I love my children.  They are all unique and interesting individuals and they seem to love me, too.  That is a very happy thing for me as they are all my Dreams Come True.  They know what I mean when I say that.  I had to go halfway around the world to get them, but I knew in my heart since I was ten years old that that is how I would become a mother.  Somehow, God put it on my heart, that desire, that knowledge that my babies would come to me from somewhere else.  It never mattered to me that I didn’t become pregnant, and I hope it never matters to them that they didn’t “…grow under my heart, but in it.”

Bad Mother on Mother’s Day…

It’s Mother’s Day and I’m feeling crabby.
I want to go outside and play.  Or go somewhere and read.  Instead, we have a kindergarten science project due tomorrow (I mean really.  A kindergarten science project?  Thanks, teach.)  My middle school son has a baking project, due tomorrow.  A baking project. I’m not one who is naturally inclined toward the kitchen, unless you want to talk kitchen re-designs or renovation.  Then, I’m there.  But measuring and melting and testing-for-doneness?  Oh, just give me my novel, puh-leeze.
And I have a guest coming for dinner.  No worries, really.  He’s low maintenance and will gladly accept the frozen Stouffer’s lasagna and garlic bread I’m offering, but I can’t really bug off out of here today with all these little to-dos on my list.
I should thank my Dad who is out at the grocery store finding and paying for said dinner and baking projects, and my husband who is handling the kindergarten science fair.  Leaving me plenty of time to whine and complain here at the laptop.  Hmm. Bright side!
My birthday novel Lush Life is calling me.  Perhaps I’ll read it later.
Happy Mother’s Day in Heaven, Mom.

See, my mom died recently; well, it’s almost a year now.  She went to Heaven on May 17, 2007.  I really can’t believe it, even though I watched her through the dying process.  It’s like, other people’s moms die, not mine.  My mom and I talk about things like that, we don’t actually experience those losses.  Of course, I don’t honestly mean to imply that I am above losing a loved one to death.  In fact, I’d always, always worried about it.  But when it finally came to pass for me, when it became obvious that she was not going to get well but in fact, would die, I felt oddly…accepting about it all.  I did not anticipate that I would have endured her dying in the way that I did.  I wonder if it’s because I was no longer young; I turned 50 just a few days before she left us.  For sure, I did not think she would die at the tender age of 74, I really thought she had many years left in her.  Our relationship was still very much mother-daughter, complete with her telling me what-for if she felt like it and me feeling all offended by it.  It hadn’t yet shifted to my becoming concerned about her and gradually becoming a caregiving daughter as happens when one’s parents age.


So now I have my dear Daddy left.  And now I do worry about losing him.  I think, and even say out loud, “I don’t want you to die!”  A very good humored guy, he reassures me with such answers as, “I won’t, tonight.”  Or, “I’m ready to die.  But not until after the golf tournament.”

I know he really is ready for his own death.  Spiritually, he’s ready, he is a fervent believer in life everlasting, and has lived an outstanding Catholic life.  He and my mom did so, together. He’s getting older, his body is getting tired.  It’s all part of the natural process of aging.  Physically, emotionally, spiritually. He misses his wife deeply but accepts that her journey was completed with dignity.  And most importantly, that she really and truly is with the Lord.  

So now he’s living for the grandkids.  He lives his days fully and completely.  He spends time with each of his four children’s families and gives us all his attention and love when he is with us.  But I feel this undercurrent of worry:  when will he go?  will this be the last time I’ll see him?  how will I bear them both being dead?  Whenever he’s mentioned his own death (i.e. “I bought my funeral suit today.  I went to a friend’s funeral today and looked at him wearing a fifty-year-old suit and decided that I’ll just buy a new suit every five years…”  or, “I think this is the last pair of shoes I’ll ever buy…”) in either a serious, or trying-to-be-funny-you-know-there’s-a-grain-of-truth-in-it, I think, “I can’t bear it.”  I told him, “No Dad, I’m not ready to be an orphan.” Never mind that I’m fifty-one, I am not ready to be alone in the world without my mom and dad.  He says, “Well, I suppose one is never ready, but you will be okay.”

I’m choking up even thinking of it.  He is so vital, so sharp and intelligent and insightful and wise.  Yet his body is fading.  He’s visiting here now, and the oxygen machine he uses at night is humming away in our upstairs hallway.  I feel so secure when he is here with us, while simultaneously experiencing a sharp pang knowing he’s scheduled to go home next week. We live in Florida while he’s up in Michigan.

