Hey, Dad

My father passed away on August 14th, 2001. His passing was a great shock to our family. He was not sick and did not suffer and for this I am very grateful. We were just so very unprepared. He had an aneurysm below his heart, a condition the St. Louis doctor assured us was easily corrected with surgery. He told us my dad was very healthy for his age and would be just fine. I saw my dad the night before his surgery. I gave him my love and talked over plans for our mother’s care while he was recouping.

Later, my sister, Kate, who lives in kentucky, called me. She felt an urgent push to see our dad before his surgery. I agreed to ride with her early the next morning so she could say her, “I love you’s”.  I remember walking into the prep room where they had him waiting in a wheel chair, dressed in a hospital gown and socks. Without his dentures, he looked so vulnerable.  The silent, strong, permanent presence that was my father suddenly seemed so small and helpless. I felt my life tilt a little as I kissed his cheek and felt the moisture of Kate’s kiss lingering there. We said our goodbyes and turned to walk away.

As they wheeled him down the long white corridor, my life tilted more and I felt a panic attack looming. It hit me as I grabbed Kate’s hand and held on. Perhaps it was a premonition of the sorrow that was to hit us in mere hours. We  joined our brothers and sister and innocently waited. Patiently, we scanned magazines, made small talk and joked with each other. Our only care at that time was the post surgery care of our father and our mother who had Alzhiemer’s.

Our world fully tipped and went into an instant spin the moment the doctor gathered us in that little conference room. My father hadn’t made it.  The announcement throttled my close family with pain. Simply picked us up and threw us all. In our grief and shock we dealt with the aftermath in ways we have come to regret. Blindly and without our leader,  we became as walking zombies. We buried our dead and were forced to make decisions we weren’t prepared for. We muddled through it all as we played out the stages of grief. The years have flown by and we have learned more about ourselves then we ever thought possible. We have had  to soul search, to learn to forgive ourselves and each other. It has been a journey none of us could have predicted, a journey that has torn us apart.

My sweet family is still picking up pieces and mending after eleven years. We seem to gather more readily now and revel in each other’s nearness. When I look at my sisters, I feel my sweet mother looking down upon us. In the stance of my brothers, I see my father. I can hear whispers of their voices when the grandchildren giggle.  We talk and tease and laugh and reminisce and  through this tragedy a deeper, closer respect for our unity slowly begins to emerge.

Today, I came across a letter I wrote to my father on the first anniversary of his death.

Hey Dad,

I miss your crooked little smile. I miss the deep tanned creases in your face. I miss you at your place at the table.
I miss the strength that was you.
Today it has been one year but it seems like forever, feels like a nightmare.
I want to talk to you about Levi. I know you aren’t here but maybe you can look down and see what I write.
I feel so bad. Today I took the day off. To enjoy the beauty of nature as you used to, to run and play like when I was your littlest daughter. To be with my son as a parent just like all those summer vacation you alway provided for us.
But, Dad, I found myself angry at him constantly, telling him to stop being a baby, to stop doing that , to stop making that noise. All I really wanted to do is to tell him he’s okay and that I love him. That he’s going to be alright.
Dad, what would you do? How would you lead this little boy who struggles with his handicaps? I want so badly to walk into your front door, sit at your table and listen to your advice.
Hey Dad,
I miss you.

Sara Jane

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Five Bits of Wisdom

I’ve been noticing a lot of lists made by bloggers. Maybe blogging is synonymous with listing. I’m not sure but I thought I’d attempt one of my own. Bear with me as I try it out.

 Five Bits of Wisdom My Mother Gave Me.

1.  Give them roots and give them wings. – She gave me this little nugget while I was struggling with whether or not I should allow my daughter to participate in something that a lot of other people were cautioning me about. She told me, you have given them some great roots, Sara, and Allison has a very good head on her shoulder. Sometimes you have to let them go. Let her have her wings. Give em roots and give em wings! I love that woman.

2.  Look your baby in the eyes and talk to him.  That’s how he will know you love him. Let him feel your love. – I was seventeen and a brand new mommy. I still lived at home and mom was showing me how to bathe my little guy. I still can feel the sun shining through the bathroom window as we held him in the sink and swished the warm water over his slippery little body. Two dark heads bowed and totally absorbed in the new little love of my life. It’s a special sunny memory I pull out from time to time. This bit of wisdom applies throughout their lives. Look them in the eyes and talk to your children. Let them feel your love.

3.  Pray for each of your children by name every night. – I truly believe this is what brought each of us twelve siblings into adulthood with no harm. I remember when mom told me that she and dad prayed for every one of us children by name every night. I also wonder if this helped them to sleep more peacefully. By giving their worries to God he gave them sweet peace and rest in return.

