My Dad, The Little Yellow Butterfly

Clouded Yellow butterfly (Calias crocea)

it was an absolutely brilliant day, the thirteenth day of November

the sun was shining high in the sky,

covering my shoulders and arms with warmth that felt like a cashmere shawl next to newly showered skin.

I miss you dad, especially on your birthday

sometimes I forget that you died ten years ago

and I don’t know how I can go on without you

but then you show yourself to me, when I need it most.

‘see me there on the tree branch’  you whisper like a passing cloud, a subtle breeze

i am this small yellow butterfly: i can finally fly, i am happy in my spirit, and no longer in my poor, old, aching body

that made me feel so sad and powerless.

believe me honey, i would not lie

my spirit never left you and it never will for I will always love you.

see? i’m down here now, i didn’t leave you,

you just turned away.

The Word Love

Now that I am old  and very alone I bought one  place setting of  five different sets of china. I  use them as my everyday dishes because there is nothing to wait for at my age of ninety-three. We never had good china when I was younger and so I bought it for myself. To live another day and wake up in the morning is an occassion. I have no rules now, I  sleep all day if I want to, in my  comfortable old bed that has shaped around my body like clay. I have an old, worn blanket that used to be pink but now it is a little pink and a little gray from age.

I stopped looking at clocks because time does not matter now. If I am hungry, I eat. Sometimes I don’t remember if I ate lunch or breakfast. The phone rings and I try to pick it up but the buttons and numbers confuse me. I don’t always like to answer the phone but I do most times. If I don’t answer  it will ring again and again with loud noises that do not stop.

If it is sunny I will sit on my front porch that is painted white. The porch swing barely moves anymore but I like that. Sometimes I sit outside and watch the people on the street. I drink my apple juice there and when the sun hits the glass I can see rainbows sometimes, I always liked rainbows.

The days don’t feel very long at all now. There are days that melt into each other like chocolate pudding. My daughter always liked chocolate the best as did my late husband but I like vanilla. Vanilla is smooth and light and sweet; my son likes vanilla better too. When I was young I used to call myself “The Vanilla Girl.”

I would not say I am a happy person but I am not sad; I am still.  I am like a painting that hangs on the wall.  Life without my husband is not a life that I can get used to. I speak to him all the time and I answer for him too. Many things I say, I say out loud.  Nobody is here to tell me not to.

Today I got dressed and I wore a blouse the color of a rose; it has a few stains on it but I don’t mind. My knarled, old feet are always barefoot and I remember walking on the beach with my family many years ago and how my toes loved the sand. I wear only clothes that are big on me because I never liked things that were tight. Sometimes I wear a nightgown all day long that my great grand-daughter sent me. It is my favorite thing to wear because it has yellow and blue flowers all over it and because it is from her. Who could have imagined me alive long enough that I would be a great grandmother. It isn’t the same since Grandpa passed on.

Nobody seems to understand. When my children visit  they say I should be “happy” and I  try. They don’t know how it feels when they leave. I love the visits from my family once in awhile but I feel the pain of missing Grandpa worse. There is a sharper pain and it takes a long time for it to go away; it is different from the pains and aches that I have all the time.  I get sad and then later on I feel better because I am alone and I don’t have to smile if I don’t want to.

Later I will watch television from my bed. I never turn the television off. I like to have some noise in the background to keep me company. At first the kids didn’t  want me to live here alone but this is my home and so I will die here too;  surrounded by all my photographs.

I will eat something when I want  like cheese and the inside of the bread that I used to call “cotton” when I was a young girl. I will spread that with butter that is not cold or warm but  comes in a tub; I don’t need to have four sticks of hard butter. I haven’t baked banana bread for many years now.

I am not a mean woman but I am not a kind one either. I am really nothing but I was somebody once. I was a wife to my beloved husband and a mother to our two children; we first had a boy and then we had a girl. Everyone used to say “it was the best of both worlds” and yes, that is really what it was. When I go to sleep I will try to remember a memory but they come and go and then I forget what I was thinking about. That is alright, because that is what happens.

