Sunday, August 29, 2010

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

This is a retelling of my posts during our trip to Michigan this summer. Some things have been added after the fact for emphasis or explanation. Those things appear in italics.


July 8, 2010:

We're leaving Fort Worth eastbound on the Texas Eagle. Already had lunch in the dining car and fixin' to take a nap in our sleeper car. Next stops - Dallas, Texarkana and Little Rock. CHOO CHOOOOOOOOOO! We boarded the Amtrak Texas Eagle in Temple at 11:30 this morning. Now we are about 30 minutes east of Forney in the middle of northeast Texas heading for Texarkana. Next stop - Minneola, TX. Final destination - Jackson, Michigan by way of Chicago. We should get there around 11:00 PM tomorrow night. Wayne is playing on the iPad, Lyssie is watching a DVD and Ronnie is sound asleep. Dinner in the Dining Car at 6:30!!


July 9, 2010:

I'm enjoying the Illinois countryside. It's been rainy and overcast for most of the trip. We slept through most of Arkansas (best way to travel through there if you must!) and woke up just in time to pull into St. Louis and enjoy breakfast at the station. As Wayne was finishing the las tof his coffee, we left the station, passed the Arch and crossed over the mighty Mississippi River. I feel like such a voyeur peering into people's back yards as we cruise by on the train. There is a lot in our backyards that most people don't see that says a lot about who we REALLY are.


Hello, Auburn IL..... Goodbye, Auburn IL. Next stop Springfield! 


We just passed by the Illinois State Capitol. What a beautiful building! Wish we had time to get off the train and go look, but alas... the trains are on time! Less than 4 hours to Chicago!  


 We made it into Chicago right on schedule (when was the last time an airline could say that?) and headed for the Willis Tower on Wacker Drive. (I love that street!) Then back to Union Station for an early dinner. Now we are safely on board the Wolverine headed for the Eastern Daylight Savings Time Zone. 


Hello, Gary! Or should you change your name to "Rusty?" (I'm speaking of Indiana, not Minix... although I hear he's getting a little old and rusty, too. Birthdays suck, Gare! I have one myself next week!!) 


Two trains, a trip to Sears Tower, and 36 hours later, and I am finally enjoying free Wi-Fi at the Baymont Inn in beautiful Jackson, Michigan. Saw Dad when we dropped Aunty Ruth back off. He looked good. Mom spent the evening with a hospice volunteer while he took Aunty Ruth out to dinner with Bro & Mo (my brother Brad... and his wife Moreen), so she was already asleep. She sounded awful when I called from Chicago. 


July 10, 2010: 

I just had the BEST club sandwich on earth at the Hudson Grill!! Buttery grilled sourdough piled high with turkey and crisp bacon. I highly recommend it if you're in the area!! Now on to Grandma and Grampie's! 


Today did not go well. I feel so inadequate as a daughter, like a stranger in the house I grew up in, and totally unequipped to deal with the end of someone else's life, especially when that someone is my mother. In case there is any confusion... mom is still with us... she's just not doing very well.


July 11, 2010:

Today was better... Not for mom, but for me. I just sat with her and held her hand and told her that I love her while she rested. She is on a lot of morphine so she is pretty disoriented most of the time. Then this evening we met my cousins for pizza. The girls ate and played with Samantha and Tyler and Lily and Adam. And Uncle Dave was there. It was good to see everyone!!


July 12, 2010:

Today was a little better. The hospice nurse was there when we got there this afternoon. But Mom eventually settled down and was quite lucid. I sat with her while Dad went to the park with Wayne and the kids. I was expecting to sit there and just sit quietly and maybe sing hymns to her while she rested.. but she talked my ear off instead! I'm looking forward to tomorrow... it's Daddy's 79th birthday! I also got to have dinner and spend three hours talking with my best friend from my high school/college years. I love you, Sandy!


