In Memory Of…

As many of you know,  I left nearly two weeks ago to be by my sister’s side as she was dying.  She passed away on Friday, May 29, 2020. which is Pentecost in the New Testament. I don’t really understand the connection, but her dear friend she celebrated the tradition each year with her, called it to my attention.  Over the years, They embraced and began celebrating many of the Jewish festivals and traditions, as taught by her Christian Jewish friends, so it was fitting that that was the day she would die.

Today, I went through some of her old pictures and I will sprinkle them throughout my story. Click on them for more info.  Her art and some of her stories are in blog posts I’ve done in the past, so if you ever have a chance or time to go back, and some are way back, I encourage you to do so.  I hope you will bear with me, while I share how my trip went and some of the feelings I experienced.

Diana's senior pic
Senior Picture

I went to be at my sisters side because she was at mine when I needed her most.  I have to say, it was the hardest thing I have ever done.  It doesn’t even compare to how I felt when my parents died.  Over the years, my blogs  have shared bits and pieces of our childhood and the abuse we endured growing up, so their passing was different.  It was perhaps one of relief.  We knew that mother’s mental illness would be cured and that dad’s judgement for his actions would be in God’s hands.  They were still our parents and we loved them despite themselves. We appreciated their good attributes and tried to focus on those and that part of them that made us who we are today. To be honest our feelings vacillated often. We would often remind ourselves to stay positive. She and I worked as a team to take care of our parents as we felt a Christian should.

 

No, my sister’s death cut deep.  If she had not come up to help me care for our ailing parents, I might not be here to write this blog today.  She was my rock and my lifesaver.  I loved her deeper than I can ever express. Surprisingly, I am composed for the moment as I am sharing this.

I hope you don’t mind but I’d like to share my trip experience which went as follows:

May 19th

When I spoke to my nephews the doctor had stated, she might not live through the weekend.  I was in a quandary because of Covid-19. I vacillated all day.  I did not want to be sitting in such close proximity to people in an enclosed airplane cabin which recycles and blows back air from throughout the cabin.  I didn’t know what their process was or if it would be safe.  I get sick every time I fly, so I know I’m inhaling germs that recirculate.  My daughter reassured me that her flight left seats open between people, so it wasn’t until evening that the decision was made. I asked my friend for buddy passes. She responded instantly.  However, because of Covid, flight schedules were considerably cut and my choices left me with either leaving my house at 4am for a  flight leaving at 6 am and not arriving to my destination until after 9 PM, with a long layover in Seattle or leaving at 11:30am, laying over in Seattle until the next day and arriving the day after that, the same time I would have arrived had I left at 6am, only a day later.  36 hours!  So, I had to explore other options.  Fortunately, I found another carrier with a flight I could afford that would not leave me in Orlando but get me where I needed to be without hiring an Uber for the rest of the way.

Diana's new pic33

May 20th

I arrive at the airport and I was relieved that it looked pretty empty. My goal was to get to my sister right away.  She was there for me when I needed her so I had to be there for her.  I was early as I wound my way through the terminal and sat down.  Social distancing was not a problem.  Yay!  That, however was short lived as more and more people arrive.  They announce this will be a full flight.  I’m understanding that to mean with the extra seat in between.  WRONG!  It was full.

They announce they will not be serving food but we can pick up a sack on our way in and we are to leave our masks on except to eat.  For real?  The two people in my row take their masks off and I thought I overheard the man next to me say, he’d been in an area that was questionable. UGH!  No way in hell is this mask coming off.  Years ago when I worked at the health department, I was fitted with an N-95 mask specific to me, so I was fairly confident I would be okay. It is not like the ones today but it fit extremely well.  The problem was that it had been in it’s package for six years.  On arrival to Charlotte, one of the straps broke, breaking the seal. I put a spare one on over that and it kept it in place.  To be honest, it was horribly uncomfortable and I hated re-breathing my own air for 8 hours. I was extra careful too because there was a chance I might not get into hospice being from California.  Despite my good intentions, near the end of that flight I looked over at the passengers near me and they were all sleeping with masks on, so I sneak a drink and a couple of bites of pretzels or some nutty thing.  By the time I got to Charlotte, I was parched and hungry.  Not starved, but at my age I never let that happen.  I rationalize to eat when I’m not hungry so I don’t bonk later. Before my next flight I bought a sandwich, found a safe place, ate and drank all my water.

My next leg had delays. This time we each got a row to ourselves. The second officer comes out and tells us there are creaky boards in the back deck and some lights going off.  For real? The girl across the way wasn’t sure she wanted to stay on board.  I’m worried and I’m getting antzy that I’ll never get to my sister in time.   I feel like screaming, “my sister is gonna die before we get there” but I don’t, then I debate telling everyone my mission and starting a prayer vigil, but that’s not my style either, though I sometimes wish it were. I’m sure some of that comes from all those years as a Jehovah’s Witness getting rejected for our door to door ministry that’s made me gun shy.  I do have faith and I do share scripture, but not like others might.  We lift off, finally and I text my nephew with our new ETA.

I was so afraid I wouldn’t get there in time.  I let my nephew know, since he’s picking me up at the airport.  He said, no worries, he’s taking me straight to her, which isn’t far and open 24 hours. I feel better.  My nephew was worried they might not let me in because he’d heard that folks from four states were prohibited.  New York, Washington, California plus Connecticut.  I’m thinking, yeah, I’m from California, but there are no incidences in the area I live in and I don’t go into the denser areas. I hadn’t been anywhere populated in months, so I have my argument ready.

My sister was my go to girl.  She’s the one I talked to and most of the time with no judgement.  Sometimes, my brother and I would roll our eyes though, because she could be at times quite self righteous… no, just coming across that way.  Now my other sister, she uses scripture for everything and talks in scripture, which I find annoying.  Maybe she thinks we’d forgotten everything we ever knew or perhaps she has nothing else to say and finds that a way to connect, which I believe may be the case.

Diana's new pic3
Her trip to Mexico with the parents but without us. I have no clue who these kids are. Mom’s on the right.

I have step siblings who’ve been very supportive and encouraging as well. One has been surprisingly reasonable and I call attention to it because she can be a little like sister #2. Oddly, for some reason, amid all the updates I send them, they start talking about their cats, or barbecues and recipes.  Let me explain.  I have two major chat groups I’ve formed for getting updates on my sister.  This saves the nephews.  One are the siblings,  the other are my children and one adult grandchild. Then there’s my brother who would go crazy on the group chat. And, one for sister #2, since any news in the group chat would warrant  incessant phone calls.  Sister #2 is on the autism spectrum, so communication is handled differently.

 

My kids on the other hand start joking in a sick sort of way.  They love their aunt very much.  She is their favorite aunt, but when I told them there’s an off chance I might not get in the hospice center because of where I came from, my  daughter, the nurse asks if they have the quick test and then says something like, “they’re all gonna die anyway”.

I exclaim “Tina!”

My son, who tends to be a bit stoic say, “I thought the same thing Tina”

My granddaughter, boy do I love that girl, says “haha, that was funny”  “terrible but funny”

Mr. Stoic follows it with “Robert Heinlein said, “people laugh because it hurts too much to cry”

Yes, its true.  I know my kids meant no disrespect. They are hurting too. They hurt for me, they hurt for Di and for their cousins. I get it and in the next few days, witness it. None of us were ready for this, yet over the past few months we’ve had to make ourselves ready for this eventuality.  I think deep in our gut, we knew.

Diana's new pic12
With our grandpa on the porch of the cabin he was born in. No longer the Casanova I spoke about.

I was thinking how just a few years ago, Diana and I were each other’s soldier while we cared for our dying parents.  Mom in 2009, Daddy in 2011. It felt like so long ago, another space in time. We parted in 2014, yet we talked nearly every day for the first two years, then it became once or twice a week.  On a rare occasion, we’d skip a week, then we’d pick it up again.

Diana's new pic11
Bud’s for life.