When I wake up in the morning, I will say hello to my dogs and they will kiss my face, and I will drink Ovaltine in a my very favorite mug that has hearts and the word LOVE written on it. I will go on with the day again, and I will sit outside with my dogs and just be.

Welcome HOME ??!

We’re back in NY in a blustery blizzard of snap, bite, whip of the wind, tears in our eyes after 30 seconds outside.  While I dearly miss the sun kissing my skin and the water of aqua blue, I do not miss the 3:30AM arrival of our upstairs hotel-mates every single night. We knew they came home early in the morning and then continued moving furniture, or should I say scraping furniture across the room.  After sleeping 12 hours in my own, comfy bed,  I was happy to be home.

Until…..I called my mother this morning to talk to her and I could tell from her “hello” it wasn’t going to be one of those warm and fuzzy discussions. Of course, for those of you who know my mother, I’m not entirely sure we’ve ever really had one of those before!  Last night, knowing my mother worries a lot about us traveling I asked my daughter, Jillian, to give her a quick call from the airport last night to tell her we had landed. Nice, right? Sensitive.  I think she was happy we had called.

This morning when I woke up at 12:30PM I called my mother to talk….to “shmooze.”  Surprising, even to me, I was met with 5 if not 6 references on how we were NOT home for Christmas. Again.   What? I thought that had been settled a long time ago and she was ok with it. I mentioned it to her and she said “well now I’ll tell you again…for the 7th time you weren’t here for Christmas!!”  Basically, her anger at our going, even strengthened when we returned. Mom, don’t you get it, I thought to myself…don’t you want your children to be happy, even if for ONCE, it means they go without you?  I didn’t have the nerve to say it, call me a weakling but I know trouble when I hear it in the intonation of  of her voice.  She told me how my niece and nephew were going to take her to dinner for a Christmas present and I thought that was absolutely lovely (probably engineered by my sister but who cares??!!) I was happy for my mother that her “other” grandchildren were being so loving. Good for them, good for her.

She then proceeded to tell me how she somehow got an OLD email from my husband from a year ago that resurfaced on her computer and how upset she was and how nasty he was. What?  She apparently had read this email a year ago, was mad at him, forgave him (my husband is one of the sweetest most helpful men on earth) and then reread it, and got mad all over again.We don’t even know what the email was about anymore; frankly, we don’t care.  It was over a year ago, why bring it up again?? Even my husband has finally had his fill, once I told him this. He drives there all the time to help her with her computer, he brings her food but she is losing everybody’s respect with her unwavering desire to hold grudges.  What has happened to her? Where has she gone?

My mother used to be a very likable, loving, even tempered woman. Truly she never, ever held a grudge. I remember telling my grade school friends that when my mother was wrong, she used to apologize, something unheard of in the 60’s.  I do the same thing with my children.  Although I remember her always having a fight with someone when I was little, it passed. Now,  the grudge never goes away and apparently can resurface at any time. Especially, to me and my family. Nothing is ever enough, and when we bend over backwards to please her she finds fault in something else. I give enormous credit to my sister and her family for their graciousness about our decision for once to go away over Christmas, truly. And, I thought my mother and I had worked it out before we went, actually I know we worked it out before we left. But to come home to her nastiness, again, is really  just too much.

I told my mom that there were a few disappointing aspects of our vacation and I got the impression she was thrilled. Yes, I was disappointed over a few things that happened with friends and family but that’s okay. My mother went after this like a dog with a bone. “So, she inquired,  it wasn’t perfect!!!!??”  No, it wasn’t perfect, but really, mom. What is?

She is losing us with her bitterness and her nastiness. Can’t she see that? Can’t she learn from that? My sister told me she bought my mother a work book about “How to let go of grudges” something she so desperately needs.  Will she work on it? I doubt it, because even though some people get bitter and resentful as they age,the woman I  call my mother is simply unrecognizable anymore. I’ve lost the woman I love, or to be more honest, she has lost herself.

dedicated to my sister Emma and my friend, Elise.