“I think I’ll write a book someday,” said the young woman. “It will be poetry, verses about love and longing and the angst of being twenty.” That Christmas she received a suede-covered volume from her beau inscribed ‘Kate’s Scribbles.’ After he left her, she filled the parchment pages with poems and stories of love and heartbreak which were splattered with her tears. When she graduated from college, she clutched her teaching degree to her heart. Her mother’s advice echoed in her ears.
“Teaching is a good profession for a woman. You’ll be home when your children are—and you can always write in the summers when you’re off,” her mother advised.
The suede -covered book stayed on a shelf and the parchment pages remained blank. ***
“I think I’ll write a book,” said the woman.
Her husband laughed. “When will you have time for that?” he asked archly. “We have a child to raise. We can’t take chances like that, not with a mortgage and bills and obligations. Maybe someday—but not now.”
The woman nodded.
Yes, maybe someday she would take a pen in hand and write. She’d tell the story of a young couple, only in their thirties, with a child, finding their way in a sometimes hostile world.
The suede-covered book stayed on a shelf and the parchment pages remained blank.
“I think I’ll write a book someday,” said the forty–something matron. Life’s lessons had etched fine lines around her mouth and eyes, and added streaks of gray to her dark hair. Children were her main concern—her own child who was struggling to find her way and the ones she taught every day. Her marriage was in tatters from the battering of life’s realities: finances, personal problems and dreams that might never be realized. The woman could not remember the last time she had written anything other than a grocery list or a note to a parent. Sometimes, she would pick up a pen and hold it in her hand, hoping that words would flow onto paper. Once in a while they did, but the words spoke of anger and frustration and mostly of lost opportunity. So she hid those words from herself.
Her mother, now dead, had advised her well. Teaching was, after all, a steady, predictable job with an income she could rely on.
The suede -covered book stayed on a shelf and the parchment pages remained blank.
“I think I’ll write a book someday,” the woman said to her friends as they toasted her fiftieth birthday. She thought back to the earlier years, when the desire to write flamed in her heart. Searching everywhere, she finally found the suede bound book with poems so full of young love and loss and promise. Taking it reverently from its shelf, she blew the dust away. That night, she sat and read until her eyes grew heavy and a single tear traced its way down her cheek. And she felt like a part of her was dead.
“I think I’ll write a book,” said the widow, now in her sixties with hair that was more silver than black. Sadness was her daily companion. “I’ll write about loss and loneliness, and trying to make my life new.”
Her career as a teacher was a memory—one that over time had become more distant.
The woman’s child, now grown, lived in the great northwest forest with her beloved. Days were empty and the woman wanted—no—needed to tell her stories.
So, she picked up a pen, and began to write. Words flowed like water breeching a dam. And the woman wrote a book, and another book and another book. The pages were filled with the story of her life: of the things she had put aside, the sacrifices she had made, and the joys and dreams that had been realized. She wrote of the sorrow and the searing pain of loss. As she wrote tears and sometimes even laughter were her companions.
Surveying the shelf crowded now with the suede-covered volume and many others like it, she smiled.
With words as soft as a prayer, she whispered, “Finally, I wrote my book.”
It’s always something: Something to celebrate, something to mourn, something to regret, something to attend to. I miss my husband. Because it is always something: a phone call or three; a doctor’s appointment; walking the dog; visiting friends, laundry; cleaning; the list is endless. I do it all alone. Alone. If I need help,…
I finally got to Hawai’i. Three tries, three cancellations, and finally—I made it! Hawai’i was all I hoped and dreamed it would be. The weather was nearly perfect: warm and sunny with a lovely breeze that kept the bugs and humidity away—and wrecked havoc on my hair. The beaches were stunning with crashing waves and…
There are certain dates that are more meaningful than others. One of those dates is April 10,1983. That was the date my Mom passed away after almost two years of coping with lung cancer.
I remember that day with crystal clarity.
It was a Sunday—a week after Easter. The weather was perfect: warm and sunny. I had attended noon Mass and then rushed to my parents’ home to see my Mom. It was around 1 o’clock in the afternoon. When I got there, it was obvious that Mom was dying. I helped my Dad change her nightgown and then kept vigil with him as she left this world.
The priest came and gave her the Last Rites. At one point, shortly after she died, I was aware of her soul—her anima—leaving the room.
My brother Michael was there with his wife and boys and I remember my sister Susan being there, too.
Eventually, the rest of my brothers and sisters (except for my youngest sister who was in Honduras doing research for her doctorate) assembled at the house.
As the daylight waned, we sat on our parents’ bed and talked about our Mom and our loss. It was both sacred and comforting to be able to be together in that way.
Now, all these years later, all that’s left is memories. I wish I could hear Mom’s voice one more time, or sit and talk with her again.
