The Art Of Changing


Every time my two college kids come home for a visit, in this case, Thanksgiving, I forget, that it takes 48 hours for all of us to get used to each other again. I wish I could remember that beforehand because it would take the sting out of the inevitable: regression,

dirty looks, initial combative behavior and sibling rivalry. What is it about coming home that automatically brings out old behavior patterns?

I remember this happening when I visited my parents when I was in college so I am not sure you really can stop it. I think you become child-like when you go home to visit your parents and old habits die-hard. To this day, it is never a good scenario when my sister and I are alone with our mom, together. I never liked being with two other friends, it’s not a good combination for me.

But, after two days of settling in with our children it’s wonderful, just like old times. It feels like they have never left and you wonder how you can let them go, again? The house will be so quiet without them. There are four of us now drinking coffee in the morning or snacking together at night, sitting on the bed together chatting and laughing, interrupting each other and rehashing the mini-dramas of Thanksgiving.

I know it won’t be like this forever, they will get married or move away or we will move so I cherish every second. I’m putting these memories in a special place in my heart, tucked away, like the memories of their childhood. The difference is that I have photographs of when they were young and sweet and innocent. I have a mountain of photographs of each stage of their lives.

But this, this one memory, lasted ten minutes, it is like a snapshot in my mind and I try desperately to hold on to to it, in my heart, hoping it will last a very long time.

The four of us all sitting together laughing and reminiscing, back and forth, happy, conversing, joking with no hint of displeasure or dismay. All of us being in tune with each other, bantering, back and forth, replaying the day, interrupting each other and finishing each others sentences.
The thought of them leaving in a couple of days just seems incredible, and lonely and sad. And yes, it will take another 48 hours for their laughter to die down, for my husband and I to get used to the solitude and the quietness and enjoy each other and the peace, all over again.
Change is inevitable, get used to it, it never goes away.
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How The Movie “Boyhood” Is My World And Possibly Yours Too

If you haven’t seen the movie, Boyhood, jump off the couch, grab the car keys or head to your local bus station and go. Now. This is a movie you don’t want to miss. Trust me. It is possibly the best movie I have ever seen and yes, the most realistic one as well. You may see your own life pass before your eyes, especially if you are a mom and have kids. It is everything you have felt, understated. No, it isn’t a tear-jerker, a comedy or a romance. It’s pure genius.

 

It is sad just because it has been a week since I have seen the movie and I am still thinking about it and relating it to my life. It’s a film about growing up so I cried because my children are not children anymore. They are both adults, wonderful adults, yet my daughter left her pink doll at home, the one she used to sleep with but now sleeps in a room at her sorority house and my son it seems, he just graduated high school will be graduating from college in May.

It’s about time passing so quickly that you almost can’t believe it has really happened and yes, I cried because I miss my dad. I had a really great dad, not those horrible step-fathers in the movie. My dad, died twelve years ago and my memories are fading and sometimes I can’t even remember what his voice sounds like anymore yet the pain, once in a while, seems brand new and raw.

Grieving is a long and hard process and just when you think you are past the worst of it,   out of no where, it knocks you out again at unexpected times. Times you can’t prepare yourself for, just like the ocean washing out sand castles at the beach that the sweet children built so lovingly. It attacks you from behind, it blindsides you.

I am the mother in the film, (though luckily I have a great husband)  but it scares me to see her alone. Her kids go off to college and she is left, not knowing what on earth she is going to do with her life. I am not glorifying her role as a mother, believe me, she makes incredibly poor choices but in the end, her children have left her and she sits in the kitchen, crying and alone.

Her son, her boy, whom we have seen grow up, physically and emotionally, heads off to college and while the ending is a little too perfect, we want it to be for him. We want a happy ending for all our children but we also want it for ourselves and that’s not the way real life works.

There is a part of us who wants our kids to miss us, to turn back for a brief second, to be their four-year old selves who “loved us best” just one more time. That is only for us and certainly not what they need or want and its pure fiction not reality. As they dash out the door with a grin and a wave we know that we have done a wonderful job parenting our grown up children.

