Tag Archives: thanks

CoCo Chanel, Pocahontas, and me

CoCo

Ms. Chanel

Pocahontas

Me? I’m around somewhere. Mostly behind my camera, or driving, or reading, or knitting….

and paying attention.

One of my favorite teachers in high school described me as “Eagle eyes” because I was always watching, observing, but not necessarily saying much. But whenever he needed to know something about someone in class, he knew who to ask.

I guess I’m that same girl, usually quiet, non-obtrusive, but watching and listening.

Alecto and CG are so very different, and at the same time, so very similar. They are both articulate, opinionated, well-traveled, self-sufficient, self-confident, and down right crazy at times. Riotous fun.

Who else but Alecto would bring the wrong chicken, so that we’d have to make a chicken feed run? She went into that feed store wearing someone’s mamaw’s dress, purple socks and orange tennis shoes, and we had to stop her from tasting the salt blocks. She offered to bail me out of jail if I got into trouble on a run into a college town on Saturday night for supplies. She let¬† CG and I both indulge in her secret stash of Chanel face cream and lipstick. Decadent.

And CG? CG cooked. I’d forgotten how much I love the sound of a pressure cooker. I was twelve years old again, in my gramma’s kitchen, hearing the sounds and smelling the fragrances of country cooking at its finest. Country ham and gravy, beans and cornbread (with onions and chow-chow), fried apple pies, BACON!

We practiced yoga on the back porch. We relaxed in the hot tub. We went to the local tourist trap and braved the crooked house and dressed up in costumes and had our picture taken.

We were, in a word, girls.

I was never very good with girls. It wasn’t that I “did not play well with others”, it was that I never stayed around long enough to make lasting relationships with other girls. These adventures are new territory for me. As CG says, it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.

So, here’s to you, Alecto and CG: thanks for letting me be one of the girls.

Petticoat Junction

Front porch swing

it sneaks up on you when you’re not looking

Grief.

Again.

It’s been four years since my dad died, in early November 2004. That first Thanksgiving was, um, difficult because I was behind the locked doors for a few days.

But each year has been a litle easier. The bad memories, the ones of illness and hospitals and waiting for hours, uncertain about what was coming next, have begun to fade. The good memories, of Thanksgivings past, spent at Oak Island or home in Virginia, are becoming more vivid. Like the year we stayed up until 0’dark-thirty in the morning watching My Fair Lady, or the year Daddy went to WalMart on Black Friday to buy….cookies.

So here we are. It’s 2008, Mom has remarried to a wonderful man with a huge family. I’m getting to know my new step-brothers and step-sisters and their families….I may need to buy Christmas cards ’cause I don’t think I have enough in my stash! Our parents’ wedding celebration last weekend was a trip, literally and figuratively. Parties are way more fun with lots of people, and there were lots of us.

Thursday we traveled to spend Thanksgiving with Hubby’s family in Virginia. Lots more people. It’s funny, but I actually met Hubby’s brother before I met Hubby, in high school band. And his girlfriend, now his wife of way more years than I should admit. So when we get together the topic of high school or high school acquaintances will invariably come up. One of Hubby’s nieces found some old photo albums and started flipping through them. What a marvelous time! We laughed at our 80’s haircuts, about how skinny we all were back then. We looked at wedding pictures, bridesmaids in a rainbow of pastel-colored dresses, all made by the brides mother. Does anyone do that anymore? It’s so NOT Vera Wang.

Then there were albums of candids from all over. Niece found a picture of hubby and me taken on Halloween in, oh, about 1982. Definitely before we got married. I found a dress, hat and some beads and went to the party as a flapper. (And yes, I can do the Charleston.) Hubby, well, I think this was the year had put on mismatched suit pants and jacket, white socks, loafers, and put a bag over his head and declared himself to be the “Unknown Comic.” (And if you reach way back into the cobwebs of your 1970’s mind and retrieve the Gong Show, you’ll remember the Unknown Comic. Of course, Gene Gene the Dancing Machine was my personal favorite. I digress.) Niece has challenged me to scan the photo and put it on facebook as my profile picture, which will be done before the end of business today.

There were other pictures from 1982. Various Hubby-family functions, cute babies, etc. But there was one event that year that brought both of our families together for a party: my college graduation. We used to have a cabin on New River where we’d go on weekends to rest, eat, fish, eat, visit with river friends, eat. And in the summer the river was perfect for tubing. So we had a graduation party for me at the cabin, and hubby’s family (only he was boyfriend then) were all there. There were pictures of the river, which is lovely. There were pictures of us tubing the river. There was a picture of my graduation cake: Garfield. I love orange tabby cats, even the cartoon variety. Then someone turned the page and there it was: a picture of three of the “adults” in attendance that day, all standing next to the river in a semi-circle, laughing. Two of them were immediately recognizable: Hubby’s parents. Both of them passed away in 2004 as well. The third person was standing at a funny angle, face in 3/4 perspective. So I looked a little closer and…it was Daddy. Smiling, his hands seeming to be in motion, as he was known to do when telling a story or making a point.

And he was young. Younger than I am now. He looked so happy, not a care in the world. He loved the river, and my heart broke for him when, many years later, it became too difficult for him to keep up the maintenance on the property and he and Mama sold it.

