Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Hamilton Walk Of Shame

We all have those moments....

Those adolescent moments where we are mortified beyond belief... where we wish we could just crawl under a rock... where we just wanna die from embarrassment.

It will not come as a surprise to you that I have had several such moments. I have shared a few of them with you on this blog... The Legend Of Moonshine

And, just for the sake of embarrassing myself further, I will share yet another one... (remind me to share with you how I got the nickname Hot Lips Leopard Pants in the 7th grade...that's a story for another day...)

I attended a small K-7 elementary school in the mountain community of Anza, California. I believe my elementary years were spent with no more than a  hundred other mountain kids, at most. 

This was the original school site in 1956, When I attended, an office was added to the right as well as a few modular classrooms. That field behind this building was our playground.

My former classmates may be upset with me... but here we are! All 36 representatives of the 5th, 6th, & 7th grades in 1979/1980! 

I'm still in touch with a few of these lifelong friends... and many of them can attest to the following tale... they can validate what I say as being the gospel truth.

Take a good, long look at our teacher in the glasses... the scandalous, yet loveable, Carl Cripe. Many of us were subjected to his unorthodox teaching styles and bizarre classroom management.... and we loved him for it!  He is one of a kind! So much so that each and every one of us who had him as a teacher has a story to tell that begins with, "remember that time, when Mr. Cripe..."

He was such a character; a beloved character in my childhood. One I looked up to as a father figure. We revered his gruff and gravely voice. The way he'd stare you down over those glasses when you were misbehaving (I never misbehaved... I just wanna make that clear... lol).

Yes... his coffee cup was THAT disgusting!!!
The smell of pipe tobacco will ALWAYS make me think of him... he often lit that pipe in class and would puff on it in between math equations, his teeth clenching the pipe while he spoke out of the side of his mouth like Popeye!
I think of him EVERY time I wash a coffee cup, as that was forbidden in his world! His coffee cup was blackened with months and months of black coffee consumption without even so much as an occasional rinse, let alone a full washing.... Oh, how I remember the wrath that befell us all when someone inadvertently washed that cup !!! 
In addition to all of these endearing qualities that would make most parents run for the hills (wait a minute... we WERE in the hills!!!), Carl Cripe had a tradition carried out year after year at 7th grade graduation. And heaven help anyone that fell prey to his tradition. This is where my story really begins....

It was 1979, the beginning of 7th grade for me at Hamilton Elementary. My last year attending this little school before joining the older kids on their 2 hour bus ride down the hill to civilization at the larger city schools.

I had been invited over to a weekend slumber party at my friend Samantha's house. Being that I lived a good 15 miles away from Sam, I packed my brown paper grocery bag with my supplies for the weekend (toothbrush, curling iron, change of clothing, PJ's) and took it with me to school on Friday, planing to ride the bus home with Sam at the end of the day.

All went well as planned, and I'm sad to say that I don't really remember much about that slumber party. I'm sure we all had fun swimming, dancing, having pillow fights, talking about the boys we had crushes on.... I don't remember the details, but I know I had fun.

I remember how thrilled I was that I had a pair of "new-to-me" PJ's to take to the slumber party. I didn't have much growing up, but my parents provided me with what they could. My mother had recently been thrift store shopping and had picked something special for me to wear to the sleep over... something that was way too old for my 13 years, I realize now, but I felt so grown up in my very own, bright red baby doll nightie!!! It was sheer with ruffles, and matching panties... WHAT WAS MY MOTHER THINKING !!!???

While the other girls were sporting flannel PJ's, I was dressed like, well.... like the town harlot. No harm, no foul... the other girls didn't seem to have any negative feedback on my PJ selection and I managed to steer clear of Sam's little brother, so my virtue and all-but-invisible reputation was safe.

Monday morning came, and we all clamored back on to the school bus and off to school we went. The bus would generally arrive early enough in the morning to afford us the opportunity to play on the playground; something that I still enjoyed even at 13. We'd spin on the bars until our palms were blistered, play freeze tag on the big, metal jungle gym, or we'd simply sit on top of the lunch tables and gossip.

