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Sunday, May 27, 2012

dimly the future

yesterday my sweet almost-6-year old emma-girlie was playing with her best friend and 'twin', cherrylyn.

i happened to overhear bits of their conversation.

emma: 'pretend your mom is 65, and mine is 63, and they are best friends like we are, and we all live together, and....."

cherrylyn: 'ok, and they go places together, and they have a lot of kids, and they have a bakery..."

and on and on they chattered, building an imaginary world that was created out of their own reality. well, emma's reality.

that sobering reality is that she has a mother who is in her 60's.

it's no big deal to her. i keep up. i dye my hair. she doesn't know, my girlie doesn't, that her mommy is a full generation older than her friend's mommies...she doesn't realize that being 60 plus is not really "normal" for a child her age.

but i know.

and i see dimly into the hazy future and i wonder...i wonder...

when she's a teenager, will i still be able to keep up?

what supplements can i take that will keep me young?

what else can i do that will delay the inevitable decline of this dear old body to the point that my little daughter notices that her mother is old?

she asked me the other day..."mommy, are you an old lady?"

i gasped in mock horror.

"oh my goodness, no, emma! mommy is not an old lady!"

but in many ways i am.

i'm old enough to have regrets, and to do things differently with emma than i did with the first little birds in my nest- i am old enough to know better now.

i'm wiser. i'm softer. i'm tireder.

yes, i know that's not a word.

i try to peer through the shadows into the future. at what point will emma be a motherless child?

at what point will we say that final goodbye?

how much can i teach her to make her ready to face life alone- far too young?

but then i think...every precious moment is a gift. nobody has a guarantee of 18 years with their child. nobody can ever pour enough of herself into a little one to prepare that child to launch from the nest into a confusing and difficult world, even when mom is only a phone call away.

i have a relative who refused to learn to cook while she lived at home with her mother. everything was done for her by a doting parent. when that child got married and left home, she'd call every night to ask mom how to make supper.

emma will not have that option, i don't think.

but even if i can't squeeze it all in, don't have time to teach her to cook, there are other things...

 i hope she knows how much i love her.

i hope she remembers the fun we have baking, making play doh, reading together, creating a tropical jungle around our house together, going on trips, singing, playing piano, and all the other lovely things that fill our days.

it's no joke to be a senior parent of a small child. it's no sacrifice either.

it's all joy.

i cannot see into the shadows in front of us, so i simply adore the present.

and i choose to not fear the future.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"pale, but adamant": GRAPHIC WARNING

i was 28.

my youngest child was 4, the eldest was 9.

my DH was in india on a missions trip.

i was bleeding to death.

my uterus, was in fact, falling out of my body and pouring the life out of me. my hemoglobin was 4. i was too weak to walk, i laid on the couch all day and ladies from the church brought food and cleaned my house and cared for the kids. i was dying.

when DH called home, after about 2 weeks of this, i told him to come home immediately and shouted over the terrible connection that i was hemorrhaging and needed to have surgery right away. he had trouble understanding what i was saying. but to his credit, he did cut his trip short and within a week was home to prevent my imminent death.

he carried me to a local doctor, who referred me to a specialist, who tried to send me back to the local doctor. i recall sitting in that office, shaking my head, trembling with weakness, and saying, "no, take this out of me. you have to."

i think he knew. and he wrote on my chart, 'pale, but adamant'. scheduled me for surgery. within a week, i was relieved of my hemorrhaging organ and began to live again.

i've often said, i never really felt good a day in my life till i had that hysterectomy.

i began to climb ladders and clean windows. i cooked and played with my children and went for walks and became strong again.

that was many decades ago. most women grieve the loss of their uterus. i don't. i never have. i never missed it.

but i am thankful that it was the home to grow a beautiful daughter and a beautiful son, and an angel child who has grown up in heaven...

and i've never said thank you to it, never appreciated it like i should have.


thank you, dear uterus, for doing your job well. i'm sorry you failed, but i don't miss you.

the end.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

on my knees
at the foot of the Cross,
i position myself
in humility and reverence.

nothing in me
is worthy of this,
the Cross- the Cross.

so i bow,
low and emptied out,
before ultimate forgiveness.

