Thursday, September 14, 2017

13 minutes and 46 seconds

The last time I talked to my mom on the phone our conversation lasted 13 minutes and 46 seconds. She told me she felt 'like crap.'  She was sitting in her chair, the phone cradled to her ear, a cooking show humming on the TV across the room.I could tell by her voice that conversation wasn't high on her list of things she felt like doing so I cut our conversation short. I looked at my phone as I hung up and noticed the time. Our regular Saturday afternoon conversation had been cut short by an hour.

As the day wore on and my sisters and texted and called, we hemmed and hawed as to whether or not it was time for me to come home. My mom had been diagnosed with kidney failure in late January - the stress of her diagnosis being what we thought had led to my dad's stroke and then death two days later.

My mom liked to say she had nine lives and during our last phone call I told her she'd used up 27 of them. That night I booked a ticket home and was at the airport 6 hours later.

My mom passed away 48 hours after I got home. It's still too raw to write much about but I will say that sitting with someone as they do the hard work of dying is a sacred experience.


Sunday, August 06, 2017

August

As my feet hit the floor this morning I thought, "I'm always going to hate August." My dad's birthday is coming up in a few weeks; the first without him here. He wouldn't want me to hate it. Not that I do really, I just hate that he is not here to celebrate it. He loved being alive. He had a curiousity about the world around him right up until the end.

The first time he appeared in a dream after he died he was telling me that the world spun at a specific speed not known to everyone and if we knew the secret we could come back and be born again. I don't know how to make sense of that dream but I did like that it was a sunshine filled day with us in a prairie landscape when he told me this. His face was radiant with light.

My dad and I never talked about religion or faith. It was one of those taboo subjects in my family. I was going to say right up there with politics (except if you were drunk) but my family has long discussed politics and even with a great span between us having faith and no faith I've found that our politics are largely the same. I don't know what to make of that, either. If we had a mantra I like to think it would be 'treat people right.'

I've been reading quite a few books lately about death and dying. It's made me wonder what I will be remembered for. After my dad died my siblings and I were cohesive in what we felt our father's legacy was to us in terms of how to navigate the world around us. One of them was that he didn't care what we did for a living but he sure cared about how we conducted ourselves while we did it. It's amazing to me that when we put everything in the obituary, when we saw it all in black and white print, how much of a drive there was to make him proud that we were his and were living up to the values he espoused.

Today is my youngest son's first wedding anniversary. They've weathered miscarriages, emergency surgeries, and cancer and more cancer this past year. The future looks uncertain. My dad made the trip up here to attend their wedding. When we went to take family photos my dad stood alone with my son and his wife and pulled himself up as straight as he could before looking directly into the camera. That action said so much about him.

One of the songs we played at his memorial service was Humble and Kind. I hadn't been able to listen to it since his service when Dearest One played it for an overnight guest in our home the other day at the breakfast table. I buried my face in my hands and cried.

I did not expect to miss my dad this much. I've called home every week for about a dozen years. Ever since my mom was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Outside of his birthday or a call about his beloved Roughriders,  I rarely talked to my dad, relying on my mom to ferry pertinent information to him after our calls.

Every trite saying there is to be said after you lose someone rings true now.



Monday, May 29, 2017

Notes From the Bottom of My Computer Screen

"We must bear patiently not being good....and not being thought good." ~ St. Francis of Assisi 

I can bear patiently not being good but not being thought good is the harder part for me.

"God sometimes looks like someone finally, finally telling the truth." ~ Anne Lamott

Another little bit of wisdom taped to the bottom of my computer screen.  I like to think of myself as a truth teller. I'm humbled at how blind I can be to the truth. Particularly when it comes to myself.

"Find a bit of beauty in the world today. Share it. If you can't find it, create it. Some days this may be hard to do. Persevere." ~ Lisa B. Adams

Lisa passed away from metastatic breast cancer over 2 years ago now. I keep her words where I can see them.

Today I am doing my part in planning my dad's memorial. Even though he passed away nearly 4 months ago we put off having his service until the weather was warmer. The majority of my family is buried in a tiny little church cemetery in the middle of a field. Up the road is the one room school house that my mom attended. The community has worked hard at its upkeep so that at times like this, people can use it for the luncheon that follows a funeral.