I don't remember what activity I participated in that chilly Monday morning, but I must have been thoroughly engrossed, because when the bell rang for line-up, I completely forgot about my paper bag of slumber supplies.

I obediently lined up with my peers, recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and ran off to first period. About ten minutes into class, I realized that I had forgotten my paper bag on the lunch table. A sense of fear and dread raced through my veins as I pleaded with my teacher to let me go outside to retrieve it. I ran outside and to my dismay, the bag was nowhere in sight. I ran to the office to ask Ms. Russo if my belongings had been turned in, to which she replied, "No."

Feeling sick to my stomach, I returned to class and not one second after my butt had settled into my desk chair, did Mr. Cripe hold my bag of "goodies" up in front of the class for all to see!!! Now then, if I had been smart, I wouldn't have reacted... after all, there was nothing inside that bag that implicated who the owner was.  However, I was NOT that smart and quickly bolted from my seat in a futile attempt to grab my bag from his grip.

A futile effort, indeed, as I was a mere 5 ft tall and was clearly out of my mind if I thought I could get anywhere near that bag. I jumped, I reached, I pleaded, I dropped to my knees and begged while my classmates laughed behind me. But I was kept at an arm's length as Mr. Cripe swayed the bag back and forth and wondered, out loud, just what was in that bag that had me so frantic!!??!!

HE wouldn't ...

HE couldn't ....

HE DID !!!

In front of the entire 7th grade class, Mr. Cripe pulled out that bright red baby doll nightie and held it up in front of him and pranced around the classroom with his pipe hanging out of his mouth ... laughing and singing while I pooled into a puddle of pure mortification.

Now, if this weren't bad enough, I was then enlightened as to the fate of my bright red baby doll nightie...

It would not be returned to me on that day with my toothpaste and other remnants remaining in the bag...

It would not be returned to me at the end of the week, or even after serving any form of after school detention...

No, the scarlet nightie of shame would be returned to me at the end of the school year at the 7th Grade Graduation Ceremony! I would have to relive the shame not only in front of my classmates again, but in front of all of their parents and siblings, as well as the school staff in it's entirety !!!

OH MY GOD !!!!

Well, at least I got that out of the way early in the year, right? There certainly wasn't anything I could do to trump that Ace, so I spent the rest of my school days on my studies while my fellow classmates each fell prey to some kind of embarrassment to be revealed on graduation night.

One by one, stories of teenage angst and immaturity were revealed to an awe-struck crowd. When my turn came, and Mr. Cripe reveled in the story of the little girl with the red nightie, I steeled the courage to walk up there in front of all of my peers, with a bright and wide smile on my face, to claim my rightful property and take a bow!!! It was a moment of personal growth for me.

Here I am, receiving my 7th grade Graduation "Diploma" from our Principal Mr. Leigh. Look at that impressive Class of '80 .... all 15 of us!! This shot was taken while we all possessed some shred of dignity as the "Cripe Awards" had not yet taken place.
 You know... this picture would have been so much more appropriate had Mr. Leigh been just a little more to my left ... then there would be no need for a caption... the picture would speak for me and simply say "ASS of '80"

I learned an important lesson from this experience; one I didn't realize at the time, but one that serves me well to this day. Stuff happens... and if it's gonna happen, it will generally happen to me... SO, I might as well look at the humor in all things and learn to laugh at myself.
I'm glad I see things this way now, because life is just too short to take everything so seriously.... Thank you, Mr. Cripe.



and most of all, LAUGH

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lucy In An Elevator

Today Imma lookin' Lucy.

I have come to work dressed in my navy blue dress with white polka dots. I have my hair all piled on the top of my head... pearl earrings and red lipstick and the attitude to match.

I have always possessed a "mild" fascination with Lucy... nothing too over the top, which I'm sure is hard for those of you who know me to believe, because I generally do everything to the hilt!

