birthdays, Blog

Happy Birthday, Daddy

Today is my father’s birthday. I miss his sense of humor and his wise counsel. When I see how many people live well into their 90s (my dad would be 93 today) I feel a certain longing I cannot adequately put into words. To think I could have had him in my life another 28 years seems unfathomable. To think he would have met all six of my grandchildren and all of his great-grandchildren is overwhelming. I wonder how lives might have been altered had he been a continued presence in our lives. But those are idle wishes of a daughter still missing her father after all these years.

Dad was not perfect by any means. I know that and he knew that. Still, he was such an important force in my life. It is his advice that rings in my ears even today. Perhaps he was not special to everyone, but to me he was everything.

My Dad always had hope. Even in the worst of times, he believed things could be better. I am not here to talk about those times — not here, not yet, not on his birthday. I am here to celebrate a once in a lifetime relationship that I know not all people experience. I wonder what he would have to say about the current world situation? He was a man of extreme faith and I think it saw him through a lot. I think he would have found hope and comfort that many of us are searching for.

DadDad had the deepest voice, a loud belly laugh and an infectious smile. He was lighthearted when he wanted to be and stoic when the situation required it. I miss him terribly — on this day especially.

So, Dad, Happy Birthday. You are never far from my thoughts. I still talk to you. I tell you about your six great-grandchildren. They would have loved you. From almost three to eighteen and ready to take on the world, they are quite the crew.

I know you knew how much I loved you and I knew how much you loved me. There was never a question of that in either of us. In so many ways, I wish you were here even if just for a chat on the phone and to sing Happy Birthday. All you ever wanted for any of us was love, health and happiness.

I hope we make you proud.

birthdays, Blog, Family, grandmother

My Grandmother’s Birthday

IMG_1315Today is my grandmother’s birthday. She passed away at the age of 72 which makes today 122 years since her birth. She passed away on her birthday and maybe that’s why I always remember the date.

My grandmother, Bertha Rose, had a difficult life. Her father was ‘run out of town on a rail’ (I talked about this in an earlier post if you care to read about it) and she was only 16 when her mother passed away — possibly from polio. She married my grandfather a year later when she was 17. He was 34.

My grandfather worked for the railroad and they moved to Roanoke, Virginia. She raised her younger siblings so they moved with her when she married. As I write this, I cannot imagine how hard this was on all of them. As far as I know, she never saw her father again – he passed away when she was 19.

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My father was born 13 years after she and my grandfather married. I know she had a stillborn child because she did talk about it. I have no idea when that was, where she was living, or how or where the child was buried. Things were so much different then. I just know losing a child hurt her deeply. My father would remain an only child.

She also talked about her mother, who was very strict and walked with a cane. She never spoke of her father except somehow we always heard he had been run out of town. I know from my genealogy research he had been married before and it is unknown if he just left his wife or if they divorced. Either of those would have been severely disapproved of my great- grandmother’s very staunch and religious family.

Screen Shot 2019-10-15 at 9.37.56 PMMy grandmother was a beautiful woman. Of course, I do not remember her as a young woman, but I love the photos I have of her when she was younger. I found an old faded negative of her with her hair down that I hand-colored years ago. I hold on to this mental image of her because I think she was a pretty tough cookie inside.

My grandmother worked as a private nurse. I am not sure where she received her training, but I know she was an LPN. I suppose it gave her some flexibility when they had to move around. The people she worked for held her in high regard and I know the work took a toll on her.

IMG_1316 (1)There were struggles financially. My siblings and I lived with her and my grandfather for a while when my parents went to look for work in another state. I think it was hard on them. I remember her sitting on her bed crying because she had to sell her precious black walnut trees for lumber. I will never forget that day. Those days with my grandparents were some of the best of my life and I will always be grateful for the love they gave us.

