Grave Dwellers

I have often admired people who make regular visits to the cemetery and spend time with loved ones there.  I recognize the peace this brings, the healing from loss.  I have, however, never felt compelled to do this.  In fact, I arranged Grammy’s entire service, helped her choose everything for her funeral, and I have not once in 8 years stepped into the cemetery since her interment. Don’t judge me, I just don’t see her there.

Not that I am not fascinated by cemeteries. I love going to our hometown cemetery with my twinsie and spend hours reminiscing about this person or that, and how they helped shape our lives.  Without that spark of memory–seeing their names– those stories would not be evoked.

At this same cemetery, my mom’s urn is tucked behind a little plaque bearing her name on a monument that holds the remains of the cremated, and when I touch those letters, I do not feel her there.  I feel her presence more when I hear a song, see a smile, feel a hug, say a prayer, hear a story.

I stopped struggling with my desire to be like those who find such great comfort at the graves of their loved ones, or feeling bad that I don’t have that same pull.  That perhaps something was lacking in me that I didn’t “pay my respects” like others did.

Even as a child when we’d go “home” to the tiny town that our mom grew up in, there was a parade of McCoys that would walk to the cemetery to spend time with grandpa, truly a man I never knew, and I tried to stand still, my feet itching to run with my cousins, but then the stories would come from my parents and aunts and uncles and I would stand spellbound for that time where the grandpa I never knew came to life in their faces, and their voices and their laughter and their tears. A real living person come alive in them.

A few years ago, our world lost a great man whom I adored.  A writer, actor, friend.  When I went to his service, I wept and wept and could not control it, and I was embarrassed by this, he had been sick a long time, he really was in a better place, and yet, I could not stand up and say how much I loved him, I could only watch our friends, and listen, and feel their loss in my own loss.

I still miss my friend, and think of him often while I am walking the trails to the river, and along it, with Eugene and Lily Belle, and smiling at his antics (they were EPIC) and just feeling him with me asking me to write fiction instead of nonfiction, because my nonfiction was too raw, and hurt too much.  I could soften the blow by using fiction, and of course, he was right, he wrote many fictional books that merely softened his nonfiction life.  But, I stuck to my guns and he to his, much to his chagrin.

Then, I saw his wife at the local grocery, and we hugged sharing that “I miss him so much” smile.  And she asked if I’d been to his grave.  I was astonished because he’d been cremated and I didn’t know that his ashes had been buried.  She explained where he was and I stood there in utter shock, he was in the cemetery that I walked by every time I went down to the river.  He was within arms reach all that time.

So, she gave me the directions.

Go up the drive, take the first left, go past the caretakers building and keep walking from behind it till you are lined up to the bedroom window of the ranch house to the left of the cemetery and look down.

So, I did exactly that, instead of walking over the road to the river, I turned right, and then right again, up the big hill, and then left, and the building was making weird clunking noises at dawn and creeped me out, but I walked on straight from behind it, till I was lined up to the window on the ranch house and looked down, and there he was staring back at me.

She’d put a plaque on his grave marker with his photo on it.  His beautiful face and eyes and I was completely and totally with my friend for that second, and of course cried, and still cry each time I walk all the way up that hill breathless to get past the scary clunking building, and the breath catches a second in my throat and the tears come.

I love seeing him, I love scoffing at him, and even saying, “Hey, Sweetums, yah, that nonfiction thing, well, I’m writing a blog, and I’m having a good time with it, and I’m going to write about you, how about that? And I’m not softening it with fiction, heck no, you are too real, too raw, too honest to do anything but tell the truth about you.

And, it would figure you’d find yourself for all eternity behind a scary, clunking, banging caretakers building that creeps me out. That is just like you, now isn’t it?  Even where you rest, there is a story.”

And then I walk away, wiping tears, maybe laughing a bit at a memory of my friend, and his wife, and our friends together.  And I understand just a little bit better the grave dwellers, and even count myself as one.

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Take me out to the ball game…

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I admit it, okay?  I’m a fair weather fan when it comes to the Cubbies.  I haven’t watched them consistently since I met my life partner–A Sox fan–in 1980.  In Chicago, marrying a southsider fan when you were a northsider fan was akin to marrying outside your ethnicity or religion.  Another reason for my family to be suspicious of my guy.

When we were kids in our tiny town and met someone new the first things we’d ask were: “What church you go to?” It seemed almost everyone went to church in our little town and you were either a Lutheran, Catholic or Congregational. It was such a strong allegiance we had with our churches that you don’t much see nowadays.