All we want is for our children to be happy, we love them unconditionally but it does hurt every time they leave us. The movie is so magnificent  because we know that everything in this movie is so darn true. We love our children more than they will ever know, but from their eagerly awaited first step we also know, that at every turn, they are leaving us, as they should.

Love Grows, Life Changes

Toothbrush, photo taken in Sweden

Toothbrush, photo taken in Sweden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It takes but a minute for everything in your life to change your life completely.  It hits you with a tremendous blow, shock, grief but you can get used to that since you have no choice, you are completely unaware. No choice is not a world I want to live in either.

When I travel now, I usually forget to bring my blue toothbrush and white bristles, so too, the tooth paste. I never needed it before, it was a silly tradition, I know, but one that delighted me. Knowing that I could always use your toothbrush when we were away together. That was the type of intimacy that I knew about. Silly things like that.

Now, I can’t. I understand that you didn’t want to leave me, that your heart was very sick,  clogged arteries that were too far along to be saved but I wished for it anyway. I was in the in-between place of hope and reality. “Please, please, please” I would murmur under my breath in a chant as if maybe God would tune in faster or adjust his schedule but nothing changed.

It was your time, my love, and you knew it as well as I did. Imagine, trying to cheer me up when you were about to die and leave me hanging here like a piece of dangling thread blowing softy in the sunshine, back and forth, back and forth.

We came in together, arm in arm, walking slowly through the mushy gray snow and yet when I left there was nobody beside me, nobody to take my hand, nobody to put their arms around my shoulders, to reassure me.

Our children called but they were not here, they had their own families and excuses now. I understood completely how their husbands and wives did not want them to cross to the other side of the country as well, to get soaked up in my misery and the lost of their daddy. Nobody knew that more than I.

Yet, I thought death would come, most certainly, in the middle of the night, my naïve silence and undisturbed sleep, awakened by the shrill of the old yellow phone I still used by the bedside. But now, in reality, it didn’t work that way, I was right by your side, as you took your last breath and calmly closed your eyes.

English: Portrait of old woman sitting by a wi...

English: Portrait of old woman sitting by a window. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“That’s it?” I thought to myself? Death could slip in on soft kitten feet and steal away my husband with no big fanfare at all? Steal his loveliness, the color of his lips and cheeks and joy for life in a matter of seconds, while I stood there watching, watching the blood drain from him?

I put my head on his cold chest and I cried but I knew his hands couldn’t comfort me, or hold me like they had. From now on, I was no longer part of a couple, I was alone. My name was now “Widower.” It stayed that way for a very long time until I too decided it was time enough to join your father, there was nothing useful about me without him. He was my life.

I said goodbye to all the children and grandchildren with a long good-bye and gave each special hug.

It took too many weeks to get my affairs in order but I would know when the time was right. One day they all came in for Christmas, I saw each child and grandchild. After they left, I knew it was my time to go.This has been planned before the death of my husband Harold, he would do the same if I had died first.  It wasn’t hard at all but it was something we needed to do, I was only sorry that I had postponed this day for so many long weeks. Let’s face it, I had no regrets. Ever.

I had no interest in living a life without my other half. It was like living empty, physically here yet without a soul. No, I didn’t want that at all.

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little bird

English: Green Violet-ear -- Finca Lerida, Boq...

English: Green Violet-ear — Finca Lerida, Boquete, Panama. Français : Un Colibri thalassinus, Finca Lerida, District de Boquete, Panama. 日本語: ミドリハチドリ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

little bird, you don’t have to apologize for having a new home, i understand completely. I said the same things to my parents when I was your age. I remember thinking that college WAS my home and of course it is. you come back for some vacations, you have moved on and will continue to move on and out. Don’t you think I know that, of course I do. I understand and I support it and I am proud of both you and your sister’s independence, the grown ups you have become. If I shed a tear or two at times, it’s okay, I’m not good at transitions, I never have been, starting from when I was a little girl. Don’t take it too seriously, please. You know I have always been the most sensitive person in the planet and always will be, at times it is both a curse and a blessing. believe me, I have tried to change myself for years but as you know, it really hasn’t worked.

i’ve told you before that I just need a little time to get used to things, even on vacation. when dad and I were dating long distance, he knew i needed 24 hours to get used to him again, some people are like that, its not better or worse, it’s a personality trait. not everyone is as incredibly adaptable as you and your sister,where you both got that trait from we have no idea (okay, maybe my mom) but dad and i are thrilled you both have it.

