Posts Tagged ‘sharing’

Threw Momma from the train

My parents loved to travel. They handled their finances so well that they retired early, to enjoy their lives together and explore the country.

When I was flying, they had the ability to use my airline passes and they did. Nevertheless, they loved taking the train.

Often they would take Amtrak from Florida, through Chicago, to Colorado to see me, then onto California. They had no particular schedule. When they arrived in Denver, they always had stories from their trip, people they had met. Dad was super shy, mom was extremely outgoing. They had a blast.

I was following their trip once because this time they were coming to see me on the way home as opposed to on the front end of their trip. They had wanted to take a different route, see more countryside, and visit the Grand Canyon.

The phone rang in the middle of the night. When I answered, the connection was poor and it took me a second to realize it was my mom. She was upset. I was instantly alert. Their train had gone off the tracks in Arizona. As it jumped the track, it fell over sideways and down a ravine. After she and my dad had helped everyone they could, they began the climb up the steep slope. A young man was kind enough to let my mom use his cell phone. The connection was poor but I was at least able to learn they were not part of the group going to stay overnight in the hospital. She was so shaken. She kept saying, “We’re too old for this, Alexa, the train ran right off the tracks and down a big hill.” I realized she was in shock. Well, I was in shock. I asked what she knew about how I could find her after she got away from the wreckage. She told me that firefighters and medical people were the only ones around and she just had no idea but needed to return the phone and would call me again. She was gone. An hour later, I made coffee because sleep was out of the question. I began looking around, online and finally saw some information about the accident. My parents were there! This was so frightening.

I heard nothing for 12 hours. I was trying not to be totally frantic. I probably cancelled my business day to wait by the phone. I do not remember much about that day. She finally called again to say they had been put on a bus, taken somewhere I cannot remember, then put on a train and would be in Denver in 6 more hours. Ok. I organized myself and headed to the Mile High City to hug my parents. They had come for my birthday.

Our visit was filled with ‘what if’ and ‘thank goodness’ types of conversations. I really have little memory of that visit. We were all tired, they were so sore all over their bodies and bearing in mind that they were 70 years old, it was too much to absorb.

Being of sturdy stock, they continued their trip back to Florida on Amtrak.

My mom passed away when she was 77. Alzheimer’s had really made a mess of who she had been. My dad lasted longer than anyone expected, such a love shared and such a huge loss.

I am living in Washington State now and during a workout, I injured my leg somehow. After being misdiagnosed with a muscle injury, the MRI showed my extruded disc and broken tailbone. Well, no WONDER it hurt to walk and try to work out. I started physical therapy.

I became a regular at the clinic, everyone trying to recover from various issues smiling and saying hello. One day I arrived 20 minutes early so settled with a book in the waiting room. I was chatting with a woman and her husband, until her appointment and he left. A biker walked in. This guy was big. He was wearing his HOG jacket and lots of chain type things. His face was weathered; he appeared to be around 70. We struck up a conversation. He was wearing a doo wrap, bandana of the US flag.

I asked what he had done to end up in a place like this. He reached down, pulled his jean leg up to reveal a prosthetic leg. When he walked in, I just assumed he bent a little because of a back injury or something. I waddled for 3 years after my 3 discs broke.

I asked him how he lost his leg. He said he was an engineer. An Amtrak engineer. He derailed years ago into a creek bed in Arizona. He lost his leg under some wreckage. Tears were immediate. I asked what year. What time. The answers were already familiar. I told him my parents had been on that train. We had to hug. He apologized for my parents’ bad luck and asked about them. I told him other than shock, they had been fine, just sore. I told him my mom had passed 2 years earlier.

He told me that he does not live in Spokane but was having pain from his bike and called his doctor for referral to a specialist in the area. Incredible.

We just stared at each other, holding hands. It was odd but it was right. Then he was the one who said it. “How likely is it that I am in a city 100 miles away from my home, in a rehab clinic because of my accident, you are here, you actually ASK about me, and your parents were with me during the accident?” I had to say, “I don’t believe for a second that this is an accident.”

What a full circle moment. I asked about the derailment. Someone had sabotaged the track and a section was missing. I had not known these details, so grateful just to have my family intact physically. It was a dangerous place to jump track. He was so grateful to know my parents were not badly hurt. The derailment happened at 130 in the morning. Total darkness. It was miraculous that so many survived.

I went into my rehab appointment. When I came out, he was gone. I got into my car, started crying, and called my brother. What a story I had to share.

getting older, having fun

My birthday is coming.

