Yesterday was Day 2 of my new habit (hopeful thinking) of early morning walks. This little spit of sand I live on comes with a wondrous open air concert hall, where I am serenaded by feathered friends as I explore the streets. The crows provide the comic, chatty interludes.
We have a quickly growing population of feral bunnies and I notice several folks put veggies out for them. While photographing a pair of Northern Flickers tending to their power pole nest, a funny little cat stalked me from the shrubs below. For about a block, I couldn’t take one step without almost being tripped by this scoundrel. I finally told it to go home and was so surprised when it immediately headed up the closest driveway.
Along the way I spotted 2 lighthouse sculptures, a driftwood fence and two creative driftwood raised bed gardens. Oh, and a beautiful “lady” in the flowers.
As I admired a colorful and cozy front yard garden nestled under a pair of cedar trees, I almost missed seeing the orange cat perched on a bird bath. Perhaps it was overly confident that a bird might miss seeing it too and stop in for morning ablutions.
A kindly crow pointed the way, seconds before I spotted a stealthy raccoon, who froze when he saw me, then raced into the woods. My last visual treat was a deer and his shadow nibbling some grass in the glow of the rising sun.
Or…between The Cascades and The Olympics. Like the eyes on the portrait that follow your every move, these mountain ranges gaze down at you, no matter the direction you travel. You may not always even see them, but they are there… more Between Inlets and the Ocean photos on myPhall Photos blog here: http://wp.me/p3J4Ab-fU
My regular dental clinic is only 40 minutes away, a beautiful drive through coastal forests and along Willipa Bay. I spent my birthday yesterday traveling over 200 miles, to and from, a visit to the oral surgeon. From the Pacific Ocean, into Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, flow inlets, bays, canals, lakes and rivers. They flow over, through and around the luscious green forested lands of Western Washington. I did thoroughly enjoy the drive home across a few unknown map inches and three counties.
A Lesson: Let Go Of The Worry and Grab Onto The Good Stuff
My neighbor drove as I fretted and worried: Would the surgeon require I.V. sedation? How would I come up with the advance cash to pay for it? Could I convince him that I am just too afraid of general anesthesia (which I am)? Will luck be with me and the surgeon be a decent person? I was prepared to walk away if he was a stoic, judgmental creep, like some that have worked on my teeth.
How many dentists, dental students, assistants, and hygienists have had their fingers in my mouth over the years? Such an intimate thing, made clinical by necessity. Probe my ears, look up my nostrils, but please leave my other orifices to me.
I didn’t request one single photo stop on the way there; I was too busy worrying. What a waste of the beauty on the scenic route we traveled! After the two-and-a-half hour trip I was buzzing with negative energy. After pacing the waiting room floor for an hour…well, you may wonder if the dental surgeon even survived our meeting.
The black-clad assistant led me to the consultation room. I studied the detailed tooth poster on the wall. I nervously eyed the instruments on the counter. The assistant displayed the panoramic x-ray of my mouth and jaw on a small screen next to me. She took my blood pressure (high, for me) and walked out the door, making promises about how soon the doctor would be in.
Every one of the employees wore black tops and bottoms. Weird, after all the cheerful? bunnies and rainbows and colorful uniforms on personnel at the many hospitals and clinics I have been in. I kind of liked it. Sure, black may have been a bad choice for a place where clients are mostly afraid and nervous, but I liked the uniformity (pun?) of them all wearing the same color.
In walked Dr. Calm and I fell instantly, deeply in love. Not with the man, per se, but with the feeling he brought into the room with him. The atmosphere filled with calm, until there was no space available for my fear, anger, angst and worry. He spoke softly, he smiled, his movements were casual, he kept eye contact, and he laid aside every ounce of worry baggage that I had brought along with me. I gathered up that pile of worry and dropped it into the garbage can on my way out the door.
The drive home was spectacular.
Phall Photo Friday is a weekly feature here. Phall= P(atti) Hall.
Sweet Peas for my Sweet Pea! Grandma Rae’s flowers and photo.
Today my daughter turned 27. There are so many reasons that spring was the perfect season for the birth of my Sara. Spring is fresh, cheery and full of energy. Most of all, with spring comes hope. Sara brought so much hope to my life!
The year before Sara was born, a young military couple who I was close to got pregnant. They were so young and in love and mutually glowing, that you’d have to be made of stone not to feel it. I was almost 30 and not thinking about settling down to domestic life with babies, although I was married. In a few months I realized that I was pregnant. Then I realized the glow was not automatic. My husband was not feeling it. Our company relocated us to Yakima, where we didn’t know a single soul.
Where was that damn glow? It was a rough pregnancy and the pothole filled streets of our new town didn’t help. Yakima was colder than anywhere I had ever lived. Maybe if I could get that illusive glow it would warm me up!? No such luck. I focused my energies on crafts and genealogy. I met a few neighbors, but had no real friends. Pitiful!
At some point, my focus turned onto the bundle of joy curled up inside me. Yep, I know, duh. I had scary pregnant-mother dreams and I had day dreams about the wonderful life we would have. As spring moved closer, my heart thawed even more and I began having long conversations with that little person in my tummy. I sang songs and read books to the tiny future that was tumbling and turning within the mound at my center.
