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Posts Tagged ‘family’

The day audibly begins at seven am, nearly every day. I hear a greeting, or a bump on the floor above my downstairs apartment, and know that one or both of the dear people upstairs are ready for the routine that puts them above and beyond any married people I have ever known personally.

The sounds morph into a stair creaks, and two sets of footsteps that stop for the next half hour. I know where they stop. It is at the double recliner love-seat that is well named. My daughter and her husband are sitting there in bathrobes with their bare feet up and the morning paper out. If the TV is on, I don’t hear it.

What I do hear is two voices. TALKING TO ONE ANOTHER! Often there is just a comfortable burble of sound, intermittent, and reciprocal. Sometimes, like this morning, there is an outburst– I don’t hear the words. It sounds heartfelt, but I can’t really tell the nature of the passion… excitement, assertiveness, or consternation? Can’t tell.

What I do know is that these people spend the first half hour of each morning at a regular meeting with coffee, newspaper, and each other. They share the news. They offer their opinions. They don’t always agree. But they always talk.

My daughter and her husband have been married for 33 years. They are dynamic, opinionated people with an inbuilt portion of “feist” that is not boring, and is sometimes volatile. They have powered through serious differences of opinion, and some big weather-changes. My own marriage did not survive such stresses, but theirs has.

These two are evidence that love is an action verb.

Living with relatives is a dicey matter sometimes. And I am mindful of the stresses to my own marriage caused by the in-house residency of my own mother in years past. No doubt my former husband suffered somewhat silently. We didn’t talk to each other every day at seven. Sometimes we didn’t talk to each other at all…other than in passing. We lasted 20 rather passive-aggressive years.

Neither of us found success in remarriage. We never learned how to “love”, v. trans. Not at least the talking back and forth kind of love.

Today there was an outburst…just about fifteen minutes ago. Footsteps went rather loudly up the stairs at 7:30 am…to the shower. As usual.

Outbursts are not terminal here, with them. They are fearless about communication of nearly any sort. They work the muscles of this marriage. Sometimes they get sore.

But they talk to each other. And answer. Every day.

I am in awe. And not walking on eggshells here. Seems as if their stability will withstand the presence of a mother-in-law. If not, they will say so. I count on it by now.

Old Swimmer

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Notes from the hearth: Being settled in the safe and sane confines of a vintage trailer is good for the wayfaring Senior. A few stepping stones away is the doorstep of my eldest daughter who is running, essentially, a boarding house for family refugees, and such a place one would never wish to graduate from! She’s a magical homemaker, serving up vittles worthy of royalty on a regular basis… and smoothing all the ruffled feathers brought to her home, and turning her husband to on a thousand fixit needs that effectively bring her foundlings into the bounds of self-sufficiency, step by step.

She points out to me that living in a trailer is a great training grounds. She knows…she lived in this very trailer with her husband for three or so years while they put their own house through a vast renovation some ten years ago. Her husband, a contractor, of course did these improvements “in his spare time” (read “hardly any time to breathe, actually”). So it took a long time.

The place has everything one needs for living, but in such efficiency that one HAS TO put things away where they go or else one cannot walk. Like a small boat, you have just enough room for your needs, and no extra. If you need extra room, you have to dump stuff out of your life. One pot, one pan, one whisk, etc. Use, wash, put in cupboard. Soon you are like a short order cook, reaching automatically to where the pot lives and finding it there every time, since there was no place to put it other than where it fits.

For a haphazard soul like me, this is the best boot camp imaginable. I always did say I liked simplicity. Now I get to really orchestrate daily and immediate simplicity or I die of “stuff” in the way. And the more I succeed, the more I like myself!

Will I be able to do this same thing in my new shop? That remains to be seen. The garage at my other daughter’s place is full of boxes containing my working materials and tools and supplies. Really a LOT of it.

Time will tell.

But for now I am remembering a precious meal with family last night with my littlest grandchild prancing around in her auntie’s very high heeled shoes pretending to be a grown up, and my eldest grandchild confident and wise chatting with two of his younger cousins about cars and computers and life. My children scarfed up traditional and original and new culinary wonders with abandon and lots of appreciation. We love each other here, in spite of being very much individual eccentrics, most of us. It’s just GOOD.

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BACK HOME TO HESTIA

Seniors have plateaus just as growing children do, only in reverse. They grow smaller, blinder, deafer, more forgetful and then they begin walking not so well.

They have been depending on the Social Security system to keep them through the downward spiral and tuck them in at the end in some sort of respectable way— not a mass grave or dumpster.

That’s pretty blunt, isn’t it?

Well, blunt is the blow, I am telling you from my current viewpoint, being at the flat part of a new lower ledge of the series of plateaus.

