Tag Archives: family

A Different Sort of Christmas

10639723_10153382246019606_766582423469376504_nMy life has always involved changes.  I am not really fond of changes; just ask anyone who knows me. 2015 has been full of changes, and I wasn’t happy about most of them.  There was a lot of loss this year, too.  However, this Christmas will be a very big change for me.  Tonight, I will board a train and head west to San Antonio, Texas (after heading North, then West, and then South to get there) to spend the holiday with my brother and his family.

My brother and I were separated when we were very young.  I did get to spend a couple of weeks with him every summer, but never Christmas.  That might have been in part due to the fact that I lived in South Carolina, and he was in West Va. buried under snow.   We haven’t been able to see each other very often as adults and have only been together during the Christmas season a few times.  We have never actually shared Christmas Day since he was 2 years old.

This will be an exciting time.  I will get to meet his grandchildren for the first time.  We will be able to spend some good quality time together and that usually means trouble.  His wife might have to send us to our rooms or give us time out.  She will have to separate us  when football is on because he is a DALLAS fan. OMG!  We will get to do a little sightseeing, try to piece together memories and share some old pictures we have been able to gather over the years.  All in all, I am so very excited and ready to begin this journey.

This will be a huge change for me.  For the past 19 years, I have spent every Christmas day with my two children, their spouses, and my grandchildren.   We usually begin the day in our pajamas and head to IHOP for breakfast.  We then return home for gift giving and fun.  The day usually ends with playing games and just relaxing.  This year we got together a couple of weeks early to celebrate Christmas as a family.    For the past 4 years, I have shared Christmas eve with my “other family.”  The day often included shopping or last minute gift wrapping followed by Christmas Eve service at church and then supper.  There would be amazing hot chocolate from a crock pot and just enjoying the time together.  The kids would beg to open one gift from under the tree, and then we would exchange our Christmas gifts for each other.

Christmas at my house growing up wasn’t much of a celebration or fun.  It was a day I usually wondered if my mother or father would call or come to see me.  Usually my mother would call, but never my father.  We had an ugly silver tree with a light that revolved around it.  I have written some other posts about all of this.  As an adult, Christmas was made very special because of my children.  I loved watching their excitement over everything that happened during the holidays.  There was then a period of time when they were older that things weren’t as good, but those times passed.

Christmas really is about a time of celebrating the birth of Christ and all that it represents.  It is a time to share with family and friends no matter how close or far.   I will truly miss the Christmas traditions of the past years, but I know this Christmas offers something special as I get to be a “kid” and reclaim some of the Christmas spirit with my little brother.

I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas or Happy Hanukkah or Happy Kwanzaa or anything else that you may celebrate during this holiday season.

 

Sister Talk

While I am so grateful to have two best friends that I consider sisters in every way except blood, I also have a biological half sister.  I am sharing an older post today because it is my sister’s birthday.  Those who know me will pause and ask, “which one is this?”  I have seven assorted brothers and sisters, although I grew up an only child.  This post will explain my sister, Jill. (click on the link below)

Happy Birthday Jill!!

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HoneySuckle, Sugar Cane, and High Tide

I have been blessed with 2 best friends who are not only friends, but they are “sister friends” or “soul sisters”. They both been dealing with challenging times recently. I am reposting this blog post from two years ago because this is a difficult day for my friend Carol, and for me as well. In the post, I mention her childhood home where I found support, love, acceptance, and a retreat from the chaos of my house. Today, Carol moved out of that house taking with her so many memories. I have been lazy about writing personally and for my blog. This reminds me that I want to capture all of these memories, and it is time to get back to my writing.

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Summer was a great adventure growing up.  I grew up along the banks of  the Stono River in Charleston, SC.  I lived in a small neighborhood at the foot of the old Limehouse bridge.  It was a swing bridge that turned sideways to let boats go through.  There were about 20 houses in our neighborhood.  There was a dirt road leading off the main highway that formed a circle of about 1/2 mile. There were houses on the main river, houses on the inner circle with just a view of the water, and just off the circle was a small extension of the circle where my house stood.  We had a dock in the back yard on the main canal that lead to the river.  The lots that were not developed were still thickly wooded areas filled with trees and wildlife.

