Tag Archives: mother

Nostalgia, Love, and Mystery

I sit in a recliner, feet up, listening to silence occasionally interrupted by the moist noise of a dog licking peanut butter from her Kong and the rhythmic whirring of a sewing machine. My friend is in the other room working on a project as I breathe and find space after an unusually difficult day.

This is my friend’s house, the door generously open to me for some time away from my own mess. I don’t notice a bit of hers. I relax into the kindness of her giving as I receive stillness.

Last week she made lunch and we caught up with each other after a month of being apart. She is a heart friend who knows me and gets me and sees me. We talked and laughed and cried over many things. Time flew.

This is your birthday lunch. What would you like?

She offered two options. I chose the one that kept us where we were, making salads as we continued talking. We walked from the living room to the kitchen. On the counter were two cake boxes.

Those are your birthday cakes. They are thawing. I wasn’t sure what you would want for your birthday. I stood in front of the freezer at the grocery store way overthinking it. Do I get key lime pie? Then I told myself just stop and listen, and these cakes called my name. I have never bought them before. They are not at all what I was looking for.

Waves of nostalgia washed over me as I snapped a picture to send to my sisters. Their replies rolled in quickly.

It was Mom guiding.

Are we surprised? This is sweet.

Can’t make it up.

I agree. Any white cake was Mom and a nice cup of cawfee. (Can you hear my accent?)

Love this! Though the cakes don’t scream Mom to me as much which is interesting. (This is from the youngest.)

The Pepperidge Farm days were definitely Maryland years, maybe Virginia. Pre-Florida. (Time before the youngest.)

Yes, coconut white cake was definitely a Mom memory.

These cakes are the ones Mom got for birthdays or celebrations when we were kids. She liked the coconut and got chocolate for us. Of course I had a slice of each and basked in the nostalgia, love, and mystery.

Happy Birthday, Barbara!

Barbara McClay’s birthday is today.

Facebook tells me this and asks if I want to write on her timeline. Of course I want to wish my mother-in-law a happy day, so I click to her page. Upon arrival, I am also told she is 82. This hits me in the gut with unexpected tears.

82.

Ten years I won’t get with my mom. She died shortly after 72. We are over.

And this is grief. Some days the memories are gentle and sweet. Others they sneak up beside you only to smack the side of your head bringing swift and copious tears.

This part of July still bears innocence when one year ago today memories pop up on my phone. There was no urgency to grab all of the normal time you can because this is all going to flip on its head in a few short weeks.

I didn’t know what was coming.

In fact, I didn’t blog at all last July. I checked. I didn’t write about the camping trip or kayak date or what Mom brought back for me from Michigan. I didn’t record the mundane work I did in my basement studio while Mom worked in her office above me.

I didn’t share that we had a coffee break together or laughed about something silly or that she helped me open a wallflower plugin that I couldn’t quite get by myself. It was all just regular, ordinary. Nothing special.

When you lose someone you love there’s disorientation, coming undone, reorientation, remembering.

In this space of reorientation I am trying to embrace and name honestly the reality of what just happened. I am trying to remember back so that I can look forward. What happened is my mom died. She left. Our time together expired.

And today there is still time with Barbara. So I text her and plan to see her after dinner when she brings over cake and we celebrate her 82 years of life and the gift that she is to the world.

Happy Birthday, Mom McClay! I love you! I’m glad you are here and that there is still time to spend together playing Pokemon-Go and eating all the cake we want. 😉

Mother’s Day 2021

Last year Mother’s Day came during a pandemic when everything was upside down and turned around and shut down. Instead of my usual trip to a flower store or nursery or garden center I went to the Friendly City Food Co-Op. There I found a beautiful hanging basket with geraniums and trailing flowers and decided it would make a perfect shortcut to creating mom’s outdoor planter, my annual Mother’s Day gift.

Last year, as I extracted the plant contents from the hanging basket into the urn, mom noticed through the window. When she realized my planter-arranging hack, she decided she actually would prefer a hanging basket. I fished the discarded plastic hanging container from the trash can behind the house and returned the entire arrangement to the original pot. It hung on the porch and flowered beautifully all season and into the fall.

Mom during a fall photo shoot in September, 2020, with her Mother’s Day hanging basket in full bloom.

I returned the several perennials from years gone by (removed to accommodate the large arrangement) to the planter, and added red geraniums to make it pretty. These coordinated with the ones on the porch. It became a two-for-one deal, but that’s also my mom, always extra.

