Monday, May 31, 2010

Eight Years!

“Ain’t life grand?” My Nanny used to say at eighty, while she crossed her legs, hiked up her skirt to show her knees, and sipped a glass of brandy.

Yes indeed.

I had met my Norman at a party one month earlier and after exchanging some rather mind boggling information that revealed how our paths had crossed twenty-five years before, I had decided that we absolutely were not going to go down any road together. I was not going to be railroaded by anyone, and that includes the universe!

Then my Nina and her love, Mario, came to visit me and be with me for the sprinkling of my beloved golden retriever, Julius’ ashes in his favorite mountain meadow. I had not been ready for this before, but suddenly I was, and so they came. We had a glorious visit, complete with a wild Rocky Mountain May snowstorm, and then a picnic and a final farewell to Julius.

I had scheduled a friend to accompany us on the midnight trek back to the Denver airport but at the very last minute he ducked out. What to do? I didn’t feel comfortable driving these roads alone at night and so I spontaneously called up Norman. Without a moment’s hesitation the new plan to escort Nina and Mario to their red eye flight was hatched and in play.

We four drove in the moonlight through the Colorado backroads from Boulder to Denver. Nina and Mario in the backseat, Norman and I in the front. Nina had forever nixed any male who crossed our family thresh-hold who was a possible romantic interest for me. I didn’t consider Norman to be in this category and so on this night I slipped into a peaceful lull as the easy conversation between Norman and the two back seat riders droned on and on. Then, suddenly we were at the airport.

In a flurry, Nina and Mario leapt out of the car, scooped up their bags and we all hugged our ‘good-byes’. As Nina and I held each other she whispered into my ear “Earth to Mom, this guy’s great” and then disappeared into the departure crowd.

As Norman and I drove back to Boulder I watched him in the moonlight as Nina’s words echoed in my brain and the veils lifted from my eyes. As he drove we talked about Nina and Mario and life and a soft sensation of companionship enveloped me and I felt quietly as if I’d handed over the reigns of my responsibilities, just for a few moments. It felt good. When we pulled up into my driveway we sat, and then I took his hand in mine and slid over and kissed him.

And they lived happily ever after.

The moral of this story is: Wake up! And listen to your daughters when the moon is full.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Today, Today, Today

This morning after being violently slayed by a twenty-four hour bug I woke up with a jolt at exactly 8:30. I had been visited all night by dearly beloveds that have passed; so clearly visited that I don’t feel that I was dreaming. My sister, Margaret said to me, after I apologized for forgetting a treasure shell that I found for her and then left at the beach by mistake, that she would not be seeing me for a long long time but we would be together again. And then I woke and saw the clock.

Today today today would have been my mother’s 91st birthday and it’s also the day, two years ago that my father left the planet. 8:30 is the moment that I arrived at the hospital to find him gone but still warm. Dad had passed fifteen minutes before while we were en route and I took his hand in mine and held it until it was cold. Hands. The hands of our parents and our children. We know every single curve and freckle, don’t we? I have heard forever that there is a peace in death, that the body looks restful at last. This is not what I saw. I absolutely believe that Dad did ultimately choose to give himself to Mom as a birthday present but the decision was a tough one, he fought passionately for his life, and what I saw was not ‘peace’ but simply an empty body.

And so forever this day is a combination of feelings for me. Mom’s birthday! Dad’s passing day. If only we could all slip away effortlessly into the great beyond then perhaps one could feel more quiet around passing days. I wonder how long my mind will take me on the journey and images of those brutal 105 days that were Dad’s last. I see his eyes looking at me, more vulnerable than I had ever experienced. Yes, this is a gift; but the agony and pleading expression eats at my heart. We all need to learn to accept the suffering of others as their journey, I know, but the soul is supremely tested when face to face with that integral component of the human condition. Having said this it hardly seems fair that God orchestrated it so that the elderly, after all that they have lived through to reach these ripe ages, then need to be physically and emotionally put through the ringer as their last hurrah. I guess that’s the rub. We’ll only know when it’s our turn, won’t we?

Happy Birthday Mom! I can hear Dad laughing right now and I know that you’ve somehow conjured up an angel food cake with squishy chocolate frosting and colored sprinkles. Make a wish! Both of you!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mother's Day Take Two

When my first daughter, Melanie, was born, her father and I lived in a tiny house out in the country, on a little lake, in Minnesota. This was a dwelling where, for eight months of the year, thick ice grew on the inside of the windows and I had to sit in one spot in front of a pot bellied stove to keep warm. Thank goodness Melanie was born in July!

