Saturday, July 13, 2013

Learning how to let go....

At the end of the blockbuster movie, "Titanic", after the ship sinks, Jack and Rose are hanging onto a piece of wood, hoping for rescue.  Rose notices that Jack is slipping into unconsciousness, and vows to him that she will never let go.   If you are one of 3 people on the planet who haven't watched the movie, I won't spoil it for you, but today I've been thinking about letting go of people, and it came to mind.

Rose fell fast and furiously for Jack.  She gave up the life she knew to be with him, only to have an iceberg change the course of their lives.  It was her promise to him not to let go that brings me to this post.

Lately, I've had to let go of several people, and ideas, that were hard to do.  I guess Mom was one of the first, but she was relatively easy to let go of, because I'd had a chance to prepare myself and tell her all the things that I wanted her to know while I had a chance.  She was ready, and when the time came, she went peacefully into the afterlife.  While there was grief - and still is to a certain point  - it made sense.  Not all are that way.

Marsha was next.  Her passing was quick, and I think to a certain extent, merciful.  While I grieve for her sons and husband, the letting go for me had happened years ago.  Our relationship was damaged by events leading up to our mother's death, and then she left.  I didn't see her for 10 years, and we seldom spoke.  There were things I HAD to let go of to be at peace with myself.  The last conversation we had was nice, and our last visit face to face was comfortable.  I think, in time, we may have been closer.  But that chance is gone, which is something else I have to let go of and not regret.  Sometimes, all the factors in our lives come together and we don't really know how to get past them.  I'd like to think we did, to a small degree.

And as I've aged, I've learned that letting go of control of people and situations is one of the hardest things I ever dealt with.  When I had my weight-loss surgery, it forced me to deal with feelings and thoughts without food for the first time in my life.  While others use alcohol or drugs, I just crammed those things down my throat with another bite of something and moved on.  That was no longer and option, and over the past two years, accepting things and making peace with situations has been very hard.  Luckily, Andrew has gotten through it with me and let me vent and cry.  I've learned that I can face adversity, disappointment and grief without relying on something other than my own strength. 

So now, whether I'm standing beside a hospital bed, a coffin, or sitting on my couch, I'm learning to let go. 

 "Let go, and let God" - it's getting easier.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Vicarious Dreams

I have never been an athlete.  Far from it - my dear old dad once told me that I walked like I was pushing a plow.  Thanks. 

The  closest I ever got to being on a field during a game was dancing in the drill team (now, there's an image for you!) in High School.  Can't throw, or run, or jump (Erin has proof on video if you'd like to see it!) or even see a travel when they call one.

So, why am I so obsessed with the San Antonio Spurs?!?!?  It has nothing to do with the game.  Yeah, I can tell when they mess up - most of the time - and I can get REAL excited when they do something great.  But that is the vehicle through which I became a fan. 

Every sports fan thinks their guys are the best.  Ask 'em, and they'll tell you.  My favorite fan outside of SA is my cousin, Deeann Wood.  Now, that girl is a Rangers' fanatic.  Lately, we have bonded closer than ever over our respective teams and their players.  It's been great to get texts from her during Spurs games to encourage, praise, and comfort when I needed it the most.  Got one this morning, in fact, as I sat gloomily watching Press Conference sadness.  That is part of the bond you make when you "share" a team.  When one of our group last night starting saying "it's over", he was almost run out of the house.  No place for that, even if it was true....

No, my allegiance - yes, allegiance - is not to the entity of the Spurs, but to the individuals.  Pop, Tim, Tony, Manu.... and on and on.  You want to know them personally, while knowing if the chance came, you'd be so dumbfounded that you would not be able to speak a word.  You feel for them when their lives go badly, which in San Antonio is a closely guarded secret. You hope for their happiness and success. 

And you want them to reach their dreams and goals.  When I was reminded by a lady this week at one of the games that "it's only a game",  I responded that, no, it's the chasing of a dream. And it's sad when a dream goes unfulfilled.  Even if they are mega-millionaires, they are men, with dreams.  If that sounds silly, then I guess I am silly. 

So, for now, the games are done.  The Spurs will get away and put this season in perspective in preparation for the next time.  How many "next times" does Tim have left?  Will Manu return, or was this the end?  That is why this season, after coming so, so close to the realization of a 5th Championship is so hard to let go of.

So -   Go, Spurs, Go!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Rest, in peace.

Up front, I will tell you that is post is personal, and intimate.  I apologize to anyone who thinks I tell too much....