I have always loved to celebrate a birthday. When I lived in Colorado and had my business, I would write a poem about the upcoming event, fax it to a bunch of my friends, and wait. The poem told them that we had one month to get together, their treat, for a breakfast, lunch, dinner, or cocktails. It was such fun. For an entire month, I would see people, re-new good friendships and catch up on life around me.

In our family, we sing to each other on our birthday. Each year, usually early, the phone will ring. It will be my brother or my stepmom and dad or my best friend. Years ago, it would also be my mom and step dad, my husband and his kids. This year my aunt will call, singing. My best pal across the street and my best friend who lives in Boulder will follow. My brother will call, singing. It is a family custom, and anyone pulled into our fray knows to participate. As a result, I will have a day filled with birthday song and good wishes. I love my birthday.

The more I relocate, the smaller my birthday pond becomes. In Colorado, I had about 30 interactions, getting together with friends because of my poem. I lived in Salem, Oregon just under 2 years and never had the opportunity to be so bold. When we moved to Spokane, I was no longer running a business and my friends all became my husband’s employee group or a very few neighbors. The boss’s wife cannot tell his employees to do anything so my poem had to stop. I miss that poem and the camaraderie it created.

Tomorrow my Facebook wall will fill with birthday wishes. I will never meet most of these people. We are online friends. We grieve together when something untoward happens to anyone in our ‘group’. We celebrate victories, however small, and send well wishes and homegrown knowledge to anyone who might require a bit of help. We recognize the newly formed units of family and friends. These are important relationships to us. They broaden our lives.

My best friend across the street will take me to lunch soon. This is our tradition. Another woman who lives nearby will do the same. I have begun getting fun cards in the mail. My step kids will probably call, which I cherish and I know my ‘almost-ex husband’ will think of me with a bit of regret.

Tomorrow I will not do anything that does not appeal to me.

Instead of sending my birthday poem, people will send me best wishes online because of computerized reminders.

Naturally, I will think of my mother, losing her, missing her, thanking her for life. I will think of friends and relatives who have a significant memory tied to my special day. It is my birthday. I would not consider ignoring this date. I earned this. “And Many More”

friends

I’ve been thinking about my friends. Learning who your friends are is important. Your friends are people you can reach for when you need to lean. I recognize how fortunate I am to count so many.

I have many friends from my airline days. These men and women have been physically absent from my life for decades. If I need any one of them, they will  immediately respond. That is friendship. I just got a phone message from one. She lives in Atlanta. We haven’t seen each other in 25 years but stay in constant contact. Her husband had an affair. Then her next husband did the same. She is living on social security, close to the bone, after marrying with houses and investments. She is now bereft emotionally and financially. She is a wonderful friend to me. We have the same pain. However, we had such fun and wonderful memories. We laugh. Everyone needs to laugh. It reminds us to live and enjoy life. We are fortunate. Sometimes we just need to remember.

I have friends from so many neighborhoods where I had homes. Manhattan, Orlando, Miami, Boulder, Colorado Springs, St. Croix, Gainesville, Salem, Spokane, Nuremburg, Munich, Frankfort, Oberammergau, Ft Knox, Redstone Arsenal, and others that I can only remember vaguely. Incredibly, I still am in touch with friends from almost all of those locations.

Now I have many friends I have never met. They are all on Facebook. According to my profile, I have 176 of them. Amazing. These men and women know of my impending divorce, know I have a cat and recently lost one, know I live in Washington and know I love to write. They know I flew, they know I care. They are my friends.

If these friends were around me on a daily basis, I wonder how much they would still want to be my friend. Am I whiny, controlling, difficult, dumb, or boring? Who knows? The beauty of this group of friends is the instant connection we all know. If I need help, look to Facebook. My friends there will immediately rally. I have seen them come together as a force whenever needed.

I have a wonderful friend nearby. We never see each other. We plan, we swear, we promise, we mean well. It simply does not happen. Like me, she is recovering from an ‘indiscretion’ from her husband, the love of her life. As he has moved on with his mistress, she has had to pick up the pieces of their lives, sell their home, and find a new place to re-start, saying goodbye to so many memories and so much pain. We ‘get’ each other completely. She is about 1 year farther down my road. It helps me to see that. I remember when I learned of her pain. Now I recognize I was not supportive enough. We all just go through the motions of help and support. We do not necessarily tie that to our hearts when we should, as friends. My lesson came later. Gratefully, she has continued to be my friend in spite of my lapse.

