Saturday, March 23, 2024

A Simple Journey


It began about two years ago for me. Work had hardened me. The load felt unbearable, and the new duties, insurmountable. Days began to blur one into the other, and the hours took their toll on my mind. 

Right about that time my husband retired from his job. He'd earned it, believe me. Putting in around seventy-two hours a week, working short-handed at Monro Auto as their manager for many years, had not given him much time for relaxation and enjoyment.

 There would be no more alone time for me, however, when I was home. He would always be there. No more coming back from work to an empty house for a few hours of quiet time. There would be someone every minute of my day either at my job or my home. I became resentful. I felt I had no outlets except anger.

 I wasn't the same person I'd been, the "caring Karen" that everyone knew. I became short-tempered, quick to judge, a bit mean with those around me, co-workers, but especially my husband. I admit it. I felt I lost a little of "me." 

I wasn't giving myself grace or self-realization to allow those feelings to come and then also to flow away. I held onto them tightly, not liking myself much, and getting swept up in the attitude that so many others had after covid times anyway. Maybe I would change once I retired. But did it need to take that long?

Until recently. Until I began my journey of finding Mr. Rogers. It began oddly, at the end of his own journey: at the gravesite of this simple, wonderful man. On a sunny afternoon, my husband and I drove to the town where Fred Rogers was born and buried. It took only a few moments to locate the mausoleum where he rested. I got out of the car and took my time walking to the front of it, looking through the glass door and seeing his name etched upon the stone. Fred McFeely Rogers. I knelt on the marble stairs and wept. I cried for this dear soul and all he'd meant to me in my life. I cried for myself too as I felt something breaking inside of me.

There were little nick knacks and painted rocks left for him. I, too, left some small tokens: a little cardinal and butterfly pendant. The symbolism of those two items for me was profound. They sustained me during the loss of my own parents a few years before.

After that day, I wanted to learn more about Mr. Rogers and his life. I began to read books written about him and watch videos of his life. I found a simple yet powerful faith, an attitude of love, and an aura of kindness surrounding every word uttered about him. Yes, I'd watched his television show when I was younger and I adored him and his precious neighborhood of make-believe. But I'd never delved so deeply into what this man stood for.

I had met him briefly in 1972 when I lay in a ward at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. It had been a dreary day and my parents were unable to be with me. Encased in a large plaster body cast which covered me from neck to above my hips, I felt sorry for myself, frightened, and unsure of what lay ahead. The school year before had been a nightmare. Boys had been making fun of the way I walked. They hadn't known, well, I hadn't known either, that I had scoliosis, curvature of the spine. 

I felt ugly, misshapen, odd, and alone. My mood was as dark as the rainy day. There was a lot of commotion going on in the hallway. It seemed that a special visitor was there for us. Since I couldn't move, I had to be content to wait and see what the hoopla was all about. Then he came in. It was Mr. Rogers. In the red sweater we'd all known him for. He stopped briefly at every child's bedside in our ward. And when he came to me, the oddest thing happened: he put his hand on the rail of my bed and looked me straight in the eyes. "What a pretty girl," he said, giving me that charming, sweet smile. I know I smiled back, feeling a little starstruck. 

How did he always know what to say to everyone? I feel this man had a deep connection to God. It's as if the Holy Spirit moved through him and the right words at the right time would come from within. His words changed my life. No longer was I homely and different. I was pretty. Mr. Rogers told me so.

And now in my life, I hear him speaking to me once again on this journey to finding Fred. He says the words to me again, and this time they are meant for another purpose. What a pretty girl. I'm not bound by my angry feelings, the ones that make me ugly inside. I take his lessons with me daily on my job and around others. I remember the best lesson: kindness. It takes nothing for me to apply Mr. Rogers lessons to daily life. My journey may take the rest of my life, but it won't be a lonely one. For I have Fred Rogers in my heart now. I carry his beauty, faith, simplicity, and goodness close. 

Thank you Mr. Rogers for the compassion you once gave me. I will try to spread it to others.

