Tag Archives: Family

March 31 – Remembering Angie

by Marilea Rabasa

When Angie came out of that first rehab, she made me the most beautiful gift.

rabasa 3

“Mom, I’m not quite finished with it. I just have a few more flowers to cut. You’ll need to find a 17-by-22-inch frame to mount it on. Sorry it’s such an odd size. Guess I wasn’t thinking. I copied it from one of my Chinese art books. I hope you like it!”

Right now it’s hanging in my room for me to see. Over the years I’ve taken it on and off the wall, hidden it in a closet, too painful for me to look at. Maybe it’s a sign of my recovery. Now I can leave it on the wall, look at it, and appreciate all the work she put into it. This was her way, I believe, of telling me she loved me and she was sorry, not for getting sick, but for what that sickness drove her to do to me. She never, ever, was able to express her feelings easily with words. So she showed me, in countless ways, as she did once in December 1993.

“Where the hell is that $300 I put away for safekeeping? If you kids want any Christmas presents, you’d better help me find it now,” I shouted, panicking at the thought of losing my hard-earned cash. I was so scattered sometimes. I was perfectly capable of misplacing it.

“Found it, Mom! Don’t you remember when you hid it in this book? Well, here it is. Aren’t you glad I’m as honest as I am?”

“Yes, Angie, my darlin girl, I am. And thank you!”

Years are passing by, and sometimes it’s hard to remember her as she was. But when I look at the tapestry she made, I remember:

Angie had a fascination for all things Asian–Chinese, Japanese, it didn’t matter. She loved the grace and flow of much of the artwork. She copied a simple series of flowers. But she did it not with paint or pencil or pen; she cut out every pistil, not completely detailed, a few sepals in place, the rest scattered, all the ovaries in different colors for contrast, every leaf, in varying sizes and colors, every stem, and glued it all together on a piece of gold cloth. It looked just like the picture in her book.

I treasure this gift she made. The tapestry is twelve years old, and sometimes a petal comes unglued and I have to put it back on. I should put it under glass to preserve it. I wish we could put our children under glass–to keep them safe.

I would soon discover, though, that no matter what I did for Angie it would never be enough to protect her from the illness that was consuming her.”

41Q8FrpFJHL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Marilea Rabasa grew up in New England. How she got to the Southwest is an interesting tale. For several years she was an ESL teacher in Virginia. Before that, she lived overseas in the Foreign Service. She may draw from my travels to write my sequel memoir. She lives with her partner in New Mexico now summers on Puget Sound.

Find her online at http://www.recoveryofthespirit.com/.

March 31 – Ghost Story

by Linda Hoye

Benson and beyond-1 (600x429)

The ghost lets me know she needs to stop again; I’ve momentarily forgotten her. I pull over and get out of the car to listen to the silence again, but I’m surprised to find that it really isn’t silent at all. I hear the click click click of grasshoppers flying and birds singing. In the distance, where the sky is now dark and angry, a fork of lightning reaches down to touch the prairie. Like me, it can’t resist just a touch of the land. The boom of thunder follows.

“The giants are bowling!” the ghost calls back to me as she runs across the field.

I smile at her exuberance.

Saskatchewan’s warm wind wraps around me. You are home, she whispers. I’ve heard that one can’t go home again, but I don’t want to believe it. I want to be home; I need to be home. The sky opens up and the rain starts; I look out in the direction where I saw the ghost running. Her face is turned toward the sky and her arms are waving above her head; she’s dancing in the rain. I can hear her laughter faintly in the distance.

The same rain the ghost is dancing in falls on me as I watch her carefree movements. I lift my own face toward the sky, and the cool rain mingles with the tears I am powerless to hold back. I close my eyes and let the rain wash the tears from my face as I breathe deeply, the scent of the summer rain like aromatherapy for my bruised and broken heart.

I should call the ghost back; I should get going; Aunt Edie is expecting me.

But I don’t move; I stand still and let the raindrops mingle with my tears and allow myself to let go, to weep deeply, to feel the anguish I’ve held in so tightly for too long, the grief to which I’ve been afraid to surrender. I grieve for the deaths of Mom and Dad, for the pain of not having them in my life, the sorrow I feel at having had them so briefly. I grieve for the death of my dreams, the breakdown of my marriage, the emptiness I feel inside, the mantle of responsibility so heavy on my shoulders. I grieve for my children and the mistakes I’ve made and the mistakes I see them making. I grieve for the loss of my birth mother. And I grieve for myself.

