Savor the memories #SOL22 #Day13

The mountain of items in my mom’s bedroom seemed insurmountable. We knew it would take time to go through everything. We have started going through each box and bag – piece by piece to determine if we are going to keep it, give it away, or throw it away. It is overwhelming and hard yet it is also a great trip down memory lane.

Today, I found this old box of shoe polish and as I gently threw it in the trash bag the tears started to slowly roll down my cheek. Oh how mom used to always polish our white shoes. She wanted to make sure they were spotless when we went out and that we were always presentable. She would buy shoe polish and get so irritated when she was out and didn’t have it. I don’t think she used it as much in the most recent years, but when we were growing up – it was the thing.

This shoe polish is more than just the white coverup that went over our white shoes. It represents the many little things my mom loved or that us girls were connected to of hers – like the travel toothbrush we found; the many crafts she made; the nail files; the seashells; the decorations; the pictures; the beanie babies; the nail polish; and more.

Today, I decided to savor the memories – the little things – that made mom who she was. She was close and in our hearts today (and probably irritated with us for throwing things away). Love you mom. Forever you are with us.

Grief #SOL22 #Day12

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes in waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” – unknown

I remember when I was young, being in the water and sinking lower and lower in the pool. I wasn’t sure if I would make it back up… somehow I did and ever since then I was able to float in water like no other – tread as much as needed and swim. I faintly remember those swimming lessons because I was so young but I do remember my mom being there with me.

Later I found calm in the water – no I wasn’t a swimmer (I did dive but only for two years in high school) yet I loved the water. I was at peace when going fishing with my dad or traveling to the beach with others. Mom was at peace on the beach. I went with our family a few times in our adulthood and so did Monterry but our travel plans were different from my sisters’ family and my mom. Monterry and I like to go to different places and they find comfort in the same place. Those differences make us who we are and that’s okay. But if I could have had one more beach trip with mom and savored every moment of it – I would.

In fact, when we found out mom had cancer and her health was quickly declining, my sister’s husband suggested that the three of us (my sister, me and mom) go to the beach. What a great idea and oh how I wish we could have done that. How I wish we could have felt the sand in our toes and the water nibble at our feet as we walked alongside the beach together. Oh, to sit on the lanai again and to get in the water and swim.

But now I find myself swimming in a different way – swimming in grief. Not being able to call my mom but listening to her last few voicemails. Not being able to text mom but reading our text strand and wishing I had saved all texts instead of just those in the past year (setting changed). Not being able to take a picture with mom but looking through pictures and missing her fiercely. Not being able to go shopping with mom, and not ready to go shopping yet. Dreading the first Easter without her – the first mother’s day – the first fourth of July – the first celebration of her birthday – the first… you name it.

Grief. That is what this is. I’ve experienced grief in many ways but none like this. One minute I am fine – the water is calm. The next minute I am reminded of something about mom and the tears flow – it is overwhelming. I have learned to say this is okay. I try not to cry in front of others but these are tears I cannot hold back. Tears of love and heartbreak and such a void in my life cannot be dismissed. It’s okay to swim. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to just be. This is me.

Unconditional love… #SOL22 #Day11

Unconditional love is a beautiful and messy thing all in one.

Unconditional love can be both simple and complex.

Unconditional love inspires joy and brings about sadness.

Unconditional love is a contradiction in itself, yet also multi-faceted and connected.

Unconditional love is love that is close and far.

Unconditional love is present on earth and from heaven.

Unconditional love – my mother’s love that now lives within me.

Procrastination #SOL22 #Day10

Yes, I’m a day late for this post and it reminded me of my mom.

Not that she was always late, but she always waited until the last minute to get things done.

Staying up for hours to make our treats for school.

Getting what was needed for the project the night before.

Last minute shopping.

Spending time on the porch or walking on the beach – putting off the work at hand.

Her habit of procrastination definitely rubbed off on me. And thank you mom for that – thank you for helping me learn how to let ideas simmer and then work magic in the midnight hour. Enjoy the moments we are given – the work will always be there.

Oh what fun! #SOL22 #Day8

Swirling around on the Tilt-a-Whirl
Our laughter loud and smiles wide
Living our best lives together

Amusement Park and Fairs – what fun
Elephant ears, corn, fish, and ribeye sandwiches

The parade, queen contest, animals, and characters
Games and rides that took us into the night

Enjoying our time together
Walking around
Making memories that last forever

I didn’t say that again #SOL22 #Day7

The Young and the Restless
Bold and the Beautiful
As the World Turns
Guiding Light

You loved your soap operas

You used to record them on VHS to watch later
Labeled by day: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

I played while you watched them; little weebles and Barbies
You didn’t know I was watching until that one day…
I was playing at Uncle Bob’s and with Delena
And I yelled, Son of a B****

You asked – where did you hear that?
I said your shows mommy.
I never said that again…
But I did watch your shows again.

