Even a month later I can still see their faces, still am unable to tell the story without a lump rising to choke me, and goosebumps up and down my body.
It was an ordinary Saturday morning in late March, in a suburb like so many others in this country. It took place inside a real, old-school barbershop full of customers. and an old man using every bit of energy he had to get this one errand accomplished.
It’s true, only recently have I come to understand why no one told me things about being a mother when I first joyfully announced my pregnancy. It was common consent, decency and kindness that kept others from telling me how huge a job I was undertaking. How it would be harder than I ever imagined, would test me in ways I could not foresee, would last far longer than I’d been promised.
I’m thinking about this again today because there’s a growing crop of newborns joining our already large family this year, and the news is thrilling. There is something very satisfying about watching the next generation (ones you knew as children) pass the milestones; college, career, marriage, first child. I smile at the thought of all the wonderful moments they’ll have. It will be a joy to watch these babies grow, these young people become parents.
I know I’m not alone in caring for an aging parent, in my case my almost 82-year-old Dad, a former engineer who was married 54 years to my mother and only now lives on his own.
Turns out, increasing numbers of us are finding ourselves in the role of parent to our own parents. Some of use have nearly raised our own children, while others have never had them but find themselves caring for an aging parent, family member or friend. Surveys put the number at 70% of working adults who are caring for one, or more, aging family member.
Like all of them, I never in a million years thought this was how it would be. My parents were strong and capable people, vibrantly alive and engaged in adding something to this world. My whole life they have been a source of support and (at times unwanted) advice. When sickness came they were able to fight it off with gusto for years before disease got firm hold.
I use song titles as blog post titles a lot. It’s not laziness, but rather these few words tend to capture feelings so well. Feelings that are hard, like grief.
Twelve years ago today I lost one of the most central people in my life. My head understood she was very sick and suffering; my heart was (and is) broken in ways that can never, ever be fixed.
My aunt Helen died quietly at her home in the early evening hours of the last Friday in February, after a short battle with leukemia. There are some memories that never leave you, and the night of her passing is one of those, even a dozen years later. Sitting there in the (virtually unchanged) house of my childhood, making awkward conversation with her rat-bastard of a husband as I tried to adjust to the idea that the person who was so much a part of my memories and my life was with us no more.
We had no hint (but should have) of the storm that was to come. Ugly, needlessly cruel but ultimately pointless.
Those of you who are cat lovers will probably understand this statement (and the feeling) immediately. Cats (in truth, all pets) can own you.
Although they are known to be aloof, skittish and terribly prideful creatures, it’s been my experience that certain felines can also be the most loyal, most steadfast and loving of companions. Once they find you worthy, a cat will love you with all it has for as long as it lives.
It’s as true today as ever. Thank you and a holiday is not nearly enough to compensate veterans for what they’ve done for all of us.
It’s hard to imagine a circumstance where “thank you” is both so well deserved and so utterly inadequate at the same time. Except when it comes to veterans, the courageous, selfless souls who fight our wars. Agree or not, ready or not, part of their own life plan or not, they go.
I had uncles and a father in law who were such men, a father served back home when he was young, as all men in those days did. It’s hard to imagine how they did it. How scared they must have been.They’d lived in one place their whole lives and were briefly trained before being sent to places as far-flung from home as could be.
What I know of my uncle’s story I learned from others. He was a radio man in the Air Force whose plane was shot down somewhere over Italy. My uncle parachuted from the plane, got stuck in a tree as he landed and watched as Italian civilians ran toward him screaming words he didn’t understand. Turns out they were farmers who had seen him and got him hidden away before he could be found. He stayed hidden for many months until the family was able to arrange for him to be smuggled out of the country and back to safety. I don’t know names or dates, but I’m grateful to those people every day.
I will never get used to this; and by “this” I mean being one of a dwindling number of people who accurately remember the story. Who were there as front row witnesses to events those involved wish would be forgotten..
Today I’m going to vent about a situation where my honset, not easy to say advice was utterly and completely ignored. But I wasn’t wrong, even if I’m someday the only one who remembers.
The story goes like this. Entitled Son (ES) meets Old School Piety (OSP) in a club one night. They were both with friends in the crowded and noisy place, trying to have the required “good time.” As the two were not totally repulsed by one another, they chatted and laughed and he promised to call. ES meant what he said (unless something better came along, of course) and when he had time he gave her a call. OSP was pleasantly surprised, though rightfully suspicious of all males after a hearty Catholic school education. They dated successfully for a time, met each other’s friends without incident, and gradually became a part of family times and celebrations.
They found they had things in common. An interest in nice cars and fine things. A love of Christmas. Travel, amusement parks and live events. He thought she was pretty and didn’t care about her ugly baby pictures; he didn’t laugh at the “jokes” told by her sisters. She thought he was handsome, charming, sentimental and totally under appreciated by his family.
Now of course ES and OSP were following the approved courtship path for couples of their age and circumstances. They bought gifts with care. Planned special times together. Neither had any other promising prospects for a long term relationship and OSP stopped looking. ES always looked, flirted and made himself available but there were no takers. In due course ES and OSP were engaged, had chosen the white dress and attendants, found a venue and priest.- a wedding shower was about to be held in ES’s backyard. (more…)
It was just shy of 60 years ago on an ordinary Monday in June; when this boy was asked to give a ride to this girl. Neighbors on Cook Street who had yet to meet, the boy’s father Michael made the offer as a neighborly thing to do for the teenage daughter of Alice, the widow who lived next door. A ride to an after school function. A quick stop for his eldest son, the only one with a driver’s license and a car that he knew. A few minutes of a college boy’s time. Nothing out of his way. You see, people did these small kindnesses for each other then. Simpler days.
The boy groaned at the thought. What would he say to a silly little high school girl? The girl was thinking only about getting to the function she was to attend, the friends waiting. Until she took her seat in that car beside him. They talked, awkward at first. They laughed, and before they knew it the ride had come to an end. Those few minutes had changed everything for the whip-smart college boy who dreamed of freedom and travel and the startlingly pretty blue-eyed girl who had always been too smart and outspoken for her own good. She was unlike any other girl he’d ever known.
He was smitten. She broke up with her high school athlete boyfriend that afternoon. Her friends were aghast, but she knew what she wanted and she never looked back.
Oh sure babies are wonderful, cute and cuddly. And the smell… Trust me, you’ll never love another living thing in quite the same way. But becoming a mother is not a life choice to make on impulse, because friends are having babies or you hear that biological clock ticking away. Too many women make this choice without any idea of what they’re getting into.
Well let me tell you, motherhood is a tough, thankless job that calls for lifelong commitment, regular sacrifice and the ability to put another’s needs before your own. Even when it’s hard. Even when you’ve done it a thousand times already. Even when you think you’ve done enough. (more…)
I know what that line means now.
You see I am one of the few (two) who even remembers some things. Events, the foundations of holiday traditions and classic family stories. These shared memories are precious — not just because of their contents, but also for the dwindling number of people who were there.
Who remember. Who still care.