I enjoy watching her shows. I can't help but stop while channel surfing to watch an episode I've seen a billion times. Her picture stomping grapes has been prominently displayed at the top of my blog since the blog's inception. watch clip here

 I've had several self-proclaimed "Lucy" moments in my life, and refer to them often! Like the time my friend and I decided to add bleach highlights to our hair. She ended up with thick stripes and I had a bleached checkerboard on my head! Or, just last week while curling my eyelashes, I cut half of them off with the crimper! Even one of my coworkers shared with me the other day that she thinks of Lucy every time she sees me! What a great compliment!!!

But, goofy Lucy mishaps aside, not I have set a new personal achievement goal of memorizing and reciting the Vita Meata Vegamin routine. ... watch clip here   I have practiced day and night and night and day, learning to pronounce every nuance of the routine. My plan is to surprise a dear friend with this routine at her birthday party....UPDATE: read about how I crashed and burned here

I have to think that Lucy would be flattered that I want to learn one of her most revered routines.... after all, she knew me!

OK, OK, she didn't really KNOW me, but she spoke to me.... one of my most memorable childhood moments, next to having Red Skelton fix my bike at a hometown parade.

It was 1975 and I was just as impulsive then as I am now. I had suffered a nasty fall that had resulted in breaking both bones in my right wrist. Now the break was traumatic enough, but I had just celebrated my 8th birthday in which I had received my very own personalized bowling ball AND I had been practicing for weeks to be in my first parade as a baton twirler ... both activities were promptly placed on hold now that I was in a full arm cast and looking at the possibility of surgery.

After the initial visit to the ER, the setting and casting ordeals, my mother and I were on a follow up trip to the nearest hospital, a mere 80 miles one-way, for some follow up x-rays to determine if I would be in need of surgery.  My mother located a parking spot at Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Springs and we went inside.

Once in the lobby we were directed to the elevator and informed which floor to report to. As we waited at the elevator door, a woman joined us. I recall that she had on a light, cream colored suit, a sheer scarf around her head, and sunglasses. Her arm was in a sling.

As the elevator door opened, we all three went inside. My mother is a social creature, much like myself, so it didn't surprise me when she began chatting with the woman in the elevator. I looked up at both women as they spoke and laughed and nodded heads as things were said.

The conversation couldn't have lasted long, as most rides in an elevator don't tend to last more than mere seconds. But they seemed to be talking like they were lifelong friends catching up on the latest news. What I recall from that conversation was the woman relaying to my mother that she had fallen off of a ladder. She said this as she lowered her sunglasses with her free arm and exposed her badly blackened eye. The fall was obviously the reason for her injured arm as well; something I could relate to as I showed her my cast. She patted my cast and smiled warmly at me as I lifted it up to her. "Oh dear", she said to me. "You'll be OK. Look! I hurt my arm, too." ... She was so kind.

The elevator door opened, farewells were exchanged and the lady stepped off. The doors closed and I looked up at mom mother and asked her who that lady was. "Why, honey, THAT was Lucy!"

With the scarf, glasses and obviously looking much older than I envisioned her (as I had only seen her in her syndicated re-runs), I hadn't even realized I had been in the presence of comedic greatness.

I chastise myself now, realizing what a missed opportunity it was. But, I also realize just how gracious my mother was! She didn't become star-struck and get all goofy being in the elevator with a Hollywood legend; she spoke with and treated Lucy with the same regard as anyone else riding an elevator that day. I'm sure Lucy was grateful for that. I, on the other hand, had I known, would have thrown my arms around her and inform her of just how much I loved watching her shows and just how much she made me laugh. Oh, how I wish I would have been able to tell her that.

After that day, I watched episodes with much more reverence and joy, just knowing that I had shared a moment with her. Not many kids can say that... I'm glad I can.

I Love You, Lucy....  thank you for making my childhood bright and full of laughter!