     Death brings so many different emotions.  The last few months, I've dealt with each and every one.  Time to put those emotions on paper.

     With Elaine, death was a shock and a deep, mean feeling.  Shock, because we really didn't see it coming, and mean because, well, we just weren't ready to face losing her.  In some ways, she was closer to me than a sister, even though I didn't see her regularly.  She knew my history, watched me grow, kept me grounded.  Now there are only 3 of us girl cousins left, and that dwindling of a group so influential to my life brings a certain amount of dread.  "Who is next?" creeps into your mind, and you fear the answer.  Elaine was sweet and hard all in the same woman; no one loved more fiercely and loyally, and yet her experiences had made her see the reality of what life can be up close and personal.  As I stood beside her, I stroked her hands, once so very painful and frustrating, now quiet and - well, at peace.  No more hurting - no more needing help for the most minute daily chores.  But she never let it stop her, and her acceptance of what she had to deal with made her even more impressive.  Her love for her brothers was a big responsibility, and her nieces and nephews knew of her unconditional love for both them and their fathers.  Now they face their lives without her help....

    I knew and lived alongside my mother-in-law for 40 years.  I met her as a freshman in college, and became her first daughter-in-law.  I learned so much about courage and steadfastness and living with commitment through her.  And the most important thing I learned is how to live your life doing the right thing.  I know that sounds simplistic, and I knew it going into my adulthood, but to see her life unfold as it did cemented that knowledge.  All through the years, she made it clear as to how she wanted her life to be; what her fears and wishes were.  And while a large part of it she had no control over, because of the fact that she had made her wishes so clear, in the end it went the way  she wanted it.  My respect for her children grows continually because of that determination to follow through with what she expected them to do, never putting what they wanted over her desires.  She was ready to put her old self to rest, and did it without fear or regret.  Death came as a friend, to take her out of a life that she never wanted.  As she wished, there was no maudlin viewing for our "closure", but respect for the intimacy of the type of death she felt so strongly about.  Her peace in complete.

     And lastly, my sister.  Nine years apart in age, we grew apart and never really regained what my mother hoped so desperately we would become.  Lifestyles so drastically different, miles lived so very far apart, and past memories often too hard to overcome; we did end her life on peaceful terms.  Her life was not one I would say was full of peace - but when she died, she was in a good marriage with loving sons who mourn her.  It is what I wished for her, and I am glad.  As we stood on the beach, and I watched them pour her into the ocean, I was able to put to rest whatever anxious feelings I still carried.  Her life was her own, and while it ended too soon, I know that she loved many and was loved by many.  Death came for her unexpectedly, just as it had for our mother.

     As a Christian, I should not fear death.  I should anticipate an eternity in Heaven, and I do.  It's the process of the dying, and the mourning of those left behind that I dread.  Not just for me, but for those I love.  Elaine.  Mom.  Marsha.  They are gone.

    I know that they all rest.  In peace.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A boy, a girl, a wedding....

37 years. 

Andy and I were 21 years old, and had been dating about 2 1/2 years when we walked down the aisle at the Sam Houston Avenue Church of Christ in Huntsville.  I was wearing the first dress I'd tried on; Daddy didn't even have time to park the car, smoke a cigarette and walk in before I was ready to go.

We married in Huntsville because it just felt right; it's where our story so far had played out, and my parents - while I imagine were more than a little disappointed - were accepting.  I think we did the whole thing on about $1000.  Over half of it was on the pictures, so you get the idea. 

Mama was a superb seamstress, but she didn't want to make my dress. "I'll be sitting there, looking at each seam instead of watching you get married."  (She was, after all, a perfectionist when it came to that sort of thing!)

We had a quartet of some of our best friends; and my brother, Gary, sent a reel-to-reel recording of some songs.  I remember one sweet day when Mama and I sat in the floor of my room at home, going through each of her 78 albums to find a great song.  Our final choice was "No arms can ever hold you like these arms of mine."  Jon Rhodes sang it in his beautiful tenor voice that I hear in my head today. 

Steve was Andy's best man.  He was a good one; hid our car in the bus stop across the street, because Andy was adamant that no one put shoe polish on his paint job!  As we were driving off, a friend tried to tie something on the bumper, and Steve whipped out his knife at just the perfect moment to snip it off.  The photographer caught the moment perfectly; Steve standing there looking all proud as Lynn gasped at his quickness! 

Cathy was my maid-of-honor.  She was scared to death to be in the spotlight, but she was the obvious choice.  She'd been right there with me in every moment of my life to that point, and there was no way I was going down that aisle without her. 