This is friendship. We ebb and flow. We understand and forgive. On a daily basis, it might not work so well.

As we each move through our lives, some friends come and some simply stay forever. I am blessed with both. You need some of them for a bit of time. That time finally passes and the friend needs to pass with it. They did their job. You did yours. Time to move. Time to change.

A friend just called. Incredible. We have not spoken in so long. She just asked me to come for the weekend. I am going. What could be better than a weekend with one of your dearest friends?

We have so many and they are so willing to help.

can you change the ending?

A friend of mine is not in great health; his time is short.

I have lost so many people in my life and my family. You begin something of a routine. It becomes necessary to continue in your daily life while you monitor the person who is leaving theirs. Routines help us cope. Knowing the ending is difficult but you still must keep moving forward, toward that difficulty.

It’s almost like a movie you love, but cry when you watch. You enjoy the good parts yet you know the worst is to come and regardless of many repeats, you will still cry. You love that movie.

Family and friends gather in a hospital. It is a kindness for them to come to a grim place like this. They want to pay their respects to the family and the friend. It is true respect. That respect carries through a funeral service. You do not attend a funeral for the person who is gone. You attend for the family to see how valued their beloved member was in life. It is respect.

When my mom passed away, I was determined to have a gathering of the fun and joy she created. Several people were kind enough to relate their stories of time spent with her, laughing or being amazed. Everyone in the chapel laughed, even though many of us had to give into our tears. My mom was always laughing. We said good-by in style and I know she enjoyed watching.

Because of my mom’s service, I do my best to attend those for my friends. I go because the family deserves to feel their loved one touched many lives. Respect.

I was talking to a friend today about respect. Specifically we were sharing the importance of being certain our next generation of women learns respect. So many lives change due to a lack of respect. Naturally, you cannot respect others until you respect yourself. Young women are especially in need. Our society still operates on ages-old routines. Many continue to make young girls obsolete in favor of young boys. Women will always be necessary because we give birth. However, young girls have consistently been pushed to the back. If these young girls do not learn their importance while they are children, they will have a more difficult time standing firmly for themselves as adults.

Our school systems believed that young women could not really grasp math and science. Astonishing. My father did not think a girl needed college. He pushed my 3 brothers to attend, even though none of them did well in high school. For me, it was not an option. He decided I would just find a husband. This idea is still alive and well in many families even though women are now more than half of the workforce.

Once a young woman values herself, she begins to expect equality in her life. Men do it so easily but women have to be taught by parents, teachers, and relatives. We need to change this. Once done, I believe many teen pregnancies will be avoided. When a young girl realizes she has more in life than to ‘catch a boy’, her options open fully. Once open, they rarely close. This has nothing to do with being pushy. It has everything to do with pushing yourself. Respect.

Being strong and respecting yourself means there is no sign of weakness to tears. Crying when your soul aches is a sign of love felt. You can only be as happy as you have allowed yourself to be sad. The valleys and peaks must balance. That is respect you owe yourself in life.

I wish for women. I hope for humanity. I pray for leaders who will make rules. I do not know how this will end. Movies and books cannot tell me. I have to play it out to the end. Nothing can foretell this.

How much do I wish I really knew? I wish I knew. Sometimes knowing the end isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Can you do this?

I find myself surrounded lately by people who ‘enable’. What is happening here?

My hairdresser is enabling her son and his family. My younger cousins and nieces, nephews are enabling their children. My great attorney friend enables his kids, who have their own families. And if you ever watch something like ‘super nanny’,  or ‘wife swap’ you see constantly that families are afraid of their own kids, when it comes to discipline.

When that generation matures, who is going to give them this leeway?

I have a tendency to view these things in terms of pets. If you die, who will take care of your pet(s)? Just think for a moment. If you have pets, who will they go to if you are hit by a bus tomorrow? You had better make those plans. We never know what is coming around the next corner.

I have a friend who cooks her own pet food. I used to feed mine a raw diet. I have other friends who hand-feed their pets each meal. Still others sleep with their pets, sometimes to the detriment of their spouse.

Here is my concern: if you die, will anyone do all that? I doubt it. If someone is good enough to take in your pet, they will have done more than enough, giving your beloved pet a warm place to sleep and food when needed. They won’t hand feed, they won’t cook and bake, they won’t chop up raw veggies. Once I began to think of this, I stopped that.