Waiting for Sara’s birth was very much like waiting for spring. After a long (9 months!) winter, with no color or warmth, I yearned for the bright hope and cheer of my baby. I remember counting and recounting the days until the baby was due. I remember the doctor appointment that day. “Any time now.” My mother-in-law (RIP, Katie) was over for the great event; the birth of her first grandchild from her only child.
I will always remember pacing that small duplex, while dad-to-be and his mom slept peacefully unaware of the drama taking place. I loved those hours anticipating the birth, and cherished the strange communication we had in the wee hours that night. I almost didn’t want the baby to leave my body. I felt it would sever something special between us. So I waited until I couldn’t wait any longer; I was dilated 8, of 10 centimeters by the time I finally woke the household and moved to the birthing center at the hospital.
Sara was the light and hope of spring 27 years ago, and she continues to be my light and hope.
Funny, Sara came after I moved to Yakima, and my son Jon joined us a month after I left Yakima…
So full of love for my daughter on her special day,
Now that was a fun little exercise in commitment. The (Almost) Every Damn Day December challenge was fun and a bit of a stress, but not bad. I missed 3 days, and I apologize, but I can’t help thinking that it’s really okay, because it was in 2013 and THAT YEAR IS OVER!!!!
You’ve only known me since March (except my family & friends who jumped on board with me), but you’ve probably caught on that I’m a bit unpredictable and spontaneous. Tomorrow morning (in a few hours) I’ll get on an airplane in Seattle, Washington. I’ll land in Juneau, Alaska for a brief layover/photo tour, and then on to Anchorage, Alaska that evening. I’m staying until mid-May.
Here’s the unpredictable, spontaneous part. I SHOULD have spent the last 2 days of the year writing my AEDDD posts and getting ready for my long stay in Alaska. Any semi-normal person would have. Not me. I put on my BRAVE cape, packed an overnight bag, opened Maggie’s door and stepped into a 2 day adventure. You’re gonna love this. Am I even sane? Well, yes I am, just a little…oh yes, spontaneous!
My first 2 stops were pure pleasure. I got warm hugs from my tall, handsome boy (okay, young man), Jon, and got to hold and snuggle my sleepy twin step-granddaughters. Their mom sat back smiling, as the girls opened Christmas presents from Grani…that’s another story.
Sara, Caleb and my impish little Cameron were next. I had a blast playing with Cameron. He’s hilarious in his antics, a ball of energy and brilliant to boot! (No Grani prejudice at all!) Sara helped me unsnarl my rat’s nest (tangled, knotted hair), then I took a long, glorious shower (Maggie only gives me a quick 3 minutes). Of course, my new best buddy, Cameron, had to get in on the action. He’s our water baby and he sat happily playing in the water at my feet, while I enjoyed the warm spray of water pelting me.
Once we were out and dry, Sara gave me a heavenly pedicure and topped it off with pretty toenail polish. It probably took 8 times longer than a salon, but they don’t have to stop and nurse and play with and fight off “help” from an almost 2-year-old, like Sara did.
The next day I tracked down my aunt and “Smitty” and got about 10 hugs. She helped me map out and contact her kids, my cousins. I simply had this strong urge to see them all before I left on my long journey to the north. Soon, 4 maps turned into one, as all 4 agreed to meet me at one cousin’s house that evening. I love it when a crazy spontaneous plan comes together!
I’m sorry that I never did track down my uncle, so he’ll have to be my first stop when I get back from Alaska. My next stop was not so great, but was an ending to a long, happy/sad story. I had to get the last of my belongings out of the home Paul and I had shared, then say a final goodbye to that place and that chapter. Our fun, loving and happy home was now just an empty house.
Another bittersweet part, was that my little granddaughters came with their dad, who was helping me. We were only there a short time, but the girls shared their memories of living there, and even “Papa” memories. Nola and Cora got a step stool and removed their drawings from the wall. They explored every nook and corner for memories and lost toys. We got a photo of the girls and me in front of the house, then we all left.
A map and a few phone calls later and I was greeted by my 3 beautiful cousin/sisters. We were not only raised together in Alaska, but I’ve spent most of the last 25 years encircled by their family here in Washington. They have been along, in one way or another, for almost all the good and bad times of this large chapter in my life.
We hugged, and hugged some more. We caught up a bit and I told a few stories. We reminisced about our young selves and laughed a lot, while trying to get a good photo of the four of us. The atmosphere was calm, soothing and filled with happy and sad shadows of the past.
Their brother couldn’t make it, so we made plans to try and meet the next morning. The 5th cousin just became a new dad in California, hopefully we will cross paths one of these days soon. I’m not that spontaneous (or wealthy). My last stop on this long and emotional day was to renew a lost friendship.
I’ve written about my 4 best friends here before. Leslee is one of them. It had been many years, but seeing each other again was a balm for both our souls. She’s been very ill and is tiny, but as beautiful as the last day I saw her. Six weeks of healing from a life-saving surgery and she was on her way back to good health.
We laughed, cried, hugged and kissed, then did it all again, until late into the night. She fed me love, warm soup, a potpourri of cookies and candies and wise sisterly counsel. In the morning I had another long, glorious shower, but not before jumping in my truck to find a place to buy my addictive morning cup of coffee.
