Tag Archives: Mother’s day

A Mother’s Magic by Sherrie Hansen

Have you ever noticed that in many novels, the mothers of the main characters are conveniently vacationing in some remote spot on the other side of the globe, or even dead? Having grown up in a family where my mother and grandmothers, even my aunts and cousins, were involved in almost every aspect of my life, I have a hard time relating to a world without a mother’s magic.

Gloria Grandma

When I was 9 years old, I joined 4-H and got sent to Aunt Shirley’s house (my dad’s sister, who is married to my mom’s brother) to learn how to sew. I remember getting into arguments with my mother when she told me a seam was crooked and had to be ripped out. When Aunt Shirley told me something needed to be redone, I very meekly said, “Okay,” and did it over until I got it right. From that time on, I made most of my own clothes.

Pansy

Going to Dorothy’s Fabric Store in downtown Austin, Minnesota to pick out fabric and notions was an adventure that was shared with the extended family, too. The first thing Mom did when we found a time when we could go to town – preferably without my little sisters and brothers – was to call my grandmas and aunts and invite them to meet us at the fabric store. I can still remember them crowding around me, holding this and that bolt of fabric close to my face, giving their opinions on what color looked best on me and reminding me that vertical stripes were the most flattering to my figure. Which fabric would work well with the pattern we had selected and what kind of cloth would hang right and stand up well under repeated washings were important considerations, too. Dry-clean-only fabric wasn’t even considered because of the extra cost of upkeep. Anything on the clearance rack was given double consideration. Their favorite materials were the rainbow selection of polyester double knits, considered a modern miracle of inventions because the seams didn’t ravel, it didn’t have to be ironed, and it was practically indestructible. When the fun part came – deciding which buttons would accent the fabric to its best advantage and what kind of zipper was easiest to put in – options were discussed at length, a truly matriarchal affair.

Grandma Victoria and Auntie Lu

Perhaps the fact that my mom, grandmas, and aunts were so involved in my life would have driven some teenagers to madness, but it made me feel surrounded by love, special, and deeply cared for. To this day, I have trouble making decisions by myself and almost always call my mom or dad to see what they think I should do before making a major purchase. I still think about calling my grandmas for advice when I’m stumped even though they’ve been gone for over a decade. I’m blessed to have both parents living and hope it stays that way for a good long time.

Blog - KY - Mom and Dad

As for writers who leave mothers out of their fictional equations and plotlines, I would say that they’re missing out on some of the best fodder for character development – and yes, conflict – there is. Mothers and daughters have a very unique relationship. They love, they adore, they disagree, they despise. The imprint our mothers make on us, good or bad, affects us more deeply than anything else in life. And what is more endearing and heroic than a son who loves and respects his mother? Mothers know their children inside and out. They meddle. They make us laugh – they break our hearts. Mothers are our biggest cheerleaders and our worst critics. They’re not afraid to say what they think, and they sometimes don’t approve of the choices we make. And they show us the true meaning of love, over and over and over again.

Grandmas

In Sweet William, Lyndsie’s mother (Kelly, who you’ll remember from Wild Rose), and her Aunt Rose, are very influential figures who chide, defend, and lend a listening ear. William’s mother, who is convinced Lyndsie made everyone at their family gathering sick when she served them her homemade smoked haddock pies, takes an instant dislike to the lass her son is in love with, putting William in a very awkward position. To see how it all ends, you’ll have to read the book.

Sweet William

Mothers really do make the world go round. Without them, nothing would be as it is – we wouldn’t exist. A mother’s magical presence, woven into the plotline of a novel, may not be as high intrigue or titillating as  murder and mayhem, but it can tear at the soul and tickle the heartstrings like no other relationship.

Grace Corner - Bleeding hearts 2

If you sometimes take your mother for granted, be sure to give her a hug and tell her how much you love her this Mother’s Day.  Next time you read a book, think about how much impact a mother has on what’s happening between the main characters. There are fictional mothers we love, and those we hate, and those we feel lukewarm about, but whatever their make-up, they’re one of the – maybe the most – pivotal, primal component in our lives.

Cherish your mom, today and always.

