Musings and Amusings

Posts tagged ‘memories’

All Changes Have Their Melancholy

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” Anatole France

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That quote is a tad dramatic for this topic, but back in April I was feeling a loss too keenly to write about it. I’ve read many a post by a parent or grandparent experiencing this normal life transition. I suspect knowing it’s normal didn’t make it any easier for them either.

Raqi has always been ‘our’ grandbaby.

As is often the case in step-families, we had to wait our turn. A first granddaughter was born to Hub’s older son. Next a first grandson was born to Hub’s younger son. Naturally parents are very protective of their first-borns, and naturally the biological grandmothers expect to have those babies to themselves. While Hub and I visited and occasionally babysat, we didn’t have the luxury of much one-on-one time with those two babies.

By the time Raqi came along, her older brother was three; both parents were tired, stressed and steeped in career paths; and biological grandmothers had “been there; done that”.

Raqi seemed ripe for the taking!

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When she was two weeks old, she had her first overnight with us. That quickly became two overnights a week, and even more when Mom and Dad could stand the guilt of relinquishing her. It gave them much-needed relief; gave three-year-old Sparks time alone with his parents; and gave Hub, Raqi and me an opportunity to bond with each other in a way I never imagined.

Not only has our bond flourished for eight delicious years, but we have become closer to Sparks and his parents than we would have otherwise. I will always be grateful to my stepson and daughter-in-law for making us such a welcome part of their home and their family.

In April we took our first spring bike ride to the pond near our house. After we circled the pond several times, Sparks and Hub headed home to get the football, but Raqi wanted to stay at the pond.

She normally chats non-stop and is always in close physical contact with us. So it was unusual when she left me with the bikes; walked over to the tree and stared quietly at the water.

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After about five minutes, I walked over and leaned against one of the other trunks. I didn’t say anything and eventually she began telling me how sad she felt that their family was moving to another house. When I asked her why, she explained that she had lived in that house since she was born, and all her memories of her life are in that house. She went on to talk about her bedroom and how much she loved the color and the wall decorations and how many times she and I played with her dolls in there.

She talked about the living room and playing ‘Hot Lava’ and doing the Hokey Pokey and learning to turn cartwheels. She talked about the basement and how much fun we had playing in our ‘family band’ and dancing to music videos.

She cried, saying she’d never be happy in another home.

It broke my heart.

Or should I say it added to my broken heart. For months Hub and I had been dreading the changes that were coming – not just the physical change of their home which, indeed, held so many memories, but the loss for the two of us as Sparks and Raqi move into adolescent/pre-teen preoccupations, and baby/toddler absorption fast-fades in the rear view mirror.

Even though they will always be with us; they won’t.

I know I don’t have to explain that to most of you.

It’s our job, as parents and grandparents, to prepare our children to move out into the world beyond our arms. The beauty is we do it well. The melancholy is we do it well.

That day, I tried to reassure Raqi that we will – as a family – carry memories of that home in our hearts, and we will help each other remember. I also promised her (and myself, although I don’t quite believe it) that we will make just as many good memories in their new house.

Within three days of moving, Raqi had fallen in love with her new next door neighbor Em. Those two girls became inseparable for the rest of summer, Raqi going so far as to write Em a “love poem” when Em left for a week on family vacation. My heart beams for both of them.

Hub and I are learning to find joy being interested observers as Raqi’s world widens, thankful we have front row seats.

Sunflowers for Tina

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“Turn your face to the sun,
and the shadows fall behind you”
Maori Proverb

I am participating in a memorial tribute to Tina Downey, a well-known and beloved blogger who recently passed away. Tina’s favorite flower was the Sunflower, and today we are all honoring Tina with our Sunflower Blogfest.

How fitting: Tina and Sunflowers

A flower whose face seeks the sun in all its vibrant warmth and blazing glory.

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A flower that towers in the fields; whose stalk is sturdy; and whose face is perpetually open to the world.

Sometimes bent; rarely broken; swaying with the blustery wind; standing strong against the rages of crackling lightning, booming thunder and pounding hail.