Now, my pets get pet food. Plain and simple. Just like everyone else would give them. If they get a better deal: super. But, if they just get a place to ‘sleep’ and food and water, I don’t want them to have any more agony than they already will, wondering where in the world I am. I think it’s better for my pets. And heaven knows, it  has begun to save me time.  And, not requiring so much from friends who might be kind enough to agree to take my furry babies.

I feel the very same way about kids. If something were to happen to us, who is going to treat your 20 year old as if they were still 6? Who is going to treat your 6 year old as if they were still 2? The world does not revolve around any one of us. It certainly does not revolve around our kids or our pets. I feel as if I am keeping my pets in a low-maintenance  area in their lives, so that if needed, anyone can pick up in my absence. I feel that this is the kind thing, the smart thing, and the right thing to do.

No toleration of yelling, screaming, kicking, complaining, when the world is basically just fine. No refusal to become adults.

My wonderful hairdresser gave her son and his ‘due soon’ baby a place to stay. He brought the wife and the dog. That was 7 years ago. They now have 2 dogs, 2 kids and no money. my hairdresser, in her  60’s is supporting everyone in her retirement home. She has one bedroom, they fill 3. Incredible. She wants them to move. They have said they cannot wait to leave so that they can live life the way THEY choose. But, 7 years and a larger family later, they linger. She is enabling them. why would they leave? They give her 200 bucks a month. The own ¾ of her home. They use everything and she cleans after them. if they get ready to leave, she feels guilty. It’s backwards. She should feel guilty that they have never had to learn to support their own lifestyle. It is heartbreaking.

I used to chop fresh veggies, go to the store daily to get ‘fresh’ meat to add to the food. Nuts. I finally realized one day that if something happened to me, the cats would immediately be on death row or be given a bag of cat food. Unless, of course, I left money in my will for them (I haven’t). I prefer having them get a bag of cat food. Any food will do at that point. Pet  food.

I have a friend whose dog has only slept on the bed it’s entire life. the dog was adorable. Now the dog is huge. I stayed over there once and woke to the dog, on top of me. I was not part of it’s territory. I’m lucky it didn’t tinkle on me to mark territory. I didn’t mind too much. It was only 1 night and I love pets. But, if I inherited that doggie, it would have to learn to sleep on a dog bed or the floor or something. And, if it yelled and screamed for 2 or 3 weeks while it was ‘getting that lesson’, I might not be inclined to bend over backwards for someone’s dog that was not properly raised, doesn’t understand that the humans are alpha and the dogs are not.

Hand feeding? Quit it. Dogs and cats and everything else really CAN take pretty good care of themselves. We get in the way.  and….we are supposed to be teaching our children to interact, to get along, to become self-reliant. Anytime you see a kid blowing up, stop to think just how long a different person would put up with that. nobody does it like enabling parents.

Sleeping with your kid? Nope. I won’t. will your cousin or your brother or sister if they suddenly find themselves with your children because you died? I doubt it. They aren’t used to bending into pretzels because you couldn’t bring yourself to do the right thing.

Why have we found ourselves in a world of people afraid to let kids grow up, become responsible, have pets that understand who is in charge? What in the world happened to the generation that followed one of the greatest?

Ooops. Cat needs cuddles. I hear the screaming. Better go get her.

what are you thinking?

I live in Spokane, WA. The US Figure Skating Championships are here, and I am normally in a front row seat. I have followed skating avidly since the mid 80’s. Fortunately, for me, attending championship contests have been constant. If I were not able to be in a great seat, I would watch it on TV, never missing a second.

Last night a very nice friend of mine took me as her guest to the championships. It was wonderful to see again.

However, what I actually experienced was not what I was accustomed to seeing.

I’ve mentioned before that I suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury) a couple of years ago. It really has changed my life, my outlook, and my future. Last night I recognized it has also changed my past.

My mom had Alzheimer’s. Horrible disease. She lived in Fla and I lived in Colorado, then Oregon, now Washington. Farther and farther away from her, needing to be with her, hating to see what she was.

I made a decision about my visits with mom: I would meet her wherever she was. Toward the end, she had no clue who I was. I would watch her before I approached, to get a feel for how she ‘was’ at that moment in time. she would look at me, blankly, smile, and ask how I was. that’s mom. the more ill she became the more she morphed back into her ‘hostess’ mode of making others comfortable. because she did this so well, most people had absolutely no clue she was so ill. she managed to fool people for almost 5 years, with this disease eating away at her memories, her being. Now, visiting her in the lock-down ward was always unsettling. I wanted to scream, I’m ALEXA!! I’m your DAUGHTER!!. that would have done no good. she simply did not know me anymore. so, I decided to try to get her to like me, every time I visited with her. she had always helped everyone, everywhere. huge volunteer, all of her life. I decided that whenever I ‘met’ her, I would try to get her to enjoy my company. for an Alzheimer’s patient, that is no small feat. they are angry, frustrated, isolated, and tired of being bossed around. they have no clue who anyone is and they want ‘out’. I would go to her, smile, call her by her name, and beam at her, “HI”. she always responded favorably.