if He can forgive me,
so full of me and vile,
how can i do less than

shall i rise up-
in the hideous glory of myself,
proud and righteous,
and bare my bleeding heart
for all to see?

could i? would i?

bowed low,
i linger here,
beneath the arms of mercy,
quieted, still,
looking long
on the anguished face
of love.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

corners of my mind

everyone has a dark corner of the mind that hides from the light of day.

in this picture of my grandma's house as it looks now, (courtesy of google maps) if you look closely, you can see a tiny window high up in the peak of the roof ...this image evokes a memory that was hidden for decades in the darkest deepest recesses of my mind.

when i look at that tiny window, i remember a dark night, a shadowy figure beside my bed, a thudding and a shouting and the wail of police sirens and the silent deafening screams coming out of my mouth as i stood shivering barefoot in dewy grass.

in between the beginning and the end of this memory, stands this image. i know that to get from the A to the C, i had to go through this tiny window- the B.

but my mind does not remember this.

there's a blank.

i realized this about 10 years ago while undergoing some intensive inner healing- and i gave myself permission to remember what happened.

it took 6 months before the truth slowly crept out of the deep crevass where my subconscious had buried it. and even then, it had a dream-like quality to it that made me unsure if it really happened.

even now, i'm not sure. but this is all i've got.

that night, my uncle stood beside my bed. i was terrified of him at the best of times, as he was a silent and scary man who smelled of alcohol and never spoke. my 12-year-old self knew that something was wrong with him. to awaken out of a deep sleep and see him standing there in just his underwear jolted me into panic, and then the darkness came.

the dream is's dark, and i feel pressure on my slowmotion i get out of the bed, run up the stairs to where my grandmother slept, tear through her room to the end wall, stand on a rickety chair, and squeeze my trembling body out this tiny window onto the roof. then i drop to the ground below, stand there in the freezing grass in my bare feet and scream in the morning chill until help comes in the form of my dear uncle bill...who shouts and rants and calls- i presume-  the police

 and then everything stops and i don't know what happens after that.

my mind has done the best it can to bring to light what happened, and that's all there is.

and it doesn't hurt any more, but this picture makes me sad.

bad things happen to little girls.

scary things happen.

and the memories get buried under the layers of life...until they can't stay buried anymore and zombie-like, unearth themselves under the pressure of the pain.

i'm glad this corner of my mind disgorged to the best of its ability what it could.

the healing is light. it is the LIGHT.

he was there, and he helped me through that window.

but even if he hadn't, he could still heal the memory.

the mind is an incredible thing, doing what it must to preserve sanity.

but i'm thankful that the darkness cannot hide forever. the light speaks truth. the lies flee. healing comes.

and the window is just a window on an old tumbledown house on a little street from my childhood.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

i have 5 children. 3 of them are adopted.

each mother's day, but this one in particular, i think about the birth mothers of my 3 who are privileged to have two moms. 

as emma says, 'yippee! i have two moms! a birth mom and a REAL MOM!"

but i think of the women who gave birth to my beautiful heart reaches out to them and i wish there was a way to let them know how loved their kids are, how proud they could be of these gifts for whom they chose the hope of a better life.

so i just pray, as i have prayed all these long years, that the heart of each one of these three women would be comforted and they would know somehow that their child is safe, loved, happy and well.

and i wish they could know how thankful i am that they chose to make the sacrifice- they chose to hold their babies on open hands so that God, in His strange and wonderful way, could weave the circumstances into a pattern that brought our children home to us, as He no doubt destined.

no doubt. i use that phrase with intention...

i have no doubt that each child found their way to our home and hearts because it was His wish and His design.

there are no accidents when we ask for a child. there are no accidents when we are surprised by one, as with our little emma. 

it was all His plan.

i hope the precious birth moms of my kids know that. 

i pray they know that they were not failures as mothers. 

Lord, help them to know that. Help them to know they did a good thing, a wise thing.

Help them to know i am thankful.

and comfort their hearts this mother's day. 

My mother was a lady. Her name is Donna- which, fittingly, means ‘lady’.

She’s been in heaven 20 long years, and I’ve missed her every single day. In honor of her memory, I’d like to share a little of what I remember, and what I know, about this mighty little woman.