Friday, February 2, 2024

Just Ask


One day I was missing my parents so much. I talked to God and asked if someday He might share a small sign that they were near with me. I have never asked this. As I folded clothes later that evening in my room, I felt as if someone stood next to me. I looked to my side and said, "Hi Mom and Dad," and went right on with the clothes. I didn't see anyone.
Later that night as I turned in for the evening, I said "goodnight" to a picture of my parents that is laying on top of my nightstand. It isn't framed, only a regular photograph.
The next morning when I awoke, (I'd like to say I hopped out of bed with a spring in my step, but, well....arthritis and all...), but when I got out of bed, I looked over and the picture of my parents wasn't on the stand. I looked and it was laying on the floor on the side of the nightstand, face up with their beautiful smiling faces looking at me.
I placed the photo back on the nightstand. I tried creating a breeze with my arms, with my bed blankets, with the closet door, etc. Nothing stirred that picture at all. I tried to replicate laying there and hitting it with my arms, but it was too far away from me, and I usually cocoon myself like a burrito when sleeping, so flailing arms aren't usually my thing anyway.
"Well, Lord," I thought, "I did ask. The Bible says you have not because you ask not." Perhaps God's gentle breath blew through my side of the room that night. He stirred the picture of my parents to show me a sweet little sign. They're okay, Karen. They are here with me. They still love you, but they've changed, and they don't have the worries and concerns they once did. Be happy for them.
When I look at the photograph now, a huge smile breaks out onto my face. For in this picture, they are young, healthy, happy, and so in love. And I believe they are like that right now.
What signs and wonders have you seen perhaps in nature, or in your own home that reminds you of God's existence and love?

Saturday, October 21, 2023

A Big Decision

 Two years ago our small dental office moved to a larger location. Along with the move, we also acquired a whole new patient load and several new staff members. The move itself was stressful and the labor needed to get us to the new facility was intense. I can't say I was thrilled at the time, but the new office was bigger, brighter, and modern. I would certainly give it my best.

Flash forward to the present. Work was becoming almost unbearable. Staff changes, new associates, dental insurance nightmares, difficult patients. Sometimes lack of communication lead to unbelievable stressors. Would we ever find the fun, simplicity, and camaraderie that we once shared?

Some of the ladies in my practice have become good friends. We've shared laughter, tears, life stories. And for their own reasons, they decided they needed to leave. Though my heart broke, I knew that I cared for them enough that their happiness was most important. Though my own work load would triple, and I truly wanted to walk out that door with them, I decided to pray about it. "Lord, you know I can't take the stress. This has become too much for me at my age. I need peace desperately. I need your guidance."

No lightning bolt crackled nearby. Only one word came to me in that still, small way: WAIT. I pondered its meaning, I questioned God daily about it. I sought other employment but felt no joy. Then I said, "Lord, if you want me to stay, I will do it. But I need you."

Several weeks ago I had a small breakdown of sorts. Though I'd never done this before, I called off the following day from my job and left them completely unattended at the front desk. I could not think one more thought, could not step into that building without crying or feeling my chest tightening.

My employer spoke kindly to me one evening. It was after I told him I needed to resign. He looked at me and said, "I can't do this without you. You are the heart and soul of this place. Give me a chance. I want to make this work for you."

Again, no bolt of lightning nor crack of thunder. No Charlton Heston voice out of the blue giving me cosmic advice. Just that small voice: wait.

I made the decision right then that I would wait it out. I would give the place that had been home to me for seventeen years another chance. I adored many of the patients especially the elderly ones who have come to know me so well. The ones who specifically ask for me and trust me with their concerns. I would give my employer what he needed. He'd become more like family over the years, another brother to me, even. But also, I could not abandon them. I would not be the reason that our practice could potentially fail. My mother raised a girl who had a conscience.

Has it been easy waiting for new staff, working alone, working extra hours, taking on even more responsibilities? Not at all. But God. That's right. When I feel anger, anxiety, or a pit in my stomach, I say quietly in my spirit: "Jesus, I need you right now." That is what had been lacking up until then. The simple childlike faith that had gotten me through other trials in my life. A simple sentence, and sometimes only His name whispered: Jesus. 