 

 

Almost twenty-five years ago, Sherrie Hansen rescued a dilapidated Victorian house from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a B&B and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Sherrie and her husband, Mark, who is a pastor, live in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart. Sherrie writes murder mysteries and novels whenever she’s not working at her B&B or trying to be a good pastor’s wife. Her contemporary romantic suspense novels include Night and Day, Love Notes, and Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, and Shy Violet, her Wildflowers of Scotland novels. Watch for Sweet William coming soon! You can see what’s she’s up to at: 

https://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenAuthor/ 

https://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/

www.BlueBelleInn.com

https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen

https://www.pinterest.com/sherriebluebell/

 

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The Perfect Storm by Harry Margulies

“There’s a mother of a storm on the way.”

 
 
 
 
 
“That’s good, honey. Tell me who won the 1948 World Series. Seven letters.”
 
 
 

I glared at my wife, who appeared fully mesmerized by the crossword puzzle in her lap. I was pretty sure that’s what she’d called honey – not me. “Indians. So what’s good about a storm? I’ve got tickets for today’s game, which they’ve just cancelled by the way. Also, the rain always messes with my hair. And I just washed the car.”
 
 
“You don’t have any hair. Why would you worry about it? And you called it a mother of a storm. Mothers are good. Mothers are the best, right?”

 
“Right, dear. But it’s a storm. A mother of a storm is a really nasty storm. I didn’t invent the phrase. I’m just using it. And I still have a couple hairs left. I like them to look nice.”
 
 
 
“Well,” my wife paused, just long enough to draw attention to her insightfulness, “maybe you should start thinking before you speak. You could just as easily have called it a nasty storm, instead of the M word.”

“Aha! You referred to it as an M word. Right there, using just the first letter of a word, that implies it’s something nasty.”

“Stop being such a D. Admit it; a mother of a storm suggests that it’s a nice storm, one that nurtures the earth, makes it happy.”

“Yeah, I’m sure the earth is thrilled, but that’s not the point.” My eyes were trained on my wife, the mother of my children, and, less technically I suppose, the mother of my kitties. Her eyes were still trained on the puzzle. “A mother of a storm is a really bad storm, not a nice storm. I don’t care what you think.”

“Really? So, you’re saying mothers are dreadful and annoying.”

“Absolutely not. Mothers are not dreadful.”

“Just nasty then. And annoying.”

“No, mothers are not nasty, at least not the ones I know. I was only attempting to describe the bad weather that’s rolling in, okay? Mothers are incredible, magic 8MotherswithChildreneven. I am fully aware they should not be lumped together with thunder and lightning. It’s just a phrase, damn it. Why do you have to take everything I say so literally?”

“I’m only trying to point out your mistake. I’ll say it again. You should think before you speak…what is it now?”

“Hang on, I’m thinking.”

“When I’m done with this puzzle I’m going to make some tea. Do you want some, dear?”

“Is it instant?”

“No.”

“So, you’re brewing, is that what you’re saying?”

“You’re so weird. Yes, I’m making it in a pot. Okay, help me finish this: A real doozy. Six letters.”

“I have no idea.”
 

* * *
 
Harry Margulies is the author of The Knowledge Holder and the recently released The Weight of the Moon. When he’s not writing about romance, money, women, and other subjects he thoroughly enjoys but knows nothing about, he’s frittering his precious time as a cartoonist.
 
 
 
Photo Credit: Baseball game courtesy of Jmj1000.

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Happy Six Year Bloggiversary!

Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of this, the Second Wind Publishing Blog. In those six years, 1,871 posts have been published, 9,146 comments have been made, 192,520 people have stopped by to visit. Congratulations and many thanks to the Second Wind bloggers!

balloons1Here are some classic posts celebrating the seasons of our lives:

Changing seasons by Nichole R. Bennett There are places where the seasons don’t change much. The Black Hills of South Dakota is not one of those places.

A Time to be Thankful by John E. Stack As a foster parent, most of John Stack’s blessings come to him pint-size (new-born).

Christmas With My Sister For The Second Time by Coco Ihle Two sisters reunited after 50 years!

The Newness of a New Day by Pat Bertram New Years and the wonder of a new day

Spring by S.M. Senden Spring is an exciting time, for nothing seems to hold still.

A Donkey And A King by Paul J. Stamm “Hosanna” is the shout . . .

The Day of the Trickster by J J Dare The origin of April Fool’s Day

Mother’s Day: Coming to Terms with the Cruelty of Parkinson’s by J. Conrad Guest Mother’s Day is now every day,

In Honor of a Great Woman by Calvin Davis Commemorative for a very special woman

Fathers’ Day, by Sheila Deeth A memorial to a memorable father.

