“Where’re you from?”

That question always make me sigh. You see, I lived in 5 towns and 4 states by the time I was 15. My dad kept getting better jobs in new places so off we’d go. As I read recently in a book by Tracy K. Smith, we’d “throw ourselves into new schools with blind hope.”

I usually answer that question with “We moved a lot, all over the Midwest.” Sometimes that just confuses people. If I’m feeling a bit ornery, I’ll give them the line about “4 elementary schools, 1 junior high, and 2 high schools.” That usually gets a pitying “Wow.”  I find a weird satisfaction in that.

When I had kids of my own, I wanted them to have a Home to come home to. I wanted for them what the retired man I live with had growing up in Munhall, right outside Pittburgh. We couldn’t recreate the huge extended family nearby (my parents were in Ohio and my mother-in-law was in Munhall), but we could give them Home right here in NC.

For part of their childhood, their dad traveled all of NC and SC as a salesman of surgical instruments. He was gone at least a couple of nights a week for most of their elementary years. He spent so much time in Columbia, SC, that I joked about his other family in SC. (The girls still don’t think that’s funny.) It would have made sense for us to move to Columbia or Greenville, SC, but I said no. I didn’t want to uproot our kids and make them leave Home. We all paid the price for staying Home.

He made up for being gone with “quests” and many outings like the Science Center zoo on the weekends. He gave them unconditional love and doting attention. I appreciated him taking them away on Saturdays! Maybe he tried harder to be a good dad because he was gone so much.

Now the girls are gone, married with kids of their own. The retired man I live with and I have started having the The Conversation about downsizing. We moved across town into this big house when our kids were 11 and 13, 25 years ago. It has served us well, but it’s more house than we need now.

Just in the last few days, I’ve realized our house is Home to only two of us. Our kids each have a Home of their own. Our house is Mom and Dad’s house or Amma and Grandpa’s house for our daughters.

It’s okay for us to give up this house, our Home, and find a smaller, all-on-level, less-expensive-to-maintain Home. Do I look forward to the sorting and purging process? Of course not. But I do like the idea of having less stuff. It’s time.

The main challenge of aging, it seems, is to feel and accept all the change and losses along the way. Leaving Home will be a challenge and a loss for all of us.

Maybe it can be an adventure, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on June 23, 2016 at 11:13 am  Comments (3)  
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What’s Inside My Hula Hoop?

I learned some things over Christmas this year. or I should probably say I re-learned some things.

  1. Be careful what you ask for. You might get it. My goal as a parent was to raise independent, self-sufficient women who could take care of themselves and also love well. I’ve succeeded.
  2. I control only what’s inside my hula hoop. (Think about the image…) I don’t like not being in control of stuff. I’m not proud of this–I’ve worked hard on this issue.
  3. I’m not needed like I used to be. I’m probably needed differently, but I haven’t figured that part out yet.
  4. Hurt lurks behind anger and manipulation.

Here’s the story.

Christmas vacation, for our family, for too many years, involved many hours on highways to get to my parents in Ohio and the mother of the retired man I live with (and his large extended family) in Pittsburgh. We’d be gone from whenever the kids finished school until the day before New Year’s Eve.

It was grueling, for different reasons at each place, and often involved driving in bad weather. We didn’t have Nabis or iPads or iPods or in-car DVD players. We played 20 questions, looked for license plates from different states and sang lots of Christmas carols. It got some easier when they became readers. (They didn’t get carsick reading in the backseat like I used to.)

We ended that craziness after my parents moved to NC and we drove over the WV mountains on ice coming home from Pittsburgh. We just flew his mom and sister to us after that. By then our girls were in high school and not so concerned about Santa finding us.

We were never at our own house during those traveling years for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. (Santa knew to come to our house early. He’s flexible like that.) So, at some point as marriage and grandchildren came into our kids’ lives, we (well, more that retired guy I live with than I) started suggesting the importance of Christmas morning in their own homes.

This year, sometime in December, our strong, independent daughters who have apparently learned to take care of themselves and their families told us they would be having Christmas Eve and morning in their own homes and then we would all gather for lunch and to give our gifts to the grandchildren at one of their homes.

I was the loving, supportive, mature, “good” mom I can sometimes be and said, “Well, okay, sure. That’s probably a good idea.”

I was not prepared.

I was alone.

On Christmas Eve.

The retired man I live with has a part-time retail job, so he worked until late-afternoon that day. We’d made no plans so we had a regular dinner, watched the news and some tv and then went to bed like any other evening. And had a quiet, boring Christmas morning. It all felt empty.

I woke up Christmas morning with a complete scheme to manipulate everyone next year back to the way I wanted things to be. It was a brilliant plan (I do have health issues, you know) and it would probably work. I shared it with that retired guy I live with. The shocked look on his face did make me a little self-conscious.

I still shared it over the next couple of days with a few friends who had the sense to listen, smile, and say nothing. Eventually I could hear the anger rumbling inside. I shared about it at a women’s AA meeting. I realized and admitted I was refusing to accept my powerlessness over other people. I was trying to fix things outside my hula hoop. And manipulation wouldn’t give me power. It made me wicked.

I’ve given up on my plan, even though I know it would work.

A new word came to me on Christmas Day. I have become “peripheral” (see below) to my children’s lives. I believe that is right and good and as it should be. It gives me hope that they will be okay when someday I’m not around.

I don’t have to like it.

I do have to accept it.

And now I will focus on my own life and what to do with this new year of 2016. I have more to do, within my hula hoop, I’m sure!

Maybe I’ll write a book.

(Scanners, printers, and speakers are peripheral devices for a computer because they aren’t central to the working of the computer itself.)

 

Published in: on January 4, 2016 at 4:33 pm  Comments (3)  
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P’ease Pick Me Up

  “Amma, p’ease pick me up,” pleads Adaline.

But I must say,

“Can’t do it, my sweet girl.

Do you want to climb up on the couch and we can

eat some blueberries?”

F–k, I say in my head.

God help me.

Give me

hands, my hands that work.

I am Amma,

just as I am.

Kristin needs help.  She doesn’t ask.

Loss.

Love.

Maggie I can still pick up,

now, today.

Oh, please, will someone give me Atticus?

Quit trying?  Never, not ever.

Relaxation and

recuperation, they come later.

Stephanie worries.

She sees me struggle.

Tuesday I will play with them

under the trees outside.

Voices will sing and we will laugh.

Wednesday I will rest and maybe hurt.

X-rays of my hands and wrists and spine

yell at me to be careful.

Zebras at the zoo?  Let’s go!

(This is an alpha-poem (look at the first letter of each line) started during a workshop titled “Writing Through Grief and Loss” led by Ray McGinnis, author of Writing the Sacred)

Published in: on February 5, 2013 at 1:59 pm  Comments (11)  
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