Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Languor

I suppose all literature professors carry a bit of drama in their pockets. A simple poetry reading with the right dramatic flair, strong enough to cling to the crevices of gray matter twenty years and counting. It called out to me yesterday.

Il pleure dans mon coeur

I could remember his rich French accent as he taught us how to read poetry. 

***

Yesterday. I slept in after weekend commutes to the hospital. [She] has been there officially two weeks now, and what started off as an admission for pneumonia has become a bigger battle than anyone ever imagined.

I started a load of laundry. I fixed a coffee. I finished a thankful list, and just barely. Of all the things I've felt this week, numbness and exhaustion have been gaining ground.

I started a fire. I took a shower. I read to Erin under a blanket. She cried during the history reading, of children shuttled away from their families, for years, during war. It's been an emotional two weeks here.

Erin asked for chips and dip, and I joined her. I dusted the bookshelves. I dusted the bay window ledges. I cleaned the powder room. I started a new load. I realized I've never been more thankful, and a burden so light, as to do a load of laundry, dust a shelf, clean a mirror. Never so light. Did I ever think that those things were work? Because they're not. They are not work.

I was thankful for the warm fire and socks on my feet. I was thankful to sit next to Erin during math. The only sounds were the hum of the woodstove blower. The spin of the laundry. The phone rang and it was a bestie. I didn't answer. I just needed the sounds of home.

I thought on days when I made plans a week or two in advance. (Shane told me for the first time in all our years together that I need to make getting a haircut a priority this week. I wanted to laugh. I don't know how to make a plan when the days change on their own, out of my control. I wanted to laugh that I thought they were ever in my control.) When the dentist's office called to reschedule an appointment, we looked out into May. Maybe things would be predictable by then.

***

I remembered the poem and how he recited it. I remembered it incorrectly though. I thought it was douleur.

Quelle est cette douleur

But it was langueur.

And I know I will never forget it.

Monday, March 27, 2017

And still counting (10,236-10,262)

dinners from friends in my fridge
Becky and Ann who took my kids
Michi at my house and on the phone
praying friends always checking in on us
timely scriptures of God's goodness

Tracey
Lori's open eyes
her fight
her hand squeeze
her smile

chocolate kisses
hot tea with extra honey
a shower
enough sleep
Nora with me at the hospital

talks with Val
that man of mine
Comet and Haley, house guests
strengthening words from people in my life
hope

mountain views, covered in fog
a foggy Monday in the school room
a sleep-in day
coffee
gentle rhythms of home

respite in the stillness
Amy, the case worker

Monday, March 20, 2017

And still counting (10197-10,235)

a safe place for my sister to stay during the snow
good care
reliable snow removal at Dad's house
his good neighbors

a snow day home with my girls
her hours of fun outside--HOURS
a sled run, over and over and over
hot chocolate
a movie

a picnic blanket for the years
heat from the fireplace
a waggy dog
His timely word
shampoo

talks with Tracey
her 57 years
Christy
Rebecca
Michi

sweet notes from Lanie
Erin, with me everywhere
math, canceled
another home day
read alouds with Erin (The Secret Garden)

Amy, the case worker, who drove out to see my sister at the hospital.

Melanie, who checked in on the cats and brought in the mail. For her visit to the hospital to check on Lori.

Diona, who, unbeknownst to her, texted me and asked how she could pray for me in that minute, as I sat at my sister's bedside and watched her shut down from the stress of it all.

Tracey, who talked to me the whole way home.

Michi, who was willing to put her Saturday on hold to go out to my sister's to help clean her place. Who made calls to the caregiver company and talked me through some really tough moments.

Marshall's Mom, who met us Sunday and worked hard at cleaning bathrooms and Lori's bedroom to make a welcome home for my sister. For her prayers and her in-the-trenches friendship.

Shane, without complaint, who helped at the house and waited patiently in the hospital while I sat at my sister's side for hours.

My kids, who pitched in cleaning Lori's basement and played with the cats. They waited for me and gave me space to be with my sister.

Neil, who hardly knows me, told me to call him first with any need and offered to take over my management responsibilities on video or blog.

Anita, who has heard me ugly cry more times this year than in the twenty-plus years I've known her. And it doesn't phase her. 

Rebecca, Christy, Nora, Dave, Kellie, and many others who prayed over our situation.

Becky P's offers to take my kids and make us dinner.