I was almost 8 when we moved to that house.  There was only one other family with children at the time.  Carol was a feisty, freckle faced redhead just a couple of years younger than I.  We immediately became “sister” friends and still are to this day.   Even though my grandmother was very controlling and afraid of just about everything, she seemed to feel safe letting me roam the small neighborhood.  Carol and I spent everyday together with few exceptions for next ten years.

The tides played a big part in planning our day.  At low tide, only pluff mud and fiddler crabs were in the canal. We occasionally braved the mud to chase the fiddler crabs.  The tide had to be about half in before there was enough water to swim or get in the old john boat.   High tide in mid afternoon was the ideal.  We would be in/on the water from lunchtime until dinner.   In the evenings, we would shrimp or crab from the dock.  A few years later, more families with kids and boats moved into the circle.  We would often go out to the main river on their boats, but the canal was always our first love.

Behind Carol’s house were several undeveloped lots.  There was a very large oak tree with massive branches that touched the ground. One of the branches that came close to the ground was perfect for bouncing. Our tree had several perfectly etched out places where you could sit.  Carol would climb to the one just above the place I chose.  We would sit and talk for hours.  We solved world problems, dreamed of adventures, and planned our futures.

We loved the woods. They were filled with honeysuckle vines.  We would sit and pick the honeysuckle, gently pulling the stem to get the tiny bit of nectar on our tongue.   We picked wild blackberries and ate them on the spot.  We were yet unaware of all the things in our world that would soon prove to kill laboratory rats.  The woods were filled with tics, red bugs, spiders, and more but we rarely encountered any problems.  We did come across snakes a few times, but always outran them.  We loved catching Daddy Long Legs and fireflies.  We would sit and dig in the sandy soil and find shark’s teeth.  We had several small jars filled with them. We were always filled with awe as we thought that our homes were once covered with water and sharks.

We had a small store not far from our neighborhood.  It was also home to the post office.  Close by there was  a fresh vegetable stand.   We would go with Carol’s mom and spend our meager allowance a couple of times a week.  We would often buy a stalk of sugar cane to take home.   After dinner we would  sit in Carol’s yard looking across at the river,  pulling the husk away and chewing on cane to get the sweet sugary juices.   Another favorite treat was Pepsi and peanuts.  We would buy bottles of Pepsi and a small bag of salted peanuts.  After drinking just a little of the Pepsi, we would each pour half of the bag of peanuts into our bottle.   The trick was to get all the peanuts out before you finished the Pepsi.

When people ask about childhood memories, I don’t often have many fond ones to share.  Alcoholism, abuse, abandonment, fear and sadness were all things that filled my house.  Moving to that small neighborhood and finding Carol and her family was the greatest treasure and salvation of my childhood.   Those summer days gave me hope for something more.  Carol and I are still “sister” friends. She moved back into her childhood home after her father died.  I go to the house, and we sit on the front porch looking out at the river or in ever so familiar living room and share stories of those times.  We walk around that block we walked so many times before and smile.  We even stop to pick the honeysuckle from time to time.

 

What Will Be My Legacy?

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I sat on the wooden pews in a small church waiting for the memorial service for a friend to begin. If the wall  of this hundred-year-old sanctuary could talk, they would tell the life stories of so many people, including the story of the man to be memorialized that day. He had been married in that church, as had his parents, as well as his some of his children and grandchildren. In the cemetery next to the church were buried his wife, his parents, grandparents, and other family members.

A granddaughter spoke about him during the service remembering a long life spent in devotion to family, service to community, and dedication to his church and beliefs. No one could describe him without using the words “sweet man.” What an amazing legacy to leave for those who knew and loved him.
I thought about my friend Jan F. who died seven years ago. She left behind a note stating what she hoped would be her legacy. Anyone who knew her would have to say these words are true.

I wish to be remembered for:
– my loyalty as a friend and to family
– my passion – for animals, music
– my commitment to providing caring, sensitive, compassionate therapy to my
patients. I would go the extra mile for them.
– my love of music and singing
– my laughter
– my creative, innovative side
– my integrity – as a person and as a psychologist
and anything else someone can think of.