Saturday, May 26, 2012


As I have mentioned on a few occasions, I have a mild infatuation with Miss Lucille Ball. I enjoy her her television shows, tend to dress a bit "Lucy-ish" at least once a week at work (my supervisor has even named the copier machine Ethel, as we are constant partners in crime), and now I have taken it upon myself to attempt one of Lucy's harder routines.

The classic Vitameatavegamin shtick where Lucy auditions for a live television commercial in which she must repeat take after take after take while consuming a tonic that, unbeknownst to Lucy, contains 23% alcohol click here to watch 

The thought to learn and perform the routine had come out easy enough, rather innocently, actually.

A friend of mine, Cai, had contacted me with an invite for a surprise party for his wife, Renee. I had replied that I would love to go, but would more than likely, show up dressed in my 1950's retro attire....perhaps even dressed like Lucy!

My friend, Cai, replied that he'd love to have me show up dressed as Lucy! And right there, I had the genius idea to perform as Lucy at this surprise party!! I didn't really have the resources to provide her with a gift at this party, but I could perform a skit for her as a gift! A gift that certainly wouldn't be duplicated, right??!!?? I suggested the idea to Cai and he heartily agreed that his wife would love it.


I had never even attempted to memorize any part of this routine, and it is complex to say the least! I had less than a week to prepare and it would be a crazy thing to attempt (but we all know I"m crazy)

I pulled up a video of the Vitameatavegamin episode on my iPhone and watched it at every opportunity; on the way to work, on the way home from work, as I lay in bed every night until I'd fall asleep.... Over and over and over again until I felt I had perfected every word, every comedic pause, every facial expression, every nuance that IS Lucy!  I even located and printed the script so I could nail down every syllable as she began mispronouncing words as she becomes drunk.

I performed for some co-workers the day before the surprise party and had done pretty well, I thought, minus any props. They had laughed at appropriate times and to my credit, didn't require any explanation as to what was going on throughout the skit. On more than one occasion, I had even reduced them to tears as I became more "inebriated".

I was confident that I was ready for my Lucy debut. I printed off a Vitameatavegamin label and affixed it to a prescription bottle, thinking that it looked pretty authentic, and filled it with Mango Nectar. I created advertisement billboards much like the ones in the episode, and off I went to the party~

I was nervous as we drove to the party. I had put a lot into this and I had hoped Renee would like the end result. I watched my video and practiced one more time and jumped out of the truck, grabbed my props and walked into the restaurant....and I didn't see ANY familiar faces. I checked each and every table; all eyes on me as dining patrons wonder who I am and what in the hell I am up to.

My husband and I are then directed to the party... in the bar !!! The KARAOKE BAR !!! Oh great! I am NOT feeling as confident as I had been just moments before.   I am greeted warmly, with lots of smiles and laughter and hugs. For the most part, the guests were my coworkers, so they were mostly aware of my vintage style. But I was quite the source of bar banter for those who didn't know me.

We all eat and visit for a while. One by one, my friends sing karaoke and are getting drunker by the minute as they celebrate. My confidence is wavering a little, and I even voice my concern that this may not be the right time or place ... but I am assured that everything will be fine.

 I try to figure out how I am going to present my skit to my friend in a bar full of strangers. The layout of the bar did not lend itself to a skit, and now Cai had insisted that I perform it for everyone using the karaoke microphone! I pee my pinafore a little at this point.

As I steeled myself for my performance, I asked the bartender to add a little something to my prop bottle so I wouldn't have to fake the grimacing faces that Lucy makes as she takes the first few spoonfuls of tonic. The bartender obliged and added a shot of bitters. I glanced at the label as she poured, and, not to out-do Lucy, but this particular brand of  Bitters had 47% alcohol !!! Going down in flames in five...four...three...two....and one!

I set up my props, got everyone's attention, Cai's holding the mic for me, took a deep breath and started my routine. The first spoonful of bitters knocked me silly upside my head and I barely got the spoonful down. Yup, I didn't have to fake the faces now!

