My Mother’s Voice

I don’t really like to talk on the phone anymore.

There was a time when I would spend hours with it crooked between my shoulder and my ear. I could do almost anything that way….fold clothes, make beds, clean out the refrigerator…having a telephone conversation didn’t slow me down. When they were little, I think that my children may have actually thought it was a piece of my anatomy.

I still reach for it every time I do the dishes. Our main house phone hangs on the wall right there within an arms distance. It always seemed to make this tedious chore go faster, and it was usually the best possible time – after dinner, when everyone was settled into their before-bed routine.

I rarely make calls any more. The reason for that is that the person who I always called is no longer there to answer.

I miss my Mom.

I talked to my Mom on the phone nearly every day for years, even though she only lived a few miles up the road. I called her for recipes and advice about how to discipline my kids. I called to complain about my terrible day or (honestly) to gossip about people that we both knew.

My mother was a young mother and I often think we grew up together, more like friends than mother and daughter. She had a million friends, and always knew what was going on in our small town.  I could count on her to know the family of the boy who my daughter was dating or the name of a seamstress to hem a recital dress.

As my children grew older and busier sometimes the main contact that I had with my Mom for a few weeks was only over the phone.  She didn’t like this and would often complain that I was too busy.  I felt terribly guilty and we would even argue about it from time to time, but we still always managed to talk nearly every day.

The last time I really remember hearing my Mother’s voice was in a message that she left on my machine.  “Well, hello!! It’s just your Mother”. Her tone was self-depreciating as always, like her call was unimportant to me. I remember feeling guilty and thinking that I had better call her back as soon as I could.

A few days after she died I was all alone in the house and I had that urge to pick up the phone and I remembered the message.  I ran to the kitchen and pressed the button, but it was gone. We had never replaced the battery on the machine and the power had gone off recently. I cried for quite a while when I realized that I wouldn’t hear her voice again.

But I do.

When I play with my granddaughter her voice comes out. She sounds happy and silly and goofy and her laughter rings out. When one of my daughters asks how to cook a roast or what to use to remove a stain out of a good white blouse she answers them with patience and humor.  When my sister calls me in the evening frustrated at the trials of raising a five-year-old she is there offering support, love and understanding – if not answers.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  I know that I can’t call you today, but I know that if I could you would be there for me like always. Thank you for all of the wisdom that you shared with me over those many hours on the telephone. I know sometimes it felt like a phone call wasn’t enough, but I appreciate every conversation that we had. <3Mother, Daughter, family, Motherly love, Mother's Day

 

Dear Fee

It’s been a little while since I left you a note here.  So much has happened since the last one….you visited again last Christmas and we had a wonderful time! It was my pleasure to ring in the New Year with you and your Mommy and Daddy (and I think your Poppa enjoyed it as well). We had such a lovely time with all of the family up here on the hill.  It was a bit crowded at times, but that just gave us all a chance to get to know each other a bit better, didn’t it?New Year's Eve, Baby, Celebrate, Grandma, Celebrate

You have become such a wonderful, spunky, funny little girl.  I really enjoy our weekly Skype dates, even though you are usually a bit too busy to chat for long.  It is nice to get to know you as you grow and change.  I really wish that you lived a little closer, but I guess these video visits will have to do for now.

Now I hear that your life is going to change in a BIG way! Word on the street tells me…

YOU ARE GONNA BE A BIG SISTER!Baby, sonogram, big sister

What a wonderful, terrible, fabulous thing for you, my girl! Soon you will be able to enjoy the company of a sibling who you can talk to, boss around, and connive with to make your Mommy and Daddy crazy. You will get to be the leader, the teacher, the one with “experience”. I know that you will thoroughly (well mostly) enjoy your new role in the family. I am sure that this change in status will possibly cause you a bit of consternation, but trust me – it will be worth it in the end!

I remember very clearly the night that I went to the hospital to have your Aunt Kelsey.  I worried so about the fact that your Mommy would be upset to lose her status as the only child. I was afraid that she would dislike her new sibling and be angry with Poppa and me. I really didn’t need to worry. She did love her sister – most of the time.  Sometimes she loved her a bit too HARD by squeezing her a little too tightly, and there was that one incident with the potted plant, but mostly I think she enjoyed her role as the first-born, and to tell you the truth I think she still does. When we added Aunt Kylie to the mix she REALLY got to be in charge, but I think it may be a bit early for your family to think about three, don’t you?

In the meantime, little one, you and your Mommy need to enjoy your last few months of ‘just we two’ when you are together. I hope you make the most of your Daddy and Daughter Mondays, as they may be harder to come by in a few months.  I know you may not always remember this time, but your Mommy and Daddy truly will. Soon your two-year old tantrums and antics that keep them up nights and exhaust them for days will seem like a walk in the park in comparison.  These early days with just three will be precious memories to you all, but honestly once your family starts to grow the real fun begins!