I couldn’t help but wonder what legacy I would leave for my children, grandchildren, and friends (family of choice). My family tree is broken and missing many branches. I don’t have a long line of ancestors to share. I have made many detours and mistakes in my life journey, yet I hope that the life I have created out of the turmoil and chaos of my childhood will speak for me. I hope those who know me best will remember the person I have become.

I don’t plan on leaving this earthly home anytime soon. I have always said that I plan to live to be at least 100 years old. When that time does come, I hope the legacy I leave behind is one that causes those who knew me to smile and to know that in some small way I changed their lives.

Another Empty Toilet Paper Roll!

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” ― M. Scott Peck

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It is inevitable that at some point, everyone will find himself or herself comfortably seated and suddenly realize that the toilet paper roll is empty with no spare roll in sight. This situation has several solutions, although most of them are embarrassing to some degree. The worst solution, in my opinion, would be asking for help. “Um, can someone bring me a roll of toilet paper, please?”

If we are to believe M. Scott Peck, then this could be one of our finest moments. As my friend, Jan F. used to ask, “What is it I am supposed to learn from this?” One lesson may be to take more time in preparation and look next time. Another may be to have a spare roll hidden away for such an emergency. Perhaps, the “truer” lesson is learning to ask for help. (Oh, and forgive the seriously disturbed person who left the empty roll.)

This year has brought more than usual “empty toilet paper holders” to my life, and I have tried to look at each situation with an eye for a creative solution and what lesson might I learn. I will admit that this question is usually the last thing on my mind when something happens. My first reaction is pure crisis mode. I know this about myself, yet in those first moments of what I consider a crisis in my life, I panic. I decide the worst possible outcome to the problem; this is usually an exaggerated worst possible outcome. I internalize first, ask God why He wants to torture me this way, breakdown and talk to someone I trust, and then, and only then I go into solution mode.

Last Thursday  presented one more empty toilet paper roll in my life. I did not create the situation. In fact, I didn’t even know there was a situation. Someone else “left the toilet paper roll empty.”  It seems  all I can do is move into solution mode. This financial crisis took me totally by surprise, and it will be a challenge in my life for the next three months or so.

My mother was the one who taught me most about working in a solution mode. She overcame so many obstacles in her life, and with each one, she became more determined to overcome whatever may come her way. My mother was a unique character. Her solution sometimes included being a steamroller, yelling, cursing, and being a total b###ch!  She would agree with that statement and be proud of it.

I have been thinking about her a lot this weekend. Six years ago, she died suddenly and unexpectedly. While I don’t want to become like her in some ways, I hope I can be as strong as she was in overcoming life challenges. It was only in the end after fighting for so long that she gave up. She never learned to ask for help or to trust people who would help her with those life challenges. It has only been in the last twenty years that I have learned to trust and allow people into my life. I am blessed with family and friends, yet I struggle to ask for or accept help. I am working to step out of that rut and find a different way.

I imagine all of you closing your computer screen, walking by your bathroom and sneaking a look to be sure the toilet roll holder is full. You may even go and find some extra rolls to hide away. Just remember that is all else fails, you can always yell for help.

218062_1034694790696_1325238216_81030_4576_nClaudia Haber  October 12, 1935 -September 16, 2008

Country Roads and Finding Home

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.     TS Eliot

Just one year ago, I wrote a post called Road Trip , where I talked about taking a car trip from South Carolina to a very small community called Flat Top, West Va.  It gets it name from level highlands upon which it is situated—the “flat top,” which follows the crest of “Great Flat Top Mountain”.   At the summit, it is 4001 feet above sea level.  All I can really remember is that there was a small country store/ gas station with “pop” as they call it there,  and snacks, etc.  close to my grandparents farm.  There was a small school house across the street, a few more farm homes, and another small country store that served as the post office.   I also remember cows and chickens, although I am sure there was more to it.