The second question was, “You live in town, on a farm or in the country?”  Proximity was important when bike riding, walking or running was the mode of transport since everyone was a one car family.

The third question.  “You a Cubs fan or a Sox fan?”  Honestly, as I sit here, I can scarcely remember a single Sox fan when I was a kid. I’m sure there were some, but, there you have it.  Most just loved the ball club from the Northside.

Nearly every single day during summer the game was being called either on televisions or on radios because back in those days there were no lights at Wrigley.  You could hear Vince and Lou on WGN radio or Jack Brickhouse on channel 9 wafting through screen doors and windows on hot summer breezes.  “HEY HEY!”

And sometimes, which I didn’t quite get, a dad or two and some of the boys would have their transistor radios tuned to Vince and Lou and their television sound turned off.  I loved Jack Brickhouse so much, that even now when I pay tribute at his statue outside the WGN building in Chicago, I get teary.  In fact, I’m teary NOW!  I guess not everyone thought he was the best caller, but for me, he was the voice of the Cubs and my childhood.

I admit also, that I’m a bad baseball watcher.  I’m loud and obnoxious, and I’m not normally like this.  The truth is, I call the game better anyhow, I do!  Turn down the television and let me do it, for goodness sake.

“Strike!”

“Take it standing there lookin’ why dontcha?”

“Watch, he’s gonna get picked off at first…”

“Just keep pitching them high and outside, because that ump sees that as a strike.”

“Jerk”

“Oh man, he’s due.”

“Make him be a batter.”  

“Nice, now straighten it out.”  

And the best. “NO WAY, IT’S OUTTA THERE!  HOLY CATS! DID YOU SEE THAT?”

And if we win? Silence.  I’m struck dumb.

In this the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  My sweet, soft spoken father was a total maniac during sports games.  At home, we were watching the ’69 Cubbies playing the Mets (and you know how that ended) and my dad took off his shoe, threw it into the fireplace just as our dog was walking by. The dog lived with a yelp, and the Cubbies lost.

Dad in the bleachers at Wrigley, taking off his glasses and extending them to the Ump at the plate since obviously he needed them more than my dad.  Slamming his foot down on the bleacher in front of us and other shows of irritation that will remain a secret. Forever.

Twinsie and I would work on our tans, and pray for an infield homerun from Don Kessinger that would make the world louder than anyone thought possible. In the 70s we’d try to catch Jose Cardinal’s eye.  Wink.

And we’d share a foot long weenie with relish.  Very un-Chicago, but there you have it.  We were from the country anyhow.

And who can forget Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Don Kingman, Glenn Beckert, Greg Maddox, Fergie Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg, Rick Sutcliffe, Mark Prior… and all the players through the years whose names everyone is screaming right now because I didn’t put them on here, but I have only so much space, so hollar them out!

Them were the days.

But they are nothing compared to the epicness of tonight and this past week.  Winning the division at Wrigley against (my second favorite team) the Cards, with all my moaning and groaning and calling plays, I sat there in complete silence with my hands up in the air.  In all the years, with the voices of Vince, Lou, Jack, Harry and Ron in my ears, we’d done it.  The curse was over for at least this one day.

My friend wrote to me, “Hey, B-girl, is hell freezing over?”  And I wrote: “Sure is, and I hear they’re eating goat.”

Tonight it is the mighty match of 1969 in 2015 (Hey, Marty!) With ballplayers so young, so damned good, and so excited to play ball they don’t care about what happened then, because they have today. And more important?  They have each other’s backs. This week we will see if these young Cubbies will end the pain that so many of us have from that series in ’69, and we, who remember, will call the game, and then sit in silence, hands up in the air.  “Hey, Hey!  HOLY COW!” voices echoing from the past heard inside our heads.

Shhhh.  There’s a lot of ball yet to be played. Tamp down the hope, be realistic, but, like every year, hold on to the dream.

I’m a Cubs fan after all, yet still, I can’t stop humming, “Go Cubs Go”…

Go Cubs Go

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Bound for the trash

At the Old Folks Place (OFP) we are up and down the halls to the trash room and back as we help Daddio go through all the things he and Hedy have accumulated that they no longer want or need.

In the trash room, people can put unwanted household items–chairs, curtains, small appliances, dishes and the like and anyone may take from the pile as they have the need.