I barely regain composure, take the second spoonful of bitters and seriously almost lost my dinner. I double over, retching, my eyes are watering, ears are ringing, throat is burning, knees are knocking,  I should NOT have added to my prop... I should have stayed with what I knew!!!

I stand up, wipe the tears from my eyes, focus on my friends who are still cheering me on while trying to block out the jeers from the strangers sitting at the bar. I have shaken up the bottle in an attempt to mix up the mango juice with the bitters so I can continue on and like a Gong Show reject, I am shut down by a friend and coworker, who doubles as security at the bar. He has secured another mic and is begging for someone, anyone, to come sing a song. Despite some reassurance from my friends to carry on, I relent. I was shut down just at the point where things were going to get funny.

Wounded, I plastered a smile on my face (yes, a fake one) said my good-nights and relayed excuses about it being late and having to get home and go to bed... "Gotta get to work early in the morning, you know" ?

I learned some important lessons that night.

  • Not everyone was fortunate enough to have been exposed to I Love Lucy growing up. They don't know classic comedy when they see it. What a shame. 
  • Always listen to your gut ... I knew I shouldn't have attempted that routine in a bar!
  • Never, ever, ever attempt to perform a skit where someone unintentionally gets slowly inebriated in a roomful of people who are intentionally doing everything in their power to become rapidly inebriated... 
What can I say? I popped out at a party and am, now, unpoopular !!! and there just isn't enough Vitameatavegamin to fix this one.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Mother's Gift....

It's amazing how social media allows us into the hearts of our friends and family. Sometimes, the posts are happy, sometimes, they allow us to share in heartache and offer bits of love and support.

In the past few weeks, I have been saddened to read posts on facebook from dear friends who have lost or misplaced items of great importance to them; items that hold a significance in their lives as a memory of a loved one that has passed on.

One friend, LisaMarie, had discovered that her pink ribbon breast cancer awareness ring was missing from her finger. She had worn that ring every day in memory of her mother who had fought her own battle with breast cancer, but was taken far too young. LisaMarie's friends all rallied around her to comfort her with (((hugs))) .... OK, that was my post, which was not nearly as clever as those who had suggested that the lost ring was a sign that she should get a pink ribbon tattoo, or the friend who wisely suggested that losing the ring merely signified that LisaMarie wears her mother in her heart and not on her finger.

I am happy to report that LisaMarie's son found the ring in his baseball  bag and called her, offering to wear it for her until he could return it to her later in the day. I know she was simply overcome with relief and gratitude and her heart was somewhat at peace again. I still hope she gets the tattoo, tho.

Today, my friend Samantha, a friend I haven't seen in 30 years, posted that she had lost her necklace at a day spa. Her mother, who had passed away in 2010, had given her that necklace and now it was gone. She has expressed her heartache, and once again, friends from every extension of her life have reached out to console her, offer her a new way of looking at the loss. One of her friends, Craig, suggested, and I quote. "that she accept that there is a reason for the necklace being gone; perhaps an unsuspecting stranger will find it just when they need it and her mother's gift will touch that person. A touch so great and one that a total stranger needs".

Wow.... couldn't we all use friends like this in our lives.

I have been wanting to write about one of my life experiences for a while now, but the timing didn't seem right. My friend's stories and the wisdom of their friends have provided me the inspiration to write today, and to them I send my thanks and blessings.

Several years ago, I had gone back east to visit my mother in Iowa. It was a yearly pilgrimage that I would take with any number of the boys. Sometimes by plane, sometimes by car, and God help me, sometimes by Greyhound bus (I'll never do that again) ...

My mother usually has the knack of picking up something or another to bestow upon me; something she thinks I will enjoy or find some use for.

She knew I enjoyed collecting coffee mugs, so she sent me boxes of random coffee mugs. She had missed the small detail that I enjoyed collecting coffee mugs from locations I had visited ... as a souvenir !!!

