Tuesday, June 17, 2014

This is for You, Daddy

"This is for you, Daddy." Stevie Nicks at the beginning of "Landslide" on "The Dance" Album

My husband and I are well suited to each other. Momma has often said that she couldn't have designed one better for me. We have a lot in common. This year we have one more thing in common. We've lost our fathers, and this has been the first Father's Day for each of us with no one to call or send a card to. My husband would admit - I was the one sending the cards. It became a point of humor for us. I would say, "You sent a card that said..." And he would grin, and say, "I'm so thoughtful." But cards or no cards, love exists.

"Tell me, where does the spirit go when you die?" "Annabel" - The Duhks
"Tell me, did you sail across the sun?" "Drops of Jupiter" - Train

My Daddy is gone. Momma said yesterday that she kept thinking she would wake up, and he would be there. I told her I knew exactly what she meant. Because I do. I think that puts us in one of those stages. My stage involves Hostess Big Wheels (that's what they were called when Daddy bought them for me almost every day my sixth grade year, and that's what I'm calling them), some Jack and Coke, and digging what's left of my fingernails into my palm to prevent tears. A friend once told me that we write to learn about ourselves. I've learned a lot this past year, but not written a lot. Another friend reminded me that the shower is a great place to sob. I am so very clean - so is the shower stall.

"Up all night, I could not sleep. The whiskey that I drank was cheap." "South City Midnight Lady" - The Doobie Brothers

"And I confess that I'm only holding on by a thin, thin thread." "Sad" - Maroon 5

"Life goes on. It gets so heavy. The wheel breaks the butterfly." "Paradise" - Coldplay

I wonder if I've been kind enough to others when they've experienced grief. This has been such a constant presence in my life this last year. We've not only lost our fathers, but my mother-in-law passed away, a favorite uncle, and a favorite aunt, a loved cousin, even our beloved dog. Our older son can actually write in his upcoming college applications that he lost three grandparents during his junior year of high school. What a dubious distinction. I will say it provides a certain perspective on the other stuff like needing a new transmission in a 2014 vehicle, the broken sprinkler head that was pointing towards the golf course flooding the green, the broken outside water faucet that was dripping for who knows how long (can't wait to see the water bill), the kid who ignored my explanation of how a car battery can be drained resulting in his first lesson involving jumper cables, poison ivy, bronchitis, flu, and the infamous 'I stepped on a snake' incident resulting in a new door mat - one not black and not so easily blendable with a black snake. When you've spent so much time dressing in black, hugging people you love, hugging people you don't remember or never knew, the other stuff just becomes adventures to laugh at. Sometimes the hugs are adventures, too. May I suggest that some people should keep their hands in reasonable places...

"I miss the sounds of Tennessee. I blink and while my eyes are closed, they both have gone away."  "House on the Lake" - Rosanne Cash

Some people are so kind it's almost overwhelming. Others are so clueless that your choices are to be amused or offended. I opted for amused, with only an occasional sprinkle of indignation. So I have even more stories then just the snake one, like the ex-girlfriend who showed up to my father-in-law's visitation flirting with hubby or the ex-boyfriend who tracked down my number, and called me. Which made hubby and I even-steven on the exes front - thank goodness - no need to inflate the man's ego. But really, people, funerals are NOT Eharmony...or a high school reunion. Perhaps you could pick another time to decide we were catches after all.

There's the tendency to question God, and his existence in all of this. That's not my way. I long ago gave up even attempting to understand. I don't get quantum physics, I can't comprehend how to engineer a part, and I for dang sure ain't 'bout to try to rebuild an engine so why should I know all the answers to God's universe. I get that. I'm also good with counting blessings. I had my Daddy for years longer then many people I know had their loved ones, and we were able to be at a good place when he passed from this life to life eternal. That's a gift not all receive though it was wrapped in the sideways paper of dementia.