July 13, 2010:

[Dad's Birthday. Brad and Mo came out for a little bit . I could find an old boyfriend at Polly's but not a Bill Knapp's Birthday Cake, so we had shortcake and berries instead. As we got our things together to head back to the hotel, Wayne and the girls said their goodbyes and went out with Dad to the car to let me say mine alone. We sat there and talked for until 1:00 in the morning oblivious to the time or the fact that the girls had fallen asleep in the car waiting for me because I knew it would be the last chance I would ever have to talk to you face to face. I finally told you how much I longed to hear you tell ME how proud you were of me. I've heard you say things to other people, but you never came right out and told me. You would say thing like "You have a beautiful family" but you never said things like "You're a good mother." I know what I HAVE, what I'm unsure of is what I AM. I guess you thought I would understand that it was implied, but I yearned to hear you say it. I finally told you that all I ever wanted was that when you looked at me you saw that you did a good job. You looked at me with tears in your eyes and you said, "I did a MARVELOUS job!" That was the last thing you ever said to me. After 48 years together, that was all I ever needed to hear. Closure.]


July 14, 2010:

I'm sitting at the Kalamazoo station waiting for passengers to board. 142 miles from Detroit and 138 miles to Chicago. Dad dropped us off at 8:00 this morning. I hate the thought of leaving him there alone to care for Mom, but they both insisted that I go home as planned. I have this nagging feeling in my gut that I'm going to regret it. 


I am cruising along the Indiana Lakeshore and languishing in a wireless DEAD ZONE! It's bad when you get excited over ONE bar!


The girls enjoyed their first ride in a real yellow taxi. We can see the Sears Tower from our window and the Navy Pier is just a few blocks from our hotel. Lunch today at the Rainforest Cafe, then tonight... Who knows?! Maybe a sunset cruise on the Chicago River and fireworks at the Pier? 


Now I am enjoying the perfect end of a great day... Watching HGTV from my comfy bed at the Hilton Garden Inn on the Magnificent Mile, after swimming in the hotel pool, then a great walking tour of downtown Chicago, dinner along the Riverwalk, a cruise of the Chicago River, watching Fireworks out over Lake Michigan, making new friends on the boat, and strolling down Michigan Avenue back to our hotel.


July 15, 2010:

I'm trying to drag everyone out of bed... Come on, people!! So much Chicago! So little time!!!


Navy Pier -- check. Giant Ferris Wheel -- check. A great time watching the girls play in the fountain at the Navy Pier -- check. The girls' first ride on a trolley -- check. Hard Rock Cafe for lunch -- check. Dressed and ready to go to the hotel pool again -- check. Dinner at the Weber Grill Steakhouse tonight -- I can't wait!


My tummy is full of filet mignon and garlic shrimp and ready for a good night's sleep. Packing in the morning and off to Union Station for a 1:45 train to worlds southern. 


July 16, 2010: 

We're all packed up and ready to head to the train station. My next post will be from a southbound train! CHOO CHOOOOOOO!


We made it out of Chicago and are now approaching Pontiac, Illinois. We called Dad just as we were leaving the station (no signal at the station as all the tracks terminate UNDER the building). Mom had a really rough night. She was unresponsive when Dad tried to wake her this morning. She's doing better now, but we have an exit plan if I have to get off in St. Louis, Little Rock or Dallas and get on a plane home.


We just finished dinner in Springfield and are about to stop in Alton, IL. Our girls are bickering and the boys in the next cabin are as well. We're conspiring with their mother to put all four of them in the family cabin together and lock the door so the grown-ups can have some peace and quiet!



July 17, 2010 (my 48th Birthday):

We made it past St. Louis and Little Rock without having to get off. Wondering now how Mom fared the night but too early to call Dad hoping he's sleeping. Just passed Atlanta, Texas.... so good to be back on Texas soil!!


We had breakfast in Longview, Texas. Made friends with folks from Austin and San Antonio. We are all on our way back to our respective homes. Called Dad, Mom is not doing well. I will likely be flying back to Michigan as soon as we get back.


We're in Fort Worth fixin' to head south to the homeland. Had a Cinnabon from Union Station for my birthday cake. A day old and still pretty awesome! Now it's time for a Diet Coke and a nap.