In my previous post, I explained that the trip each summer was to visit my brother who had been adopted by my paternal grandparents.  I was four when we were separated following my parents divorce.  I would travel with my grandmother every summer until I was sixteen to visit for a couple of weeks.   The first time I went to visit there was when I was eight years old.  The local paper came out to take a picture and report on the strange visitors from down South.   Here is that article:

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I remember pulling up to the house and feeling excited and scared all at the same time. I was told that I had been there to visit when my parents were married, but I was too young to remember that. Yet, I felt a strange sense of familiarity with the house and my brother. There was a connection there, which is hard to explain.

In my post last year, I ended with suggesting that my brother Mike and I make a road trip and visit Flat Top together in the coming year. He jumped on board quickly, and we decided to make it happen. Early this year, we talked with my brother Billy (my father’s son) and his wife Susan about the trip. After bouncing a few dates back and forth, we chose the last week in July for our adventure.

Let me digress for just a moment. My father remarried shortly after his divorce. He married a young woman who lived just down the road from his parent’s farm. He and his wife had five children together. I didn’t get to spend much time with them growing up, but my brother Billy and I have always had a strong connection. In fact, he is the only one of the kids to whom I am close. Just a couple of years ago, after his mother died, he and Susan bought the farm and live there full time. We will all be spending the week together. I am working many extra hours the next two weeks to be sure I can afford the gas to get there!

I am excited to visit my brothers and sister-in-laws, and I am excited to see the place I spent so many summers. I am also a bit anxious; memories might be stirred or maybe there will be triggers during this trip. We hope to find some other relatives or family friends who may help shed some light on some family questions. I want to enjoy the peace and beauty of the mountains, as well. Some new information I recently discovered is making me even more excited about seeing Flat Top. I have been searching for information about my father (he was adopted), grandparents, and other family. While helping my friend Jan with some research on her family, I discovered some great resources. One was a great website with old newspaper clippings. I found some newspapers from West Virginia that gave me some exciting information. Before my mother passed away, she explained that my name was Carolyn or Carol Lynn when I was born , and that I was called Lynn until my grandmother adopted me and changed my name.  I wrote about it in a post called “Will the Real Cathy Please Stand Up“.  I was also told that I was born in the Philadelphia Naval Hospital and then moved back home to Charleston, SC shortly after.

There were some newspaper stories about the Flat Top Farm Women’s club in some of the old newspapers. Several of these included the names of the women attending the meeting. I was shocked to see my mother’s name listed with “her daughter Lynn.” By putting the dates and names together, I discovered that after I was born, my mother went to live with my grandparents in Flap Top while my father was out to sea. We lived there until after my brother was born, moving to Charleston when I about two.

I believe this trip will be a journey home for me. In the quote at the beginning of the post, TS Eliot says that we “will arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”. I don’t really know what I hope to find or gain from this journey to my first home, yet I believe it will hold more significance and meaning than I imagined when we planned this reunion. Maybe I will meet my little girl Lynn while I am there. I will surely give her a hug and tell her how very happy I am to know her.

It Seems Like Such a Simple Word- Mom

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For years, I stood in the card aisle of stores searching for a Mother’s Day card.  Mother’s Day cards were always hard to buy. Pictures of children with a beautiful mother or one of those mom’s who did everything and wore the Super Mom Cape filled the aisles. Written in verse on the inside were phrases like “You’ve always been there for me”, or “You taught me so much,” and “I love you.” On the front, were big bold letters that declared “For My Mom” or “Mother.” I would finally settle on a rather generic card for my mother with a picture of puppies or flowers that read “Happy Mother’s Day-Hope you have a wonderful day.”  Finding one for Grandmother was even more difficult.

I don’t remember much about my mother before she left my brother and me.  I was only four years old. She left me with her mother, and my brother was sent to live with my father’s parents. She came back to visit and stayed with us a few times, but by the time I was six, she had moved across the county.  I didn’t see her again until I was sixteen. Letters and phone calls were all that kept us connected, but my grandmother only allowed one short call a week. I think she would have been happier if my mother had just disappeared altogether.

When I was young, Grandmother would look at me and say, “I love you” in a way that let me know she was waiting for the proper response. I wouldn’t look at her, but I would hesitantly respond with, “I love you- But I love my other Momma, too.”  Grandmother told me I didn’t have to call her Momma, but I knew better. So, I did my best not to call her anything. I would walk across an entire room to get her attention and ask a question, so I didn’t have to say “Momma.”

