Month: November 2016
The 49th Year
To most today is just another day, nothing special. But to my family, this day has been a day to celebrate for 49 years now. It is my parent’s 49th wedding anniversary. They met 54 years ago and were married in 1967. My wonderful mother passed 4 months ago, but we still celebrate.
To stay together so long, through the ups and downs of life. Theirs was truly a time when you stuck with it. It was wonderful growing up with parents who loved each other so much. It was wonderful to see them, even in their older years, holding hands and being affectionate. They have been a wonderful example as to what a relationship truly should be. And they taught me not to ever settle for less than what they had.
And what they had does not change with the times or social opinion of the masses. Because they taught me about basing a relationship on similar values, friendship, trust, respect and faith. Those are the things that last, long after looks and the superficial fades. They taught me about doing for the other not because you owe them, but because you love them.
I have called them many times over the years to wish them a happy anniversary and they would have completely forgotten about it. They just went along, happy with each other no matter what day.
Today, we talked about many things he remembers about her. We laughed as we talked about fond memories and talents she held. I want to take all those memories and put them in a place inside my heart that is so Holy and sacred, that they will always be bright and unfaded. Afterward Dad went to visit my closest sister in age and geography. Being so close to Thanksgiving, I am very thankful for her interest in keeping in touch with him and hope the trend continues. Tonight will be a dinner of his choice and lots of hugs.
Today marks the start of the first of many holidays and celebrations without Mom. Truth be told I do not know how to make that sound optimistic, or nice. It is a journey that we all must go through at some point in our lives. I do not know how to truly process that she is not here for this anniversary. I do not know how or what to feel. In truth, all we can do is hold those who we love just that much closer. We can make those anniversaries of whatever a celebration…of life that is here, in front of us. And maybe therein lies the key.
So tonight I raise my glass to the 49th year. I am only 43, so I cannot even fathom what it is like or what it takes to stay with someone for longer than I have been alive. But I do know it takes a lot of love. I want to take those memories of love and be inspired moving forward.
Why Yes I love Turkey…a Little too Much!
We all have those traumatic childhood memories…you know the ones…they are those things that you try not to think about at night. Those memories that send a chill up your spine when you do, and you push it out of your mind just as fast as it popped in. Traumatic and shameful, no amount of therapy can truly exercise some demons. Most of my childhood memories are happy, but there is one in particular that still haunts me.
Her name was Tina. I am sure in some other life she may have been wonderful, but in this life, with me, she taunted me endlessly. She was the terror of my 7 year old world. She would chase me and I knew if she caught me she would rip me to pieces – one look at her hard cold face told me that. I would see her face in my dreams and wake up screaming in a cold sweat. Getting home from school for most kids was an exciting thing to look forward to, but for me it was an experience in terror. She would wait by the fence that bordered our yard, pacing back and forth waiting till I got close enough. A few times she even somehow got on the other side of that fence into our yard and chased me till I ran into the house screaming.
Who was she? Tina was a turkey. Literally. And she was evil. She hated me with a fierceness that I did not think Possible of our fine feathered “friends”. Some of you might laugh at my torment, but you have an angry, bitter bird come after you with their sharp, angry beak and see how long you stand still.
And Tina was an unusually large turkey….she was almost as big as I was (at least that is how I remember it in my 7 year old mind). She was the biggest turkey I had ever seen, and she was usually coming right at me to…to peck my eyes out or take big chunks out of me.
I had nightmares about being chased by her. You know the one…where you are running from something but you are running in slow motion, and they are running at normal speed. Except Tina was a turkey, so her legs went unGodly fast. And in this nightmare she resembled more of a terrifying version of the Road Runner than your friendly Turkey that gets spared every Thanksgiving by the president.
One time I got up the courage to turn around and throw a big rock at her…and when she stopped for a moment I even did a little bravery dance and a “Take that you big stupid bird!” And that must made her even more angry, which I did not think possible. She proceeded to chase me with the speed only reserved for evil spirits in bad cheesy horror flicks. But this was no movie, this was real. I barely escaped the fiery fury of her evil beak.
So this Thanksgiving, and every Thanksgiving, I truly enjoy my turkey dinner…maybe…a little too much.
Change. It is a fact of life. Everyone, at some point, must accept it, learn to deal with it, adapt to it. But that can very so very hard.
Usually I write about everything I am thankful for in the Month of November – a new list every day. This Thanksgiving that seems too strange. I do look around and acknowledge the many blessings. But I am not sure how to act really. I am very thankful Dad is still here, thankful for my wonderful boyfriend, the fact that we have been blessed to have such a wonderful home and are building a life of love. That I have such wonderful friends who are there for me and love me, that I have a job I love at a great company.