Hearty souls dwelling on the high plains under crisp blue skies and towering Colorado mountains.

Tina and Sunflowers

Forever linked.

Singing their spirit chorus, blessing Heaven and Earth:

Life Is Good

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It’s All Fixable

A year ago last Friday, my life came to a screeching halt. A violent, jarring, me-screeching, “OH SHIT” halt.

I crashed on my bicycle.

I wasn’t going to write about this, but Friday night I had a nightmare that was an exact re-play of those horrible few moments, and I take that as a sign that I need to continue my efforts to release that awful memory.

My physical recovery, while not perfect, is as good as it’s going to get. My emotional recovery has been less predictable, more elusive, and stubbornly resistant to ‘closure’. I’ve had other bike crashes with broken bones and measured recoveries. This time is different.

This memory feels like a dense, heavy boulder deep inside me that requires a shot putter’s strength to heave it from my core. I haven’t yet found the strength. I try to visualize the movement, seeking release from this burdensome weight. I’d like to cast that weight elsewhere.

Anywhere but here.

To set the stage:
Granddaughter Raqi had finally gotten comfortable and confident on her two-wheeler. She was eager to show she could ‘hang’ with us on a ‘real ride’. Grandson Sparks had ridden his bike at the skate park with his Dad, and sought off-trail routes for a few thrills and challenges.

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And the kicker?

I bought myself a new bike – one with shocks. Having been thrown off my old bike the previous summer by a well-concealed pothole, I wanted all the protection I could get to cushion myself from further mishap.

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Eager to get Raqi out on a trail and show her the joy of riding alongside the fast-flowing creek, in and out of shade trees; and catching glimpses of horses, cows and tall, waving golden grasses, we cruised along for about an hour.

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On the way home, Raqi wanted to visit her favorite park. The park has a cozy gazebo, and Sparks and I amused ourselves riding down the gazebo steps several times. Not only did I want to impress them as ‘the cool grandmother’, but I wanted to show them that I don’t just spout the mantra, ‘Be Brave’; I live it.

Apparently my bravado impressed Hub, because he said, “Let’s ride over to the skate park.”

“Uh”, I thought. “We’re all getting a little tired.” (warning #1)

“OK”, we all agreed.

When we got to the park, there was a large concrete plaza leading up to the arena. As I passed a sign, I slowed to glance at the rules to make sure bikes were allowed.

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The first paragraph read something like:

 DANGER, SAMMY !!!!

(or at least it should have). Nevertherless, the actual, more subtle message ‘… at your own risk’ should have been my warning #2.

Did I mention my lifelong propensity for getting carried away by moments of exuberance?

Our grandkids were with us, fulfilling one of my dreams to have them share my passion for biking. How much more exuberant could I be?

A series of 12 wide steps appeared in front of us. While Hub and Raqi veered off on the plaza, Sparks and I rode down the stairs like superstars. What other grandmother does that? How much more exuberant could I be?

A series of semi-circle loops appeared in front of us. Sparks and I rode into them and started up the loop – Sparks turning one direction and I the other. As I came out of the loop, the mirage I saw was a level concrete plaza just like the one at the front end of the arena.

What actually existed was something quite different.

The moment my front tire touched the 6-inch ledge (nowhere to stop; nowhere to go), my forward momentum propelled my bike over the 4-foot drop to the concrete slab below.

“OH SHIT!”

My tires hit the pavement; I bounced – violently – bounced again; flew off my bike and … next thing I remember, I was on all fours saying, “Sparks, go get Papa.”

I knew, without a doubt, I had fractured something in my neck and broken my left hand. Beyond that, I could move all my parts and needed to get myself into a prone position. (I know … I should not have moved with a neck injury, but somehow I knew it was ok to do so, and I had to lie down before I passed out.)

I carefully crawled to the shade of a nearby pine tree and very slowly – moving my neck and head as a unit with my body – rolled myself onto my back. By then Hub, Sparks and Raqi were by my side.

