Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Room Called Solitude

It’s nice here in this room by the lake. High up on our hill I gaze at the tops of the trees that fill the backyard. The birds are singing and the tree branches sway in the breeze. A bright red cardinal rides a branch like a surfer on a long board.

I wonder if the cardinal is my mom checking on me but smile as I think that she would never show up as a male cardinal. She knew hundreds of bird species by sight and tried fruitlessly to teach me the difference between a pileated wood pecker and a red-headed woodpecker.

I wonder why watching leaves dance in the wind soothes my soul. The clear blue sky and the spring green leaves somehow ease the sadness that churning inside my chest. Maybe God knew that the colors of the sky and the trees would be a comfort to some of us.

I just don’t feel like talking these days. I have to talk all day at work but as soon as the children no longer surround me I retreat to a quiet place. I am craving solitude. I have always needed time to process my emotions and solitude is the place that allows me focus and clarity.

In that room named solitude I can sort things out. Sadness belongs in the corner and anxiety lies over there. Guilt is in the big, over stuffed box. I am a master at finding guilt to store I frequently try to clean it out but its constant replenishment is my own doing.. It’s full of I wish I hads, why did Is and I should haves. Guilt, my friends, requires a post of it's own.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the corner with sadness. I have learned that it is best to spend as much time as I need there. If I search through those sad feelings holding them up to the light for closer examination they tend to remain folded away in their box when it comes time to close the lid. If I hurriedly shove sadness into the box, squashing it into the empty spaces, it tends to erupt when I least expect it.

Excuse my silence. My reluctance to talk is how I began to heal. I have been in the room with sadness before. This time it’s just gonna take longer to pack things up.

I miss you Mama.

Just sayin’.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Thank You Note

Thank you.

Thank you, to my father who loved my mother. Who set before his children an example of unconditional love and respect for a spouse. Who showed us how to love and respect a mother. Who allowed us a voice in her care when she had no voice left. Who showed us how to let go when letting go was the last thing we wanted to do and the hardest yet most loving thing we have ever had to do. Who always said he could fix anything but a broken heart but who will show us how to pick up the pieces of a broken heart and let God, time and the love around us mend those pieces together.

Thank you, Daddy.

Thank you to my husband who watched my face as intently as I watched my mother’s face. Who listened for the slightest change of breath that signaled my tears. Who made me eat when I forgot to eat and who pretended not to notice when I forgot to bathe or brush my hair. Who wiped away his tears, too. Who never flinched from walking this path with me. Who drove the miles between our house and hers many times to tend to things at home that I will never know needed tending. Who held me in strong arms, squeezed my hand, rubbed my neck and held my head. Who despite telling me over and over and over that he didn’t know what to do to help me helped me in ways I can’t express with mere words. Who made me feel loved and cherished while I cried in his arms at night.

Thank you, Tony.

Thank you to my children who carried on with minimal parenting from their mother. Who each stood up to a difficult and scary plate full of their own fear and grief. Who stayed alone or with a close friend. Who went to work and school and who loved me and their grandmother from afar and from her side. Who each face the first loss of a loved one with courage. Who took care of me and blessed me with their presence and encouraging words. Who held her hand and whispered words of love into her ear. Who prayed for her with the sweet words only a grandchild can utter.

Thank you, Jordie, Phillip and Morgan.

Thank you to my siblings who each took a vital and necessary role in the care of my mother. Who each used their God-given gifts, talent and strengths to take care of the mother who chose us and raised us up always, always doing the best she could. Who each brought another sister or brother to the family who took on the care of our mother. Who stuck together just like we always have. Who supported each other with that fierce protectiveness that we were known for during our childhood. Who put my mother’s well-being and wishes first and my father’s next without hesitation, without question-the end.

Thank you, Tom, Cassie, Genie, Linda and Marlin.

Thank you to my aunt who told my mother over and over how beautiful, how precious and how loved she was. Who struggled with overwhelming sadness at the inescapable and imminent loss of her best friend and sister. Who told others that she now had four more children to watch after. Who washed my father’s clothes and feed him dinner and sat vigil on the other side of the woman they both loved.

Thank you, Aunt Mary.

Thank you to my Milledgeville friend who stayed up all night with me because she asked him to. Who stayed up all night because he knew I would need his quiet strength and his hard won, heart won experience. Who told my mother she was beautiful. Who was gentle in spirit, word and touch while he cared for her and while he insisted she remain safely in her bed. Who earned his new nickname of Halleluiah because she loved him so. Who laughed with me and mourned with me all that long, long night.

Thank you, John.

Thank you to my Milledgeville friend who walked this path before me and in doing so was able to show me the way. Who recognized my need to know what might be ahead and who knew how hard it would be to climb some of those rocky hills. Who re-visited a place that was painful in order to help me find my way there.

Thank you, Lisa M.

Thank you to my Warner Robins friend who kept my youngest child. Who made sure she had appropriate clothes for a funeral. Who mothered her when I was absent. Who gave me the gift of time with my mother. Who fed my child, transported her, entertained her, made her laugh and most importantly comforted her. Who in taking care of her, took care of me.