Of course, I told her the story of the two fifteen-year-old kids on a first date. I mentioned a possible 40-year-later meeting. That very day. Possibly. She wanted in on the story. Badly. The morning felt just like the old days when Leslee was singing in a band, and I was her best friend/sister/groupie/hair, costume and make-up assistant. She primped and slathered me with blusher, despite my protests. I kept refusing the pink coral nail polish, but once she noticed my painted toes, she wouldn’t stop until I finally handed over my finger nails for her loving application.
I know that you’re dying to know if I ever caught up with my other cousin. You may even want to read whether or not my BRAVE cape and Leslee propelled me and my pretty painted nails all the way to a rendezvous with Mrs. M’s son. The thing is, this post is already over 1300 words, it’s after 1 a.m. and I have to catch a flight in the morning. And tomorrow is a long drive to the airport, a photo tour and two airplanes. The next day is mom’s hip replacement surgery…so I will try to get back and finish the tale of my last day of 2013 as soon as I can.
Peace Out, Really!
Here is my New Year’s welcome:
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…” ― Alfred Tennyson
That is my word for the new year: Hope.
My arms are wide open for the good, wondrous and unknown things that await me in this new year.
I hope that all my friends and family (and yours) stay safe, healthy and full of LOVE in 2014.
I hope that I am calm, brave and loving when the previous hope falls short; after all, we’re only human.
I hope I choose the best path for me, when I stand before the crossroads that are offered up this coming year.
I hope I am successful in living in the present moment; not one foot in the past and one in the future.
I hope I use hindsight and foresight to make wise decisions, for even these have a useful purpose.
I hope tolearn more (about you and me and the world), see more (of the magic in you, me and the world), sharemore (of myself and the magic and what I learn about you, me and the world) and be more (of myself; to stretch and reach and pull in all of the good stuff).
29 days and counting. You have probably already noticed that I’m never out of words or topics. The trick is, mining my thoughts and finding words or topics, that will connect with others. So, that’s it for today: words.
WORDS AS PET PEEVES
See above, where I wrote the word “connect”? Well, we all know what word could, or should have gone there, but aren’t we getting tired of it? I am. It is a beautiful word that evokes images of music, of human connection on the deepest level. It goes back to that “you too!” moment that we’ve talked about in other posts here. However, we’ve been over-using the word so much that it has begun to grate. Have you guessed it yet?
You are right. Resonate: To evoke a feeling of shared emotion or belief, or to correspond closely or harmoniously. (aside from other definitions) I hope that I haven’t offended anyone who just wrote and published a post using that word. Truly, it fits perfectly in YOUR post! :>)
If I were into numbering, as Marie and John do so very well every week, this next one would be the absolutely #1 most irritating word in slang usage today. This time I don’t really mind if I offend you. I’m that sick of the word. I see it in advertising, it’s all over Facebook and Twitter, my best friends use it, my kids use it, I’ve heard/or read it used by the very young and very old (even hippies and bankers use it). I replace it with the word, “stinks,” when my kids use it. They know the word I’m talking about. I’ve been on the case of replacing this word for probably 6 years. This has just gone on for far too long, I say!
Chain that pet peeve to a wall in the basement! It’s time to eliminate, or at least severely diminish, the use of “suck/s” as a cute slang term.
What are your pet peeve words? Have I used them in this post? Let’s hear about it, don’t be shy:>)
Pretty pictures to soothe anyone whose toes I stepped on, and just to enjoy, for everyone else:
I left Alaska in April 1977, driving down the ALCAN (Alaska-Canadian Hwy) with my new husband and a family friend. I was almost 18 and filled with high hopes and big dreams; just like you probably were at that age. The world was our oyster and we went seeking the pearls. (I also made the trip, down and back, with my folks and siblings in the late 1960’s.)
Instead of pearls, all I found was Fool’s Gold, but that certainly didn’t stop me. Here I am, still watching for and gathering pearls for my basket.
“The memories that I conjure here are old pearls, made new,
and I’ll carefully nestle them back into their basket,
after I share them with you.”
Somewhere in the following 10 years there were one or two brief visits to Alaska. I think it was that first visit that sister Laura painted her guest room lavender for my few days with her. True sister love. I had a fun and silly birthday with party hats and noise makers at sister Sharon’s log cabin. I watched moose roam between her yard and our parent’s log cabin, within eyesight from Sharon and Tim’s window.
I’ve always known they loved me, but that year we had to put my schedule on calendars, to show who’s house I would be at and for how long. One year I used dad’s tools and garage to build and engrave wooden magazine racks for each family for Christmas.
In 1989 I returned to Alaska, with my infant and toddler in tow. That was the year of the Family Photo Shoot: two parents and 7 adult children with their partners, and 9? children. We had the photo shoot at sister Laura’s exercise studio. I don’t know who the photographer was, but I’m sure they found another line of work after that epic night.
That evening, I heard and loved the Christmas tune, “Jingle-Bell Rock,” for the first time and little Sina and Sara danced like crazy, making us all laugh. I remember everyone rushing around, and sister Ginny fluffed and sprayed our little daughter’s hairdos in the bathroom. I’m pretty sure sister Sharon funded the whole thing, and I know we all agreed that it was the best Christmas gift ever.