Class Reunions… a warm, fuzzy feeling of deja vu or the stuff nightmares are made of? (By Sherrie Hansen) Do you relish an occasional flash from the past?

My Problem With Vacations by Harry Margulies Planes, trains, automobiles and assassination luggage.

Our Independence Day by Ginger King A goose bump moment as we hear the beloved Star Spangled Banner and reflect

Summer vacation…Finally! by Donna Small Vacation is for mothers, too!

The Laundromat, Not the Louvre by Carole Howard Living in Paris . . .

Clever Twist or Unfair Trick? by Norm Brown In the spirit of Halloween . . .

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This post is dedicated to… by Sheila Deeth

On the fourth Sunday in Lent, English Christians like my Mum celebrate Mothering Sunday. They’ve done so since the 1600s, so my Mum’s not entirely crazy when she tells me it’s the right, historical date (and accept no substitutions). But the fourth Sunday of Lent is pretty unlikely to fall near the second in May. And there you have my problem. In the US, stores will be full of Easter baskets and bunnies, not Mothers’ Day cards, just at that vital point in the year when I’m meant to remember something. As a result, there’s always a Sunday in spring when our regular, every-week, phone-call starts with “Hello Mum,” “Hello Sheila. Have you remembered what day it is?” “Ummm. No-o-o?” “That’s all right. I didn’t get a card from your brother either.”

The card from my brother will usually arrive at Mum’s doorstep three days late, due to the fact that he shares my procrastinatorly skills and struggles to get to the post office. The card from me… Well, if I send it in May it will get there so late Mum would view it more as insult than as thanks. What on earth’s an expatriate daughter to do?

So here, three days late for an American Mother’s Day, is my belated Mothering Sunday post, dedicated to my Mum.

I didn’t know you when

you pushed me to try harder

as if I could fly.

I didn’t know you then,

but I tried my best

and flew away.

I’ll never know who you were

but I know who you are;

my flight instructor,

shining star,

and the very best Mum in the world

for this little girl.

So… thank you Mum… and sorry I’m so late, again!

With love to Mum on Mother's Day

A picture of me and my mum

Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum and Imaginary Numbers, all coming soon from Second Wind Publishing. She grew up in England and moved to the States with her husband and sons, more years ago than she cares to remember.

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Happy Five Year Bloggiversary!

Today is the fifth anniversary of this, the Second Wind Publishing Blog, and in those five years, 1,614 posts have been published. Congratulations and many thanks to the Second Wind bloggers!

balloons1Here are some classic posts celebrating the seasons of our lives:

Changing seasons by Nichole R. Bennett There are places where the seasons don’t change much. The Black Hills of South Dakota is not one of those places.

A Time to be Thankful by John E. Stack As a foster parent, most of John Stack’s blessings come to him pint-size (new-born).

Christmas With My Sister For The Second Time by Coco Ihle Two sisters reunited after 50 years!

The Newness of a New Day by Pat Bertram New Years and the wonder of a new day

Spring by S.M. Senden Spring is an exciting time, for nothing seems to hold still.

A Donkey And A King by Paul J. Stamm “Hosanna” is the shout . . .

The Day of the Trickster by J J Dare The origin of April Fool’s Day

Mother’s Day: Coming to Terms with the Cruelty of Parkinson’s by J. Conrad Guest Mother’s Day is now every day,

In Honor of a Great Woman by Calvin Davis Commemorative for a very special woman

Class Reunions… a warm, fuzzy feeling of deja vu or the stuff nightmares are made of? (By Sherrie Hansen) Do you relish an occasional flash from the past?

Our Independence Day by Ginger King A goose bump moment as we hear the beloved Star Spangled Banner and reflect

Summer vacation…Finally! by Donna Small Vacation is for mothers, too!

The Laundromat, Not the Louvre by Carole Howard Living in Paris . . .

The Beauty of Black Sheep by Sheila Englehart Who broke from convention in your family tree?

Clever Twist or Unfair Trick? by Norm Brown In the spirit of Halloween . . .

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Mother’s Day Commandment

Mother’s Day is coming up this weekend and all over our country, mothers are being celebrated. My mother gave me up when I was very small and then I had foster moms for several years. After that, I settled in with a full time mom until I grew up, married and became a mom, myself. Over the years, I’ve known lots of moms. Does that qualify me to write intelligently about them? I don’t know.