In our late night trips to and fro, we have left lots of good stuff that dad and Hedy just didn’t need anymore.

It was fun to watch these things disappear knowing someone else was enjoying them, and we’d report back to dad “Someone took the recliner, curtains, or the coffee pot!” and we’d all smile. It feels good to know that these things are useful to others.

One night in January during what NJ calls a blizzard (pfft) we padded down in our slippers pushing our little cart filled with whatnots to give away. When we got there we found this little mid century gem. The upholstery was in fairly good shape, but the foam cushions were crumbling so much that they leaked the dusty white crumbs. It needed work, but I loved the clean lines, and the craftsmanship was incredible. We nabbed it and took it to dad’s storage area to bring home on one of our trips.

For six months it sat there, on our April visit we had Rick with us so we couldn’t cart it home that time, and finally in July, we carefully tucked it into the car, putting the leaky cushions in large plastic bags, and off we went.

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For the months since I’d first laid eyes on it, I knew I’d just restore the teak wood. It was worn, but nothing that Restor-a-finish couldn’t handle. The cushions were another thing. Off to the upholsterer they went, and for a sweet 80 bucks they were as good as new. The upholsterer recommended just gently cleaning the tweed fabric, because for its age, about 60 years, it was in excellent condition.

I just couldn’t love the final product more.  There’s something about bringing back to life a piece of furniture that had been well loved all those years, just needed some special care. I like to think of the people who sat in it, the people who bought it brand new. The life it’s had. And now it begins anew.

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And the Award goes to…

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I went to my blog stats for the first time in almost a month and was shocked to see that people stopped in everyday to read, yet I’ve not written a thing since Are you my Mother? 

                                                                     Humbling.

How wonderful to discover while I was away juggling, that I’d been nominated by a lovely fellow blogger, Ellie, for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.  I am honored and thank her so much for thinking of me.  Please check out her amazing blog by clicking on her name or going to newcreationsministries.wordpress.com 

I find these types of awards a wonderful way to share more of my blogging friends’ blogs, and honestly they make me feel just a bit shy, but I want to accept this one and nominate others so you can read their blogs, too. If you do nothing, please, please check out these blogs.

Here are the simple rules for participating:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site.
2. Put the award logo on your blog.
3. Answer the ten questions sent to you.
4. Nominate ten blogs, notify them.

Here are Ellie’s questions for me:

Would you rather win an Oscar, Pulitzer, Nobel or other award? Why? (Ellie, this is technically two questions, just sayin’.)

Quite honestly, I am not an award kind of girl.  I think I just would like to write something that will be remembered, that will earn a place in my readers’ hearts. I’m no fun at the award thing.  Pooh.

What would be your dream job?

I feel that all the jobs I’ve had have fulfilled something deeply in me, and I’m grateful, but for sometime in the future, I would love a job where I could bring Eugene with me.  That’s what I pray for, I hate leaving him everyday.

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This the look I get when I leave for work. Pathetic.

 

What characteristics describe your husband, or significant other (or wife, in my friend’s Mike’s case)?

Honesty, grace, funny, interesting, earnest, loving, softie, loves love stories, hunky, faithful, courageous, provider, strength…  Hmm.  I need more space to list everything.

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What’s your favorite place to vacation?

Anywhere with my guy, but if it’s by a body of water, it’s even better. With our besties?  Even better!!!

With my twinse and me?  Shut up, it’s awesome. It’s not the place, it’s the people, people!

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What’s your greatest skill? 

The ability to make order from chaos.

What was your first car?

Blue ’62 Chevy with no radio and no heat, but it could pack in like 20 high school kids at lunchtime and cart us to the local burger joint in the small town we grew up in (before seatbelt laws, natch.)

What were you like in high school?

I was an energetic, cheerleading, sensitive dreamer. 

Have you met a celebrity?  Who? (Another two-fer)

When we were on Maui, we were eating at Roy’s and I went to use the restroom.  There in the middle of the restaurant was a table filled with a bunch of people, including little kids who were scattered about.  In the midst was a man who looked like Rob Reiner, but he looked much thinner.

When I got back to our table after they had left, I told my hubby and he wouldn’t believe me!  Then, we saw a copy of People Magazine, and it showed Rob Reiner and an article on his weight loss. Neeener neener to my hubby.  That’s the closest I’ve come, I think, aside from Jack NIcklaus at the Western Open in 1981.  Be still my heart.

Have you been on television?