Each year when Mother’s Day rolled around, we kids asked what she wanted. Her response always the same, Happy Children!  Our reply equally the same, No really! What’s something we CAN give you?

Oh, Mama, we miss you.

This year is the first Mother’s Day without Mom. I am not a happy child. I am a grieving one. When I think back to last Mother’s Day, it feels surreal that we were laughing about replanting a hanging basket. She was so surprised and delighted with the change. We had no idea what loomed on the horizon.

The perennials returned again. Heavy-hearted, I wonder what to do. The planning and planting excitement of years past is not there. There’s no need to hide or surprise. I pick up a pot of lavender in bloom and bring it over one afternoon.

Perennials begin to grow in Mom’s planter each spring.
Lavender waiting to be planted.
Lavender planted in Mom’s planter.

Hastily shoving it into the pot, I wonder how it will do. Will it thrive or barely survive? I will eventually add something trailing but not today. For right now, this is enough.

My thoughts are scattered, words lost as I try to finish this. I have already cried copious tears and way over-thought the neglect of my blog these past months, even though my mind has so much to say. I really should write about that.

Silence.

Sometimes there are just no more words.

I just miss my mom on this first Mother’s Day without her.

Becoming Grandma in the Time of Covid

I prepare to meet my granddaughter two weeks before she is born. That is when I say goodbye to my mom after a ten-day visit and return home to begin quarantining. I go to my daughter’s house the day before her scheduled c-section and stay for a week.

Early Monday morning, Martin Luther King Day, my son-in-law drives my girl to the hospital where together they will meet their precious daughter and learn to be a family in the time of Covid.

I take care of grandpets, Wren the dog and Bunga the cat. They are priorities until hospital discharge. I do not go anywhere except on walks with the dog. I avoid the hospital and will meet my precious grandbaby face to face when her parents bring her home.

Such is becoming Grandma in the time of Covid. There is much planning and preparing to keep fragile bodies safe, and it seems I am surrounded by fragility of life at both ends. Choosing to focus on becoming grandma means laying aside my daughter role and leaving the tending of Mom to capable siblings.

It means receiving and sending pictures of that precious new little one instead of visiting and holding her right away. It is FaceTiming to see that squishy little face and waiting for her parents to make public posts announcing her.

It is meeting her, finally, on her fourth day of life and snuggling and loving and rocking her. It is washing dishes and preparing food and tidying up. It is soaking up three days together before returning home, unsure of when I will see her next.

I return home with the understanding that I do not know when I will see sweet granddaughter in person again. My focus returns to Mom as my daughter learns to be Mom. She keeps little one safe and secure and isolated from the outside world, feeding, diapering, sleeping, and sending pictures.

Becoming Grandma in the time of Covid is my story. It is the feeling of joy and delight in seeing my daughter becoming a mom, and an amazing one at that. It is seeing my son-in-law as a wonderful daddy and seeing the best of them both in a tiny squish.

Making Room to Live

Siblings gather over the Christmas holiday. I stay at my parents’ house with sisters who have come from out-of-town, pretending that I, too, am an out-of-town sister. It is a sacred time of togetherness, one we will never get back in the same way, again.

Mom pulls each of her children aside to pass the jewelry she has selected for them. Her jewels and gems are thoughtfully divided. Costume jewelry is left to be sorted through, pieces that are meaningful selected by those who care to have them.

Daughters help sort through purses and drawers, clipping hair barrettes to their hair and stringing necklaces around their necks. Each day is a grand day to play dress-up. I wonder if Mom notices I am wearing something from her closet.

She notices.

I apologize for not asking first. It is understood that there is no need to apologize. We have Mom’s undivided attention, and she laughs and plays with us, and it is so bittersweet.

We bring papers and objects and articles of clothing to her, and she tells us what to do with them. The sorting, organizing, and purging is a collective effort. We notice and name how each of is both similar to and different from Mom and Dad. We bless and honor our unique blends of each.

It is mostly a giant Memory game ~ putting like with like, moving things around, asking questions. Remembering.

We write down pearls of wisdom Mom speaks and remind her it is not time for her to leave us until she has done the very last thing on the list. We laugh deeply and cry until no more tears come and love fiercely. This good woman, our mother, our human mother lives each day with us to the fullest.

We sing, voices blending as only sibling voices do, and Mom notes the depth, richness, and beauty of our sound. Your voices are growing stronger.