"Think about it. There must be a higher love. Down in the heart or hidden in the stars above." "Higher Love" - Steve Winwood

Now, I have to say, Daddy was not some perfection of a man. Like all of us, you got the good with the bad. The man had a temper, I mean he could really lay it on. And if he thought he was right, well, there ain't no way that YOU were right. He went almost a year with out speaking to me once because he thought I had made the wrong job choice. But I have that stubborn streak, too. Eventually he was proud when I made my way in a large company just as I wanted to do. I think he enjoyed my spirit, as long as I never forgot to say ma'am or sir along the way. Sometimes two people are too much alike...but there are lessons in all of that, too. Lessons I try to remember raising our teenagers - one is a little more like me, the other one a little more like Hubby. Makes life more interesting as long as we remember the love, and forgiveness. 

"Children get older. I'm getting older, too." "Landslide" - Fleetwood Mac
"Mirror in the sky, what is love? Can the child within my heart rise above? Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life? I don't know." "Landslide" - Fleetwood Mac

The night of Daddy's visitation one of my cousins told me a story I had never heard. Daddy came from a large family. Such a large family means a large range in ages of the cousins, and this cousin remembered Daddy as a young man back from the Korean War. He told me that our grandmother said Daddy would wake up with what they called "night terrors" for months after he returned. I am at an age now that I can look back at how it must have been for my Daddy, not too much older then my sons, and be so impressed by him. This was a man who answered his country, did his duty, came back home, worked full time at night on the railroad while he attended East Carolina College during the day, and spent countless hours helping charities. He never spoke of Korea until dementia came calling other then to tell us that "M.A.S.H." was NOT the way it was. Only then did we find out that he rode trains laying down gunfire to evacuate the dead, and wounded. He led a life, life did not lead him, and there's a lesson in that also. Too much is handed to so many of us. He expected nothing to be handed to him. He became a college graduate. He became Master of his Masonic lodge, president of his Shrine club chapter, and if you didn't know that he was an ECU Pirate then you obviously had never spoken to him for more then two minutes, and certainly never spoke to him during football season. Even as he lay on his deathbed, we played an ECU football game, and he knew it was his Pirates. I could even con him into leaving his nasal cannula in place by telling him that we would beat UNC if he left it alone.

Daddy passed away on May 28. For years, Momma said it would be terrible if someone died and there was an East Carolina University game because none of us would come. Daddy died when there were no active sports going on for ECU. I think he planned that. But still we flew our flags and magnets. His last surviving sister realized what we were doing, and insisted someone put them on her Cadillac, and one of my cousins flew to her car, got them out of her trunk and put them on. No one wanted to disobey her. The last one, the last one of nine siblings. How hard it is to survive.

"We're the Purple and Gold. We are the PIRATES OF ECU." EC Victory Fight Song

The night of Daddy's visitation we had one of those DVD's going. All the good funeral homes do them these days. You send pictures, they set them up to loop through, maybe add some music. Daddy loved music. We all love music. Somehow it felt right that we asked for three songs to be set to the pictures on the DVD. The three songs were, "Sugar Lips" by Al Hirt, "Whipped Cream" by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, and the ECU Fight Song. Nothing else would have felt as right. He loved life, and he saw it in so many ways - war, and peace. He deserved music that reflected his love of life.

Our sons have been a wonder through it all. They have watched their parents grieve, and shown compassion. I will never forget the touch of our sixteen year old's hand on my back as I started a strangled sob walking in the funeral home or the introverted seventeen year old walking up to me, and telling me that he would stay beside me until I told him he wasn't needed.

"No, this child will be gifted with love, with patience, and with faith." "Wonder" - Natalie Merchant

In the bottom of Daddy's jewelry box was an id bracelet. One that had my name on it and was made for me at the North Carolina State Fair when I was a little girl. Long after I stopped wearing it, and discarded it, he kept it. That's how love is - we keep it. We always keep it.

Somehow in grief, we each make our way. We find love. We find faith. We find compassion. Somehow we heal. Each scar makes a stronger place for faith, and love to take root.

"Take this love, and take it down." "Landslide" - Fleetwood Mac
"So I will look for you between the grooves of songs we sing." "The World Unseen" - Rosanne Cash
"Are ye healed?" "Did Ye Get Healed" by Van Morrison

Each time one of us shares love, and compassion, each time one of us turns to God, we are healed. - me

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Beware the Ides of MAY

"It's such a perfect day." "The lawnmower stopped." "Look at the semi's - they're blocking the highway." "There is a meal in your refrigerator." "I watered my front porch." "Sure a car with less then 8,000 miles should need a new transmission." "It's not fair to the other students to accept it so late." 