My main concern – my only concern, actually – was not to traumatize my grandkids. Although they were both calm, I knew how frightened they were. How Hub and I reacted would leave a big impression on them about how to deal with life’s setbacks. We’ve always told them to ‘be brave’, and I sure didn’t want that to change now.

That concern, combined with my reluctance ‘to be a bother to others’ (thanks, Mom and Dad!) meant I didn’t want Hub to call an ambulance. Our house was only a 15-minute, pedal-at-top-speed ride away, and off he went to get the car.

Hub left his cell phone in Sparks’ hand, saying, “If Mima passes out, call 911.” I never opened my eyes, but I’m positive Sparks had a death grip on that phone.

Sparks and Raqi, who usually talks a mile a minute, were both seated as close to me as they could get, and neither spoke a word. I realized my lips were on fire and asked Sparks if they were bleeding.

Yes, Mima. You have blood all over your face.”

I asked him to pour some water on my lips from my water bottle. I sensed the bottle above my face then heard a tearful, “Mima, I can’t”, and I knew he was near his breaking point.

Eyes still closed, I reached out my right hand and asked them both to hold it. I said, “I know you’re scared, and I have some serious injuries. But everything is fixable. Do you understand? We will go to the hospital, and the doctors will fix me. I will heal, and we will ride our bikes together again.”

My ER visit and overnight stay were routine, and my outcome was the best it could be. My vertebrae were intact; I had snapped off one of the stabilizer spurs on the exterior of a cervical vertebrae. Multiple facial stitches, a neck brace, a hand cast, and I was good to go. X-rays two weeks later showed both my neck and hand bones healing in the desired alignment, so no surgery was necessary.

The ER staff provided a couple of light-hearted memories:

One of the nurses, a young muscular buck with dark curly hair and full beard, grimaced when I explained what happened.

“Did you brake when you hit that ledge?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Oooh, that was your big mistake,” he commiserated. “You should have accelerated over the ledge to leap further out in your landing.”

He was serious! As if I was a legitimate trick rider who just needed a few pointers to fine tune my landing!

The middle-aged female nurse who transitioned me from the ER to the overnight ward was a tad more realistic, “We’re awarding you the Coolest Grandmother of the Year, but you must promise any future visits to the skate park are spectator-only.”

A year later, I know my effort to minimize the trauma for my grandkids was successful. Not only are we back on our bikes, but a few months ago, Raqi told me about her friend who had suffered a serious injury.

“But she’ll be ok,” Raqi said confidently, “because it’s all fixable, Mima.”

The downside of working so hard to minimize the trauma for them (and admittedly downplaying the extent of my injuries to friends because, frankly, I was embarrassed at attempting something so risky ‘at my age’) meant I was in denial about how badly injured I was. I no longer weep uncontrollably as I did for a few months, but I still panic at what look like looming collisions in the car, and on the steep slopes in the golf cart when it feels like we’ve reached the tipping point – that sensation of plunging haunts me still.

My neck creaks and crackles, and I just completed six months of agonizing splint therapy for a jaw alignment problem we didn’t discover until I was done wearing my neck brace. I am determined to clear the cobwebs of lingering bad memories.

But no worries. In time, it’s (almost) all fixable.

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I Do at Iao Needle

Today is our silver wedding anniversary. My deepest appreciation to my trusty sidekick and dearest love for 25+ years of support, companionship, adventure and laughter.

Our beginning was a fairy tale; our decision to marry a tad unconventional; and our wedding day a joy to remember.

We got married on the beautiful Hawaiian island of Maui.

Alone. As in, no relatives or friends – just us. Getting married was very emotionally charged for me, and I needed to do it alone with Hub.

My dream, of course, was a romantic beach setting: kicking off our shoes; waves lapping gently; sun slowly dipping below the horizon; and a warm glow radiating between us.

The reality?

Beach weddings were highly regulated, commercialized and unromantic. We could buy the basic, premium or deluxe package for a set rate; a set number of flowers; and “our” 15 minutes on the beach before the next couple stepped in for their unromantic 15 minutes.