I think it’s fair to say, being a mother is a difficult task. Some of us do it well, some, not so well, but we never set out to be bad moms. We all try to do the best we can within the parameters of our circumstances. In other words, there’s no “owner’s manual.” I believe that our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we have become. That holds truth for our kids, as well.

I was lucky. My first mom realized she was in over her head and she sought help. Even with that, she wasn’t able, for whatever reasons, to handle the job. She made the decision to give me the chance of a good life with another family. That couldn’t have been easy for her. I’ve tried for years to find her to tell her I don’t hold any animosity toward her for giving me up. Quite the opposite. I’m glad I had the chance for a better life and I salute her for her bravery.

My adopted mother had some hurdles to traverse since I had some emotional and physical issues to deal with, but patience, attentiveness and her version of love pulled us both through. Sure she made mistakes, as have I, but love was the basis for the effort to do a good job.

How do we know we’ve done a good job? Do we measure the level of success of our kids, their degree of happiness, whether or not we approve of the lives they have chosen? Again, I don’t know. We seem never to be sure. I do know most of us have said at some time or another, “I wish I had done so and so, or I wish I had said or not said so and so.”

Whatever the answer, I’ve created a mother’s commandment: “Thou shalt not SHOULD on thyself!” Relax and do the best you can…and have a Happy Mother’s Day!

Thoughts, anyone?

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Mother’s Day: Coming to Terms with the Cruelty of Parkinson’s

With Mother’s Day fast approaching, I thought I’d share this piece I wrote a few years after I lost my mother. This first appeared in Blood and Thunder: Musings on the Art of Medicine, a print magazine published annually by the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.

Mom with J. Conrad Guest and sister, Mary

 ***

Mother’s Day at six: finger-painted pictures, cutout flowers and Elmer’s Glue. Clumsily fashioned ceramic turtle ashtrays, and cards with simple words filled with love and written in shaky block letters … all long since forgotten by the child, but cherished forever by Mommy, so proud of her young son.

As the child grew older, the homemade treasures became a Hallmark tradition: cards chosen with care, a special sentiment scrawled inside to personalize it, to make it different from the hundreds of other cards purchased for other moms. A necklace, a pair of earrings, a ceramic or pewter figure, sometimes a book, and always a brunch—time with Mom, perhaps the most treasured gift of all.

When did all that change? For me the change came in my twenty-fourth year, my mother’s fifty-second. A weakness on one side of her body and a slight tremor; diagnosis: Parkinson’s disease. I’d heard of this disease, but knew little of it and its cruelty. Human nature, I suppose, to ignore the unpleasant until it touches us personally. Parkinson’s had touched my mother. She would suffer from its effects, become weaker day by day even as she fought her battle, a battle she was destined to lose, one day at a time.

Yes, Parkinson’s had touched my mother, but it would touch me, too, and my dad and my sister as well. For the next eighteen years we would all become intimately familiar with Parkinson’s and its relentless pursuit to steal from Mom her functionality as well as her dignity. Helpless, we could only watch. Innocent bystanders, we would see, firsthand, Parkinson’s handiwork. And in the process Dad would lose his wife, and my sister and I would lose our mom.

In the early stages its effects were barely noticeable and came and went. Mom had good days and bad days. All too quickly that changed: she had bad days and worse days. She quickly learned that protein in her diet worsened the tremors, and so she began eating less and less. She would lose the ten pounds she always wanted to lose.

Through it all, Mom struggled to maintain a sense of normalcy to the madness. She drove a car for as long as she could. In time it became an effort for her to get up from a chair and cross a room; at the very end she needed assistance getting from the bed and down the hall to the bathroom and back.

My visits to the house I grew up in revealed Mom engrossed in her daily routines: dusting, vacuuming, laundry … struggling to keep house in the same fashion she had while my sister and I were growing up. “Why,” I asked one day, not understanding, as she struggled mightily to iron a pillowcase, “why do you work so hard, Mom?” “It has to be done,” she answered patiently.

During the early stages of her condition it was good therapy; towards the end it seemed that she had become somewhat of an automaton, functioning solely on what she’d managed to convince her broken brain was necessary in order to maintain her normalcy.

In public she was most self-conscious of her condition. “I’m sorry,” she would say, apologizing for the extra few moments it took her to make up her mind over which item on the menu she wished to order, to get her wallet out of her purse, or for the difficulty she had in making herself heard as her speech became more and more slurred. “I have Parkinson’s.”