Last night #SOL22 #Day6

Last night my sister, her husband and I sat at one of your favorite spots, The Willard, and we enjoyed the cheese curds you loved and savored the pizza. We had some belly laughs going down memory lane and recognizing your impact.

From the trailer park, to the BIG house, to being homeless, to the apartment – the one constant was your love and care for us.

From having everything to having nothing, your love endured.

From driving everywhere to walking everywhere, you made sure we had what we needed.

From cheese on the porch, sneaking into the big “white” room, falling down the stairs, “accidentally” kicking my sister doing a back walkover, breaking the gum ball machine, fighting in St. Louis, watching your soap operas, taking us shopping, working at Marsh, decorating cakes – our memories of you flowed.

Though you are not physically with us these are the the things we think about and talk about. Both the good and the bad; the sad and the funny. These are the things that made us who we are and we cherish them greatly.

Mom – you were the glue that kept us together and you are still are the glue that keeps us together. You don’t have to be right by our side for this to happen, you are in our hearts. Love you.

Anything you want to be… #SOL22 #Day5

Growing up my mom always made me work the hardest at everything. Of course, like any child I didn’t realize why she did it and was always frustrated.

Try again she would say. Your teacher gave you 10 projects to choose from, just do all 10. Don’t quit. Be the best you can be.

I remember always wanting to please my mom and it was a good thing. I wanted her to see my efforts. I wanted her to know that I would work hard. School wasn’t easy for me – I did well, but unlike my sister, always had to study and had to study a lot to get that A (one might say I knew how to play school but that is a different story).

My mom has been by my side for multiple graduations – high school, college, masters, and doctoral work. Each time she expressed how proud she was of me and each time I took those words for granted. I knew she was proud but didn’t take the time to tell her the same, mom I am proud of you.

We celebrated my high school graduation at a park nearby and recently saw pictures from it. We were all so young then.

After my college graduation at Butler University, we went to the Willard – my mom, sister and I – I distinctly remember having a beer that day – the first time I had ever drank around mom. It shocked her and she reminded me not to become an alcoholic. This always made me laugh but she was always worried about drinking because of becoming addicted. I fully understand and respect her worry, but still love my beverages and always assured her I would not be an alcoholic.

I don’t remember celebrating when I graduated with my masters, but she was there.

Then, it was graduating with my doctorate from IU that is the most vivid in my mind as it was most recent. She reminded me how proud she was of me and that she knew I had sacrificed a lot for that. That day we went to Mother Bears pizza in Bloomington – the whole family. I remember the feeling of joy that swirled through my body that day because I had sacrificed so much time to make that happen. I remember her smile. Her hug. Her laughter. She was proud and she told me that again.

I should have, at that moment, said, mom I’m proud of you and I am who I am because of the work ethic you instilled in me and the love that you put forth. I should have told her I work so hard because of her. I should have but never did so I am telling her now as I gently strike each key on the keyboard. Mom – I have three degrees and am getting ready to pursue another licensure and you are the reason why I am able to do that. Yes, I am my own person – but you taught me to go after what I want, to work hard, to recognize the challenges, and make it happen.

Mom, thank you. I am so proud of you!

Three weeks ago…

It’s been 3 weeks since you left us mom.

I remember that morning so well, the nurse saying that yes more people can come when a patient is dying. My first realization you were leaving us.

I called my sister so she could come back to the hospital, thankful we could be there together.

I remember you the night before at the hospital, helping you and you saying I’m so embarrassed. I said, no mom, don’t be. At that time I knew I was giving back to you all that you had given to me making sure that even though trauma in our life happened, we were always loved and cared for.

I remember playing Elvis for you and that smile you had for about two songs and then you said turn it off.

I remember turning it off and asking if you remembered our trip to Nashville and you said yes with a smile.

I remember when your blood pressure started dropping and you began to sweat; you made me laugh because you thought they had put two pairs of pants on you. I grabbed a wet rag and laid it on your forehead and then one on your stomach

I remember the nurse practitioner asking me about DNR and I needed to know more. I remember the tears that started falling at that moment recognizing that saving you might not be an option.

I remember the NG tube and all the guck that they removed.

I remember my sister returning and us watching you, not sleeping, making sure you weren’t grabbing at the oxygen tubes.

I remember your great-grandkids coming and not being able to come up – we face-timed, you knew they were there – you moved your hand.

I remember watching Jaxon and Carson so my niece could see you and she came down and said, Jennifer go up now

I remember the tears. The sadness. The pain.

I remember the thought of you being in peace.

I remember your last breath as my sister and I were by your side.

I remember mom. I remember. I remember so much from those last moments with you and I remember so much of my 43 years with you as my number one supporter – one of the few that loved me unconditionally.

Mom – the rest of my writing this month – devoted to you – will be of memories together – those fond moments we had as well as the hardship that helped me understand you and you understand me. The memories of our life and your legacy as we move forward.