Sometimes, rarely, she would chat, laugh, and almost manage conversation. Alzheimer’s robs people of their ability to use their words. I learned to listen to her cadence and her tone. Amazingly, I usually could converse with her, on her terms. All I wanted was for her to like me. just for that ‘time’.

A brain, robbed of its use is not pretty. People do not act the way we expect them to or the way we are accustomed to them acting. When I injured my brain, my husband had his hands full. I had outbursts, my language went to the gutter, I was angry, crying, unable to do things and unable to figure out why. The doctors had warned us several times but until you live it, you really don’t ‘get it’. When I was going through this with my mom, I was still intact (almost brilliant, or at least really smart, IMHO). I just wanted her to like me. I loved her enough for both of us. I wanted her to like my company. So, we would chat. Sometimes we would hold hands. She had no idea who I was. I was careful not to intrude. I just wanted to be with my mom, or whoever she was at that time.

Sometimes I would visit her and it would go really well. So, I would stay longer than normal. Those rare times were golden and I didn’t want to miss a second of them. We would talk and laugh, her conversations would make little sense, But she liked me. She was happy in my company and I was thrilled to almost see a piece of her, coming through. If anything or anyone interrupted her, she was lost again. Sitting with a stranger. I would start from the beginning. again.

Brains are pretty interesting. she was ‘there’ in pieces. The pieces weren’t necessarily the good ones. My brain was here but not functioning very well. As a result, I was difficult and unable to care for myself.

Now I have the after-effects. my marriage is in shambles, over essentially. My brain has returned as much as it will manage we believe. If I am tired, I cannot form sentences. My spelling ability has completely vanished. I was an English whiz, math whiz, science whiz. Now, I cannot multiply. Sometimes I cannot add, no matter how hard I try. I spoke 4 languages, I seriously struggle with my English today. It’s just the way the cookie crumbles. I’m mobile, I can drive and run errands and cook and garden. I am just a bit more diminished. That’s life.

Last night I realized I don’t know a damned thing about skating. That was astonishing. My friend had gone with me as my guest years before. she evidently relied on my knowledge to help her understand the competition. It made me remember the first month I was here in Spokane, the championships were here (Skate America, I think) and I took my very best friend to every event all week. She was an athlete but knew absolutely nothing about this sport. So, I explained to keep her appraised. Last night, I could not answer the most basic questions. that was stunning to me. I simply don’t know anything much about this sport I have spent thousands of dollars on for 25 years or so. I’m a newbie.

So, just like my visits with my mom, I decided to just be ‘there’. I decided I don’t need to be in charge, don’t need to know the answers, don’t even need to know the questions. I could just be there, with my dear friend, watching a program of great challenge and superior athletes. I had been here the month I moved to Spokane, and now, 8 years later, as I am making my plans to depart, I was here again, but a different person, in every way.

And it was OK.

curtain up: it’s all in how you act, isn’t it?

we are all so busy. it’s that time of year. holidays bring more and we all react. Re-act. good word. We aren’t quite ourselves if we ‘re-act’ are we? so many expected examples, traditions, and issues.

I have bats living above my bedroom, in a crack in the roofline. I like what bats do. I dislike what people still believe about bats. I was raised to believe that bats would swoop down into my hair if I were walking in a field at dusk. odd. yet, people believed that. I do realize that bats are some of the most voracious insect eaters on the planet. our chemicals are destroying them. they are becoming endangered. like butterflies, which we love, they and bumblebees, which we require, are being destroyed by the chemicals we use in our landscape.

the nights I can’t sleep, I turn toward my bedroom window and hope to watch bats, zipping around, and catching insects. I know that mosquitoes will not be biting the next day. I enjoy watching them swoop, stop on a dime and swoop in a different direction, catching their prey. I find it interesting.