We're  approaching Moody, TX. Next stop - McGregor, then Temple which is where we get off. So if you've ever wanted to say to me, "Julie! Where do you get off...." now you know... it's Temple! (BTW: No more word from Dad. We'll call him when we get home. I'm hoping no news is good news... or even just no news is no news.)


Wayne called Dad when we got home. Mom has slipped into a coma. I am scheduled on the 0750 flight out of Killeen tomorrow morning to Detroit. I knew I should have gotten off the train at St. Louis and flown home (or better yet, just gotten on that daggone Wolverine and headed back to Jackson instead of Texas). Please pray she holds on until I get there, for travel mercies for me, for Wayne and the kids while I'm gone.


[Happy {expletive deleted} Birthday to me.]


July 18, 2010:

I'm sitting in the Killeen Airport with two sleepy girls and a dreary husband waiting for my flight to Detroit via Dallas/Ft. Worth. Talk about your de ja vu all over again. 


I'm in Dallas waiting for my flight to Detroit. How many times have I taken the DFW to DTW? Seems like hundreds over the last 12 years, but this is the first time by myself. Hard to believe we were just in Dallas yesterday. Even if it was only for four hours, at least I got to sleep in my own bed. Just texted Wayne... Sorry, Pastor Mark! I hope he had it on vibrate!!


I'm now somewhere over Missouri according to my GPS. Inflight Wi-Fi is incredible. I miss Wayne and the girls already.


[While I was in mid-air somewhere over Missouri on the flight to Detroit I was "facebooking" and posting about heading back to Michigan. My friend, Sandy, happened to see my post and asked how I was getting home from the airport. I said I was going to rent a car, "unless you want to come pick me up??" She dropped everything, hopped in her car and was at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport before my plane even hit the tarmac. Now that's what I call friends! I'm still waiting to see her in the beaver ski cap I bought her in the airport gift shop though.]


I have the best friends in the world!!!! Thank you, Jesus! I made it home around 4-ish with the help of my dear sweet friend, Sandy (I'm waiting for the picture of the beaver hat? I expect it to be the focal point of your next cabaret show!). I spent the afternoon singing hymns to Mom and making jokes to which she would groan. Not sure if it was involuntary or she was trying to tell me to SHUT UP ALREADY!


July 19, 2010:

I just walked away from the Movie Of The Week that has become my life to have a few moments of "normal" listening to Muzak show tunes and enjoying free WiFi at McDonald's on East Michigan Ave. Wayne and the girls will be here tomorrow. I will go home here in a few minutes to continue sitting vigil at Mom's bedside. It's really starting to wear on Dad. Pastor Mason came out today, but it's just not the same as Pastor Mark!


July 20, 2010:

God called Mom home to be with Him this morning around 2:00 a.m. Dad and I were with her and she went very peacefully.  It is well with my soul. It is well with my soul. It is well, it is well with my soul.


July 21, 2010: 

I had a good day today. We went shopping for funeral clothes and walked out with something for everyone... BUT ME! I guess all the fat chicks I saw at the mall are from out of town because there were NO plus-size dresses anywhere in that mall. We came home and went for a swim then dinner at Applebees where we had the funniest waiter EVER. We love you, Nikki!


[While we were at JC Penney's we happened across a couple also shopping, and they both looked familiar to me. We started chatting and I learned that he used to work for one of the local funeral homes. How ironic, I said, because we were there shopping for funeral clothes because my mother had just passed away. The woman looked so familiar to me, and I looked familiar to her, so I asked the obvious question, "Where do you work?" She is a teacher at East Jackson Public Schools. Oh really? My mother taught at East Jackson over 4 decades. Who is your mother? Vera Horsford. (silence) Her jaw hit the floor.  She had been in  Fourth Dimension and she remembered me coming in my nun's habit from The Sound of Music and performing for them when I was in high school. She was AT the funeral, Mom.]


July 22, 2010: 

The boys went to breakfast at Barb's, the girls are playing in the yard. Carol is doing my hair this afternoon and the kids are having a play-date with their cousins at the park. We meet with Pastor Michael at 3:00 to tell him stories about Mom. So far we are all holding up pretty well. I'm sure it will all hit us in a few days after the dust settles.


