Making Fwowers

My son and I planted about 20 lily bulbs the first summer we lived here in Iowa. The little guy was almost 2 years old when we saw the boxed bulbs at Sam’s Club and on a whim, I bought a few of them. We took our treasure trove home, and began to bury it. As I dug the holes, my boy was much more interested in making sure each bulb had a kiss and hug than joining me in the dirt with the little navy blue trowel that was just his size.

“We’re making fwowers!” he would exclaim every time I buried another bulb in the dusty summer soil.

He had no idea how long the wait would be for the reward of “our” hard work.  The first year we were eager as we waited for what would only be a few inches of plant growth to surface. There would be no blossoms to admire, but my boy didn’t appear to care. He praised the urchin like beginnings of green and burgundy foliage that peeked through the ground and looked for them when ever we were in the yard.

Fwowers, Mommy!” he would say with excitement and wonder as he pointed out the little plants with pride.  With grin on his face and a drool and dirt line on his tee shirt, he toddled about the grass from bulb to bulb discovering new growth in the fwower beds.

After 2 years of anticipation, our reward came when the bulbs finally burst forth with stunning blossoms in July. I think my son was more fascinated with his Stargazers and Casablancas than the fireworks display!

I love seeing the lilies grow each year. They get taller, thicker stocks and heartier, larger blossoms.  In some ways it’s like my almost-first-grader son who despite loosing his front teeth, can now say flowers perfectly, is beginning to read, and can now ride a two wheel bike. The flower stems have reached a higher height than the little guy this year, but I know it’s only temporary. The little guy is growing up.

Every year the flowers eventually fade, but the vibrant memories never will.

Rylon's Flowers

Remembering Her

I arrived to her room at the hospice house that night holding the innocent, naïve hands of my daughters.  As a family we had decided that maybe it was time for the grandchildren to see her for the last time.  She was declining by the hour at that point and I wanted to make sure that my girls, the oldest of the 9 grandkids, would be able to see her one last time in a way that was recognizable and not frightening.  The last 11 weeks had been so hard on them, especially my first born, who was just old enough to understand the finality of it all.  I knew after our visit tonight, my little girls would enter into a new phase of life, one that knew pain and loss in a new and profound way.  Just when I didn’t think it was possible, I hated cancer a fair measure more.

Hannah held my hand tight, tears welled in her blue eyes but none escaped to her cheeks, and she walked with the stoic grace of a woman much more mature than her 9 years, to the edge of the bed, but it was too late.  The transformation had already begun and their Grandma would never be the same.  I could see it and Hannah could see it.  Hannah laid her body against the side of the bed and stretched her tiny frame as far as she could, wrapping both her arms around the Grandma who had rocked her to sleep so many times.  Rachel timidly came from behind and joined her big sister.  Their brown hair blanketed her bed as they buried their faces in her chest.

She became lucid for a moment, aware of the embrace of her beloved granddaughters and touched their hair.  She spoke, partially profound and partially nonsensical, of her love for them and for Jesus, and for peanut butter and Cinderella.  All the while her body made random twitches that made the scene even more surreal.   A few moments passed and she had drifted back to sleep.  With tears on her chin, Rachel whispered, “Goodbye Grandma.” and my heart broke again into a million pieces.

As we walked to the waiting room I wondered how much my 7 year old would remember about her Grandma.  Would she remember her voice, her laugh, the way she talked with her hands, the certain strut in her walk?  How would I be able to keep these things alive for her when they seemed to already be fading from my own memory?  Even though her body was still with us, the disease and the drugs had stolen her from us by now.  I missed her already.  It was just so wrong that this beautiful woman, grandmother to 9 (at the time and now 12) would not be remembered by most of her grandchildren.

Six years later, I still struggle with this.  I look at my children and see glimmering pieces of her in all of them; Hannah with her walk with that ‘certain strut’ and the same ‘old soul’ maturity beyond her years, Rachel with her ‘swimmer’s body’ and her natural cooking ability and Rylon with his dimples and the way his memory is so keen like hers was.  I tell them stories, the good, the bad and the down right hilarious, but it just doesn’t seem to be enough.  We look at pictures, use the things she gave us and the things she left us, bake her recipes, we even have an old bottle of her perfume.  Something always seems to be missing.  And the stories, the things, the smells don’t quite do her justice.  And then it hits me, “Oh yeah, it’s her…  We can’t recreate her…”

But, we can keep telling the stories.  When I point to my son’s dimple and say, “That’s cute!  Where’d you get that?” he readily knows and giggles back, “Grandma Crum!” and I believe it gives him just a little bit more of the sense of love and pride about from where he came.  It is like a little connection to his past and maybe to his future.  Who knows, maybe one day, as he lovingly rubs his finger into the indent of his own child, he will say, “That’s cute!  Where’d you get that?”