That first month was of course a month of re-grouping around the new reality of being parents. I was quickly designated 'pc' (primary caretaker), hence Melanie was my job, twenty-four seven. Job? Yes. And joy and wonder and miracle and delight and companion. During that first week at home, when her minute tummy needed regular filling and and my own deep sleep was now a stranger, I would pull myself out of bed in the middle of the night to feed her. One night I carried her downstairs to nurse her. We sat in the semi darkness in my Nanny's rocking chair, with each of our two dogs (a wolf-like Siberian Husky named Sasha and a gloriously plumey Collie named Maggie) on either side of me. I put on a record of Sarah Vaughn's singing and brought Melanie to my breast. There we sat in the darkness, rocking and being together, ALL of us. I watched Melanie's little hands squeeze and unsqueeze and her face shift from intense sucking to soft relaxation. Her eyes closed and I moved her gently to my shoulder to pat out the little air bubbles and WHOOP! Up came the milk, ALL of it, with a PLOP, onto the rug, over my shoulder, right in front of Maggie's nose. Maggie took one look at it, looked over to Sasha, who was watching like a cat, and both dogs vamoosed to the upstairs. Melanie looked at me with a wobbly little head, I looked at her, Sarah Vaughn kept right on singing and the thought went through my head "OH MY GOD! This is real! For the next twenty years I will be the one who takes care of this baby! No matter what anyone else says, THIS IS MY JOB!". Little did I know that it's not twenty years, it's forever in a mother's heart. FOREVER.

Last week Melanie took me to see a Renoir exhibit at Lacma. My soul felt home and happy. There is a comfort that is unique unto motherhood (and not necessarily SO for the offspring) in being together. Even with the differences that pop and bloom and the challenges in human connection, the soul recognizes this other with pure joy. This gallery expedition will so far forever be my favorite because of the moments we shared. Being with her. Being with my daughter. When our children are grown, these shared moments are sparkles of dancing light on the pool of life. Thank you Melanie.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mother's Day

Mother’s Day. A day of flowers and cards and phone calls and sweet “Thank you’s”, and looking into the eyes either in this world or our mind’s eyes of the woman who first hugged and kissed us.

This is my second Mother’s Day without my mother. I still can hardly believe that she isn’t here in the flesh but my truth is that I can hear her voice in my head after she picks up the phone, post stroke, and says “Hello Francie, how are you today?” and I can hear her laugh when I begin to recount my saga of the moment and then her answer of “Oh my!”.

Mothers. How more complicated can any relationship be than mothers and daughters?

When I was 10 years old I decided for Mother’s Day that I wanted to buy my mother something. We were living in India and we had visited an English shop together where I had spied a little box in the shape of a plaid beret with a bottle of perfume tucked into the middle. I fancied this and as we walked home I fell slightly behind her as I conjured up a plan to acquire it and watched her hips sway back and forth. I said “Mommy, you’re so pretty”. She turned around laughing and said ‘Oh don’t be silly! I have a nose that’s much too long and my hips are too big”. All I had ever noticed was that she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen and now I had to notice what she pointed out. Lifetimes later, as a mother myself, one day one of my daughters said “Mommy, you’re so pretty” to me. My mind flipped back the pages in a whirr and my answer was “I know. You’re so lucky to have such a pretty Mama’! Life had taught me to build every positive notion that I possibly could in my young daughter’s minds around their Mama because the day would come when all kinds of shoes would fall on how beautiful they perceived me to be!

Mom. Oh Mom. The life that you infused our family with! Not always joyous to say the least but who would any of us be without you having been at the bow of the ship? I’m speechlessly grateful that you and I healed our chasms. My mother, myself. Is this true? Yes. Now that you are not on this earth I see how deeply my soul reactions mirror yours. Yes, I can hear your voice, your laugh, your critiques, your sorrows. I can see your face and feel your hands. Happy Mother’s Day Mom, up there, in here, and thank you.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Rumi said if you wake up in the night, GET UP! This is the time to be with yourself and with God.

And so I obeyed last night and now as the dawn creeps in with the twittering of birds and pale light I am plum tuckered out but happy in my soul.

Tis May! My brain wants to to be giddy as according to Camelot this is the month for lusting and singing and dancing and rolling in the lilacs. I feel a quiet euphoric sweetness for the layers and layers of sensory memories that the word ‘May’ conjures.

What a wonder this exquisite planet is. For seasons and cycles to return on schedule with sublime familiarity and yet if one looks there are new twists to old themes around every corner. I saw a whole wall of huge purple blossoms yesterday that I have never seen before and each one had a giant bumble bee busy at work in its center. I thought that I had seen every flower there was to see and as my mother’s daughter I know most by name. Mom, oh Mom, where are you? I found a new flower that I want to show you!

What a wonder time is. What a miracle to be able to call this beautiful earth ‘home’ for all of these years and smile with knowing her and not knowing her. These bodies of ours cover a lot of ground in a lifetime. Ground on the earth. Our feet walk, one in front of the other, and carry us through time, through space, through hardships, through joys over land and on land. It’s so easy not to see where we are as we become lulled by the walk itself.

May is here. Eyes open!