As for me, I want you to know that you will always be my special girl. After all, you are the one who named me GaGa, aren’t you? Thanks for helping me to experience the joy of being Gram. My friends told me before you were born how wonderful being a grandmother would be, but I didn’t truly know until I held you in my arms and looked into your eyes for the very first time. It was magic!

I can’t wait for you to tell your new little brother or sister about me. Only good things, OK? And maybe you can talk your parents in to bringing you both back over here to live so that I can spend more time with you and spoil you. Does that sound like a plan?

Finally, I have to tell you that your new baby will be the luckiest one of all because he or she will have YOU for a big sister!

I love you forever and always and guess what?  Now I get to come see you again in November. This is going to be fun!!

<3 GaGaFee and Gram

My least favorite holiday

I have to admit that I woke up this morning feeling a bit sorry for myself. Eating, cooking, family drama….Thanksgiving has the makings for a stress-filled day. One that I usually face with a considerable amount of trepidation.

I had worked myself up to a pretty good level of self-pity.  This year felt different. Two of our children (and a granddaughter and a son-in-law) would not be home. Two of our parents (my Mom and his Dad) are no longer here to share the holiday with us. My father has a different living situation this year and it has caused us quite a bit of family strife. I had even written a blog post yesterday to be posted this morning about the reasons that I dislike the holiday (hence the title, previously written).

Then I got a call from a friend’s husband letting me know that her mother had died last night. I haven’t been a very good friend lately – I have been too tied up in my own misery to pay much attention to anyone else’s distress. I only learned that her Mom was gravely ill a few nights ago because I had been so out of touch.  I didn’t know what to do to help, so I offered my prayers. It didn’t feel like enough, but it was all that I had.

The phone call made me think. I have been spending way too much time thinking about how I feel and not enough about everyone else in my life. So many people have it so much worse that I do at this moment. I felt selfish and petty. If I were TRULY thankful I should have realized how lucky I am to be able to celebrate the holiday at all. A lifetime of Thanksgivings had set me up with a certain expectation of what the day should bring, but I was looking at them with the wrong focus.

Tonight I took a look back at the photos that I have stored on my computer of past Thanksgivings that we have shared with our family up here on the Hill. Yes, there has been a good amount of stress and drama during our past 30+ years here, but there has also been much laughter and happiness. Looking in to the faces of the people in the pictures I saw what I should have been seeing all along.  We are, indeed, truly blessed to have what we have here in the place where my husband has spent over 50 Thanksgivings. A lot of living has happened here on the Hill.

I am thankful to have been a part of it.

Veteran’s Day Reblog

Here is a reblog of a post that I did in 2012 about my father-in-law, Ray.  We lost him last November, but will always remember him on Veteran’s Day each year.

RIP, Ray – we miss you…

Grandpa, Veteran, poppy

When my oldest daughter was about 3 or 4 years old,  we were at the grocery store one day and there was a man selling poppies for Veteran’s Day.  Of course she loved the bright red bloom and wanted one, so I bought it.

When we got into the car she asked “Mama, why was that man selling flowers”, so I explained that he was a Veteran and he was selling the poppies for Veteran’s day. This was of course followed by another question: “What is a veteran?”  I explained to her that a Veteran was someone who served our country, a soldier. I told her that her Grandpas were both Veterans, and in fact, her Grandpa Ray was in World War II. I told her that we were thankful to all of these soldiers who served their country and protected us and that we should be proud that we had Veteran’s in our own family.  We continued our conversation about Veterans and soldiers and wars for a bit, but moved on to other things.

The very next day we visited Grandpa Ray at his house and my daughter immediately asked him about being a soldier.  I was afraid that this mat be a subject that my father-in-law, who was a Marine and had seen active duty in the war, might not want to discuss with a three year old child.  Ray has always been the “happy man” of the family, our children’s delightful, cheerful mentor and subjects that are unpleasant are usually met with a change of subject from him.

This was not the case at all though.  He took her into the other room and answered her questions and told her about some of his days as a soldier.  I don’t know what the conversation was, exactly, because they were out of earshot.  Ray has never talked much about his time in the service or what he experienced there.  The family respects his silence on the subject and does not ask for many details.  Grandpa and oldest grandchild talked for a bit and then joined Grandma and me in the kitchen for cookies or some other treat, as I recall.

The amazing thing to me is how that short conversation has stayed with her all these years.  She has remembered her Grandpa each Veteran’s day since then…first by making sure we always purchased a poppy and then, as she got older and moved to different cities by phone calls to wish him a Happy Veteran’s Day and thank him for his service. Each November 11 they have talked – without so much as a reminder from me. Birthdays and anniversaries have come and gone and sometimes I have had to send notes to say….”Don’t forget”, but no matter how far apart the two of them have been, they have never missed a single Veteran’s Day.

This year, Grandpa is unable to take her phone call.  He is recovering from a recent illness in a Rehab facility, and his speech isn’t what it once was.  She did remember, though,  and sent him a lovely bouquet of flowers – red, white and blue, thanking him once again for his service. They were delivered on Saturday, because this year the holiday falls on a Sunday and the florist does not deliver.   He smiled with pride when he got them, and I know he was remembering that conversation that the two of them had all those years ago. It made me proud to be his Daughter-in-Law and also proud to be her Mother.