I’m waiting for the moose to amble into my yard. they always come in the winter. I am awed by their size. opposite of  bats, the moose seem to just destroy my landscape because they are enormous and will eat anything they reach. they reach very well. but, because they are moose, they are forgiven being so incredible in size and not so often seen. and, moose are rarely said to dive at your head at dusk.

then I have that damned skunk. she (yes, I know) comes regularly now. when I was still an idiot, I tried to run her off one afternoon. you don’t do that twice. she comes in the evening. she eats fallen birdseed, next to my hedge. she began digging a hole. I put a stop to that. I do not want a den of skunks. they are hard to shed. and, in most states, it’s against the law to kill them. I am not the type to kill animals. I am more interested in trying to shoo them away. I’ve tried most things with this skunk. she scoffs at my efforts. cute, but not welcome. nor is the raccoon.

that’s the point, isn’t it? things we love and things we don’t. some are welcome, some are not.

traditions are welcome. the strife that comes along, not so much. family, always welcome. typical fights, no. trying to make things ‘just so’ because people are visiting: don’t. it’s just too much stress and reaction.

I remember one evening at my folks’ house. we had almost the entire family visiting. 3 brothers, 2 sisters, spouses, 2 nephews, one niece. I walked into the kitchen to put dishes away from the deck. we had just finished an incredible dinner. when I came in, my mom was madly scooping cookie dough onto sheets, ready to slam into the oven. the look on her face as I walked in was almost terror. I’ve never forgotten it. she was scooping about 15 per minute, it seemed. I offered to help. She tersely said “no, and don’t’ you DARE tell anyone I’m making cookies”. I went back outside. I knew the tension. she wanted this to be fun and easy and obviously it was nothing similar. she was frantic.

when she presented the cookies, on adorable trays, napkins ready, she was beaming and would not look at me. it was too much knowledge. she wanted it to ‘happen to be perfect’. I’ve never lost that lesson. it’s ok to just be ‘ok’. it’s fine to just relax and let people gather, laugh and pitch in. you don’t have to do it all.

so I am starting to decorate for Christmas. I learned yesterday that Christmas is a week from now. ooops. I’ve had no clue. my mind is clouded with so many things. I just knew it was ‘sometime’ and thought I might actually decorate. I was planning to put lights out this weekend. well, I’m not doing THAT now. good grief. by the time I get them up, it’s time to take them down. I have lost track. I don’t have time to react. I had also realized this is my last year in this wonderful home and setting. that makes me sad. that made me decide to really do one last Christmas so I wouldn’t regret it later. ohwell. traditions change. I will make Christmas in my next house and be just fine.

so, while I watch the bats, shoo the skunk and wait for the moose, I realize that everything is really ok. I am not going to change the axis of our planet by what I do or don’t. the big wheel keeps on turning.

I have sworn off the stricken look I saw that night in my mother’s eyes. I have sworn off the rush and need of a calendar. I do things because I enjoy them, not because it’s expected. expected by me or expected by others. they are the same. I need to keep specific appointments, medical appointments, and lunch with friends. not much else is really that important. when I begin to work again I’ll keep those appointments as well. otherwise, I am now on ‘alexa time’ and the living is really not so bad.

I have more time to act.

call me anything

I had a great visit with a wonderful woman over the weekend. she is my stepdaughter.

We have been through so much together. When I met her, she was in 2nd grade, now a sophomore in college. the years have been amazing, the changes incredible.

We laughed about her different ‘phases’, the extreme shyness, the necessity of goth, the girly-girl times, the dates and the heartaches. She is slated to be more a friend now than a daughter and I’m fine with any circumstance. I love her dearly.

When we met she was going through the demise of her family unit. Her parents had divorced but in her mind hope was always intact. When her dad and I married, she was not pleased. It was very difficult for both of us. I had worked with children all of my life, as a volunteer in various areas. A single professional woman, I had never married so had no children of my own but really loved kids. I was always the favorite aunt, the neat ‘mom’s best friend’, the fun next-door neighbor to kids but never a mom. I proceeded slowly, getting into her life. Her dad wanted to rush us but I knew better. Still, she was rushed and it hurt her. I was unwelcome. For the first time in my adult life, a child did not want a thing to do with me. I was so surprised,  hurt, and confused. I tried everything,  I thought.

What I finally had to relent to was the unvarnished truth. After a particularly bad visit I was finished. I had no thoughts of trying further. By this time she was a freshman in high school. She had done some unforgivable thing and I was shattered by the memory.