Another 18 years went by; my 2 children were off having children of their own and I was living with my late husband. 2007, 2010, 2011, and 2 times in 2012. My Alaska visits are beginning to look like a trend. Smile. I’ve spent time with my parents, my siblings and their children and grandchildren. Sister Michaela’s loss in 2012 has added a glaze of sadness over everything, but we have surely learned the value of family.
My basket of pearls overflows with my Alaska memories, but the Fool’s Gold stays tucked in the bottom as a gentle reminder of the caution needed in choosing paths wisely.
Probably my biggest wish is to be able to share Alaska, and our family there, with my children and their 4 children here. Sara and Jon have not been there since that one time, when they were too young to remember. My little grands have never been there. I would so love to see my little family here in Washington meet and share some special time with my big family in Alaska. I can just imagine the photo shoot THAT would be!
Thanks for hanging in there with me and this challenge of posting (Almost) Every Damn Day December.
***Internet/computer problems have severely hampered me getting this post written. It has already taken hours, just to get this far. I hope things are working better tomorrow, so I can share some more photos with you.
“Travel brings power and love back into your life.” ― Rumi
It’s funny, but I think that you like the truth better than any tale I could weave, and I can weave some fanciful ones. But, surely it is the real heart and real emotion that we need the most…
Whether it’s, “Oh, my gosh, I never knew!”
or, “That’s just how I feel too!”
The best and worse of me, resounds in you. P.H. 2013
I just wrote that for you:>)
Traveling home is very different, on many levels, to each of us. It also changes with the reasons that we go home. Since 2007, there has been a different reason each time that I traveled home. My late husband, Paul, came up with the money for a ticket, and then insisted that I go that first time. The visit was initially to see my dad, who had a health scare, but then, also to make up with a family that I had distanced myself from for too many years. That was good. And hard. And it lightened my heart to have my reading, gardening, rolling- with- laughter mom back in my life.
Another visit to the north was a casual one, almost a vacation. Fishing in Homer with #1, a sister who took me everywhere when I was little, says I was HER baby! A long-time friend of hers verified the news. I made up with a sister that I hadn’t seen or spoken to in at least eight years, and made headway with another. I helped dad with his yard sales and listened raptly to tales from his childhood in Kentucky. I loved the way his faded southern accent peeked in and out of his reminiscing. Of course, mom and I reveled in working the garden together, and I, in watching her dance in front of the green house in her jammies, to the loud music coming from within. Joy.
In 2012, my visit was filled with pain and heart-ripping sorrow. My direct sorrow was laced with regret. The sister I had reunited with just eight months earlier, the sister who had been sending care packages of craft ideas and love ever since, the sister I’d been sharing texts and long-missed phone calls with, was gone. The gratefulness that we DID connect, didn’t come until much later. My secondary sorrow was the torture of witnessing how the loss hit my parents; the death of one of their seven, a crushing blow.
Then, too, the twin to my lost sister, their birthday is tomorrow, lost her literal other half. There are just no words for the pain I felt she must be suffering. Still suffers. Another sister was a close business and personal buddy with our lost one. Another sister was out of the country. The brothers stood by, strong shoulders for our tears. My heart tore in painful strips of crumpled, tear-stained ribbon. I tried to capture and identify my pain and soothe it, but the ribbons flew in all directions; my parents, our twin, each sibling, even dear friends who fed and flowered us so well. A tattered ribbon of pain from my husband’s death flew in, and tangled with the rest.
Our (now) single twin flew home, soon after the beautiful memorial, into the loving and healing arms of her husband and son in Arizona. When I flew back to my beach a few weeks later, the ribbons of pain flew behind the jet and tangled between my feet as I disembarked. They knotted in my hair as I walked the beach, searching for my lost loved ones. A little over a month later, a phone call; my mother is in the hospital, and so, I packed my ribbons of pain for another flight to Alaska.
The ribbons of pain were no longer filling every space in my parents home. But as I cared for mom, cooked, cleaned and organized, the ribbons fell from every drawer, cupboard and closet; still there, but moved aside to make room for daily living. The ribbons filled pillows that we rested our heads on each night. We used them to wipe away the tears that flowed, unbidden, from our eyes. I was there for over 4 months, which allowed special time with the four siblings who live near.
Eight months after the return to my Washington beach, I lost my 3 year-old grandson and the fresh ribbons of pain, added to the others, almost smothered me. My mother’s sister died October 1st, adding still another tangle of ribbons. I feel them right now. Those ribbons of pain make it hard to open Maggie’s door; my little RV cave is packed with them. I am safe, as long as I keep them away from my nose and mouth. I’ve accidentally swallowed a few and they almost choked me.
Mom is having hip surgery January 3rd, and a brother is having a potpourri of surgeries in the next few months. I fly out on the 2nd and spend the day in Juneau, the capital city that I have never been to. I look forward to walking up to the huge Mendenhall Glacier, that presents its blueish glory, just a few miles from the airport. There are other wonders close by that I hope to explore. Are you excited to see the photos? I am too! If you have a friend in Juneau who can give me a quick tour between 2 and 6 that day, please let me know.
I’ll be back to my beach in mid-May and I’ve promised to visit Mrs. M soon after. She’s doing well, by the way, and is doing outpatient PT now. I also have a long list of family and friends to visit on my return. Those ribbons that I’ve been writing about? They have been keeping me inside the sorrow of those lost loved ones, and not allowing me room to be with the loved ones who are alive. I know that. I’ve decided to drop them out the airplane on my way back from Alaska:>)
“Every traveler has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.”