She was born in the depression, 1923, to a large, troubled English-Irish family who lived in a tiny house beside the railroad tracks. They were poor in every way. My mother was the 7th of 8 children…I don’t imagine she got much attention, especially since one of the older children was severely handicapped with cerebral palsy.

My grandmother Henrietta, whom we always called Grandma Chase, married John William Chase at 16 to escape an abusive stepmother. Her first little son, born when she was 17, died at just a few months old as a result of a horrific scalding accident. My teenaged grandmother was canning something and the boiler tipped over on the baby in the carriage beside the stove. My mind doesn’t want to go here, but I’m told the baby simply gasped and gasped for 3 days and then died. Right when it happened, my grandfather screamed, ‘You’ve killed my son!’ and fled. He never came back till it was all over and the baby was buried. I have never been told the child’s name.

My grandma was pregnant at the time with her second child- and gave birth to a severely brain-damaged little girl, Hazel.

Then came Fred, Lloyd, May, and Evelyn. And then my mother, ‘Donna Pearl’. I think fondly that giving their 7th baby such a beautiful name may have meant some reconciliation on the part of her parents. Later came a little boy, Ralph. He froze to death in a city gutter at the age of 45, an alcoholic and homeless, and my mother grieved unspeakably.

So treasured was my mother among her siblings that her older brother Fred named his little girl ‘Donna Pearl’ too. When he later brought home his motherless child to be raised and eventually adopted by Grandma Chase, it was quite confusing to have two ‘Donna Pearl’s in the house, so mom became just ‘Donna’ and the little one was always ‘Donna Pearl’, spoken as one word- ‘Donnapurl’. 

Mom almost died at the age of 7 from pneumonia in both lungs. No antibiotics then…in the hospital they put tubes directly into her lungs to drain the fluid that was strangling her. I was always horrified at the vast holes in her little back, evidence of what must have been a ghastly surgery. My grandmother used to tell me in hushed tones of the day she saw the death angel in my mom’s hospital room, and how she rebuked the gray shrouded figure and commanded her dying daughter to live.

And live she did.

She graduated from high school and became a ‘stenographer’- an old-fashioned term for ‘secretary with typing skills’. Along the way she became an excellent piano player and singer. Her sweet voice gave her a chance to sing in a rather famous gospel trio, ‘The Grace Trio’, at her home church in the city. She sang on the church’s radio program for years.

Donna developed an evangelistic fervor that caused her to begin to travel with an evangelist, ‘Sister Margaret’, on crusades. This is how she met my dad…during a crusade in a little country church she found him standing alone on the edge of the crowd under a tree, like Nathaniel- and stepped forward to save his soul.

And so, and so…they fell in love.

This tiny, elegant, frail city girl walked bravely out of her world when she married my father. She moved with him to a farm and did her very best to learn how to live without luxury and conveniences. She tried so hard. Baking bread, milking cows, planting home gardens, and having a baby every year…her little frame began to bend with weariness and the telling scars of the harshness of the winters took a toll. She went snow-blind sometimes. Her teeth fell out. Her dainty hands became crooked and wrinkled from handwashing clothes for years on the washboard.

But she still sang.

Her voice was a lilting soprano, with a brilliant timbre in the gentle vibrato. She’d sing through the trials, sing through the dark hours, hum when things were really, really bad. Her crooked fingers taught each of us to play piano, accompanied by the delicate but firm whomp of a hairbrush on the head when we made mistakes. She played the pump organ for services at the little country church, until I got old enough to be commandeered for that job.

She baked and cooked and kept a sparsely beautiful house filled with cast-off antiques. We learned to eat properly and have good table manners. We were poor, but we were proud. There were flowers in the house in summertime, fresh bread when we’d get home from school on cold winter afternoons. We were fed oatmeal, and sardines, and apples, and roast beef on Sundays with sometimes a pie…and always the tea- strong, sweet, creamy…proper English tea.

We were loved, prodded, pushed to achieve, admonished sternly and disciplined without mercy. There was a line we dared not cross. The glint in her green eyes and the tightening of her lips was enough to signify that it was time to stop.

But Mother could laugh! Oh, she could laugh. A deep roaring belly laugh would burst out of her tiny throat and we would gaze in astonishment at the tears of hilarity flowing down.