Andy didn't want me to cry, so when it came time for me to say my vows, I couldn't look at him and NOT  cry.  I said my vows with my head bowed, which to some may have looked odd, but it was the only way.  Ron Goodman was our minister, and he said the sweetest things about us.  We saw them in the Fall on our vacation, and we reflected on that day with lots of good memories.

My uncle Buddy.  He was Bohemian  to the bone.  Showed up at the church in his 70s van that looked straight out of the junk yard, wearing his ever-present overalls.  Asked where he could change, and surprised us all in a black velvet tuxedo complete with tophat!  (It was May, remember!)  No telling what sacrifice he had to make to afford that tux, but he looked sharp!  I remember him coming through the receiving line over, and over, and over to congratulate us and give me a kiss.  I'm smiling now, just thinking about him.

But one of my sweetest memories was Daddy.  All the way down the aisle, he patted my hand, saying "It's all so pretty, Amy."  And when we met up with him after the ceremony, he grabbed me and just cried like a baby.  Never really saw him like that before or afterwards.

So, here we are, 37 years later.  Grayer, wiser, happier than I  could have imagined.  After too many years of not being able to, I'm wearing my rings today, and I probably could get my dress on if I wanted to.  Our daughters have grown into amazing women before our eyes, and our grandchildren bring us immeasurable joy.   The Church remains the focus of our lives, and - thankfully - we are healthy.  The future looks sweetly bright.

All I knew 37 years ago was that I was in love with Andy.  I wanted to spend every moment of my life with him, and I had no doubt that it would be forever.
Did I have a clue as to what was to come; of course not.  But I KNEW that we would face it together, until the end.  And somehow, all these years later, not knowing what the future holds looks a little different than it did on that Saturday - but I know the outcome will be the same. 

And I praise God for that.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sweet Memories

It's 2 am.  Andy is soundly sleeping.  I'm not -

We spent the day in Houston with the LaMores yesterday.  It was a day planned a couple of months ago - before Mom passed away.  Time to go through the house to finish the move that began a couple of years ago, after Mom's last bad fall.  Time to move on to the next stage in the house on Hazelhurst.

Mom and Dad bought the house after Albert, the baby, was born.  She'd moved into the house on Vilven with Dad, Andy and Bruce after marrying him following Margaret's death.  The house was too small, and the bigger house was a neccessity.  It was her house, and yesterday was the day in which that part of her life- and theirs- was brought full circle.

Our nephew, Kyle, lives in the house now.  As we entered, it was the same, and yet so different.  His stuff mixed among the rest.  Some rooms the exact same, some vastly different.  Most startling to me was the living room; Mom's oasis.  Always perfectly in order, always calm and soothing.  Always Anne.  It was where you almost needed permission to be - one of those "throwback" living room/dining room combos of the 50s.  Now, it was ramshackled and picked over - some furniture taken to the Hampton to make it feel more like home, some pieces eerily still in their place.  Her clock on the wall, silent.  Her scary black sculpture piece from Indonesia that was so "her".  The perfectly dusted end tables, now cluttered with things out of place.  Where was the organ that sat in the corner?  The maps still hung on the wall....  yet it was still the same.  I used to quietly sneak into that room for a few moments during each visit, because it was such a place of peaceful calm.  Now, it was just a store room of stuff that needed to be sorted through.

The sweet memories came throughout the day, and I want to post them now, while they are fresh on my mind.

Dad sitting at the table, with Albert.  Going through box after box of his precious books.  Some are going with him to the Hampton; a vast majority of them are destined for Half-Price Books.  I see Dad sitting with his son, sharing some memory, with the most beautiful smile on his face.  It was the most relaxed I'd seen him in months - laughing at something I was not privy to.  Later, after a simple lunch at Mom's table, he sat with Bruce as Bruce read a poem for him from the one book in the thousands that had that particular poem nestled inside it's pages.  So private a moment between father and son....

Bruce laughing over a recipe book he'd made in Elementary school and given to his mom; the St. Nicholas figurine he'd given to Mom one Christmas.

Albert laughing with joy at finding Christine's beloved stuffed turtle.  So glad she'd have it to take home with her.

Andy, holding onto Mom's silver spoons.  And the two volumes (among the thousands) on Winston Churchill that he's looked for.

Learning the story of the small, wooden box found in the back bedroom.  Evidently, it was taken to church and coal was put it in.  You sat with it under your dress to keep you warm during the winter.  It sits here in my home now. 

The brass elephants, once belonging to the collection of Aunt Ruth.