I looked at the picture and managed not to cry, but to remember the fun we had that day. I missed my dad, again. But I was also thankful to have had him, thankful to see that his influence could be seen in other peoples’ lives, people who weren’t my family then, but have become dear family to me in the years since.

Grief sneaks up on you when you’re not looking for it. You turn a page, empty a drawer, rummage through the basement looking for the yard rake, and something catches your eye.

But other things can sneak up on you when you’re not looking: love, joy, friendship.

My mom found new love, and while I wasn’t looking, I found friendship and joy.

Thanksgiving, again

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, again.

We used to go to the beach for Thanksgiving, husband, kids, mom and dad. We’d rent a house and either cook a meal or order one from Food Lion. The last time we went to the beach for Thanksgiving was in 2003, and we took the flu with us. We all had it at one point or another during the week, except for Daddy. He was healthy the whole week, while the rest of us took turns with the fever, chills, headaches, etc. Daddy was looking at real estate magazines, and I think he and Mama might have actually considered selling out and moving to the beach. Since we were all sick, we went out for Thanksgiving dinner, to the buffet at the Lucky Fisherman. We all left the beach a day early because we were sick.

That happened once before, on a trip to the beach for Thanksgiving. We had rented a different house. Mama and Daddy left for the beach before we did, because hubby and I both had to work. When we got to there on Tuesday, Daddy wasn’t feeling very well and he got worse as the week progressed. We cooked Thanksgiving dinner. On Friday morning, I got up to find Mama and Daddy packed and leaving, heading straight for home and the hospital. We thought then that we’d had our last Thanksgiving together. I remember Mama asking me to take a lot of pictures that year, just in case. After they left for the hospital, I felt so lost and confused. We went to a local gift shop and I bought a Christmas present for Daddy, a tide clock for the Cape Fear River inlet, so he’d always know when the tides were at the beach, even when he was home. I think I was gambling that as long as he had the tide clock he wouldn’t leave, and I guess it worked for a couple of years at least.

Daddy died 3 weeks before Thanksgiving in 2004. On the Friday before Thanksgiving my baby boy came home from school and said that someone had found a suicide note in his 4th period desk and he had been questioned about it, but that he hadn’t written it. The following Monday he admitted that he had written it, and my emotions kicked into overdrive. I called my next-door neighbor to ask her about finding a counselor for him and in the process I became completely unglued. My last 2 grandparents had died, both of my in-laws had died, my father had died, and my son had written a suicide note.

And I broke.

My neighbor asked me to let her take me to the emergency room. Husband was two hours away, at a job site. Mom was two hours away, at her home. I didn’t know what to do, and I couldn’t stop crying. So we went to the hospital. I walked in the emergency room door and the first person I saw, the volunteer working the sign-in desk, was a man from our church. A man who has, and continues to remind me of Daddy. I knew I was in the right place. I spent the afternoon in the ER. Bill, the man from church, came and checked on me several times. My friend Lori, the Parish Nurse from our church, came. (Yes, I belong to a Baptist church w/ a Parish Nurse on staff. Interesting, huh?) My neighbor brought me a teddy bear that travels with me whenever I go on trips now. My husband met the kids at home and took care of them, and we all decided that I should probably stay in the psych hospital.

Only there were no beds available.

So my neighbor had to take me to another hospital in a larger city. I was checked in about midnight, went through a modified strip search, had all of my belongings searched for anything I could use to hurt myself, like the string from my sweatpants. I was allowed to keep the teddy bear, some paper and a pen. I spent the next 3 days at that hospital, and was released on Thanksgiving Day. My mom had taken the kids to her house, so husband and I spent the day doing nothing, just trying to understand what had happened and maybe what was going to happen next.

Now it’s 3 years later, and we’re still trying to understand what’s going to happen next. I don’t work any more, and know that I will never be able to work at the technical level I did before all of this happened. There was long term disability income, but only for 24 months so it’s gone now. We’re trying to stay afloat while a lawyer and the Social Security Administration try to decide what to do with me. There are things that have happened during these past 3 years that I have been able to experience only because of being broken. Good things. Other peoples’ lives that have been changed, for the better, because I was broken. Things can never be the way they were, and I wouldn’t want them to be.

Last night we watched the movie “Evan Almighty”. I remember when “Bruce Almighty” came out, and I saw the trailer for it and thought it would be blasphemous and swore I’d never see it. Then husband and son saw it at the $2.00 theater, and husband told me about it. Yes, it’s childish and silly and vulgar at times, but I like it. “Evan” was milder than “Bruce” and I like it better. The scene where God talks to Evan’s wife in the restaurant resonated with me. If you pray for patience, does God give you patience, or the opportunity to practice patience? If you pray for courage, does God give you courage, or the opportunity to be courageous? If you pray for a closer family….well, you get the idea.

So, what opportunities have made themselves known during these past 5 years? Patience? Yes. Courage? Yes. Togetherness? Yes. Trust? Most definitely, yes.

But I think the biggest opportunity has been…to be thankful for what we have and who we have in our lives.

Because tomorrow something or someone I thought I had might not be here.

It’s the opportunity to be thankful for……today.

Yep, it’s Thanksgiving again. And to those who are part of this life I have, I say “Thanks.”

Blessed BE.

C.