When beautiful winter makes you stiff and exhausted and unable to keep your own fire stoked, it IS a blow. Instead of inviting folks to come by and warm themselves, you find yourself hunkering as close as you can to a frail little lightbulb, and if you are lucky, your grown children recognize that you need a REAL fire, since you have nearly totally lost your own.

Senior Solution; Hermes heading home to Hestia

My travels (the other side of the story–did you click the link in the title?) have taken me on journeys rewarding and then other journeys that were clearly designed to be instructional, often with a large discomfort factor.

“Well, it’s how I am,” I explain to the kids. “I just TRY things.”

The counterpart to Hestia , the stay-by- the-fire goddess, was Hermes the traveler-adventurer god, strikingly different from Hestia, but a very close friend and neighbor to her.they were a duo who were the best of friends who did not marry and likely would  never have been compatible mates, so different were they.

I think I’ve got some humanoid  (sub-godly) traits of each of these opposites and I am now traveling from Hermes-mode back into Hestia-mode for the preservation of body and soul.

I am not alone. The economy, you know has yanked the rug out from under many hard-working retirees. And the cruel winter just past, and the inability of this 74 year old body to spring back in the expected way it always has — it’s a rude surprise that happened in one winter’s time.

Mortality is a subject that comes into stunning focus maybe once or twice during most folks’ lives, especially when a “close call” happens or when a dear one dies. Most of the time we let the matter of death simmer quietly on the back burner to be dealt with “later.” It’s not number one on our list of favorite things to plan for.  Once we have the matter of soul settled, we relax.

A winter like the once we just had in 2011-2012 brings the motality matter into sharp focus. When one has no way out of the cabin but to stumble down the moutainside a quarter mile in ice covered snow up to the knee caps, and one has a trick knee that will not operate properly on the downhill slope. It’s cllimbing down a steep slope so you can get to your car parked in a plowed area below. Then you dig out your car, and go to the store and get supplies. Then you park your car where it was before and get to carry the packages of supplies back up the mountain, and you have to stop every five steps to catch your breath.

This is not ordinary outdoor fun, it’s a real test of your physical plant, and my body did not pass it well at all. I really did feel as if I might die. I actually imagined that the local mountain lion might be considering me likely prey (wounded small mammal), and be planning his attack. I tried to make myself look big while bending over to catch my breath. I dragged my groceries rather than carry them, and I said loud things in all kinds of voices, mostly gruff.  I tried to sound as big as God.

“Mom, we have to get you OUTTA there,” the kids said. And they were right.

So my primeval wonderland is standing out there looking in my big windows, looking at me with sad leaves and the birds are gone because I have weaned them away from regular feedings. The intimacy I have enjoyed with the forest spirits– plants and animals– is being stressed now with the reality that I am having to pack up my belongings and journey away from them.

I do remember that comforting hearth, and the groaning board, and the laughter and pranks of my dear ones around the room. And now my young are strong and seem to have endless energy to fix, and do, and make. Yes, I will, as they suggest, come there and stay a while.

The love has changed hands so often between me and my children, and has been so thoroughly tested by fire and has come through stronger because of it, that I am secure in the bond, and content to lay aside my traveling cases and rest at their hearth and learn their new foods and teach their new generation the old stories.

They can afford me, they say, and I can come and rest there until my strength returns so that I can at least do the things I do well. They will do the things that are too much for me now. And it is with honor that they receive me at their table.

“Mom, you did the same for us for such a long time. You taught us how.”

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You know how it is when you call those 800 numbers, don’t you?  You get voices saying how important your call is to their recorded selves.  Then you get options.

If you are Spock, this works.

Seth Godin is my new live person on my computer.  I find him with his lovely large forehead with myriad “smiles” (those creases some folks have lined up when they raise their eyebrows) dropping a little gem into my email.  I open them right away.

Here’s what Seth told me today:

http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451b31569e201675ebfc3f2970b

YES!  This is why some people so enjoy the dashboard life!  It’s safe behind that keyboard and earphones!   No sticky messes to address!

I love Seth’s analogy (you did read the link, didn’t you?) and absolutely agree with every scrimptum of what he is saying.

I LOVE my computer.  It’s my connection to the whole world.

But there is NOTHING…nothing in the universe…more joyfully rewarding and more frighteningly fraught with “tarbabies” than human interaction.

I would die for my family.   But I can certainly imagine life without a computer…I’ve been planning for a while what I will do when cyberspace shuts down.   Only a matter of time… the cloud is heavy with potential bad weather.

Lurking in a wet environment

Old Swimmer

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Certain things happen over and over again, even if you don’t want them to.  Or even if you want them to, they happen very often at the most surprising time– or at least sooner than you would like.  Or later.  Like weather does.