I didn’t understand what had happened or why my mother left until I was grown. In an old trunk of Grandmother’s, I found the note my mother wrote the day she left. Scrawled on small, yellowed, unlined paper, you could feel the pain and panic of her words: “Please take care of the kids.  I love them more than anything in the world, but they are better off with you. I guess you think I am awful for leaving the kids like this. Me and Joe just can’t get along. I tried to talk to him, but it’s no good. It’s just not good for the kids with me and Joe fighting all the time and him drinking. Please don’t turn them against them. I don’t know if I’ll see them again, but tell them I loved them an awful lot.”

My mother was not only leaving an abusive, alcoholic husband but was leaving behind her young two children; She had just turned 20 years old.   What I soon learned was that he was not only abusive to her, but to me as well.  She was afraid my brother and I would be hurt if she stayed. Sadly, we didn’t fare much better in our new homes.

As an adult, I tried to have a relationship with my mother, but it was hard.  She walked away from me so many times; usually for a man.  When my first son was born, she was supposed to come to my house to stay for a few days to help.  Instead, she left home and never showed up at my house.  Her husband kept calling me looking for her.  I didn’t hear from her for three days.  She used my son’s birth as a way to have time to leave her husband for her new boyfriend. You get the idea?

She was used to shutting people out. She had been hurt by so many for so long. She once told me that she had spent most of her life running away from anything she thought might hurt her.  Many people considered her to be a “hard” woman.  She didn’t take anything from anyone.  However, If you got to know her, you would find that she would go out of her way to help a friend, yet keep her distance emotionally.

I could never bring myself to call her Mom or Mother, but I didn’t want to hurt her feeling by calling her by her given name, so just as I had when I was a child with Grandmother, I tried not to call her anything. Not long before she passed away, I took a trip with her to the place she grew up. She told me stories of her life that helped me understand the pain that made her the woman she was. When we returned from the trip, we sat down to talk before I left for home.  As I was getting ready to leave,  for the only time I can ever remember, she told me that she had always loved me. She paused and said, “You know that, don’t you?” I smiled, took a deep breath,  and said, “Yeah, I know that.”  I gave her a hug and walked to my car.  I took a few steps, stopped and turned back to her.   I said the words that have always come so hard for me.  “I love you,  <PAUSE >  Mom.”   It was the last time I would ever see her. She passed away four months later.

After she passed away, her husband wrote and said, “You were her daughter, and she was so proud of you. You meant more to her than you will ever know. She wasn’t good at telling people she loved them, but you were the heart of her joy before I met her and still so to the end. Her greatest joy was being your Mom.”

For many years, I rarely used the word love except with my children.  I lavished it on them.  Honestly,  it was a word that scared me.  After getting clean and sober and being in therapy, I was able to use the word more honestly. My kids and grandkids hear it all the time.  I don’t use the word lightly or freely.  If I tell my friends and family, “I love you,” I really do.

I didn’t tell my mother I loved her very often.  I wish I had told her more.

9862 Days

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9862 days ago, I managed to walk up the steps to a fellowship building at a large church in Severna Park, Md. I was looking for a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. My therapist Jan F. told me I had to go or I couldn’t see her any more. I had to hitchhike to get there, because I missed the only bus that would take me there. There were so many people that I thought the church was having some kind of special meeting. I saw a set of double doors and peered in the window. I could see lot of chairs and a set of tables in the front of the room. I had never been to a meeting, so I had no idea what to expect.

I walked in and saw two women at the front of the room. I looked around and noticed a rack with AA literature and pamphlets. I slowly and cautiously made my way to the front. One of the women, a tall, mean looking red head, looked up and said hello. I told her that I didn’t know if I was in the right place. It must have been obvious to her that I was a drunk, because she looked at me and asked how long it had been since I had a drink. I shrugged my shoulders and told her that it was sometime around midnight. She said that I was in the right place and told me to sit down on the front row. She left for a moment, came back with a cup of coffee with lots of sugar, and another woman she introduced as Pat. Pat said it looked like I needed the coffee. Honestly, my hands were shaky and I wasn’t sure I could even hold it.

