Home Part 2…Memories

I’m getting settled. Husband and I have worked together to make our one room (large family room) function as bedroom, living room, office, and exercise space. Cozy. Putting the bed (twin with trundle) together was actually a fun experience. Sleeping in it even better.

Today in Arizona my siblings will be scattering my mother’s ashes across the desert she loved so much. Because of limited finances (neither husband or I have jobs or income), I decided not to fly out and participate. Part of me is sad to miss out, but the practical side of me won out. I will close my eyes and see her smile as she spoke of her love of the desert, and I will be okay.

Many years ago, after my dad died, we scattered his ashes on the 18th fairway of one of his favorite golf courses. At first this seemed odd. I had served as a pastor in several states, performed many funerals, and each one ended in a cemetery. Dad wanted to be cremated: pragmatic and cost effective. No services: too emotional, not his style. So, casting his cremains where he would be happiest made sense. Enough that it then became my mother’s wish to follow suit.

Here’s what makes that extra special in my mind. Every time I pass a golf course (and I did that daily on my way to work for the year after Dad died) I would think of my dad. I would remember his smile and stories of good games and lousy outings when he got home and put away his clubs. My husband golfed with my dad and it has been a special source of memories for him, too. That’s how we remember Dad. Not e don’t have to go to a certain cemetery and stare at a rock. We see him alive and happy.

So today, Mom will become one with the desert, and that makes me smile, but it will forever be owls that will trigger my memories of Mom. Like this little guy, perching on my coffee mug. It will be endless games of Scrabble, or Words with Friends…and I’m sure she would have loved Wordle.

This morning, I’m immensely grateful for the past two years (see previous posts that explain this life change). The cost was enormous. The discomfort, loneliness, distance, and loss immeasurable. I can’t thank my husband, daughters, and grandchildren enough for supporting me and loving me through this.

Once when I was in the throes of a teenager angsty tantrum, Mom and I had words. Exasperated, I went to the garage where my dad was creating beautiful pinecone wreaths. I had barely left the steps when the angry words came tumbling from my mouth, “How do you put up with her?”

He slowly removed his work gloves, set them on the table, and turned to look at me. I swear the moment was developing in the slowest motion possible. I stepped onto the garage floor and waited for him to speak.

“She’s your mother and you will respect her.”

That’s it. That’s all he said and then he went back to work.

I thought about that scene several times over my two years caring for Mom. Her rigid schedule and OCD behaviors could make me crazy in a blink. Her quirky rituals and superstitions most times made no sense…but that’s how she was. And I learned that I not only respected her, but loved her fiercely. And I would do whatever it took to make sure she was happy and well-cared for…to the very end.

I miss daily Scrabble. I miss knowing what day it was and exactly when it would be time to eat…and what. Nine pineapple chunks for breakfast with sliced banana—12 slices and exactly the same size. How to make a half a deli ham and sliced swiss cheese sammich with just the right amount of mustard. Dinner: Monday hotdogs; Tuesday boca burger; Wednesday mashed potatoes with Lloyds bbq; Thursday Gorton’s panko fish portions; Friday pizza; and Saturday grilled cheese. Sunday was up for grabs, but her two favorites were jumbo shrimp from Culvers, or a quesadilla from Chipotle.

I miss so much, but more than things…I have memories.

Tracing and Anticipating

I wrote this in 2009 and posted it as a note on Facebook–it came up as “memories” reminder. I’m reposting it and will edit it later. I needed the message.

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Our three year old grandson, Asher, started pre-school this fall. From the get go, we knew he was a bright child. He even came on his due date. We watched Baby Einstein videos with him until we all knew them by heart. Very early, he knew his shapes, colors, letters, and numbers.

At Pre-school they are teaching the kids their letters and numbers and having them trace them. Asher walks around with his left hand in the air, at the ready for the next thing to trace. If he isn’t tracing the letters, he’s counting how many characters or letters are in the word or string of words. He traces letters on the TV, on boxes, on books, from the newspaper, or on the shirt someone has on. One day, I found him sitting on the floor in the dining room. We have a shelf there with accident/spare clothes for him. He had all his spare shirts lying out and his own shirt off. When I asked what he was doing he looked at me with that “isn’t it obvious, Mema” look. Then, as matter of factly as he could, he informed me that he was tracing. Every letter around him screams to be traced!

Reflecting on Asher’s tracing, I began to see three components that made Asher such a good tracer. First, he walked through his day, minute by minute and room by room, anticipating, no expecting, that there would be letters to trace or count. What do you eagerly anticipate? A quick read of Romans 8 paints a clear picture of what we need to be anticipating.

Anticipating that God is at work, that he has a plan and it includes us, drives us, spurs us, motivates us to be ready. Asher walks around expecting to find something to trace. His little hand is often in the air, making circles, like an airplane getting ready to land. The word tells us we are to be ready, to always have an answer when someone asks us what are hope is about.

Could you do that? I’m not asking if you know some specific plan or canned presentation. I don’t care if you have scripture memorized, but can you (from a sincere heart) tell someone, “This is where I was. This is what God in Christ did for me. And this is where I’m headed.” It’s your story, are you ready to tell it?

And finally, I have been so impressed by Asher’s focus. His questions reveal his passion to learn more. He listens to all our conversations. I know this because often my words come back to me through him. It has caused me to be more conscious of what I say and how I say it. We’ve even had to resort to spelling things we want to keep above his head. Everything he sees is an item to trace. If he’s not tracing letters, then his finger runs around the circumference or perimeter of an item. Some days he carries his step stool from room to room so that he can be sure to catch whatever you’re doing.

Right now Asher seems to be practicing the fine art of learning. It reminded me of Brother Lawrence’s continual practice of the awareness of God. And I started to wonder: what keeps me from anticipating God at every turn? Do I have preconceived and limiting notions about who God is and what he can do? What keeps me from being ready? Is it fear, or busyness, or ignorance of the urgency, or God help us: lack of love? What keeps me from being focused? The enemy is the expert at divide and conquer. If he can get us to thinking in terms of sacred and secular, he knows it’s just a short distance disconnecting our head and heart.

When I was in seminary the second time around, a Sunday School teacher asked our younger daughter, Beth (Asher’s mom), what she wanted to be when she grew up. Beth’s answer struck the teacher enough that she made sure to tell me. Beth’s answer was, “a student like my mom.” There is always a need for us to put into practice what we know, but oh, that God would rekindle in each of us the insatiable desire to learn.

Then we would, like Asher, be anticipating, ready, and focused.

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