Val's help in what could be causing her decline, and her suggestions on next steps.

You, God, and your miracles in what seems like madness. For restoration like I never imagined. For mercy in her hallucinations. And for your grace when she was present.

Lori, my sister. Her fight. Her happiness. Her forgiveness. Her faith. Her story.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Taking it back

I think if any phrase sums up our school year this year, it's "taking back Tuesday." Tuesday was the co-op crunch day of stress and hustle between making sure all their work was done and making sure I was ready for my class, too. There wasn't time for much else.

I remember one day last year sitting at the table all day and past dinner. I had commented to a mom that we were still at work after dinner, and she replied, "We all are." Everyone understood the Tuesday crunch and what it did to a household.

A Tuesday, last year.

That one day, specifically, on an already growing load of wonder and why, changed me. It changed us. It was the start of taking things back. Restoration. 

This school year, Tuesdays are, by intention, our lightest day, and once a month, they are a celebration.

We missed out on a formal Tea Party Tuesday in February because of all the twists and turns in my life since my dad died, and March felt like it might become trampled by the pull and tug of other things. But yesterday was a snow day.

We always hope to have a special guest join us for the parties. (With deep sadness, I think on how my dad didn't get the chance to join us.) March was going to march on whether I was ready with a guest or not.

I built a fire. I got my poetry books (some people stress eat, some binge shop to feel the joy--I load a virtual cart full of $3 used books). And at a recent library trip, I grabbed a copy of "The Sound of Music" to watch with the kids.

The fire was delightful. I spread a picnic blanket (which seems to grow smaller each year) onto the living room floor. I loaded up the movie and brought out the books. It was just the girls and me.

My life is not the same since my dad died, and not even for the obvious loss and grief. I'm still trying to tame the days and the feelings, to take back some of the normal and familiar. We need them. So much is still falling into place, and I'm walking through it step by step to find the balance.


I'm thankful for a snow day. Thankful for snow's soft fall. Thankful for the spitting sleet. Thankful for field foxes. Thankful for her hours of outdoor play. Thankful for a warm fire. Thankful for mugs, full. Thankful for so much.

Yesterday, a Tuesday, we took it back.

Popcorn, Trader Joe's gluten-free chocolate cookies, marshmallows and cocoa

I got tulips at Wegmans before the snow came because everyone else was buying up all the chicken

Sweet checkered cloth from lots of picnics
It was simple and cozy. And it's exactly what we needed.

Monday, March 13, 2017

And still counting (10,166--10,196)

fat flakes
It was just starting to snow. She was ready for it!

daffodil blossoms
French toast, pain perdu
hot coffee
a blanket around my shoulders

silly string
milkshakes
Fourteen!

Stacy, the bank manager
Lucy B's honesty and vulnerability
mountain views

Comet, the cat
the video team
read alouds with Erin
a hot fire
Friday night by the fire. No place like home.
my hound dog
that man of mine
talks with Tracey
free samples from the owner at the salon
a chat with a dance mom

podcast walks through the grocery store
chats with Lori
comments on a comment, prayers from strangers
his face in the sidebar
the Facebook anniversary reminder that we are friends

tea, with extra honey
GPS
Lori's safety and well being
prayers from friends
a warm welcome home

a bright full moon
deep sleep



Friday, March 10, 2017

Pain perdu

It's hard to believe it's Friday. Another week, flown by.

Wednesday was the hardest of the days yet--begun and finished with heavy heart. It was the hardest of the days. The hardest.

Yesterday, I felt so grateful for love, lifted. I had received very unexpected texts and messages from people just reaching out to me. It brought new tears, but the grateful kind. The kids and I had many errands to run regarding my father, but then we went to Walmart and grabbed a few accessories to go by a friend's house. Her daughter turned fourteen--and we pinned her with a birthday girl pin, presented her with a rainbow of balloons, doused her in a webbing of silly string, and brought chocolate milkshakes for all to indulge. I loved her smile. It meant more than my own.

Erin and I wrapped up reading The Poet's Dog by Patricia MacLachlan, after which Erin cried about missing our cat, Rudy. We spent some time outside, and visiting with a neighbor and her pooch. I made a new dinner last night that I'll definitely make again for a Friday when Linda comes back.

(I miss her.)