When she came back, I invited her to have a talk. I laid my cards on the table. I loved her. I had worked very hard to love her. It was not something that just happened because I married her dad. It was a conscious decision and I had to be certain it took. I loved her. I would do anything in the world for her. I was so sorry about her parents’ divorce and her upheaval but I had nothing to do with any of it. I was also a child of divorce and knew the pain. I simply married a man I had fallen in love with. A divorced man. And she came along with the package.

I asked her to please tell me 3 or 4 things I had done to cause her pain, to hurt her, to make her angry. I wanted to know so that I could try to improve but I was fatigued with being treated badly and being unwelcome in my own home and life. I did not intend to allow any more ill treatment. She cried. She explained that it was nothing I had done. She said I had always been wonderful to her. She knew I loved her. Then she said it was not me, it was what I represented: that her parents were really over.

What a huge statement for a young girl. What a truth.

We both cried, held each other for the loss each of us had suffered and for the mending we were needing .

After that day, we went into sync. Our relationship began to flourish. We had both learned huge lessons. I believed I had known just what to do with my new kids, to help them like me and then maybe love me. Yet, I could not have really understood their feelings. I wasn’t them, they weren’t me. We all had to navigate this together and mostly, we had to be willing. One person in a relationship cannot maintain without the other being engaged.

She is a young woman and I am an older lady. We have 15 years’ history. We have a relationship that will continue in some version even though we will never again live near each other and even though she is now watching her father move out of my life. She is something of a niece to me now. A friend. A daughter of a friend. My daughter. She is important to my life. She needs no label. Neither do I.

We have love, respect and enough history to understand each other. We have continuity. How lucky is that?

it isn’t the cost of the item; it’s usually the memory you buy

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about things we treasure and things we need to keep and want to buy.

My husband spied a small milk jug one day in a bargain store. It was just a quart milk pitcher, worn and scuffed from years of use, glass, with a handle. It was just a small pitcher. He had to have it. He said it would be to keep our milk in, in the fridge. Women all over the world know why that open pitcher to keep milk in is not a great idea. Additionally, the only time he used milk was if he had cereal in the mornings. I was the one who drank milk.

We got the pitcher. Once I had washed it, he dutifully poured our milk out of the milk carton and into the old glass pitcher. There! The trace of a smile went across his mouth. All was well in his world. Mine was less well.

I once picked up a ‘hostess set’ that was 8 glasses in a heavy chrome basket. The glasses all matched. The chrome basket was ageless to me. I had to own it and the price was great. I use it for water glasses and iced tea glasses when my guests come for dinner.

A good friend of mine has a ‘sprinkler bottle’ to sprinkle her clothes before she irons them. Most of us remember those. Our mom’s and our grandmother’s all used them. once in a while you’ll find that little bottle top, cork intact, with holes all over the opening. We know immediately what it is for but our kids don’t understand.

The odd thing to me is that we are picking up nostalgia. Not JUST nostalgia, but nostalgia from our childhood, and usually from our mothers.

His memory of the milk pitcher was the one always in the fridge when he came home from school. My memory was of my mother hosting her bridge parties, white gloves, nice card table, coffee service nearby and the glasses with ice, for lemonade or iced tea, in their carrier.

My friend remembers her mother ironing and teaching her to iron her fathers’ hankies. Her parents both passed away too young and I can understand her holding onto things like this.

Interestingly, after the first use of the milk pitcher, it was relegated to the shelf, by my husband. I use the hostess glasses and carrier sometimes but not as often. My girlfriend never irons. Not anything.

No one wants to let go of those silly items. It would almost be letting go of our parents or our childhood again. My mom has passed. I want anything to remind me of her presence. My husbands’ mother is still with us but he doesn’t want the pitcher discarded, he just doesn’t want to use it after all. When he began packing, I offered it to him. It still sits on the shelf. My girlfriend has the stopper to the water bottle in her china cabinet, with her other treasures. close but not in use.

Until very recently I had a pair of my mothers and my step dad’s tennis shoes. They used to come visit me at least once a year and we all three loved to garden. Instead of carrying the shoes back and forth, dirty with soil and mud, they each left a pair. I was unable to let my mother’s sneakers go, after she passed. I needed that reminder. I needed to see them and realize she might be attached to them in some way, therefore to me.

Watching a show on TV one day I heard someone remind me of what we all know: they are not in ‘the things’. They are all in our hearts. They live within us. We don’t need the sneakers, the pitchers, the sprinkler tops. we just need our open loving hearts. I think we all have that, don’t you? That doesn’t mean that anyone should rush another to discard something precious in their own minds. We’ll manage that in our own way eventually. But my mothers’ tennis shoes and her husbands both went to a soup kitchen not long ago. They both volunteered all of their lives and so have I. When I walked in with them, a man and woman immediately asked if they were for someone special. Of course they were. A man and a woman who needed better shoes. Worn, but still able to serve as footwear.

