tossin this out there

Why is it that my grown daughter feels it is ok to ignore my phone calls?  I know cell phones are invasive, and that you dont HAVE to answer them, but its her mother for God’s sake, wouldnt you think she’d pick up just to make sure everything is ok?????  When she calls me, I answer.  When her dad calls, 99% of the time, she answers.  When I call?  its a 50/50 chance she will pick up.  Seriously.

hell week…

I should not complain.

Seriously should not. But, whatever, here it comes.  A couple weeks ago our daughter confirmed that she needed to have minor surgery.  Now, “minor” is a relative  term.  My.Daughter.Surgery.  Those words do not blend well, so I had to go into mom mode, reminding myself that it was NOT about me, that I needed to be a resource and a source of strength.  That I had to pray and accept the healing even before I saw it manifested.  That I had to eat and sleep and not hover.  That 3 phone calls a day with “how are you feeling?” is not appropriate or acceptable. I bought her new pajamas and slippers, made a casserole, took the day off work.  “Why mom?  Why are you taking off work?”  Oh, I don’t know…..maybe because MY DAUGHTER IS HAVING SURGERY.  “Just in case you need me for something that day”.  “No, I’ll be fine”.  Turns out her husband couldn’t get off that day and I was needed to do transport, sit in the waiting room drinking nasty coffee == but I was also afforded the wonderful sight of the doctor telling me that everything went well, everything looked great.  Score!

Which would have been enough to make it a rough week, right? Wait for it, it gets better…

3 days before surgery we had our first snow storm of the season.  Husband and son in law decided it was a good day to chop wood.  (You can imagine what is coming, right?).  Off they went.  I did the grocery store run, stocked up on soup and chili ingredients, came home and cuddled up on the couch with coffee and my knitting.  It occurred to me around noon, when there were 3 inches of snow on the  ground and wicked cold, that I hadn’t heard anything.  So I called.  Husband assured me that they were loading the last truck and he would be home for lunch……. 2 hours later I tried his phone and the son in law….no answer… another hour passed, I finished knitting the mittens, and I tried him again.  “Yeah, Im getting some xrays done”.  WTF?  “I fell, I think I broke a rib”.  Truth is, he broke  two, and had been in the ER for 3 hours, I mean, why call me?  Why should I know my husband of 38 years and one day ( don’t even ask about the missed steak dinner reservations for that evening ) was in the ER?

And so began hell week. A week of cooking, shifting blankets, propping pillows, buying coffee, hugging babies, heating casseroles, handing out medicines….worrying.  Scolding.  Threatening to call an ambulance on Wednesday when he had decided he could sleep in the bed and then we couldn’t get him out of it.  45 hour work week…

So, last night I fell asleep at 7:00 pm.  exhausted.  And, of course I awoke at 3 am.  I’m gonna need a nap.

Christmas true

When you parent you always wonder….will IT matter…?  IT can be anything from using the time out chair to a trip to the beach to an extra story at night… to any of a multitude of moments that wrap themselves into the bundle that is parenting.  Will IT matter?

This Christmas has been  a mix of memories and precursors,  misplaced Christmas dishes and a house too small to decorate the way I like to … which got me to thinking, will it matter?

Last week, I took my oldest grandchild ( 7 years old ) Christmas shopping.  We’ve done it every year since she was born.  Our son raised her alone the first 3 1/2 years of her life, mom walked out when she was 5 months old and left him with a mortgage, a dog she had to “rescue” and this precious little girl.  So when Christmas came that first year, she was 10 months old and her daddy had done everything he could to make it a Christmas like he had always imagined he would have when he became a father.  But, there was no one to buy him gifts so baby Ava and I went shopping.  Everything she touched or smiled at I bought.  He got a lego set, a pink polo shirt and, if I remember correctly , a gazing ball for the back yard.  And so it began, the yearly Christmas shopping trip with our girl.  When we went back  to her house last week to wrap the presents she wrapped and bagged and wrote the tags. She looked at me and said, “so which of these are you taking to your house?” and I explained that they were staying at her house for her to give to family.  Her face broke a bit when she looked at me and said “wait, we’re not going to your house this year , you know to open all the presents and eat and everything??  the whole family?”  As I explained to her that “Yes, of course you will all come to my house, you will bring your presents then, everyone will be there” — she smiled and continued her task.  And I knew, without a doubt, that IT mattered, the yearly Christmas traditions that are so much work and go way too fast, that result in huge piles of paper and misplaced pieces — that I always wonder if the kids are coming to just to appease me — they matter to Ava, and probably to all of them.

This morning my son came to pick up a gift for Ava that had been delivered here.He walked in and surveyed the piles of gifts under the tree.  He smiled and said, “All red and white paper this year!  It looks like a giant candy cane, awesome.”  And, again, IT mattered.  The buying and wrapping, the clutter and  ribbons, matter.  A candy cane.  35 years old and he sees the Candy cane in a pile of Christmas gifts.  It matters.