No Way and No Problem.

We discovered Iao Valley State Park, a pristine barely-used gem in the middle of the island. While hiking a trail, we located a perfect spot – under the towering Iao Needle – from which the rising sun would bless our ceremony if we got married at dawn.

Iao Needle

 

We obtained our marriage license and a recommendation to call “Marrying Bob”, a kindly ordained minister. He met with us and agreed to perform the ceremony at 6:30am, shortly after the park gates opened. Marrying Bob recommended we hire Dave, a carefree freelance photographer, who could serve as one of two required witnesses. A quick call to Dave confirmed he’d meet us at dawn at the park. If no one else was at the park to witness our ceremony, we could repeat our vows later in front of Marrying Bob’s secretary. It was all low key, low stress and private – just the way I wanted it.

I brought my self-designed dress from Colorado. The evening before the wedding, we selected our leis; bought Hub a Hawaiian shirt; and hugged and cried while writing our vows.

When we arrived at the park gate at wedding day dawn, there was a single car in the parking lot – a convertible with the top down, and a dark-haired man sitting in the driver’s seat. It wasn’t Marrying Bob. We assumed it was Dave, the photographer.

Hub approached the convertible: “Hi, are you Dave?”

Dark-haired guy, doing a double take and frowning at Hub: “Yeah. Why?”

Hub, holdng out his hand in greeting: “I’m Bob. You’re here to photograph our wedding, right?”

Dark-haired guy, still frowning and pulling back from Hub’s proffered hand: NO!”

It turns out THIS Dave was from California on his honeymoon and came to the park to watch the sunrise while his new wife slept in. After figuring out the confusion and sharing a “what’re the odds” laugh, Honeymoon Dave agreed to be our second witness.

So, our wedding party consisted of:
Bob, the groom
Bob, the minister
Dave, the photographer
Dave, the honeymooner
Me, the blushing bride

The sun rose; we spoke our vows;

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we sealed our marriage with a kiss; and we are living happily everafter.

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Save the Last Dance for Me

Finding true love on Valentine’s Day?

Only in fairy tales.

Except for that one year…. during the last dance ….when his witty comeback tickled my funny bone….

I met my husband in 1987 on Valentine’s Day. No, not love at first sight, but a light-hearted beginning with just enough spice to pique our mutual interest.

It was the typical fundraiser….stately mansion, tuxedos & fancy dresses, music, gambling, gourmet food and champagne…

Except this fundraiser had a unique twist. Tickets were sold only to women. Each woman anonymously invited 5 men.

So men showed up, unattached and full of curiosity. Women showed up, knowing they’d be surrounded by handsomely dressed single men. LOTS OF ‘EM !

The atmosphere was electric and upbeat and oh-so-comfortable. Not at all like the dreaded singles bar.

I danced, gambled, mingled and occasionally glimpsed a certain man in the crowd smiling at me. The kind of smile that says, “I know something you don’t.”

Toward the end of the evening, I was dancing with a partner when a woman approached me. She discreetly handed me a man’s business card with some writing on the back. I glanced quickly. It read, “Please call me. Let’s go skiing.” I finished the dance, thanked my partner, and turned to walk into the crowd.

Waiting for me was the man with The Smile. He took my hand and led me back to the dance floor. A slow dance had begun and our conversation – each of us grinning madly – went something like this:

“I don’t ski.”

“Why not?”

“I’m pretty busy at work.”

“Do you like movies?”

“No, I’m pretty busy at work.”

“What about dinner some evening?”

“No, I’m pretty busy at work.”

(Aside: I WAS very busy at work. I was also very happily single with plenty of friends and activities. I hadn’t come to the party to find a man; I had come to dance!)

“Please, I’d like to take you out. Is that possible?”

“No, I’m sorry. I work from 6am until 6pm, then I work out, then I go home and crash. I’m in bed by 10 every night.”

Suddenly he stopped dancing, placed his hands on my shoulders, bent down to look me squarely in the eye, and said,

“Don’t worry. I WILL have you in bed by 10.”

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