Archive for June, 2007

The Hardest Thing, Revisited
June 30, 2007

And it is but a child of air

That lingers in the garden there.   

         Robert Louis Stevenson 

As I took the dogs out for their final run on a recent evening, I glanced back at the house and savored the vision of all the lights ablaze, both upstairs and down, with much bustling going on inside. I knew that it would be the last time I’d enjoy this particular scene for many months, and a lump came to my throat as I stood there watching. For you see, after a month-long visit by Shannon and Kat, they have now headed back north to New York. 

  

It’s been so much fun to have them here, fun to have company during the day, fun to collaborate on dinners… to shop, to celebrate birthdays, to play Scrabble, Life and do jigsaw puzzles, to dine out and even to do ordinary things like go to the grocery store together.

Now the house is still; there’s a sadness in the air that has replaced the laughter and the animated conversations that once filled these rooms. Tonight when I go outside and look back, the house will be dark. Not even Joel is here; he’s gone up to Alaska for a week of fishing!

I’m accustomed to being alone during the day… well, except for the menagerie, but evenings can be long when nobody is around. I’ve made some dates with girlfriends and family members this week, so that will help, but even so, the house will be empty of people when I return.

Earlier this week, we watched home videos of Shannon growing up. Mistake #1. Doing so probably made the pain of separation worse! How quickly the years have flown by… that precious three year old on the screen is now eighteen years older, totally grown up and very competent.

Also this week, I rode my bicycle by the house we lived in when Shannon was six through ten years old.  Mistake #2. As I passed by, my mind went back in time to those years, and I could just visualize our eight year old playing on the playground across the street and riding HER bike around the circle, swimming in the lake and playing with her beloved KC (Kitty Cat). And now, that young girl is but a child of air…

I’ve had people say how envious they are of my week of solitude, and I can understand their sentiments. Many moms would LOVE a week of ‘freedom’ from family responsibilities. If Shannon were returning in a week, then I would feel very differently, but it will be four months until I see her again, and she probably won’t be back home until Christmas! That’s an awfully long time, which is why I’m so sad today.

Come to think about it, she may NEVER be back for such an extended length of time as we enjoyed this month. Graduation is next spring, and after that, who knows where life will take her?

I know, I know, I know. This is the way it should be… children do have a way of growing up and moving out to begin their own lives. Just give me a few days to clear the ghosts of days gone by out of my head, and I’ll stop feeling sorry for myself. I’ll establish my usual daily routine again and focus on my big work project without feeling like I’m neglecting anyone.

And I’ll eat what I want to eat, when I want to eat it, go to bed when I want to and get up when I feel like it! A mother’s dream vacation… Say, this is sounding promising! I do believe I feel better already. I think I’ll go take a look in the fridge to see what looks good….to ME. Leftovers, anyone?

A Father’s Day Gift for Me
June 22, 2007

Honor thy Father…Exodus 20:12

Last Sunday was Father’s Day, a bittersweet day for someone whose Dad is now in his twilight years, hampered by Alzheimer’s. Recently I’d gone through old papers that he’d carefully tucked away in the ‘Carol’ file and discovered a number of handmade Father’s Day cards I’d made for him when I was small. How sweet they were, and how he must have cherished them to have saved them! 

Whenever I visit him now, I never know what to expect, so I never get my hopes up. But I’ve found that he’s most alert in the mid to late morning hours, so that’s when I aim to arrive. Otherwise, he’s likely to be asleep!  

On this particular Sunday, I had Shannon with me, as we had just been to early church. Most of the year, she is up in New York, so she doesn’t often have a chance to see him, and of course, in his condition, he’s not really able to remember people very well. I’d warned her what to expect, so she wouldn’t be disappointed or upset.  

What do you give to a father with Alzheimer’s? A simple, colorful card, for one thing. It just said, “Dad, I love you,” which is what I always say to him when I say goodbye. But in previous visits, I’d noticed the skin on his arms was somewhat dry and scaly, so I also got him some rich lotion to massage into it. We found him in his comfortable wheelchair, eyes closed, as usual, but he wasn’t really asleep. I announced our presence, and he roused somewhat.  

“Dad, are you in there? Look who I’ve brought to see you! It’s Shannon!” She said, “Hi Pepe!” and he became even more alert. Shannon’s voice sounds a lot like her cousin Megan’s voice, both very lilting. He opened his eyes to look, and we both smiled and said, “Happy Father’s Day!” 

And do you know what? He smiled back! I was thrilled that he responded, and was extra delighted that he smiled when his granddaughter was there to see it. It meant the world to both of us. We read the card to him and rubbed some lotion on his arms. I asked him if it felt good, and he said yes, in his own manner. 