Let me tell you about my May. Yes, I know it's only half way through - dang it. My tale involves a funeral, a snake, a chipmunk (may be more then one - who knows - they all look alike), a transmission, AP exams, the SAT, school, love, and friendship. Why, yes - that does pack a great deal into fifteen days.

Two weeks ago today, we buried my mother-in-law. This was totally unexpected, leaving unsaid words, and unshared hugs behind. My husband lost his first mother at four years old. He lost his second mother, the one he had since he was five years old, at 55. Are you ever prepared? As we drove to the cemetery from the funeral home, Coldplay came on. "It's such a perfect day." Our younger son pointed out the inappropriateness of the music. Of course, he was right. Then from our position as the second vehicle behind the hearse (we should have been fourth as the fourth child), we watched the time honored sign of respect of others, and their grief. The vehicles kept quietly moving to the side, pulling off where possible, just stopping in the lane where it wasn't possible. But the most touching moment didn't involve a car or truck. It involved a gentleman cutting his grass. Riding lawnmowers are cool. I'd like to have one. But they become elegant, when someone stops, climbs off, doffs his hat, and waits. I have no idea if he knew any of us. But we know his heart.

Since that day, we've traveled back home. Our older son tried to take the SAT. His first score was very good, and we suspect this one will not top it. It's hard when you're tired.

Both sons have hard course loads, and we're near the end of the semester. But our older son has organizational skills issues which is quite common with ADHD. It's hard for him to organize, and prioritize. It's showing now.  He's trying to juggle catching up work, with taking the SAT immediately after returning from his grandmother's funeral, and two AP exams, and normal school work. I wish I could say I've been a great help, but I haven't. But it was a little frustrating to hear from a teacher who imposed no deadline on a project he missed, tell me that it was two weeks late now, and she felt it was unfair to the other students to accept it this late. Yeah, life sucks. It didn't feel fair to lose so many people we love in the last year, and our dog, too. How about a break here? Yes, I know he needs to learn to do this stuff. Dang it, parenting is hard.

I've tried to answer the siren call of other commitments, and traveling to my parents, and then the car, ah the car. I won't say much other then - we need 1.5 days for lemon law status. It's been a peach, make that a lemon...almost. AND THAT'S ALL I'LL SAY....

Oh, the snake, and the chipmunk(s). I know you're dying to know about that (unless you're my Facebook friend - as most of you who might actually read something I wrote probably are - cause I have great, indulgent friends.) My friends already heard about the snake part. See I ran home from trying to help somebody. I had just enough time before meeting someone with a check for the Boy Scout troop (see the earlier statement about commitments...or being committed...sometimes it's hard to tell the difference in a Stephen King sorta way), when I stepped outside to water my flowers on the front porch. I STEPPED ON A SNAKE!! He did not BELONG on my front door mat. For the record, I now have a new door mat. It's very colorful. It is NOT black rubber allowing a black snake to blend. The word blend belongs to outfits, Pinterest, and margaritas - not to SNAKES. I threw the water in the air, thus watering the front porch. I screamed. No neighbors were around thus justifying the alarm system. No, I didn't kill him. I moved too fast to harm him, though it's amazing I didn't throw out my knee. Pretty sure I set a new land speed record.

Then I notice a hole in a board. On the roof. Between the garage, and the dining room. It doesn't look good. I think it's carpenter bees. I call two exterminators. One set says, "Don't bother us." OK - maybe it was a little different phrasing. Second set comes out, looks around, offers for $400, then $100 per month for several months they can "maybe" take care of it - but they aren't going to repair the board. That's when I call my trusted repair guy. Who takes one look, and says I think that might be squirrel damage. At which point his nephew leans out of his truck, and says. "Hey, I just saw a chipmunk come outta there." Ah...the snake wasn't laying in wait for me. He wanted Chip or Dale!! Take them, dude! Oh, and he only wants $150 total. Victory - take 'em where you can get 'em.

By now, I'm feeling whipped when Momma says, your Daddy is not doing well.

