The Answer

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Some days, I pray for peace

And I end up with war.

Some days, I pray for understanding

But I get confused.

Some days, I pray for patience

Then I have to wait.

Someday, someday, someday,

The Answer will return.


Until then, I will always pray.

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Call Me … Maybe

Our landline phone system died on Monday. Now, before you tell this homebody that you gave up landlines years ago and use your cell phones for any and all phone calls, let me tell you that most of the time, my cell phone is dead. Yes, dead. Battery depleted, zombie-ized, dead, buried, never to see the end of a charger again … or at least, not for a very long time. Should lightning strike twice and poltergeists happen to plug in my cell phone to charge it, then it will usually remain on the charger for several days. Why? A) I don’t get out much. B) Because my memory has holes in it larger than my worst pair of underpants. (Forget I said that. I do not – I repeat, do not – have holes in my underwear.)

But, wouldn’t it be nice if someone invented a super-charged cell phone just for me? Maybe one with a reserve charge on an extra battery, like an extra fuel tank? I’d even be okay with a solar panel so that as my phone is lying out on the counter, being blithely ignored by me, it can charge itself from the overhead lights. However, since it’s usually in the bottom of my purse, I suppose I would need the antithesis of a solar battery: one that runs on spare change, Tic Tacs, and tissue lint. The point is, I need a land line.

And our eight-year old landline phones died on Monday.

Our landline phone system came as a set with a base station, chargers and three portable handsets. One was for the kitchen, one was for the basement family room, and the other was for our bedroom and was basically useless since the charger had croaked long ago. Besides those two and our cell phones, our other phone was in the dining room and was an off-system, oddball, landline phone with caller ID that didn’t see much use.

Not the Princess phone I remember.

Not the Princess phone I remember.

On Monday morning, the kitchen phone rang.

Ring. Ring.

Hmm, no caller ID. “Hello?”

Silence. I hung up.

Ring. Ring.

Hmm, no caller ID again. “Hello?”

Silence. I hung up again.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. You get the picture. I hate crank calls, and this was becoming annoying. After the fourth time, determined to solve this puzzle, I grabbed the oddball phone in the dining room, checked its call log, and discovered that, indeed, the phone phantoms were actually flesh and blood people trying to get ahold of me. Our old phone system had gone to the Great Call Waiting queue in the sky.

I called Hubs in the afternoon on this same off-system, oddball phone – being different can be a good thing – and we agreed to meet at the electronics store that I will call “Perfect Purchase” on his way home from work.

We often go there to browse on Sundays after church. Some people like sports bars and outdoor activities. We like electronic stores and book stores and enjoying our purchases together quietly at home. And that’s why we were voted “The Couple Most Likely to Hear at a Party, ‘Oh, When Did You Get Here?’” Anyway, we hadn’t gone this past Sunday because of the snowy weather, so going in the middle of the week was like a treat. (I told you I don’t get out much.)

We met up at Perfect Purchase and half an hour later, we were walking out of the store with our new phone system. It had to have been one of the quickest decisions we’ve ever made about anything. Usually, we research and review the best system, the best prices, the best place to buy it, the best alternative uses for it should it not be exactly what we were looking for…

“Well, it’s a four slice toaster and we really only need a two slicer. I bet we could funnel the heat from the other two slots into a hood that we can place over our bacons and eggs to keep them warm until the toast is done.” … Something like that … or not. And then we research again, just to make sure we haven’t overlooked anything.

But not this time. Half an hour tops. In, out, flip it about, and boom. We now have a new phone system with four handsets and a base with Blue Tooth, which I had always thought referred to the movies with a blue band at the top. I don’t think we can watch movies on the phone system, so there must be another use for it. I suppose if I read the instructions, I would know, although I’m pretty sure we can’t use it with bacon and eggs.

As for the oddball phone, it’s been retired with honors and replaced with one of the new in-system phones. It remains to be seen if that’s a good idea or not. So far, I don’t regret this spur of the moment decision, although I do miss Doug, the voice from the old answering machine. He is now a Donna, and she will inform me in a pleasant voice that so-and-so is calling. It’s kind of nice to hear another voice when I’m home alone. On the other hand, I can’t exactly engage her in conversation. I really do need to get out more … although I should probably have my cell phone with me. Anyone seen my charger? Or my cell phone?

Present

Through my tears, I see your gentle face,
I feel your tender arms, your loving heart,
In the middle of the night,
As my heart breaks once again.

Confessions of a Button Freak

Yes, I confess. I love buttons.

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I’m a sucker for buttons, especially if they’re in mason jars or tin boxes. If I see a jar of buttons at a garage sale, I’ll pick them up (assuming they’re reasonably priced, that is). You see, I don’t display buttons in massive collages or have drawers set up like a true collector might, but I love the feel of buttons. I’m happy to run my fingers through a button tin and examine the different styles. I’m constantly on the lookout for older buttons, made of ivory, nacre or celluloid. I look for different shapes and colors. My love of buttons makes me dig for the small ones, set aside the biggest ones that usually have the fewest matches, rejoice at the discovery of an older metal one embossed with a fancy design. A military button is the crowning jewel to me.