Once a month I got a call asking if I wanted to split a pizza. Splitting a pizza with Mom meant that I’d call the order in and pick it up. Once home, she’d pay me for the pizza. How could I pass up an offer like that? She rarely ate more than one slice, because the protein would cause her to shake, but that pizza always managed to “hit the spot”.

As dad got older, I helped with much of the yard work, mowing the lawn in the summer, raking the leaves and cleaning the eaves in the fall, and shoveling the snow in the winter. I also painted the garage for the last time. But Mom was always out there too, offering what help she could, even if it was only to bring me a cold beer. In the spring, when most Michiganders welcome the warm weather after months of winter and thrill at the sight of new growth, Mom paniced. Springtime to her was the harbinger of autumn, when the leaves dropped, and who was going to rake up the leaves for her?

The ten pounds had become twenty. Eventually her forays into public became less and less frequent. On her worse days she refused to put herself on display; on her bad days she needed to get out of the house. A prisoner of her own body, she occasionally sought an escape from the prison that her own home had become.

Spending money became one of her few pleasures. It made her happy to bring home a new plant or a knick-knack for the house or a new sweater for herself. Unfortunately it was a quick fix—spending merely propagated more spending. Yet for all the pleasure it gave Mom, Dad, ever the more practical one and ignorant of the why behind her spending, grew more and more frustrated. A new pair of slacks was never a single trip to the mall. Mom’s condition prevented her from trying on the outfits she bought until she got home. Often it was much later that she would find she had brought home the wrong size, or that it was the wrong color to go with the blouse or sweater she had purchased a week before. The woman who once was able to unerringly pick out a picture for the dining room without a piece of wallpaper and a carpet swatch to match it to now became indecisive about which kitchen trash bags she wanted to purchase.

Despite the many clocks she purchased over the years, perhaps as a reminder that the sands of time were dwindling for her when so much living remained, a twenty-minute trip to the mall to exchange an outfit ended up a two-hour ordeal, with stops at the fragrance counter as well as the handbag and linen departments. Too late I realized the shopping meant little to Mom; it was the getting out that brought her the most pleasure.

Towards the end the Parkinson’s began to affect her speech. She had difficulty supporting her voice and spoke in little more than a whisper. About that same time Dad’s hearing began to deteriorate. The timing would’ve been amusing had the potential for disaster not been so real. One day Mom fell while in the garage and struck her head on the driveway. Unable to call out for help, she lay in a puddle of her own blood for thirty minutes before it occurred to my dad to go looking for her. Vanity aside, Dad finally agreed to get a hearing aid.

Mom began to lose her balance more and more frequently. She would come to a stop, nearly in mid-stride, her muscles locked in a sort of rigor mortis. She would stand for minutes at a time, unable to move or to call out, until Dad found her and coaxed her into motion again and assisted her to a chair, or she would just topple over. It’s a wonder she never broke anything, or worse, that she never fell down the basement stairs.

Each Christmas she made the arduous journey into the basement several times to bring up her decorations, despite the fact she and Dad rarely entertained family anymore. Yet she managed to do all of her own Christmas shopping, right up until the very end. Always a gift for me; always something I needed. Each card she ever bought for me spoke to me: somewhere inside this frail and failing body was a six-year-old boy’s mommy.

Three years before she passed away, I had a minor surgery to repair a hernia. I was off work for several weeks and unable to drive for at least a week. Mom sent Dad to the hospital to pick me up and bring me home—their home not mine. I lived alone, and she insisted I stay with them for the weekend so they could care for me. Not wanting to be a burden, it felt odd having her fuss over me; after all, she was the invalid. But it was comforting, too, being home. Having Mom take care of me.

On Monday Dad took me to my place, and every day for a week thereafter they came by together to take me to lunch. Of course I thanked them for all they did for me, but it wasn’t until Mom was gone that I realized what taking care of me had meant to her. Although she never said it, perhaps she didn’t understand it, but I had given her life a purpose again, if only for a few days. Someone needed her. Her son needed her. I’m glad now that I let her take care of me.

The twenty pounds had become thirty. Mom fought extreme depression, courtesy of her affliction. It was rare that I saw her lose her temper, rarer still that I saw her question the reason behind her disease. “Why me?” she pleaded on a rare occasion. And I could only shake my head. She lashed out from time to time, at Dad most often because he was there most often. She tried Dad’s patience; I know she did because she tried mine, too, as surely as she must have tried my sister’s.