 I didn't particularly have an interest in a coffee mug from the local hardware store. Or a mug with a pig snout on it... or the local radio station's call letters ...

But, up in the cabinet those coffee mugs went. And they were used. And the randomness of each mug made me think of her.

On this summer trip, I had noticed a brand new comforter, still in the plastic, zippered bag from the store. She had purchased the comforter on sale at JCPenneys some months earlier and it was just sitting there on a shelf, unopened and unused and apparently forgotten.

I had mentioned the comforter to my mother, letting her know how much I had admired the pattern; that the color scheme would be perfect for my current decor. "That's nice, sweetie, but I don't want to get rid of that yet."

"But it's just sitting there," I reasoned.
"I know," she said, "But I bought that for myself and someday I'll use it."

I had tried every angle I knew to work her for that comforter, but she wasn't budging. So, I let her win that battle and moved on....

I flew home a few weeks later, with one child in tow and leaving another behind to spend the rest of the summer with his grandma and grandpa.

Summers in Iowa can be magical for a child; golden, fresh corn-on-the-cob cookouts, catching fireflies, evening thunderstorms. I was happy that my son, Joshua, would get to have all of those experiences while receiving the undivided attention from his grandparents.  (Yes, Joshua, I know... Grandpa always wanted you to take out the trash and you hated that)

Sadly, his visit was cut short when my Uncle Henry suddenly took ill and passed away. My parents packed up their mini-van and drove the 1700 miles to the West coast to gather with the grieving family.

Now, when I say they packed that mini-van,, I mean they PACKED that mini-van! They had every square inch of that vehicle burgeoning with suitcases, maps, games, wipes, ....

...and a comforter.

My mother, bless her heart, had  brought me the comforter she knew I had wanted so badly. For 1700 miles, she rode with that comforter squished up against her; the plastic bag sticking to her skin and causing her to sweat. That, I realized, was true unselfishness... the lengths she went through to bring me that comforter.

I was so pleased that she had done that for me. Upon returning home, I made that comforter my top priority! I was going to promptly place that beautiful gift on my bed! Smiling, I opened the bag, unfurled and fluffed the contents out across the span of my queen sized bed....

and came up short. No matter which way I turned the comforter, it didn't look right. Despite admiring the pattern a gazillion times, I had failed to notice the size clearly stamped on the side of the bag: FULL

Defeated, I folded up the comforter and shoved it back in the bag. How could I be so stupid as to not notice the size of the damned thing!!?? I shoved the bag up into the highest shelf of my closet, reasoning that, maybe someday, I would use it on a guest bed. I never told my mother that it didn't fit.

Several months later, I was getting the urge to purge. My closets and cupboards were overflowing and it was time for a yard sale. I went through every cabinet, every closet to find items to tag and sell. I threw some coffee mugs in a box, I had too many and had to make some space.

I stared at the comforter, still perched on the shelf where I had placed long ago. It really wasn't serving a purpose. I wasn't going to use it... I needed to let it go. Out it went into the yard sale with the low, low bargain price of $25.00

Throughout the day, people would rifle through my items, some had memories attached to them, some didn't. I felt a tinge of guilt every time someone bought a coffee mug. I don't know why, but I just felt wrong about letting them go. I would rationalize with myself that I just had too many coffee cups.

On more than one occasion, someone would show an interest in the comforter. Every single time, they would attempt to weasel me down on the price... would I take $15.... would I take $10.  Each time I would refuse the lower offer regaling the story of how my mother had brought the blanket 1700 miles... in the heat... and how she'd sweat.... they'd grow weary of my story and put it back on the ground and move on to the next thing they wanted to consider buying.

The more I told the story, the more I realized I probably shouldn't sell the comforter. I was just getting ready to close shop for the day when I had one last car pull up to the curb. A well dressed woman got out and went straight for the comforter. Without even haggling the price, she placed the bag under her arm and extended her hand with the money in it.  As I took that money from her hand, I started to tell her about how my mother had given me that comforter, but I choked. I almost didn't take her money because I was frozen with guilt and remorse.