When I am spent, I open my eyes. The rain is just a drizzle now, and in the distance there is a break in the clouds. I turn my head, prepared to call the ghost back, but I’m surprised to see her standing next to me. She is simply standing there, looking up at me with eyes as big as plates,  her hair like long wet strings. I squat down and gently take her face in my hands.

Thank you for coming with me today, I tell her.

She smiles, and we get back in the car; this time I invite the ghost to sit in the front, beside me. I pull out onto the prairie road and turn the car around in the opposite direction from the way we were traveling before.

“What are you doing?” the ghost asks. “Stoughton is that way.”

I know. It’s not much farther, and we’ve got plenty of time.

“But where are we going?” she asks.

We’re going back to get your tadpoles.

Her face lights up with a big smile and I reach over and take her hand in mine.

 

(Hoye, Linda, Two Hearts: An Adoptee’s Journey Through Grief to Gratitude, Benson Books, 2012)

Linda Hoye is a writer, editor, adoptee, and a somewhat-fanatical grandma whose work has appeared in an assortment of publications in Canada and the U.S. Her memoir, Two Hearts: An Adoptee’s Journey Through Grief to Gratitude, is the story of her journey through the abyss of grief and coming out the other side whole, healed, and thankful.

 

Retime-1 (179x269) (2)red from a twenty-five-year corporate career , she lives in British Columbia, Canada with her husband and their doted-upon Yorkshire Terrier where she finds contentment in her kitchen, at her writing desk, behind her camera, and in her garden. 

February 2 – Into Her World

by Letty Watt

Photo by Cristie Guevara courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net.

Photo by Cristie Guevara courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net.

My friends, whose loved ones have suffered before with the trembles of aging say to me, “Go to her world. Just listen. Don’t criticize. Don’t explain. Don’t tell her she’s wrong or confused.”

My heart understands, but my mouth, too often, says the wrong things. At ninety-two my mother-in-law’s world is spinning out of control as her body bends, and her mind becomes entangled with what is real and what is imagined.

Sitting in the lobby at the assisted living center to watch people and chat with others is one of her favorite times of day. She needs people to interact with, and we are thankful that she’s still alert enough to get out of her room. Some days her reality is similar to ours, but more often than not her fears and recurring nightmares leave her nearly paralyzed with fear.

I watched my husband the other day, as he walked into his mother’s room. Her eyes were closed, and her head drifted to the side. Her hands, worn from decades of playing the guitar and piano, rested on her purse. Her walker stood in front of her knees and feet like a faithful dog, ready to assist her. My husband knelt on one knee and touched her hands. “Hi, Mom.”

Her head rose slowly and a gentle smile formed across her lips. The sparkle in her eyes seemed slow to shine. “Oh, Jack. I’m so glad you’re here. I’ve called you and called you.”

She looked up at me.

“I’ve called you both all day long. Please do something. Everyone is moving out fall today, and I need help. They’ve left me here alone. I don’t think I can drive myself.”

My heart raced upon hearing the fear and confusion in her voice. My husband calmly patted his mother’s hands, and remained on the floor eye-level with her.

“I’m sorry that’s happened Mom. I will take care of it. Remember that John and I will always find a way to keep you safe.”

She nodded and dropped her head slightly, “Can I go home now?”

“Mom, I’m here now. I won’t let anything happen to you. Oh, look out the window at the birds feeding.”

Her head lifted and turned to the sunshine in the window. “I like to watch out the window and see who is coming to visit. Yesterday, I saw John drive through the parking lot, but he didn’t stop to come see me. Why not?”

“I’m sure he drove by on his way to work and waved at you. He wanted you to know that you were safe. Do you have some pictures of the twins to show us?”
She shuffled through her purse, finding the present day in an envelope of pictures from her grandchildren.