And that I had 42 wonderful Thanksgivings with my mother. That I was there in her last moments. And for all the wonderful talks and whispers and moments we shared, mother and daughter. When she looked at me in the hospital and said “I know you truly love me.” When she smiled and said “I know what that means.” When I read the letter and notes she wrote labeled “Don’t open unless I am dead”…and how truly funny they were. Thankful for the way she always knew just what to say, and when to say it, to make me smile and feel better. Thankful for the taco soup and fresh cut corn that she froze, just for us, knowing she was going to pass. Still taking care of us, even now.
This Thanksgiving will be very different from the ones in the past. Every Thanksgiving has been at my parent’s place. Even when I lived far away, the trip would be made to make sure I was there with the rest of the family. There was always so much food because Mom loved cooking for all of us. The exception was last year when I begged to have the holiday feast at my place. Mom and Dad reluctantly agreed and made the trip up to the big city. It would turn out to be the last with my Mom. My sister and her three boys were there too. I treasure those memories.
This is the first year in my life that Mom will not be here for Thanksgiving, or Christmas. This change is not welcome, but it is as it is and so I must adapt. Thanksgiving is coming whether Mom is here or not. And so this year we will spend Thanksgiving around M’s mother’s table. I am thankful for their generosity of taking us in. And no doubt there will be lots of love around that table. Truth be told Dad and I are at a bit of a loss this Thanksgiving…and holiday season in general.
But that is the thing about change – it opens up new opportunities. New ways of thinking about and doing things, and new possibilities. This Thanksgiving may have a melancholy feel, but it can still be special. This Thanksgiving is about love. And love is always a good thing. Because love feeds the Human Spirit, fills in all of our cracks and makes us stronger.
We all have those challenges in life where you wonder how on earth can it all get done? One of the biggest struggles in modern life is what’s for dinner? How do you cook a balanced meal most nights, have it tasty, fresh and not take forever to prep and cook? After working all day? We are currently trying to figure this out. So is a large part of the rest of the country as well. All the planning it takes, prepping, and actual time cooking. How to make sure everything is done and hot at the same time when each thing cooking takes a different amount of time to prep and cook? How to cook and plan a meal for this this night, leftovers that night, the other dish the next night…so that nothing is repetitive and boring – oh and still nutritious and yummy?
Having an aging parent living with you, who is going through chemo and who has special dietary needs adds to the challenge. Growing up my Mom cooked for us almost every night. And when we had 6 foster kids, she cooked almost every night still. We always had three balanced meals a day. I have no idea how she did it. Actually I do – First, she loved taking care of others, so it gave her a tremendous amount of joy. Second she didn’t work. That is not knocking those who stay home – quite the opposite. One of the most important things you can do for your family is cook, clean and take care of them. And it is a lot of hard work. Thus the challenge. How to take care of the family as well as you could if you didn’t work, when you do work?
My boyfriend and I, who both work, are trying to figure out how to take care of things in and around the house as well as those who don’t work. And the truth is – we can’t. Those who stay home and take care of everything are nothing short of miracle workers. There are two of us and we, combined, cannot do what my mother did, and there was only one of her. (But then my mother was magic)
Maybe the trick is in addition to doing it together, you have to decide on a level of un-doneness. Yes, I did just make up that word. What that means is that since we do both work, and we are not miracle workers, we cannot possibly to everything. So, if we cook great meals 4 nights a week, then eat left overs, sandwiches, soups or pizza the other nights, maybe that is enough. Add some healthy snacks in there and maybe that is the extent of what we can get done. Because there is still laundry, still dishes, still vacuuming, still trying to exercise, still quality family times and still trying to have a little smidgen of a social life.
Maybe finding an acceptable level of un-doneness is the secret to keeping the love as well. There might be dust on the mantle, but if love burns bright in the fireplace, then a warm home cannot be far behind. And that’s what’s cooking at the Burch Manor.
The Company You Keep
Growing up we were always the house that everyone stopped in and visited. And I heard many, many times that it doesn’t matter what time of the day or night you stop by, my mother would always have fresh coffee and delicious food available. Everyone felt comfortable and at home at our house. And the house was always full. There was much laughter, fun, lots of food and an extra plate at meal time.
I told my boyfriend to expect lots of company once we moved to a more convenient and central location. Cat allergies aside, there would be lots of visitors. And this weekend it started. We have been in the new house maybe 5 weeks. There are still boxes to unpack and pictures to hang. The floor needs a sweep and probably the upstairs carpet a vacuum. But that’s OK. My friends know that my house will never be perfect.
Saturday my Boyfriends mother came over for a visit and laundry (while they wait for their new washer and dryer to be delivered). I love that fact that we live so close to them that they can pop over for something like that. When I was younger and in college I lived that close to my parents, but never as an “adult.” Mom would call and tell me about the delicious goodness she was cooking for dinner and if I wasn’t busy, would I join them. I was usually over in 5 minutes or less. And I felt like such an adult the first time she came over for coffee.
Sunday was more company as a cousin of one of my best friends came by for a visit and dinner. It was great. A house is not a home without love, laughter, good food and good friends. It’s the company that you keep that turns a house into your home.