A small wooden step stool that they'd all used.  Bruce recited from memory the little saying that was once painted on - worn away many years ago by little feet.

The wooden bookshelf Andy made in the garage with his dad.  It will come home with us on the next trip.

My treasure of the day; the final remaining pieces of Margaret's Franciscan Apple dishes.  As far as I know, they are the last remaining items once touched by her hands.  Two plates.  A couple of saucers.  A sugar bowl.  Tangible items that remain of a life lost so young.  I wanted them for my girls,  to have SOMETHING that was hers.

And the photographs.  Taken one by one out if the frame to be scanned and returned to the proper family.

But the memory that shook me to my core was while I was sorting items in the living room.  Almost all of Mom's clothing had been gone through a while back, but I came upon a few hidden pieces.  I lifted one of the items to my face, and her smell hit me like a brick.  I drew in long, deep breaths and smiled - amidst all the confusion of the room, I felt her quiet, serene presence there with me.  My first tears since her death. 

This was an intimate day that on one hand was just something that had to be done.  Another thing to check off the list of getting on with life.  But it was so much more.  It was intimate.  It was personal.  It was loving.  We did it well.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Roland Roosevelt May, Sr. - Papaw

I'm really not good with dates.  Andy is.  Just ask him when anything happened, and he will be able to tell you 90% of the time. 

But it never fails that on May 8, I remember that is it Papaw's birthday.  Don't do that for any of the other 3 of my grandparents; I know that Grandma Annie was in July sometime, and my beloved Mamaw (Papaw's wife) was in May also.  Grandpa Graves (Young) - I have no idea.  But Papaw's for some reason is burnt into my brain.

I want my girls and my grandkids to know him; he was (and I'm shaking my head as I think of how I want to put this!) a rascal.  Yep; that's it.  A rascal. 

In these days of the Eagle Ford Shale play down here in South Texas, where oil field workers fill our streets and stores and restaurants, my Papaw walks among them in spirit.  Nothing they do, or say, or think would surprise him.  Refineries in South Texas that he helped build in the 40s,50s and 60s have been refurbished and given new life.

     Papaw was not one of those doting grandfathers who took you on his lap to tell you stories or read you a book.  Most of the times, actually, we ran from him because he had some prank to pull or a quick jab or tickle to aggravate you.  I remember so much of him being on the fringe of all the activity, chawing on that ever-present unlit cigar, with his hawaiian-patterned shirt unbuttoned over a white t-shirt. 

      It was said that our Mamaw married "beneath" herself when she married him.  Her beloved brothers were not happy with her choice, and many times had to help support her and the never-ending stream of children they had while "Curly" was off working on a rig.  "Curly" came from the almost nappy hair that was snow white all the years I remember him.  But one look at a picture of him in his early years, with that broad smile and those crisp, blue eyes would make it obvious that Mamaw was powerless over his charm.   Mamaw had a teaching degree; Papaw had oil field dirt under his nails.  

       Together, they had 5 girls; Lenora, Mary, Joyce, Margaret, and Myrna.  Then came the twins - Roland, Jr. (another rascal!) and Robert.  All not two years apart.  Robert died in infancy.  Mama told me that when the twins were born, Papaw announced: "That's enough, 'Nez."  (Mamaw was Inez, and she evidently planned on more  babies.)  They never really lived together as a family for long stretches, sometimes traveling with him to a job, but often living in Poteet around the Davidsons.  Mamaw held down the fort and raised the kids; my mama would tell me that that made be married harder for her; she'd never lived with a man around.  Poor,  but happy.  Bonded and made strong by adversity. 

       I remember going down to Alice, where they settled, for Easters with the cousins.  I remember seeing all the sons-in-laws hanging out at the cars with Papaw, laughing and smoking and telling jokes. It was easy.  It was sweet.  It was safe.  We all ran amok around them, never really seeking attention from them, but wanting to just be around. 

     The place in Alice was like a wonderland.  There was the old school bus, grown up in weeds that we played in for hours, the cage of the never-ending wild animal catch (oppossums were the most fun to antagonize!), the outdoor bathroom with the shower filled with frogs, and, of course, the roundhouse.  Papaw built it out of concrete to withstand hurricanes, and later it branched out into a bigger house.  When the state widened Hwy. 281 after they'd died, they had to use TNT to blow up the round house, it was so strongly build.  When hurricanes threatened the coast, Papaw would make a hand-lettered sign "safe house, stop here".  Cars of people would pull into the yard and hunker down on pallets in the "big room" to ride out the storm.  Safe harbor for anyone needing it.  Probably nothing to eat but beans and cornbread, but you didn't have to worry about your safety.