So I’m asking you.  Not because I don’t remember her, but because sometimes I feel like my memory just isn’t quite enough.  Tell me, Tell us, Tell them your stories, so that her legacy of love all the other stuff can live on with them, and so that they can get to know the incredible woman that was their Grandma Crum.

Thank you,

Vicki

The Annual Grandkids Picture 2003

The Annual Grandkids Picture 2003-With Grandpa and Grandma Crum

The Annual Grandkids Picture 2004- Carrying Quilts Made By Grandma Crum

Wolves and Sharks

Ever heard the expression, “I told you so?”   Daddy’s feeling a little smug around our house this summer.  Let’s take a trip down our family’s memory lane to a few summers ago and discover why…

“Can you tell me again, Mom?  What exactly again are we doing at this camp?”  Our daughter’s question was filled with tense apprehension.  We were just 2 miles from the camp turn off and I could tell she was having second thoughts.  I reached for the cream colored brochure with a cheerful picture of a sun emblazoned on the front.  Turning to the page of camp descriptions, I read allowed all of the details about what she would experience during her week at camp.  Our younger daughter seemed satisfied with the description and relaxed in her seat.

“Do you need for me to read yours too?”  I asked our older daughter.

“Please!” she requested with eager excitement.  She had wanted to go to camp at Camp Shalom since she first heard about it, along with all the adventures her friends experienced there, when she was in the 4th grade.  Now here we were, only a mile or so from the winding dirt road leading to the camp grounds and she was bubbling with excitement!

“Villager Camp,” I began, “For campers entering grades 7 to 9.”

As if by canine instinct, my husband’s ears were suddenly trained on every word I spoke.  He couldn’t keep from interrupting me.  Before I could finish the description, he was barking questions.

“Have you talked to her yet?” he asked.

“Talked to her about what?” I answered.

“Well, there are going to be boys at this camp!  Boys who are in High School! Have you talked to her about this?  Does she know what…” his voice trailed off in frustration.   “Have you talked to her about this?”  As he spoke in his panicked ‘Dad’ voice I could see he was even having a difficult time driving.  The gentle curves of the country road were met with stiff handling behind the wheel of our mini van and I could tell I needed to say something soothing before all of us landed in a ditch!

“Honey,” I said to my daughter in a voice that attempted to both sooth my husband and not freak out my daughter, “You’re heading into Junior High now and at this camp the Junior High kids are in the same group as the first year High School kids.  Some of those kids are going to have more independence and experience than you.”  Clearly I wasn’t getting to the point quickly enough for my husband’s taste.  We turned onto the narrow, forest lined, dirt road leading to the camp and looking at me and my husband implored me, “Get to the point, Mommy.”

I gently began again, “Sometimes when kids your age get alone without the supervision of their parents they try to take advantage of the situation.”

For Daddy, this clearly was not direct enough.  We were taking the hills and curves of the little gravel road with a quickened pace.  “Easy there Daddy, we’re not driving the ‘General Lee’.”  I whispered just loud enough for him to hear me.  He was not amused.  The indent between his eyebrows grew deeper.

In the rear view mirror he looked back to our oldest daughter and began speaking in an urgent ‘Dad’ voice, “What Mommy is not saying is that there are going to be boys at this camp.  High School boys, who have one thing on their mind!” and then he turned to look back at her as she shrunk back in her seat and in a full ‘Dad’ voice, he blurted out, “They are wolves and sharks, and you are what’s on the menu!”

We continued the rest of the drive down the gravel road with those pulverizing words grounding into our ears.

The dust began to settle both inside and outside our mini van as we slowed to a stop in our parking spot.  I glanced back at our daughters, who sat with uncomfortable looking faces, and I couldn’t help but think how mortifying that experience must have been.  Sensing I need to do some damage control before we got out of the car, I turned toward my blossoming daughters and their wilting faces.  In that moment I wanted them to know I believed in their abilities to make good choices, and that I wanted them to have fun.  I wanted them to leave me feeling confident and not crushed.

