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Kelsea and I are on our annual mother-daughter Labor Day trip. She’s now able to cross another state off her list – Utah. I’ve been here before but never spent a night, so I guess now it can really count.

Our first impressions of Utah:

It’s dark. Really, really dark. Of course, it is night.

Right after the “Welcome to Utah” sign, was a sign for the “Trail Through Time”. If it hadn’t been so dark, we would have taken it. And it made me think of Dr. Who.

Shortly after that sign was a sign that said “Eagles on Highway”. What?! No!

Followed thereafter by towns with such intriguing names as Cisco and Yellowcat. None of which offered any services. And were completely dark.

Utah has very nice, smooth roads. Truck kept zipping up to 85 all by itself.

The shift in energy when we passed from Colorado to Utah was tangible. Not unpleasant, just different. Perhaps I will be able to put it into words after a bit more time here.

We know we were driving through someplace magnificent, but that darn darkness prevented us from seeing what it was. It reminded me of when MKL and I went to Monument Valley – when we arrived at night, we had no inkling of what beauty we were missing.

 

In the course of our seven hour drive from home, we avoided running over a coffeemaker and a pair of gym socks, and did not see any chupacabras. I have been up for almost 40 hours now, and so it’s time for me to go to bed. Photos tomorrow.

 

My darling daughter starts her senior year in high school tomorrow. It’s a strange thing. I remember being her age so vividly, and now I am seeing it from my Mother’s perspective. Athough Kelsea is different than I was at 17. It is so hard to comprehend her leaving home in a year. Perhaps for me, since she has not been with me full-time since I left ex-Pat’s house, and since I have always worked so much, and therefore seen less of her than your average mom, it will be a little easier. But the closer we get to the day she leaves, the more that feels like an untruth. I am so grateful that I did not miss these last years with her – yes, that was an option when I was under the spell of deceit in my previous relationship. I would not trade where I am now in my life with her – and with MKL – for anything. Not for all the islands in the world.

As she looks to the West for her future, I see her future through the strands of my own memories. New friends, first loves, that sense of freedom and power that comes from being truly on your own for the first time. Philosophy discussions. Term papers. Dorm food. Calling Mom for instructions on laundry and cooking. Walking to class on cold wet mornings. Learning a new city. Finding your way.

And I see her past. Standing at the sliding glass doors with Tug, bobbing up and down as her Daddy came home. Feeding her in the bar sink at the beach house. Her wearing her little pumpkin suit on her first Halloween. Coaching her on her first word. Playing restaurant. Teaching her to ride a bike. White blonde hair in summer. Finger painting. Blowing bubbles. Bathtimes. Reading all the Harry Potter books together. Mother-Daughter trips. Cuddling in thunderstorms. Jumping waves. Hugging next to horizons of sunflowers and darkly phosphorescent seas.

A long time ago, there was a country song by Suzy Bogguss about a girl going off to college and how her mother felt. Even before I had a child, that song made me cry. When the time comes to pack up my girl and set her free for parts distant, I suspect I’ll be playing that song a lot. (And you may see a few more sentimental posts on this blog.)

I have always said that there is an invisible silken strand that connects a mother’s heart with her child’s – my heart with her heart. She spoke that back to me a few weeks ago, and I was surprised and moved that she had heard me say it, had remembered it, and felt it too. The first time I experienced the strength of the strand was when ex-Pat took her to a family reunion. She was five years old. I had to stay behind to work. I felt so strange the whole time they were gone. She and I missed each other, and the strand stretched all the way from her heart in California to mine in Colorado. Stretched fine and thin, but as strong as ever. Perhaps even stronger for the distance.

I will treasure the days until she leaves, rejoice with her when it’s time for her to go, and cherish the strength of the strand.

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Topsail Beach, North Carolina.

Quote of the day: “Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.” — Ayn Rand

Daily Gratitudes:
That I was glowing today
AAA
Always carrying a book with me
MKL
Clawfoot bathtubs

Kelsea and I took our annual trip to Steamboat Springs for hot air balloons, pro rodeo, and pizza that is so good we call it “crack pizza”. We had too much traffic on the way out of town, but it was the Universe making sure that we saw this most incredible rainbow. We could see from one end to the other, and took off down a muddy dirt track hoping that we could actually get to the end of it. We could see the end, in a field, but couldn’t get far enough off road to actually stand in the end of the rainbow. It’s now on both of our bucket lists. But it was an incredibly special moment for the two of us to share – one that will last in both of our memories.

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Grand County, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Magic exists. Who can doubt it, when there are rainbows and wildflowers, the music of the wind and the silence of the stars? Anyone who has loved has been touched by magic. It is such a simple and such an extraordinary part of the lives we live.” — Nora Roberts

Daily gratitudes:
Curvy roads
Kelsea
Actually hearing someone say “This is my first rodeo”
Getting lost
Talking late at night

 

On this Mother’s Day, most of which I have spent with Kelsea doing pre-college stuff, snuggled up on the couch, on this wet, slight snowy day, I am reminded of how much perseverance starting, nurturing, and living a life takes. For all of us. I hope you have all had a happy Mother’s Day. For those of us who are without our own mothers now, it is a blessing to know that we were so loved and that the stars are the lights in our mothers eyes still, glowing as they watch us.