     And then, there was "the red thing" on the patio.  an odd, polygon of concrete about seat high, painted this maroonish color.  Gathered around it, it was either a place to sit and visit or a place for hordes of wild cousins to run and jump off.  Sharp corners scraped the skin off your legs when you ran past it.  Whatever paint he used on the top of it, it came off on your clothes.  Ruined many a shorts on that thing.  It was also blown up along with the house, and somehow, I got a piece of it.  It sits on my back porch right now; a testament to great times.  

     Papaw had his own house.  Guess it came from too many years of living apart - it sat behind the house just a bit.  One big room, made of tin.  Filled with his fishing stuff and those cheesy magazine pictures of models in bikinis leaning on cars.  I only stuck my head in a couple of times; the area was kind of creepy to a young girl.  He was happy there; just close enough to 'Nez, yet with his own space.  The area around it was grown up in a controlled sort of way, which nestled him cozily in to his world.

    In later years, Papaw came to live in Poteet down the road from my house.  He thrived in the nursing home; it was close enough for him to walk down for a visit or dinner, and yet he still was on his own.  He had a girlfriend.  He was happy.  One day, after he'd helped her with her lunch, we pushed her back to her room, and fell dead in the doorway.  Alive, then dead. 

     A bunch of us cousins loaded up in Randall's car and followed the hearse down to Alice for his burial next to Mamaw.  Together now, for eternity.  Afterwards, we stopped by the house.  The woman who lived there then knew the family, and was gracious to let us walk among the place that had been so pivotal to our lives.  As we walked out to Papaw's house, my cousin Deeann found a concrete stepping stone with her tiny foot and hand prints set in it.  The owner let us dig it up and bring it back with us.  What a precious memory that is to me; that day of recollection and joy, even following death.

     Too many times, we want people to conform.  We want people to "behave" in socially acceptable ways.  We want adults to be adults.  Papaw was a rascal; you never knew what mysterious meat he'd cooked and brought to the table - literally.  Those eyes twinkled into his 80s, and that spirit lived fully in his children. 

     Sometimes I miss that spirit, and wonder if I ever had it in me at all. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Death comes in threes....

Just a silly old wives' tale, right??




All in three weeks.

It was the first thing that went through my mind when I found out that Marsha had died..."Death comes in threes." 

Each one has affected me differently, and yet, together, they bind together to form one, unmistakeable feeling:  when our time comes, what will be left behind of our lives?

Elaine's death left me calm, serene, and happy for the end of her suffering.  She'd been in a lot of pain for many, many years, and at last her body could feel "normal."  As I stood beside her, I stroked those arthritic hands and felt peace.  Her old body was not her captive any longer.  She was free. Her burial site is on a quiet little slope near the baby she lost so many years ago.  She had come full circle.

Mom was laid to rest in a plot that she and dad had chosen in the 70s.  Arrangements had been made and her desires made very clear, and all that was left to do was honor her life in the best way we could.  Orange tulips were everywhere; in case you don't know, Mom was Dutch, and orange is the national color of Holland.  Tulips - well, no need to explain that symbol.  In the fellowship room where we were served lunch and greeted visitors, her wooden shoes, needlework, pictures, and the Christmas stockings she made each and every family member were on display.  It was one of the most personal funerals I've ever been to, and while I agree with Andy that she would not have liked all the attention, it was perfect. 

     I had a chance to say all the things I wanted to say to her 3 years ago, when the big fall took away the Mom we all knew, so I was good.  Nothing left unsaid,
no regrets. 

No so with Marsha.  Families come with a lot of history, and mine with Marsha was a work in progress.  I was 9 when she was born, and she was my own living baby doll.  She was a blond, blue-eyed pixie, where I was a brown haired, brown eyed statue in height.  She was Mama, I was Daddy.  She was still a little girl when I went to college, and that gap in our ages came back to haunt us as adults. 

   I have unsaid things I should have told her.  I will deal with those in my own time and way.  The past few months have left me with good memories of our phone calls, so that gives me comfort.  I will do what I can to honor her, just as I did Mama and Daddy. 

Enough of death.  Enough of grieving.  Enough of dwelling on the "what-ifs" of life and pain. 

Now, it is time to make the most of the days.  To make sure that every person that I love knows it and feels it to their core.  To honor them while they are alive instead of after the phone call comes in the night. 

Hopefully, with Marsha's passing, death can take a break for a while.

I'm exhausted.