We didn’t stay long, as he began nodding off again, but before we left, I did what I always do upon taking leave. I gave him a kiss and said, “Dad, I love you; do you love me?” Just about every time, he’ll answer, “I sure do,” and happily, today was no different.  

As long as he is comfortable, as long as he is in no pain, as long as he has no fears and can understand and respond to words, then to me, his life has worth and should be cherished. All the years he tenderly cared for each of us as helpless babies and young children have now come full circle, and now he is teaching us how to tenderly care for him.  

Shannon and I delighted in Dad’s smile last Sunday, just as a parent delights in a baby’s grin. I am so grateful for this priceless gift that he gave to us on a most special Father’s Day!

His Master’s Voice
June 16, 2007

Happy birthday to you!    

Shannon turned 21 on June 11! It was a milestone birthday… Like her mother, Shannon doesn’t like having a big fuss made over her. She HATES it when people at restaurants sing the birthday song to her in public. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I cooked up a scheme to have a singing telegram delivered to her on the big day. 

  

To set the stage… we are avid fans of the Mercury Baroque Ensemble here in Houston, for many reasons. Not only are they supremely talented and innovative in their programs, but they are also delightfully nice people, whom we dearly love.

Their principal singer/soprano, Ana Treviňo-Godfrey was Shannon’s former voice teacher at the Bridges Fine Arts Academy at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church. Their relationship was a mutual love affair; what a delightful and affirming voice coach she was for Shannon!

So last December at Mercury’s Christmas concert/fundraiser, I began the bidding on this singing telegram item offered by Ana and her violinist husband, Jonathan Godfrey (also a principal with Mercury, and a total likeable guy). Guess what? Although I hadn’t actually intended to win it, I did! What on earth was I going to do with such a quirky prize?

 It was because of Shannon’s mutual love of Ana that I decided to ask the Godfreys to come sing the traditional birthday song to Shannon on her special day. At a dinner party in the spring, I broached the subject and asked Jonathan (tongue in cheek) if he knew that particular number. Both Ana and Jonathan were enthusiastic about my scheme, mostly because it was going to be a true labor of love for someone very dear to them.

 I worried a bit about Shannon’s response, and actually gave her a heads up that I’d cooked up a surprise, which only made her curious. When the Godfreys drove up to our house, I announced that the surprise was at hand. Then when Ana and Jonathan came through the door with a bottle of champagne, what a reunion there was!

We visited awhile and had a glass of wine, and then settled in for the serenade. Of course, Jonathan and Ana made it extra special, and Shannon and her friends were charmed; what a unique birthday greeting!

But what delighted us most of all was our older dog Shadow’s appreciation of the serenade! He was absolutely fascinated with Jonathan’s performance and stood directly before him, listening and watching raptly. I think Jonathan was playing to him; it was certainly amusing. Perhaps Shadow was enjoying it so much because HIS birthday was June 2, and he thought the song was for him? He reminded me of the RCA Victor dog, whose head is cocked in the ads as he hears ‘his master’s voice’ played on the record player.

 (Bailey, on the other hand, was running laps during the performance; he flunks the musical culture test, big time.)

Being an art history major, I’ve looked at a LOT of paintings over the years. I don’t know exactly when I noticed it, but in some old paintings from centuries ago, when people would make music like this in their homes for their entertainment, there was often a dog pictured in the festivities. Shadow has always been a Mercury Baroque fan; in previous home concerts here, he’s always been right in the thick of it. I like to think that he is a particularly refined dog!

 So the next time you see a painting of a musical event from the 18th century, look closely for the dog. See if it looks like Shadow! It may be one of his illustrious and most cultured ancestors pictured there. The ‘perfect dog’ has given us yet another reason to celebrate his special nature!

What’s a puz?
June 7, 2007

Laugh and the world laughs with you…

-Ella Wheeler Wilcox 1855-1919 

I confess that I have a very low humor threshold, so when I read the sentence at the end of my sister’s e-mail, I snorted out loud. “Will try to send more puz from home,” it said. I read it over again, trying to determine the context but couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it meant. I ‘puzzled’ over it awhile more, but finally, my curiosity got the better of me. Knowing I was inviting a reply that would make me feel really stupid, I wrote back, “What’s a puz?”  

Could it perhaps be a misspelling from one of those blackberry gadgets with their tiny little keys? Or maybe the latest text message abbreviation? I just had to know, especially if it were some new trendy word! I wouldn’t want to be left behind, you know!  

By the time Shannon returned from her daily adventures, my sister hadn’t explained yet. It was driving me crazy, so I asked Shannon and her friend, Courtney, what they thought it meant. Their response was to BURST into hysterics! I wondered… were they laughing at me because I was so dumb or because it’s such a funny word? 

As it turned out, it was the latter (whew!). So I didn’t feel so dumb after all! Courtney had the best idea, and that was that Tetot had meant to write the abbreviation ‘pix’, since the letters I and U are next to one another on the keyboard, as are the letters X and Z.  