Two weeks ago the youngest, 30 years old, called to ask me what I was doing on Christmas Eve.  Our Christmas celebrations depend on when Ava is in town and what years the oldest daughter has to go to New Jersey to celebrate with inlaws….so it was a fair question.  I said “not sure, hanging out, maybe church.”  She immediately suggested a “7 fishes” celebration at her house — just us and my mom , everyone else had plans.  She and her husband could have planned any number of parties or events for them and their kids, but they chose to spend Christmas Eve with us, her parents.  It matters.  All the years of gathering the family together at our house to play Christmas carols and open gifts, to eat and sometimes drink too much…matter.  And, when it came to be her turn and she finally had a house big enough to feel comfortable entertaining in — It mattered. Then when her brother called to tell us what time his Christmas Eve celebration was starting, we all adjusted times so we could do both.  and the traditions will continue.   IT matters.

On the 18th.  all the kids and all the spouses and all 7 grandchildren gathered at oldest daughter’s house to bake cookies.  They do it every year, sometimes not everyone can make it, but this year it was full out everyone.  Sprinkles and dough, ovens dinging and me and George just standing there grinning.  It matters.  All the years of gathering them in the kitchen and baking cookies and breads matter.  And now, they continue it with their children, and since they are lucky enough to have siblings that they love, they do it together, bringing those cousins together to build memories.

I wonder sometimes if their dad and I are burdens, or insignificant in their lives, but this season has reminded me that it matters.  We matter.

Merry Christmas everyone.

 

It would be easier if…

my kids lived far apart.  If it took a plane ride or a road trip to get them together it would be easier to see them apart.  but it is not space, but choice, that is tearing our family down.  My kids grew up incredibly close.  less than 5 years separated the three of them, and our house was full of laughter and noise and tears and hugs….

They grew up and became adults.  Life got in the way and we had some ups and downs — but they had each other.  we had barbecues and family dinners.  Family vacations when all of us — 12 of us — stayed in one house for a week or more.  Boat trips and impromptu beerpong in the back yard.

But then it changed.  one of them has become joined to someone who has a power trip like non other.  And it has torn my kids apart.  Rarely do I get to see the 7 grandchildren together, to plan a party or a dinner and know they will all be here.  I miss it.  And, maybe it was inevitable, but it makes me sadder than I can say.

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….

drinking games

Parenthood.  When your kids are teens you don’t let them drink. you let them have a sip of wine on Thanksgiving, just to see what it tastes like, but you don’t let them drink.  their friends cant give you their keys and drink at your house, you don’t tell them “its OK as long as you don’t drive.” You don’t give them alcohol at the pre-prom dinner.

then they go to college.  You play beer pong and flip cup when they come home for holidays.  you buy silly shot glasses.  You call on their 21st. birthday to see if they are with someone you trust ( yeah, right). You pray they will call on Sunday morning so you will know that, at least for that weekend, they survived.

They graduate.  and they drink WAY too much.  You worry.  You give them the stink eye and count the beers in your refrigerator.  Nights when you should be asleep you sit and look at the clock waiting for the graduate — who has moved back home, to get home from whatever club they are at that night.  you pray they aren’t in Philadelphia.

Then, suddenly, they are thirty something.  They have a glass of wine, or a couple blue moons.  and then they stop.  They have kids, and spouses and jobs.  They share your love of a smooth shot of anisette or a nice bloody Mary.  and then they go about their day.

drinking games.  One of the rights of parenthood that no one ever tells you about.

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.

waxing so not poetic

I’m sure the site is bursting with Mother’s Day musings.  Emotionally packed tributes to children, sad accounts of the phone call that didn’t come, hopes for a brighter future.

This is not one of them.  Oh, this is  about Mother’s Day, but it may be a little off sync…

Mother’s Day is not about presents. But, I always get gifts.Some years I have been inundated with handprint pictures and potted geraniums.  Some years the gang banded together and presented me with gift certificates and Hallmark’s best.  A few years back it was a plethora of gym bags/clothes/socks….

But this year was one of those years that demonstrates just how in tune  our kids are with George’s and my life.  Its a transition time for us, moving mom into assisted living, selling our home to our youngest, looking for a small place to live up here.

AND THE BEACHHOUSE.

Our dream — always — has been to own a beach place.  Originally it was supposed to be in Cape Hatteras.  My happy place, the place I call home — where I spent weeks on end growing up.  But, its a bit far from the “homestead” where, for now at least, all of our children live within a 10 mile radius.

So, we are doing it.  We are in process of buying a second  home, at the beach, in Virginia.

And, after the phone calls, the facebook messages, the memories of Mother’s Day past…they showed up yesterday, bearing gifts.  A beach mug for my cups of coffee on the deck, two toss pillows — adorned with sea horse and blue crab, a lighthouse wall hanging, our Initial for the door, and a tropical plant.

They get it.  After the teen years, full of angst and self involvement, after the toddler years where their physical and emotional needs could overpower — they adult up on me and find tangible ways to tell us they get it.

loved and bless, that’s this girl.

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.