Imagine my delight when I found my late mother’s button tin while cleaning out her house. Ah, the memories!

I grew up in an era well before the iPhone. Portable phones were the size of cereal boxes, 8 track tapes and CB radios were must haves. If your family had a color TV, it meant your dad had a good job and you were rich. We played with dolls, outside, in the sun, rode our bikes without helmets or knee pads. We were daring and I have the scar to prove it.

In our house, we had a black and white TV until after I entered college. We weren’t the rich folks of the town. My dad worked three shifts at the plant. When he was on night shift, we were expected to stay quiet so that he could sleep during the day. No TV. No portable radios. No loud voices. Answer the party line on the first ring and hope the other people on the party line got to it fast, too.

As a child, one of my favorite ways to occupy my time quietly was to play with my mother’s button collection: Button tiddly winks, separating out the different colors of buttons into matching piles. (I wonder if that’s why I separate M&Ms into colors now.) I could play and examine buttons for hours on end.

Finding Mum’s button box today took me back to those days. This morning, I sat at the kitchen table and sorted out the buttons for over an hour. I have a nifty little pile setting there. I found three large buttons, all the same size, but not matching. They are perfect for a scarf project that I have in mind. I grabbed up some small white shirt buttons. I’m a little low at home for my husband’s dress shirts. I found some lovely older buttons that I’m pretty sure came from my great aunt’s house. Score! They hold a special fascination for me. Some still have bits of cotton fabric attached to them, some of the more numerous are strung together with string tied into button bracelets. I’ve found a metal one with U.S.A. embossed on it, a few other metals with fancy designs engraved. One or two are old wooden ones, more are shell or celluloid. I’m so happy right now with my mother’s button collection. Utilitarian in purpose, but a world of delight for a young girl, and now a woman trying to hold onto the memories of the woman who raised me.

But there’s just one problem with my desire to abscond with her button tin. Sometime, in the future, my brother, who shared her home and thus her sewing equipment including the button box, might pop a button from a shirt. If I could just figure out a way to keep that from happening, I could take the whole box with me. Super glue? No, the answer is obvious. I just have to find her Ronco Buttoneer. I’ll plastic tab all of those suckers onto his clothes so he’ll never lose another button, and I get to keep the button tin. I say it’s win win, don’t you?

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Relief Comes at a Steep Price

I wrote this by hand as I sat by my mother’s bed on July 31st, 2014, watching her labored breathing as she slept, one day before she passed away. I make no apologies for the content. It is unedited. I stand by what I wrote on one of the most difficult days of my life.

By way of explanation, my family and I live a full day’s drive away from either of our families. We had just started our annual vacation back in our home state when my brother, our mother’s primary care giver, wound up in the hospital and Mum was placed in respite care until he returned to good health. Two days later, she came down with a fever of 103.5 axillary and passed away the next day. My brother remained in the hospital for one day shy of a month, unable to even attend her funeral. He told me later that he didn’t think he could have made the same decision as I did. For what it’s worth, I have no regrets even now two months later.

I’m publishing this because I need it to be out in the world rather than stuck on my computer. I keep obsessing over the things that I’ve written, both in pain and frustration, and it’s not healthy for me, so I’m letting them go. Where they end up is up to God for He is my hope in my mourning.

 

Relief comes in many different ways to those in the midst of pain. Mental realizations. Physical changes. The circumventing of certain circumstances. For me, relief has come through some hard decisions made from the heart.

 
I signed a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order for my beloved mother this morning. I don’t know if she is on her deathbed or not. There’s a possibility that she will recover.

 
I hope not.

 
Why would I say such a thing? More importantly, how can I say that and feel relieved? As I sit here, watching her labored breathing, I feel pain – heartache. This once vital woman is a skeleton, a shell of her former self. Is this living?

 
I wish the heavens would open up and God’s mighty hands would reach for her. I wish that she would reach back, knowing that my daddy is waiting for her.

 
It’s not easy to entertain the thoughts that someone I love is better off dead. Yet, I know it’s true. It was when I realized that very fact that I felt my first fluttering of relief. It absolved me from guilt; I struggle with guilt, but not in this case. As much as I love my mother, I hurt to see her in a quality of life that puts a lie on the rest of her life. This is the lie – this “life” that has her bed-bound, befuddled and emaciated. I’m angry at that lie.

 
It’s making me a warrior for her. I’m fighting for her dignity, for her peace, for her history. Her past. Her.

 
I would give the world if this were not our reality right now. But it is. I made the decision to sign the DNR papers on my own. It was a good, caring decision. I’m relieved that she will not be manhandled and resuscitated, only to come back to a life no longer worth living. It was a good decision. It was a painful decision and a right one. It brought relief.

 
It’s the little things that relief relies on. The realizations that my brother, her main caregiver, would have had to make this decision instead of me. I’m glad it was me.