July 23, 2010:

Visitation is today from 4-8 pm. Getting nails done from 10:30-12 pm. Trying to decide what to wear from 12-4 pm.


My head is spinning from all the stories of my mom running through my head. What a rich and blessed life she had to have so many people love her. That I would leave one-tenth the legacy that she has... but if my children know and love the Lord, that is enough for me. One down and one on the brink. Life is good.


Veronica and I were standing at the casket and she leaned over to me and whispered "Why isn't Nanna moving?" So I explained to her about heaven and our spirits and what happens when we die. She looked up at me with those big blue eyes and said, "Okay" and skipped away like a typical four-year-old. I want to live with the wisdom of a 48-year-old but the sweet innocence of a four-year-old!


[Did I mention that there was a roaring thunderstorm going on during your visitation? With about an hour and a half left, lightning cracked just outside the funeral home and off went the power. We stood there for the rest of the evening by the light of candles and numerous cell phones. The power remained off until Consumers Power finally got it turned back on right about the time the funeral was set to start. By that time they had already moved you to Cornerstone Church and we had the service there. I guess God wanted your funeral to be in the church whether you wanted it there or not!]


July 24, 2010:

What a party it turned out to be... best one Mom ever threw and she wasn't even there. And only Mom would play the piano for her own funeral. It was a beautiful affair, the music, the flowers, the speakers... Mom would have loved it. Bon Voyage and save me a good seat up front!


July 25, 2010:

Last night we got POUNDED again by a thunderstorm. I'm surprised we didn't lose power. Some of that lightning hit pretty darn close! Off to pry the kids out of bed and head to church to hear an old old OLD friend preach. (Don't worry Mark. We'd never leave you!)


We're packing up and getting ready to head for home. Wayne flies out tomorrow afternoon and the girls and I fly out EARLY Tuesday morning. I don't even want to think about the logistics of flying out of DTW at 7 AM when you're starting from Jackson. UGH! But I have to go home some time.


I'm wondering what my friends will do when I get home and have no more travels to write about.


July 27, 2010:

We're on the plane headed for sacred Texas soil! It feels like I have been gone an eternity. Elysse is drinking a Sierra Mist and already missing the Disney Channel, Ronnie is sleeping, and I am pseudo-blogging on my iPad. I think I'll start the real thing tomorrow... By popular demand.


I'M  HOME!!!!!! 'Nuff said.


July 28, 2010:

For those of you concerned because you haven't heard from me in 17 hours.... I'm still home. I may go outside later. Another 6 hours and I'm still home with no plans to go anywhere til tomorrow. I did, however, go outside for a while. Alert the media!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cooking Lessons

Just one more thing, and then I'll let you go...

The girls did the most remarkable thing last night. They came into the family room where we were chatting and asked the usual question, "What's for dinner?" Wayne replied without skipping a beat, "Whatchya fixin'?" Hmmmm... you could see those little minds deep in thought, the wheels turning, the hamsters struggling to stay on their little treadmills, and without so much as a "How do you do?" they headed off toward the kitchen.

Now mind you, the idea of my daughters in the kitchen unsupervised from the moment they were born until now has always made my liver pucker. I haven't been much for teaching either of them to cook yet. Elysse is more interested in asking questions than listening to instructions. She's helped with handing me ingredients and dumping the items I tell her to dump into the bowl. I've tried to teach her how to read a recipe, but her ADHD makes it difficult for her to sit still and listen. And Ronnie, of course, is only four years old and doesn't even cut her own food yet, let alone be allowed to use sharp knives or small appliances, much less the stove. I just keep telling myself I'll wait until they're older and more ready to listen and learn.

Maybe we should stop taking them to Applebees so often.
They are starting to bond with the wait-staff.
Bearing all that in mind, I have no clue, no expectation, no frame of reference whatsoever, to know what all the banging and clanging is emanating from the kitchen. Wayne anxiously sits up on the edge of the couch and says, "Maybe one of us should go in there and supervise..." But I said, "No. As long as we don't hear any crashing noises or blood-curdling screams, let's just see what they come up with." So we sat back, put our feet up, and waited to see what the girls would produce.