I know my mom would chide me about worrying into the future like this.  She certainly wasn’t one to borrow things in the future to feel anxious about.  I wish I would stop this but I keep coming back to the thought of him dying and how much I want to keep him here, on this Earth, with us…with me.  That’s selfish, though.  I know what his beliefs are.  He really understands what the Catholic faith teaches and he really does anticipate with joy being resurrected in eternal life.  It’s just that I will miss him so.  He and my mom will both be gone and I just think I won’t be able to bear it.  Of course, I will bear it.  I’m a mother too.  I suppose I sound like a child here.  I have three kids to whom I explain all this death/eternal life stuff to.  And it’s stuff I really do believe in myself.

I need to let go of this worry and enjoy my Dad as he is right now.  I guess that hardest part of losing my mother is looking at my Dad, without her.  Well, he has a family of adult children who love him, and grandkids who adore him.  He feels our love and admiration.  But his walk is his walk, his grief, his alone.  I grieve for my mom, I anticipate the sad day of his departure but I will be happy for him, I swear I will, because I know it will ultimately fulfill his deepest desire: to know the Lord Our God in the fullness of life.

I just don’t want my  Daddy to die.  I look at his sweet, aging face and it breaks my heart.  Selfish, immature, middle-aged woman who feels like a kid.  

I have always been scornful of the franchising of America.  It’s like everywhere you go, in Anycity, USA, there they are, laid out in similar form in strip malls from Centennial, Colorado to Jacksonville, Florida.  Recently I’ve been studying the franchise business model.   With a heavy heart.  We’ve had career changes that have caused us to investigate other business choices and that has included the franchise.

Years of a rather snob-like disdain of the Applebees, KFCs, Blockbusters, The Great Frame-Ups of the world,  I’ve found myself in the position of really looking at these models trying to find ‘something’ that I could actually align myself with and not feel totally embarassed.  Sure, the franchisors fall all over themselves to sell you on the idea, the “territory”, the support. You then get to “own your own business” but you are tied to the blueprint they have developed – which leaves one little room for creativity but if you aren’t an inherently creative person (and I’m not) could be useful…but still.  Our country is pockmarked with stores and restaurants that have no individuality or personality, which is why I like to support the truly independent business.
I’m lucky enough to live in a town that has a true town center: a place with personally owned restaurants, hip niche shops and an independent bookstore.  Now I will admit to spending hours in various Barnes and Nobles and Borders, but there is nothing like a real, independent bookstore.  It’s true they cannot offer the hardcover discounts of the ‘big box’ booksellers but come on, the personality of the independent can really be a treasure in a community.
We came ‘this close’ to moving forward on a certain tutoring franchise but I’m quite relieved that we decided not to.  I’m reasonably sure that this tutoring center has value to the students who attend…but it’s not for me.
But that leaves the major question:  what IS for me??  I’m only getting older yet I still yearn for success and still believe the future is ahead of me.  Some people my age might be feeling age discrimination and while my birthday is tomorrow, I refuse to be constrained by the age thing.  My heart’s passion are things that aren’t wealth-making.  HELP.

A fun time at one of my favorite places…the neighborhood bookstore. Yes, we have one of those old fashioned, independent, neighborhood storefront bookstores.  It’s the Bookmark in Atlantic Beach, Florida.  My daughter and I went to meet three smart young authors who pen novels for young women. They were making a stop on a promo tour for a new novel they’d written collaboratively.  Oh, to be one of them!  I’d settle for owning the bookstore but sadly, it’s not for sale. So, third choice, only choice, really, I showed up, sat in the first seat, daughter in tow, and shelled out about $42 for the privilege of owning signed copies of each of their individually authored novels for the teen set.  Of course they appeal to me as well.  Why not?   

Interesting women with interesting lives.  Is my own life interesting to anyone other than me?  Could I walk in to a venue and talk about something that would compel people to come in to see me?  I’d like to think I did that, last Fall, at the East Meets West Conference (China adoption theme).  It was fun to hold forth on a topic I consider myself to be an expert in, but as in everything, the internal politics of it all shadowed me throughout the event. But it doesn’t really matter; what mattered was that I did it, people came, listened, asked questions and I was as easy and comfortable with that audience as these three authors today were, with theirs.
My daughter and I had a good time.  Thanks to The Bookmark for being the type of shop we sorely need in this country today:  NOT a franchise!
Jeannie
The 4th Street Beach Access Literary Review
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