This would be my biggest nightmare.  I choose writing for the anonymity and control of it, but there was once a show that featured the chocolate shop where I work, and I was briefly shown boxing some chocolates.  

What historical person would you like to invite to dinner?

Jesus.  I’d love to wash his feet with my essential oils, make him a lovely meal, and have a good long chat.

My nominees are:

Sandy, my favorite gal blogger buddy, at http://foundthispaintedthat.com/  She’s found it and she’s painted it and she will inspire you!

Laurie We B Late at http://laurieoconnorstephans.com My ironic, funny writing friend.

My brave, beautiful niece, Laura at seekingthestill.com

Jan at http://cookbookexperiment.com My sweet cuzzie can cook.

Elin Janne at elinjanne.com Eline’s blog is worth the looksee with her amazing photography and journaling.

Monika (or Sam, whomever shows up at the computer) at tailsaroundtheranch.wordpress.com Compassionate companions.

Mike (even though he’s a man, his blog, life, and friendship are so inspirational that I need to nominate him for an award so that if you happen upon this blog, you will at least read his!) at http://mikebcblog.com/

Daphne at grievinggumdrops.com Daphne’s blog is poignant and beautiful and all about sorrow, faith and character.

Elaine at http://thehometownrookie.blogspot.com Read all her “rookie” blogs.  Just so much inspiration packed into a little Jewish ball of fire.

And Blogger newbie Wendy, who is just starting on her journey in blogland.  https://constructiveconflict.wordpress.com/

And that’s a wrap.

 

 

 

Are you my mother?

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We’ve all read this book and felt the confusion of this tiny bird in search of his momma and how happy we were that he was not harmed in his search, and the absolute joy that flooded us when he finally found her.

I think about this book often, and my own search for my mother.  I miss my mom who has been gone since Mother’s Day night in 2009.  But even as I miss her, all through my life I have been blessed with “mothers” who gladly took me under their wing, metaphor intended.  And I’m certain my own children have had their “mothers”, my twinsie for instance, the “fun momma” who took them all out and knew exactly how to make them feel special.  Not that I didn’t, but she fulfilled a special need in my kids while I was fulfilling another. In my twinsie, my children found their mother.

There is my own mother-in-law whom I called Mom right away.  I loved her from the start, the very first memory of her was walking into her house very late the night before Thanksgiving 1980 after a long drive, and her shaking hot homemade donut holes in a baggy with cinnamon and sugar, and the smell of her house, and the taste of those in my mouth.  I knew I wanted to be like her, and she taught me how to cook and we shared maybe a million memories in the kitchen together. In my mother-in-law, I have found my mother.

Through the years I watched the mom who greeted her children and me in her apron with the screen door slamming shut behind us and wonderful smells coming from the kitchen as the radio played Frank and Dean.  The house was warm with the scents and heat and humidity and love.  In my friends’ moms, I have found my mother.

In the hot dusty town of Climbing Hill, Iowa, my cousin Shelly and I would race into the house on dirty bare feet in search of that perfectly cold water from the metal pitcher in the refrigerator drunk from shiny metal cups that made the fillings in my teeth tingle.  Aunt Lynnie would chase us off, chastising us about our dirty feet on her wooden floors so shiny clean that at least once each visit, I would slip on a throw rug and land on my rump.  I loved my Aunt Lynnie so much.  In her I found my mother.

A couple days ago, I spent the night with my good friend, Janet.  She is an angel on earth.  That we would be so greatly blessed to be together is like a gift handed down from heaven in God’s own hands.  I love sleep overs at Janet’s.  I love sitting at the table munching the homemade chocolate chip cookies she makes for me, drinking ice cold Pepsi from the bottle, and playing the card game “golf” (which by the way I kicked her rumpelstiltskin playing) and chicken foot dominoes.  In those long hours together that seem to fly like the second hand on the face of a clock, we talk and we laugh, and sometimes we even cry a little.

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Her life is so rich with love and loss, and her beauty is that she embraces both and uses them to enrich the lives of others. When I am with her I feel like there is a cocoon around us, it’s like a secret that only we share.  In Janet, indeed, I have found my mother.

I’m a grown woman with grown children who is so like that little bird searching for the love of a mother.  I am so blessed that at every stop when I have asked in my own way, Are you my mother?  They all said yes.