I was fine saying goodbye to you today until i heard your sweet voice asking “you’re not even going to hug me?” do you think i didn’t want to? could i say no to you? I ‘m laughing at the thought of me not wanting to hug you, of course i did, just didn’t want the flood gates to open up, kind of like now. waiting for that darn transition to kick in (it hasn’t been 24 hours yet) I am writing this for me and for you, and you know how i get when i feel like i’m writing something mushy…not a sight to be seen. you’ve seen it many times before, but now i’m also laughing at myself too which is a very good sign.  I know that you are happy and independent and i am so proud of the person you are. my goal in raising a son, was to bring up a good man, truly. when i found out we were having a boy, i was honored, blessed that i could try to make a difference to help shape a boy to become a wonderful young man.

you have become all that and more. you know i feel that way. sometimes we don’t even have to talk, we know what the other one is thinking with a look, or a smile or a quick nod of your head. this gift will never go away, no matter where you or i live. we are connected. forever. so have the best time of your life, and, because i’m a mother, it’s in our handbook to also add “please be safe.”

i love you.

Plinky Prompt: If you could visit any city in the world, which city would you pick?

English: Venice, Italy

English: Venice, Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • If you could visit any city in the world, which city would you pick and why? See all answers
    • Off To Venice, Back In 3 Weeks, Or Not….
    • Imagine gondolas, gliding through canals, my husband and I are on a much-needed vacation, there seems to be so much stress in our lives but on vacation they melt like milk chocolate in the sunshine. We are in Venice, Italy, there is nothing on our minds except pleasure: where will we eat, sleep, visit or walk.What flavor gelato shall we have today? Hazelnut? Strawberry? These are the only decisions we have to make.The strong Italian coffee is addicting, We yearn for it each morning and sometimes we have it in the afternoon as well.

      We don’t know anyone here, and that’s just lovely. There are no bills piling up, no dog barking incessantly, no dirty laundry piles waiting to be washed. There are rotten food items in our refrigerator back home and we both didn’t want to deal with it so we shut the doors firmly and left, hoping it will fix itself even though we know it will be there when we get back. (My true fantasy is to say IF we come back.)

      Our children are not children anymore, they are young adults with lives of their own. They don’t need us very much at all and for me, honestly, it’s an adjustment. I’ve never been good at saying good-bye in any shape or form.

      I would also like to rent a car (my husband will drive it) and go to the country side and pluck purple grapes with my fingers and take photographs of the rolling green hills and the animals that live there. I don’t care at all about going to Rome or shopping there, I have been to Rome before with my parents but I would go with my husband so he can see all the historic magnificence while I enjoy the present.

    • Previous Answer

The Letter

Thomas the Tank Engine depicted in the TV Series

Image via Wikipedia

Dear Kate,

It’s been a long time since we last talked or wrote each other. How are you? I have a feeling I know. I can’t believe our boys are graduating from High School in four weeks.  It doesn’t matter that so many miles and so many years have passed by. We still have the memories, the boys still have a connection and so do we. As I grow older I realize that there are many types of friendships on so many levels and they are all different and good.

Right now, I am stuck in between pride and delight and loss and simple sadness.  It seems like it was yesterday that our two boys, mine with his dark brown hair and yours with his light blond hair were playing in the sandbox together and sipping apple juice from juice box containers, tilting their heads back and drinking from the tiny spout without the straw. Our whole family called it the “Nick” way for many years; it made quite an impression! I can still see us watching our children together, sitting at a picnic bench, side by side, while they dug in the heavy, beige sand. Now, our sons are graduating High School and heading soon, after the summer, to college.

Wasn’t it yesterday, Katie, that I was cradling my newborn son in my arms, his head snuggling against my shoulder, the sweet, milky, powdery smell of baby? Trying to remember the smell is virtually impossible. Even back then, when I breathed it in daily, hourly, every second of the night and day, I wanted to bottle it, especially for nostalgic times like these.