Thank you. Lisa S.

Thank you to my posse, my peeps. Who each supported me, prayed for me and did my work for me. Who wept with me, ached with me, prayed with me and stood with me. Who let me leave my home, my family and my students without worry. Who kept things important to me running smoothly. Who checked on me, read my text messages late at night or during work hours. Who read my e-mails and let others know what was going on. Who lost sleep praying for me. Who loved me so much that I felt it miles away.

Thank you, Kathy, Rachel, Hayley, Kim, Dana, Cindy, Ruthann, and Jo.

Thank you to the two friends who even though having lost their own mothers ministered to me. Who prayed and will pray for us with first hand understanding of how losing your mother finally forces you to become a grown-up.

Thank you, Paula and Marsha.

Thank you to the third floor nurses at Oconee Regional who stepped over any ‘professional’ barriers that discourage opening your heart fully to a patient and the patient’s family. Who came quickly and with true concern every single time we called. Who not only took care of my mother but also took care of my father. Who held their hands and hugged them. Who never once made me feel like a nuisance. Who answered my questions with compassion. Who called while off shift to check on my mother and who prayed for us.

Thank you, Third floor Angels.

And finally. Thank you to my mother who joked through her pain that she loved me most of the time. Who I always knew, always loved me. Who taught me to love the misfits, the rejects and strays.

Who made my friends welcome and who showed me how to be a friend to the friendless.

Who taught me to reach way down and find the steel magnolia inside. Who taught me to be strong when life called for strength.

Who chose to be my mother and chose to love me. Who chose to be a mother in every sense of the word that really matters. Who grew me IN her heart not under it. Who gave me a family- a father and two brothers and a sister when I had none.

Thank you to my mother who showed us all how to fight hard, endure pain and finally fly to Jesus with dignity, courage and grace.

Who was a TRUE lady to the end of life on this earth.

Who I will miss until the day I die.
Thank you, Mama.

Just sayin'.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

He waits for me every day beside the No Parking sign in front of the condos across the street from the school. Sometimes singing to himself, he swings round and round the pole. Like a dancer spinning, at the beginning of each rotation his eyes snap back to the parking lot where my car sits. His sweet, happy face never fails to bring a smile to my face as I check on him each time I walk another student out to the car rider line.

He waits for me every day.

Sometimes he comes to school crying. “I don’t want to come here today,” he might say when I ask him why. “Me either, let’s go home,” I say sympathetically as I hug him to my side. It breaks my heart when he draws in the deep shuddery breath kids do when they are trying so hard to keep it together. Once in a while I get a watery smile.

He waits for me every day.

He used to have stomach aches a lot. Now he tells me when his mom didn’t feed him any breakfast. He knows where I keep the Pop Tarts I bring for the hungry ones. He never ever complains about the flavor I give him neither does he ever show a preference. He simply says thank you and returns to his seat to eat.

He waits for me every day.

He has the eyes and hands of an artist. He uses lines and shapes to create patterns and designs with a skill far beyond that of other six year olds. I often catch him contemplating the lines of our concrete block walls or the pattern of sunlight peeking through the window blinds. “You are a wonderful artist,” I tell him.

He waits for me every day.

We have spent two school years together he and I. It’s hard to keep up when no one has taught you the names of the colors you see every day or how to count or even how to write just the first letter of your name. I know that he has grandparents that would like to be a bigger part of his life. I know that he is the oldest of five children being raised by his single mother. I know that he is anxious to please adults. I know that he loves to talk to his friends. He doesn’t confide in adults easily so I worry that the teachers to come won’t know what I know.

He waits for me every day.

I wait until no other cars are in sight and I pull out of the parking lot slowly stopping across from him. I roll my window down and we yell goodbye to each other. I tell him that I love him and that I’ll see him in the morning. When it is cold or raining I tell him to hurry home.

He waits for me every day.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Her eyes opened at the first sound of his voice.

She smiled and nodded when I said, “Daddy’s here.”

As he leaned over and kissed her brow she whispered “Hello Angel.” “Did you know you’re my best girl?” he asked. They smiled at each other for a moment before her eyes closed again.

Sometimes it is the tender moments that are hardest to watch.

I have seen those tender and loving moments many times before.

My parents have shown their tenderness for each other in word and action many times before. He lights a fire for her even on warm days because he knows she chills easily. She worries that he isn’t wearing a jacket and fusses until he turns back for one.

Even so, my mom and dad have a routine and a pattern to their conversations.

It goes something like this.
My dad says something.
My mom tells him that he is wrong.
He agrees with her.

If you know them you are smiling. Not only because you know I am right but also because you too have been told you were wrong. And you too just chose to agree. Smile.

This moment was different though.

You see, she was in a hospital bed swimming through a haze of left over anesthesia and pain meds that were keeping her comfortable. He was struggling through a storm of fear and exhaustion.

It was an intimate moment. One of those times when you know that your presence has retreated to the periphery.

A moon to their world.

Just sayin'