We tried weaning ourselves of being so dependent on one another.  She was doing a better job of joining groups and making friends than I.  I had a harder time of doing this even though I had always thought of her as the dependent one.   She needed me, but I think I needed her more.  What she had a hard time with is connecting with her kids.  She admired my time and relationship with my kids.  I was more open about their foibles and they had their fair share, but to me her boys were perfect and maybe so did she.  I saw them as successful in their careers, while my kids took longer to get off the ground. She had these two stud muffin, gorgeous sons and she couldn’t get close to them.  She never said, it but I felt it.  For a long time I thought it was them, but it wasn’t all them.  I see how close we’ve become since all this happened and we’ve talked.  I had observed this before.  I remember how when she first came up to live with me and help, there were moments of miscommunication or lack of.  I’m guessing she had moments of feeling unworthy so it makes sense, it was easier for her to chat and make friends with strangers.  No risk there.  She loved her boys and I believe they loved her but I think they had a hard time bringing it all in together.  At first I thought that was why she didn’t get the help she needed in time.  No matter how much I encouraged her to reach out to them,  she didn’t.  Help came when her grand daughter noticed something wasn’t right with her Nana, when she went over to help her with bookkeeping, because her eyesight had started to go.

Diana's new pic23
I think this is Miami somewhere at a boatyard daddy probably wanted to check out.

So I believed, it passed, she didn’t get the right help at the right time.  In speaking with her son, it appeared that early on if she’d gone for help, it still might have been missed.  As it was, her symptoms may have lead another doctor down a rabbit hole.

The facility she is staying in is immaculate.  I fill out the questionnaire, they take my temperature and I go in. It’s after 11pm.

We go into her room and she is breathing steadily. I marvel at how young her skin looks.  No wrinkles. But she’s gaunt.  There is nice soft spa music playing.  Her son said, someone had brought that in.  It was perfect.  I talk to her, tell her about my trip and all the chaos going on around her.  There is no recognition, just a lifeless body. It is now May 21.  1 AM I tell her I love her and miss her.  Around 2am we leave.

The next day, after little sleep, we go again.  I go over all the fun times we had.  A little past 1PM, we decide to grab a bite.  As we head out to the parking lot, the director runs after us and inquires about the sister from California.  She apologizes for not having gotten back to my nephew right away.  She tells him California, New York, Connecticut and Washington are prohibited. She asks when I would get there. I hesitantly tell her, it’s me. She asks if I’d already been in.  I say, “yes”.  Well, because my sister is so grave, she would make an exception. Uh, I’ve already been in there we’re thinking.

I reassure her that the area I’m from has few cases and I took extra measures myself, given where I planned to be.  So, she’s okay with that.  Perhaps she’s unaware that her forms only ask about foreign travel, exposure to Covid – 19, temperature and cough.  My answers were “No” straight on down. Oh, well.

Diana's new pic5
One of our last bike rides in Florida a few years back.

Each day from there on out is the same. Every other day a doctor comes in and every other day a NP.  The doctor tells us on Friday the 22nd that she’s hanging on but did not expect her to survive the weekend.  The NP tells us this is her favorite room because of the nice music.  It makes her feel like she’s at a spa.  We tell her Diana was a massage therapist, so it’s perfect for her.  The nurse says no wonder and agrees. The second day I go from sitting by her bed to the couch and notice her birth date just happens to be stamped on her bed. It is a yearly inspection sticker, but…?  I start to say something and her son says, “yeah, we know”.  Huh.

Diana's new pic27

So here we sit by her bed waiting for her life to end.  I recount stories of our childhood and we share stories of life with Diana.  The teasing her boys used to give her… what is it about boys teasing their mother?  I see hubby doing it to his mom all the time.  He is still doing it as a grown man.  There was so much these boys didn’t know about their mother, but only one is here to hear the stories.

Each day there are minor changes and each day they’d level off.  On Saturday though she starts to gurgle.  I guess they call it the death rattle?  They gave her an injection and we thought this is it.  When it increased, I lost it. When my step mom got it, I thought it was because she’d had emphysema from all those years of heavy smoking, but the nurse explained we might see fluid being released from her lungs even though Diana never smoked a day in her life other than maybe one time behind the house as a teen experimentally.

After awhile, I apologized to the nurse and said we had to leave.  I couldn’t do it.  She understood and reassured me not to worry, I would not be the first nor the last to do so.  That night I didn’t sleep feeling guilty I’d run out on her like that. At the same time, it seemed awful waiting for someone to die.  We expected a call that never came. The next day, the gurgling had gone away.  Then her gaps in breathing increased but Sunday came and went and she was still there.  When the doctor came in Monday, she shook her head and said, she had a strong heart.  They referred to the gaps in breathing as apnea.  I’ve had occasional sleep apnea and that isn’t any fun at all.   My son calls and his little girl, Maggie May wants to talk to her Auntie.  She’s four, doesn’t understand but wants her to get better, so I put the phone to Diana’s ear and Maggie May proceeds to tell her about her unicorns like only a four year old would.  I take the phone up and start to talk to my son, when Diana starts this continuous moan.  I hang up and my niece in law calls the nurse.  She’s given a shot and it subsides. A couple of days later her breathing gaps increase.  The doctor says, she shouldn’t be here and I want to pop her one. In a way, I wish she wasn’t lingering.  It was painful to see how thin she was.

May 26 Tuesday.  Something felt different and I didn’t want her to be alone.  Since I’d been there, three people had come and gone.  The nurses and staff are wonderful.  I decide this is where I want to come to die. The room across the way is now empty.  I let my nephew know I’m not coming home, but they tell me it didn’t matter what time, they would leave the light on in case I change my mind.

When I left my home in California, I really wasn’t anticipating staying away so long.  When I left the weather in Florida was 91, it cooled off a few days later and add the fact that her room was air conditioned, I was freezing to death. My light linen pants and short sleeved shirts weren’t cutting it, so I brought in blankets.  Eventually I bought sweatpants and sweatshirt at Walmart.

That night, they bring someone else in across the way and she is wailing and moaning as well.  That’s when I noticed Diana moaning. I close the door. I call the nurse and tell her, but I hear them saying the person across the way had vomited, so they’re fighting to keep her from aspirating.  It is now night and the staff is lighter.  Even so, someone comes in right away to give Diana her shot.  They are quick, but the nurse across the way calls for help.  Fortunately, there is a male nurse on duty.  Later, when the door is opened briefly, I see them walking a tall, large, (not fat) woman.  There are several interruptions in the night and I’ve not slept hardly at all.  When morning comes I shower and put my same clothes on.

Diana's new pic30
There she is distracting her siblings as big sister pokes her to straighten up.

At some point, I realize my body feels like it went to war, so I decide to go home.  She’s somewhat stable and my nephew will arrive shortly.  At this point, we have been staggering visits.  I’ve still not seen nephew #2.  I ask if I might see him, but no, he’s too busy with kids and work.  Those words were often my sisters excuse for why she didn’t spend more time with them.  Work and kids.  It always upset me that she wasn’t being included in that dynamic.  Nana’s can watch kids and love spending time with them.  I didn’t know how much of it was her or them.  I learn later, he was struggling over the fact that he had no solutions for her condition. He has a strong science background and a professor at the college, so he was in a quandary over what happened and why.  The thing is, and I knew in my gut this is true, when you “play” with the brain, anything can happen and the why can sometimes be elusive, to never be understood or discovered.  I get it.  He was also hoping for a miracle.  I guess we all were.

Before I left, a new nurse had come in to administer her pain med.  Over the last couple of days, because of the moaning, her meds would be upped.  However, her heart was still strong and her urine clear.  The nurse says it tends to get darker near the end.

I slept a good part of the day.  I just couldn’t get my strength up after my previous night.  I realize that despite my good intentions, I just have to understand my limitations.  So far Diana has disproved every prediction they’ve made. No two people die the same, that was the only verifiable truth.  We all die differently. I wondered how much longer.  My family and husband have been supportive.  Everyone constantly grateful I could represent them.

Diana's new pic26
On the back of her product label she had this quote, which sums her up pretty good.