Helpless to do little else but watch, I became angry with myself for my inability to do anything but watch. She needed assistance with nearly every aspect of her life now. Where once she needed someone to cut her food for her, she now needed someone to feed her. Someone came into the house two or three times a week to bathe her. And she began to panic: so much work needed to be done around the house and who was going to do it all?

Yes, I was angry at my inability to do anything about my mother’s condition save take care of her, and so I became angry, too, at what she had become—what the Parkinson’s had made of her. I have few regrets where Mom was concerned, but one of them is that I raised my voice to her, more than once. I hope she understood that it was never her that I was angry with.

 ***

December 1996: Dad is diagnosed with cancer. While he recovers from a colostomy, I spend the next few weeks going home—the home I grew up in—after work to fix them dinner, make sure Mom has her meds, do a few odd chores, and get Mom ready for bed. I spend the night on the sofa. Mom urinates frequently now, and she cannot make it through the night without going to the bathroom. I sleep fitfully, waiting for her to call my name to help her to the bathroom, two, three, sometimes four times throughout the night. In the morning I help her from bed and dress her for the day, fix a quick breakfast and coffee, and then go off to work, only to come back in nine or ten hours to repeat the custom.

I hear her voice call out and roll off the sofa and into motion. I pad down the hall on bare feet and pull the covers off her and help her to a sitting position. After a moment, I assist her to her feet and guide her to the bathroom. Once she is seated, I ask if she needs any meds. She has taken to calling them by color and tells me in a whisper, “Two blues and a yellow.” At this stage of her illness she takes them when she needs them, which is not always as prescribed. Who am I to argue with my mother? I go to the kitchen, wash my hands and get her meds and some water. Back in the bathroom I place the meds in her mouth and hold the straw to her lips so that she can suck some water. She swallows and I am amazed at the effort it takes for her to do so. A moment later she looks up at me with her beautiful blue eyes and destroys my last hope. Until that moment I had always hoped that whatever the Parkinson’s was doing to her brain synapses to cause the tremors, the rigidity in her muscles, her loss of balance and all the rest of the horrible symptoms of this dreaded disease … I had always hoped that it would have the decency to cloud her thinking, too. That a lucid, thinking, aware brain would not be trapped inside this fragile, malfunctioning body.

“You always wash your hands before bringing me my meds,” she tells me, matter of fact. “Your father doesn’t.”

I have been struck a blow; I nearly double over but manage to overcome the urge.

I get her back into bed. I pull the blanket up to her chin and gently arrange it around her tiny frame. I’m suddenly struck by our sudden role reversals. A six-year-old boy is tucking his mommy into bed. Has it really been so long ago that she was doing this for me? I ask myself, hastily brushing aside a tear and hoping that Mom has not seen it, that she will only see me rubbing sleep from my eye.

She looks up at me, her eyes seemingly seeing into me, and whispers, “I’m sorry to be so much trouble.”

I manage a smile and wonder if she sees her own dimples in my smile. I lean down and kiss her forehead and whisper, “You’re no trouble at all, Mom.”

A few moments later, back on the sofa, I cry myself back to sleep.

A few weeks pass and I find I am wearing myself out with this schedule. I had only suspected how difficult it was for my dad to care for Mom all these years, and suspecting is a far cry from experiencing it firsthand. She needs more care than I can give, and needs it most during the day, during the hours I am away. She is active during the day, and should she fall, my father will be unable to get her to her feet. I suggest that she consider having someone come to the house during the day to sit with her, or consider staying at a care facility for a few weeks while Dad completes his recovery from surgery, although by then he will have begun his Chemo and radiation therapy. Her eyes tear up and she shakes her head. I suggest that she deserves and needs better care than I can give her. She gulps and says, “Nobody wants me.” Crushed, I give up my argument, and never again breach the subject.

Another week passes and she complains of abdominal discomfort. It worsens the next day. She is taken to the hospital where she is diagnosed with a urinary tract infection. Admitted on Friday, she can be treated over the weekend and be home on Monday. On Sunday a blockage is discovered in her lower intestine. Because of her condition, the doctors advise against surgery. It will only serve to traumatize her and prolong the inevitable by a few days. The inevitable. For eighteen years we awaited the inevitable. Now it was here.