― Charles Dickens
Here’s a beach sunset from a few days ago. Enjoy, please:>)
There are many veterans in the long line of our Halls, from my brothers and father, all the way back to my 3rd great grandfather in the American Revolution. My late husband and his father were Vietnam veterans, and my mother’s side of the family did their part during war times also.
I’ve decided to feature the only female veteran in our Hall line that I am aware of. She was an unpublished writer and had the grand name of Mercedes, but we just called her Aunt Mercy. She was my great aunt, my father’s aunt. Her father served, and was crippled by a bullet wound, in the Spanish-American War at the Battle of San Juan Hill.
While touring the U.S. with my two children in 2001, we spent some time with Aunt Mercy. Our little r.v. was being repaired, so we left most of our belongings with Aunt Mercy and rented a car for the east coast part of our trip. She had one request: she wanted us to go to the Women In Military Service For America Memorial in Washington, D.C. and look up her name.
The east coast trip was memorable for many reasons, but one of the most moving things that took place was typing “Mercedes Hall” into the computer at the women’s memorial, and then looking up to see her beautiful photo and service record (above) on a massive wall. Sara, Jon and I just stood and looked in awe.
We got two color copies of the image on the wall and took one back to Aunt Mercy. I also have a book (see image), The Giving of Self; The History of St. Joseph Infirmary School of Nursing, which features a photo of my aunt’s 1939 graduating class. The image is blurry, so I did not include it here.
Aunt Mercy was a proud woman, yet she practically giggled when we told her about our visit to the memorial, and then brought out our souvenirs. She recounted more tales about her Navy Nurse adventures and we spent hours going over family photos and stories. She kept telling friends and family, “They went and saw me in Washington, D.C.!”
I’m especially glad that we included Aunt Mercy on our itinerary, because she passed away less than a year later, 10 days before her 86th birthday; she was the last of 11 Hall siblings.
I hope you enjoyed this Veterans Day post. It was good to revisit Aunt Mercy’s pride and happiness about her service for America.
An executive caregiver position came open many years later. (No phone call this time.) By then, my children were out on their own and I had divorced their step father. I was 4 years into the best relationship that I could ever have imagined. And then, my partner in life and business, was diagnosed with leukemia. I became Paul’s 24/7 caregiver. The hats I wore covered all aspects of our lives during the year of his illness, treatment, stem cell transplant, our hospital wedding and his final battle with graft vs host disease. We were fortunate to have a strong group of supporters in our family and friends. We all learned so many lessons during this time, that Paul and I began to plan a book about it. My 3-part memoir series of love, illness and loss is a work-in-progress.
I readily admit that nepotism was involved in my next caregiver position. The patient was my mother. My family (2 parents in their 70’s, and 6 siblings in their 40’s and 50’s) were still reeling from the loss of my sister in February 2012. Two months later, my mother had an accident that left her with two broken arms, 2 black eyes and a variety of pain, from head to toe. Yep, I got the call. I was back on an airplane heading north. It had only been five weeks since I returned home from Alaska after my sister’s death,
When I arrived back in Alaska, my brother picked me up and took me straight to the hospital. I stayed in my mother’s hospital room that night, and we took her home the next day. Mom was unable to care for herself at all. I became her right-hand and left-hand person, and slept beside her at night. I would like to break off and tell you what an amazingly strong woman my mother is, but I will leave for another day.
Two of my siblings live nearby and they circled the wagons to provide support and relief. I stayed in Alaska 4 months and wore many hats while I lived with my parents. My most rewarding role was that of adult daughter to my parents, but the second best was that of caregiver to my mother. I was also able to spend some special time with 2 of my sisters and their families, as well as both of my brothers. I flew home to Washington in August, on the 3rd anniversary of my husband’s death.
A holiday bonus. The patriarch (I call him “dad”) sent Ms. Daisy (mom) and I on the vacation of a lifetime in late November 2012. I joined my Alaska family for Thanksgiving, then mom and I toured the Hawaiian Islands for weeks. We spent Christmas and New Year’s with my Arizona sister (it was her twin who we lost earlier that year) and her family. Mom flew home from Washington in January, after visiting her sister and the rest of our Washington family. [3 months later my grandson died and mom flew back to Washington to mourn with, and nurture our family here]
To make a long story short (hahaha), I received another call. It was the call from my sister that I wrote about in the first paragraph of Part 1 of this post. I’m still not perfect, but I guess I will keep on practicing this caregiver role, until I get it right. I am looking forward to this new adventure of giving care to Mrs. M. in Oregon.
I’ve taken some time this week to ponder the meaning of these calls-to-action that keep arriving in my life. They seem to be bridges to the next part of my journey, rather than minor side trips. So, now I have to wonder where this next bridge will lead me…
You can be sure that when I get the call that Mrs. M is being released, my laptop, printer and works-in-progress will be traveling with me, so please hang out for more.
How will you answer the call? Has a caregiver call been a bridge in your life? We would love to hear your thoughts and experience (in the comment section).
