Friday, June 28, 2013
This past week has swelled to overflow with love. Love that arrives in the form of reconciliation and forgiveness, friendship and healing, busyness and stillness, sun and moon, glow and reflection, light and shadow.
I feel blessed.
And feeling these blessings with the heightened awareness to which I seem to be rooted only adds to the intensity. And, taxing though it may feel at moments, I am grateful for that fervency.
There is still much that is unresolved in my present state, yet I feel comfortable, at peace and comforted by this moment of chaos. Another blessing for which I feel grateful.
Today I feel akin to the elderflowers on my little acre, swelling from bud to blossom, sweetness and healing in the moment, with a phase of fruiting not far off.
Thursday, June 27, 2013
Today would have been the day that Little Rita moved to Connecticut. It's quite surreal to me, sitting with this prospect, this unrealized adventure. And surreal fits. Like a 1950's kid glove.
And kid glove, somehow, fits too.
I found several pairs when clearing out her bureau.
I found some gorgeous pieces of clothing too, many perfectly preserved, that hadn't been worn in decades.
Rita truly loved dressing up, especially for formal events. This is something that we did not share. Yet, dressing up for such events often yields the possibility of glimpsing handsome young men in their finery, looking their best. Rita always, even at 95, had an eye and an appreciation for a good-lookin' young man. This is something we did share.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Rita loved springtime. I recall taking rides with her to witness the earliest blooms of the season, cultivated and wild. In Delaware, she loved her azaleas and rhododendrons. In New York, it was the daffodils and peonies that delighted her after the snow melted. I planted both. She loved the wildflowers, too, and would create grand arrangements with her pickings … a perfect blend of formal and wild. She had a knack.
There were always flowers somewhere in her dwelling, it seems. She kept altars with photos, prayer cards, figurines, candles and almost always a bloom of something to honor the lives of those for whom she prayed.
The first condolence card I opened was from one of my spouse's co-workers. It was a Mass card offering blessings of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, the "Little Flower." How fitting this felt.
For Little Rita … and for me.
While the two of us did not see I eye-to-eye in matters religious, we did share so much in matters spiritual. Taking those rides together to witness the blossoms, pausing at harbor's edge to watch boats come and go as the sun set, sitting on the boardwalk gazing at the horizon and witnessing the waves break against the sandy shore … these are just a few memories that conjure those special moments when we would speculate together on the Big Mysteries of life.
These moments are memories I hold with grand fondness.
The last photograph I took of her was on mother's day and she had a flower in her hair. I put it there. And it's no accident.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
I look at the week that lies before me, as I routinely do on Sunday mornings. I see it empty of all things personal and work-related. Even the mom-tasks that once filled the spaces to overflow are gone. You see, this was the week that mom's furniture and personal belongings were to be moved to her new apartment in a beautiful assisted living community near to me. This was the week that I would have had her room set up, a new recliner delivered, the week I would have personally handled all the finishing touches of her new home, the week she would have moved in.
But—hey, things change. And that is at it should be.
Rita claimed to dislike change, and yet she was a master of facilitating it. Right up to the end.
On Monday I had confirmed all that needed confirmation for her assisted living apartment and the care she would need. I's were dotted, t's were crossed, checks signed and handed over. I even saw the view from her windows and thought how she would like it, how it might remind her of her long-time home in Delaware. Early Wednesday morning I firmed up all the moving arrangements and was getting ready to complete the plans for a comfy medical transport for her … when I got the call.
Plans were cancelled and new plans put in their place. I smiled as I whispered to myself, "another exercise in futility." I laughed as I recalled countless times she asked me to do this-r-that for her, only to to have her undo my efforts through changing her mind or saying, "I'll do it myself."
She was one independent lady. Fiercely so. Right up to the end.
I have to admit that I always admired her independent spirit, even when it frustrated me beyond reason. She was a woman of principle, even when the principles for which she fought didn't fit the reality of the situation. Even when her principles did not mirror my own. She was tenacious. So much so that, on occasion, she would wear one down to give in, toss aside protocol, defy rules in order to bend reality to meet her principles, her reality. This behavior often felt like wasted effort to me, especially as she got older, but ~ bless her willful little heart ~ she rarely gave up. Right up to the end.
Ya gotta admire that.
And I have to admit that there's a good bit of this tenacity in me too. I hope it lasts. Right up to the end.
