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Archive for October, 2012

Handwritten entry from journal on 10-22-09

These past three years have gone by quickly. Sometimes I still go into Mom’s old room to share a bit of news. “Hey, Mama, guess who just called to say hi?” Of course, I don’t expect a response. The room has been quiet for a long time now. The nebulizer and oxygen machine are long gone. The television, too.  But the bed, table, and chairs remain. It was her room for the last four and a half years of her life. I brought her breakfast, lunch, and dinner to that room. I sat with her there and watched bits of TV shows, chatted, and read to her. I painted her toenails, administered her medicine, and checked her blood pressure. Even as I did my best to hold on tightly, I watched her slip away, slowly, slowly, slowly.

This morning I had a conversation with her ashes, as if they were a conduit to the afterlife. I told her how much I miss her and how much I love her. I closed my eyes and remembered what it felt like to be hugged by her. I remembered the way her startlingly blue eyes sparkled every time she smiled at me. I could count on that smile as I set her breakfast tray on the table. “Oh, my!” she would say, “That’s beautiful! But how will I ever eat it all?” But she always did; her appetite was good in the mornings, and so I made sure breakfast was the best meal of the day.

I have honored her last wish to, “just stay close to my little kid,” by creating a special place for her ashes at the cottage. She always called me her angel, but she’s my angel now. My heart hurts  today as I remember the pain of letting her go. I am simultaneously sad and joyful. My life is full, and I am so very grateful for having been raised by a mother like her: optimistic, funny, compassionate, and loving. I am grateful, too, for the opportunity to have been there when she needed me and for the grace to lovingly release her when the time came.

Rest in peace, Mama, and know you will live in my heart forever.

Mom's ashes on a shelf in the cottage

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We just got back from walking our legs off in Washington, DC, and I find myself longing for just one quiet, relaxing day by the ocean. Alas, I’m back to work with no beach trip in sight, so, instead of posting pictures from our nation’s capital, I’m going to share a few of my most treasured beach souvenirs.

Pickle jar filled with ocean water and sand

I was 22 when I saw the ocean for the first time. I was so excited that I promptly filled a pickle jar with water and sand as a souvenir. The jar now sits on a shelf in my laundry room next to a jar of water from Lake Michigan, circa 1967, and another from Lake Erie, circa 1977. It’s the strangest, smallest collection I own.

Glass jar filled with seashells, coral, and black sand

We went to Hawaii in 1993. I was awestruck by a black sand beach on Maui. I scooped up the sand and put it in a glass ball along with a piece of coral and a few shells. I love the way the black sand looks like dirt!

Beach shells holding paper clips

I found this shell on a beach in South Carolina. It has served as a paperclip holder for about 20 years.

Large white seashell

In 1990, as I left for a business trip to Florida, my five-year-old son asked me to bring him back a “big shell.” When I talked to him on the phone that evening, he asked if I had found the shell. I said, “No, I just got here, and I haven’t had time to go to the store.” He said, “Not the store! You just walk out by the ocean and pick it up!” I tried to explain that “big shells” are not that easy to come by, but he insisted. “Mama, you get up early tomorrow morning and go out on the beach. You’ll find a big shell. Bring it to me.” I said I would look. I got up early the next morning never thinking for a moment that I would be successful. But there it was, just as he said, waiting for me to pick it up. It’s the biggest, prettiest shell I’ve ever found on a beach. I wonder how he knew it would be there.

Bleached Sun Dollar

In 1989 I was in Florida and obsessed with the idea of finding a sand dollar. A local told me to dig with my toes around the sand bar, and sure enough, I found one. I was so excited until I realized it was alive! I hesitated for only a moment. I didn’t care. I had found my trophy, and I took it to my hotel room. The next morning, I was overcome with guilt. I had killed a beautiful creature just so I could display it. What kind of person does a thing like that? I cried and seriously considered throwing it away because I was so ashamed of myself for killing it. But then I thought doing so would be doubly shameful. So I brought it home, bleached it, and gave it a place of honor in my office. It’s still there, and when I look at it, I sometimes still feel a little ashamed and a little sad. It is the one and only “trophy kill” I own.

Photo of girl at beach displayed in a beach chair frame

Finally, here is a picture I took at Hilton Head Island in 2003. I found the beach chair frame in a souvenir shop, and I thought it was the perfect frame for the perfect picture. It makes me laugh to look at it, though, because it looks like the picture just came with the frame!

There … wasn’t that more fun than the Washington Monument?

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Wide-angle shot of Bryce Canyon at Sunrise

Bryce Canyon at Sunrise – One of the many shots in vacation slide show I’m using for motivation

In just three and a half days my favorite “Twin Cousin” is coming to visit! Yea! The two of us and our husbands are going to take Amtrak to Washington, DC, and do the tourist thing. The train trip will take us through the Appalachian Mountains where we’re sure to see some beautiful fall colors. I adore anticipating a trip.

But for the next three days, I will be swamped with work. I worked 13 hours yesterday (bookkeeping, payroll, budgets, and desktop publishing), and there’s more of the same today … and tomorrow … and the next day. It happens every time I go away.

This morning I took a break at the cottage, and I asked myself, “What gives? What is this CRAZY BUSY thing you do before trips?”

As I wrote in my journal, the answer revealed itself: “Present-day me” is in the process of gifting “after-trip me” with a clean desk and completed chores when she returns to the office. My gift to her is easing the re-entry process. She will be relaxed, happy, and reveling in the afterglow of a lovely vacation. She will be smiling at the memory of hours of leisure time and the many adventures she had with those she loves the most. She won’t feel like working her ass off … not for a few days, at least.

And so, with the excitement and anticipation of that trip fueling me, I am happy to work my ass off NOW. I put a slide show on my second computer screen of scenes from a trip I took to Bryce Canyon. They are reminding me that the wonder of travel is always worth the effort, always worth the money, always worth this final push to get out the door.

This crazy busy thing … it’s just a way of taking care of my fragile, returning-from-vacation self. She will feel a little let down that it’s all over. She’ll be wondering how the time could go so fast. And she’ll be moving at a slower pace. So, my precious future self, I’m doing this for you.

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