Holding You Up A bronze statue on hotel grounds in Kauai, Hawaii PHALL PHOTO 2012
by Patti Hall
They Say That Practice Makes Perfect
Technically, I wasn’t looking for practice or perfection when I answered my sister’s phone call from Alaska a few days ago. Just last week I was deep into my grieving cave-woman mode. Tuesday, I traveled about 350 miles (round trip) to a convalescent facility in Oregon. I met with the care team of my sister’s mother-in-law, Mrs. M. Yesterday I started cleaning, packing and planning for an extended stay at the home of Mrs. M. in Portland, as her caregiver.
Caregiver: Is This A Calling And/Or A Bridge?
My caregiver internship began within the parameters of my first parenting role when I was 28 years old. That’s what parents do, they give care. Care-giving starts when you wake up in the morning, extends throughout the day, and continues into the night. It is wiping snotty noses, changing diapers, feeding, clothing and loving those in your care. Care-giving is sleepily welcoming a tearful dreamer under your covers, and into your arms, in the middle of the night.
To further my caregiver qualifications, I answered the phone and agreed to join a caregiver group in California. A troupe of his sisters and nieces, gathered at the home of my maternal uncle, when he was in the last stages of his battle against cancer. We came from 3 states; sometimes one at a time, sometimes overlapping, but one of us was always at his side. Despite my uncle’s sad prognosis, he basked in the songs of this Florence Nightingale choir. The songs were expressed in our laughter and love. We nurtured, laughed, cried, reminisced and took care of his physical needs. It was the first time that I truly considered how fragile life is.
A few years later, an interim caregiver position came available via an out-of-state call from my children’s father, aka my former husband. His mother was in her 80’s, living alone and had recently been widowed. She was not doing well emotionally, although, she was physically fine. I packed my bag, drove 100 miles north and left my own family to fend for themselves (again). K and I had known each other for many years and we had remained friends.
K was in deep grief and needed help with the mounds of paperwork and legal procedures that come after a death. While her son handled his job and household transfers from Utah to Washington, I helped K negotiate the details at hand. The signs of dementia came on fast and I consulted her son over the phone. I took K to her doctor and explained our concerns. She was poked and prodded and tested.
I received a promotion. Along with K’s paperwork, legal matters and emotional distress (grief), I had to keep her physically safe. From herself. Household hazards suddenly loomed everywhere. She was a fragile child one moment and an angry woman in the next moment. By the time her son came, K and I were exhausted and traumatized by trying to navigate the chaos brought on by the changes taking place within her brain. I returned home and wished that I could have done more.
Stay tuned, Part 2 will be posted soon…more caregiver experiences and I ponder whether this role is a calling or bridge to the next step in my life.
Have you answered the call? We’d love to hear your story in the comment section.
My wedding ring set has such a bad track record. You’d think that I would want to drop it down the sink or bury it in a drawer. Never. Like most of us, that set of rings has had its ups and downs, through no fault of its own.
Before their life with me, the rings had a life on the finger of a young bride, full of high hopes for a happy future, with the man of her dreams. That dream died quickly and lives were shattered. The rings sat in a box, in the very back of a drawer, forever. Who knows how long it really was, as rings have no sense of time.
My friends, the preacher and his wife, gained possession of the rings through their family ties. They finally found a way to aim the rings on a path towards a happier future; much happier than living in a drawer full of undies and unopened packages of socks.
Admittedly, the groom (whose bride would wear the rings) was being treated for leukemia, but surely he would live to rejoice in his recovery with his new bride? The rings could have a new life too. The betrothed were living in the hospital and did not have the freedom to go shopping for wedding rings. So when the preacher and his wife drove across the mountains to perform and witness the hospital wedding, they brought the set of rings to offer as a gift to the couple. The rings would be redeemed and the newlyweds would live happily ever after. The gift was gratefully accepted.
The groom’s wedding band was chosen from the offerings of the preacher couple and the bride’s aunt. He simply chose the one that fit the best. The wedding is another story altogether, and you are welcome to read one version of it here. Most of you know that the story didn’t end so well. The groom left this world and his bride less than 2 months after the ceremony. Once more, the rings were marked by tragedy.
That was 4 years ago and I wear Paul’s wedding band on my thumb now. I just recently moved my wedding set to the ring finger of my right hand. I read somewhere that this was the custom for widows in…? I can’t remember what country that was. My wedding ring finger is still much thinner where the rings once sat, and I’m sure that time will be successful in healing the finger, if not my heart. Either way, the rings and I are happy for the company along the way.
The other piece of jewelry that I cherish is the heart locket that you see in the picture. It was already special to me, but now I only take it off to shower (so I actually am naked without it). Sealed inside is some resin mixed with my forever-3-year-old grandson’s ashes. We lost him in April and I can still hear his voice and see those bright blue eyes,
I had more to say, but I lost my steam somewhere up there in that last paragraph. I can say how grateful I am that I have these special things, and I truly would feel naked without my gold and silver memories. Some people don’t want such constant contact with objects that hold sad memories. That’s odd to me. When I adjust the rings or the clasp on the locket chain, I may shed a tear (or a bucket of them), but then I usually end the tearful session with a smile for all the happy memories.