Saturday, June 22, 2013
This mother-daughter relationship I'm exploring is, as I've already suggested, a multi-faceted gem. Rita may have posed formidable challenges to me, but when I'm candid with myself, I can't deny that I gave as good as I got.
I'm quite certain that I came into this life with a well seasoned will, complete and intact. And I thank the gods for that.
My mom would often tell me how much she loved dressing me up when I was little. I mean, she loved dressing up, and was one of those ladies who always looked her best before leaving the house. Even at 95 she would want to be properly dressed, made up, hair done, and nails polished before heading to a doctor's appointment … or to just go for a ride to see the lake. I, on the other hand, have always been willing to run out "as is," most often jeans and t-shirt or tank. This not only perplexed her, but frustrated her to occasional anger.
I can't tell you how many times I heard her ask, "Are you wearing that?"
When I was little she would dress me up in adorable fashions of the day. I wore a pretty dress, lacy socks and patent leather mary-janes to my first day of Nursery School. When my mom came to pick me up she asked the teacher how I did that day, and the response was that I did just fine, and that it would be best to dress me more casual for the play that was typical of Nursery School. She would laugh about that, but inevitably return to how much she loved dressing me "like a doll."
She would recall times that she dressed me for some occasion or another and how I would quickly, if not eagle-watched, get dirty and hopelessly wrinkled before said occasion ever had a chance to commence. She would reminisce about my Nono cleaning ink stains out of an outfit after I climbed onto a desk, complete with inkwell, to have a little unguarded fun. There's photos of me somewhere covered in that ink - clothes and body. There's photos of me, too, looking stiff as a statue and more than a little fearful of wrinkling whatever I was wearing.
Every prom I attended in high school involved a hat and gloves. Ugh. It was the '70s, man, and no one wore those things anymore. I'd comply, stand for the photos, and quickly loose the trappings when out of sight. If anyone caught me in photo without them, there'd be hell to pay.
She was a strict disciplinarian, make no mistake, and in my teenage years I learned to navigate her rules with exceptional savvy. My curfews growing up were skewed when compared to my contemporaries. I can still hear my daddy saying, "Oh, Reeter, let her go." He was my champion and after he died, it came down to our two hard heads bashing, time and again. And as a proper nemesis, she generally had the upper hand. Of course, the risk of retribution rarely kept me from challenging her, from staying out past curfew, and I know that many of my teenage choices drove her to the rim of madness.
I lived with my spouse for ten years before we married and this displeased her - greatly. I heard about her displeasure and my transgression(s) frequently. When we married, the marriage was done on the sly, so to speak, with Rita receiving notification after the fact. There was hell to pay, but I was confident then (as I am to this day) that it was more than a fair trade-off to avoid her dictates for a "proper" wedding.
Rita was beside herself when I left the corporate world. She argued with a passion that this was a big mistake. She did her best to instill fear of perceived consequences, and grew increasingly frustrated when her arguments slid off and away from me sans impact.
I know I drove her crazy. Probably more than I will ever imagine.
And to this day … no matter what anyone may dish out … I'll be able take it … and return it with a curve they'll never see coming.
How, in the name of all that is sacred, could I not thank her for her contributions to this particular skill?
Friday, June 21, 2013
Most anyone who knows me knows that my relationship with my mom was one of many, many facets. Facets that shimmer in the warming light of noon at midsummer, and those that are perpetually turned toward the darkness of shadow, never sparkling, yet holding the promise.
Of all of the relationships in my life, this one with my mom has been my biggest challenge. And mightiest teacher. And lets be clear, I have a spouse of 35-years, so we're not talkin' anything lightweight.
I was two years old when my folks adopted me. I was a willful toddler that my mom was set on indoctrinating. She might say mothering, but I don't. And I convey that with a loving smile. She would likely call it a smirk.
Rita frequently shared the story of my early days with her and my daddy. They hadn't had me long when one day she put me down for a nap. She walked down the street to visit a friend for afternoon tea, which was a routine of hers. When her friend asked, "Where's Rosemary?"she was like, oh my god, I forgot all about her. She would laugh at the retelling, and so would I. There was darkness in the humor, and if you know me at all, you know that dark humor tends to be a favored flavor.