I stroked my husband’s hand, and looked at the faces of our stunned girls, “You know, Daddy is just feeling protective of you.  I hope you aren’t upset that he made a big deal of there being boys at camp.  I hope you can understand why he’d be kind of over the top about this kind of thing. This is all new to him too.”

Without a moment of hesitation our oldest looked at her Dad with her innocent blue eyes and said, “ It’s OK, Daddy.  At least I know you care enough about me to say something about it.”  With a disarming smile she said, “I know you love me.”

“They are wolves and sharks, and you are what’s on the menu,” 12 words that have lived on notoriously in our family lore.   Thankfully they live on in giggles and teasing as well.  I am grateful our girls know that their Daddy is looking out for them.   And believe me, nothing gets by Daddy…  Let’s fast-forward a few summers to 2010.

This summer we attended our nephew’s wedding in Maryland.  It was a beautiful wedding, featuring the cutest Ring Bearer I have ever seen!

Here is a picture of my little man getting prepared for his close-up!

But I digress…

Through out the wedding and reception festivities my husband kept a keen eye trained on his beautiful teenage daughters.  What protective Daddy would not?  It was at the wedding rehearsal that Daddy’s keen eye trained in on one young man.  Here he is pictured with my nephew (the handsome one on the right) and 2 other groomsmen.

**Que Villan Music**  Dun! Dun! DUUUNN!

Your looking at the guy on the left:

Just in case you were looking at the other left, you were supposed to look at this guy:

He was a groomsman and long time school friend of my nephew, and I can honestly say I did not see him do anything inappropriate.  He was perfectly gentlemanly and nice.  And pretty cute in his tuxedo, don’t you think?  Ok- enough commenting from the old lady here… But, he was the nemesis of my husband for the entire weekend.  Why?  Well, because he was male, and he was being nice to Daddy’s daughter.

Of course the wedding was beautiful and we are all thrilled with our nephew Daniel’s choice.  His new wife is awesome!  Welcome to the family Jillan!  Here is a picture of the big moment!  I love this picture of them!  She is radiating JOY!

The wedding reception was beautiful and was complete with a sit down meal and dancing.  I had a lot of fun clinking my glass to prompt watching kisses of the Bride and Groom and spent most of the other time wrangling a sugar fueled Ring Bearer out on the dance floor.  When the slow dance songs came on I was just thankful my son decided it was time for a smoothie break at the table!  It was all I could manage just keeping up with him!

However, my husband and his protective eye never rested.  Apparently the eyes of a man with teenaged daughters never do!  I was just settling in to my seat at our table when he swooped in to sit beside me.  I wondered if he was going to ask me for a dance.  No such luck!

“Do you see that?!” he said.  I could tell he was having a hard time containing the volume of his voice.

“See what?” I asked.  I honestly had no idea what he was referring to.

“That!”  He said, pointing to our oldest daughter out on the dance floor.

There she was.  Our girl was out on the dance floor, looking beautiful in her blue and green floral dress, the color a near perfect match to her eyes.  Her cheeks were a rosy flush, probably from the heat of the room, but maybe it was also because she was enjoying her first slow dance with one very cute groomsman.

I sighed.  It was so sweet, as her mom, to get to witness such an event.  She is growing up, and making her own way, and they just looked so adorable out there on that dance floor.  I knew nothing about this young man who was enjoying her delicate arms circling his neck, other than that he was a good enough friend of my nephew to be invited to stand up with him on his wedding day, but I was smitten by how cute my daughter was with him out on the dance floor.  Besides, the pair lived 1,000 miles apart and she was well protected by her loyal Daddy.  With him there ready to pounce, I had nothing to worry about.

My husband did not share my sentimental view of the moment.  “What do we do?” he whispered.  He was beside himself!

“Nothing.” I whispered back.  My annoyed husband sat close to me at the table, sitting with crossed arms and looking forlorn and with out a doubt wishing desperately he could change the unfolding situation.  The dance ended and our girl floated back to her seat.  These are the moments that make for good old-fashioned crushes and it was pretty obvious our girl had one.  My girl sat down next to me and began perusing the wedding program.  She tried to look casual, but I knew she was most likely examining with a careful eye.  Part way down the page her finger stopped and she could hardly contain her giggles.  She leaned over to show me what she found.

