Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Moving On






Do you know what I'm really missing most about my father right now? It's our inside jokes and all the sayings we had. It's the make believe language he made up, and the nonsense phrases he always said. It's the lines from comforting, favorite movies watched over and over. It's seeing him conduct an unseen orchestra as his beloved waltz or classical thunder music played. It's picking pine cones from under trees on walks together. It's that sweet smile, soft voice, always happy man that put everyone else before him. It's the slow, steady walk through his front and back yard admiring flowers he planted and cutting lilac and pussy willow branches. It's all these things and so much more.

Do you know what I'm missing about my mother? A listening ear, advice given better than any therapist. Laughter and silliness, secrets shared. And once again, movies, movies, movies. The comforting ones that meant something to me and her. In later years, the stories we heard over and over as dementia began robbing her of recent memories,yet playing old time ones again and again. I miss them now yet I know them all and I know them well. And I, too, will be able to tell them long after she is gone.

Soon, my brother and I will be faced with one of the hardest tasks of our lives. We will have to sift through years and years of the life of our parents. With Mom now in a care facility, the precious home we all shared together will be broken apart and items distributed to those who may want them: wooden crafts our father made; airplanes, boats and houses. Well-worn recipe cards with the smattering of batter splashed upon them, from some of Mom's best loved favorites.

I'll walk through the rooms which meant so much to me. The living room where I envision the countless Christmases. Huge, fat trees decorated with fragile, precious ornaments from when our parents first married. Mountains of presents so carefully chosen for each of us. A favorite chair, an old, worn couch. Then into the small dining room where a table filled with baked Italian goodies and laden with other fine delicacies sits empty now.

The heart of our little ranch home--the kitchen always feels the warmest. For out of this room came a fresh home cooked meal each and every night. Out of this room came gooey pecan loaves, tasty pineapple upside down cakes and homemade pizza that would put one of the best restaurant pizzerias to shame. The table where we all sat, and the conversation and laughter that echoes in the stillness now.

I walk down the hallway toward our bedrooms and see the one converted into Dad's little craft room. The walls are adorned with thousand piece puzzles so carefully glued together as artwork. Tins of small bric-a-brac and tiny pieces of wood just waiting for the crafter's hands to pick up once again.

There are albums filled with the pictures of our lives. There are cards and letters so well-preserved in drawers and it feels as if Mom saved all of them throughout the years. How can one weed through so much and not feel emotional? For I know my heart will be breaking even as I begin the task at hand.

This house, this home saved our lives. For it wasn't where I grew up. We moved there when I was eleven. It was after the roughest time that my parents had gone through. Dad had made the decision to leave the only place we'd ever known, realizing it was best for us to make a change and start fresh.

I can still see the first time my parents showed the new house to me. It sat in a quiet, wooded neighborhood, not the cement jungle I'd grown up in. There was a large back yard and another smaller one. There was a finished basement, screened back porch. There was a sense of belonging of "coming home" so to speak. Yes, this is where our little family belonged. And it would be in this house that my brother was born fourteen years after me. Our miracle.

It won't be easy to toss things away. For you see, there's still a package of cookies, the last ones Dad bought for himself sitting on a shelf like an item from a shrine. There's notes written to Mom reminding her to take her pills and how to work the television remote.

I know I need to cancel our cable, internet and phone. Yet I hang on as long as I can, for once the phone is disconnected, the number that had been ours--mine since childhood will be forever gone. It may sound crazy, but these are the thoughts that plague me. I know God will grant my brother and I the strength we need when it is time. For there is nothing that will take away what is in our hearts. Nothing will take away the parts of Mom and Dad that live inside both of us. We are products of them both. And that is something that will never be lost.



Thursday, April 13, 2017

Easter Memories






They say that a scent is one of the most powerful tools for bringing back vivid memories. As I sit here typing in a most life-changing time of my family's journey, it is the aromas from the Easter's and Spring's of my youth which evoke just such recall.

I smell the grassy scent of palms distributed in my old Catholic church, the cool feel of the long stems as we waved them around during mass and the way my Nonna or Mom would weave them into intricate little decorations to be placed around the home.

I smell the light fragrance of Springtime flowers; I see their colors popping up around my childhood home as Dad orchestrated his little prizes in our yard.

I smell the plastic candy scent of rustling green Easter grass in the basket so lovingly put together by my mother; the mouthwatering scent of good Anderson's chocolate--our best neighborhood chocolatier. I smell the fruity scent of dozens of multi-colored jelly beans laying amidst the fake grass.

There's the acrid tang of vinegar poured into cups dissolving the egg decorating tablets that will color a dozen beauties.

And there's food--oh such food. . . mouthwatering ham, gooey sweet potatoes, and our family's most favorite of all: sweet Easter bread. The aroma from the baking of this gem would last for hours giving our home the flavor of a touch of anise, a hint of orange.

All of these make up the memories of my childhood. A simpler era when thoughts of old age, dementia, health issues and even death weren't even a thought in a little girl's head. I knew time would stretch on forever and my parents would always be there.

Where did it go? Wasn't it just yesterday that I got that new Easter hat, and that pretty pink Easter coat? Wasn't it only a short time ago that I was an innocent child untouched by harsh events and life-threatening illness?

They say cherish the old times, but don't tarry there long. For if you have family, even amidst life's changes, you still have everything. I will do my best not to stay long visiting old moments, and I will treasure every single breath my mother still has on this earth. For no physical problem, lost memories, or frail body will keep the deep love this family has always had from going on forever even beyond time.