I know my parents smiled. I smiled. The man and woman smiled. We all felt just a little better. And, just as I had expected, it didn’t make me lose my mom or dad all over again. It made them go even further in my lifetime.

I’m not sure how much longer I’ll keep my hostess set. I do recognize that I’m keeping it because it makes me smile. the shoes somehow made me sad. Now absent, they make me feel good.

I found myself looking at some old cookie cutters recently at a thrift store.  my mom had them all. We baked cookies together. My stepdaughter and I did likewise a few times. Now, I make cookies occasionally but oh those cookie cutters were calling me. As I stood there, handling the few that I have somehow lost, knowing I could again have all of the ones my mom used to have I glanced out the store window. There was a family standing across the alley at a restaurant back door, near the dumpster. A man, woman and 2 children. The man and the little girl wore shoes I could easily recognize. I smiled again, tears popped into my eyes as I put the cookie cutters down. Walking to my car I swelled with the love of my family and again felt that smile.

The next day I made cookies. I made every shape possible. I spent hours baking. Then, I took 5 dozen cookies to the soup kitchen, with 4 more pairs of sneakers I had stopped wearing years earlier and ‘saved’. Everything made sense. The cookie cutters didn’t know they were missing some of their counterparts. I didn’t notice that I was missing old sneakers. I just noticed the warm feeling I had inside, all the way down to my toes when I sat down, drinking milk out of my hostess glass and eating leftover cookies.

Sometimes all you really need is love.

change

I have repeated the platitudes most of my adult life. “Change is good.” one of my favorites for the last 10 or 12 years has been about downsizing when you downsize you end up with the very best. Boy, I have given advice. Now, I am living those scenarios.

I find myself needing to get rid of things. we call it downsizing. I need to sell things. We call that ‘freedom from clutter’. I think of my aunt. she has way too much ’stuff’ and cannot bear to let any of it go in case she needs it later. I completely understand since my apple didn’t fall too far from her tree. but now, it’s my turn.

I will be moving within a year. I need to see different places and things and meet new people. this home I have loved and hoped to live in for many years is now a painful reminder of a marriage ending. time to move. selling isn’t easy; neither my home nor my belongings. I have become addicted to all of it.

as I plan a sale for my collectibles, I have cried and cursed. this isn’t fair. this shouldn’t be happening. why am I selling things when he doesn’t? my list is endless of what he is not doing correctly. doesn’t matter. I still need to sell. I need money. I need to pare down. I need to stop holding onto so many things. I need to lighten my load.

planning this huge sale has been so tiring. It has also proved to be not only emotional but I find myself unable to continue. I have stopped so many times, thinking I just cannot manage to do more. Finally, I began to assess, maybe this is a bad idea. Maybe I am stopped because I shouldn’t start. maybe, maybe, maybe.

I actually (mentally) called the sale off. I had already distributed flyers and started online ads. that meant re-tracing steps to retrieve flyers. yuk. but, as I looked at my treasures, I just could not imagine. and my husband plans to rid himself of nothing, other than me. hmmm…

Friday I stopped cold. no sale. I’ll pull everything back. this is the decision. I cannot let go of more than my marriage. just too much. I’m stopping this.

that was a godsend to me. I took Friday to re-assess. as I looked around the room, at prices on my treasures, I began to think of my future. I won’t have much space. I can’t afford to move as much as I’ve always moved in the past. I DO need to be rid of things, but which things? so I looked with a more critical eye.

I’m 61. I have no income. I will relocate to another state, find  a place to live and go through all the machinations by myself. as I looked at so many things I have held for 20-30 and even 40 years I finally got it. I don’t NEED any of this anymore. I will never want to unpack all of this again. not only will it save me money but it will save me grief and heartache. I need to let go of so many things. this is just the beginning. I can do this. Moreover, I can be proud of myself for not needing so much stuff anymore. yes, I will keep a few treasures. not many tho. I will sell what I’m able and then sell again. I will move into a much smaller place and be happy for having less to unpack. not that most people would be able to tell the difference. I’ll still have way too much stuff. but, a year from this Christmas, when I begin putting things out for my holiday, in my new home, I imagine I will not think too badly about what isn’t there. I’ll be grateful for what I have.

Change.