Saturday, March 28, 2015

Remember When

Lightning bugs winking into the night. The last rays of sunshine on the horizon as a mother calls out for her child to hurry home. Skinned knees, the clean  smell of a Bandaid. The cure for every ailment.

 The tangy taste or Orange Crush pop. Telephones with curly cords and rotary dials. A shiny red Schwinn bike, and the first time ridden without training wheels. Drawing on a cement sidewalk with a rock. Pulling vivid yellow dandelions, the bouquet clutched in a tiny hand, a present for a mother.

 A grandfather's wine cellar, the coolness in the deep dark, and the smell of crushed grapes. Sunday dinner at one o'clock sharp. The clinking of forks on plates, the taste of veal cutlet and homemade noodles. Dishes washed with cousins, laughter, talking, fun,

 Easter baskets filled with shiny plastic grass. Solid chocolate bunnies, fingers licked with the remnants of melted goodness. Christmas bulbs, glitter, tinsel, The Grinch. A new vinyl baby doll, her face, sweet. The smell of candle wax in the stillness of a darkened church. Bags of Halloween candy, plastic princess masks, their smiling faces "frozen" for all eternity.

A snowflake falling, falling. Warm, wool mittens on tiny hands, fingers outstretched. A snowman melting on a warm day, his carrot nose falling to the ground. A wooden sled is put away for a long nap to return again.

New comic books, super heroes to become. Imagination.

 Nostalgia. The scents, sounds and feeling of times long past. Memories that never quite fade, but only grow more vivid with age sometime. Savor them, but never tarry. For time marches on, and though the new drummer beats a rhythm that we sometimes may not like, we must press ever forward, not living in the past, only stopping by for a short visit as we journey through our life.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Someone Was Praying

My heart sports a fragile crack as I look at the face of true love. My parents, Rich and Eileen. Two people who have weathered true storms in their lives. Two people who have beat many odds. Two people who truly know what it means to love one another with all your heart.

My mom grew up in an abusive home. Her father drank and gambled, taking out his frustrations on his wife, who in turn, took out her own frustrations on the children. From an early age, my mother was told she wasn't wanted, she was an accident, a mistake. From an early age, Mom learned what it was like to crave love and not receive it. She would grow into her teen years, the beginnings of depression creeping up on her, food, sometimes her only solace. 

Dad grew up a little differently. Though his father was a drinker, there wasn't any violence in his home, and his mother, my Nonna, was a rock and pillar of strength and goodness. Qualities which would become such a part of my father as well.

Mom and Dad married young, she was only nineteen at the time, and he was twenty-five. That sounds like little kids to me as I look back now. I realize, however, marriage may have been an acceptable escape for my mother, and the handsome man promising a wonderful future, a true knight in shining armor to her.

Abuse and neglect take their toll on a person, and no matter how much love you finally have, they aren't easily shaken. Mom fell into a spiral of mental issues, thoughts that would plague her and shake our family to the very core. Hospitalization would follow, and my father, the rock of our family would remain by his wife's side, loving her gently, caring for me, his little girl, and holding a full time job.

There were times when I, as a child, would wonder if life would ever return to normal. If my mother would return to us whole and well. 

Someone was praying. I never knew this as a little girl, but the power of prayer was working behind the scenes. My grandparents and father prayed. I know there were others praying as well. In my little mind I never understood this concept, couldn't wrap a child's mind around it. Though I eagerly "wished" for good things, God heard it all, and in my early teen years, Mom was restored to us.

Tests of fire would continue in this rock-solid marriage though. Major surgery would befall me, their little girl, as scoliosis ravaged my body. And a late pregnancy would surface, causing one doctor to advise an abortion for my mother, claiming her health was at serious risk. Not one to falter any longer, this brave woman would say, "I'll have this baby, or die trying."

Someone was praying. Once again, God was there. My surgery, though difficult, went well. My brother was born, and Mom remained healthy through it all. Prayer would sustain this family and many good years would follow.

Perhaps nothing is as beautiful as love in the golden years. Once again, as my heart cracks a little more, I am reminded of strong bonds of love. For two people who remained by one another through moments of true catastrophe. Dad would become a heart patient in his retirement years. Several times, we almost lost him. A quadruple bypass and a defib/pacemaker would be a new part of his world.

Someone was praying. This time, it was me. Not only me, but many others as well. But this time, I learned the true, powerful answer of prayer. As I put my trust in God, He never failed us. Dad came through many years of congestive heart failure, hospital visits, and this time, it would be Mom who had to be strong.

And now, the love of almost sixty years of marriage. Dementia, health issues, an old house falling apart. Sometimes never enough money, yet always just enough. Mom's forgetfulness and Dad's health scares. So many things I just want to run and scream sometimes. Just two weeks ago, Mom was in the hospital. As anyone with a loved one suffering from dementia knows, this is devastating to them. A very confusing time. A week later, Dad would be hospitalized. And though it was very difficult, Mom found a way each day to sit by his bedside, waiting, praying, for his return home. Our family bonded together in a major way, and once again, these two people are reunited with one another in the little old home they've shared for so many years.

Love can withstand the test of time. The fires forged, the uphill battles waged and won. Love is everything and so much more. It's gray hair, wrinkles, arthritis and gout. It's pill containers, oxygen tanks, hospital stays and doctor visits. It's seeing the young beauty you once married, the handsome prince he was. It's all of these things. Mostly, it's the love of God, cementing commitment, trust and patience in two people willing to work at it. 

Someone IS praying! Let that someone be you and me. Let's pray for strong marriages, for a love that lasts a lifetime and beyond. Let's pray for resilience and strength, and an eye to see our spouse as they once were: beautiful, young, innocent and good.

Here's to my parents, Rich and Eileen. For all you've both taught me. For all the years of love. I love you both.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Birthday Cakes and Snowflakes

Childish wonder. A cake, all sparkles and rainbow colors. Dozens of candles flicker only to blown away moments later. A little girl dreams, then becomes.

When did we lose the sense of wonder? Why must it fade as we grow older?

I watch my niece, Elena, as she shakes a favorite blanket in a sunlit living room. Hundreds of dust motes glisten in the air, and she exclaims, "Look! Snowflakes!" She tries to catch them in chubby, outstretched hands, her face aglow with the innocence of childhood and imagination.

I, too, once imagined. Grape crates my grandfather had for the wine he made became a magical transportation device for my cousin and I. We saw ourselves whisked away to the legendary place he and my Nonna always spoke of: The Old Country.

Playground sliding boards became mountains to climb, as a beloved friend and I had make-believe adventures, running from pretend villains. Buttons, toothpicks, and countless cutouts from the paper became "people" and had marvelous scenarios to be played out.

Oh yes, I can remember it all, and I long for it once again. Perhaps that's why I love to write. For I can pretend in my mind for a short while. The worlds of heroes, villains, good and bad all come to life on a page. Talking cats and mice, love and happily ever after become a reality in my world as if I, too, were a small child watching with wonder as it all unfolds.

Oh, to be younger. To have a whole life before us once more. Never underestimate the gift of imagination and pretend. Play with all your heart with a child, grandchild, niece or nephew. Become, one more time, a princess, fairy queen, wicked stepmother or even a frog. Then you, too, can happily dream of birthday cakes and snowflakes with outstretched hands and hearts.