“Don’t tell Daddy he’s right!” she said through her giggles and pointed to what the program read.  I followed her finger to the list of groomsmen and there it was in black and white.  It said his name was Grason.  Grason Wolfe.

Daddy will not soon let her forget that he is always right.

A New Chapter

About a year ago I wrote this: https://withlovemom.wordpress.com/2009/09/14/my-son-nemo-and-growing-up/ .  Boy I’m feeling those words today!

This is what I did this morning:

I took these pictures

Of my baby boy

Heading down the path

Toward a new adventure.

Did I really write all of that last year?  I hope Marlin swam away and cried…

Because, that’s exactly what I am going to go do.

Great (with child) Expectations

Today was Mother’s Day!  I had a great day with my family and was treated like a princess.  We spent a pretty perfect day shopping at an art fair and completed the afternoon with waffle cones before dinner (because hey, I’m not cooking!).  I got to snuggle up on the couch with my 4 favorite people and watch a movie before we went out for dinner.  When we got home my little boy, who is quickly outgrowing my lap, melted me by asking me to rock him before bed, something I have always LOVED, and I capped off the evening looking at scrapbooks of my perfect little newborns. Tonight I especially loved looking at the pictures of pregnant me becoming a mother, because after all, when a child is born, so is a new mother.

These are some of my favorite pictures….

This one was taken at my first ever baby shower.  I was expecting my first born, I had learned the day before would be a daughter.  I had no idea how much her little tiny presence was going to change my life.  Nothing could prepare me for  how a 6 lb. 8 oz. itty-bitty person would consume me, and I would allow it willingly!  Upon my first gaze of her, I would feel like I had just laid my eyes on the most beautiful creation ever made, and this most exquisite creation was entrusted to my care.  I guess I love the innocence in this picture.

My first born was also the first of her generation to be born in our family.  The first grandchild, the first niece.  Our family was giddy with excitement for her arrival.  My body was no longer my own.  Something I was a little bashful about.  I was shy about my pregnant form, but I began to see that when people reached toward my growing abdomen, they were reaching out to my child.  They were already loving her.  I think this picture really captured those sentiments in me and in my sweet sister in law who was so very excited to become an aunt.

The second time around I was more comfortable in my own pregnant skin and very excited to be adding another daughter to my family.  I so much more confident in my abilities as a mother, but inside I wondered in secret, “Will I love another one as much I love the first one?  How can my heart possibly grow big enough to love another child with the depth that I have loved my first born?”  It took less than a milli-second and all of those fears faded away.  This little bundle of baby girl, all wrinkled, and rolley, with a layer of dark downey hair, looked up at me and drew me in with her slate colored eyes and quivering lips.  How could it be possible that there was yet another delicious little baby creature lying in my arms?  I had won the baby lottery.  Twice!

Maybe I should have been more worried about having enough energy!  Maybe I should have been more worried about the fact that they would only be 17 months apart and I would have 2 in diapers!  It’s hard to remember that there was a day when I was worried about not having enough love, and not worried about being exhausted!  I remember that when I look at these pictures and inside I laugh at myself.

Being pregnant with my son was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.  I had been ‘on the pink aisle’ for 9 years!  I didn’t even know where the ‘blue aisle’ was!  It was a whole new world for me.  Again, silly me, I wondered, “Will I love a boy like I love my girls?”  and yet I was again struck with awe in the miracle of it all.  I was carrying the child I never thought I would have!   Pregnancy was harder this time, but I knew the sacrifices would be worth it.  I wore my ever expanding waist-line with pride and joyful anticipation!

And boy did my waist line expand!!!  This picture was taken the night before my son arrived and one month before my due date!  I love the way my husband is adoring my belly, his unborn son.  And for the third time, I was blessed with the most perfect of all babies.  How could it be?  3 perfect babies?   It’s not because the babies were perfect, although I have to gush, they absolutely were, it’s because it’s true, as my mom used to tell me, a mother’s heart knows no end. I love this picture because I am full of life and of love that has no end.  ….and because that belly is enormous!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Where the Time Went!

