The one constant in life seems to be change…

We just returned from an amazing European vacation with our Dutch friends: three weeks of eye-opening sights, wonderful food and drink, unexpected twists and turns, laughter and crazy, comfortable conversations. We ate a lot and walked a lot, and in the end, the equation balanced. But it did more than that. It spurred me on to promising myself to continue to walk at home….
So today I started out in 80* temps to
scan the neighborhood before meeting a friend for lunch. Along with me came my trusty/trusted music playlist on iPhone.

With music on and energy available after a decent night’s sleep, I ventured forth…

First I noticed that the houses of two longtime residents were up for sale. How did this happen? The neighborhood is slowly turning over as the seniors leave and younger families move in. We were once at the young end of this revolving door and now are edging toward the exit at the other end. How did that happen?!

Next, I found myself noticing the vibrancy of color: the deep blue sky and stunning cumulus clouds, the intensely green shades of trees and bushes set against the dried out, yellowing lawns, the deep red maples with orange highlights. I tried to hold these moments of beauty knowing their colors, too, would change before long…. sure enough, when I headed out to the store an hour later, the blue sky had faded and the clouds had become wispy and unremarkable…

At one point the song on my iPhone sent my thoughts to musing about my place on the planet. Where do I belong in this world of constant change? I thought how very unique each human is. No one else on earth has the exact same playlist or the emotions that are aroused by listening to it. No two among the billions of faces look exactly the same.

(We like to play a game when traveling. Who reminds us of a friend or relative or familiar face from home? We saw several on this trip, most notably, Dustin Hoffman crossing the street in Berlin!!!)

Back to my point: there is some comfort in feeling unique/special, perhaps…. there also is comfort in belonging to a group, feeling part of the whole, knowing someone has your back, is listening and caring. Sometimes when I’m alone, I long to be in that group of laughing friends sharing coffee at Panera; other times when in a group, I just want to excuse myself and leave: emotions always in flux…

So, here I am trying to reclaim my place in life after a month’s interruption… I’m feeling a little adrift, displaced and introspective. I’m not overly anxious about the changes ahead but am content to let the universe unfold.
And, of course, I await serendipity!


Snaking Through Life

It is my habit to always leave the house neat and tidy when we go away. I love to return to order. So, I wasn’t happy to exit with a sink full of water in the downstairs bathroom. There had been a sluggish water flow for a couple weeks; I had tried a Drano-like product several times which seemed to help a bit, but by the time we left for NJ, very little progress was made. I marked the water level with a dab of blue toothpaste and hoped the sink would be empty when we returned 3 days later.

Alas, upon our return, the toothpaste mark was still apparent with the water level only a smidge below. My thought: let’s call a plumber; Charlie’s thought: oh, we can clean the trap without much trouble…
Mind you, he had major shoulder surgery two months ago… how could he possibly sit on the floor, handle a wrench and a snake and the anticipated mess? Thankfully, he has a right-hand-woman (actually left-hand), and we make a good team.

So I set the scene by moving rugs and other decor into the hall and putting old towels under a container that would hopefully catch most of the dirty water exiting the trap. Next: getting ourselves onto the floor in such a way as to position wrench, protect shoulder, catch water. This was a balancing act, to be sure.

Oh, and I must mention the necessity for gloves since the water contained many and varied caustic chemicals from the drain cleaner. Of course we didn’t realize this until after the water hit the hands, and there was a burning sensation. So, up off the floor to wash hands and apply gloves.
I surprisingly even had gloves and knew where they were (not always the case when attempting home repair!), but here’s a recommendation: Never buy thin plastic gloves from the Dollar Store! They are very difficult to open and put on, and they don’t stand up to wear and tear. Actually they do tear, which becomes the problem.

Back to the sink. With the trap disconnected, and the black, gunky, slimy water released into the pail, we hoped to be nearly finished, but, not the case. There was no plug of hair within reach. It was time for the snake. This definitely was a two person task as Charlie guided and I unwound. But the clog was so deep and tight, it wouldn’t budge. The word plumber kept flashing in my brain and the more worrisome thought: what if there were tree roots that required digging? (My daughters don’t call me “dead-in-the-ditch-Mom” for nothing!!)
Because of the angle and cramped quarters, we decided to invent a tube to pour some more declogger into the opening in the wall. Why not? So, picture the “plastic tube- plumbers’tape-plastic straw- tinfoil-approach”. Don’t ask how that worked. Suffice it to say, Charlie now has burn marks on his finger where the worthless glove was eaten away! 😬🙃😝

Back to the snake… After much more pushing and wrangling, there came the moment of truth! A breakthrough! Hurray!!! We did it! Well, at least we cleared the dense clog, but what a mess of thick, black, tar-ry goop that stuck to the snake and splashed on us and the pedestal and the wall and, well, you name it.

