Her Forgotten Days

My fingers glide effortlessly on this keyboard with a will of their own. I begin to type and  a love song banters and begs to be freed. Sweetly my words flow as sounds and memories mesh and  nostalgic joy begins to sing of her forgotten days.

I want to tell you about a woman. My words can never recreate the person she really was. Words will never show that special twinkle in her eye as she swept up an unsuspecting visitor with her inquisitive conversation.

She loved to engage people in  banter.She had a way to pull them in and warm their hearts.  She was always interested in where they were from and who they knew, places they had traveled.

I often wondered how she knew so much about so many things. She had always just been there at home with us twelve children and dad. How did she lead friends and visitors along and have the knowledge to take them with her across the ocean or up a mountain and down to the devil, back up to God.

As I would quietly climb onto her lap and lay my head on her shoulder, she would rock me back and forth; talking on and on for what seemed like hours.

Yes, my mother loved people, truly, genuinely loved to interact with them. Cared about what they had to say, enjoyed hearing of their adventures, hurt when they hurt, rejoiced in their happiness’s, triumphed in their successes.

She was my idol as I would sit on her lap at the kitchen table and she rubbed my back while discussing what flowers to plant and and how to put up garden vegetables with the neighbor lady. She was my idol even when I would take my little hand to turn her face to me, vying for her attention.

I loved her voice and her absent hands on me as she gave herself to her visitors. I loved her laughter and the way her words wove and bound those around her and held them close and made them feel important.

I love the legacies she has left my family. I love the movements she started in the seventies. I love the stories of all the strangers she brought into our home, giving  them food and drink and support, listening  to their sorrows and bolstering  them up. I love the person she was and the person she wanted to be. I love that she was my mother and I was her daughter. I love that she gave herself whenever she could.sara's family

I love the memories I hold in my heart of her.

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Mama’s Bible

Mom w/Andy and Dad w/me on laps. Evening with one of our priests. Becky and Peggy in the background.

We had a small family gathering this weekend. My sister, Amy, brought our mother’s bible and we all got a chance to look through it. This well-loved book was like an old familiar friend as Amy pulled it out. It had apparently lost its cover some time ago. The pages were heavily noted with her handwritings scrawled in the columns and passages underlined and sometimes triple underlined.  I came across three or four dried four leaf clovers pressed into the pages and had visions of her children and grandchildren bringing her piece of nature. How thrilled she would be as she would ceremoniously help that child find a book to press them in.

My sister, Peggy, and I took turns with mom’s bible. As we skimmed through, reading a noted passage here and there, we tried to understand what she may have been dealing with at that particular time. We were grasping to eek any little bit of knowledge from the writings. We wanted desperately for her to reach out from that old bible and give us some wisdom.  Just some little something that would bring a little piece of her back to us.

I can still see my sweet mother reading to us from that bible. After supper we were not excused from the table until we were all finished and she read us a passage. I remember the boys fidgeting but giving her respect and staying seated. I remember the girls with their heads bowed, resigned to giving an extra ten minutes before starting with the dirty dishes. I would follow along as much I could and try to discern what lesson she wanted us to receive. Somehow, my young mind would manage to drift but I was always secure in the knowledge that mom definitely had our spiritual back.

I remember her sitting in the living room when I came home from being with my friends at night.  With only one lamp lighting the big old house, she would be there, reading it again as she awaited her teens to make curfew and be safely home. The nights that I would miss curfew, she still would be waiting up. I would be scolded. “I know what you’ve been up to!” she would say. I knew just to hang my head and take my tongue lashing as I sat on that cold fireplace hearth.  I never really knew what she was talking about, which sin to confess too. Because truth be known, I was probably guilty of whatever she thought I was up to, that and more.  So I would just sit there quietly until she would tell me to go to bed. I would slink upstairs and stay below the radar the next day, cleaning the house and doing what I could to get back into good graces with her and be forgiven.

Sometimes she didn’t need the bible to be open. She knew it’s passages by heart. Dad always took us on two week vacations in the summer. What a great time we would have. Dad wouldn’t shave for two weeks, he would relax and even joke and tease with us a little. This was something to us. Dad was a man of many responsibilities. With twelve children and two full time jobs he didn’t have much time to relax. Plus, he had to shave daily for his job as a State Trooper and we rarely saw him with whiskers. Vacations were a very exciting time for us.  But before we would venture out in our old station wagon, laden with luggage on top and packed with kids of all ages, pulling the Starcraft camper, mom would gather us in a circle. There in the living room she would quote from the bible as she prayed for our safety and probably her sanity on this adventure. I knew she would have her bible along and would sit beside dad in the front seat and pass the time with her two old friends.

That old book was the map to her whole life. She used it to help herself and her family along on our journey. She used it to keep her children safe as they played and grew all around her and again as they gained their wings and flew away. She used it when she was hurting, when she needed clarity and guidance. She turned to it in her happiness and successes. It was an everyday study for her. It brought her comfort and peace. Her old bible was her friend, her teacher, her confidante, her love, her peace of mind.

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

I’ll Always Remember

The mother we loved was full of quick conversation
History, genealogy and loads of memories.

The mother we loved respected God and all His creation
People, nature, critters, ah yes, all of these.

The mother we loved was an optimistic sensation
Lifting spirits, drying tears, everything to please.

The mother we love now has Alzhiemer’s
Meaningless jabber replaces her engaqing talk.

The mother we love is overcome with a diseases for “old timers”
She curses God, His critters and even the land they walk.

The mother we love is transformed for all times
Where there was hope, fear and doubt now stalk.

The mother we loved lives on in our hearts
We hide our tears and force the smile

The mother we loved would help us to start
Healing our wounds with memories on file.

The mother we loved will never part
“The journey to Him,” she’d say, “takes many a long mile.”

~Sara Jane~

Angel Among Us

I like to think she was a mother to the very end.

Her essence went away to be with our father long ago.

But her shell held on until she knew we no longer needed it.

We never knew we had an angel living among us,

In our life,

Everyday.

We never knew until she flew away.

Her shoes, so soft and leathery,

Comfortable and perfect,

Not one of us ever will ever fill.

But we will take comfort many a time,

When we are weary, when we are sad,

When we are happy, when we are glad.

For we had lived with an angel,

In our lives every day.

We never really knew until she flew away.

Firm and sure, in our hearts,

The images and intuitions,

Planted there graciously by a woman, small in stature,

Enormous in wonderful wisdom and kindness.

And the angel that lived among us

Has kissed our lives, gently.

She’s earned her wings now.

She has flown away.

~Sara Jane~

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