The girls and I went for a quiet night ride under a big, bright moon to the library. I could hear the spring peepers singing. Books on hold, and a few videos. I told the kids that if it snowed (Friday), I would make French toast and hot chocolate for breakfast.

We woke to rain. The kids were bummed. We haven't had a real snow all winter (in some ways, a blessing!). I made French toast anyway, and skeptically looked at the basket of coffee pods. There's no way our stash will make the weekend.

"Mom, how do you say French toast in French?" Lanie asked. I had no idea.

So I looked online. A descriptive blurb accompanied, and who knows what blurbs are believable, but if you want a little historical morsel to accompany, enjoy:

http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/where-does-french-toast-come-from

Moving on to a Friday at home. Outside, now, fat flakes falling. Getting reading to start a fire. Savoring the last of my second cup of coffee. Erin bundles up in winter gear to a freezy start with the dog--she's my outdoor girl.

Watching the snow. Glad to be home.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Closing doors

[monday] I spent the 90s in those parts. They are familiar and comforting, despite all the growth and change. The familiarity and comfort helped. I was there to close out my father's accounts at different banks.

I drove to one. I walked inside. I sat and waited. The woman who helped me was efficient and kind. I tried hard not to think of my dad in that moment, of the years he'd spent in that area, of the life he established, that I now closed.

I drove on to the next location. I walked inside. I sat and waited. Of the three possible helps, I got Lucy B. She was friendly and warm. She chatted Erin about her doll and told her of her own youth playing with dolls and a sister. I sat down with Letters of Administration and a death certificate. I pulled out my ID and handed it to her.

"My father died a month ago. I'm here to close out his accounts."

She helped me. She was efficient and kind. I sat quietly and signed where I needed to sign. She put things in an envelope for me. And then she said, "I'm sorry about your father."

I reached out my hand to shake hers. She met it firmly. It was such an intentional, real contact.

"Thank you," I said, off guard and grateful.

"My father died--it will be a year tomorrow," she told me.

We looked at each other. She reached across the table and hugged me. I spoke into her ear, "I'm sorry about your father."

"It's hard," she said. "I needed therapy. It's so hard." She talked about her anger that her father was gone. She talked about missing him, the comfort and strength he had been, his kindness, and how life wasn't ever the same. She was always aware of the void.

My own tears, brimming. I pushed the swell down.


***

[these days] His cars are parked in my driveway. Every morning I see them outside the window, and they seem out of place here. One morning, I will look outside and they will be gone, and that will seem equally unusual.

He had a package of Starbursts in one of the vehicles. He'd snack on them and drink sodas to keep himself awake on Sundays for the ride home from visiting Linda. I packaged up a yarn project he was working on.

As I wrap up the legwork errands, I'll switch to cleaning out his cars and getting them ready for sale.

***

[wednesday] His face still appears in the sidebar of my Facebook friends feed. I don't ever want it to go away, and yet, I know it will from inactivity.

Even this morning, I looked at his face and cried. Then I pushed off the feelings to get on with the list of things to do today. I'm glad Erin will be with me.

***

[remembering] (I'm sure [she] meant it in comfort and kindness. She told me how proud he'd be, how proud they'd be, my parents. How proud of the mom I've become. How proud of the management of this all, the grown-up stuff of packing away a life. I just smiled politely. I stayed quiet and looked into her eyes while she spoke. These words mean very little from the grave. They mean nothing at all.)

***

[remembering] I held my mom's hand when she died. God knew my heart needed to be with her to speak last love into her ear. To catch sight of her last tear. I never imagined what it would be like when my father died. That I would have no idea how short the time. Would not be at his bedside, his words, in fact, telling me to just stay home. Would it have been different if we had known? If I had known? I had no idea it would be Tracey who'd call me with the news. He'd been gone all through that night. The hospital didn't even have my number.

But God knew things I would hold dear. Anyone could have driven my dad's truck home from the hospital. But I'm thankful God let me be the one, to sit in that seat and think on his last day outside; to drive through the streets that were new to me and imagine him there once upon a time; to walk into the dealings of this life: the pharmacy, the banks, the businesses and offices. To pack up his life. To arrange the things for his grave, the clothes, the flowers, the casket. To sell off the things he loved (his cars). As I close the doors to each of these tasks, it gets harder because the doors are fewer. And very soon there will be a last. I am glad to do them instead of someone hired. They wouldn't understand how intensely meaningful this is. But God knew. He knows how much goodbye means to me; He gives me this goodbye when my voice didn't have that final chance.