It didn't matter what life looked like for my dad as he aged he always said that it beat the alternative.



Monday, May 15, 2017

Domino Effect

My father in law passed away just over a week ago. I told Dearest One I couldn't let myself think about this new reality as I haven't processed my own dad's passing yet. We are over 125 people in just my husband's immediate family of siblings and nieces and nephews and the like. The community support was incredible. Someone voluntarily feeding any and/or all of us every night for a week. We are exhausted.

My father in law's death wasn't pretty. It looked like damn hard work. Dearest One took care of him around the clock in the days preceding his death. Two sights will stay with me forever. The first was when I saw Dearest One lean in close and cup his dad's face in his hand before speaking to him, his voice full of compassion. The other was the look of devastation as Dearest One saw in hindsight that medication needed to be increased and his dad had been suffering unnecessarily.

We seem surrounded by hard things in our family this year. Daughter in law with chronic health issues that make daily living a challenge, including daily time spent in a wheel chair. Son in law facing open heart surgery. Son needing two emergency surgeries including an air ambulance ride to get one of them. His wife is in the midst of chemo. Dearest One has been off work over 6 months as he does the hard work necessary to heal from long standing PTSD. My mom, stubborn, tenacious woman that she is, navigating whatever remaining life she has on her own terms.

I lost my emotional footing the other day while sitting in a parking lot eating my lunch. All these things seemed to catch up with me up and life seemed overwhelming. I called my doctor's office and am grateful for time off work so I can begin to process what feels like the click, click, click sound of dominoes falling.

We covet your prayers.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Can't Quite Go There Yet

Today is three months since my dad passed away. Just typing that made me tear up. It's funny how when people ask how old he was and I say 86 I get the impression that they think it's not so sad because he lived a long life. He wanted to live to be 100. But what he really meant by that was just how much he loved living.

I've been surprised by the depth of my sadness.

I want to write what it was like to get in the car at 4 AM and drive for 11 hours trying to make peace within myself that I might not get there before he passed away.

How my younger brother, who I have nothing to do with unless we happen to be home at the same time, came and kissed the top of my head when he walked into the hospital room and saw me holding our dad's hand.

I want to write about what it was like to go see my dad in the hospital an hour after he had died, the warmth of his body fading. How when I made the sign of the cross on his forehead that I was taken off guard by the speaking in tongues that burbled up from within.

How I couldn't bring myself to sit in his easy chair after he passed. How I watched my older brother almost do it and then say, 'nope'.

But I can't quite go there yet.

The months since he died have seen so many health challenges within my own immediate family that it feels like a shit show. I told my kids and their spouses that we've used up 2017's quota of ambulance rides, emergency surgeries and other health crises in the first 2 months and let's be done with that okay?

It really has been one thing after another and those things aren't complete yet.

But my dad. He'd want me to embrace it all. He'd harrumph with a twinkle in his eye and a good deal of compassion and tell me that it was rough for sure. Whatever his aging challenges were he always said that they beat the alternative.

He's come to me in dreams several times. Full of light and vitality.

He kept a globe by his chair and my mom said not a day went by when he didn't put down the book he was reading so he could check on the globe where the story was set or where a particular place mentioned in his book was on the globe.

I have my own globe. I take my 3 year old grandson's hands and point out where we live. I rub his tiny fingers over the surface so he can feel where the mountains are. The other day he went for a drive with his mom and when she pointed out the mountains he said, "Just like on Nana's map."

There is no road map for this season of grief and loss.



Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Snow White

A few weeks ago I was sitting in the chair at my hairdresser's when I noticed an elderly lady, with this lovely head of snow white hair, walk in. As my hair dresser continued to cover up my grey roots with hair dye I told her that I wanted to have a head of hair like that one day. She tactfully told me that I already did under all that hair dye. Who knew?