I noticed. He doesn't have an appetite. My father-in-law lost his appetite, too before he left us. We lost him last September. By now, I'm thinking that 2014 did NOT need to compete with the suckiness of 2013 where we lost my father-in-law, an uncle, an aunt, and our dog. But we've also lost one of my first cousins this year, and it's just not looking up.

So I sit here starting a pity party when the cat starts playing. He's having a good time. It's infectious. Then one of the sons comes up, and starts telling me about stuff. Stuff at school, stuff he's read, stuff he's interested in - who cares? He's a teenager, and he's talking to me. The other son is working hard, really working. He's gonna turn in that project. Whew. And I remember the dear, dear friends. The ones who put food in our refrigerator and a plant in our home. The ones who emailed, who sent cards, who called, who sent a text. The friends who gave us love. Dang it - pity party over. But if May would like to call off the dogs, I would appreciate it - greatly.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

LMBO - An Accident - While Texting - Who Would've Thunk It?

Back in March, I spent close to the entire month sick - flu, bronchitis, ear infections - it was tons of fun. Our sons don't have their licenses yet. It's just not on their radar as something they care about so why keep the insurance company fat and happy? 

Our sons were often grabbing rides home with friends in the afternoon. One day, I received the text all parents dread: "We're gonna be late. XXXX had an accident." I'll give more on the details in a bit, but yes, texting was involved in the accident.

It was minor, but even scarier to me was the realization that I had never, ever discussed with our teens (who can drive, just don't care about it), what to do in the case of an accident. Never. Ever. Occurred. To. Me. Duh... I also haven't shown them how to check the oil or change a tire. Those lessons are coming. (might hand those off to hubby... though I do know how thanks to Daddy, and brothers.)

So I sat down, and walked them both through my rules of what to do, and in case it's helpful to anyone out there who might also have a duh moment (I can't be the only thoughtless parent...I hope...in a warped way.)

1 - Never leave the scene of an accident. At your age, I don't care how minor it is, stay there. Enjoy the scenery, watch the gawkers, but stay put. The exception to this is if you are on a dark, deserted road. Especially important for young female drivers, but applicable to any age or gender. Some will hit your car on purpose. Listen to your instincts. Don't stay put, go to a local police station or well lit, populated area, and call 911. Explain the situation, you will NOT get in trouble for this.

2 - Call your parents or guardians. We WANT to know. We will instantly move into Supreme Protector Parental Mode, and be there. If for some reason, we can't be there, call your approved list. Just like in elementary school, when you knew it was ok for Aunt JuneBug to pick you up, but never climb in the car with Auntie CrazyLoon, same thing. You, and your parents should discuss what responsible adults should be called. (Side note to parents/guardians - Might be a good idea to let those responsible adults know they are on the hook. Also make sure your kid has these wonderful people in their phone.)

3 - Who is your insurance agent, and carrier? Contact number for them? The police, and other driver will ask for that. Make sure they have the proof of insurance, and know where it is in the car. And find out the other driver's information, too. This isn't a one-way street. Don't let them convince you it is. Maybe it is, but let others help with that decision.

4 - Our longest discussion involved this next piece of advice. There will be those who are offended - sorry - my blog - my warped view. DO NOT carry on a conversation with the other driver. It's ok to make sure everyone is alright. It is not OK to admit guilt or alleviate the other driver's guilt. (No saying things like, 'I'm sorry, I should have noticed you' - sliding into my lane where I already was...). Unfortunately these days, finger pointing is the norm, as is the ubiquitous lawsuit. Wait for your parents, and let them handle it. You may speak to the police, and certainly answer their questions. But in this day of recording devices on phones, never assume the other driver is a good, and generous soul. Sorry, but don't.

Now about the accident. Did you assume the teen driver was texting? I would have. But noooo, the middle aged woman who hit him was texting, and rear ended him at a stoplight. So this next piece of advice is for all drivers, PUT DOWN THE FREAKING PHONE. C'mon people. You are not the excellent driver while texting/surfing/dialing/talking that you think you are. It's the same principle as none of us look as young as we think we do. Same thing. Accept it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Real Housewife....

I'm a loser. Worthless. My time has not been well spent. I have consumed bon bons by the truckload while consuming the truths of daytime tv. "The Doctors", and "Dr. Phil" are my gurus, providing medical help with the power of the remote control while not requiring me to move off my couch. My colonic cleanse will resume in 3, 2, 1...tmi...