But my fingers held on to the money and I watched her get in her car and drive away.

After I cleaned up the driveway and had put away everything that didn't sell, I counted the till for the day. I had done pretty good. Not great, but  $43 was pretty good. Selling the comforter had actually made sitting in the driveway all day worthwhile.

Now then, how was I going to treat myself with my hard earned cash? The answer was pretty obvious to me as I looked down at my torn jeans. I had ripped out the thigh of my pants earlier in the day and was in need of a new pair. They were actually the only pair of jeans I had left, so off to the store I went to but me some clothes.

I bought the jeans, a couple of shirts, new underwear, and a pack of socks. That pretty much wiped out my little stash of cash. When I got home, I dropped the bags on the couch and started preparing dinner. I figured I would put the clothes away later.

No, this is not Jim....
That night, after I had fallen asleep, the phone rang. Late night phone calls always fill me with panic because late night phone calls always bring bad news. Jim had answered the phone and I listened intently to every "uh-huh" and "yes, I understand" ... and then, to my heart's dismay, he handed me the phone and said it was my brother. I knew my greatest fear was becoming a reality; the dreaded phone call one gets about an ailing parent.

My mother had suffered a massive aneurysm rupture in her brain. The ambulance had already transported her to two hospitals and she was now at her 3rd, at St. Joseph's Medical Center, the Mayo Clinic teaching hospital in Minnesota. She wasn't expected to live through the night and I needed to come right away.

The next hours were a blur of tears, phone calls, airline flight arrangements, panic,disbelief, confusion, and utter guilt and sorrow for selling that comforter. I kept telling myself that there was a reason why I felt so strongly about keeping that silly thing, and now I knew why. It was like the heavens knew that I was going to need that blanket, they tried to intervene to make me keep it, but I sold it anyways for the power of the almighty dollar! This was what I kept telling myself, beating myself up for being a selfish, careless daughter who sells her mother's gifts to strangers at a yard sale! Shame on me!

My son, Joshua, had heard my crying and woke up and came to me to comfort me. He offered to  help gather items to place in my suitcase. "What can I pack for you, Mom?"

 I was overcome with an understanding so real, so viable I can still feel it today. I had NO pants earlier that day. And, I had wasted the day tending to the yard sale and hadn't washed any clothes.  I used the money from the sale of that comforter to buy clothes! Had I not done so, I wouldn't have had ANYTHING to wear on the flight back to say good-bye to my mother! My flight was scheduled for 6am, long before any stores would have been open. I would have literally been scrambling for something to wear. An added stress that I certainly did not need.

I hugged him and pointed to the shopping bags, they were on the on the couch, unpacked and ready for my trip. Pants, shirts, underwear, socks... all Joshua had to do was throw the bags in a suitcase, grab a few toiletry items and we were off in the night to the airport to catch my early morning flight.

Those clothes served me well for the next seven weeks as I refused to leave my mother's side.  I literally slept, ate, and  lived  in the neurological wing of St. Josephs Medical Center for 49 days as my mother fought for her life. When life or death decisions were to be made, it was me the doctors came to. I never want to experience that again. It is pure hell.

 Three times the doctors told me she wouldn't live through the night. Three times I said goodbye only to have her fight her way back. She has endured countless brain surgeries, months of rehabilitation, has lost her vision and her short term memory, but she pulled through something most would not. She won this battle, but she will not win the war.  I choked back the tears when I had to tell my dad that CT scans revealed that she has another large aneurysm in the center of her brain. It is inoperable. Someday, it too will rupture and there will be nothing that can be done.

My mother today. She will never know what a gift that comforter truly was.

When I returned home from Minnesota, I wanted so desperately to get my mother's comforter back. I wanted to lay with it, to hold it, to have it with me so I could think of her, keep her close. I went so far as to have a local newspaper reporter pen a story about how I had sold it and so desperately wanted it back. But there were no responses from faithful readers. I had to accept the fact that I would never see that comforter again.