Though I don't know what the near future holds, I will do my very best. I will not complain to friends and family when the day doesn't go as planned. I will go to the throne... not the phone. For it says in the Bible: So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:16

But the promise I made to my son, husband, and brother, still stands. If I can't take another second, if stress piles and situations don't change, I will have to do what's best. I would have to make the decision to leave. Right now, I don't see that. Right now, I am living one day, one hour at a time. 

Oh, did I get some concessions out of this? You bet I did. I am nobody's doormat, nobody's fool. Just a kind girl who believes in being a help to others. 

Saturday, September 2, 2023



It's almost been a year since I blogged. I could say that too much "busyness" has kept me away. That's a good excuse. But then something really important happened. Something I need to speak about. 

A month or so ago, I had my routine mammogram. I looked forward to the letter that would arrive stating the "all clear" diagnosis. This time, I received a phone call. A sonogram was ordered to investigate a little further. Stomach clenched, heart raced, fear arrived. "This has happened before," I told myself. "Stop working yourself up."

The day of the sonogram arrived. With faith in my heart and prayer as my shield, I chatted with the technician and hoped for the best. She left the room to give the results to the on-call doctor. Those fifteen minutes or so felt like eternity. 

When the two of them walked through the door, my heart sank. I figured if it was good news, the technician could have given it to me. But the doctor... this meant business.

"You have a very small spot, only 3 millimeters. But it's best to do a biopsy to determine further results."

Biopsy. A word that conjures up all sorts of horrors that I won't get into right now. Stomach churned, heart palpitated, fear made its way into me. And there it stayed for the next several weeks. 

I had amazing prayer warriors. I had a husband who believed for the best outcome. My own faith didn't waver, but I said to God, "No matter what. My story for Your glory." I wanted good news of course, but I was ready to face anything.

As terrified as I was for the biopsy, it was incredibly painless and easy. All of the healthcare workers were wonderful. Okay, I admit, I did take a Xanax, but that was just a little... help of sorts. I lay there and kept the Bible verses close to me that were the best encouragement: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." And, "Do not fear for I am with you, do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

The results would come in three to five business days. Even with faith as my shield, uncertainty loomed before me. If it was this... then I'd have to go through that... Could I dare hope for a benign result?

My prayer partners and praying husband reassured when darkness threatened. I kept busy with my job and daily routines until I saw an email from the health portal that said: New test results available.

Nope, not gonna look at that. I don't understand health lingo. I knew the office would call very soon at that point. While at work, my cell phone rang. I jumped from my desk and took the call outdoors of my office. The nurse was pleasant and kind as she gave me the news: Benign. The best word a woman could hear. I laughed and cried with her and then laughed and cried with everyone I called right afterward.

Today, a few days later, I am better for having gone through this. My story for His glory. God was with me even in the darkest night terrors. He stood near and held me when I thought I'd faint from fear and worry. I looked to Him with hope that no matter the outcome, He would be with me. I remembered a few other times in my life when I'd needed him most: the loss of my parents, another health scare many years ago; a time I had to be strong for my child. He had never failed me or left me alone. His love is real. No Matter What.

This morning I chose the word savor. I like the sound of it and all it implies. It means slowing down, enjoying, really enjoying every little moment of every single day. Taking time with my prayer life and reading encouragement. Basking in a long, hot shower. Typing these words. Playing like a little kid with my husband or son. Crocheting with beautiful yarn as it slides through my fingers. Swinging in the sunshine on my porch swing and not caring that I don't have important tasks at hand every second. It's okay to even be a little bored. It means there's life in my body, breath in my lungs, health and light.

The internet had this to say: Savor: to enjoy food or an experience slowly, in order to enjoy it as much as possible: It was the first chocolate he'd tasted for over a year, so he savored every mouthful. Love the fact that you are alive and savor everything that life has to offer.

Are you fearful today? What's pressing upon your heart? Is it time for healing in your soul? Ask. Talk to that wonderful Father. Then ask Him to help you to savor every single blessed moment of every day. 