So much has happened since then. Our Dad died only a year and half later, babies were born, my sister and another brother got married, one of my mother’s children died too soon, my husband died, the grandchildren grew up and great-grandchildren were born. The family faced many crises and survived.
While time has tempered the grief, I still mourn for my Mom. She was only 60 years old when she died. We never got to see either of our parents grow to be old. They are preserved at a certain age and time in our memories.
Yet, I still yearn to spend one more minute, hour or day with my mother.
In the last two years, my life has been turned upside down by the death of my husband and then my brother.
These deaths affected everyone in my family—including my brothers and sisters.
Shortly after my brother passed away, one of my other brothers was “zinged” (his word) by a Face Book “friend” over the death of our brother.
Which leads to the question, is nothing sacred?
My first reaction to my brother’s posts about forgiveness and kindness were to want to beat this woman up—and I am a pacifist. I was utterly astounded that anyone could be that insensitive. Making a joke about our beloved brother’s death was beyond comprehension.
But, is that what’s happening? Is nothing sacred?
I wonder. Religion is fair game and tradition is fair game. Does this lead to less civility?
I’m not sure. I do know this.
Some things are sacred.
Death. The loss of a loved one is a heart-wrenching experience. Memories are all that’s left. And the ones left behind are alone, lonely, and sometimes frightened. They need kindness, understanding and solace, not a lame joke about death.
Religion. A person’s religious beliefs should be sacred, no matter your own feelings about religion. I casually mentioned that I pray every day when I was out with friends a while ago. While they were respectful, they were incredulous. The idea of a mature adult praying struck them as somewhat odd.
Confidences. The secrets people share shouldn’t be fodder for gossip. I once knew someone who would worm her way into someone’s life, become that person’s confidant. and then regale everyone with the secrets her victim had shared. I admit that this is an extreme example, but gossiping is just as devastating—just on a smaller scale.
Being kind and caring in an increasing cynical and angry society isn’t easy. Personally, I’d rather be the exception than find myself mired in the muck of cruelty and insensitivity.
Valentine’s Day—a day devoted to purchasing flowers, candy and jewelry and maybe something a little naughty for your significant other. Many folks feel it’s overrated as a holiday. It’s too commercialized, and benefits only the florists and candy makers, and of course, Hallmark and American Greetings.
I disagree. To me Valentine’s Day is a day set aside to celebrate love and all that means in our lives. It’s really not about cards, candy and flowers, although there’s nothing wrong with any of that! To me Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to stop and think about all of the people we love. It’s the perfect opportunity to tell others that we love them, appreciate them, and that they make our lives better.
Does that require flowers, candy or trinkets? Not really. It does require extending good wishes for a happy day to the special people in our lives.
All of our holidays are over commercialized, in my opinion. So using that as a reason to shun Valentine’s Day seems quite lame.
Think of how much better our lives would be if we celebrated Valentine’s Day every month; if we took the time to appreciate, love and cherish others.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Picture credit: www.2littlehooligans.com
Fleeting snippets of events, memories, have flashed through my mind of late. Most of these memories make me smile, or remind me of the love I have for the people who are important in my life.
I wonder about the role memory plays in constructing who and what we are. Various members of a family experience the same event differently. When asked to recall an event, they may have widely dissimilar versions to relate.
One memory that has played in my mind of late was many years ago when I was in grade school. I was walking to school or church with my brother. It had snowed (we lived in Buffalo, New York and it was winter), and there were soft, light flurries falling around us. The sunlight glimmered off the snow, catching the ice crystals, making them shine like diamonds. My brother wanted to pretend that we were walking through a diamond mine. I still can recall how magical this mundane walk seemed at the time.
When we were kids, my Dad would take all eight of us to the zoo (and other locations) for the day during his summer vacation. My Mom would pack a picnic lunch and off we’d go with just Dad—leaving poor (or so I thought) Mom home alone! I always felt a little sorry for my Mon until I became an adult and realized how precious those few “days off” must have been to her.
My Dad especially liked to watch the ducks at the zoo. He would try to get us to sit on the concrete bench that was built around the duck pond for what seemed like forever. It probably was to rest his chronically aching back. We, of course, were anxious to go, go, go! Eventually, the older kids would take some of the younger ones off to see the rest of the zoo while Dad took a breather.
I remember another field trip to Niagara Falls, a short ride from Buffalo. We had a VW bus (remember those?) Dad, my sister, the three little kids in the family, and I were on this trip. I don’t recall if any of the older kids were along—I was already in high school when we took this excursion.
The rain came down in sheets, making walking around the “Falls” and eating a picnic lunch a little dicey, to use one of Dad’s words. We ended up having our picnic in the fogged-up car, which sounds a like more fun than it was. I had to pass out sandwiches and drinks from the front seat all the way to the back of the VW bus. I felt like a contortionist trying to accomplish that task.