Fifteen or twenty minutes later, two adorable little waitresses in red aprons with their names on them (remember the ones you bought them for Christmas last year?) headed into the family room carrying bowls heaped high with an unknown culinary delight (or gastronomical disaster. Remember, these are the girls who wanted to dip cantaloupe in Hershey's syrup).

To our delight (and considerable relief), they had made us each a baby spinach salad with green peppers and diced tomato (already chopped from the night before), shredded cheddar cheese and a generous squirt of ranch dressing in the middle. I thought about getting up and cutting up some leftover grilled chicken to put on the salad, but then I thought, "they're perfect just the way they are. Why mess with it and give them the message that what they did wasn't good enough?" So I sat back and enjoyed the spinach salad my daughters had made for Wayne and me, and I choked back tears instead of chocolate covered cantaloupe. That was the best doggone salad I have ever tasted. Sometimes you just have to let go and let them teach themselves.

Thanks for the lesson, girls!

Talk to you later, Mom. I love you.

-- Julie

Friday, August 27, 2010

Expert Witness

Just one more thing, and then I'll let you go...

I took the first step in the process of enhancing Elysse's educational experience yesterday. I met with the Special Education people at the school and discussed her diagnosis by Dr. Hupp and how we proceed from here. They both felt that Elysse would probably benefit from services provided in the general education environment and would not require placement in the Special Education environment. Karen mentioned a program that they already have called "Brain Train" that may help Elysse bridge the gap between her high intellect and her significantly lower processing speed which may be the source of much of her frustration. She knows that she knows it, but she gets frustrated because she just can't access the information when she wants to. It was comforting to know that her issues may be handled with limited intervention.

The most comforting thing of all was sitting for the few minutes we had together with Brooke, the person on campus, and talking - talking about life, about experiences, about the loss of innocence, about the crushing reality of the world our kids are growing up in. It was very comforting to hear from her that she shares my values. I feel very comfortable that she is going to do what is in Elysse's best interest. She shared with me that the district held a convocation prior to the first day of school and offered several prayers during the event for the staff and the students. It's so comforting to know that we live in a district that unabashedly embraces its Christian values and doesn't care what the federal autocrats say about it. That may be contrary to the prevailing theory in Washington and in the halls of academia, but Son, we're in Texas now. Out here we still seek God's blessing on what we're about to do.

I had a lot of apprehension when we got the diagnosis last spring of Aspergers Syndrome. I envisioned our family being railroaded into DOE hell, of placing our child on the altar of academia where people with PhDs in curricula I think of as witch science tell me how to raise my child. I had thoughts of those quintuplets who were taken from their poor uneducated parents back in the '50s and "given a better life," only to be in reality a set of highly intelligent lab rats raised by intellectuals who thought they knew better what to do for these children than their own parents. While I feel so far out of my level of expertise when it comes to dealing with a child who is remarkably intelligent and still has a learning disability, I'm not ready to let the Department of Education raise my child for me. But I know I can't do it alone, either.

I missed you so much at that meeting. We were talking about possible issues like low blood sugar and it made me think of that story you told me about the little boy who had so much trouble around the same time every day. You would give him cheese and crackers out of your purse or arranged for a special snack for him from the school cafeteria. When you began intervening with his low blood sugar, his behavior and grades improved dramatically. I really started to miss you right then. Tears started to trickle down my cheeks. Who will I run things by now? How will I know if what I'm doing is the right thing. I wasn't ready to lose you yet. I need you to reassure me that I'm doing the right thing and making the right decisions for my daughters. I need your 40 years of combat experience - your expert testimony - to lead me through this maze of acronyms and synonyms, antonyms and homonyms.

I guess this means I have to grow up now. I have to have the confidence to make these decisions on my own without you as my expert witness/confidante. If they turn out to be something other than President of the United States or the finder of a cure for cancer... it will all be your fault for leaving before I was ready. But... no pressure.