Hello!  I know it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything of significance around here.  Sorry I’ve been away so long!  I’ve been thinking about that word ‘Busy’ and how so often I use it as a blanket excuse for not keeping up with the people who are important to me.  How many times I’ve answered the inquiry of a friend with the words, “I’ve been so busy!”  only to not really be able to come up with a single real ‘thing’ that has truly occupied my time!  So this morning I took a minute to refresh my memory and put together a little (ok, so it’s not that little…) scrapbook of where the time went.  Take a trip back to mid February with me!  We’ll pick up with just after my middle girl’s 13th birthday and Valentine’s Day and end with last night.

Swim meet season in February…

Our middle child is a swimmer.

Choir Concert!  This is our oldest.  Isn’t she cute?!

Our middle child is in this choir…

Chamber Choir.  The oldest is in this one.  Did I mention that between all 3 kids they are in 5 choirs?

Sole…  Yeah, I’m workin’ on it!

I repainted the Family Room and hung new shelves with some of my favorite candid pictures… This is the green wall…  the rest of the walls in the family room and kitchen were also repainted as well.  They are boring beige…  and I added a new valance in the kitchen.  In February.  That my dear husband just noticed.  On Friday.  3 days ago.

First Day of Spring in Iowa…  Snow!  I wanted to cry…  Instead my son and I started some seedlings of SUNflowers and Basil…

Have I mentioned that my kids get a lot of homework?  They are great students *thankfully* so I don’t have to nag them to do it, but it never seems to end!  This is Randy with our younger girl.  She loves school!  Her friends are there…

Anxiously awaiting the sprout of a seedling.  He loves, I mean LOVES, ‘making flowers’ and anything involving a garden!

The World’s BEST Dad and Grandpa came for a Spring visit.  I haven’t seen him in a beard like this since around 1981!  I told our little guy that Grandpa is really Santa Claus and for just a minute I saw “the look”.  You know the one, when you know they believe you, and then the moment was gone.  That’s ok.  I know he believed me for a second and I got “the look” of pure,  innocent, suspension of all reality.

The World’s BEST Dad and Grandpa and I re-stained the deck.  Mission Brown from Cabot, for inquiring minds who want to know.

We took a day trip to Springfield, Illinois while The World’s BEST Dad and Grandpa was in town, because that just the kind of thing we do.   We’re road trippers.  It’s a big world out there, get out there and see some of it!  Anyway, Springfield, Illinois is where President Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb, Museum and Library, and Residence while he was a Lawyer and Senator are located.  It was a beautiful day!

Father and son.  I’m a blessed lady!

Our awesome teenage girls!

Our crew + The World’s BEST Dad and Grandpa!  We’re standing in front of the house where Lincoln lived.

A boy, a stick and a fence.  Isn’t that what you’d want to do?

And now, let’s check in with the spouts…

Looking Great!

Track Season Begins!  First up:  100 meeter dash!

My AWESOME and HANDSOME Husband’s Birthday!  Lame-O me 😦 … This is the only picture from the party!

Oooops!  Almost forgot Easter Sunday!  This was our crew all dressed up!

Who are these young women and why do they keep calling me mommy?  I can’t believe how fast my little girls are becoming young women!  They are beautiful inside and out!

Shaggy Boy is shaggy because he had a run in with the stairway hand rail and has a nice gash under that mop of hair and we have now taken our first trip (with him) to the Emergency Room.

Preschooler Picking Pinecones at the Park…  Precious.

Time to give these plants a new pot!   By the way, what is wrong with my hand?  Frightening!  I’ll try not to scare you like that again!

This kid LOVES planting!  And playin’ outside!  We’ve had a BEAUTIFUL Spring, minus that one unruly day, and can’t get enough of the back yard!

I love how much this girl loves her baby brother… makes my heart melt!

More track meets!

Discus…

Friends…

and Shot!

Our oldest was in the Junior High Talent Show!  She sang, The Bare Necessities,” as Baloo the bear from The Jungle Book. She did a fantastic job!

My boys in a big box… er… spaceship…

Does it get anymore fun that this?

Hmmm… a leftie?  Maybe.

Or maybe not.  I wish he’d decide!

I just love that smile!

and finally… we went to a birthday party yesterday and this is what the boy came home with!

Well, the balloon helmet and a boat load of candy!

Still with me?  Thanks!  I hope you enjoyed catching up with me!  I hope you’ll catch me up too!  And I promise, I won’t leave you hanging so long next time!