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Merry, Exhausted, and Content


It's nice viewing everyone's Facebook posts about the recent holiday season. Though I didn't share much about my own time, I feel it is important to talk about it now.

My heart has never been fuller. From the special gift buying this year- I took my time early and carefully to find truly special items for my loved ones- to my true exhaustion this evening, I have never been happier.

The Christmas week began with a visit to my brother's home which is our parent's old home. There they were, special ornaments tucked here and there, little memories of times past, warming my heart and giving me the kind of glow that only family can give. We spent time watching the new "Ralphie" movie which in itself was extremely nostalgic. Mom and Dad adored the original and watched it over and over annoying us to no end sometimes. But at the center of that movie is a message: family is everything, even dysfunctional and imperfect. Christmas is special, and "The Old Man" was truly the spirit of Christmas when he knew the exact gift Ralphie really wanted.

When the movie was over, tears coursed their way down my cheeks as I remember my own "Old Man" and how he made Christmas so very special for us all. My brother and I took time looking at old Christmas albums together, scratched and worn, a bit broken even, but every little nuance of our parents was indelibly marked upon them.

Christmas day itself was spent with dear ones. My brother and family met us at Matt's house to have a little food and the usual several hour opening of the gifts. Even my nieces were in on it now. There was a warmth, a respect, and a lot of love around that living room. I know in my heart that my son adores having company, and even that in itself gave me such joy.

We visited with my step-daughter and family the week before, making a mess of a gingerbread house but laughing through it all.  Today we watched our Florida grandchildren, little girls we hardly get to see but were able to spend the whole day with. I've not had a moment's peace this year, but this whirlwind of visiting and people remind me of Ye Olde Times of my youth. When family meant everything, people were exhausted but grateful, and sitting back after a it all helps make some of the best memories ever.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Farewell My Old Friend


Did you ever feel that a place you visited was more like an old friend than a destination? That is what Conneaut Lake Park had been in my lifetime. From when I was a little girl up until only about three years ago, this wonderfully nostalgic park held a special place in my heart.

As a small child, we didn't take elaborate vacations. When Dad said, let's pack up the car and go, I knew that it meant the simple one-and-a-half hour trip to Conneaut Lake Park. There, we would find a cheap, small motel or even a cottage. Musty, even with a smattering of mildew, these places were wonderful to me. For two nights and three days, we bonded closely as a family enjoying midway games such as Fascination, balloon darts (which Mom was super good at), and the ever-popular fish pond.

I'd ride ponies in Kiddie Land, drive metal cars around a track and boats with a bell to ring around a type of pool, sit upon elaborate, decorated horses in the carousel, laugh until we almost peed on The Turtle, and especially awaited the trip in a ride-through haunted house.

When my brother came along, we began bringing him to our family fun destination. I know he loved it as much as I did. So many happy days and nights! So many memories made.

My own children enjoyed Conneaut Park in their time too. They spent hours in an old-fashioned arcade playing video games, ski ball, and mostly claw machines. We'd eat corn dogs, pizza, and French fries. We'd enjoy an ice cream cone afterward. 

For all of our generations, The Devils Den, the "haunted ride" was a favorite. There was the familiar smell of grease and metal as you waited on the platform. There were sounds of the clack, clack, clack, as the carts rode along the track. There was anticipation of thrills, squeals, and maybe even a shriek as ghosts, witches and other spooktacular goblins lit up in the darkened hallways as we approached.

One of the more recent and special visits for me was time spent with my son on a Mother's Day just a few years ago. We ate a lovely meal at the Hotel Conneaut, and walked through the quiet park as it awaited a new season. Yes, it was getting a bit old. It was showing signs of neglect. But there had been people who seemed to care as much as we did. They tried renovating, repairing, and adding a little extra zip and newness to the atmosphere of antiquity.

My son adored the extremely frightening, yet very popular Blue Streak rollercoaster. When we first heard it was being torn down last year, our hearts sank. Then, little by little, other bits and pieces of the park were hauled away.