Adam is going to the prom in less than a week with his girlfriend. The word “girlfriend” does not roll off my tongue naturally yet, because the word was always forbidden in the house…that is, until a few months ago. It makes me happy to see Adam and his girlfriend together, and it makes me sad, for them, that they will be saying goodbye to each other very soon. But, that’s how life works. This is all so new to him and I can’t protect him from pain any more now than I could protect him once he was properly suited up when he played football in the early years. Our children need to work things out and learn by themselves, they will need to grow up on their own.

I am trying to prepare myself for the quiet stillness of the house without Adam here at home. Julia, my beautiful blond 16 and a half year old “baby”, has only one more year left of High-School and then she too, graduates. It’s all a bit overwhelming, it feels like the powerful ride of the dark-green ocean waves with no rest in-between. When Julia graduates from High-School and is in college I can imagine that this tiny house, our family home will seem cavernous. We cannot imagine the silence creeping into our house like moths, flapping their fragile wings without a sound.

I wonder if we will miss the kids’  booming voices, the fighting, the shrieks, and their clothes all over their floors. I am sure we will at first. I imagine this whole, new experience summed up in a word: “bitter-sweet” some happy, some sad, like the strong branches with delicate red berries growing on them.

I still carry the picture in my mind of the boys playing with smiling Thomas The Tank Engine and his friends. How we built bridges and tunnels with wooden Brio pieces time and time again. Thomas and his Friends and tracks and the Conductor are still somewhere in my mildewy basement; I could not say good-bye to them too.

Love, Jane

Because Love Has No Religion

Roses

Image via Wikipedia

I am slowly, very slowly and intensely taking off pink nail polish from my finger nails as if it was the most important task in the world. I feel like a surgeon scrubbing in to make him/herself totally antiseptic. It feels like that to me but I don’t know why exactly. I don’t know the codes or rules for going to a wake but I know, for myself, I have to wipe away every sign of sunshine from my hands because that feels right. My hands look plain, wrinkled, weather-beaten and bare. I’ve stripped off every clue to color because my friend Dawn is dead and the world feels color-less and grim.

I didn’t know what to expect at the wake; I had only been to one wake before in my life and that was thirty-five years ago. We arrived before the official hours and already the room was packed. I saw her husband, John first, and I hugged him, then their oldest daughter who hugged me as if to comfort me. Her middle son  sat tall and straight next to his friends and did not move, his eyes riveted to his mom’s casket. The youngest child was the most heartbreaking of all, he belonged to no one in that room. He was in his own world, going to the casket, returning to his seat, going to the casket and returning to his seat, his eyes on no one, alone in his private world. He sat neither with family or friends, he was in his own fragile bubble, looking younger than his years.

I thought in death, Dawn would look more like herself than she did in the last stages of her life. I somehow expected to feel comforted that I would see my friend as I had remembered her. I went slowly  up to the coffin although I was terrified; I knew it was something I had to do. But, inside my head, like an unrestrained child, inside my head I was screaming with disbelief and anger “this is not OUR Dawn” I thought, “THIS IS NOT OUR DAWN.”  In the coffin lay a woman I didn’t know, an old woman, with too much makeup. They had prayer cards with a picture of Dawn at her finest: natural, loving, with one of her great big smiles and that is what many people said they wanted to remember her by. Even though I felt the same way, the images for the next three nights when I tried to sleep were of Dawn in the open casket, someone I didn’t know, a stranger.

There were flower arrangements everywhere. A huge arrangement made from roses, dark, crimson roses that formed into a heart; it must have stood six feet tall. There were many other flowers, yellow, white, pink, every color you can imagine and as tall as one can dream.

Her husband John, then came over and put his arm around me to show me something. “I hope you don’t mind” he said but we used your letter to Dawn as our prayer.” In front of me, I saw a piece of paper with the words I had written FOR Dawn, many months before she died. It was called “Praying For Dawn” and somehow after writing it, I thought I would take a chance to drop it off at their house. It was meant for Dawn and her family, and yet here at the wake hundreds of people clutched the piece of paper that I had written.