Coming Undone

“Honey, what do you think I should do?”  The beautiful blue eyes that I had looked to thousands of times for support were now turned to me.  She was asking me to answer the impossible and I felt like I was failing her.  I sat quietly for a moment, my insides shivering as if I were outside in the chill of that November Monday morning just outside the hospital doors.  I was so weary.  Cancer.  Cancer, Cancer, Cancer!  A merciless and cruel killer it is.  Already pushed to a state of physical and emotional exhaustion, I could not imagine why anyone would voluntarily draw out this torture?  Watching her die so painfully, it seemed senseless to want to prolong the inevitable, and yet that was exactly what she was proposing.

Earlier that morning her doctor came to her room with a new plan.  Chemotherapy turned out to be an absolute catastrophe, resulting in the complete shut down of my mom’s colon.  This meant that everything that made it past her lips and into her stomach now had nowhere to go.  Because of this massive shut down, she was unable to eat or drink anything.   A tube attached to a pump had been fed up her nose and then down to her stomach in an attempt to keep her gut vacuumed out.   Maintaining pain was a nearly futile effort even though narcotic pain patches covered her back like a quilt.  Her body was failing quickly and prior to this meeting with her doctor we had been prepared by other hospital staff that we would be taking her home to die.  Hospice had been contacted, and it was evident that they did not expect her to live beyond the week.

I had arrived to the hospital that morning with my ‘game-face’ on and was ready.  Well, as ready as one can be…  Hearing the doctor propose a new course of action was completely unexpected.  The suggestion was for my mom to undergo a surgical procedure called a Jejunostomy.   Please pardon my very inadequate description, but essentially a Jejunostomy is when an opening is made and a bag is surgically placed at the place at the end of the stomach and before the colon so that when food or drink enters the body, it can only go as far as the stomach before it exits into the bag.  The function of food would now mostly be for pleasure since it would not enter the colon anymore and not be delivering any significant nutrition.  To solve the problem of not receiving enough nutrition, my mom would be administered a 12 hour round of TPN once every 24 hours.  TPN, which stands for Total Parenteral Nutrition, is basically a specialized liquid concoction of everything a person needs nutritionally that can be ‘fed’ to that person intravenously.   The TPN I.V. bag is inserted into a dispensing machine that is small enough to fit into a backpack.  Cancer is a little bit like that game on the midway at the fair called “Wack-A-Mole.”   As soon as you hit one of the moles, another pesky mole is popping up across the field!

This proposal fanned a flicker of hope in my mom that had been all but extinguished over the previous weekend.  She really hated that she was dying during the holidays and longed to be able to spend one last Christmas with her family.  While the doctor laid out the plan, which included the prospect of living for “many months” with the treatment that was no more inconvenient than “carrying a small backpack with you 12 hours on and 12 hours off” the room fell silent.  I could see there were visions dancing in my mom’s head and the cynic in me wasn’t buying it.  Not even for a minute.  I could feel the shaking inside me intensify as this doctor continued to pitch her proposal.  I looked to my dad and could see that he was buying the hope this doctor was selling.  As I looked around the room at the faces of her loved ones, I felt alone in my pessimism.

I felt guilty for not buying in to this doctor’s latest plan, and I tried to avoid looking at my mother’s hopeful face.  To my relief, she turned to my dad, “Sweetheart, what do you think?” she asked quietly.  My dad nodded his head with a supportive, “Yes.”

That is when her gaze came to rest upon me. “Honey, what do you think I should do?”

To say I cracked is an understatement.  I completely came undone! Weeks of raw emotion were so close to the surface my own breath was all that was covering them. Out of the pain of watching the vicious beast ravage her body, out of the turmoil of knowing she was leaving, out of the pure agony of it being powerless to stop it, I spoke.

“Why?”  I said in a not so subtle tone and immediately stared at the floor.   My heart felt as hard as the tile floor.  “Why do you want to prolong this?”  My breaking voice was nearing a hiss.  It was difficult to contain the pain and anger shuddering through me.  Would she understand I was saying this out of love for her?  Her merciless suffering!  As much as I tried, I could not soften my voice as I spoke.  I continued to shudder and felt my adrenaline pulsing through me.  I could not look up for fear that in the moment that I looked at her, watching her live would be worse than watching her die.  I knew my reaction was a brutal blow.  Desperately trying to escape the pain, I ran from her hospital room.