I told myself I didn't want to see it in that condition. I never wanted to be privy to behind-the-scenes of its demolition. Yet this past weekend, I did just that. My heart sank as the sight of weeds and tall grasses growing in every direction. The pit in my stomach widened seeing gaping holes in the landscape of an area which held colorful, fun rides. A wasteland. A waste to me. I wish someone would have been able to make it a historic landmark. I wish it could have been there for future generations and that my own grandchildren would laugh, squeal, play, and know what a simple, but unique vacation spot this park was meant to be.

I am going to mourn a little today. I will tell myself it will be okay. It had to be this way. After all, this is progress, time marching on, money to be made by property that will probably sport condos and such. Future generation won't know what I knew. And you know what? That makes me feel a little special.

Death of a family destination.

Almost impossible to tell what was there.

Sad-looking Devil's Den during demolition.

The Devil's Den in better days

Friday, May 27, 2022

The World of a Child

 Have you spent an afternoon lately with small children, perhaps your grandkids or nieces and nephews? Don't you come away from that time exhausted, yet feeling younger and remembering what it was like to pretend, to wish, to dream, to believe in the unbelievable?

One day, when she was younger, my niece Elena wanted an inexpensive pair of fairy wings in a dollar store. On the ride back home she said, "Auntie Kar, there's a little glitter on your seat." When we got out, not only did she have glitter on her face and hair, but the back seat of my car sparkled and glittered as well. And my heart sparkled too.

I, too, remember what it was like when I was young being a glitter princess; loving all things sparkly and pretty. For I was a girly girl type; a child who loved make believe, pretend, and lands faraway. My mom used to call me a pack rat stating that she always found glittery items in my drawers and in my room. I hoarded these pieces as if they were magical. And they were.

Our beautiful, innocent children hold the key to simplicity and joy. After a few hours playing "school" with my other niece, Elizabeth, I felt smarter and ready for a college degree. It didn't matter that it had been years since I'd been to school. Elizabeth was a tough teacher and she didn't tolerate any misbehavior in her "class." So I sat as a model student and learned all that I could from her. What she didn't realize is that I was learning. The lesson was one of sweetness, simplicity, and patience. The lesson wasn't something I could glean from a book, and I could only get from truly being in the moment with her.

Our world is full of cynicism, intolerance, and anger. News media and social media blast so much anti-everything campaigns that I want to run away for a while. Isn't it refreshing that once a week or so, to run away with two little girls who hold my heart with their simple innocence? I can come away from that time a much "better me."

Saturday, March 26, 2022

A Reunion of Love


Bebby on Mom's favorite outdoor blanket

Walrus cat is what Dad called you. With whiskers so long; no cat had them like you. Mom called you Baby but pronounced it Bebby. You were that and more to her. Like a little child, but also companion, friend, confidante in the middle of the night. But you were mischievous and a bit sneaky too.

Remember how you worried Mom who tried to keep you as an indoor cat? But you wanted to be free outside in the air to hunt and play. Sometimes you wouldn't return for the longest time. I can picture you lying under a nearby bush having your kitty laugh as she called and called for you. Then she came in and told us, "Baby's gone this time. I know it." But you were never gone... that is, until today.

A promise to Dad as he passed to take care of Mom. And in our hearts, a promise to Mom as she passed that we would take care of you. Oh, you knew, yes you knew when Mom left us and you laid on her blankets where her scent must have been. You looked into our faces with kitty cat questions of "why" and "where" but we had no way to explain to you that Mom had gone home... that is, until today.

Today you met her again. She and Dad and Mya, Buffy, Fluffy, Lady, and those who had been loved, oh so loved as you were. She saw you and you ran; no longer old and tired, but frisky cat body lean and healthy; long legs running as you did as a young kitty. You jumped into her arms and covered her face with kitty kisses and walrus whisker rubs as she called you "My Baby."

Bebby the "Walrus cat"

King of the house

Monday, June 14, 2021

A Promise to my Father


(Photograph: Uncle Peppy, my father's brother.)