Do you have something special that you feel naked without? Maybe something romantic or funny or magic to cheer us up? Well, then please share it with your friends here :>)
On October 1st, while I was being amazed at the offerings of the sky, my Aunt Norma was on a final journey to her loving husband who passed away eight years ago. As a hole in the stormy clouds above the ocean opened up, it sent rays of light from above, and chills ran up and down my body. This is usually my reaction when I get to witness this natural phenomena, but it felt stronger that day.
Hole in sky. Westport, WA, October 1st. PHALL PHOTO 2013
Yesterday I visited my other aunt and talked to my mom in Alaska; they had both lost a sister the day before. For my mother, that is a daughter, a close family friend, a great grand child and a sister, that she has lost in less than 2 years. I got to hug two cousins yesterday and renew our cousin-love vows. I stopped by to give my uncle a hug and to renew our vow of family love. I have recently been rebuilding friendships with the children of the aunt who just died, and I am trying to support them through this hard time.
A double rainbow, double the hope. Oct 2nd. Centralia, WA PHALL PHOTO
All of this has me thinking about the nature of loss. How very different the loss of one person can be to each of us; how the news hits us and how it settles around us. Our experiences with loss, and our relationship and history with the lost one, make such a difference. Some want to laugh, some need to cry, others want to reminisce, while some just want to ignore the pain. It is very hard to know which way a grieving person is leaning on that particular day, or hour or, even, that minute. I am doing the best that I can for each. The biggest thing I think I can do, is to be a good listener and let them lead me to the place they are, emotionally. I offer gentle sympathy. After a lot of listening, I can usually offer something that I think will help. Sometimes it is just a hug, or hanging out for awhile. Sometimes it is an action I can take. Either way, I try and be gentle. And yes, this loss is my loss also, so I’ll need to be gentle with me too.
Fall Rainbows. Oct 2nd, Centralia, WA PHALL PHOTOS 2013
I also spent time with my daughter’s family yesterday. As usual, I drug them all out to see Nature’s glory in the sky. Pretty soon, Nola (6) and Cora (7), were dragging me down the sidewalk and around the corner to get better views of the incredible fading rainbow-setting sun-lit sky.
Sunset reflection on window-wall of Centralia College. Oct 2nd. PHALL PHOTO 2013
They ran up the concrete steps of a vacant 1930’s church, and still, stood on their tippy-toes to get a better view…then, around another corner, and they careened, arms out, down a wavy concrete ramp.
Nola & Cora, Oct 2nd, Centralia, WA. PHALL PHOTO 2013
This loss, like others, seems to bring us together, even as we regret not having spent more time, laughter and rainbows with the one we lost. Let’s just try harder with the ones we have left. I think my aunt would be happy with that vow.
This contest pays $50., but it asks more of the reader/voters;
Facebook “likes” count a lot in the final judging. So, please click the Facebook link at the bottom of my story—it looks like a thumbs up.
Please leave one of your thoughtful comments at the end of the story. Comments count for judging, only if they are more than a quick, “Great story!” What emotions, memories, thoughts came up when you read it? What did you think about the quality of writing? Was it descriptive enough? Logical beginning, middle & end?
Please go to “Closing Arguments” (at the top of each page, in the header) and convince the judges which story should win this week and why. I usually copy and paste my comment from the story I want to win, then make it stronger for the judges.
For you to “qualify” to give the judges your opinion in the “Closing Arguments” you have to click a box that says that you have read at least 3 of the stories.
For those of you who were not able to make it to the contest, here’s 2nd place winner, “My Gutsy Story,” for those of you who are sick of reading about this: sorry, one last time and I will put it to bed:>)
Runaway Writer Found on Beach, Heart Broken, but Alive!
One of the best moves I’ve ever made was to run away from home when I was almost fifty-one years-old. Once I made the move, my life changed. I did meet a small new circle of friends, but the biggest change was in my writing life.
It had been over 10 years since I was actively writing online. Back then I was writing for online magazines, a weekly column on the now defunct “She’s Got” network, and I ran a site for young writers. I wrote children’s stories, poetry, and a novel, while plotting my moves to publish them all. Then life took another swing at me and my writing life was back to just me and my journal, which satisfied me for a time.
In 2008 a personal tragedy brought writing back into my life; I wrote online updates to friends and family about my husband’s fight with leukemia. I wrote from Paul’s hospital bedside and from the desk at our temporary housing near the hospital and clinic. I wrote about our thoughts and feelings, about the latest medicines, and their cruel side effects. I tried to keep positive and I tried to make our weird humor an ingredient of my updates. Amazingly to me, I kept getting comments on my updates like, “I hope you’re saving this for a book,” and “This is going in the book isn’t it,” and “You have to write a book to help others through what you and Paul have been through.”
Patti Hall and Paul
Almost a year from the day he was diagnosed, Paul passed away at home in our bed. Even stunned by his death though, I missed writing those updates, and the connections that they brought. A few weeks later I began an email journal of my painful progress through nightmare estate issues and my stunted grief process. My email journal went out (and still does) to our same circle from the leukemia updates, with pictures, poetry, and reader comments. My audience continues to laugh, cry and cheer for me.
It was six months after Paul’s death that I ran away from home. Our home was home no more; it was a torn shell that had once been the comfortable shelter of our love. Home was now held hostage in a gripping tug-of-war between lawyers and heirs. All I could focus on during those first six months was Paul and my driving need to be near the ocean; a need that pulled me like the moon tugs at the tides. Some of our most fun and soothing times had been spent walking sandy shores.