The week goes too fast, precious time never to return, and from the depths of my soul I am grateful for a mom who, even as she is dying, is making room to live.

What I Need

Black coffee sits to my left, bitter as the bitterness I feel in this season. My mother, weary, not herself, steadily declines as we watch.

How did this happen? Her days running out. Sands slipping faster through the glass. Dying as we continue to live.

Can I help?

I text this question to my sister-in-law one morning before another wave of family arrives and immediately receive an affirmative response and a list.

I try to learn from this.

What do you need is met with a busy signal in my head. I don’t know what I need.

What do I need?

I need my mom to not have cancer. I need big space that I don’t have. I need time, energy, and loads upon loads of grace.

I need to peel back all the extraneous and dive down to the core and then stay there with no expectations.

I need coffee, black and bitter, the drink I have shared with Mom from the beginning.

I need showers, hot and long. Time to meditate as the water pounds my skin.

I need to show up as I am and be seen and heard and understood.

I need engagement and rest and energy and breaks and a house that stays clean and litter pans that sift.

I need to love and teach my kids and care well for them.

I need to cry, wail, grieve, write, teach, cook, clean, work, rest, laugh, talk, sit, stand.

I need understanding that I’m not really sure what I need.

Hindsight 2020

Unicorn bath bomb swirls colors into steaming water. I watch, mesmerized, massaging coconut oil into my hair, a makeshift mask. I bless each dark strand that comes out in my hands. Its replacement will most likely be the color of wisdom.

Hindsight 2020 playlist fills the room with music. All the songs I didn’t know I needed this year, compiled into one list, inspired by Bethany Cabell’s annual Thanksgiving Playlist on Red Tent Living. I always choose random, not chronological, order when I listen.

Chili simmers in a crock pot on the kitchen counter. Just thinking of it’s recipe source, crock pot owner, and preparer brings tears. Such kindness surrounds me. Deep care.

I climb into hot, scented, sparkly unicorn water, letting tears fall. When a heart breaks brings sobs from a heart that has been broken for longer than I care to admit.

I have never been alone in this. Never not loved. Each song reminds me. Each link-sender seeing me in a vulnerable posture of heartache.

And yet an small place inside, a small person, just wants to be held. To not hold everything. To not be responsible for all of the intensity and pain in everyone else.

I see her. Feel her. Invite her to rest in the embrace of water and sparkles and love. I breathe in sweetness and spices and exhale grief. I hold her and let her be held.

Weeks to (New) Months

October 1 finds me reflective and with a deeper understanding of what the phrase weeks to months actually means. When Mom began chemo the first week of September, it was to give more months, not years, according to the oncologist.

Chemo was brutal. One round caused such misery that to continue for a few more months of torture to extend days was not sustainable. Mom chose hospice care instead, allowing her to live more fully and with more presence in this season.

Mom looks beautiful in her brightly colored turbans!

Eight weeks and three days since the initial heartbreaking scan, life settles into a routine of change. Each week grows day by day, then adds up with the next to create another month. And that is what we are given, a string of days, weeks, months.

We won September, full of family visits, kids settling in to school, and shifts in business and work loads. We practice turning towards each other. There was a photo shoot to capture us with Mom.

Mom and I share a moment during the photo shoot before our own mini-session. She is always radiant in red.

October brings new rhythms and boundaried settledness. Time and energy are precious resources. The walks across town, to and from my parents’ house, a sort of sacred rhythm, ground me in presence as I transition from mother to daughter and back again.

Sighting a heart shape on the brick walkway or a changing leaf from a nearby tree bring comfort and calm to the sometimes-chaos of my heart.

A heart-shaped blob on the sidewalk reminds me that love is all around me. I only have to keep my eyes open for it.
Change is the constant.

I drink coffee outside with Mom this morning, our usual Thursday routine. We enjoy the crisp air and birdsongs and sighting of a butterfly on the fence. Mostly we enjoy the rhythm and ritual and the gift of a new month.

Look closely to see birds on top of the fence and a butterfly resting, as well.
Mom wearing the prayer shawl made for her by a dear friend, Rosie.

These are the moments that matter in the weeks to months that remain. Thank you to all who continue to offer such gentle care, kindness, and understanding as we navigate the present while looking ahead to the uncertain future.

Flock

Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly, not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. 1 Peter 5:2 NLT

Here is today’s word and page. The verse says it all. This is truly where I am right now in life. Posting this from my phone and signing off to spend the evening with my love, after I read to a child, of course.