As Dad's life began winding down, it was more important to me than ever to find out all I could about him. Though there had been countless stories told, perhaps I'd missed something. One thing I wondered about for years was the relationship he and his brother, Joe, (Uncle Peppy), had and why we didn't see his family. There had been speculation that an old rift had torn the family apart. Though I saw my uncle several times, and always enjoyed his visits, his children were always strangely absent. Why?

One of Dad's favorite stories was that his brother bought him a Lone Ranger watch when he was a little kid. Uncle Peppy (Joe) was considerably older and not around while my father was a youngster. But somehow he knew that his little brother loved that radio show, and the greatest gift Dad ever received was that watch. Then through the years when I was a child, Uncle Peppy would stop by and my father just beamed when he was around. They resembled one another and talked non-stop.

The only time I saw my father cry was the day he found out that his brother Joe passed away in early 2000. I didn't know how to console him, so I gave him space and let him grieve in his way. Though our family was never affectionate, we all knew how much we loved one another. Sometimes even in silence.

 I began to think about my uncle's family. Why hadn't we been close with them? Uncle Peppy's visits were always fun and pleasant. But my cousins, well, that was a different story. Why didn't they come on these trips with him. And more importantly, where were they now? Would I be able to find them? Would they even want contact with my family?

I remembered the married last name of Uncle Peppy's daughter and I found her oldest daughter on Facebook. She would not know me, but I carefully reached out, conveying how important it was for me to contact this side of the family. We wrote emails back and forth for a while. I told my father about hearing from her and he was absolutely thrilled that I'd found someone from their family.

Unfortunately Dad became very sick about that time and passed away shortly after. I'd promised him that I would continue reaching out to find if any of the others might be interested in hearing from a cousin they had probably not seen since the 1960's. 

To my surprise, the oldest son, Ron, wrote back to me. I couldn't have been happier to hear from this cousin I barely remembered. But would he be as happy as I was? Or would old family differences get in the way? I soon found out. Our emails were engaging and when we spoke by phone we had a lot to chat about. We shared photographs back and forth. I met some of his children through Facebook as well.

This past Saturday, something wonderful happened. I met my cousin Ron! He came for a visit to my home. He was an amazing, intelligent, warm man. I couldn't stop staring at him because he reminded me so much of our grandfather. His voice was similar to his dad's, and I could see "Mattia," our last name, written all over him. We enjoyed several hours of great conversation. We learned things about our families and past that helped put some of the puzzle pieces back together. Oh how I wished I could call my father and tell him all of this...

When you've lost someone you adored, as much as I did with my dad, you look for anyone and anything that reminds you of them. When you find it, you embrace it or them, with everything inside you. Not alone any longer, there is family and though you never knew them, you do now and you forgive any past hurt or divisions that kept you apart. You go forward with the knowledge that there are more of you... pieces of your past that connect you to those you loved and you go on so much better than before.

Here's to our visit, cousin Ron! I will never forget it, and I truly look forward to reconnecting many more times!

All my love,


Me and cousin Ron!

My brother Rick got to meet our cousin too!

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Visit to My First Home


Heart pounding, palms sweating. Anxiety I wear you well.

Steps on the sidewalk of my youth; where chalk drawings are now faded, hopscotch blurred in chalky memory, but uneven pavement still tries to trip me. Yet I do not falter.

Closer now, I feel so big—so tall. I wasn’t this size before. Eleven is little, small, tiny, not this giant I have become. Everything is dwarfed because I am older. Yes, there was a patch of dirt where two girls made a mud pie. The countless journeys on bicycles, as if they were cars; stop on red, go on green. My house now is before me.

Dad had it built for my mother. This is where hopes and dreams were going to come true. Right next door to his mama and papa, the properties touched and merged almost magically.

The hedges are gone. They used to catch my clothing, and the rose bushes with their thorns reaching out their slender tendrils—the scent intoxicating from every color imaginable. Gone now too. Four O’Clocks, pinchy bush Dad called a Fitzer. But there is the huge picture window and the porch, yes. One, two, three steps. I am standing where I haven’t stood since 1972.

