Remember and rue.
Mirrors aren’t the enemy.
Mistakes go untold.
I learned there are troubles of more than one kind;
Some come from ahead and some come from behind
… leave Solla Sollew for the city of Boola Boo Ball, on the
banks of the beautiful river Woo-Wall, and known to never
have troubles “No troubles at all!!”
But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready, you see.
Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!“.
I used to read this book to my kids and it became one of my all-time favorites 🙂
If you haven’t read this book, I HIGHLY recommend it. Visit your local library today.
I’ll probably never have girls,
only you have that treat,
To listen to my whining
with patent on my feet.
Bruised knees, temporary curls,
Pantsuits for generations to last.
Hand-me-down memories play over, and I grasp.
Who was this blonde little jewel?
She’s still there, but now box color is a tool.
New clothes sewn with love,
worms enjoyed straight from the can.
The boys cast first, I was once last in the clan.
With baby teeth and warm exposed chest,
those worms were delicious.
Fishing was the best.
Dress up on Essex included gown and fan,
and into the carriage went toy cars and vans.
Pushing my possessions and caring for steel,
I wanted it all and pushed endlessly genderless zeal.
I grew as expected, and tried to stay in line,
Realizing that nothing is perfect – only the
slow, gentle healing of time.
So easy life seems at the start.
Then on my own, and slowly I felt things came apart.
A bad marriage, a struggle, an end.
You supported me almost like a friend.
Only not too close, you are the Mom
and sympathy and emotion is not an Irish charm.
Get through it, and be who you are…
have the confidence to carry yourself far.
You’ve guided and walked my trail with me,
holding your breath silently,
as I’ve veered off without careful thought,
to things you’ve seen – knowing I’d get caught.
I wish you ran after me, or guided me more,
but watching me go, you shared a strong core
that a mother must have to see a child stray…
hoping I would remember my mistakes some day.
Instead, keeping me in sight,
you’ve kept my trail worn, defined and true.
As I fall in the distance,
I lay there just waiting for you.
I can see where you are, and I’m desperate to get back,
this ground is so dark, and so wet and so black.
This offshoot seemed so right at one time.
I’m pleading, please, rescue me, hold me
the way you once did, when I was sick or scared.
But you look, and gesture and slow for me now,
I have to understand a direction, somehow.
I’m too heavy to carry, and you don’t want to break stride.
I must learn to travel with dignity and pride.
When I finally reach you, not a word is exchanged.
I’m muddy and tired and feel so ashamed.
Soon or steps move together, determined yet strange.
We’re not alone on our hike. Turn and look back.
My own children are coming, they’re now in sight.
I must clear a trail for us that is safe and right.
Mom, let me run back and carry them some of the way.
I want to love and protect them more than any words can say.
You shoot me a glance that is both loving and strict.
I know what you mean, but my heart feels sick.
I’m strong now, I can carry them as long as the day.
Instead, keeping them in sight, I turn and gesture
and slow for them now.
They must understand a new direction, somehow.
You take the trail up the hill to the left,
and I will go right.
My blonde little jewels still keeping me in sight.
I moved into a neighborhood where everyone waves to each other. What a strange and bold act of kindness, I thought at first. After all, they have no idea who I am, and I don’t know them. This was new to me, as I came from a “keep to yourself” type of neighborhood. They can wave if they want, I decided, but I’m not going for that kind of friendliness. I only like to wave to people I know. Period.
Well, my attitude lasted about a week, and then I was raising my hand at everyone who drove down the street. Dog walks got longer and longer, as waves became greetings, became conversations and invitations. I slowly gained friendship with many, but it was a deeper feeling. My heart was at rest here. News was never gossip, because people truly cared for one another. This lake community felt like home to me, and many of the people would soon become family.
It has been said that the lake has magical powers; to calm and soothe the soul. Maybe that’s just what water does; taking your mind off the mundane. My whole being is relaxed as quickly as a dog shakes himself after getting out of the water. I just have to stare at the sun playing atop the lake, and I’m taken out of myself. No worries. People here bond so easily because of the shared love of this simple setting. We gather for cookouts and birthday parties with a quick phone call – no planning, no stress. Every day begins and ends as it is supposed to. It’s all about the here and now.
Over the years, our little community has shared family stories, left-over food, drinks and lazy weekend afternoons, while floating on our pontoon boats. We anchor in the middle of the lake, and wait for others to tie-up to share the sun; to share our stories. Sunset conversations string along as the sunlight weakens and the air cools. Drinks are poured and refilled, as we learn that someone’s granddaughter is going to visit, or someone is going on a trip. Someone has put their dog down. We connect through all that is said and unsaid, for sometimes the silence gives us a chance to absorb the emotion. Anchors are reluctantly drawn with the waning light, as bladders fill and stomachs grumble.
I wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. These shore-loving natives have shown me the right way to live; with openness and trust. This lake is a true home, a resting place for my heart. I will wave at people until my arm falls off, I’ve decided. I am now one of THEM – a foolish waver, who will welcome new lake people to this sanctuary. And, maybe I’ll look crazy and they won’t want to wave back. That’s Ok, there’s time. Because, I know, eventually, we’ll tie-up in the middle of the lake and share a sunset. It’ll happen.
Lil’s bedroom gave no indication that the former sun room was makeshift in any way. The area rug next to her high loft bed and homemade quilts absorbed the rays of light through the blinds. There was little physical mention that the family once gathered here, except for some neatly stacked games and stuffed animals stored along a few walls. It was comfortably furnished, providing Lil with precious dignity and the privacy they wanted to gift her in this tiny house.
I peeked into Lil’s room, silently observing her morning routine. She hiked up her nightgown to her upper thighs, as she sat on the edge of her bed. Holding each sock in front of her, she looked at it for a moment and dressed each foot, one at a time. Then carefully unlacing her sneakers, she repeated the sock routine with each shoe. She slowly tightened and tied them, tucking the extra laces in the side, above the arches. Every part of this ritual was new to her. She stood up and looked at the pants on the rocking chair with a quizzical expression. I thought this was a good time to greet her, and see what I could do to help.
She was diagnosed a few years ago, while she was still actively swimming and in the midst of her husband’s illness. She loved her cats and she loved her family but soon everything would slip away. She cared for her husband as best as she could, but would forget to turn things off, and would often drive to unknown locations. Her daughter once received a call from a gas station manager telling her that her mother was there and confused. He said that he understood because his mother was ill too. It didn’t attack Lil all at once. No, that would be merciful. It just creeped into all their lives, as the family looked for answers to this dreadful disease.
“Hi Lil” I said as I entered the room. She said hi, without any emotion, not knowing who I was. I had met her several times, but didn’t expect any recognition or greeting. My job was to just take care of her for this sliver of time. I suggested we take her shoes off, and get her pants on. I knelt down and undid her laces, as she watched with confusion. She was cooperative, but guarded, so I tried not to create stress for her. I told her who I was, as she gave me a blank stare.
My eyes were burning, as we made our way to the kitchen. I knew there were cats in the house, but I would only be there for a little while. Her breakfast sat on the center island, made by her daughter, Brenda, before she left. I ushered Lil to the table, where there family photos were stacked. I could tell that Brenda had put these here for her to look at. She just sat with her head down, looking like a child who had been punished.
“I have some breakfast for you here”, I said.
She didn’t reply, so I brought the french toast over to her hoping that she would eat.
“Would you like some coffee”, I inquired.
She looked at me with suspicion and slowly said, “What is coffee”?
What is coffee!!!! It was at that moment that I realized that her life had been stripped of not only memory, but the knowledge of basic enjoyment, like a hot cup of coffee. How could someone not know what coffee was I wondered? Then I thought, how can I have a basic conversation with her? I can’t ask her what she likes to do, or how her day was going. She had no idea. This was something I hadn’t really thought through.
So, in a desperate attempt to communicate, I decided to sing. I started to sing a silly song to try to engage her. Lil perked up and told me that when she was a little girl she sang in the church choir. Her enthusiastic description of her memories came flooding back, almost like she was waiting all week to tell me. As we continued to sing, I started to dance, which amused her. Lil got up and started to side step and move her arms. I could tell she was enjoying herself. I had finally gotten through to her. I reached a part of her that was happy and somewhat familiar.
Brenda returned home as we were in mid-chorus, so she joined in. We had a lot of laughs all while my eyes began to itch and swell (damn cats). It was time for me to leave, so I finished my coffee and gathered my things. Brenda thanked me, but I didn’t feel like I deserved it. The pleasure was all mine.
As I drove off, I realized what an incredible gift I had received that day. I had to strip my thinking down to the very basics, like singing a song or tying a shoe. It was like caring for a toddler, but slightly bitter sweet. I had to be gentle and understanding of who Lil is, while knowing who she was. It was a blessing to be asked to care for her.
Lil has been gone for a few years now, but I hope to remember that day, while I drink a nice hot cup of coffee.
Thank you Brenda.
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