I held my breath as Charlie used his impressive puzzle-making skills to replace plastic pipe and trap and metal covers, and tighten, while not stripping, the grooves…..then to turn on the water and pray there would be no leak or drip.
Amazing to both of us, it worked. We triumphed! The hot water flowed freely through the drain and pipes and there was nary a drop to be found running down the wall. Forty-five minutes later, after much rinsing, scrubbing, spraying, and groaning, we had a sparkling, fresh-smelling, clean bathroom. The sound of running water was music to my ears.

I’ve never been very afraid of snakes, but now I love them! 😊❤️

Waiting For Godot

Ah, the joys of the waiting room – a study in today’s world… Here I sit as Charlie goes through his PT paces. Usually I drop him off and find somewhere else to be while he rehabs his shoulder.
Today however I decided to sit and wait since there was no errand calling my name. The location of this place isn’t very conducive to my needs or interests in the way of shopping or browsing so I choose my spot and sit.
Can I groan yet? I have a book to read, but it requires a bit of concentration. There is no hope for that unless I would wear headphones. First of all, the two receptionists are loud and chatty as they go about their business. They are fairly friendly and apparently competent in their duties, but also quite unprofessional to my way of thinking. I could tell you the full name and insurance issues that a certain patient is having as I couldn’t help but hear the whole story as relayed by one worker to another. Besides knowing personal details, I was privileged to hear them in a mocking, “rolling of the eyes” tone as one woman complained to the other about the work she was being asked to do by the caller on the other end of the phone… help!
Then there’s the man waiting for his wife who thinks it’s perfectly fine to have a cellphone conversation in a loud tone. I now know the specifics of the basketball team he coaches along with details of the strengths and weaknesses of several players. How enlightening!!
And next comes the woman pushing her husband in a wheelchair. He has some form of dementia and is being loud, difficult and defiant. It’s heartwarming to witness her patience and obvious love as she teases and conjoles him into good behavior….this is a sweet moment of grace which serves to calm my agitation….

There is no apparent privacy here. I’m not overly secretive about my personal statistics, but I really wouldn’t be happy about the whole waiting room knowing my name, date of birth, insurance, meds, health care proxy wishes, and current health issues in detail. This, and more, came my way from a couple being interviewed by my favorite receptionist.

Still no sign of Charlie. How much longer can I endure? Too bad they don’t have a mental health provider here to serve my needs! The guy sitting kitty corner from me has the right idea: close your eyes and zone out the lunacy….
I guess I could try for a more positive outlook and accept all this commotion as a chance to view the world in a new way. “Be open to the day” often is my motto, but somehow all this openness is irritating today.
Possibly my reaction is due to no breakfast…😛

Charlie did finally return and we headed up to Main St in Williamsville for something to eat at “Breakin’Eggs”. It was 11:34 when we arrived, not a good time for this popular, trendy breakfast place with a totally full parking lot. No place to park plus a potentially long wait made us decide to continue on to our next destination: Shea’s box office in downtown, Buffalo. We were hoping to renew our season tickets and upgrade our seating. “Hamilton” is coming in November so everyone is clamoring for tickets. We were able to park easily and renew but could not upgrade. Prices have increased due to “Hamilton” (no surprise) but not terribly. We did walk away with a “free” tote bag advertising Aladdin. So, things are looking up as I sit with my buddy having bacon, eggs, toast, fruit and cocoa in the place that feels the best: HOME. ❤️

The Lonely Pew

At first, after Dad died, she was still driving, and I would meet her at church on Sundays. I would watch for her car to arrive and then breathe a sigh of relief when she pulled in. She would park in the handicap spot and grab her cane from the back seat and walk in.