Tears flow freely. I knew they would. Oh mom and dad, I feel you here but you are not. I loved you here and that lives on. She welcomes me; the lady whose home it has been for many years, a smile on her face as tears make hot trails down my cheeks. And then I enter.

Our front room—living room. Lots of living went on here. Dad sat by the window in a recliner, and Mom preferred the couch across the room. I liked the floor, sitting cross-legged watching Gilligan’s Island, Mannix, The Carol Burnett Show, and more. They talked, laughed, sang, and taught me about life in this room of living.

Our stone fireplace is still there with small cracks and crevices—the place where heaping wrapping paper was placed after a big Christmas morning. Stuffed, waiting for my father to light it later that night while I watched for sparks to spit from between the screen. I touch it, the cool feel of the grey stone and my Dad is there too.

We walk into the old kitchen, now the new one, so updated and lovely. She decorates beautifully; we lived a little plainer, but I see the back door that led down, down, down steps to play with my cousins between the two houses. The walkway made of bricks out there and the coolness of the old grape arbor, now only a single- stemmed vine. And my grandparents are there.

I turn back into the kitchen and see where Mom stood many hours cooking, baking, making magic. Her appliances are in the same spots and though the cupboards are changed, I see them turn to light wood once again. And my mother is there.

The basement is next and it is here that I see the most changes. Once only a cellar made of cement floor and cement block walls painted light green, there is paneling and flooring and different rooms—no longer the wide open basement to roller skate around and around. Yet one thing remains untouched. Dad’s little work shop, spare room, he called it. His shoemaker supplies were in there, and I can smell the old leather and polish. In there the old cement blocks are untouched and yet I touch and feel the coolness under my hand and it warms me. The floor is where my dad stood, and I take his hand in my heart and he squeezes back so gently.

When we take the stairs to the second floor, they creak in all the right spots. I can’t imagine the sounds that were such a big part of life now bringing me to life again and sharing their secrets with me. Little girl, they whisper, you’ve come home.

To the top of the stairs I see my old playroom. It is a craft room now, lovely and perfect but it was perfect in my time too with dolls, games, child’s vanity set, record player, view master, colorforms, Barbie, and Beautiful Crissy. And then there is my bedroom.

The sliding closet doors with the wood grain are still there and they used to look like scary faces to me as a child, but now they look happy and they approve of my arrival. I make peace with them and give away all the scary thoughts I held so close—I give away a portion of myself—the sad little girl, and a new butterfly emerges from her cocoon and she flies free.

The bathroom is fairly unchanged, and yes, it is our old tub but it looks amazing. And it’s the one place I feel a chill run through me as I picture the day Mom fell there and had the cardiac arrest; but I also feel a good chill as the thoughts bring me to her Near Death Experience and amazing good life. No, your life didn’t end here, Mom. In many ways, it began.

We are in my parent’s bedroom next and there is a huge butterfly on the wall—a decoration which practically bowls me over with its meaning. Mom, you loved butterflies. They were special to you. I stand where I used to watch my mom and dad sleeping; making sure they were there, making sure they were breathing. It’s a good room, filled with sensory memories—a jewelry box of my mother’s that I loved looking through and her Evening in Paris perfume; Dad’s little cedar chest of army medals, Lemon Pledge. Mom sang Bushel and a Peck to me in this room, and Little Lamb. She called me her shining star.

Down the steps, my hand lightly grazes the wrought iron railing; I used to play with the bottom part that moved and now I reach out and slide it up and back and I am eleven all over again.

My visit is almost at an end as I wander through the back yard. It looks so small to me, and the big tree is gone, and nothing is the same. But my eyes wander to the flower bed where beloved pets are laid to rest. My heart cracks as I honor them with a prayer of thanksgiving for the comfort they brought.

I say goodbye and whisper I love you to my house that is no longer my house. But I will always love you and treasure our time there, good and bad. I say goodbye to Mom as she disappears into the wind and the swaying flowers; and then Dad, as he follows her where I cannot go. My grandparents blow a gentle kiss and they, too are gone.

My peace is made, and it’s taken fifty years. Fifty years in the blink of an eye. But I am changed, I am better.