Archive for December, 2014

Goodbye,Helladays

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There are so many good things about the Holiday season. I enjoy meals with family, cook and wrap presents. I take photos and watch the little ones open their gifts with innocence and excitement. I clean up the mess of wrapping paper, just as I did ten years ago. From the outside, nothing appears that different, I suppose. I know I should have a better attitude, but it seems to become more difficult to endure this “happy time” every year, when it isn’t happy for me.

I feel like I spent most of my Christmas this year alone. I managed a “tree cutting with my son and his friends, decorating a different tree-(the first one, a white pine was just too spindly),eating at my Aunts, a family tradition and seeing my grand kids play together on her floor as everyone laughed and gobbled down snacks and a ham dinner. . Still, Christmas Eve alone was miserable. My youngest son that has is still at home has a girlfriend who he is either with or talking to, my husband watches TV and hangs out in the living room. I kept hoping my son would come watch TV with me after his girlfriend went home, but he didn’t. Wasn’t it only a year or two ago that he stayed near me and comforted me as I cried over his brother or helped me down the steps at the Gingerbread House display when I was hurting so bad that it was difficult to walk?

My father passed away in August, between hospital and “rehab” stays, spending the summer with my family and being in hospice twice before I could no longer care for him. It was horrible. He has always been so active and often refused to let us help him. When he began to fall and get hurt, I had no choice but to seek help. We found the nicest nursing home we could-dad’s memory was in and out. Sometimes, he talked and told stories, other times, he was asking how “my mother and I” got him put in that place, even though it has been nearly four years since I lost my mother. When he asked my daughter one day if she thought he would ever be able to go home , she held him and whispered, “I don’t think so-I’m sorry.” Three weeks later he was gone. Not because of what she said, but because he had heard what he already knew was true from his oldest grand daughter and he couldn’t bear it.

It may seem odd, but I have grieved them both this year, as I cleaned out their house. I will never stop grieving the 15 year old who should be 2 now, who collapsed and died while simply playing baseball.

I read the newspaper and see all of the tragedies around the world. Those who have lost family to violence or war, and find myself feeling guilty. I see how many people in my neighborhood live alone or are elderly, their families far away. They look forward to these days as being one of the few times that they see their families, when I see most of my family every week.

One of my daughters had to spend her baby’s first Christmas away from her, because she was too sick with the flu to care for her. Thankfully she is better now. I think it is easy for family to forget that those of us who are not well, depressed, or grieving need joy in our holidays too. My children are busy with their young families or girlfriends. My husband and I don’t have a joyful relationship like we used to. We live here, we talk when we have to. He is healthy, doing what he wants. I am not, and find myself longing for happier times with a loving family and my own little children around me.

Yesterday was my birthday-I got phone calls from my kids and a card from my aunt. That’s all. Today, my son got his drivers license. Although I am glad to see him get the chance to grow up, unlike his older brother, these rites of passage for him, find me looking to even more loneliness and worry.

It seems the more I try to find happiness in these times, the more difficult if becomes. I admit to wiping a few stray tears at the Christmas play when my tall, handsome son played “Joseph” as the rest of the cast were modern day characters with attitudes rather like my own. Of course at the end, my “Joseph” had made them realize the true meaning of Christmas, but, sadly, going home to find myself watching reruns alone quickly dispelled that mood.

I look away, pretending to be distracted, hoping some well-meaning clerk won’t ask if I had a good holiday. I breathe a sigh of relief when she picks the next person in line to share he cheer with. I come home to an empty house and wait on my newly “freed” son to get home. The cat howls in the next room as if she is as sad as I am.

I’m sorry, world, if the holidays aren’t what they used to be. I’m sorry I avoid the cheery clerks and church folks at the play. I’m sorry I went to sleep at my Aunts and woke up crying. To those of you who still can, I wish a happy season. For those who feel like I do, we just wish it was over.

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After The Flood

AFTER THE FLOOD

It was just the day before wIMG_0183hen my grandson and I had been looking for “crayfish ‘n lizards” in the little creek that runs through my uncles yard.

Over night a wicked storm had come through that turned the neighborhood into a lake.

Footbridges washed away, shrubbery, flowers, gone.

It taught us a lesson in appreciating what we have-today, the creek is lined with huge boulders to “hold back the rain.” It is ugly, the creek went from natural to today’s version of protecting our homes, tainted only by the tears of a grandma who remembered.

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Christmas Past

DSCN2231I remember those magical days-

children running in from the bus

to see what new presents

had suddenly appeared under the tree.

I remember the magic of lights-

the “oohs and ahhhs” as the switch came on.

The weeks of “what I want for Christmas”

coming from innocent souls.

Then the chorus of “and that’s all…”

followed by several more favorites.

Yesterday, my babies, my life-

The Joy on their faces, on my face as well.

Today, I lay here alone, a tree with no presents.

Sits in a “living room” no one plays in.

I pick up a sick grandchild from school,

Drive by a graveyard-when one of them lies.

I wonder, today, with life having little meaning,

how those days, when we were so poor,

when those “wants” really did magicially appear.

If it is worth it now, the memories, all I have.

My sick heart pounds, the hot tears roll,

down lonely cheeks as teens tell me

“I won’t be home after school, I have to hurry.”

There are dinner and parties, friends, life.

Please remember, children of today,

that life goes by so fast, that todays’ kids

are tomorrows adults, with kids of their own.

And we, who once were so needed and loved.