Then there was the accident which ended her driving. Luckily no one was injured, but it was clear to her family that the time had come…. this was a very difficult decision for her, but common sense prevailed. So now I would pick her up at her house and bring her to church with me, and she would walk in unassisted with her cane.
Soon enough, as it became more difficult to manage on her own, she moved in with my sister; I would pick her up there each week and drive us to church. And, soon enough, the cane gave way to a walker. She was proficient with her new wheels and would trot off to her morning ‘Table Talk’ as I went about my business. We would meet up for worship.
Most Sundays I didn’t sit with her until after the choir sang their anthem. On the days that I also played a bell number I wouldn’t be in her pew until that was over. So she happily sat with Charlie and I joined them for communion.
No longer worried about her driving a car, I now fretted over her failing eyesight and ability to safely “drive” her walker around the church halls. It was always calming to see her sitting in her pew ready for worship from my vantage point in the choir pew.
And time moved on…. she could see and hear less and less and her head dropped lower and lower as Mother Nature and osteoporosis continued their downward pull. Still, she looked forward to being there each week, meeting and greeting all the wonderful people who embraced her.
Today, this last Sunday in February, 2018, I sang my choir anthem, then proceeded upstairs to ring the bell offertory before heading back down to sit in the pew. (Charlie is home recovering from surgery)… The pew loomed empty until I took my place in it, alone…. no hand to hold mine during a prayer, no arm to hold mine as we walked to communion, no need to take 2 cups of wine and pass one carefully to the beautiful lady on my left, no arm to hold as we slowly return to our pew…. no Mama in sight… my heart cries out with longing for the one person I’ve known the longest in my life. Her absence is profound.

Rose Story

Earlier this summer in mid July I took my mom to the cemetery on my dad’s birthday. I was dismayed to find that the potted geranium Mom had bought for him was MIA. It had been very windy; I did see several similar pots on nearby grave sites, but who could prove what was what? So, with some sadness, we shrugged it off to “these things happen”.

Then we took our usual path onward to visit Heidi. Mom was tired and stayed in the car, which was a blessing. For what did I see before my very eyes as I approached the tree, bench, rose bushes and headstones? Well, the bench and tree and headstones were in place, but where were the two rose bushes which had already bloomed earlier and had many buds ready to open? …the very rose bushes that Mom had so lovingly bought for her granddaughter? They were totally obliterated. Missing…. Gone…. Mowed over? Stolen? Risen with the Rapture? Upon inspection I decided they hadn’t been dug up but most likely had been mowed down by a careless grounds’ crew. My stomach churned; my heart felt heavy; my soul cried.

In my self-pitying state of mind, it is always an affront to even have to be at this spot in the cemetery. There is no reason you could ever give me that my child should be buried below while I still am able to take steps on solid ground. So, how am I supposed to figure out, much less calm the rage and sorrow that filled me on this day? I tried to minimize my anger when explaining things to Mom, but I let myself go when telling Charlie what had happened. We decided to pay a visit to the powers-that-be at the cemetery.

We’ve had previous dealings at this office, most of them unsatisfactory, so I wasn’t looking forward to another meeting. As life goes, we weren’t able to return for a few weeks. Several unexpected obstacles got in our way. This probably was fortunate because it gave us, mainly me, a chance to cool down and gather my thoughts. Without going into boring detail, suffice it to say that we later met with a very nice woman who was sympathetic to our story and said she would look into it. She was certain that the grounds’ crew would/could never have done such a thing. We didn’t argue, but… We also made a request to have our sinking gravestones raised. No problem, we were told. She said she would call us back that night after she spoke with people about our complaints and concerns. No phone call ever came that night or anytime since….
On the way out of the cemetery we went to Heidi and saw that there was a very tiny bit of greenery poking out of the soil where the 15″ bushes once stood and bloomed.

And then again, as life would have it, situations occurred and it wasn’t until today, mid September that I was able to return. (Truthfully, I could have gone sooner, but self preservation kept me away. I didn’t want to add to the stress in my life by seeing the barren spot where red roses should be and where the lovely purple perennials that always burst forth from the soil next to the bushes every fall should be…. these always were in bloom on Heidi’s birthday.)

But, today, to honor my parents’ 72nd anniversary, Mom and I drove to the cemetery after church. We visited Dad’s grave first. I pulled weeds while Mom remained quite silent with her thoughts. We then headed to see Heidi. I confess my heart was in my throat as I made my way up the slight hill to her spot. There was the tree. There was the bench. Oh my goodness! There were two rose bushes about 5″ tall, and one even had a bud ready to open! And there were purple shoots pushing their way up from beneath the soil. These were our original rose bushes which had regenerated. And apparently the perennials hadn’t been damaged when the bushes had disappeared. My heart did a little dance. More than this, the area around the bushes had been cleaned up from all weeds and debris.