Love, Julie

Teen Angst

Guess what I was doing this morning, Mom? Besides trying to clean off the top of my desk (which I think is gray, if I'm not mistaken. It's been so long since I've seen it), while completing various tasks on my new computer (did I tell you I got a new computer? It's a 27" iMac. It's like having a hi-speed lo-drag computer AND a 27" plasma TV on my desk. If Wayne ever gets the EyeTV hooked up like I asked him to 6 months ago, I may never leave my office... but I digress), anyway, while I was doing that, I was listening to Sandy's CD that she made for you. Aside from it being an incredibly well written and performed show, two things about it made me sad.

1. You never got to hear it. You would have loved it. She is so talented. And even though she gives her Girl Scout leader credit for starting her off on her career by giving her the lead in Cinderella in the 3rd grade (She was Prince Charming [not Cinderella], and she tells a wonderful story about being permanently emotionally scarred by having to wear tights with her tunic in public), I suspect having you for a music teacher for those first 6 years gave her the love of music that led to the singing in the basement into a broom handle that lead to years of standing-room-only community theater performances and a blossoming career as a cabaret performer. But that's just my opinion. I only listened to Act I so far;

At Sandy's parents' house circa 1981.
Notice the Diet Pepsi can prominent in my hand.
and 2. that I regret all the years we lost because I was jealous and pig-headed, and yet I'm still so jealous of her. I know we were just kids back then. And kids do stupid things, and say stupid things, and hurt the people they can least afford to hurt. She was my best friend, the keeper of all my secrets, the yin to my yang, the Abbott to my Costello. Sometimes I wonder what my life might have been like if Sandy and I had stayed friends. Would I have dated some of the lunkheads I dated? Or would my best friend have knocked some sense into me before I got in too deep. And would I have been there for her when some guy broke her heart? Would we have sat on the couch together eating ice cream and crying like girlfriends ought to? Would I have stood up with her at her wedding, and would she have stood up with me at mine? Would she have sat at my bedside while we giggled over my newborn daughters? It's hard to say because had she been my best friend all those year I might not have made the choices to go to Lansing, and then to San Diego, and finally to Fort Hood, Texas, where I've made my life with my husband and where my daughters were born.

It's not that I regret my life. I don't. I have a wonderful husband who loves me unconditionally, even though that doesn't always include picking up after himself, putting his breakfast dishes in the dishwasher or completing a project in under a decade. I still love him and have never known anyone who loved me for me the way he does. I have two beautiful daughters. They exasperate me and drive me to lose my mind from time to time. But then I think about what life would be like without them, and I forget what it was they did that made me so mad in the first place. I have two parents who did the best they could to raise me right, and Daddy and I are closer than ever now. And I have a wonderful church family who have been so supportive over the last 11 years. They have prayed me through pregnancies and miscarriages, illnesses and loss. I know it was my adventurous spirit along with the consequences of choices (both good and bad) that led me to where I am today. But I still miss my best friend.

At my parents' house, July 2009.
Notice the Diet Coke bottle sitting prominently on the table.
See? People really can change!
I'm so glad I contacted her last summer. I was scared to death that she would reject me, but she didn't. It felt like old times being together and telling stories and getting caught up. It came crashing down on me just how much I missed her, and how deeply I had loved her all these years. I may have acted like it didn't matter when you would see her at the Mall and tell me that she didn't ask about me. But it hurt like hell. And as we sat at your kitchen table looking at wedding pictures, I would feel this empty place in my heart right about where I should have been standing in those pictures. And I think back to my own wedding and how empty it felt not having a best friend to throw me a shower or to go with you and I to all get our hair done for the wedding. There are so many moments I think would have been so much richer if my best friend had been there.

