Full Circle

So, here I am once again missing my little birds. My three children have grown, taken flight. They are each living in different states. James is in Indiana, Allison in Arizona and Levi now lives  in Arkansas . These three states now hold my heart. I pray they go gently on my children, allowing them to prosper, grow and find love.

Don’t get me wrong, I am loving my little empty nest. I have no regrets that they are now soaring and testing their freedoms. I love to see how their lives are unfolding. But sometimes the ache is there as I live among all these memories. My children’s spirits as babies, toddlers, preteens, teens and young adults float beside me always. All I need do is to pluck a moment and there they all are, laughing, crying, fighting, loving, here with me again. But still I am excited for our future reunions. I’m excited for the new life they will bring back home with them. I am filled with joy and love when I realize what we have become.

While looking through some of my old writings I came across the following short blog that I wrote on my old MySpace account. It took me right back to the beginning of my children’s flight to total independence. College was finally finished and they were seriously moving out on their own. Packing up whatever they could fit into their beat-up old cars and moving out to Phoenix, AZ. I felt a certain excited, nostalgic confusion. It was a time of letting go and a time of looking ahead for all of us.

So this week I have been diggin up bones. It’s amazing how much we humans accumulate without even realizing it. I’m braving the trenches of our closets and pulling out everything we’ve outgrown, forgotten about, tired of, and just plain never cared for. It’s all going down in our family garage sale. The profits of which will go to help the two eldest in their huge adventure and move to Phoenix   AZ. later this month. Blown away by the memories I’ve recovered. The sweet faces of my babies tucked away in tubs. Hastily scribbled notes to me from them…both sweet and angry. Funny misspelled little stories and left behind well-loved toys and stuffed animals. Every little thing I’ve kept brought back so many wonderful memories. All of which I’ve tucked back into the tubs and boxes for more years of safe keeping till the little ones are grown with their own little ones and would love to share memories of their youth with them.

I cannot believe the amount of stuff I have. I was worried I wouldn’t have enough stuff on my own and should ask others to join the garage sale. But jeez, I guess I haven’t moved in like six years now so stuff has accumulated.

I’ve outgrown the doll collection that I collected after dad’s death. I was missing mom and dad and had a turn of craziness and bought a lot of the same kind of dolls that mom had picked up right before her Alzheimer’s started to get so bad. I think they were a grieving thing for me, a way to deal with missing them. But now, I think I’m okay and ready to move on. I also started to collect Frankoma pottery like mom did and I think I’m ready to part with that too.

Anyways, I’m so way ready to have this sale over, clean up the house and get back to normal. We’re hoping to make enough to help them with gas or maybe some second hand furniture when they get out there as all they are taking is what they can fit in three cars.

And here we are five years later. The youngest son has now moved a few states away while the oldest son has moved backed from Phoenix to a much closer two hours’ drive from me. My middle child and only daughter is now married and expecting her first baby. They also have plans to bring their little family closer to home. They bring me stories. Stories that make me chuckle. In these stories I hear them testing and using some of the same lessons I taught them so many years ago as a young mother. Do they realize some of these lessons were passed down to me from my mother? It seems our lives really are all about circles. As I feel our little family circle becoming complete once more, I rejoice and feel a smile beginning deep down in my soul.

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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.

I Celebrate Me

My baby glamour girl

I’ve put away
Little girl dreams
And little girl ways
But the world
Doesn’t stop there

