynicism aside and experience the Magic that is DisneyWorld.

Last Thursday evening I sat on the curb, grandson between my knees, surrounded by glow sticks and 5 year olds and watched a High School band march around the circle  in Magic Kingdom.  And, as I experienced and shared the things a child’s life should be made of — friends and music, adventure and accomplishment, Light Sabers and giggles — I tried to wrap my head around the chaos of the news that had come to me from my home town, hours earlier in the day.

You may have heard of, but probably not, Wilmington Delaware.  I grew up here, an iconic place to live, diverse, blue collar, close to the beach, Philadelphia and New York.  My friends and I thought nothing of unlocked doors and late night walks and going to dances to listen to the band.

Lately though, things have changed.  Plagued by violence, unemployment, heroin gone wild, the city has become dark, dirty,  sadness and despair permeate the air.  The news paper and television call it “Killmington” and “Murderville”, guns are everywhere, parents scared to let their kids go to the park, or onto their own front stoops.

And, on Thursday a 16 year old girl was beaten to death, TO DEATH, in the bathroom of her school.  Good God, her school. There are rumors flying about the reason, as if there could be one, or the manner in which the death occurred, but whether her head was slammed into a sink or she was stabbed, whether there were 2 assailants or 6, whether she went into that bathroom to fight a peer or discuss a problem, one thing is certain, she is dead.  All the blue balloons sent to the sky as children yell “RIP AMY”, all the vigils and television interviews won’t bring her back.  There is nothing poetic or symbolic about this.  It is sick.  It is unacceptable that a young person could walk into her school at 7:45 and never walk out.  killed at the hands of her peers, beaten to death.

I didn’t know Amy, I don’t understand the anger that could make you kill someone, and I don’t know how to solve this rage that fills so many of our young people.  Church?  Parenting?  Mentoring?  Hope?  I don’t know, I am so saddened that I just don’t know.

And, as  I sat and wondered, my grandson lifted his head and said, I love you grammy. My joy was muddled with the thoughts of a mother that will never hear her daughter say those words again.

you just never know…

I had a meeting today with a VERY IMPORTANT LADY. I say that in caps. because it is true.  She is amazing, in her 60’s, spends her days volunteering, donating, supporting women’s causes.  She speaks her mind and swears at meetings.  I admire her more than I can say.

So today she came to my office to help me with a project.  we sat at the table together, and she said,  ” So, tell me about the kids….” I shared the ups and downs of my three, starting with the  oldest, working down to our youngest.  Shared that our youngest child’s battle with and victory over, bulimia had shaped the last 9 years of my life, had given me renewed purpose.  When I finished, she looked me dead in the eye and said ” I had that”.  She went on to share her own battle with binging and purging, and how, for a time, she felt she had discovered the greatest thing — eating without calorie increase.   We discussed how, and why, she had stopped.  How she had committed herself to healthy eating, but still, over 40 years later, struggles with binging and then being disgusted with her lack of “control”.  We spent almost 2 hours sharing viewpoints, research, ideas and dreams  about the importance and impact of this disease.

Damn.

I look at her and am, once again, incensed at the ability of this disease to work its way into a life full of promise.  And at how, though she is successful, a strong woman,  wonderful parent and giver — she still has to fight with self hate.  And, once again, my passion is renewed.  We have to fight this.  We have to beat this.  We have to provide support for sufferers and families….

And then, as we finished our project and sat back, proud of what we had accomplished, nursing  a cup of tea — she said “you know I never told anyone about this. My husband doesn’t know this about me, my parents didn’t know…

Damn.

I thanked her for trusting me.  For opening her heart and her mind and for believing in herself enough to know that she can say the words out loud and still be safe.