I sat or I should say squirmed my way through the meeting. I heard some of what was said, but I kept looking on the wall at a banner where “the steps” were written. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the third step that said, “Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God, as we understood God.” I wasn’t ready to talk to or about God right that moment. At the end of the meeting, someone stood up and said, “If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, and you want to try our way of life, come up here and get a white chip. All it takes is a desire to stay sober for 24 hours.” I watched as a couple of people walked up and got chip and a hug. Pat nudged my arm, and told me to go get one. I wasn’t sure about any of this, but I went up and got one.

Since that day, I have not had a drink or used any mind-altering drugs (unless you count sugar- only kidding). It has been 27 years of working the steps, praying, living one day at a time, praying, being in pain, experiencing joy and happiness, praying, starting over in new cities with new people, praying, losing people I love, praying, feeling as if my heart were breaking and my soul was wounded, praying, – you get the idea. There have been days that I wanted to drink more than I wanted to live or breath, but I made it through them.

In most meeting, we read something called the Promises. These promises have all materialized in my life. THE A.A. PROMISES found on page 83-84, of the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous.
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and selfpity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

I am so grateful for my sobriety and all of the people who have helped me on this journey- some alcoholics/addicts and some “normal” people. I am grateful for a program of recovery that helped me find a relationship with God as I understand God. I am grateful for my family and special friends who have my heart.

I remember the day I celebrated my first AA birthday/anniversary. I received my first medallion surrounded by my first home group. I still have the banner from that night and the cards from friends. Two very special people were that night–my new friend Donna who is still my friend today, and my friend Jan F., who would be my friend, support, and mentor for the next 20 years.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring; No one does, really. I do know there will be more heartache, pain, and loss in life. It is inevitable. Yet, I know that there will be happiness, joy, and serenity as well. All I can do is live this life one day at a time. Through the grace of God and the program/steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, I don’t have to drink today.

 

Grace Joined With Wrinkles

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“Happy old age” was always an enigma. I didn’t know any “old people” who seemed happy. Bitterness, anger, and loneliness seemed to be the destiny for anyone that lived past fifty. I will admit that perhaps my vision was a bit skewed.

 
From the time I was four, I lived with my grandparents and my great grandmother. Vacations each summer were spent with another set of grandparents. Each of them was miserable in their own way. None of them showed any signs of a happy old age.
When I think about each of them, I remember the frowns and downward pointed eyebrows. None of them had that sparkle of joy or peace in their eyes. Their voices were dull and mean. Yes, that is the word I needed to find-mean. Perhaps all of that anger, bitterness and loneliness had poisoned their spirit to the point that their words and actions spewed meanness.

 
This seemed to be such a contradiction since all of them (except my grandfather) talked about loving God and hoping for the glorious day when they would see Jesus in Heaven. My grandfather was a drunk, so his meanness came straight from a bottle. Grandmother took me to church every Sunday morning and then again on Sunday evening. When I was younger, she would take me with her to her church group “circle” meetings. The old women sat in a circle and talked about a Bible verse of two for a while, and then went directly into bashing anyone not there, as well as other church folks. Time for refreshments meant time to discuss the terrible state of the world, the disappointing youth of today, and to ask the host for the recipe of the treat of the day. Of course, they chatted amongst themselves as they left about “those treats she made” and the recipe was thrown out at home.

 
At church I heard sermons from an amazing pastor about God and his love for us, but at home Grandmother told the story of a different God. Her God was vindictive and just about as mean as she was. God was clearly judgmental, and perfection was required for His love. I never measured to the standard my Grandmother set for God to love me. He was just another grey haired, white bearded, crotchety, mean old man in my mind. When I was in my late 30’s I left the church, and after 25 years I felt drawn to return. I attended a variety of churches and denominations looking for a place to call a church home. One Sunday, I was looking for a church and “accidentally” found a different one. It was the farthest thing from anything I would ever have considered, yet it was where I was supposed to be-for many reasons.