At one point on the first Friday I was there, my husband tells me his brother, who had just had a quadruple bypass just before Diana went in for her surgery was having to get four stents in.  His arteries were already calcifying.  I fretted that day that we would lose them both on the same day.  Then, if that happened it could start a chain reaction.  My mother in law would be devastated, her husband at 94 would get upset for her and our whole house could fall.  As it turns out, the stents were put in and he goes back to do two more in a month.  So far, it looks fine.

Thursday May 28, My nephew and his wife stayed with me most of the day.  Even though they only allow two visitors at a time, they gave us a pass.  We apologized to one nurse who sweetly says, “What? I don’t see anything”   We were grateful. I had my reservations about leaving Diana that night, but I knew I couldn’t stay the night again. She was different, but I had to trust.

In the morning on Friday, when I came in, I sorta knew.  Her eyes were veiled and it was like she was already gone but she was still breathing. My nephew came in a little later.  A couple of hours later they changed her position.  My niece in law comes in to switch places with nephew but he doesn’t want to leave.  He feels it too.  When she starts to assure him it’s okay, she doesn’t mind staying, I look over her shoulder and say, “She’s not breathing”.  It takes a moment for that to register.  I look at the clock.  11:37am.  I get the nurse and she verifies that yes, she has passed on.

For ten days, I talked to her. The last two days I prayed over her and told her how much I loved her.  How I didn’t want to see her go but that I knew she’d be okay and better soon.  I asked God to take good care of her as I knew how much she trusted he would.

I did research. I learned that the first to go is the brain, but hers was pretty much already gone.  The last MRI showed her frontal lobe completely dark. Then each major part takes turns. Despite how strong her heart had been and the other parts of her body that hung on for so long, there was no chance of any organ transplant unless they were in the hospital.  Hearing is the last to go. Her urine diminished but never changed color.  The skin on her limbs did mottle hence my biggest clue she was close. When they administered that last dose, she cried out. I asked why. The nurse said, every five days they have to change the portal.  Hers had been changed last night, so yes, she probably felt it initially but only for a moment since they’d given her a pain shot.  She went minutes later.  When her death was confirmed I bawled. My niece in law bawled. Nephew calls his brother who comes running.  He had been visiting most nights after the kiddos were tucked in bed.  I felt bad for his kids, that they would never really know their Nana.  The other grands were in their late teens, his are only two and four. He said his goodbyes.  By then we girls had regained our composure.  Son, #1 had been hugging us both while remaining strong. Son #2 also hugged me, but neither shed a tear.

I remember when parents died, we didn’t cry until two weeks later.  I understood when there were times #1 son wouldn’t respond to my chatter, that it was how he was keeping it together.  Sometimes, I can’t talk either.  Sometimes being alone is hardest.

I rushed to make my return flight home so that I wouldn’t be an added burden to my sweet sisters#1 son, should I completely come unglued.  Our mourning was derailed when we heard on the news about George Floyd and all that mess.  For a moment I thought Diana why couldn’t I have gone with you?  I don’t want to be here anymore.

Oh girl, if you only knew what has been happening while you were sleeping and now are gone.  We would have had so much to talk about and analyze. We still dissect these events and make it all better.  I did talk to her today, but she didn’t answer.

Diana' Mad photo
My favorite picture of her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just To Let You Know

I Will be Gone for Awhile.  I will miss your posts, but in a couple of hours I am heading out with a heavy heart to be with sister.

I love you all and your support.

Thank you for being here for me.

I didn’t think I’d go because of COVID but I will take a chance… for her.  My best friend

Jo

 

 

My Sister – I love You

diana at the Art at the Barn faire

My sister was found to have a mass on her brain, (yesterday). She goes back in today for an MRI with contrast.

I am so sick about it.

She’d been losing her sight and it all came on within the past few months. I suspected something wrong because she was tired a lot.  More so of late. picnic

She is my baby sister.  She was the one who left her job and came out to Alabama to help me take care of our parents.  It was hard at first and we at times fought.  If you can picture 50-60 year old’s fighting.

She is/was a massage therapist and into natural remedies which is why she only went to her acupuncturist and chiropractor, seeking a “natural”solution to whatever was ailing her.  Now, that I think back on it, she has complained for some time that she had not been feeling well. She thought it was a mold issue. (She lives in Florida) She complained and yes, there was mold in her air conditioning and her landlord took care of it.Yellow Mushrooms

Even so, she’d been complaining about an overall not feeling well and we’d make jokes about how it sucks getting old.  I still kept insisting she see a doctor.  I told her that I understood her wanting to go natural, but sometimes it’s valuable to find out what is for sure going on and if there’s a natural course of attack, then she can make that decision.  She “said” she agreed with my reasoning, but she kept putting it off.

What was interesting and I mentioned this to her, if her cats got sick she’d take them to the doctor and spend whatever necessary.  She always came second.Closet Diva (1)

For a time, I talked to her less out of sheer frustration.  I didn’t want to hear about the acupuncturist and chiropractor.  Please understand, I have nothing against them, but I just suspected more.  I wonder too, if they had not recommended the same, because many do and will, but she wouldn’t say.

She finally said she had gone to the doctor.  I discover yesterday that she went to a Lenscrafter optician. When she told me about her visit, she made a joke about, “Hey, you know the big letters on the eye chart?  Well, I can’t even see those!  My eyes are really bad.”  He did recommend she see a specialist but then she said well, I haven’t heard back from him with the referral he would recommend.  I suggest she call him.  She never did. She said, no $$. She is on Medicare, but had not gotten the supplemental insurance and she was no longer working.  If you know anything about massage therapists, they are independent contractors with no benefits whatsoever, so of course no retirement income.  She said she had put some money away, but says, she doesn’t know where it went to. She wanted me to come out.  She asked me often. I wanted to but wouldn’t go.

These are my reasons.  If I’d gone out, it might have resulted in a vacation and that would have been her reasoning. Excuses. I’m not an awful sister, but… I knew if I did, my time would be limited and I knew I’d be spinning my wheels, not knowing the area and trying to find what was available. I don’t know people, services or doctors there and at the end of the day, nothing would have been accomplished.

The Tree Tea Party

I kept insisting she call her “boys” and let them know what was going on but she wanted me to come out.  I dug in my heels.  She kept saying they had busy lives and her daughter in law had just lost her dad and a few years before, her mother.  No, she didn’t want to put that on them.  Her boys are busy, with sports and raising kids.  One, has a girl in college on a sports scholarship, I think she said,  another in high school.  The college student would come on occasion and help her with things. The other son has little ones.  Both “boys” are busy.  Well guess what?  She broke down and told them and they aren’t too busy to help their mom and they are the reason she is getting help.  They know the right doctors. They got the referrals and are taking care of business… and in short order.

Blue Pumpkins

Because she couldn’t see, she had possibly mismanaged her bank accounts and they’ve had to step in to help with that. Everyone is getting involved.

The daughter in law said they’d seen her not that long ago but she behaved “normally” so they were unaware. She is not a complainer, so she never said a word to them. Even when she spoke to me, she didn’t actually complain. So when she finally did let them know the extent of her vision loss, they immediately got her help. Their doctor, did not order the tests right away because she had been taking so many herbs and potions, he said they would cloud the tests and he wanted to wait until they were out of her system before doing blood work. Now, I wait for more.

Before the MRI, the “kids” asked for our family history.  I sent that to them. Before the MRI, they said the doctor had indicated she was depressed and they thought she had begun to be forgetful.  Depression can do that too.  Just in the last couple of weeks, I had noticed a turn.  She was sleeping more and I reasoned that perhaps that was why she was losing time. She would forget things. She kept talking about how I was going to be there in a few days after I had explained I would come in October. She forgot.  THAT IS NOT HER. She was once a bookkeeper at Disney World.  She knows computation.

The doctor gave her simple equations and she could not compute them. She got angry with him for asking her to “think”. Multi Color Pots

I am writing this because for the last few days I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster and I don’t know what to do.