I noticed and delighted in all of this before I actually turned around to look at the headstones. There they were, both Heidi’s and ours, obviously raised and looking in proper position with no sinking. It was such a good feeling to see that the office lady actually had listened and then followed through with promises.

Of course, she had no control over the mysterious workings of Mother Nature, Father Time and possibly a special Angel. 🌹

On Fathers’ Day

There may be some who wonder how Charlie and I have stayed married all these years. Our personalities differ in many ways. He is generally organized, contemplative and very much a planner, (except the time he decided to ask a young girl he had only known three months to marry him, but, upon further reflection, maybe that WAS the plan!). His days are well thought out; he wakes up with a checklist of things he hopes to accomplish and then moves in that direction.
On the other hand, I let life come at me and then decide where I’m going. I tend to “go with the flow”.

Over the years we both have left our edges and moved a bit more to the middle. Charlie no longer asks me what’s for dinner at 9 in the morning. He knows better after all this time. Normally I have absolutely no clue since I let the day dictate what I’ll be in the mood for by 6. But my hub is so easy when it comes to mealtime that he’s happy for whatever comes his way. For my part, I’ve become better at using a calendar and keeping track of upcoming events. This area of life is somewhat like a religion with C; he would be lost without his planner and datebook. I’ve come to appreciate this. Maybe it’s years of living together, or more likely it’s my feeble mind unable to keep track as well as it used to.

My guy would be happy being on the road exploring the world nine months of the year; one month would be “pushing it” for me. There are many reasons and factors folded into these separate views of life, but we’ve managed to make it work. Charlie has gone on three State Department delegations with “People to People”: to China, Russia and Israel (without me – yay!), but we have had amazing trips to Europe and around the US and Canada with our Dutch friends as well as time spent together in FL and with family and friends on cruises. I’ll forever be grateful that he was the driving force for many summer vacations with our children as we explored the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Rocky Mts as well as Prince Edward Island, Adirondacks, Williamsburg, DisneyWorld, Nashville, NewOrleans, MN and KY.

I look at these different approaches to life as sort of proactive and reactive. Charlie looks at what needs doing and gets busy; I tend to look around and see what doors open and then try asking the day to show me the way.

Consider my trip to Wegman’s the other day. I had several items in mind to buy; Charlie had a written list of his needs “the next time you go to the store”… I forgot the list; actually I hadn’t even looked at it, so I was clueless as to what to buy for C. As I approached the store, I decided that going further down the Blvd to shop at Aldi first was a good idea. As I approached Aldi, I decided it would be a good idea to visit the cemetery to water pots and weed a bit . (None of this had been on my radar when I left home). There was method to my madness for heading to the cemetery first. It made sense to spend time there before buying perishables at the stores.

The plan worked for me. The cemetery was quiet and relatively mosquito-free. I went to Dad’s grave first, watered his flowers and had a chat. Then on to Aunt Charlotte to do the same. On my way to visit Heidi I decided to search for a friend’s husband’s gravesite. I had a general idea, knowing it was somewhere near Heidi; it took awhile, but I was successful and enjoyed the search among many very old gravestones. There were feelings of peace that surrounded me…

On to Heidi’s resting place where I spent time weeding and watering her rose bushes. Here’s where my cell phone served a good purpose as I sat on her bench and listened to my playlist, choosing music that connected us. Peace, again.

This stream of consciousness living usually works for me. I’ve become even more willing to let life lead me since my daughter died. Living in the moment opens doors to adventures that feed my soul and put hope in my heart. I often sense Heidi’s presence and guidance on this journey. Charlie certainly commiserates with these feelings although he would be sure that his trusty calendar accompanies his version of mindfulness!

So, we’ve traveled together 49 years with love, respect, joy and sorrow. It’s been quite a ride. Soon we will continue the journey with a whole family trip to Kentucky to visit Charlie’s childhood stomping grounds. Our grandkids will make new memories as the story goes on…..always with love and trust and amazing grace.

Post note : this started out to be an entirely different tale, but it took on a life of its own. 😊