Her family members wanted to meet me, they said they had all read it many times, I had no idea. I do remember that after I dropped it off I got a voice message in the back of my answering machine from Dawn, thanking me and telling me she loved it. I could barely make out her words but I never erased that message.  I gave my condolences to Dawn’s mom and she said “Oh, do you like that prayer, one of her friends wrote that!!!”  Somehow through my trembling lips and tears I managed to say that ‘I was that friend.’ I swear her eyes lit up and she thanked me and told me how often the family loved reading it. She asked ME if she could introduce me to Dawn’s father who had wanted to meet the friend that had written that poem. After the introduction, he hugged me, and then took my face in his hands and said “God Bless You”  “Thank you for writing that about Dawn, you captured her the way she really was. ” He told me he had wanted to meet the person who wrote it and knew I was a neighbor but didn’t want to walk into the wrong house and be embarrassed.”  I told him where I lived and told him that he and his wife were welcome to visit me at any time.

The emotional intensity for me was overwhelming. I was honored that they used my piece of writing at the same time I was in total emotional shock. People were complimenting me on something that I forgot about since I have written many pieces about Dawn in my blog. I looked at many of my earlier blog posts and I practically have a whole book about Dawn.

My husband practically had to drag me out of the door since we needed to get our daughter to her afternoon class. I saw an old dear friend that I hadn’t seen in a long time and we wrapped our arms around each other crying. “I feel so lost” she said, “I just feel lost.” We all felt that way, I think. Lost without a piece of sunshine in our lives, deprived forever more of this gift of a person who brought enjoyment to everyone she met. Dawn was our fighter, never giving up yet she still lost the fight to this horrendous disease. Dawn was our light, she was our strength, there was no one she didn’t like…..well, with the exception of a little dog in the neighborhood….We all laughed remembering that and it felt good.

Two days later I arrived at the church forty-five minutes before the service and again, there were many people inside. The church was beautiful, I had never been there before. The stained glass windows shone from the morning sun, the polished wood seemed inviting and homey. There were many new flowers, everywhere. So many people from our little community were there, every religion was represented, people from all parts of Dawn’s life were there to show their respect: sports teams, education, friends, family, neighbors, some of  the neighborhood kids, friends and their parents for all three children and the middle school Principal. Our community sometimes gets a really bad reputation but when something happens to one of our own, we come together as one. Our little town becomes so protective and so loving of one of its own; it’s happened before. Many years ago when a young boy had cancer, the town rallied together as well.

Both Dawn’s daughter and husband spoke at the funeral. Her daughter is a young woman with the most grace and poise I have ever seen. This young woman will be famous one day, I guarantee it. Everyone was either wiping their eyes or just letting the tears stream down their faces like leaks out of a rusty, old faucet. After the service the pallbearers brought the coffin out to the hearse. I saw a random pink flower on the ground that escaped and as much as I wanted to pick it up and touch it I couldn’t. It didn’t seem like the thing to do, it belonged to Dawn.

One thing I did not know was the tradition of the hearse and all the cars attending the cemetery making a final good-bye to the house where Dawn lived with her family. We drove around the loop as well and all I could think of was Dawn’s enormous Christmas wreath that she was always so proud of, hanging still around the front door. It seemed to me so heart-wrenching to do that, to watch her family ride in the car passing their house where their mother would never again live. Maybe it’s for closure too, I can only guess.

After that, we all went to our individual homes, sighing, looking at the ground, crying, solemn and gloomy and still, feeling that we were in a different world, a new reality. I don’t know how long it takes before the death of someone really hits you and takes its toll but I do know that it does take a while. After the company, the distractions, the food and the flowers, the only thing that matters is that there will be an empty chair at their kitchen table that no one can ever replace. And, at all her children’s’ games, their mom will not be there to encourage them and support them. Whatever condition Dawn was in, good or bad, in a wheelchair or not, Dawn was always there for her children, rooting for them, happy for them until the very last breath she took to say a peaceful “good-bye.”