I have to believe that is the answer, as a) my sister uses a blackberry thingie and b) she is a proud new grandmother, so it makes sense. What a relief to know that I’m not so out of date after all… although it does appear that I am not as smart as Courtney. Isn’t it nice to know that the younger generation is so brilliant? 

I think I’ll start a new campaign to make ‘puz’ a new ‘buzz’ word for digital photos that are sent through cyberspace. Pass it on! Take some puz! Send them to all your friends! Hey, maybe I can convince Microsoft to replace the ‘My Pictures’ file in its software packages with ‘My Puz’. (on my last computer, they actually misspelled that particular item, ‘My Pictues’ without the letter R! I think I like Puz better.)  

All right, all right, that’s entirely enough joking around for one day. As it turns out, the brilliant Courtney was correct, and ‘pix’ WAS what my sister intended to write. You may think me strange because her new word tickled me so much, but honestly, it’s the things that make me laugh out loud all by myself that are the funniest! Who cares whether the rest of the world laughs with me?

And She Lived Happily Ever After
June 2, 2007

Someone’s been sleeping in my bed and she’s still there!

-Baby bear

I’m getting creaky, I know. But lately, I’ve been really, REALLY creaky. Recently it seems that after spending any time working in the yard, I now suffer with sore muscles for days later. Could it be my age? NO!  

It’s springtime! Earlier in May, I’d enjoyed a delightful and enthusiastic day of doing garden chores, and as a result, I had some back/hip soreness, which made running uncomfortable. And it wouldn’t go away. So I swore off from running until the end of May, and instead, rode my bike. But bike riding just doesn’t do it like running does for me. 

Don’t mess with my running! There have been times I’ve gone to the doctor with foot issues, but I have to say that my best relief has come with the knowledgeable folks at Luke’s Locker, where I faithfully go every quarter for new running shoes. I call them my shoe doctors.  

But this time my new-ish shoes weren’t the problem. They sure are ugly, but they’re new! I finally decided that it had to be my mattress! Miss Procrastinator here had a twenty-year old mattress that hadn’t been properly cared for, and THAT was the problem. Or at least that was my hypothesis. 

Yeah, we’d talk about how we needed a new mattress, but the issue was our bed. We have a very cool full tester bed, circa 1850’s, all creaky and tall, but very circumscribed as to the mattress size. It barely fits a queen size mattress between its posts, but it can only accommodate a full size box spring.  

We’ve discussed modifying the frame, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, and of course, as the years went by, there I was with my frugally procrastinating but very aching bones. Flipping that old mattress was a major chore, and not something one could do alone. Last time I tried that, I ended up breaking a lamp!  

So. I finally became a mattress activist. It was Memorial Day last Monday; I hate it that stores glom onto reverent holidays like this to pitch sales, and I especially hated it that I bit onto their lure. But how often is Joel home and at loose ends to go searching for such a thing? One cannot go shop for a mattress without the other.  

And so off we went. I thought about Goldilocks as we lay prostrate on all the sample beds in the store. I also thought about head lice as we put our heads upon all the pillows that other heads had previously been on! This would totally not be on my radar screen except for the fact that daughter Shannon once got head lice from trying on silly hats in a store when she was a little girl! (We don’t do that anymore…) 

One mattress was too hard. One was too soft. But one was just right. The pitch was that there was no need for its own box spring (all it needed was a platform, which we had). There was no need to ever flip it. And it was guaranteed to last twenty years. The saleswoman didn’t mention whether or not it would help absorb snoring noises, but I think she said something about dust mites not being able to infiltrate it. At that point, I’d already heard enough good things about this particular mattress, so I wasn’t listening very well to the end of her story. 

SOLD! 

And so we have a new mattress. It’s hugely fat, so much so that I had to go out and purchase new sheets to fit it. I’ll probably have to go get a new king size comforter/duvet/bedspread thing to drape properly, but that won’t be anytime soon. It will be when the exact right one crosses my path. Since I’m not one who likes shopping, that may be another twenty years! 

It always used to make me laugh whenever people would use the phrase, “I’m going to jump … into bed, into the shower, or whatever” because the visualization of the act of doing so would crack me up. Suddenly, it’s not so funny anymore, because in spite of the fact that I’m not exactly a short person, I have to literally jump into my bed now! In twenty years, I’ll be needing my little step stool to CRAWL into bed. That is, if I am privileged to reach the grand age of seventy-two.  

In the meantime, though, I am feeling better already and looking forward to running this weekend! I’ll have to start off slowly and build back up, but words cannot begin to say what a treat it will be to get back out there!  

Goldilocks was a great role model… and just like she did, I finally found a bed that was JUST RIGHT!