 
The congregation is an older one with some of the most beautiful grey haired, faces with wrinkles, older women you will ever meet. I come complete with tattoos and ever-changing hair styles and colors, and they have accepted me without question. Many of them have been friends for years, and they truly love and cherish each other. The ages range from 70 to well over 90.  Every Sunday and often at Wednesday prayer lunch, I look forward to seeing these special women. Their faces show wrinkles and eyes are often clouded by cataracts. They may have to use a cane or walker. Yet, all I see are  sparkling eyes and beautiful smiles. I listen as they willingly share stories of the church, their childhood, marriages, families, and more. Laughter often accompanies their stories. When one is sick or has to be away, you can feel the sadness from the others. These women all love God and Jesus, but they don’t have to tell you that. You can see it in the love they have for each other, their church, their lives, and the way they welcome anyone who enters the doors of the church. I can clearly see the God of love that the pastor of my youth shared with us.

 
I used to be afraid of growing old. I worried that I would become a bitter, angry, lonely old woman just like my mother and grandmothers. I’m not afraid any more, in fact, I look forward to watching my children, my grandchildren, and yes, even my great-grandchildren as they grow and change. I have some very special friendships that I cherish and plan to take them with me as I journey towards old age. My prayer is that I may be just as precious and joyful as the women at my church.

Random Thoughts on A Winter Storm

bildeIce covers the trees in front of the Dorchester County Human Services Building Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 in Summerville. Paul Zoeller/Staff

A second unusual winter storm named Pax (Yeah, I don’t know when they started naming winter storms) blanketed my southern hometown of Charleston, SC with ice. Unusual is a rather mild word for this historic weather event.  We typically deal with hurricanes and tropical storms, not ice storms. When we woke this morning, the ground was wet with rain, but everything above 2 feet was frozen.  Icicles filled the tree branches where leaves once flourished.   As time moved on so did the ice in the trees and bushes until everything was beautiful, yet frightening shade of white.   Loud cracks and booms filled the day as branched broke and fell to ground shattering ice like broken glass on the ground.  Reports of power outages began filling social media and the news.  By early afternoon, we lost power at our house along with most of our friends in the area.  Schools, business, and bridges closed for the second time in just a few weeks.

The magical wintery scene outside my window was stunning as well as alarming. As I sat and watched the trees and branches bending under the weight of ice and blowing wind, I thought about my mother.   She spent most of her adult life in California and Nevada.  She claimed and cherished our Native America heritage and loved to share her knowledge.  When I lived in Nevada, we experience snowstorms frequently and ice storms from time to time.  When ice would cover the landscape, my mother would remind me of the Native American story of “pogonip”.  Pogonip is a Shoshone word meaning cloud or ice fog.  They also refer to it as “white death”.  The Shoshone know the dangers of people who become disoriented, get lost in the ice fog, and die from exposure.  The early settlers believed they could inhale the small white crystals into their lungs causing death. The beauty of the high desert when it was covered in the white crystals and the stories, fascinated my mother.

In the next day or so, the white cover of ice will melt and the Winter Storm Pax will become a memory to share with family and friends.  Each winter when the weather calls for snow or ice, we will talk about the year we had not one, but two icy winter storms. We will share pictures and memories, talk about the hours we spent without power in our houses, and debris covering our neighborhoods. We will even recall the beauty of a winter wonderland in our bit of the South.

The same thing happens when I think about my mother.  I remember her life and share pictures and memories.   I have been thinking about her more than usual the past couple of weeks.  September of this year will mark six years since she passed away.  I have often heard that grief touches grief; one grief event will trigger others.  This week in the same year my mother passed away, my childhood friend’s husband died unexpectedly.  Just a couple of weeks later, my best friend passed away unexpectedly, and a few weeks after that my childhood friend’s mother (my “other” mother) died.

The first part of March, I will be participating in an audition for LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER: CHARLESTONThose chosen will bring their original, true accounts about motherhood to the stage.  I haven’t finished my piece for the audition, but in preparing, my thoughts have turned to my mother, and to others who became “mothers” to me during my life.  Just as I will with this year’s winter storms, I look back and remember those who touched my life,  sharing them others and telling the stories one more time.

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