4.  Aquiring material worth does not make one rich. – I remember coming home from a friend’s house to tell mom of all the exotic things their family owned. She told me that owning material things didn’t mean someone was rich, in debt maybe but not rich. Richness, she told me, came from the people in your life and the things you do for others. I didn’t really know what she meant at the time but I have found myself realizing her words so many times as I have grown. I remember being a young single mama and struggling so often. When my babes would fret that we couldn’t buy this or that, I would tell them we were indeed very rich because we had each other and so much love in our hearts. The smile in their eyes always made me know they understood what I meant. I love those kids.

5.  Always wash your hands and face and comb your hair before coming to supper. And no hats at the supper table. – I don’t know why this impressed this little girl so. It instilled respect as I watched my brothers take off hats that seemed a permanent attachment and comb hair that probably hadn’t been combed since supper the night before. Standing around the sink with two or three of my siblings and washing our hands together gave us a family ritual that seemed to bind us together and give us a sense of unity. Such a little thing with a huge impact.

So my list is done. I stop typing to read and reread before publishing. Gratitude and deep love well up for those two gentle people that raised me. I’m sure they were just muddling through life, raising children, loving each other, getting by with no instructions like the rest of us parents. Somehow though with, I’m sure my mother would say, much help from God, they really seemed to have found their way.

Love You Still

James on left, Levi in middle, Allison on right

I gave them roots and then they were all gone. Sprouted their wings and took off.  I glance up at the wall in my living room. I silently mouth these words,” loved you yesterday, love you still, always have, always will”. The large photos of my three children hang in a staggered row.  My children are all grown now and have moved so far away.  I love their silly, sweet, playful, vibes surrounding me every day. I rejected the usual poses that so many photographers create. Instead I chose to frame each of them the way I will always see them.

James, my first born, the silly boy with the twinkling laughter in his blue green eyes, always forgetful and procrastinating, yet a joke and a tease for those he loves. This one grew up with his 17 year old mama, even as a teen I loved him fiercely. I still see him as a six year old boy, tending carefully to his two year old sister on the playground. How he would make sure she stayed away from the road and kept the bullies at bay with a big stick. Now a man, I see his care and respect for another wonderful single mama beginning to bloom.  I love them both and the little girl, she brings to our family.

Allison, a sweet little being from the very beginning, always so sentimental and caring and thoughtful, so imaginative and creative, an old soul in a vibrant young creation. My second born loves her mama and calls to chat almost daily. I consider her my best friend and confidante. Sometimes it seems the roles have turned and I find her being my role model.  I gaze at her photo and feel happy to know she now has a sweet dreamer’s shoulder to rest her head upon. She is in good hands with the man she met at 15. Now married and expecting his child at 26, I feel my love for them become abundant and my cup overflows.

Levi, my baby, how to explain my little caboose, so complicated and serious, little chip on his shoulder, frustrated with his disabilities and yet delightful when he wants to be, full of energy and always in search of new friends. Levi who searches for his place in life, at 20, has taken flight to go live with his father in another state. To learn what he can of the man who left his life when he was just a tender boy of 11, to catch up and hopefully heal the soul and begin to melt the chip. This strong young man I love with my whole heart, I hope he finally finds the peace and understanding he needs to lay his burdens down and be happy.

My children, my babies, my life in the blink of an eye time has flown by. I looked again and they are all still there locked securely in my heart. I see the beautiful eyes of my children and suddenly I feel like I am awaking from a dream. When did that happen? When did I create and raise these people, these people who are creating their own memories and lives. I don’t know  but my heart fills and I know for once, for certain, I have done something good and right. No matter what. But WOW! I’m blown away. Rock on kids!

Broked

I limp along in my stupid broken life.

This stupid broken place I created before I was old enough

To even know what the hell I was doing.

I try to repair the things that I’ve broke.

I tear them down and start from scratch

But still the cracks show.

The rips return time after time.

I tape them up and pray they’ll stick this time.

I’m real.

I’m for sure.

I pay for my mistakes every day.

The dues are astronomical.

I’m not a real grandma.

I’m not a real wife.

I’ve never even been a real fiancé’

I’m just this person who’s broke everything she’s ever dreamed of.

Who is sad about her broken things

Who doesn’t know how it got so messed up

Who’s wondering why.

And how.

Tired of halves and shareds and could’ve would’ve and should’ves

And how do I start anew?

I don’t even know.

~Sara Jane~

Summer

Some evenings when it’s not so hot and I have my windows open, I can hear the call and laughter of children at play. No music in this old world could be sweeter.  Ahh, childhood, when everything is possible, where there are no limits and you have yet to discover the burdens of life. So many adventures my brothers and sisters and I created. How do I help you to feel the intensity of every magic moment. The burden is great and I am humbled.

Let me start with the smell of the earth. This is the one smell that can instantly take me back to childhood. The heavy whiff of soil and the ground rushing up to meet me as my favorite old cutoffs tickle my legs, the pound of bare feet running across the lush green grass, rushing to get to that old barn. I hear those calls from within, the clubhouse and my brothers and friends await me to come join them? The plans we made, the overnight camp in the far corner of the yard with only a fire and a couple old sleeping bag to protect us, sneaking out to walk through that sleeping little town, feeling like we owned the world, stopping to “borrow” a watermelon or some tomatoes from a lonely old garden that someone else had tended so carefully. Oh the trees we climbed and the creeks we conquered. I hope to share some of these great moments in future blogs. But for now, a poem comes to my mind. A poem of youth and first love, my poem.