Mom had made it known long before that she did not wish to be tortured into being kept alive. The next day we move her to Hospice, where they will monitor very closely her discomfort and administer morphine whenever she needs it.

The thirty pounds has become forty—she now weighs but ninety pounds: a skeleton sheathed in a thin veil of skin.

I visit her every day during my lunch and every night after work. On Wednesday evening I walk in and tell her how much I wish I could split a pizza with her, but that Lona’s won’t deliver this far. Her face lights up with a smile I take with me forever. Later that evening I manage to spoon some tapioca pudding—another favorite of hers—into her mouth. I ask her if it tastes good. She nods and manages to say, “It’s delicious.” A few minutes later she slips into a coma, one from which she will never come out.

On Sunday evening, just after nine, my dad, exhausted by his vigil, asks me to take him home. I remind him to say goodnight to Mom. When he finishes, I lean down to kiss her and whisper into her ear that I love her, and that I’m proud of her. I tell her that it’s okay, that everything is going to be fine, and that I will always carry her with me. And then I ask her to let go. “Your time has come, Mother. There is nothing left here for you to do. Go and rest. You deserve it.”

My sister stays with Mom.

At just after ten, a few minutes after I get home, the phone rings. It’s my sister. My world has suddenly become a much colder place in which to live.

She passed very easily; no death’s rattle. Her breathing, which had been irregular for three days, simply stopped. Even had she the will to continue living, the Parkinson’s had left her too weak to do anything but succumb. In this she was blessed. After eighteen years fighting a losing battle, she deserved an easy death.

 ***

And now as I sit writing these words so many years later, trying to find some meaning for her suffering in a world where little of anything that happens to any of us in this brief moment we call life—for good, bad or indifference—has so little to do with meaning, or deserving, I’m nearly compelled to throw in my towel. But I cannot. I will not.

Perhaps the meaning is in the writing of these simple words, although this has been no simple task. Perhaps the meaning is in the impact of what she was and what she became and how she faced her adversity. Perhaps it is in the memory of a young boy and the pride a young mother took in hearing her son utter his first word, in taking his first step, in doing well with his studies, in leaving the nest and alternately pleasing and displeasing her, as all children must surely do. But in every card I ever received for holiday or birthday, she spoke of her love and of how proud she was of her son. Perhaps the meaning of her suffering comes in the full circle of life: that I now bear she who bore me—her memory as well as all that she gave to me and sacrificed for me.

To me, Mother’s Day is now every day, as there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of my dear mother—she who bears the sweetest name, and adds a luster to the same; long life to her, for there’s no other who takes the place of my dear mother.

Why do I write these words? The answer begins to come into focus, becomes crystal clear: I write these words because it is a task that must be tended to … a task from which I will not back away, nor will I stop until I have finished writing the last …

J. Conrad Guest is the author of Backstop: A Baseball Love Story in Nine Innings, One Hot January, and January’s Thaw.

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Sisters… Revisiting Maple Valley… by Sherrie Hansen

On May 22, Merry Go Round, the third book in my Maple Valley Trilogy, will be released. It’s my favorite of the three books, in part, because there are several scenes that include all three sisters. (Stormy Weather is about Rachael – the headstrong oldest sister. Water Lily starts on the night of shy, middle sister, Michelle’s 20th class reunion.)

  

I’ve loved revisiting Maple Valley and the Jones family in these three books. If you have sisters, or enjoy family dynamics, I think you’ll love this trilogy.

In Merry Go Round, Tracy, the youngest sister, who has been a bit judgmental and cranky in the previous books, finds herself in trouble, and has to turn to her sisters for help.  Rachael, quite frankly, doesn’t feel much sympathy for her sister, and thinks it’s about time Tracy “gets hers”. Kindhearted Michelle is determined to help however she can.

Their mother is still reeling from the shock of finding out that the daughter who has always been her pride and joy (with the emphasis on pride) has fallen from her pedestal. In fact, for years, when confronted with the life choices her two oldest daughters have made, their mother has moaned, “Why can’t you be more like Tracy? Tracy never gives me this kind of trouble.”

Now, Tracy is in trouble – some of her own doing – some not. Her three children are caught in the crossfire. The roles and expectations the family hierarchy is built on have been hit by a tsunami. Everything is changing. Up and down, round and round, the merry go round is shuffling the Jones family’s preconceived notions until no one knows anything for sure.