God's timing is infinitely wonderful, though, because had I not contacted her when I did and had lunch with her last summer when I was home, she and I wouldn't be friends now, and she wouldn't have been there for me when you passed away. Mom, you would have been so tickled. I know it blew me away. She came for the visitation and stayed for nearly the whole thing sitting with Wayne over to the side and just being supportive, even AFTER the power went out at the funeral home during a thunderstorm and it got unbearably hot and humid in there with the doors open. Then she went with Wayne and I to eat at West Point Lounge afterward and regaled him with stories of our misspent youths. (He told me later that meeting her and spending time with her gave him a much greater insight into me and what I was like before I met him, and he was so grateful for that.) She even came to the funeral the next day, sitting unobtrusively toward the back. And then she invited me over to her house one last time before I left. Dad was gracious enough to watch the girls while I went and had some girlfriend time over at Sandy's the night before the girls and I headed back home. We sat on the couch with our feet up just the way I imagined we would have for the last 25 years had we not been so stupid and pigheaded. And maybe I'm too full of myself (which I have been known to be in my 48 years here on earth) but I let myself believe that it was because even though we hadn't been together for those 25 years, she still loved me as much as I loved her.

Isn't it funny how we can love someone so much and yet be so green with envy. Listening to her CD I felt myself being so jealous of her.  I was jealous of her talent, but mostly of her confidence, her ability to put together a wonderfully entertaining evening, to surround herself with talented musicians, and to get up there and "WOW 'EM." I wanted to be her, to be up there on that stage still wowing them. But I didn't stick with the voice lessons like she did, and I ruined my voice with cigarettes for 20 years, and mostly I just never had the confidence that she has. She was always prettier, and smarter, and funnier, and skinnier... why do I suddenly feel 18 all over again? Is that a zit I feel forming on my forehead?? But I bet if I could ask her, she would probably say the same things about me and the things I have accomplished of which she was jealous. That's just how teenage girls are.

So I snap back to reality. Sandy lives in Michigan, and I live in Texas. We will never be those "best friends" I always imagined we would be when we were 19 and wondering what our lives would be like when we grew up. We are who we are, we are where we are, and it is what it is. She's not a part of my life here in Texas, and I will never be a part of her life there in Michigan (although as long as Dad stays in Jackson, I will have a reason to go up there and see her). But she is a remarkably talented woman, and I am so lucky to call her my friend, however we define that word from here forward.

I love you, Mom, and I miss you so much.

Love, Julie

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Other Shoe

Well, Mom... it's been almost a month now. I keep waiting for it to hit me that you're gone. For the last few years your input into my life has been somewhat parenthetical, so my daily life hasn't really been impacted by your death. I've done a pretty good job of playing the mature adult daughter grounded in her faith when it comes to dealing with everything. I can talk the talk... but for how long before the other shoe falls and I can't walk the walk? I feel it creep up on me some times. The other day I came across the birthday card you sent me, which you obviously mailed before we headed back to Texas after our visit so it would be here when we got back. You addressed it and signed it... and then it hits me that I will never get another card addressed in your handwriting, and the tears start to well up in my eyes. But that was it... a welling of the eyes.

I can’t count how many times already I have come across something – a picture, a joke, a new thing or one of the kids has been extraordinarily adorable - and thought “I have to share this with Mom.” You were my best friend and if I shared anything with anybody other than Wayne, it was with you. Who do I share those things with now? You were the only person I would ever call just to talk. I frustrate my friends and lead them to assume horrible things because I don’t like making phone calls (Don’t ask me why, I don’t know. It’s silly and irrational, but it just is.) But I loved talking to you on the phone. It would drive Wayne crazy some times. He would get lost in Call Waiting Hell trying to call home when he was leaving work because I was talking to you, and I would still be talking to you when he got home. And he would have to make dinner and serve the kids without me because we were still talking. I just thought of what we should put on your tombstone! “Just one more thing, and then I’ll let you go…” If I had a dime for every time that was uttered in one of our phone conversations, Wayne could retire!