Have grown old as my babies grew up.

I put up a tree, as my youngest insisted.

But no joy of a new present  hiding  there today.

Just memories, the awareness of time rushing by…

Like the old Scrooge Tale, it is-

Christmas Past, Present, Future.

I must remember that life moves on, even if

it drags me kicking and screaming.

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The Once and Future Homeplace

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No! Stephie cried when she heard that her relatives were selling the family farm. She had begged her mother to help her save it and her mother was definitely an advocate of saving it, but it wasn’t “hers”. It wasn’t I her name and all of her begging and all of her daughter’s tears and heartfelt letters didn’t change what was to come.

Her mother described it as “like a death”, as they tried not to watch the bulldozers build roads and then driveways. Sometimes. They would swallow their pride and go on walks up the now, ruined valley that had once been so beautiful, so unusual, with its north side and south side and the different plant life that chooses each environment.

It was heart breaking to trudge over the humps of dirt where the developers were making roads. Stephie remembered the days when she had walked these hills with her grandmother, aunt and mother. She remembered the galax plants on the end of the north side and the stream where cattle had crossed, making it wider and melodious as it tumbled over the rocks. Stephie grew up going to the pasture with her mom and hunting “lizards and crayfish” in the creek. The memory of it was one of her childhood favorites.

Stephie was afraid of the cattle and the goat her grandparents kept in the pasture. She once cut her had badly trying to make it through the barbed-wire fence when a bull charged her. She remembered the six-foot long black snakes in the barn and the garter snakes that surprised her as she jumped the small ditches that ran down the hillsides. But this place was like heaven and she could not imagine that a realtor with a wad of money had convinced her aunt and uncle to sell the property they once cherished.

Of course she knew their age and health and the death of her grandparents, who lived into their 90’s was part of it. But Stephie had always thought the family would be asked if they wanted to buy it first, or at least, that it would be left to the nieces and nephews in a will.

The houses of the wealthy began to replace the small streams and spring beauty, the curvy road was not in the place the cattle trail had been, it was soon taken over by briars and weeds. A cousin rescued the old bathtub the cattle drank from. Though she never understood her aunts and uncles motivation, and though she cried over it, told them how it hurt her many times, she forgave them and loved them and sometimes watched an eight-tack tape of the pasture before the developers ruined it.

Decades went by, Stephie married and bought the “old family home” on a road nearby. Her older children remembered the pasture, the younger did not. In her mind, she never got over the desire to buy some land, have it belong to their family, and for them to value it like she did. She taught her children and grandchildren that there were more things like TV’s computers, fancy houses, clothes, but God made only so much land and when it was gone, it was gone. Period.

Sometimes she felt a bit selfish for the hurt she felt towards her beloved aunt, but there must have been some issue her aunt would not reveal to her that made her separate herself from the love of that place with the beautiful view where she build her house and had her farm. She had kept her home and a few acres, but Stephie feared she would sell them too and a rich person would tear down the house and build a mansion, after all, the house had the best best view in the valley. She would do everything she could to keep that from happening!

One day, Stephie, who was the grandmother of quite a few grandchildren by now, saw an ad for a farm about 40 miles away with a small farm house, a trout stream and 20 acres. Her heart trembled.DSCN1676

She nervously called the number of the farm which was on the border of the next state, in a very rural area with isolated mountains. A man who sounded very old answered the phone with a wavering voice. “I don’t want to sell my farm,” he said, fighting tears. “I don’t want to see it developed or ruined, I love this place, it is my heart. My wife died last year and we have no children, I just want someone to love it like I did.”

Stephie fought back her own tears, and quietly told the old man, “Then you’ve found your girl’. She told him the story of lost farm, how it hurt her and that she wanted her grand children to get to spend time out in the wild places that she remembered from her youth. “I don’t know where I will go….” the man said softly. “How about nowhere?” Stephie smiled.

“What?” The old man said and as he held his breath, Stephie realized they had not even introduced them selves and told him her name. “My name is John Withers,” he said. “Have you ever heard of a “life estate” she asked and when Mr. Withers said “no”, Stephie attempted to explain to him how she would buy the farm now, but not take possession of it until after his passing.

Mr. Withers was in tears by now. “I know God sent you to me.” he sniffled. I prayed every night that some one would come along who would love this place like I do,” Stephie laughed, “Well, life has not been good to me, and praying isn’t easy but I have hoped and even tried to pray hat I could find a place like yours for my family to have-forever. They both sat silently for a minute and then she laughed, “You know, I haven’t even seen your property, but I know, without a doubt, that I will love it., When can we come and meet you?”

Somewhere inside her, Stephie felt a peace that she could not even remember. She had actually made someone happy and in the process, fulfilled her lifetime dream as well. A few weeks later a van load of Stephie’s family rumbled up the long dirt road to meet Mr. Withers. From the moment they saw the land, they knew it was the place they were supposed to have, They would share it, enjoy weekends there, holidays together, maybe have a garden again. Mr. Withers had offered them use of the land when ever they wished,if he could just live in the house. Stephie talked about build one, just one big house up on the hill for her big family, and Mr. Withers gladly agreed.

It had been 40 years since Stephie’s heart was broken by the ale of “her farm” the one she grew up next to. She had given up on ever being able to afford to find another one. After all the years, all the tears, sorrow, and pain, something had worked out right for two strangers. Stephie was sure that Mr. Withers would have a bigger family now than he ever imagined!

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