Up until this very day, I had been stewing over the loss of that comforter. But once I had read Craig's comment to Samantha, I realized that my mother's gift had not only provided me with the clothing I needed to be with her, but certainly it had brought comfort to a stranger. Maybe joy for a young woman who had never had anything beautiful before, or comfort for a tired, new mother. Perhaps respite to someone suffering from a terminal illness, or, later in it's life, warmth to a homeless man or a rescued animal.

I can now see that a mother's gift goes on to bless others, much like how I hope Samantha's necklace will.

I hope Samantha sees the wisdom in her friend's words. I know I did, and I thank him for the gift he gave to me.... a gift that, I hope, will touch the life of another stranger... and another...and another.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A letter to a mother .....

Today, I saw a post which included a letter from a mother to her daughter. I see a lot of myself in that letter, both as a daughter and as a mother. Although, I must admit, the daughter part of me is a far better example of what one should be than the mother side of me. But, all I can say is I did my best raising my four boys and I hope they know that they are my heart.

I am blessed. I can honestly say that my mother has all of the redeeming qualities listed below; patience, love, understanding, wisdom.

I remember laying with her in bed while she read me stories. We would wriggle our toes under the blankets so the cat would "attack" our feet.

She would go to great lengths to get me whatever I needed. Like the time I had ripped my pants and needed her to bring a replacement pair to school ... over 50 miles away.

She would patiently sit through my frustrated temper tantrums while trying to explain to me the simple aspects of algebra, as I was making it more difficult than it needed to be.

Having raised my four boys, I know there are many moments I didn't display all the right attributes or temperaments, but I see them as parents themselves now, and I know I did some things right.

Unfortunately, I also see a lot of the harsh truths in this letter from a mother.

My mother calls and repeats the same stories she had relayed last time we spoke. Sometimes she repeats the story during the same phone call. I let her tell her story and acknowledge her when appropriate. I do not chastise her and only assist or correct her when she lets me know she'd appreciate the help.

We have had our go-rounds with regards to getting her hair done and getting a manicure. I could never talk her into a pedicure. ANd the fear of falling in the shower or tub pretty much ensured she wasn't going to bathe as requested ( or required ) ... but I can't say I blame her as I fear falling, even at my age!!!

Over the years she certainly has slowed as she is aging. What tasks she used to do with ease, became more of a chore for her. Her walking developed into a slow-speed shuffle. Getting in and out of her chair was accompanied by moans and groans.... Now she is in a wheel chair and cannot even do the simplest of things without assistance.

Her cell phone, audio recorder from the Department of the Blind, and hearing aides are just as much a mystery to me as they are to her.

I do my best to live by the advice in this letter as I know she would do the same for me.

From a mother to a daughter, but it applies to sons and fathers, as well.

 "My dear daughter, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through.

 If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: “You said the same thing a minute ago”... Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep. 

When I don’t want to take a bath, don’t be mad and don’t embarrass me. Remember when I had to run after you making excuses and trying to get you to take a shower when you were just a girl? 

When you see how ignorant I am when it comes to new technology, give me the time to learn and don’t look at me that way... remember, honey, I patiently taught you how to do many things like eating appropriately, getting dressed, combing your hair and dealing with life’s issues every day... the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through. 

If I occasionaly lose track of what we’re talking about, give me the time to remember, and if I can’t, don’t be nervous, impatient or arrogant. Just know in your heart that the most important thing for me is to be with you.

 And when my old, tired legs don’t let me move as quickly as before, give me your hand the same way that I offered mine to you when you first walked. 

 When those days come, don’t feel sad... just be with me, and understand me while I get to the end of my life with love. I’ll cherish and thank you for the gift of time and joy we shared. With a big smile and the huge love I’ve always had for you, I just want to say, I love you... my darling daughter. "

If you've read this all the way through, call your mother and tell her you love her. 

<3 <3 <3