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Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Quote of the day: “A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.” — Washington Irving

Daily gratitudes:
Blankets
Fixing my own printer
The first cricket (though he might be frozen by now)
My darling daughter
A day at home

 

We have reached a high of 14 today, as warm as it has been in days and days. Perhaps I’ll put on a sarong and flip-flops. Or perhaps not. I am curled up on the couch today, battling a migraine, and watching football players do amazing things in the eastern snow, backing up my computer, and snuggling with Mr. Man. I am warmed today by the memory this image conjures up for me, of driving back from a Labor Day with Kelsea, when we stopped somewhere between South Dakota and Wyoming, at this turn to nowhere surrounded by nothing but sunflowers, and we hugged in such a way that it is imprinted on my soul. If that hug were the last memory I summoned before I left this earthly plane, I would be happy.

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Somewhere in the mid-West.

Quote of the day: “Hope and courage and risk dwell inside of us on an uncharted island and if we learn to look for it and tap into it, our possibilities are endless.” — Katie Kacvinsky

Daily gratitudes:
Blankets
Deep sleep (despite the dreams)
Tamara
Quiet days
Migraine medicine
Safe travels for beloved friends

I am on the bus this morning, and I get the following text from Kelsea:

“So they think our school is gonna blow up.”

The world stops for one split second.

I call her.

She doesn’t answer.

The bus is speeding away down Highway 36 and I am thinking how I have to get off and get to her, to her school. Totally impractical. What am I going to do, run there? I’m twenty miles away.

I call my ex to ask him what’s going on, and he looks online and finds that a suspicious device  – pipes, wires, and a battery – was discovered on a bus and brought into the school by the bus driver. The school staff took it back outside and called police. The students have been moved into the auditorium and the gymnasium.  I tell him to go to the school. He tells me not to worry and goes bowling.

I am sitting on the bus holding the top of my head to keep it from flying off. Moving the students into the auditorium and the gymnasium puts the entire school in two places, so that if someone truly is evil, they can just blow up those two places where they know students will be sent in the event of just such an emergency. My imagination is colliding with thoughts of Columbine and New Town.

Kelsea calls me from the auditorium. She is fine. She is seeing her friends. She is overjoyed that she won’t have to take her algebra final this morning, because she wasn’t ready for it. She too wonders why they’ve just put everyone in two places instead of evacuating them all. She says she will stay in touch. I tell her I love her.

I know my daughter. She will do anything to save others before she saves herself. She has always been this way. Her future career choices reflect his attitude. It is something that, as a mother, I just have to live with.

But I do not want to be one of those parents whose child does not come out.

I sit on the bus and try not to panic. I have never really felt this way before.  All these feels are swirling around inside of me: fear, panic, anger, anxiety, that feeling that I will do anything to get to her, and do anything to someone who hurts her. I feel a desperate helplessness as this bus takes me farther and farther away from my baby girl. Tears well up and I try to stifle them. Yes, helpless. I have always known how much I love my daughter, and how I am so blessed by having had her in my life for any time that the Great Spirit chooses to grace me with. But I never really had a glimpse of losing her. Not even a glimpse.

One of my friends at work calls this “catastrophic thinking.” I know I have this unfortunate tendency, inherited from my father. It’s a hard one to control, especially as a mother.

Half an hour later, I get a text from her.

“So it was a science fair project. Awkward.”

I spend the rest of the morning feeling like I am coming out from being underwater, trying to ease the tension in my neck, trying to return to a sense of normal.

I hope that kid who misplaced his science project gets an A. He certainly taught me something about myself today.

Well, our massive blizzard fizzled before it happened, but it has left unseasonal cold in its wake, with temperatures dipping to eight tonight. With the wind chill, it will feel like -7. Brrr. So I will think of Anegada, and how different a storm is there than here.

BVIs January 2010 2221

Anegada, British Virgin Islands.

Quote of the Day: “So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?” — Hunter S. Thompson

Daily gratitudes:
Being cozy at home with the cat
Poetry
Not having to shovel the sidewalk
MKL
Kelsea

Her Love

I watch your heart break from a distance
And there is nothing I can do.

Not.

One.

Thing.

When you were small,
I could cuddle you
And make you giggle
And kiss your tears away
And you would be all better.

Now, my touch at the sight of your tears
Makes you angry,
And the choices you never made
Are making you hurt.

It’s a pain we all go through.
You’ve seen it near break me.
And when it happens to you,
You think no one can know how you feel.

But we do.
We all do.

That doesn’t make it any easier.
I wish it did.

I so wish
I could.

[These three days are always hard for me, especially coming at this time of year that I love. And so, over these next three days, I will be reposting what I lived during these days six years ago.]

 

With thanks and apologies to Eugene O’Neill for the post title.

[The next three day's postings are my memories of the day before, the day of, and the day after my Mother's death four years ago.  This is a difficult anniversary for me, though it seems to ease each year.]