These memories are a part of the history I share with my family. There are many more, of course.
And, as time goes on, they seem to become even more precious.
I turned around and my daughter was leaving home for college. She was eighteen, a pretty, raven haired girl.
We packed her stuff (there was a lot of it) into her red car and our car, too, and drove to the Southern Tier of New York State.
Dan bought walkie-talkies so we could communicate. From time to time, he made her call me to tell me that I was driving too fast. I was aggravated then, but now this memory makes me smile.
I turned around, and it was time to say goodbye. In a cavernous dining hall in Binghamton, we embraced our lovely daughter whose tears mingled with ours.
We drove back home, a four hour trip, alternately crying and driving. Dan kept saying, “Just keep busy. It’s like a death…” I was annoyed by these words, but now I know he was right.
I turned around and my daughter was living on the other side of the continent. Our visits were happy occasions, but too far apart. Dan said, “At least she didn’t move to Alaska.” And that was our comfort.
I turned around and she became a professor at a University and found her soul mate and life partner.
I turned around, and Dan and I left our friends and family and moved to the land of “always summer.” We made a new life for ourselves and basked in the sunshine and warmth of friendships. Visits home were joyous and nostalgic.
I turned around and Dan was seriously ill with a life threatening disease. He recovered and we adjusted to our “new normal.”
I turned around and the unwanted visitor came to our door again. He forced his way in and sent our lives into a tailspin.
I turned around, and Dan was a man old before his time, emaciated, lying on his death bed in Hospice House. At first, he knew his life was ebbing away. There came a time when he no longer seemed to understand that, mercifully. But he clung to life like a baby to his mother. His days became a living death.
I turned around, and he was gone. And I was alone.
I turned around, and my life changed in ways I could not have foreseen.
My husband had beautiful green-brown hazel eyes. They were, other than his thick, wavy, auburn tinged brown hair, his best feature.
When he annoyed me (too many times to count), he’d look at me, eyes all innocent.
“Don’t give me those doggie eyes,” I’d say. Then all the irritation and annoyance would disappear like a puff of smoke. (Of course there were times when his little ploy didn’t work—but that’s a different story.)
When we were first married, we lived with his widowed father whose loneliness was as real as the sky above and the ground below our feet. Living with my father-in-law meant that our lives were intertwined with the whole extended clan who lived all around us. Our first two years of marriage were played out on the family stage.
One night we had a huge argument in our bedroom, the only private place we had. I have no recollection of what the argument was about, but I do remember going to bed angry and resentful.
It was summer and I was on hiatus from my job as a teacher, but Dan had to go to work.
I don’t remember saying goodbye in the morning or if he kissed me before he left.
The day wore on, and with the perspective of time and a little distance, I began to mellow. I knew that I wanted to make amends, but I wasn’t sure of how. I could have called him at work (he was the boss, so it wasn’t a problem). I could meet him at the door when he returned, and we could apologize.
Yes, there were several options all limited by the presence of Dan’s aunt and cousin who had stopped by to say hello to my father –in-law.
I was in the kitchen, getting dinner ready, when Dan unexpectedly appeared.
I looked at him, our eyes met, and suddenly I was engulfed in his teddy bear embrace.
His aunt and cousin both said “A-w-w…” at the same time.
There was no need for words—his eyes said it all.
Today would have been my Mom’s birthday. She would have been ninety two years old—which, no matter how you figure it, is old.
I often wonder what she would have been like as a really old lady. I’m pretty sure she would have been as feisty and sarcastic as she was in her younger years—and under it all, still a big softie.
I’m sure she would have been delighted with her grandchildren and now, great grandchildren. She would have taken pride in the accomplishments of the grandchildren and her own children.
I am sure she would have been exasperated with the political gridlock in Washington and I can imagine her expressing her opinions quite readily.
I am six years older than Mom was when she died from cancer. That thought is sobering for me. By the time she died, the disease had taken a terrible toll and her death was sad and painful, but the comfort was that her earthly suffering was over. Now that I am older than Mom was when she died, I understand better how awful it was to lose her then. ( The picture with this post was taken two weeks before she died.)
Like everyone who has lost a loved one, I have many memories of my Mom.
One memory that I cherish is of her reading to me all by myself when I was around 4 or 5 years old. I can still picture the book and hear her voice as she read from a beautifully illustrated Nursery Rhyme book while I cuddled next to her. What was most remarkable to me was that she read this book to only me—even though, by that point, there were 4 children in the family and another one on the way.
My Mom encouraged all of us to explore our talents and interests. She was an intelligent and intellectually curious woman.
And even all these years after her death, I still miss her and love her.