OK - now that some of that is out of my system. I am truly none of those things. I am not a loser. My time has been very well spent, I never watch daytime tv, and I'm not sure where bon bons exist. As for the colonic cleanse, that's what collards are for, y'all.

I finally actually got a real interview for a job! Then I made it to the second round! And I didn't get it. The people were great, really, but the gap, it's always about the gap, and I ain't talking about the thigh gap.

I've been out of the workforce (as determined by society), for a number of years. No where on your resume do you get a slot for the following:

Our older child has severe ADHD. He has gone from a child who was constantly complained about by teachers, to a high school junior who is well behaved, and considerate. After being told that he "isn't very bright", and "doesn't know what my other kids know" (just a sample of comments endured), he is in the Beta Club, and on the Math team. He has letters from schools as far away as Cal Berkeley, Northwestern, the University of Chicago, to all the schools close by, and in our state. How? Persistence, flexibility, research, and prayer, lots of prayer - still a work in progress.

Our younger son had health issues, and a self confidence issue. He is a Master Sergeant in Air Force Junior ROTC, and is working on his Eagle Scout. Oh, straight A's, too. How? Patience, kindness, and I have I mentioned prayer yet?

Now - because I have a hot button about this, let me pause and say - my solution of staying at home is not the solution for ANYONE ELSE! At no point do I want my rant, err, nah, we're gonna stay with rant, to be interpreted as an ultimatum as the right way to raise children. If there is one thing I have learned from being a mother, it's humility. Each one of us has unique children, and unique circumstances, and we try our best.

But I could do with a little less humility. Why is my time so undervalued by society that a new college graduate is more desirable, and viewed as having a better skill set? I have actually had my accounting skills questioned (BS - Accounting - they haven't changed the whole debit/credit system...). I've done quite a bit of volunteer work, almost all centered around my accounting skills. I was told that would help. Maybe a little, but the questions always go back to what have I done these years...

I've honed my skills for working with difficult people. I've furthered my ability to doggedly pursue solutions. I am patient, and calm in a crisis....

And I don't give up easily...

Friday, March 28, 2014

Spring has sprung, the grass is riz. It’s prom time, help me! Here it is!

Prom, the flutter in the stomach, the slow dance, the magical surroundings, the boy, the girl, the dress, does anyone remember? I do, and it isn’t the same. At the risk of sounding like a parent, “In my day,” we did our own hair, makeup and nails, and we felt wonderful! When did the prom become so complicated? It’s a first world problem, the dress, the hair, the nails, and the shoes. When I think of what message spending all this money on “beauty” might be, I cringe, but by the same token, I want this experience to be special for my daughter.

I’m caught up in all of the hoopla. I have been informed that “all” of the girls have their hair, nails, and makeup “done.” Can we add up the cost on that? When did going to the prom resemble the bride getting ready for her walk down the aisle? Its nuts! What concerns me more is that the natural beauty of our daughters is cast aside in yet another market geared to make them feel inadequate if they don’t spend, spend, spend to look just so. Even when I was an adequate weight for my height, I never could look like Cindy Crawford. We are supposed to be different, unique, and lovely in the way we were created. Don’t get me wrong, I adore a great pedicure and hairstyle, I enjoy being pampered, but where do we draw the line? I suppose it comes down to why we are doing it. 

I took my daughter to the hairstylist for a trial run for prom night. I saw the woman inside. She was lovelier than I could have imagined, but she had tears in her eyes. Her hair wasn’t what she envisioned it to look like. When I asked her what was wrong, she responded that the hairstyle didn’t make her as pretty as she had hoped. Well poop. That bugged the mess out of me. On the way home, while she dabbed at tears, I told her that her young man would find her beautiful in bib overalls with mud streaking her face. After all, he didn’t see her across a ballroom when they first met. She smiled, or at least the corner of her mouth lifted a millimeter. I think she got it. I hope she did.

Time will fly, as it often does, and prom night will be upon us. I have no doubt that the hair, nails, shoes and dress will be spot on. I hope the young man is a gentleman, that the night is the stuff that teen dreams are made and that, fingers crossed, my daughter will know her beauty is her own, inside and out.