Summer Love

I remember you, I do.

Though you were just a boy

And I, a little girl.

You came to call me your friend.

I remember the fast wild rides on your bicycle.

My heart pounding ever fast

As I clung to your sturdy little boy body

The sound of speed surging in our ears.

I hold precious memories

Of campouts in my backyard

The transistor radio turned down low

While I rubbed your back

By the fires soft glow.

I recall the sultry days of a youthful summer

Sneaking out at night

To walk through that sleepy small town

And watch the morning sun awaken it.

I remember the hand holding

And the sweet innocent touches.

I remember scribbling my goodbyes

Onto the snow

And staring up at your window

When you moved away.

I remember the hot tears

And a little girls broken heart.

I remember you, I do.

~Sara Jane~

Wrapped Up In Nursery Rhymes

My daughter, Allison, called me today, breathy and so excited with ideas for the nursery. She rambled on about the colorful vintage curtains she found at a thrift store and about the cribs she’s been viewing on craigslist.org. As she spoke I flashed back to her as my little girl, tagging along to the laundry mat, rubbing the old ladies hosed legs and engaging them in long chats. I had visions of a sweet child that also visited our old neighbor, Hazel, and sat and chatted with her for hours on her front porch swing.  I flash to her a little older, tagging along to the thrift store as I scoured for clothes for my three children. How she would insist on no name brand clothing, only vintagey hodge podge mixes that she always managed to pull together and make her own style.

“Mom, what’s the name of that old nursery rhyme book you used to read to me at grandma’s house?”  She pulled me from reminiscing on her childhood back into her conversation only to flash me straight into my own childhood.  “I want to use some of the poems and pictures to decorate the nursery!”

When I was a little girl, we had a family nursery rhyme book called, The Bumper Book by Watty Piper.  The large yellow covered book and all its bright cheerful pictures are the literary background to my early childhood.  I constantly pestered my older sisters to read to me from it. If they couldn’t or wouldn’t, I would lie on the floor with my feet propped up on the couch and study the pictures and dream of a day when I would be able to read all the lovely poems on my own. When I became old enough to read, I read and reread this book to my little brother.  When the nieces and nephews came along, I read it to them.

Of course, years later, upon each visit to my parents’ home, I made sure to read this book to my own children. One of my favorites from this book is the poem about a grandmother with a very slippery knee. The pictures of the “Lollypop Jar” made my mouth water and the rhythm would stick in my mind for hours afterwards. I loved that short fat grandmamma and I especially loved that little cupboard.  I can still repeat this one almost by heart. This a few of the stanza to it.

The Cupboard by Walter De La Mare

I know a little cupboard
With a teeny tiny key,
And there’s a jar of lollipops
For me, me, me.

It has a little shelf, my dear,
As dark as dark can be,
And there’s a dish of Banbury Cakes
For me, me, me.

You can read on and find out what his short fat grandmama has to do with the cupboard at this link http://www.scrapbook.com/poems/doc/1573/53.html

I think of all of this and once again I am in awe of how life always seems to come full circle. How the little things that we cherish become the very ones that connect and bind families. And so, it seems so very fitting for my lovely daughter to choose to welcome and wrap her unborn daughter in the comforting literary love of our family’s generations. May the love continue! I love you, Allison!

Here’s To You Dear Lady

I saw a car yesterday with logs of driftwood strapped to the roof. I thought about her. She feared the ocean but loved its gifts; driftwood with its “smooth as an orgasm” surface, odd stones, sand crabs, water smoothed colored pieces of glass, starfish, tons and tons of seashells. Hours and hours she would scour the beach as her love fished for his dream catch. I thought about her and these were my thoughts. Working the flower beds today, I smelled the fresh wet soil. I flashed back to when I was young and working by her side in the gardens of her life, flower, vegetable, rock. She planted and tended them all. So many thoughts and memories swirl in my head. Her motherly smell when I climbed into bed with her and dad after a nightmare, what comfort and peace it brought me. Her absentminded back rubs as I stood by her side while she talked with a friend; I remember hoping she’d never notice I was standing there and let me enjoy that back scratching all day long. But after a while she’d shoo us kids away to give them some adult time. I remember the prayers she prayed with this young teen asking blessing for the future of my unborn son and me. I remember her teaching me how to care and love my baby when I was just seventeen. I remember her stepping back and letting me rise in the night to diaper and feed and rock my crying babe. I know she loved me enough to allow me to be the only mother of my son. I remember her. I love her. She’s the background to my whole life. Here’s to you dear lady, I’m missing you, wishing you were by my side digging the rich soils in the gardens of my life.

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