Yesterday it started to hit me at church. We were sitting reflectively during the offertory (that’s a word YOU taught me) listening to Stephen play the piano. I can’t even remember now what the song was, but it was one I’ve heard a thousand times since my childhood sitting in the pew at Bethel Baptist Church on Springport Road with my head in your lap while you played with my hair. Those were some of the most peaceful moments of my life feeling your fingers stroking my hair, the strains of Baptist hymns and your alto harmonizing dripping into my upturned ear like honey off a ripe honeycomb. I suppose it had to do with the fact that I have been listening to YOU play the piano all week as I work on copying the CD you recorded ten years ago. But there was something about the way Stephen was caressing the keys, there with my eyes closed sitting on that pew I heard YOU playing. My mind drifted to the Mother’s Day when you and Dad came to see Elysse’s baptism, and you played the offertory that day. Or the Sunday when you played and we sang together Bill Gaither’s “Because He Lives” which you arranged to include a chorus of “Jesus Loves Me” so Elysse could sing while I held Veronica. That was Mother’s Day also. And then my mind wandered to what you were doing right then. Were YOU playing the piano at that moment? Were you in His presence giving Him a command performance? How grand was the piano you were playing? Were you playing an intimate concert just for Him, or were you accompanying a choir of angels?

And then it hit me… and the buttresses started to crack, and the dam started to heave as a trickle of tears started to flow through the crack. I scrambled to pull things back together and stop the leak. And I would have made it if I hadn’t stopped in the ladies room to dab my eyes and ran into Nancy Barker in there – God bless her soul. She asked me how I was doing, and she hugged me… and the buttresses cracked a little more, and the wall gave a greater heave, and more tears started to flow. The dam didn’t burst, but the buttresses are crumbling. How much longer before the infrastructure fails and a small village downstream or the checkout lady at Walmart is completely wiped out in the massive flood that ensues? Maybe I should get a bright orange reflective tee shirt and have printed on it “Warning! Flood Waters Rising! Maintain a Safe Distance!”

I know that it’s coming. I’ll be relieved when it does as long as it doesn’t happen in the middle of church, or in the frozen foods aisle of Walmart (I imagine myself frozen to the Blue Bell ice cream section like a 10-year-old’s tongue to a stop sign at a Michigan bus stop in January), or in the middle lane of US-190 somewhere between Fort Hood and Copperas Cove at 70 mph. I hope it comes in a quiet moment alone with Wayne when he can hold me and let me cry… maybe even cry together. I can tell he knows it’s coming, too. He may even be a little surprised that it hasn’t hit yet, considering how I blubbered uncontrollably for a stupid dog twelve years ago. But it will come… eventually… and we’ll all have to be ready with buckets and towels to sop up the mess.

Love you, miss you,

Saturday, July 31, 2010


Wayne and the girls went over to John Hauck's house to help him paint a fence, although I suspect the girls are there primarily to pet Sassy, his horse, and offer little more than distraction when it comes to actually painting. But it was blissfully quiet in the house when I got up this morning.

It's a beautiful July morning. The sun is streaming into the back porch, and the shadows cast from the elm trees make it flicker and dance on everything it touches. The only thing I hear is the A/C when it comes on, and then blissful quiet again when it shuts off.

I can't believe it's only been two weeks since we got home from Michigan the first time. Trains, Planes, and Automobiles, throw in a boat, a trolley, a couple of cabs and an emotional roller coaster... what a whirlwind these last three weeks have been.

I was uploading the pictures off our camera yesterday. There was a picture on there of a place in downtown Chicago called "The Redhead Piano Bar" and it reminded me of you and Aunt Lola - you for the piano part and Lola for the redhead part. I never got to show it to you. You never got to see the video of Elysse's ballet recital (she did such a wonderful job!) or of her at her riding lessons, or Ronnie at gymnastics. You never got to see the guest house I designed, or the living room remodel that we did.

But I'm grateful that you got to stand up with us at our wedding, and be the "Mother of the Bride" at our reception. That you were there when my children were born, and the first one to hold them (after Mommy and Daddy, of course). And that you were there at my college graduation, and when my first boyfriend broke up with me, and when I tripped and fell in the driveway and got a goose-egg on my forehead at 4 years old. And I'm glad that out of all the baby girls you had to choose from, you chose me and made me your own. We may not have always understood each other - as mothers and daughters often don't - but I know deep down in my heart that no matter what was said or done over the last 48 years, you loved me unconditionally.

So now when something happens and I think to myself, "I wish Mom could see/hear/be-here-for that," I'll tell you about it on here and we'll share a moment of blissful quiet together.

I love you, Mom.

-- Julie