Mom suffered from headaches, possibly due to her eye problems. In retrospect, I think they were migraines. She would ask me to brush her hair; it seemed to ease the pain. I would scowl selfishly and quickly run the bristle brush through her fine light-brown hair, just wanting to get it done and get on with what I was doing. How I wish I could go back and do it again with gentleness and compassion.

As the oldest, I silently and sadly watched my mother’s strength fade with the years. During her last pregnancy, she wept in frustrated exhaustion as the child within refused to be born on time. After ten months, finally my youngest sister came forth, weighing ten pounds 13 ounces. How my little mama did that, I don’t know. She told me that she said to the despairing doctor, ‘You pull, and I’ll push’ and out came the baby. Mom was about 4 feet ten. Incredible.

But she was strong on the inside. As dad disappeared periodically into his depressive episodes, she held on. She cowered to nothing. She wept in secret but she flamed in public. She flapped her spiritual apron at the demons oppressing us the same way she flapped it at the raging bull in our field. ‘Shoo! Shoo!’ she screamed, at both the bull and the devil.

She washed endless dishes, made thousands of meals, changed diapers for 8 children, nursed illness, swept floors, helped with homework, entertained, and as the house emptied out of the older ones, took in and fostered two native boys. She taught choirs at the local school. She was a cook in a shelter for problematic juveniles. She was discerning in her friendships, but those she chose were precious to her. When my little sisters were playing sports in school, she went to games and cheered them on. She was spunky and brave and resilient, even after a head-on car accident and then a fall that resulted in a broken pelvis challenged her aging body to rebound.

One of my favorite memories is a turbulent meal when my father was being particularly difficult. Mother came to the end of her patience, as she sometimes did. She grabbed a large open gallon pail of Roger’s Corn Syrup and set it upside down on his head, and the golden liquid slowly ran down around his ears and over his eyes. My dad was so astounded that his rage turned to hysteria- I can still see him with his head under the tap, cackling with laughter. We children did not know whether to laugh or cry.

Mom’s green eyes would crackle with fury when she was angry. But quick as a lightning flash, the sweet lines of her mouth would bend in laughter. She could talk…she’d stay up with us late at night while the parties were going on in our house- grand central, we were…she loved kids and company and fun. Dad, of course, had long since hidden away in his room and gone to bed.

Her disapproval brought ice to the bones. A steely quiet would reign in the house, and until she was pacified, the air was thick with gloom. We were accustomed to dad’s moods and they meant nothing, but mom had to be happy or ‘ain’t nobody happy.’ If we lipped off to her, a swift stinging slap to the face would happen before we could even flinch or blink.

Some of my kids and grandkids have her attributes, including the ‘Irish’, as she called it- meaning the ability to instantly switch moods and go from night to day. Some of them have the sweet voice, the huge doe eyes, the dear little pointy off-center nose. And one of them has the special gift of her name- ‘Pearl’ .

I miss her every day. I miss seeing her perfect slanted handwriting on letters. I miss her scolding. I miss her singing. I miss her gift for entertaining and making people of every race and color feel like they belonged. I miss her love of rummage sale bargains, and her joy in sunshine and flowers and the colors of fall. I miss making her tea- strong and sweet.

I wish she had lived longer- cancer captured her as it did with all her sisters except Hazel. I wish she hadn’t died before she’d seen all of my children, and their children. I wish, I wish…

Happy mother’s day, dearest mother…I know you probably are very busy in heaven leading the children's choir and organizing bake sales and giving advice to the Lord on how to deal with the devil, but I hope just for one moment you are allowed to remember that you have 8 very thankful children here on earth, and ever so many grandchildren- 25, I think- and quite a few greatgrandchildren- 14, I think- and all of them are a result of your choices and your love.

And someday soon, we will be together again. And we shall have tea. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

emma’s hands

your little hands
are pudgy and soft
brown and wrinkly around the pink nails
your skin is so pretty
i hold your hands
and squish them
and kiss them

and i wonder what you will be
with these little hands

your little fingers
struggle with pencils
poise  careful above piano keys
clap at happy things
stroke cats softly
rub my back
fold to pray

and i wonder what you will be
with these little hands