During those six months before I ran away, I thought of other times that I had found sanctuary on the beach. As a young divorced mother, I had often bundled up my nursing son and my toddler-daughter and made excursions to a friend’s beach cottage, or to the sands of Ocean Shores Washington. I recalled treasured memories of Huntington Beach California, with my beautiful red-headed sister and our young families.
As beach memories crowded my thoughts, automatic pilot (that self-protective part of me) managed the details of the next episode of my life. Without that autopilot, I could never have abandoned our home; that sacred place of “us.” Autopilot shielded me from sinking into fear and served up a pair of wings for my flight to the beach.
Maggie’s as safe as the closet that our dog, Jake, snuggled into during fireworks or storms (and she’s not much bigger than that closet!). Maggie is a travel trailer who beats her chest with happiness when salty winds batter her metal skin. She sings along with the chimes I hang, and apologizes unceasingly when her plumbing proves imperfect. Maggie is home, and only a short walk to the beach.
Once settled into my new life, the addiction began. I dug out old work. I produced new work. I started writing under my maiden name, which I had not used since 1977. The solitary writer’s life I led now had little resemblance to any of the former lives I’d led the past 36 years, so a new (old) name made perfect sense to me.
I polished a children’s book written for my children when they were young, and then I wrote a 4000-word story based on my granddaughters. I pulled out a series of poem-stories that I wrote years ago; I had drawn little booklet covers and attached the poem-stories to whimsical creatures that my girlfriend made for sale.
I spent hours researching and educating myself on writing and publishing in this new modern world. I joined a local writer’s class in the arts center and an online memoir class. I began attending a local writing group at my library. There, I presented a new story I was writing based on the superhero flights of fancy of one of my grandsons, but written for all three of them.
More research. I followed a course online on building a writer’s platform. I made my website to blog my future readers. I joined Twitter and Facebook. I passed the initiation and became a member of several online writing groups. I was writing new material every day and blogging most of it. The feedback was encouraging, more than encouraging, as several professional and/or published writers were insisting I publish my work. I was on a roll.
I’m still on that roll. I’ve had two other very close deaths recently that almost stopped me in my tracks again. The grief is overwhelming, but what I can do is write. I can write of the cold dark hours and long, never-ending days of my grief. I can even write and photograph the joyful minutes that I allow myself to see and feel the miracles of nature; the raging waves reaching for the shore, the dancing birds on the sand who rejoice in flight, the moss-covered shack I capture being swallowed by vegetation. I’m at my beach and I’m writing a memoir. I’m alive and I’m hopeful.
Grani & the little grands taking a break after jumping on the trampoline with a sprinkler under it. My clothes are soaked! A hard day–Tiven’s service, and we all needed the comfort of our crazy family. Cora, Cameron, Nola
Do you have friends or family in a medical (or other) crisis? Who doesn’t, huh? How are you handling that? In my small circle we have dealt with some big ones over the last 4 years. I never did get my cape or badge or certificate, but I still feel I have enough real life experience and research to back my insights about these heart-breaking situations.
The biggest impact on giving comfort can be in what you do or don’t say. Skip the ubiquitous cliches and resist sharing your own similar, (but actually, completely different) experience. No one is in a hurry, so take your time and give some thought to each word that comes out of your well-intentioned loving mouth. Make it about them, (the victim or the caregiver) not you. “This must be so hard for you.” “I’m so sorry.” “I wish you weren’t going through this.” Like that, you get the idea; short, sympathetic and focused on them. And, no %^&* cliches! None.
The second biggest impact on offering comfort is not to make an ambiguous offer to help. Again, think first, before you even come into contact. Instead of asking your crisis-foggy-brained friend or family member what you can do for them, ask yourself what you would need. If you were in the same situation, what would you need? Then make a list of practical, helpful things that you are certain you can commit to.
List maybe 5-8 things. Like, “I have Tuesdays off, I can make a meal for your family and do some laundry for you.” “I can come over this weekend and mow the lawn.” Or clean the house, help you make a calendar of things to do, run errands on a specific day, or any day, if you are available. Do they have a patient care page set up online to keep family and friends in the loop without a lot of phone calls? Whatever will be the most helpful for their situation. Write your final five to eight offers and hand it to the caregiver or the patient. Make sure that all your contact info is included, even if they are your best friend, and you talked on the phone every day before the crisis. Foggy brains.
If you are not up to a big time or energy commitment, but would like to do something, offer to read to them. Or to sit with them for 1/2 an hour while their caregiver takes a break. Can you stop by and get their mail for them? Bring them a treat? How about be their secretary for an hour? Maybe a mini spa treatment; braid hair, rub feet, paint nails…you know them, what would they love?
Careful consideration of these two things can have the biggest impact on the care and comfort that you can offer a friend or family member during a crisis. I’ve read hundreds of books and articles on the topic, and the same two issues come up over and over again. We tend to say the wrong thing or we don’t offer specific, practical help. If nothing else, find 100 ways to say that you are sorry, and skip offering to help until you know what to offer.
I hope this helps you and yours, I wish none of us needed to know or use this information.
Feel free to add your suggestions, questions or comments. What did I miss?