She was an excellent cook. She canned vegetables and made homemade jelly. I was often chastised for dipping my fingers in the hot paraffin wax she used to seal the jelly. She played the ukelele and as a woman of faith, she read her Bible faithfully. We often gathered at her feet while she peeled apples for us – each apple peel in one long continuous string. On Christmas Eve, she always slept with us — her four grandchildren — crosswise in the bed. That sounds like something I would do.

On my grandmother’s birthday, my dad always sent her a dozen roses. He always asked the florist to attach each of our names to one of the roses. The day before her 72nd birthday, she was hospitalized. My father left Ohio to drive to Virginia to see her. He did not make it before she passed. But the roses were there. I hope she got to see them.

Happy Birthday, Mam-Maw. Thank you for all the love and guidance you tried to give us through the years. You are not forgotten.

“I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time. ”
Banksy

birthdays, Blog, daughter

Peanut Butter Sandwiches

Day 289

Today is my daughter’s birthday — my first born. It was her arrival into this world that made me a mom and it was living my life with her that made me a better mom. Now as a grandmother, I appreciate so much all the intangible gifts we have given each other.

We have so many great shared memories. As a little girl she was fearless in so many ways. She loved people and was always a delight to everyone she met. I see the same traits in her daughter now, and seeing her with her little girl has filled me up more than I ever knew possible.

When she was little, she would see smoke or fog or steam and would exclaim “peanut butter sandwiches” with such glee. I could never understand this because she was so well spoken. It made no sense.

One day, we were home watching TV when Sesame Street came on. She was transfixed as usual. I happened to look up just as the character The Amazing Mumford (a magician) waved his magic wand and exclaimed “Ala Peanut Butter Sandwiches” as a huge puff of smoke appeared. Mystery solved.

She was quite precocious in many ways. One morning as I walked her to her babysitter’s house, we encountered the trash men. She waved and said “Good morning. Do you want to come to my house and see my mommy?” They chuckled as I tried to hide my red face. Years later she would tell me she was simply trying to do her part in getting me out of a bad marriage. What a kid.

We have seen each other through some tough times, but those times fade quickly in the light of the hundreds of beautiful moments we have shared. To say I am blessed seems a pale definition to the love we have for each other.

What can you say on the 44th birthday that has not already been said over the years? Maybe nothing new, but definitely words that carry a depth of meaning not possible without the experiences and memories we have shared.

I love you means my heart is so full of love I fear it may burst.

I am proud of you means you have blossomed into a phenomenal woman.

You are a wonderful mom means the love I have for you brings me to my knees when I see how much you love your daughter.

I miss you means the distance is difficult but to see you living a fulfilled life makes me the happiest mom alive.

So, little girl, maybe I have said it before. Every year it means more. More love, more trust, more respect, more happiness, more honesty and more honor that I was chosen to be your mom.

Happy Birthday, my little girl. The years have flown by and I have loved each and every moment. May this just be the beginning of many more wonderful times to come.

I lu lu.

birthdays, Blog, Family, sister

Happy Birthday, Sis

Day 278

Today is my sister’s birthday. I have thought about her all week knowing her birthday was coming up. It is still hard not having her here physically, but I feel her spirit everywhere. I am not sure I will ever get over missing her, but I try to focus on the joy that celebrating her life brings to me.

My sister was a spitfire. Very politically minded and very family-centric. She never met a stranger. There was always someone who had fallen on hard times living with her family. Both my sisters had that trait. I always used to kid them and tell them I was born without the ‘come live with me gene‘! She would literally give you the shirt off her back.

She loved a debate. Especially concerning the two things most people try to avoid — religion and politics. She called them like she saw them and would argue her point until her last breath.

When the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky debacle was revealed, my sister always wanted to see Hillary throw Bill’s clothes on the White House lawn. Of course that would never really happen, but that’s how she said she would have responded.

Political news was her drug of choice. She would watch C-SPAN any time she could. I could never argue with her — she was well armed with knowledge and had a proclivity toward the politics in our country. She could tell you anything you wanted to know about Watergate and she always thought Ted Kennedy should have gone to prison for the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.