Thank you to Ray and all of the other Veteran’s out there who have served us in so many ways.  We are proud of all of you!

Five Things

I am trying to refocus my energies lately, to become more mindful and appreciate my life as it is in this very moment.

Life is too short to be unhappy and discontent, so I need to take some time and reassess and think about who I am and what gives me peace.

I will start today by listing five things that make me happy right now:

1. A good, strong cup of coffee in a large red mug.Coffee cup, desk, Starbucks

2. The sun rising over the lake out the front window.photo (63)

3. The prospect of spending the day with my family at the fall fest.404608_4271376979370_1058414503_n

4. The photo of Fee on my desk, smiling at me while she holds her parents hands.Sophia-48

5. The boys sleeping quietly next to me as I write this post.photo (61)

I would love to hear about YOUR five things. Why not leave me a comment and tell me about them?

**Thanks to my fellow blogger Candice at WryGrass for helping me to get my act together today.

Go on over and check out her page…the photos are terrific!

It’s all over but the shouting…

family car packed for collegeThe laundry is all caught up, the cars are packed and in a little over two hours we will be leaving for our very last “move-in” of an undergraduate student. Our youngest is beginning her senior year of college in a few days and I wonder where the time has gone!

It seems like only a short time ago that we set off on our first journey – to Sewanee, The University of the South – with our oldest.  That 12 hour trip was tackled with my in-laws, who accompanied us to Tennessee, completely loaded down with what we thought were all of the necessities of college life. That was ten years ago! It is amazing that we have spent the last decade supporting the lives of our children in college. Since then we have moved in to three other colleges - St Bonaventure University, Penn State – Behrend and Baldwin Wallace University née College , and we have the T-shirts to prove it!

We have moved our three daughters into double rooms, single rooms and apartments. We’ve carried refrigerators and extra chairs and clothes up three flights of stairs in 90 degree heat with 100% humidity and into basement apartments in pouring rain – assisted by siblings and boyfriends and acquaintances.  We have unloaded in New York, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and met so many roommates and sorority sisters over the years that we can’t remember who belongs to whom.

Sam Walton has been the beneficiary of hundreds (if not thousands) of our hard-earned dollars as we purchased over-the-door hooks, and sticky goo to hang posters, clothes hangers, plastic tubs and shower mats. I have always been the official “bed-maker”. I am sure that it is my mothering instinct that wants to make sure they have a place to lie their heads when the flurry of that first day is over.

It seems as though this is the end of an era for us on the Hill.  Sure, there will be future apartments in new cities with new roommates and perhaps even spouses, but this is the last true college move-in day. As I explained in a previous post, these days are bittersweet to me, as I never attended a residential college. As exhausting as the day is sure to be, I truly do enjoy the feeling of excitement that I get when we arrive on campus – the shouts of welcome from their friends who they missed over the summer, the newly decorated (and clean – for a short time, anyways) dorm rooms, the bookstore, the ever-present oak trees, even the squirrels.

I am going to miss this annual ritual and the feelings of hope and promise that it fills me with each year. I am sure the year will fly by and before we know it we will be leaving for commencement!

Man, I am getting old.

Not guilty?

Gavel, guilty

*click for image source

I have a predisposition to feel responsible in almost every situation. This feeling causes me to feel continually guilty. I don’t know if it is a “female thing” or a “Mom thing” or just an annoying personality trait that tends to run in my family, but sometimes I feel like I am constantly repeating “woulda, coulda, shoulda” to myself over and over and over.

I always tend to think that I could have done things differently or should have accomplished more. At home I never seem to finish all of the chores that I intend to. At work I sometimes jump from project to project, not completing anything. I feel like I should be a better Mom, a better wife, or a better friend. I do this to myself. Nobody out there is condemning or chastising me for the things I have done or not done. This guilt is completely self-induced.

Often these things that I feel guilty about wake me from a sound sleep causing the kind of middle-of-the-night worry that is magnified ten-fold. I tend to second-guess my own decisions and punish myself for my real or imagined misdeeds, so much so that any kind of consequence doled out by another source could never compare in severity. I know that I am not alone in feeling this way. Why is it that so many women that I know suffer from this compulsion to be so critical of ourselves?

This week I had to make a couple of decisions that caused me to feel more guilty than usual. One involved a family member and another involved a friend. In both cases I felt like I let them down, even though the decisions that I made were reasonable and necessary. This guilt has worn on me all week and this weekend I am feeling tired and unfocused.

As a result, I made a conscious decision today to just go with the flow. This morning I surfed the internet, did a little yoga and Skyped with Fee and her parents. This afternoon I may have a cup of tea and even a nap. I refuse to feel guilty for not doing anything.

You know what? The house will still be dirty tomorrow, the groceries will somehow be purchased, the work that I should be doing will still be there for me to finish.

Some days you just have to be gentle with yourself.