I can go on
It’s okay
Wiser now
Jaded heart
Still intact

No one knows

My Jaded Girl

But I rejoice
I celebrate me
And the party
Is grand

~Sara Jane~

Safe

I keep myself
In a box
Somewhere
Safe

Sometimes
I escape
And the wounding
Happens

I gather myself
And take inventory
Tucking me in
Again

Sigh and breath
Glance and dream
Hold and love
Safe in a box

~Sara Jane~

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

From Our Front Porch

It seems to me it should have had it’s own actual name, such a part of our lives it was. But we simply called it the “front porch”. Parts of our childhood played out for the whole town right there on that big old 10’x30′ front porch of our house on Main Street.  That old gray, wooden floor and us children became very intimate through the years. We knew it’s cracks and painted chips by heart. It welcomed us home every day when we returned from school and again as we threw our bags in the corner after our paper routes. We sat on it’s brick ledges and on the concrete tiers of the steps while friends gathered to hash out our plans of the day.  Like a very close, old friend, my goodness, what memories that old front porch has witnessed!  Hot summer nights found us seeking relief from the heat; five dirty children sprawled upon layers of sleeping bags. The morning sun always seemed to rise too early, to tease our eyelids and dare us to waken. Oh what a sight we must have been for those early morning visitors. What thoughts they must have entertained as they knocked on our door, “Those crazy Rauch kids, always up to something?”

We were directors and actors as we practiced plays on that front porch. With tales of monsters that were meant to thrill, the old porch transformed wonderfully into our stage, complete with drop down curtains.We ventured into our neighborhood and sold tickets to fill the mismatched chairs we provided for our audience.  I still can feel the coolness of that old white bed sheet as it was wrapped around me, the mummy of the play.  I laugh at the memory of our mother arriving home during our great production, so mortified that we dared such a scene right there on  Main Street for the whole town to see. “Those crazy Rauch kids, what are they up to now?”.

Ah and the “hippies”. My parents simply saw someone else’s children needing shelter and a meal and of course we took them in. Those young hitchhikers sat on our front porch, played their guitars and sang their counterculture songs to us. The naysayers must have got their eyes full and shook their heads. But did they know the things these young people brought to us? Did they know how kind and respectful they were to my parents, how patient they were as they taught us kids to macramé belts and necklaces? No those who weren’t present will never understand how those long haired strangers enriched our lives. “Those crazy Rauch’s, always bringing strange people to our town!”

I remember Sheri, the little girl from St. Louis. She was one of the inner city children that came to stay with us in the summer to get a taste of rural life. As I sat on the front porch playing jacks, she skipped around me singing a little song. Sara sponda Sara Sponda Sara sponda Ret Set Set..Ah do re o Ado re boom di o..a do re boom de ret set set ..a do re boom de o….How that song echoes when I see little children playing on the streets. In the civil rights turmoil of the 60’s and 70’s I know that the people drove by thinking “Those crazy Rauchs, bringing “Blacks” to our little town!”

A memory comes to me now of our beloved porch swing upon that front porch. How can a couple of chains and some old wood slats cause such merriment?  The rides we took, the places we went, the stories that were created to the rhythm and creak of that old swing. Big brother, George,  sat in the middle, reached his hands to the chains and pulled hard to flip us backwards. With peals of laughter,  we would swing upside down. Games were invented and turns were taken, pushing and swinging as high as the old ledge would let us. “Those crazy Rauch kids, they’re gonna get hurt!”

And then the evenings would come. And mom and dad and sometimes a big sibling would come out to join us. Here and there a bike rider or walker would stop to chat for a while, crickets and cicadas serenading their banter. Quiet as ghosts, we would slink out to the yard,  catching the fireflies and setting them free again. The sun would sink, the breeze would blow soft and for a while everything  in our little world would feel just right.  “Those crazy Rauchs, aren’t they something?”

Words Of His Heart

As my love sits beside me
Playing his guitar
Singing and humming
My heart fills and I smile.

This gentle giant 
Stumbled upon me
And offered his shelter

As I was drowning one day.

Kissing my forehead
He took my hand
And oh so gently
Pulled me back to myself.

Words of his heart
Rained  from his mouth
Softly falling all around me
He anchored my life.

We road my storms out
He and me
He held me up
And I just held on.

My smiles are for him now
As my sun shines daily
And his lovely words
Have turned to song.

~Sara Jane~



 

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