For me, however, she was my big sister. Our relationship ebbed and flowed over the years, and thankfully we were really close in the years preceding her death. I look at this photo of her on Easter morning. She sat on the porch beside my grandfather ready to take on any challenge. When I think of her, my heart always remembers her this way. Dark hair, happy-go-lucky, and full of a zest for life. This brings me great joy.

There is a great sadness in losing someone you love. Grief can be a viscous taskmaster, but if we allow it to run its course, there is great joy in remembering their life rather than their death. I am so thankful I have reached this point. There is a lot of love, joy and memories in sixty years. She was much more than her death.

I am forever grateful knowing she was my sister and my friend.

birthdays, Blog, mother

An Aging Mom’s Thoughts on Mother’s Day

Day 221

I was 19 when my mother passed away. I was in the Air Force and while I came home for the funeral, I was soon back on my own far away from family. It was a very hard time.

Back then, long distance calls were an expensive proposition. I remember that first Mother’s Day without my mom. I decided to go to the mall. In the middle of the mall, there were tons of radio operators (ham radio perhaps?) that had some way to offer free calls to the public for Mother’s Day.

I put my head down anxious to pass them when a woman stepped toward me and offered to let me make a call my mom. I just responded with a quiet “No thank you” to which she responded, “Don’t you love your mother?” It was cruel and hurtful. I bit my tongue and just walked away. It was a hard Mother’s Day and one I will never forget.

My mom was a tough helluva good woman. I miss her tremendously. She was not around for the birth of my own children, nor was she to ever meet any of her grandchildren. As sad as that may seem, her legacy lives on. Memories of her and her influence in our lives lasts forever.

Today is my husband’s first Mother’s Day without his mom. It will be hard I know. It will be especially difficult because Tuesday will be her burial. It is a lot to throw together in a small span of days. The family will come here after the short service, so I am at least happy he will have his family around him.

img_9854I received a wonderful surprise gift Friday from my daughters and granddaughter. Three dozen roses and a beautiful sun catcher with a hummingbird on it. They are gorgeous. I appreciate their thoughtfulness so much. I always want them to know that loving me and remembering me is always enough. The gifts I receive every day that I get to be a part of their lives is more than enough.

This is also my birthday weekend and I am still a bit under the weather, so it is destined to be a day of relaxation. We are not big bash celebrants so no big festivities planned today. I am getting calls and texts from family and friends which are always delightful and make my day!

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Image from Unsplash.com

Last night one of our daughters and her family dropped by for a surprise visit. Hubby fixed dinner and we had a nice time catching up. They brought me cards for my birthday and Mother’s Day. Then I received a text from one of our other daughters. She and her sister went together to buy me a gift certificate for a sensory deprivation float. How thoughtful! I am a little nervous but anxious to try it. I have been talking about it for weeks and it is so sweet they remembered.

This morning I received a video from my 21-month-old granddaughter singing happy birthday followed by a quick video chat. Such a sweet way to start my morning.

My husband and I will spend the day together just being. That is always a welcome way to spend a rainy day.

On being a mom:

Moms put in the work – sometimes the best mom is a dad.
Gifts are lovely, but a call or a visit is just as lovely.
Being a mom is a forever job.
Being a mom is hard, but also so rewarding.
Moms are not always perfect.
Children are not always perfect.
Sometimes families are healthy together.
Sometimes families are healthier apart.
Grandmothers are moms without the responsibility
AND I LOVE THAT!

For the many women who have lost children, Mother’s Day can be an extremely hard day. I send you my love and thoughts for this difficult day.

Mothers come in all shapes and sizes. I was fortunate to have a lot of strong mother figures in my life. When my mother passed away, my grandmothers, my sisters, my step-mom, my mother-in-law, and sometimes my good friends stepped in to fill that role. My Dad even filled that role many, many times. I could not have made it without their love, strength, and guidance. I will forever be indebted to them all.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!