***

[remembering] The morning my father died, I woke up like it was any other Saturday. I had coffee. I sat at the computer.

I tried to call my dad's cell phone at 8:30 a.m., no answer. I told myself he might be busy with medicines or breakfast or doctors. I would call back at nine.

Tracey called me just before nine.

"Hey!" I said. "What's up?"

"Did the hospital call you?" she asked.

"No," I said.

"Oh," she said, and I could hear everything in that word--the sadness, the heaviness, the loss, her realization she would be the one to tell me--even though I tried to convince myself in that one second she had something else to say.

***

[remembering] That Saturday, after the news, I was up in my room on the phone with a friend. I was pacing, pacing, pacing. I walked over to my nightstand where the necklace my dad had given me lay. It had been there for weeks since I'd last worn it. It was always heart-side up. I had seen it every day. Weeks. Heart-side up. Every day. The morning he died, I found it turned over, to inscription:

I love you

***

[remembering] Waiting for Shane to meet me at the lawyer's office. Sitting in my car in the parking lot. Every time a white-haired man entered or exited the building, I looked hard. Is that my dad? He looked like my dad. And so did another one. Of course, I knew better. But it jolted me each time. I wanted this all to somehow be a bad joke. I wanted my dad back.


***

[wednesday] I stopped by more places today, and one to open his safe deposit box. I stood in the tiniest room with the long skinny box. I opened it and examined the contents. A card on the counter, where the teller instructed me to sign, below his name. His signature, so familiar, reaching out to me from 2009, when he was there. Now, mine below it. I handed the box back to her empty. I gave her the keys. I watched as she put the drawer into place and locked it with two sets of keys. I closed the account.

***

[wednesday] At a different place, a manager tells me how she spoke to Dad by phone the day before he died. My dad had called about some business; he told her he was concerned he wasn't making it out. My eyes watered.

I wondered if she had even known my name before today. Did she know I was his other daughter? Did she know I threw him birthday parties? Did she know how much love I put into planning our gatherings all the years, and that I felt deep happiness when he went back for seconds at a meal? Did she know I always wanted things to be lovely for him?

***

[remembering] The last time I saw him alive was January 1, when he came over for a bit to teach me a new crochet pattern. My house was cold. I'd been at church in the morning and hadn't had time to get a fire blazing before Dad arrived. He sat bundled in his coat. He was always cold. I offered him hot chocolate, and he happily accepted. He drank from the sweet mini mugs we have. (Did I make him a peppermint one or a regular? I can't remember.)

I worked on the stitch. He brought remnant yarn for practice. He handed me the ugliest bright orange, but I didn't care. It was just practicing.

"I have to lighten up on my grasp. The stitches were getting so tight, I had a hard time with the hook," I said.

He learned to crochet from his mother just after his first heart attack in his forties.

"My first project was a blanket--the stitches were so tight!" he told me. He's made hundreds of blankets since then. He taught me how to make granny squares when I was in high school. "I put that first blanket in the casket with my father when he died,"  he said.

I never knew. I was moved by his gesture. (I placed paper hearts with names of his kids, grand kids, great grand kids, and Linda. Scattered them across my dad's chest. I put in the words of the eulogy I spoke at his service. Erin had made a plaster project for him for his birthday or Father's Day or some occasion. It was at his house, in his room. She wanted to put that in the coffin. I couldn't part with the scarf he was teaching me to make. I wanted to hold that for myself.)

He was heading back to Linda's. We talked about meeting up again soon. I was looking forward to it. Restore. My word for the year.

From the front door sidelights, I watched him drive away. I watched him turn at the bend of the driveway. I watched him stop at the road. I watched him turn right onto my street, and then I didn't see him anymore. I went up to the office and cried in Shane's arms.

***

[wednesday] Later, I took Erin to McDonalds. I called Lori to see if she wanted lunch. She asked for a fish sandwich and small fries. We brought them to her. I was happy to serve her.

Now, home. Coffee consumed. I ate apples slathered in almond butter. I walked up to the mailbox, past my dad's truck. Erin's out playing in the late day sunshine. I feel an exhaustion, weighty. Emotional days of driving and consolidating, and more ahead.

I thought that first week, the funeral week, would be the hardest. It was busy, and it was hard. But it was just the start of harder things.