I lashed out at hubby. I hugged hubby. So glad I have hubby.

I feel ANGER. I am so angry. Angry at her for not going to the doctor when I suggested and how so like dad that was.  Stubborn and rebellious. How could she do that to us?  I am the eldest and yes, I can be so bossy! I know that, but it doesn’t make me wrong.  Why didn’t you go?  I CAN’T LOSE MY BABY SISTER!!!!

Then there’s the GUILT.  Why didn’t I just go over her head and enlist her boys whether she liked it or not?  I know why.  I just never guessed it was that bad and I  am feeling guilty for not having known. I want to scream!!!

And, SAD.  I am so sad.  What if it’s not a slam dunk remedy?

PAIN.  It hurts so bad. My emotions are all over the board.

Flying Carpet

Last night, I kept remembering all the good times she and I shared in our misery taking care of our parents.  Our parents had been difficult our whole lives. We marveled at how well we had all turned out despite the abuses.  She is a beautiful person and an artist and I know she’s not dead, but with the my back log of clues, the evidence may have been there longer than we knew… I don’t know.  I know as we grow older, it is inevitable we lose people we love. It’s all part of life.

I call the family on this side of the country to let them know.  I called my son in Texas only to learn he lost one of his best friends this past week of a brain tumor.  He was 38.  I guess age doesn’t matter.

Can I be royally pissed? Certainly, but I forgive her. She is sweet and loving and probably never imagined it was that bad. I sometimes wonder if children of a hypochondriac parent put off things for fear they may be parroting them?

Spread throughout this blog are pictures my sister has drawn, using crayon.  It is Crayon Art which she has won awards for. I love them.

Fostering in Love

Being a foster parent is quite time consuming, with constant challenges.  It is not for the faint of heart. The children they get have their own set of problems because of their previous environment or the situation they were taken out of, be it abuse, drugs, neglect or any number of other things and there are far too many of them.  One needs to be patient, flexible and have hearts full of love while still taking care of the needs of their own children as well.

I recently spent a week with my son and family in the Dallas area in March.

The kid’s of course surrounded me and lead me to all their handiwork, so that I understood… Welcome

There were also little signs for where my stuff goes and where I would stay.  It was one of the best times I’ve spent with them. There is so much love in this household, you could burst.

Then, I got to share my space  with Piglet or perhaps I should say, he had the honor,  reluctantly, of sharing his space with me.  Piglet was a most gracious host and was kind enough to not snore or smell bad. You can see him snubbing my son here.  Had I had my video going, the scene that followed after our first night together and him refusing to go back to his room was like a scene out of comedy capers.  He got over it. By the end of my visit, we were conversing like best  pals.  Yes, he talks…snort of.

Granted, my primary goal was to get as much quality time with those youngsters as I possibly could in one week and we sure did. With spring break on, we were free of school schedules so had lots of time to do things. The children were more fun now because they are older and far more interesting to me as I was to them.  They competed daily for my attention.

Their new little foster child will be headed home soon, but in the meantime, she’s just one of the bunch.  I cannot share stories, but I can share you what this foster family’s home is like.  Every child deserves to get what they get here. L O V E

Because of their responsibilities, their travel-ability is restricted and unfortunately I don’t get out that way nearly as often as I would like to.  We do, however, Marco Polo regularly so the tots don’t forget they have this other grandma way out in California. Right now, they only have one foster child in their home but that varies.

In their short marriage, they have fostered 12 children, of which they’ve adopted one and had two during that time.

It can sometimes be heartbreaking letting the little ones go, but they hope that however short their time may be with them, that they will have impacted their lives positively.  Each of them has a place in their hearts and on their wall.

I know the latest one is going to be a toughy to give up.  Do you think Ry likes her?

On occasion, the parent or whoever gets the child in the end will come back to complement them for their good work with their child.  Parent’s on occasion will express how much they hope they too will one day be able to parent as well. One parent lets them have monthly visits and that’s always special to them.

Sadly, not all children go back to the parent.  Sometimes they get split up in the end, either going to different relatives who feel they cannot handle them all or to separate “homes”, which always hurts.

I think I wrote about Antoine in an earlier post.  He was not their first foster but he is their first adoption. He’s a hoot and only recently realized he was black. A little girl pointed it out to him one day and told him how he’s different than his siblings. She was black.  So understandably he asked about it and they explained. They reassured him he is still their child and will always be loved. He was about 1 1/2 when he first came to them. He is now six.

We attempted to, at one point, go to the zoo, but it being spring break and like everyone else in this country having suffered unusual weather, everyone and their brother had the same idea to take advantage of the beautiful weather we were blessed with.  Because we would have had to walk a mile just to get in, not to mention all the walking you do once in and then walking tired youngun’s back to the car (no shuttles!), we adults vetoed that event.  So instead, we went to Crayola land!

crayolaland

We also got to see how they made Crayolas and got one each in our favorite color with our names on it. Did you know they can make 5,000 Crayons in 6 minutes? It was actually quite fascinating. The downside here was there were so many little ones and adults running around, it was all I could do to keep track of the ones in my charge. Not to be negative, but child populated places are prime targets for abductions.

My daughter in law is a school teacher and her specialty is special ed. She at one time had her own classroom but is now  training teachers on how to work with special needs students. Even though she can put in long hours, she comes home to give each of these kids her undivided attention up until bedtime, which is fortunately at 7.

MaggieM loved the doll I got her.  It is a china doll, which is breakable and she took it everywhere with her, even to bed. The doll had been on my shelf for years.  Cute, cute.

the doll

I knew Hunter loved puzzles, but I guess the one I got him was too complex, but we took it apart anyway.  They both love super heroes, so I got them some super hero things. The two boys are two months apart.  So, it’s like having twins.

Hunter as I’ve mentioned before has autism and attends public school with his brother, By parental request, they are in separate classrooms.  If I understood correctly, it was so they could rely less on each other.  As it is their two classes came together one day and the two boys zeroed in on each other and began wrestling roughly with one another, as is their norm, much to the alarm of the teachers.  ooops!  Hunter’s teacher later expressed her gratitude for them having made that choice.  LOL

Hunter and Antoine enjoy sports. Antoine loves cars and trucks. Hunter loves puzzles and dinosaurs. When he was younger, his form of communication was a growl. So learning to speak and motor skills were learned at a slower pace.  He is fortunate to have parents with the skills to aid in that development, although Candace gives credit to his many other teachers and therapists.  I think he’s perfectly fine now and quite verbal. Hunter Draws April 2019

He also likes to draw and so it’s quite apropos that this chalk drawing would be of his favorite animal.  Quite good for only six, don’t you think?

They have camp out night once a week and each child snuggled up at days end for the night.

campout - Copy

On each child’s bedroom door are little hearts, where positive affirmations from each other are regularly posted. They are encouraged to encourage one another.

This household has a motto as you enter the front door that goes like this. Motto - Copy

And, in case you don’t know what it says next to loud… it reads “really well” in swirls.

As I’m getting ready to leave, Hunter asks me, when I will be returning.  I replied, “I don’t know.”  He knew though.

He says, “March”.

“But, it’s March right now.”

That meant one of three things, I either don’t leave or I turn around and come right back or I just come back next year, same time.

Next stop:  My “me time” with my son.

Changing Black – MLK

October 18, 2017 (Original start date was March 2016)

I’ve not written or posted an original work in quite some time, but a question I found on Quora (footnoted) this morning, triggered me to complete something I’d started 10 months ago, so here it is.

Rev John Walker and Dr. Martin Luther King. What comes to mind?

I had to look the former one up, because I really had nothing on him, other than a quote.  It was the latter,  however that I drew my inspiration from.

Rev. John Walker, on the other hand could be a person of interest for our modern times.

The other day, I was perusing Facebook and came across a comment made by someone I do not know regarding a link from a person I do know that had shared from someone else he knows.  You know how those things go. It’s social media.

