Tapestry

On her mother’s  last day (though no one knew it was her last day), Terry got some help and pushed her mother’s bed out a door and into a garden.  Her mother lived through a decade of dementia and had been actively dying for 2 1/2 weeks with Terry by her side.  It was a beautiful early spring day and a comfortable breeze ruffled through the new blooms.  A robin sang  for them.  A bee buzzed around her mother’s head for a long time.  Terry thinks it was her dead brother, Jimmy.  Betty died outside in the spring garden air that afternoon.

I don’t believe in a God that manipulates us like marionettes.  I do believe God offers us situations and opportunities that can move us in one direction or another and that our choices have consequences, both immediate and long-term.

I like the idea of life as a tapestry.  These words are from “Tapestry,” a Carole King song you can easily find on youtube:

My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision of the ever-changing view
A wondrous, woven magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold

On the back side of a tapestry, strings of many colors go every-which-way, knots sit in unexpected places, blank places look bare, strings overlap, and some just hang loose.  On the front side, a beautiful picture emerges.

I was assigned a project, maybe in 6th or 7th grade, to learn about two professions.  I picked teaching and foreign service.  I researched foreign service requirements and options like working in an embassy or for the State Dept in DC.  The work fascinated me, but I remember no encouragement at school or at home for such an ambition.

I expected to be a teacher most of my life.  I enjoyed school and good grades had value in my family.  My parents both taught after college.  I never really knew I had other choices.  What did other girls  who became attorneys or ministers or scientists hear that I did not?

I started taking French in 7th grade and took it all through high school and even took a French literature class (in French) in college.  It came easily for me. I loved the sound of it and all I learned about French culture and way of life.

My college choices came down to UNC and Duke.  UNC=Special Education.  Duke=French.  I was the oldest of 3 kids close together in age.  Our college costs would overlap for years.  I chose UNC, a state school with much lower tuition. I earned a bachelor’s degree in Special Education and found a husband.

In the mid-1970’s, in my 20’s, I taught at the Tammy Lynn Center, a private residential and educational facility for the mentally handicapped in Raleigh, NC.  Terry’s brother, Jimmy, who she thinks came to their mother as a bee as she was dying, lived at the Center while I was there and attended the school during the day.  Terry’s parents were among the founders of Tammy Lynn Center and I remember talking with them.  We discovered this surprising connection during a get-to-know-each-other lunch a few years ago.

After our children left home, my husband and I took my dream trip–a week in Paris.  Though I hadn’t spoken French for over 20 years, much came back to me. I bought a necklace from a woman who spoke no English using my memory and my French-English dictionary.  I was fearless!  I fell in love with everything French.  I think I was French in another life.  I went back with my daughters a year later.

I am grateful for each day I have.  Since a cancer diagnosis 9 years ago followed quickly by remission, I danced at both my daughter’s weddings, am blessed with 3 grandchildren nearby and am still happily married to the husband I found at Carolina, though I call him “the-retired-man-I-live-with” now.  I even went back to Paris–alone!

I love and treasure the life I live these days.  My daughters like to spend time with us and willingly share their children with us.  I volunteer at church and with a non-profit that serves those touched by HIV/AIDS.  I’ve been sober for almost 27 years.  I have friends from all parts of this community where we have deep roots. My tapestry is knotty and messy on the back.  The front is beautiful.

But sometimes I wonder…what if I’d taken another path?  Why did no one encourage me to take a different piece of string for my tapestry?  What would it have looked like?

 

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Published in: on April 18, 2014 at 8:47 am  Comments (15)  
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15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is quite a beautiful story and you have a gentle way of threading life’s ups and downs, ins and outs… With the positive and loving attitude such as you possess, I imagine you’ll continue creating beautiful works of art for years and years to come. 🙂
    AnnMarie
    lovely blog

    • I certainly hope so! Grandchildren are a good motivator for self-care.

      • Absolutely – as I write this, my 78-year-old mother and I just returned form a walk. She is an amazing ball of energy and can never spend enough time with her kids and her grandkids. I sometimes can’t keep up with her! I hope that I’m as blessed as she…
        You have a wonderful weekend and feel well!
        AnnMarie 🙂

  2. Thank you for sharing the journey with me, Robin. It has deepened my appreciation for you and the consciousness you bring to life. Suzanne

    • Thanks, Suzanne, for reading and for your kind comment.

  3. Thanks for this beautiful reminder that our lives are tapestries, and that it’s never to late to weave in some more beautiful strands. I hope you and your family, especially that nice retired man, have a wonderful Easter weekend. Ann

    • “it’s never to late to weave in some more beautiful strands.”
      Ann, you have given me a new definition for hope. Thank you.

  4. I had two college path possibilities too. Get into Brandeis and I’d major in theater, Rhode Island School of Design and I’d major in art. I went to RISD–but the theater and music and the love of standing up and performing, no matter how scared, has never left me. These days I sing on rickety stages at community events and often busk in the park. It’s just as thrilling as if I had “made it big” as a performer. Life is full of returns to original loves–and I am grateful for all of it.

    • A few years ago, I discovered a love of writing. I thought for a long time that if I Icould do something then anyone could, so it was no big deal. Not true, you know. Not everyone can get in front of people and entertain (I can’t!) and everyone can’t tell a story in written words. How lucky we are to find these joys and to share them with others.

  5. I had one path – teaching…
    I chose another – religion and philosophy…
    I lost my family and church in the process…
    I am glad to have picked up strings in an amma colored hue from you…
    And blessed to have a new opportunity to turn my tapestry over. For the back of mine is much better for me than the front.

    • Ah, Amber. I’m so glad I’ve helped you. You were braver than I making your choice. I hope it’s been worth the difficult parts of the journey.

  6. You definitely took the right path. Had you taken another, there would be no Mike in your life. Stephanie and Kristin would not exist …

  7. … And I would probably not have had the pleasure of knowing you.

  8. I, too, remember Carole King and when that magnificent first album hit the airways. Perhaps Tapestry was the lead song? So far, every word in both previous sentences dates me. Interesting, that.

    This is such a beautiful post, Robin, weaving in and out of your life as well as a few other strings, here and there. Yours is indeed a rich tapestry. Like you, I wonder about the strings on which I did not pull for this reason or that as well as those that were never dangled in front of me. Really enjoyed this one, Robin.
    Karen

    • Karen, I love when you comment. I can tell you’ve read mindfully and I so appreciate that.


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