It’s not only a wild ride on the merry go round, it’s a hornet’s nest. Have you ever noticed that sisters sometimes say things to you that a friend, or even a spouse, never would? For years, I deluded myself into believing that the gray streaks in my light brown hair made my hair look platinum blond. Enter my middle sister – who told me in no uncertain terms that I was indeed gray and needed to visit the hair dresser – immediately.  Sisters can cut to the chase like no one else. They can hurt you to the core. They also love you like no one else.  Sometimes it just takes a little shake up to get them to admit it!

And finally, the question everyone asks, since there are three sisters in my family – is the Maple Valley trilogy about my sisters and I?

Although there are certainly a few, “somewhat true” facts and incidents relayed in the books (no, I won’t tell which ones), the answer is no. In a very real sense, I think Rachael, Michelle and Tracy are all “me”, or characters that reflect a different facet of my own personality and life experiences… although I’ve certainly learned a lot about sisters from my own two sisters, my cousins, my mother and my aunts, and even my grandmothers and their sisters. I’m learning afresh by watching my 6 and 9 year old nieces, and listening to the things they say to one another. It’s a complex set of factors that comes into play when you have a sister.

My college roommate just lost her only sister to ovarian cancer.  It breaks my heart to think about what their family is going through. And it makes me appreciate my own sisters all the more – yes, even when they let me know what they really think of me, and yes, even when they’re being pains in the butt.

I hope you’ll enjoy my Maple Valley Trilogy. Please start at the beginning – read Stormy Weather first. Water Lily will be much more meaningful if you’ve gotten to know Rachael and been introduced to the family first. By the time you get your hands on Merry Go Round and experience all three sisters coming apart at the seams – and finally, coming together – hang on for dear life!

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Bringing in the May

May Day

Celandine

We’ve just passed through another May Day. Although it isn’t an American holiday currently, I think it used to be, before politics got into the act. My mother  told me about gathering apple sprays and those little violets which will grow in an natural yard, making bouquets for the house. She said it was something she learned to do when she was little, although I’m not certain who taught her. As my Grandfather Liddle’s family were Upstate New York dairy farmers, I’d imagine the notion came from that side of the family.  A tradition of “Bringing in the May” requires country around you.

I had also read all about Greek gods and goddesses, so it was a short step from there to the notion of May Day. When Persephone is released from her captivity in the underworld to be united with her mother, Demeter, Goddess of the Earth, Nature is said to express their joy with flowers.  That’s what happens, every year.  It’s a blessing in the truest sense, because it shows that down at the nitty-gritty, Nature is in working order. It’s her promise she’ll continue to feed us.

It was especially fun to get up early, before Mom and Dad, and to go down to our ancient seven tree orchard. Even if it was New York State, famous for long, cold winters, by May 1 the trees were usually offering  pink-tinged buds. I knew they’d look lovely in Mom’s old blue and white pitcher, and that they’d open and bloom soon after coming indoors. There was a tender, delicate scent as I reached into the branches.  Back then, in quiet early a.m., the only sounds in our country yard would be wind and bird song.  If it had been a warm April and the bloom had already opened, bees and other pollinators would be at work, humming and turning within the flowers, packing those satchels on their back legs with yellow grains.

As I walked back to the house, I might find a few late tulips still standing, to add to the bouquet.  In memory, perhaps I’ve got May Day conflated with Mother’s Day, which follows soon after. Perhaps, however, a very long time ago, these celebrations were one and the same.

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To the women…by Claire Collins

Happy Mother's Day

To the women who have come before us, and to the ones who will come after.

To the women who shared their laughter, their love, and their tears with their children, even when those same children were ungrateful for the sacrifices.

To the women who influenced someone else’s life by being the kind of woman who takes care of others.

To the women who gave up sleep to rock a colicky baby, who gave up time to drive everyone home after the party, who gave up an early retirement to fund a wedding.

JanmotPoemSoulAngelMother

To the women who love us.

To the women who take care of us.

To the women we adore who have always been there when we needed them.

To the women who are the Mothers in our lives, whether by birth, choice, or circumstance.

Thank you.

4yyurgl

From all of the children,

From all over the world,

From the infants through the elderly.

From those you’ve influenced and from those who have yet to arrive but will feel your love for generations to come.

Angel_Mother 2

Happy Mother’s Day.

angel_mother

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