All in all it resulted in a chain of connections that took me to comments for the “shared” item. One comment in particular caught my eye because it was negative about a positive post. Curious, I clicked on that person’s name thinking there might be something there to clue me as to why this person was so defensive.

As I scroll down his page, I didn’t have far to go before I realize this person lives on the dark side of the moon. How sad I thought.

Mostly I saw pictures that depict one injustice after another and really that’s all there was. There was the cheering for someone who pulls out a gun and shoots a purse snatcher,  I guess that could be good if not a bit excessive? Another for some presumed injustice that did not appear to be anything more that a person being pushed around as they maneuvered through a crowd, which could happen to anyone.

The picture that really caught my eye though, was an old one of two people hung. A mother and son to be exact. Below the picture there was the caption explaining why they were hung, which was totally unjust. The two people were black and it appeared that that was essentially their only crime. It was 1911. It was horrible and sad.

I immediately became defensive.

Yes, those things happened. I hate them too.  These injustices happened to blacks, but it happened to whites as well. Unfortunately, blacks were more frequently targeted and today more focused on. This world is not fair by any stretch of the imagination. They happened and it was abhorrent.

In the words of Rev. John Walker, “God does not look at our past and present. He looks at our hearts and our future.”

My father would often defend his use of certain words that were common in his day. It was there nature of speech, but not necessarily their opinion. My father and his father of the 1800’s spoke that way. I know from what my father says, “your grandfather employed blacks and treated them decently”. But what was decent in those days?

It is history but it is not nor does it have to be your history. I had a hard time communicating that to blacks I worked with. They have a difficult time letting go of the past and any overtures of kindness are met with disdain or as being condescending. We need to learn to accept that’s how it was. Somewhere along the way all of us must recognize the past as past and the past cannot be changed. We can’t “fix” that, there are no do overs of he past except in Hollywood. We can only change what’s ahead of us and how we think and behave is the only thing we have any control of.

Those were my thoughts.

This poor soul’s whole FB page was dedicated to focusing on wrongs committed by whites and yes, he is black. This tidbit was not shared for its historical value so much as a reminder to hate. To not forget. Why else dwell on it?

It broke my heart to say the least. It’s no wonder progress toward equality stagnates.

I thought of the big hoopla that was made last year about “OscarsSoWhite” **and how of late we see things going backward rather than forward.  Why is that?

I know many wonderful blacks who I consider friends, but I’ve also met some very racist blacks who blame everyone but themselves for why there is racism. Could Hollywood be part of the problem?

For instance:

I still find the portrayal of the southern white person as bigoted or as one friend in California says when she tells me she hates, “hics” (she never said rednecks).   This she says, staring at me blankly for several seconds after I’d stated that “everyone has prejudices”, as though she were guilty of none.  She finally states that her prejudice is “hics”. (she’s very white).  Her response was like that of the person who believes soap opera’s are real.  I suppose this was intended as noble of her. (BTW, the white supremacist leader is from Boston, not the south.)

A policeman, might have a different perception of race, according to what he is subjected to and faces in his day to day work “place”. (See my footnote.)

Hollywood creates stereotypes and I think sometimes our impressions of certain races is based on these. When I lived in the south my perception of blacks, whites or Hispanics was different than it is in California.

In California, Hispanics actually speak English and blacks are pleasant and friendly, whites are superficial and everyone’s a health nut. In Alabama, Hispanics don’t speak English, blacks are angry and antagonistic, whites are generally working hard to change their public persona. Both states have lots of homeless.  I had a white friend terrified to open her mouth in California for fear her accent would cause people to be ugly to her assuming that if she was from the south then she must be one of those bigots, which is the farthest thing from the truth. Fortunately, no one did this.

If racism is to be overcome, the barriers need to fall on both sides. It isn’t something only whites are responsible for accomplishing.

This mentality does not only plague blacks, it plagues everyone. It plagues the poor, the rich, the sick, the Hispanic, the Asian, the gay or any other group out there that can be slighted.  It seems that the more politically correct we try to become the more cause there is to be offended. There will always be slights. It’s a given because of our humanness.

Have I experienced racism? Sure.

Ironically, it was when I lived in California not Alabama that prejudice smacked me in the face. When I was 20, I dated this young man from a upper class family in La Jolla. He took me to his home to meet his parents, thinking nothing of it. They were cordial, but later he would break up with me because his parents didn’t want him marrying or dating an Hispanic. I guess it was like him mixing with the help. Was I hurt? I was chagrined, yes. Angry to tell the truth, at him for not having balls enough to stick up for himself or me. I guess you have to care to do that.

Was it permanent? NO! I got over it. Did it ruin the rest of life? Hell no!  Did I look for slights everywhere I went? NO! Why should I?

As anyone who’s been following my blog knows, I’m originally from Alabama, but I really didn’t grow up there or live there for long and what memories I have are positive. There were no racial events to tar my memory, other than being called a “yankee” because of my accent. In fact, the kids I went to school with loved me. I was a novelty. My “white” cousins were proud to say they were related. My mother however, was not fond of it and very aware of her swarthy complexion, but that was her. I never noticed anyone singling her or me out. She was more self conscious of them being white than they were of her being Hispanic.

At 60, I moved “back home” and I will admit, I was self conscious at first, but I needn’t have been because I was received well.

Blacks in general would however focus on my ethnicity more than whites did as if it was supposed to cause me problems, but it never did. Sadly, I noticed how so many of them kept bringing up the past and were unwilling to let it go or forgive and in so doing found an affront everywhere in anything anyone said. Some admitted this was a problem.

My dad used to say “if you believe you’re different, you’ll be treated accordingly”.  It was the best advice he ever gave me.

In my many years of living, I’ve gotten along in life not holding onto the race card, not wanting to call attention to my difference and treating others the same.

Staying angry and blaming this generation for the mistakes of past generations does nothing to help us get past the past.  We need to embrace our differences and be willing to accept and laugh at ourselves. (Ecclesiastes 7: 9) .  ” Do not hurry yourself in your spirit to become offended, for the taking of offense is what rests in the bosom of the stupid ones.”

We can’t help what previous generations did, but we can help what this one does.

How do we change conditioning and antagonism?  Globally, it seems overwhelming and I don’t really have a good answer.

What I do know is, feeding on bitterness and hate gets us nowhere. I wanted to say something positive to that young man who thought so negatively, but I didn’t know what I could say that would not be construed as a racist attack, so I left it alone and blogged instead. Will he see this? Probably not.

A person has to want a healthy diet. (Proverbs 14:29) vs29 ..”He that is slow to anger is abundant in discernment, but one that is impatient is exalting foolishness.”

I can only recommend myself and offer suggestions. So, if we want change, change what is in your power to change. YOU.

Change yourself and you will change the world one person at a time. I like the term, “Pay it Forward”, what you give out comes back.

Martin Luther King was in the process of changing black in America. Because he was a Christian and a Baptist minister, he is best known for using nonviolent civil disobedience to achieve civil rights.

“In 1959, he published a short book called The Measure of A Man, which contained his sermons “What is Man?” and “The Dimensions of a Complete Life”. The sermons argued for man’s need for God’s love and criticized the racial injustices of Western civilization.”(Wiki quote)

On October 14, 1964 he became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent methods for combating racial inequality. Later posthumously he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Unfortunately Mr. King was assassinated on April 4th in Tennessee.  Unfortunately it resulted in a wave of riots. I wonder what Mr. King would have thought about that?  Justifiable anger? Absolutely!  This was a good, just and fair man. He was making headway on behalf of blacks. There’s been no one like him since.

The new Black leaders like , Sharpton and Jackson spew hatred and retaliation, keeping alive the sad past of whites against black. Malcolm X and other more radical black leaders, who were present at the “I Have a Dream” speech and march, condemned the speech along with the rest of the march. Instead they keep stirring the pot, fomenting violence and hate. They do not foster a peaceful resolution.

White Supremacists, like Richard Spencer go on to stoke the fire even further as if blacks are the problem. NO, NO, NO!!!