December 10, 2006:  I don’t remember what we did today.  Probably not too much but talk – and laugh.  Uncle George and E-Bro were with us now, but strangely I don’t remember them being there.  I only remember us.  Over the past week, we had spent nearly every moment together, waking and sleeping.  I probably took a walk once and went out to the store a couple of times.  I took showers alone and went to the bathroom alone.  But you didn’t.  It was as if we were merging, merging for the last time.  Looking back now, I see that that wasn’t a good thing, but it wasn’t something I could control.  We had been so very close for so very long that our separateness was, for most years, only a matter of a few degrees.  In the last days, those few degrees simply vanished.

You had started asking for the morphine towards the end of the day.  Not much, but you’d never needed it before.  I can imagine how much you must have been hurting to make that concession.  You always hated painkillers, hated anything that made you feel out of control of yourself, unlike yourself.  It didn’t seem to affect your clarity, but it did seem to ease your pain.  I remember your pain.  It was in your bones.  When you would move sometimes – or sometimes when you were still and it was so bad that it would make you move – your face would grimace in this expression that was indescribable.  You would hold your breath until it passed.  I hated to see you in pain.  I encouraged you to take the morphine.  After all, we knew you didn’t have much time left – why spend it in pain?  But you wanted to spend it being present.  I admire that.

You had stopped eating by now, but today I could still get a few Dibs into you.  Water.  Your beloved orange sherbet in little tiny spoonfuls.  It was sunny, and the light slipped through the slats of the blinds in gentle patterns, changing throughout the day, as sunlight does.  You never asked for me to open the blinds or asked to look outside.  Looking back, that surprises me, as you so loved nature.  But you were focused on the world inside your three rooms, the world that encompassed the people you loved most, and the small things you had around you that you treasured.  The rest of the world didn’t matter anymore.

People came and went, people you’d known for years and years who loved you so.  You always thought of yourself as being alone, as not having many close friends, but so many people felt like you were THEIR close friend.  You were very comfortable with that, with all of it, and with being alone.  I suppose that’s the mark of a person truly happy in herself.  But today, people came knowing that they were coming to say goodbye, even though nothing had been said. I left them alone with you, and they usually came out of the bedroom and started to cry, and I would thank them and comfort them as best I could.

Everyone brought food.  You weren’t eating.  I couldn’t eat, except late at night, when I couldn’t sleep.  I would eat weird things in weird amounts, knowing I just had to get something, anything, into me.  It wasn’t comforting.  It was a random necessity.  That had been going on for a week, my eating like that.  Ever since you really stopped eating.  For me, that was the beginning of my thoughtless, mindless eating habits that have added so much weight to my small frame in the last four years.

I don’t remember doctors coming.  I don’t remember even talking to the doctors.  But that must have happened. Mustn’t it?

In the afternoon, you took a nap. As always, I stayed beside you for most of it.  I would go do little things, make phone calls, shower, clean something, constantly checking on you.  When you woke, I took your hand, asked you if you had a nice rest.  You said yes, and looked at me strangely.  I chattered at you, you responded politely, still looking at me in that odd way, patting my hand.  Then you said, “Who ARE you?” And I reminded you that I was your daughter.  Your eyes cleared, you looked relieved, you laughed at yourself as you recognized me.  I felt a chill that I did not show.

I had been so wrapped up in caring for you.  For months, I think, I had been flying across the country every weekend to be with you.  Your death became my life.  We had always been close, except for those nasty teenage years, but especially since Kelsea’s birth.  We had talked every day.  After the last diagnosis, we talked three or four or five times a day.  In the mornings, to be sure you were okay.  If you were lonely.  If I was bored.  If you went to the doctor.  In the evening before bed.  If I was scared.  If you had some piece of news.  We talked so much because we knew that soon we wouldn’t be able to talk at all, not in the same way.

And you were so happy to have the three of us there.  You loved us so.  That night as we were going to bed, you felt it was going to be your last night.  You said goodbye to me.  You told me to tell Kelsea that you loved her.  You reminded me that the car keys were in the little bowl on the half-wall by the kitchen.  Yes, ever the Mother. And you went to sleep.

But it was not your last night.

Ashes
(for my Father)

The leaves still fall in November
carpeting the dying grass
beneath the oaks and magnolias,
each tree offering a
variation in the sound of footfalls.

Your footsteps are silent now,
only remembered,
only by me.

Our late afternoon Sunday walks,
sharp as the light edged past
the tops of the now-bare branches,
cradled in the arms of a seasonal death.

You held my hand
as I walked along the wall when I was small,
and carried me on your shoulders
when I grew tired.

Both of us older,
we would ramble for hours
talking of everything and nothing
until my nose and toes were chilled
and my fingertips hurt
from the dampening cool.

And still your hands were warm.
Always warm.

I cannot think of your hands being cold.
It’s a comfort in some strange way
that you are ashes now
and not lying in the cold earth.

It fits that you are ashes and air
As you burned to me
so bright and warm
all those years.

The Sower (image courtesy of Duke Photography)

October 2014
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