Beaming with pride, she said, “They are so cute. Evelyn is walking now, and Eleora talks a lot. She’s just like me.” The sparkle returned to her eyes.

lettyWriting soothes Letty Watt’s soul and clears her mind. She began writing a weekly blog over five years ago, with the purpose of building a repertoire of stories for telling aloud, but things changed. Now she writes because stories hidden in the recesses of her mind are begging to get out into the world. Check out her blog, Literally Letty, at https://literallyletty.blogspot.com.
—————————————————————————

November 25 – Taking Back MY Life

by Letty Watt

FullSizeRender (1) (600x357)

One day this fall, while sitting on the front porch somewhat dazed with the day’s events, tears streamed down my cheeks, my stomach rolled over in a knot, and then I cried from deep within my belly. Letting it go opened my eyes to my heart.

Angrily, I pounded my fist on the bench, and to no one I muttered, “This is not the life I planned.” With this recognition the tears stopped. I stormed into the house, grabbed paper and pencil, and began to write. Rather than writing in story format, I found myself making a list of obligations: grandma, family, husband, dog, friends, golf, football weekends, house, chores, and even more excuses or things to blame than I can recall.

The tears and frustrations wore me down, and I enjoyed a relaxing afternoon siesta. Upon awakening I realized that my list should have read: “Letty’s List of Excuses.” It felt like being in a comic strip. The next frame read: “What to do Next???” Third: “Make a Plan!?” Last: “But, it’s dinner time, and I have things to do!”–imagine the foot kicking the cabinets.

During the night I remembered seeing a young writer’s schedule and notebook. She colored coded a clock face with every activity she performed throughout the day. Smarter than that, she blacked out three hours daily to write. As she explained, “Three hours is the least I can do and expect to be a writer.” At breakfast I drew a clock, and made a list of categories. Handing it to my husband, I asked, “Could you please use your computer to make a series of six clocks on a page with a ‘legend’ on the margin? It would help me so much to know where my time is going. The excuses have me worn down, and it’s nobody’s fault but my own.” We reflected on a time in the early nineties when we each followed a Franklin Planner to keep our lives on track. By noon he handed me the clocks, and I produced the colored pencils. We played with our creation for an afternoon.

I’d like to say that in twenty-four hours I managed to take back my life. The truth is that it took another month of diligently color coding those clocks before I honestly understood how I had given away my life. The twelve-hour clocks were mostly colored in greens (family/social life) and yellows (chores/errands). What I wanted to see were more reds (writing/reading) and blues (exercise/golf/gardening). After a week my mind yelled, “Relax!” so I added a soft purple box and began making time to relax. I smiled with relief.

I still spend time with family and friends. I do it on my schedule, not at the whim or whine from a phone call. For the moment, I’ve reclaimed my life, or maybe just today.

It’s raining. It’s cold. I’m inside and writing. No phone calls. No meetings. I’m writing. After retirement and a move, I readily admit that I lost control of my life’s dreams, to finish a novel. The color coded clocks redirected and helped me find my path.

Letty Watt loves to share stories that people can relate to. She has been writing stories on her blog, Literally Letty, since 2010.

August 12 – Quiet in the Storm of Life

by Martha Slavin

park-1319135773TYsHave you had a chance to step outside today and take a deep breath of air? What about a walk in a park where you can be among the trees and grasses?

Today at Osage Park, I walk by a white-haired man reading to his son. His son is not young either, but he sits in a wheelchair with a baseball cap on, with his head slumped against his chest. I wonder about the man. How had he found the reserve in himself to sit quietly with his son and read to him long after his son’s childhood?

We expect our children to grow, leave our homes, and make their way in the world. As with a few of my friend’s children, sometimes that doesn’t happen. Instead, intense parenting, including bathing, dressing, and feeding, continues for a lifetime with help during the school years, but after that, little respite. I watch my friends as they struggle with daily life and find joy in small things. They find resources outside their homes to help their grown children and to give themselves the needed breathing room from the strains of daily parenting care.

A lifelong caregiver could easily be filled with resentment and discontent. Yet I have seen my friends open a space within themselves that gives them the chance to have an accepting and grateful life. Not that they don’t rail against the sky or ask themselves time and time again, “Why me?”

As I walk by the man and his son, I think that the quiet moments allow them to embrace the life they have in a way they never envisioned for themselves. Seeing them together I can see the beauty and grace in the life they have absorbed. Those quiet times carry with them a sense of peace that I was able to share for just a few seconds on my walk around the park.