 
The primary caregiver position comes to me as my brother, my only sibling, also needs to be hospitalized. So my only two blood relatives, my family, both need me since both are hospitalized. Brother has POA (Power of Attorney), but due to these circumstances, under PA law, it’s fallen to me. I’m ready for this. It’s hard to be thrown into it without appropriate knowledge, but I’m okay.

 
I’m relieved that this happened during our vacation when I could be with them.
Never in a million years would I say this to my mom. I love her. I want her around, but she’s also not healthy. I want what’s best for her, even if it’s what’s most painful for me. It will bring her relief, this death of hers. She needs relief. I need her to be relieved, so I will sign every DNR paper they put in front of me.

 
Nothing will be the same without her, but there’s nothing worse than this hanging around. Praying for relief and if that’s selfish of me, then so be it. I’ll be selfish if it helps her. Daddy’s waiting, Mum.

Hierarchy of My Grief

I realized recently that the passing of Robin Williams has not affected me that much. While I feel for his family, his death has little bearing on my life. A great comedian, a layered actor: he was both of these and much more. I am sorry for his family’s loss, for the loss of a comic genius to this nation and the world, but I do not mourn deeply for him.

When I compare his death with the death of my mother just a week before, there is no comparison. There are only levels of mourning. The loss that I feel for my mom – my rock, my friend, my confidante – can only be described as deep, bottom-of-the-abyss pain. What I feel for Robin Williams is a vague, numb sympathy, a divot, a pothole, a bump in the road – nowhere near the sinkhole of raw nerve endings that itch and prick for Mum. It consumes me. I do not have room to mourn for him while I have mourning left to do for her.

How I wish she was still here. How I wish she had been healthy towards the end. In some ways, I have mourned over her since last year even though she died only recently. Her disease took away the intimacy, the laughter, the heart talks that we have always had. As a daughter, it was every bit as devastating to my soul as that disease was to her body and mind. I am mourning for her as only a loving child can.

I understand what Robin Williams’ children are feeling so intensely right now. However, I cannot mourn for him at the plummeting depths that they will. That is reserved for my mother, just as it is reserved for them for their father. In my numbness, I see the tributes to him on my FaceBook wall and my heart cries, “But what about my mother?” I’m not ready for her to be forgotten and my grief to be sidelined by others as they carry on with their lives. The changes that come with her death are mine to bear, not my friends, but still, I envy, and maybe even resent a little, that they can go on, uninterrupted, while my piece of the planet has been bulldozed.

Robin Williams will be mourned for many years by many people for the laughter and generosity of spirit that he left for the world. That is one of the benefits of being well-known. My mother will be remembered by me and my family privately. She did not influence the world, but she did influence my world. Deep love must be mourned deeply.

In the hierarchy of grief, personal relationships trump celebrity.

Optic vs. Otic: Lesson Learned

Well, I did it. I put EAR drops in my EYE today. I know. Join the club, right? Who hasn’t done that at some point in his or her life? Ear drops in the eye. HA! Silly me. What do you mean you read the labels?

I read labels too, but I missed the letter P. Otic. Optic. One little letter can make the difference between relief from scratchy eyes and a whole lot of pain!

First off, let me explain that I keep a bottle of eye drops along with a few other medicines, in the kitchen for convenience. Because my eyes are dry, I never know when I’m going to need to put drops in. This afternoon, they were not only dry, but scratchy too, particularly my left one. Thinking that perhaps I was getting the start of a stye, I picked up a bottle, squinted at it, nodded approval and squeezed a drop into the problematic eye. If I thought I was in discomfort from the stye, let me tell you that I flew from the kitchen, through the living room and into the bathroom faster than if I were being chased by the four horsemen of the Apocalypse on speed, with my eye screaming at me, “I’M ON FIRE!”

I’ll take the stye any day.

The pain of it literally – yes, I mean literally, not figuratively – took my breath away. As I stood in front of the bathroom sink, splashing water into my eye, I couldn’t breathe. Panic attacks tend to do that to a person.

Splash. Splash. Splash. Am I blind? My biggest fear is coming true! And I did it to myself! Don’t let me be blind.

Splash. Splash. Splash. Oh, thank God, my high blood pressure pills are working or I’d be lying here dead on the floor of a stroke or a heart attack.

Splash. Splash. Splash. Water’s running down my sleeve and my neck. I hate that!

Splash. Splash. Splash. I need to call my husband. No, maybe I should go to the emergency room. I can’t drive myself to the emergency room if I’m blind. Blind people can’t drive! What’s that blurry thing over there? Oh, Thank God, I’m not blind. Hubby, I did something really stupid. Splash.

I’ve had more fun during a colonoscopy, but at least my inner Drama Queen had a party.

So all evening, I’ve been nursing my left eye. Right now, I can see just fine, even though my eye is very tired. (As I typed that, I realized that my vision was blurry, so I cleaned my glasses. It’s all good now.)

My eye has gone from flaming red with veins that I could feel against my eyelid to pale flamingo pink and mild discomfort. After flushing it all evening, I think I’ll survive, and so will my vision.

Optic versus otic. Darn that missing P. I won’t make that mistake again. On the plus side, I can’t feel the stye anymore.