Rioting and destruction in black neighborhoods are the new norm and have now become the new mantra and any excuse will trigger it. Blacks don’t even have to be in the right. If anyone of color is killed, accidentally or deliberately, blacks will wreak havoc, sometimes destroying their own neighborhoods and looting their own people.

In the presidential citation Mr. King received, there is a statement that I believe can still be true.

“Martin Luther King, Jr., was the conscience of his generation. He gazed upon the great wall of segregation and saw that the power of love could bring it down. From the pain and exhaustion of his fight to fulfill the promises of our founding fathers for our humblest citizens, he wrung his eloquent statement of his dream for America. He made our nation stronger because he made it better. His dream sustains us yet.”

We all have that dream. We, all of us can make this dream come true.

Martin Luther King believed in God and he believed the Bible, which still says it best.

(Colossians 3:14) 14: “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”

Love covers all.

**https://www.quora.com/Why-is-Americas-great-racial-diversity-poorly-represented-on-movies-video-games-and-television?

Post script:  I got this email from my sister just after I posted this, totally unaware of what was transpiring in Florida. I thought it pertinent to my blog.  Please pray for the folks in Gainesville.

Dear —

Well, it is another exciting week in Gainesville…remember I told you about that white supremist, Richard Spencer?   He tried to come to Gainesville and was denied then when he filed a lawsuit the University had to allow it….but then we had the storms.    So, he is now scheduled to speak tomorrow at 2:00 at the Phillips Center.    The Phillips Center is within walking distance from me.  Since Tuesday there have been swarms of State Troopers along 34th Street.   Again, within walking distance from me is a hotel…the parking lot is full of State Trooper vehicles and today on my way home I noticed that cars going into the hotel were being checked.   The governor has already declared a State of Emergency for Alachua County.   That puts the National Guard on ready so there isn’t time lost in getting them involved if need be.

The University has set very strict rules as to what can be carried into the auditorium and one item that is banned is bottled water, but also no bicycles within a designated perimeter around the auditorium.   Today when I walked to Winn Dixie there were several helicopters flying circles overhead.   So, I guess they are as ready as possible.

At work Tuesday, one of the male therapist said he is going to accompany his friend who is a young reporter for the local TV station.   His friend is really nervous about this, but also Brad told me that Antifa has been keeping very silent about whether they will attend.   Partly because the FBI is monitoring them so they aren’t communicating as much.  

The interesting thing is that our pastor Sunday said that the pastors in Gainesville have gotten together and asked their parishioners not to attend even if they plan to express disfavor.  Pastors very rarely actually tell their parishioners what to do…unless they are in a cult.    However, the pastors will be coming together in various locations in town to hold prayer meetings during  the guys speech.   Today in my women’s Bible study group we also prayed over our city/county for protection, but also that this man’s message is diffused peacefully.   

The positive thing is that our local news has given our pastor and the local churches more attention than to this man.     So, tomorrow at 2:00 eastern please pray for us.    I will let you know how the day goes.

Love you, 

 

Keith and My DreaM

Dreams.  Who can understand them?  Why do they come in convoluted frames, none of which make any sense?

I woke up to a scene of me kissing Keith at a taco stand.  Not the Keith of today, but the Keith I knew over 50 years ago. I was 19 then.

There is this unfulfilled longing so deep inside me, I can’t explain it.

In my dream, before that, I’d been in a room, perhaps a hotel room. We had two rooms. Two keys. We, being my husband and I. There was a small girl and a boy with us.  The boy was older, a teen, I feel like I should know him. The girl, a small child, is it Tina? I’m not sure.  In any case, she’s in the other room alone. Why? I don’t know. Why wasn’t the boy in there and not her?

All of a sudden I felt my husband groping for me, wanting to make love, but there was someone else in the bed with us. It was my sister Sandy!  I push her out and him away insisting, “we can’t there are too many people in the room”. The boy is on a cot watching. Sandy is now at a desk writing, but facing us. He is writhing like an uncontrollable beast, I want him too and tell him we have another room.

I search for the key and the little girl, while he continues to urgently paw at me irritatingly oblivious to anyone else in the room. Something is nagging at my brain, I don’t know what. I try to get away.

Suddenly, I’m at this taco stand and Keith is there. It is small. He is dickering with the people there or perhaps just talking. He sees me and comes toward me as though he’d been expecting me. I kiss him and just look at him, then kiss him some more.  I want to keep kissing him. His breath and his face feel so good to me. The dimple in his smile lights me up like I remembered it.  He was so good to look at.

He gives me this shit eating grin of his and hands me a taco.  I take a bite. A carnita’s street taco. Yum! It’s good, then I continue to melt into him again, just kissing him.  I sense my sister,  like a conjoined twin, hanging nearby. Is the little girl there too?

He smugly asks, as if he is sure of the answer, “Are you coming?”

I continue to kiss him but momentarily pull back and sweetly say “No”.

He asks, “What do you want?”

I think for a moment and say, “I don’t know”.

Or, do I?

What do I want? What is missing?

But, I do know.  I think.

In my brain, I’m thinking “I want security.  I want to feel safe. I want to know you’ll be there for me. You can’t give me that.” But the words don’t come out.

I think of my husband, he’s like Keith.

But who’s the boy?

I’m guessing he’s my husband, who will forever be the little boy who will never grow up.

I know he loves me but I need more than passion. I need an illusive more.

I thought of Jesus’ self sacrificing love. Love that knew no bounds. Love til death.

Is that it? Do I want to know he’d die for me?

My sister Sandy? Growing up, she was my shadow, only 13 months younger and always in my way, yet me always feeling responsible for her.  Does she need me now?  She has her two boys, but does she need me and won’t say? I don’t know.

My husband keeps telling me I need to quit worrying about my siblings, they have other family members to care for them, just as I have my kids.  He knows my kids will care and look over me when the time comes. Hmmmm?

Dreams.  Who can understand them?

A Heart Broken

 

I was sitting here trying to get motivated to work on my movie scripts.  Two of them. So I turned on my record player and started playing records. Everything from Henry Mancini, Neil Diamond, The Pointer Sisters (for my work out) and migrating to the Beatles. The Beatles ’65 album was great. The nostalgia thing was going well, so, I dig through my collection for more.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Isn’t it great when you can listen to an album and get transported back in time, even to a time perhaps you shouldn’t have?

There are great times in the past and maybe times best left in the past. This may have been one of them, but then maybe not.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I sat here smiling at A Hard Days Night, remembering the time a bunch of us kids got into a friends ’53 souped up Chevy ala “American Grafitti” to go to a drive in, ala “Grease”.  I sat in the front with my friend and I do mean just friend. We piled in several others into the trunk of the car to sneak them in.  Once we got situated, they’d pop out the back seat.

Then a series of songs came on and I was overwhelmed.

Have you ever had your heart broken and have the pain be so excruciating that you think you could die?  Well, that’s what I was experiencing now. How can an album do that?  How can one song especially do that?

 

I was at first in so much pain just now, I could’t explain it.  I didn’t know what the how was I just knew it was something that happened in the past. Then it all came gushing forth.

As I listened to this song it was as if I was transported back to that time and the tears began to spill and fall and it was all I could do not to blubber. My heart was broken all over again. I had loved and lost, not once but twice in a row in just one year and I remember feeling lost and oh so unloved. For awhile, I was that kid again.

I’d not only lost love but now I was pregnant. I remember fretting about how I would tell mother.  I was pregnant and no father. I knew what she’d say. It was my fault – I was “no good”, “a tramp” nad “who’s gonna love you?” “no decent guy would have you”!! It was true, I was unlovable.  It couldn’t have been more agonizing.  But, I would had to face the music alone. It was the 60’s and good girls didn’t get in “trouble.”

My mother was pregnant already with my little brother and now to drop a bomb like this.

I managed to keep it hidden until well into my second trimester until my brother was born, then braced myself.

I was an embarrassment to my family, a disgrace to the church and my young man gone.  People wouldn’t even acknowledge my existence. In the church I belonged to at the time, not even God loved me. No shower was thrown. They couldn’t show acceptance. To throw a shower would send the wrong message to other teens.  No balloons, no banner or congratulatory responses. I was shunned until her arrival like she was a disease.