Monday, March 6, 2017

And still counting (10,134-10,165)

all the geese returning home, honking overhead
warm days

cleaned spaces
floors, mopped
a great review
hot tea in a pot
extra honey

Christy
the Rocky Mountain tumbler, 30 oz
the scarf he made, around my neck
the wrestle and tears
the seeking

a visit with Anita
her strength, straight talk and love
Linda's sisters
my own sisters
read alouds with Erin

my girls
piano music in the house
wood stacked
library finds, so I don't have to buy the book!
hand lotions, gifted

66 Books
Marshall's Mom
good sleep
10,000 steps
a walk with Lanie

a Sunday home
kids playing
an afternoon nap
chocolate bread in the oven
a fleece blanket on the bed

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Otherwise

I'm an easy sell. I came across a few words that captured my curiosity. Add a mention of tea? I'm there. Whether the cup is in front of me, or a feature in a story--I'll figure out how to fit in an 800-page book.

Show me a poem? Pour me a cup and save me a seat. Suddenly my online shopping basket has five (or more) poetry books. Birds. Memorization. Robert Frost (a favorite!). And more. Thankful for Abe Books, and their easy-to-find, $3-books-and-free-shipping deals. Otherwise, I'd be broke.

I ordered a tablecloth in floral and blues. I can imagine it already, set up for a springtime tea in the front nook. (This house was built in 1971, and I wonder, what did the owner envision for that front nook? He may have never imagined his den would become a [delightful, music filled, coziest] classroom, and that nook would be a host to monthly poetry teas!)

A podcast recommendation of her long-favorite tea, and I have it in an Amazon basket for a someday purchase. I listened as Julie Bogart read from various selections, sipping at her tea and sampling a scone. She has been a true inspiration on restoring our homeschool. Making learning fun again. Tea times in our home--something anticipated. She read one poem, "Otherwise." And maybe her eyes teared up, it was hard to tell because she wears glasses, but she brought that poem home when she made the comparison to homeschooling. Once full tables, now otherwise emptied as children grow up and move on. And, yeah, she got to me.

I mentioned recently to my sister that Lanie would be in high school next year. Four more years. Are there things I would have done differently in this homeschool journey? Yes. And mainly this: I would have read aloud to her more often and longer. She was such an independent girl, devouring books (and still does) in the quiet of her room. When she was really little, we'd check out 20 or more books a week from the library. I got a big, sturdy tote from LL Bean to hold the load, and we still use it today. But by first grade, she read to herself, and I let her.

It's very different with Erin. Even now in fourth grade, I read aloud to her, and she snuggles close. She pulls a blanket over us. And if I get through a page without interruption, it's unusual. But that's what I love about reading with her. She asks a lot of questions, and that's where lots of learning takes place. She follows along and makes corrections if I skip a word. She laughs out loud. She tears up. She makes connections. This year at home has been exactly what she/we needed.

(The other day, we read from a YWAM book of Christian heroes, Corrie ten Boom, and I got to the part where Corrie calls out to her father, and he calls back to his daughters for a last time, and I paused and pushed down the tears. But it wasn't lost on Erin, whose heart is sensitive, those words of goodbye got to her too and she cried about her granddad, missed deeply.)

Already into next year's planning, and lots on ancients since both girls are starting the history cycle over. I found a deal on some mythology books. I look at my bookshelves. All the books we've read. All the books we'll read. A next-year selection piled on the floor. The books in the basket on birds and butterflies, on trees and weeds, and all the poetry books (and, good grief, more on the way--hooray!). So much to see from my seat at the table.

One day, we'll close a cover and look into each other's eyes and wrap up a final school year, a last book. One day, The Saturdays and My Side of the Mountain and A Christmas Carol will sit on a shelf, more than stories, keepers of fingerprints upon the pages, keepers of many memories--laughs, tears, time together.

I am too aware of the quiet that awaits these rooms, the stillness of this yard. And all the books upon the shelves, staring back at me. A treasury.

Sometimes my girls tell me they'll live nearby and close enough that their kids will be able to walk through yards to my house--for cookies and tea and read alouds. It is the sweetest vision and a sweeter dream that this house will be a hospitality house.

This week, savoring. A fire in the fireplace. Pumpkin muffins for a welcoming scent. And just because, a teapot of tea and some little snacks for a Monday middle school literature discussion.


I am so truly grateful for what this school year has done in our home.