Martha Slavin is an artist and writer. Her blog, Postcards in the Air, can be found each Friday at www.marthaslavin.blogspot.com She also writes poetry, memoir pieces, and essays. She creates handmade books, works in mixed media, watercolor, and does letterpress. She lives with her husband and two cats in California.

August 10 – All Those Old Photos

by Fran Simone

My husband, Terry, an only child, died eighteen years ago. His mother, Zona, died last year. Her nephew settled her estate. She didn’t have much except for a truckload of old photos taken from the time of Terry’s birth until our last visit to her home in Dallas few months before he died. At Zona’s graveside service,  Bobby asked, “Do you want anything from her apartment?” I asked for some photos.

Many months later four huge boxes arrived. Three contained hundreds of black and white photos. Terry in his Daniel Boone outfit, his Boy Scout uniform, his high chair, his swim shorts. Opening presents on Christmas morning and wearing a tux at his high school prom. You get the picture. Hundreds of pictures. .

After culling through three boxes I sent photos to Terry’s cousins and stuffed the remainder in a cabinet that already houses hundreds, or maybe thousands, of family photos taken over a period of forty years (most jammed into shoe boxes).
I wish I could emulate my friend, Bonnie, who has made it her mission to cull through and organize old photos and give them to family members and friends. While visiting her a few weeks ago she “returned” several taken during our annual vacation at Holden Beach in North Carolina. Lovely memories.

The fourth box contained a large oil which I suspect was painted when my husband was in high school. He appears neat and conservative, with a soft smile and no glasses (he always wore glasses). Definitely painted before his hippie phase. It had been prominently displayed in the living room of Zona’s tiny bungalow and later moved to her assisted living apartment in Texarkana, Texas, home of Ross Perot and perhaps the ugliest city in the United State. But I digress.

Although many pictures of my husband are displayed throughout my home, I did not hang Terry’s portrait. In fact, it sits in its original packing box in the garage along with tools, flower pots, old paint cans and other paraphernalia. It feels irreverent to part with it, yet I know that I will never hang it in my home. Therein lies my dilemma. What the hell do I do with it, or for that matter, the thousands of old photos sitting in shoe boxes? Do I bite the bullet and sort through them like my friend Bonnie? Or do I bequeath that task to my kids after I’m gone? I know one thing. If I decide to downsize to smaller digs, I’m in trouble.

Fran Simone’s memoir, Dark Wine Waters: A Husband of a Thousand Joys and Sorrows was published in 2014. She blogs on family and addiction for Psychology Today. This essay on old photos developed from a writing prompt from ecircle 9.

July 17 – No Explanation

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

“I don’t believe this,” I exclaimed to my husband. “The caregiver at ARC informs me that Stephen needs a new wheelchair. The one just purchased last year is already missing a headrest and a foot rest.”

Stephen lives in a home for the disabled; as he was born with profound disabilities and was predicted to die within weeks, then months which now have become 50 years this August 17, 2015.

Oh, I made an attempt to keep him at home, until sleepless nights coupled with uncontrollable seizures gave me no choice but to relinquish his care in a setting where caregivers had 8 hour shifts; thus relieving them of the constancy of his care.

These caregivers are only paid a minimum wage. Thus, the constancy of his care is compromised by the frequency of staff leaving for a better paying job. And, yet, the legislature drags their feet regarding any increase in the minimum wage for workers caring for the ‘least of these among us.

Their primary concern is to halt all abortions. You know their spiel about the sanctity of life, blah, blah, blah. Does that include quality of life as well? Have any of them visited or cared for a child who is profoundly disabled in all facets of their bodies?

Stephen needs touch and a constant pair of eyes and ears. Vicky, a massage therapist, gives him a massage twice a month and then reports to me the state, or lack thereof, of his home and care. She has become my eyes and ears regarding his care.

Stephen, I pray that when you and I both are not bound by the limits of the physical realm we can have a conversation about all these years and the profound impact they have had on each of our lives.

Patricia Roop HollingerPatricia is a retired LCPC/Chaplain from a inpatient/outpatient psychiatric hospital as of 2010. She is a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and the daughter of a mother who will be 102 on July 12th, 2015. She is a voracious reader, musician, lover of cats, and is currently exploring her writing skills.