I would do my exercises and listen to music and cry. More often my tears were more in query. I so wanted a boy to treat me like I saw them treating other girls. Special.  I never had a boyfriend go to bat for me. No, my “boyfriends” lasted a couple of months and then they’d throw me away like yesterday’s garbage.

What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t anyone love me?  It had to be me. I’m not good enough, I’m the scourge of the earth.  I’d go to the delivery room with a scathing mom who in the end transferred any love she was capable of having to my child. She would claim her as her own.

If you’d seen or known me then you’d never have known the weight I was carrying because that’s what I do.  I survive. I hide the hurt and the pain inside and keep on truckin’. Inside I was feeling such pain you could not have imagined but it all worked out.

At the time, I would reconcile myself to love and being loved by my beautiful daughter. She was gorgeous and she was mine. No one could take her away.

tina-in-bali-2

Thanks for listening y’all.  I must be in a mood.

Eventually, I was reconnected with the lost love that gifted me my daughter and we are now good friends and… at 45, I finally found my true love and a very good friend in my husband.

It had never occurred to me then that all those years of physical and emotional abuse as a child had created a very needy person. I did, in time learn that I am lovable and now I feel like Sally Fields when she won her Academy Award, and burst out with “You like me!”

So even though I had an nostalgic meltdown, which I’ll chalk up to perhaps aging, I must confess,  I have a great hubby, a supportive family, friends and blog community so truly now, I am blessed with no complaints. It’s all good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Christmas?

What is Christmas?

It is something to  consider when the focus off and on for some waivers between gift giving and receiving.

The most memorable Christmas I can recall and one I’ll never forget, was one I had with my sister not that long ago.

I know everywhere around the world, somewhere, there are people celebrating Christmas. What a joyous time of year it can be.

WHAT IS THE WHY?

With it having become so commercialized, we all struggle with having to remind ourselves of what it’s really about. It is a time to be reminded that over 2000 years ago we were given the best gift ever, the promise of a new King, our redeemer, Jesus Christ.

It wasn’t a baby Jesus that would bring about our redemption, but the grown up Jesus fulfilling a promise to His Father that would change our lives. But lest we forget, it had to start somewhere.  Though the exact date is unknown,  his humble birth came around the time we now refer to as Christmas.  He was our gift first with a promise.

Do we remember?

CHILDREN AND GIFTS –

I’ve read many posts that remind us that it isn’t the gifts that make Christmas. Is that what we are teaching our children?  How do they see Christmas?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Is it a tree with lots of sparkly lights or the presents under it?

I remember one year I took three gifts for each of my grand daughters to my daughters house for Christmas.  It would be the one and only time we would celebrate with her in laws. As I came through the door, my grand daughters came running up to me and gave me an immense hug and said, “I love you grandma Jo!”  We placed our gifts under the tree to open later, for when the other grandparents arrived. They were late and of course, the girls were getting antsy waiting for them to show.

After some time, their father relented because well, it was Christmas morning!!

Excited, the girls opened our gifts first. The oldest got a Barbie, a coloring book and crayons. The younger one an age appropriate gift. My boys were still young at the time and I’m guessing they probably got Z-bots or Transformers, since that was the rage at the time. (There was 12 years difference between my girls and my two boys.)

They thanked us and gave us each a big, warm hug.

Just about then, the other grandma shows up and the girls rush over and say, “What did you get us?!”  Not hello, or Hi grandma, just “what did you get us?”. Grandma is followed in by Grandpa, who is loaded up with a boatload of gifts, making several trips and I’m not exagerating. The grandma says, “This is only part of them, the rest are at our house under the tree for when you come over later.

The girls then proceed to tear into their gifts excited at first, but after the first two Barbies and/or outfits, package after package is ripped open and the item thrown to one side as they moved on to the next one, barely looking at any of them. My boys just stared in shocked amazement.  Besides dresses and other girlie things, there was a total of 13 Barbies for each grand daughter. Yes, thirteen! They were barely six and three years old and as she said, that wasn’t all the gifts!

I was nauseous. How would my grand daughters ever learn to appreciate anything much less the reason for the holiday? That was the last Christmas we attended with the other grandparents. We would from then on take turns for either Christmas day or Christmas eve.

LESSON LEARNED –

My boys are now grown and so are the grand daughters.  My one son has a family now and last year we visited them in Texas.  It was February and I noticed several Christmas gifts still wrapped on the window ledge. I looked at him quizzically.

He said, “Mom, they got way too many gifts last year. I didn’t want them to do like the girls and not have a sense of gratitude.  We let them open a few gifts at Christmas and save the rest for later. It is their reward for extra good behavior (he smiles), it’ll be awhile.”  Smart man. Remember, this is February and there were still several unopened gifts, I can’t imagine how many they started out with. Thankfully, that Christmas many years ago had left it’s mark.

CHRISTMAS OR NOT CHRISTMAS –

Because it has become so popular and commercialized, there are people who don’t even believe in Christ that will celebrate  Christmas or some semblance of Christmas. Does it matter? To some Christians, it probably does.  For others, it only strengthens their resolve to stay focused on what it really means.

My mother in law, for example, claims to be an atheist and celebrates with lights (no tree) the winter solstice. I know she’s not alone in this, I’ve heard others make the same claim. She is quick to remind me that for her, it is the winter solstice.  I could make a big fuss and lose the relationship we have and never get a chance to “win her without a word” but I choose not to.  For now, it is what it is.  She’s a good person and a good mother in law and in time, who knows? I can only hope, by my example, that one day she will come to believe.

SOMETHING IN COMMON

One of the things I found interesting is that she and my sister who is a Christian, have a commonality when it comes to gift giving. They give from the heart.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE HEART-

One of the best Christmases I ever had, was one I celebrated with my sister while living in Alabama. I’d moved there with my hubby to take care of my aging parents who were no longer married to each other and living in separate homes. Actually, mother was in a facility for a short time in Tennessee until I could bring her down after my step fathers demise. At times, it had gotten to be too much for me with mother’s Alzheimer’s and dad with cancer. I was going back and forth handling both their financial and medical needs, still working and going crazy doing it. Di and I were in contact regularly during this time and I guess I was sounding pretty wore out.  She says, “Jo, if you need me to come, I will.”

I didn’t want to put her out. She was single and her sole source of support. I couldn’t promise her a rose garden (or maybe it was, thorns and all) and it meant she’d be giving up her established job to help me.  Each time she asked, I hemmed and hawed until one day, I realized I wasn’t  “Supergirl” and said, “Yes, I need you.”

She packed up and quit her job, leaving sunny Florida for northern Alabama in what felt like one week!

She took the day time shift and I would do nights. Hers was more difficult. The estate would pay her some, according to what the courts would allow. It wasn’t much but she was okay with that.After paying the bills she brought with her, there wasn’t much left over plus she had no time to spend it anyway. Needless to say, that Christmas, money was tight.

I had bought her a scarf, a warm hat and gloves because Alabama can get cold.  Even though it’s “south”, it isn’t Florida.

I opened my gift in a decorated brown paper bag. In it was a couple of pencils, a handmade card and an orange.  I cried. It was the best gift ever!!!  It was so “Little House on the Prairie”ish (if you’ve read the books, you’d understand).  My heart overflowed and she was delighted.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So what is Christmas?  I see it as a continued opportunity to share our love.  It’s a reminder of the greatest gift of all.

It is giving to others with the same unselfish love that was first shown us. The love God showed when he sent his son to us. The self sacrificing love Christ showed in giving up his life so that we might live.

Christmas is about giving of self, giving when we think we have nothing to give. Teaching our children that the best gifts are those that come from the heart.

LOVE COVERS ALL

Di’s coming to help saved my life. I had a mini stroke shortly after she arrived. It may have been a release from the stress I’d kept bottled up those three years trying to do it alone. Perhaps her being there allowed me to collapse, knowing she would take the reins until I was better.  Together, we got through it and when one of us was down, the other would lift her up and so it went until both parents passed. There is no greater love than the love that causes someone to pitch in when they have little more to give.