In more recent years she moved to New York state, from Delaware, where I (for the most part) grew up. I had searched for condos (as I had in the past) in Connecticut, where I live, but she settled on New York. When folks would ask her why she moved to New York she would consistently reply, "Because I have family there." Now bear in mind that I'm an only child. The first time or two I heard this response it sliced into me. Yet over the years I learned to not take it personal, to accept Little Rita for who and what she was, and not try to fit her into any mold of my own making. All the same, less than a year ago we were visiting one of her docs, who knew I was her only child, who consistently engaged her in conversation about living alone at her age, about assisted living, about moving closer to me. He asked her why she had moved to New York state. When she responded with her patent reply he shot me a look of such wonder, compassion and empathy, that I felt the old scar stir. It took such strength of will in that moment not to collapse into a puddle of tears.
Don't get me wrong. She loved me. And I know she loved me.
I've often called her my nemesis. Mostly to myself, but also to a few special folks who not only have a feel for our relationship, but also for the truest meaning of this all-too-often misunderstood word. As my nemesis, she was a formidable challenger, a masterful teacher, one who matured to wise elder with infinite Wisdom to share, whether she knew it or not.
We live in times that prefer to demonize the darkness, to shun the shadows. We're taught to run away from them, fear them, hide from them, lash out at them … but I say go into them, for there you will discover Love in its truest form.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Today began the first full day of my earthly journey without the physical presence of my mother somewhere "nearby." Yesterday she passed into the big mystery, as I like to say.
I find myself wafting between moments of utility, memory, smiles, occasional laughter and tearful floods. It feels as if a plug has been pulled somewhere within my being, and that some part of me is draining out. Like the hole that my mother's passing has left for me, I wonder what will fill these spaces.
In the meantime I honor my grief, mourn my loss, celebrate her life … a life that was integral to mine and to shaping me into the being I am ~ right here in this moment.
I offer infinite gratitude for our relationship, for this brave and tenacious woman was strong enough to take on my spirit. I've often said, especially in her later years, that she may have only been as big as your little finger, but she was giant force of power.
She had to be.
She was my mother.
Monday, June 10, 2013
I've been distracted lately. Distracted and un-centered. Distracted, un-centered and unsettled. You see, my elderly mom fell and broke a hip at the end of April, had surgery and is now in rehab some 300+ miles from my home. She'll be discharged soon. The next phase of the journey involves moving her from New York state to assisted living here in Connecticut. I've been traveling between here-n-there and will be doing so again before the pieces fall into place. I have travel, care-giving, sorting and packing to manage this coming week.
I returned home from my most recent travels late Thursday. Friday kicked off with research, calls, follow-ups, bills (hers and mine) but then quickly dissolved into a need to rest. So I did. Friday is a blur, but I know I made calls and managed to get more plants into the earth.
Sunday, however, coalesced into a day that I needed. A day that I deserved. I managed to get some early morning planting done in the garden. I made a batch of black currant preserves and a batch of black currant-citrus peel-n-rosehips preserves (which is rockin' my world). I got down to The Artists at Whiting Mills for their Open Studio. I processed a batch of kombucha. I made time to catch up in my art journal. I sat with Nature and gazed into everythingness. I did more evening planting and even got half of the tomato stakes in. It was a productive day. An enjoyable day.
Today feels totally different.
There are things I want to do, and things I need to do, and yet I feel my will wavering today. I'd prefer to crawl under a rock. Know what I mean?
All the same, I've stacked the papers that need follow-through in a neat and organized pile to work through. I've started page-prep in my heART journal for the days ahead. I've sipped coffee. And still, my motivation wavers.
So … sharing is an activity that motivates me, inspires me, so I share with you my recipe (such as it is) for the currant preserves I made yesterday.
Black Currant Preserves
12 cups black currants (mine were frozen from last year's harvest)
9 cups cane sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
Optional (I added these to half my batch)
generous handful of dried rosehips
modest handful of dried orange rind
small handful of dried lemon rind
Combine ingredients (organic, please) in a heavy bottom pot, bring to a boil, stirring all the while. Lower heat to simmer, stirring occasionally, to desired thickness (I kept mine quite soft, good to use on toast or mix easily in yogurt). Sterilize your jars, pack them, and process them in a hot water bath for a time suited to your jar sizes.
Thank you for allowing me to share. It is Good Medicine that you offer. Go now, take your Medicine, and share something. Ashe.