How could I?  What kind of worthless daughter was I?  How could I say that to my dying mother?  I could hardly stand to be in my own skin!  My mental state was deteriorating quickly.  I was on the verge of a total breakdown.  In my emotionally impaired state I could only think of one thing that would repair it.   As I climbed into the driver’s seat of my minivan, I knew I had to escape.  With an irrational plan to walk up to the ticket counter at the nearest airport, credit card in hand, to buy a ticket to get me as far away from ‘real’ life as possible, I started the engine of the car.  If she was going to prolong the agony I wasn’t going to stick around to watch.  Turning to look for traffic behind me as I prepared to back out of my parking space, I saw the little navy blue base to my infant son’s car seat, and knew I needed help.

For a split second the chaos inside me relented.  Somewhere deep inside me I knew.  It was what that little navy blue car seat base was telling me.  I could no sooner leave my little newborn son or my two daughters behind and run from the pain of grief than my mom could leave me behind and run from the pain of cancer.  That was why she was willing to prolong the agony!  That was why when given the opportunity to live for even a few more weeks she was willing to do it.  She would do it for me, for her child and for the others she so intensely loved.  I pulled back into the parking space and turned the engine off.  My shaking hand searched the inside of my purse for the cell phone that was the lifeline to my husband.

I wish I could say that with that revelation I jumped out of the car and ran back to her room and buried my sorry face in her lap.  I guess I am a lot harder headed than that.  It took me a while to really be able to articulate that moment in the car and in the meantime I continued to act out in my anguish.  By the days end, it was my patient and loving husband who put it to me this way, “Honey, one of us needs an antidepressant.  So, if you aren’t going to take one, I am.”

The next day I went to her, to my momma, who had always loved me no matter what.  I did bury my head in her lap.  She stroked my hair with the same hand that had comforted, guided, disciplined, and loved me for my whole life.  In that most intimate unspoken language between a mother and her child I told her how I loved her and begged her forgiveness through my tears, and she forgave me and said, “I love you, too.”

My mom with me, her first born.

The Goalie

Sunday was my son’s first soccer game, not just first of the season, but first game ever.  He’s five so I anticipated it would be pretty cute to see him out on the field in his “you’ll grow in to it” jersey and matching socks so long that they were only inches from the hem of his shorts.  It was an exciting day and we were all petty pumped to see the game.  When we arrived to the field we found his coach and left him with his teammates.  The team warmed, up while the rest of my family and I took our places on the sidelines.   It wasn’t long when we noticed that the coach was preparing our son for the position of Goalie, which he played for the first part of the game.

The players took their positions on the soccer field and the game began.  That’s when for me the unexpected anxiety began!  I watched as player after player came toward him dribbling the soccer ball between their feet.  What I wish I could say is that as each different player approached the goal area I watched as my son swiftly and deftly defended his turf, but this was not the case.   The opposing team quickly scored a few goals.   As the wild little band of soccer players traversed the field, my son remained in his designated spot and appeared to have no interest in the action happening just feet from him.  He mostly ignored it and instead preferred to scratch his leg… wave at his dad, sisters, and me… look at the goal net…   Soccer game?  What soccer game?

I was beside myself!  Keeping things in perspective was getting harder and harder.  I restrained myself from shouting, “Get the ball!!!”  I didn’t want to make a scene and be one of ‘those’ parents who constantly coaches from the sidelines.  I didn’t want him to be embarrassed and I didn’t want to embarrass my husband and daughters.  I didn’t want him to miss the ball because he wasn’t paying attention.  I didn’t want to see him fail…  Ouch!  Did I really say that?  Did I just say that about a 5 year olds soccer game?  Boy have I got a lot to learn!

I couldn’t believe how watching the ball coming toward him gave me such a feeling of panic and as I watched the game, it began to dawn on me how much this little ball game was like parenting.  I found myself remembering the times that my mother would try to reason with me about all the typical teenage subjects.  Dating of course was a favorite concern of hers.  I remember the dread every time I had to ride alone in the car with my mom, for fear she would use the car for what I viewed as a mobile torture chamber!  If I think back to those days I can easily remember the pitch of her voice and the way her lips would thin as she spoke with determination and authority with just the slightest hint of desperation.  During the soccer game I began to realize how I was that parent now.