CALIFORNIA to FLORIDA

I’m in California and she is back in Florida now and it hasn’t been easy for her. At our age getting reestablished can be tough, but her kid’s and grand kid’s are there and that means the world to her. They shared her with me for awhile and even though I’d love to have her here, I know how much it means to have your kids close by. I miss my kids and grands and Christmases with them with all of us in four different states and none of us that close. At least she gets to see her kids regularly.

What can I say?  The love I have for my baby sister is abounding and I miss her. I love you sis and I thank God for giving you to me!!!

That’s us in costume. Di may be shy but it was she that talked me into belly dancing after mom died. Oh what fun we had.  We made and accessorized all our costumes with yard sale material and gems (of course). Later, I would follow and support her in her art.  Art was an outlet that came out of her stress. She began using pen and crayon to entertain mother. Her first few were on scraps of paper, but I was so impressed with her work that I framed some and the next thing you know we’re doing art shows.  We are a team.

I am including two links that I’d love for you to visit.

http://dbeattycrayonart.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2012-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&updated-max=2013-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&max-results=6

The above has her version of our story with mother. Keep in mind, our stories may vary slightly. She wrote hers closer to the actual event, whereas mine is by memory which is now six years past.

I highly recommend her  book “The Importance of Thomas”. It is a heart warming story about a small kitten that came into our lives on Christmas Day and his role during an unusually hard time for us. Now available through Amazon.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Importance-Thomas-Diana-Beatty/dp/1498450393

Thanks for following and a heartfelt and MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

 

The Hero of the House?

The word “House” is impersonal. It is nothing more than wood and stone.  A “Home”, on the other hand  denotes warmth and love. It is a place where you would feel safe and secure.

I don’t remember having a “Home” growing up.  Just a house.  It was a place with airspace we inhabited and that was pretty much it. I always wanted a “home”, somewhere safe to go to. A place to hide.  A place of fond memories. We had few.

I do have memories, but not of any nuances of the house or perhaps they were and I just don’t have a complete grasp of what a nuance is. I have few memories of the structure but mostly those are of me helping Dad nail shingles on the roof and Mom waxing the vinyl floors and us kids sliding across them to buff them up. So, I guess there are a couple of good memories, but that was much later.

Before all that, I remember the hole where the septic tank was to be and where our little ducklings fell into and we had to rescue them. There was nothing there but a big hole, no tank yet. I also remember us kids on our bellies watching as daddy fished them out. There had been a two by four dipping down into the hole and apparently they (the ducklings) walked down it but couldn’t figure out how to walk back up it.

I remember the outhouse out back that served as our toilet until the house was completed. I only once remember mother cooking on a two burner kerosene stove in our one room shack that had once been a chicken coop.  There were possibly only two beds as there wouldn’t have been room for more and we kids often shared one bed, two on each end facing away one from one another. Why not? We were little.

What I remember most of the kerosene stove was the stench of the fumes it gave off when she cooked. The one night I remember her cooking on that stove, it was raining hard outside and at that time we were still in the one room. We kids were laying on one of the two beds in the room,  I was about six, which then made my siblings, 5, 3 & 1 or thereabout.  There was nothing much to do on a night like this except watch mother cook, so there we were all in a row like the three wise monkeys plus one. I’m sure my job was to keep the smallest out of her way.  There wasn’t much wiggle room and cooking can be risky business.

What reminded me of it, is that it’s been raining outside this morning.

So, on a day like today we were making do when suddenly the stove burst into flames!  The flames flew up so high that they touched the ceiling. We all screamed as mother used her dishcloth to try and put the fire out. Bad idea. It was getting away from her, so she yelled at me.
yh4She yelled at me again before I realized that I had to go for help. I may have been frozen or was going around in circles panicking before making it out the door in the DARK, I don’t know, but I made it out. The last I’d seen was mom grabbing the baby. Outside, I struggled with leaving at all.  I was so afraid. Afraid of the night, the rain and to leave the others alone but… they needed help. My help.  I started running and running, tears fell as fast as the rain. I had to be the hero and in my head, I felt like one. Yet as my little legs carried me further away, the DARK got darker. It hardly ever rains in California, but it was raining now. There was so much rain I could hardly see and my hair was matted down over my eyes as I slipped and trudged through gooey mud. It was cold.

It couldn’t have been more pitch BLACK out there and I couldn’t see a thing. Was I afraid of the dark? Yes, what if something else gets me? This is wrong, what if they die and I’m out here all alone I’m thinking, but I don’t look back. My heart is pounding in my chest like it will pop out at any given moment.  I slip again. There had been a tumble down fence between our two homes and most of the time if we went next door, no problem. I was an expert at separating and maneuvering through the wires but tonight I can’t find them and it was so DARK. Suddenly, there I am tangled in a mesh of barbed wire and I can’t get out. No, NO! I gotta get out. I gotta get out, I gotta save them!

Finally, I break free and make it to the house next door and my little fists pound and pound away but it feels like nothing on their door. Can’t they hear me?  So, I scream but nothing comes out. There’s no sound or maybe I just can’t hear for the noise of the rain. Weakly, I keep pounding.

Finally a light switches on and the door opens and I fall through. I barely get the words out “a fire!” and Mrs. Lopez’ 20 boys hit the dirt flying out the door. Me? I fall limp and someone carries me to this massive dining table where I’d seen Mrs. Lopez feed her ginormous family and I’m situated in a chair. I sit there as her daughter, Ernestine quickly mixes me a concoction of sugar water to drink. I think someone says she’s a nurse.  I don’t understand how it works but she says something about how it would calm me. Perhaps it was an old folklore remedy or just a distraction but it worked as I sat there slumped and worried. I think  there are other people around, but I can’t be sure. She, or maybe it was Mrs. Lopez dries me off, then cleans and bandages my wounds.

The fire department did come out, someone across Hwy 5 had seen the blaze and called but I think the Lopez boys had pretty much gotten it under control before they arrived. The important thing is the fire was extinguished and my siblings and mom were all safe.  Where they went while it was burning, I don’t know. I would later return home to a tarp being put over a gaping hole in the ceiling, which did not prevent periodic drips seeping through and plaguing us the rest of the night. THAT is all I remember. I would like to say I was praised for my heroic flight, but I wasn’t, at least I don’t remember. It was actually quite anticlimactic. I even tried sharing my adventure but no one cared. The only thing anyone was worried about was the house.

The place was a mess, Dad had arrived home and that was it. I don’t remember if we ate or much of anything else after that. There were no McDonald’s in those days, but that wouldn’t have mattered. Dad would never have sprung for anything so extravagant.

The rain subsided and the tarp sufficed until the rest of the house was built. This room would later become mom and dad’s bedroom I think, minus the charred wood. Why it hadn’t burned to the ground, I don’t know. Perhaps it was the rain. I would later recall vaguely remembering being a little sorry I’d missed all the excitement.

The next day, I went out to the yard and noticed where I’d traveled, but what had seemed like a hundred miles the night before was only a a couple hundred feet. Not far. It was no wonder no one cared about my adventure. Some hero.

Dad would later incorporate this as part of our house, a U shape structure with a courtyard in the middle. Mom would put a garden out back and I would wander the hills. I didn’t stay home much, because “home” wasn’t safe, unless I was left alone to read a book.

I still long to be coddled, but that’s just a dream. I am glad for what I do have. My hubby loves me, sticks up for me and keeps me safe. We are not rich, but it’s a coddling of sorts. I wonder though, did I ever give my kids a home?  Did they ever feel coddled and nurtured?  Or, was that something I didn’t know how to do or do well?

I know they know I love them like life itself. They know I’d give my life for them if need be, so I hope that’s enough. They often tell me I was a good mom, and sometimes it comes with a qualifier… considering where I came from and where I’d been. We laugh about that. They do know.