I noticed my first grey hair when I was 25. I didn't dye my hair until I was well into my 40's. It was totally for reasons of vanity. My husband didn't have a grey hair on his head and was in a job where people continually thought he was in his mid thirties. I didn't want them to think he was married to an older woman never mind the fact that I am younger than he is!

My mom used to say she would stop dying her hair when she became a great grandmother. She was in her early 60's when that happened and that was just too soon for her. She's in her late 70's now and just recently gave up colouring her hair due to health issues. 

I'm not making any promises. I'm very curious to see what my hair looks like underneath all this camouflage. But not curious enough to really see. 

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Healing Waters

Up early this morning and to the swimming pool. Doing so was an act of the will. My body really wanted some extra sleep but I know how fickle I can be. Miss one morning because I don't feel like it has the potential domino effect of a continual I don't feel like it until getting up early becomes a thing of the past.

I've been surprised at how much swimming nourishes me in body, soul and spirit. I've never been big on swimming. No swimming lessons as a kid other than my dad standing in the shallow lake water holding me under my belly, a few instructions, and then letting go to leave me to sink or swim. Eventually I swam.

Last May I purchased a mastectomy swimming prosthesis and a specialized bathing suit to hold it. I started out small. Five minutes in the pool was all I could do. It took 6 months to build up to swimming laps for half an hour. As a plus sized woman I love that I feel no body shame in a bathing suit.

I hope your day goes swimmingly. 

Monday, January 02, 2017

Messy Relationships

My father-in-law has a milestone birthday today. Milestone enough that he most likely doesn't know who I am anymore despite our worlds colliding for the past 35 years.Sometimes I feel guilty that we live less than an hour away from him but don't make much of an effort to see him or my mother-in-law. My parents live 600 miles away and I see them more times in a year than I do Dearest One's parents.

Occasionally I look ahead to my elderly years and wonder if I will befall the same fate. I can't fathom that my children, their spouses or our grandchildren wouldn't visit us. I wonder if that particular karma really will be a bitch. I work at my relationships with all of them. Does that mean I can expect anything in return? No. But I can hope.

We heard about my father in law's milestone birthday celebration being held next weekend through the grapevine. People may be surprised to see us show up as we passed on attending the Christmas get together last week. We've become those unpredictable no show family members we used to talk about in judgmental tones at Dearest One's very large family gatherings.

As I do my own aging I get choosier and choosier about who I spend my time with. Obligation doesn't seem to fuel my action like it did once upon a time. On days like today I can't decide if that's a good or a bad thing.


Sunday, January 01, 2017

Dedicated Space Thanks To St. Lucy

I've thought a lot lately about coming back to blogging. Moving away from social media. I miss writing. This past year I have done next to none of it and I want to change that.

I spent the past few days clearing out my home office. This space of mine has looked, for longer than I care to admit, like a hoarder who loves paper, inhabits it. The problem of a person who likes to stack paper on every surface and deal with it never later.

Dear Sweet Boy was a two year old when he surveyed my office, and proclaimed - 'this place is a disaster.' As I sat down to write this I see his three year old self was in my office this morning and left a gift of Lego on my desk.

We had a young man living with us before Christmas and I found that his early mornings and mine didn't work well for my Centering Prayer practice which I do in my living room. Yesterday I set up my office with a comfy chair and now have a dedicated space I can use no matter how many extra bodies are in our house. We have this young man and another coming to live with us for a while starting tomorrow so that encouraged me to tackle the surfaces covered with paper and make some order out of chaos.

Perhaps I can think of my blog as a dedicated space again as well. As my friend Annie wrote today about missing having a creative community, I do as well. I used to visit all my favourite blogs every morning and now find I check FB instead. Through blogging I felt like I knew people as they often left their real lives on the page.  FB is a sanitized version of myself and my guess is it is for many others, too.

As I tidied up my space I found the cards from two of my friends who had breast cancer before me and who have since passed away. I woke up this morning and thought how blessed I am to see another year. Although my writing practice is rusty I still feel I have a gift in it and I don't want another year to go by with me not doing something to nurture it.

Many moons ago I got myself a saint for the year. I did so again yesterday and got St. Lucy - who, among other things, is a patron saint of writers.

St. Lucy pray for us.