Watching my kids struggle is something I have done a few times over the last 14 years.  I have seen my daughters each take blows from life that would take the breath of even the greatest athlete.  I have seen them struggle with issues far more adult than their own years.  I have felt protective, but mostly for them the things they face are not things they have brought upon themselves.  This little game was just a tiny taste of what I’m sure my mother was swallowing whole on those car rides.  She could see her player in the game of life.  She had been to many a ‘soccer’ game and knew a bit about how it was played.  Seeing me in charge of guarding the goal, it was hard for her to stay on the sidelines and let me experience defeat.  It wasn’t that she didn’t have confidence in me, it was that she knew that at some point everybody misses, everybody looses focus, everybody… looses.   She knew these things because she had lost a few times too.  And I have.  And he will.   Somehow we all make it!

Preparing My Goalie

Preparing My Goalie

The Moment Anxiety Set In...

The Moment Anxiety Set In...

Maybe we should explore the Martial Arts?

Maybe we should explore the Martial Arts?

Defending the Goal!

Defending the Goal!

My Son, Nemo, and Growing Up

Today I watched Finding Nemo with my 5 year old son. Well, to be more accurate, I was trying to get some “stuff” done and the movie was a vain attempt to keep him occupied! As the movie played along, I found myself getting drawn in to the little fish story once again, only this time I couldn’t help but think about how we are in the last of my little boy’s preschool years. I know… how sentimental of me! I can’t even say that ordinarily I wouldn’t be that way, but truth be told I am! But I have to say, for excuses sake ;), that I find myself surrounded by lots of other friend mommies who are sending their babes off into the big, big world for the first time, and I find myself holding on to him just a little more closely.

It’s funny this time around with my son.  Our oldest daughter is now 14, our second oldest daughter is 12 and both are completely submerged in the world of teenagers. Make-up, Cell Phone, Sports, Recreational Shopping, Dances (and the other dreaded ‘D’ word isn’t too far off)…. With the girls we are there. Sending them to Kindergarten seems like forever ago and sending them to College still seems very far off. (Surely I can live in denial for a couple more years right?) When I sent my oldest to Kindergarten I was a mess and when her sister went a year later, I was pathetic! At the time that my second daughter boarded her first big yellow school bus I was pretty certain that my “baby days” were over.  My little boy has been my bonus, the child I desperately wanted but believed I would never have, and the notion that he has been something of a second chance is not lost on me.

So today, as I joined him on the couch to enjoy the way that his little body fits just right next to mine, I swallowed hard at the lump in my throat as I listened to the little fish story. There were 2 parts of the story that really resonated with me today. The first was when Crush (the turtle) and Marlin (Nemo’s dad) are swimming the EAC (East Australian Current) and the dialogue goes like this…

Crush: Curl away, my son. Awe, it’s awesome, Jellyman.

The little dudes are just eggs. We leave ‘em on a beach

to hatch… and then coo-coo-cachoo… they find their way

back to the big ol’ blue!

Marlin: All by themselves?

Crush: (Sh)yeah.

Marlin: Bbbbbutbutbut, dude, how do you know when they’re ready?

Crush: Well, you never really know. But when they know, you’ll know, you know?

The second part takes place at the end of the movie when Mr. Ray (the Stingray) comes to pick Nemo up for the first day of school…

Mr. Ray: Hold on! Here we go! Next stop—Knowledge!

Marlin: Bye, Son! Have fun!

Nemo: Bye, Dad!

Mr. Ray swims away with Nemo on board.

Nemo: Oh! Mr. Ray, wait! I forgot something.

Nemo swims back to his Dad, panting, and quickly snuggles hard into his side for a hug.

Nemo: Love you, Dad.

Marlin: I love you, too, Son.

Marlin hugs Nemo even closer.

Nemo: Dad? You can let go now.

Marlin: (letting go quickly) Sorry…

Marlin: Now, go have an adventure!

I know my time is coming. I know soon enough we won’t be spending our days together watching movies in the afternoon, or playing on the swing set, or pretending to be spies. I will walk him to his classroom as he excitedly runs ahead of me toward his grown up little self. And when we get there I hope I can be like Marlin and with love and confidence say, “Now, go have an adventure!”

First Day of Pre School!

First Day of Pre School!