September’s Hope

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September is such an enchanting month.  For some it’s the end of their beloved summer, to others, like me, it’s the birth of hope in our lives.  Kids go to school meet new people and work with new teachers, learn new schedules, experience new things.  Dorm rooms are set up just so, with the stern, “Now, try to keep it just like this…” and we shake our heads as we stifle our tears when we leave them behind, waving in the rearview mirror.

New crayons, backpacks, the smell of glue and blue lined paper on silver spirals.  And there’s the football schedule, teacher institute days.  Cute outfits from kindergarten and beyond, with sneakers that squeak on wooden gym floors. So much hope.

There are empty nests lined with years of feathers and fluffing, with our bare feet hanging over the side, and lazy weekend breakfasts, quiet suppers, long bike…

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Courage, Faith, and Life

A woman sat in the doctor’s office with her one year old baby girl sleeping in her arms.  She was a mother of four, two boys and two girls, ranging from age twelve to one.  Her husband sat by her side as the doctor delivered the news.  After almost dying with her last two pregnancies, she was pregnant again.

The doctor explained that he had met with a board of obstetricians and there was the unanimous agreement that she should abort.  He spoke softly about the simple “procedure”, and the increased risk of her death if she should carry full term.  The momma wept and the father looked on tears brimming in his own eyes.

She was told that she had just a week to decide, and they left the office with four kids in tow.  The father readily admitted that he was afraid, there were four children to think of, and possibly a fifth, and if his dear wife should die, well, he shuddered with worry and sadness at the idea of raising his family alone.

It was obvious that momma was already sick, nothing stayed down, and the doctor had explained that she would be on bedrest very early in her pregnancy if she were to decide to keep the child.  In her mind she wondered how she could take care of her kids from her bed?  Was it fair to her 12 year-old daughter and 10 year-old son to put the weight of their baby sister’s and little brother’s care on them?

That night they wept tears of sadness and prayed with all of their hearts for an answer as they curled together in their bed.

In the morning momma told her husband that she could not abort her child.  He nodded, relief and fear flooding his heart.  His wife’s face showed her determination to see this high risk pregnancy through, and she set about the task of arranging for her mother to come from Iowa to Long Island to help with the children over the next six months.

And they were hard months.  Momma swelled, she could not keep anything down, her blood pressure soared, and her children snuggled in her bed as her belly grew.  Her husband worked long hours and continued to get his education, and he came home at night to pour himself a mixing bowl of cereal for supper.

People rallied around them, but many whispered about how the momma could be so selfish to have this child when she could die leaving it and her other children without their mother.  Momma and her husband knew about the whispers.  They wondered themselves what would happen if she were to die.  But she simply could not kill the child within.

Toward the end she was hospitalized, they tried to stabilize her blood pressure with meds, and soon labor began in her 8th month.  A team of doctors oversaw the labor and delivery while the father sat with his mother-in-law in the waiting room.  He describes the agony of that wait, would she be okay?  He thought about his family growing, and the extra pressure of more mouths to feed, and was excited about this new addition but mostly, he prayed and allowed his faith to comfort him.

Soon the nurse came, beaming from ear to ear, all was well.  Everyone was fine.  Tears of gratitude flowed.

So, why would this story matter to you or to me, you wonder?  How would this woman’s courage affect us.  It’s a nice enough story, for sure, and we know not all have happy endings.

What would you have done if it were you?  I ask myself this many times.  What would I have done if the risk was so great to carry this pregnancy all the way through?  And what would have happened to this momma and her family had she decided to abort?  These are questions that remain unanswered.

But this is what I do know, and why it does matter that this woman chose life.  Had she not, you wouldn’t be reading this, because she would have aborted my twinsie and me.  There would be no Harmony’s Pearls, our husbands would be with someone else, there would be no children unique as ours with our DNA, no wedding coming up, Twinsie’s grandchild would not have been born.  And I can just keep thinking of the very tiniest and biggest of things that just matter because our mother chose life. This wonderful life.

The story of Roe v Wade, its impact on our society, is unfolding before us.  Whole generations now have been raised on the back of that decision.  Friends have mourned their own babies that they have aborted, wondering what life they would have had.  Others feel confident that they made the right decision.

This is a debate about life that will continue long past the time my eyes close in death from a life that could have never been.  For now, I am just truly grateful for my mom’s courage back in 1958/59 when an abortion had to be decided by a board of doctors.

I’m blessed to have this life, to know all of you, to have these beautiful children and an amazing husband, and my most prized friendship ever, my twinsie.

The right to choose is ours, but choosing life is a choice, too.

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