  • Last Spring and This Winter

What you see in the large image is what the shop looked like about 10 weeks after we moved to this remote cabin about 800 feet up in the Olympic National Forest foothills.  A perfect spot for making art and carving bowls.  The boxes you see in there are unpacked items that had not yet found a good place to land, and the mess in the carport was stuff left from the previous tenant(s) who have enjoyed this property over its forty some years of existence.  The picnic table is sitting at that odd angle with its nearest side missing its bench board, because of the many times the driveway there has been badly flooded with run-off from the high mountains over to the left.  In rainy seasons, endless water comes from those hillsides, and in spring snow melt makes it even more dramatic.  The picnic table just kept sinking and sinking, and its big bolts rusted out and the wood expanded and contracted and then split, leaving the bench on the ground and rusty bolts sticking up at people contemplating finding a seat.   I find this table indispensable for outdoor carving and other messy projects.  I am indebted to the landlord for refusing to move that table (as if anyone could move it without simply sawing it up and burning it in the fire pit.) He knew how handy it always had been.

As you see, July turned into January of the following year, and the records will show that we had a record breaking winter storm during the first part of January which dumped well over a foot of snow all over the place.. over our trees (some of the well over 100 feet and with limbs stretching well over fifteen feet laterally, with lots of good surface footage to collect heavy loads of snow), and piled up an extra-huge layer of white on the picnic table.  Attatched to the building there are tarps to direct the wet or frozen material from the eaves to somewhere outside the unsealed base of the building.  The floors are not graded, and water likes to run inside. It is a garage, after all, most people think!

I have been maintaining two moats that go abreast of the building– the one of the left is currently a swiftly running river which, by human design, skirts the underpinnings of the building and sends the rushing water off into the woods as it slopes down behind.  On the right side is a smaller moat leading from the flood-prone graveled area to a groove dug around the periphery of the carport, which also (if debris is kept clear) moves toward the back of the building and then down the gorge to the right.  I have no idea where it goes from there, but am just happy to see it not staying near my shop for any length of time.

The cycle of seasons is clearly a life-principle that reminds us mortals that there are systems that we don’t control.  And the same sorts of things happen in all realms of life, for better or worse.

The repeat of relationship dysfunctions insists on reappearing time and time again.  Even through generations, things happen a certain way because they ALWAYS happened that way in a given family.  Opening one’s eyes to see the patterns is very difficult.  And while it is  difficult to understand the pattern as regards other people in an “off” relationship, it is nearly impossible to get any objectivity as to one’s own patterns within the cycle.

Dance of Anger is a helpful book.  Case studies on close relationships that are awry– and the story of how certain people approached mending this.

I am by nature a person who abandons things I cannot solve.  Really.  No wonder I have several really special friends who have accused me of being disloyal and abandoning them.  Well, it was out of self-preservation.  How did I get into these relationships?  Out of caring for the good things in these worthwhile and excellent people.  But I can not weather the storms that arise in these particular close relationships– not with the tools I currently have.  How long would it take to teach a 74 year old woman new tricks?

Actually, I have had professional counsel that leaving these relationships alone was a good move– because the gyrations of keeping them alive was going to make me nuts. I was told that the other party, in each case, was one that needed therapy also, and that was not something I could do for them.  And they would not.  One of the very serious mistakes I have made over and over again is choosing just the kinds of interesting folks who will get into this interplay with me– and it’s likely because it is a pattern that I grew up with and thought was normal.  I thought it was just natural to be bullheaded and to have close relatives who were also bullheaded and self-absorbed.  (Not a good combo if two such ones try to collaborate without some professional coaching.)

So, I need reworking — but I’m too tired now to do it. (the bullheaded part of me is insisting that that is true, and my aches say amen.)

I hope others will get smart soon and find out soon enough what is causing a disagreeable and disheartening demise of good friendships and other relationships.  Identifying the pattern is the biggest part of stopping the cycle.

It can, happily, work the other way.  I like the way bread teaches you how to handle it so that the loaf comes out smelling and tasting exactly perfect– a win win. You make mistakes, but you adjust…and you read about yeast and flour and heat and timing and try again.  In a while, you wonder how you didn’t make a good loaf of bread!  You forget the clumbsies you committed because you and the bread have created a cooperative give and take that works for both of you and produces something special.

May the readers of this enjoy mostly good cycles and learn to make the most of them.  Like all that snow in the small picture above… it makes the green happen next spring.  And the table gets lower and lower.  Soon a bench will be moot.

old swimmer

oldswimmer

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   Judy and I enjoy a swim the summer were putting up 3 Americas! 2001

Judith Wray, a wonderful and amazingly productive art friend, sent me an email today featuring a toolbox that is famous and wonderful.  This set off a series of things including this bit about my father.  Judy said, POST IT.  So here it is.

From my friend Judy Wray I got this email reference..sent just for me to enjoy!

H. O. Studley Masonic Tool Chest      <click on this link to see amazing tool box

www.phoenixmasonry.org

The look of tool chests can tell us much about workers and workplaces. While their purpose is to organize, carry, and protect tools, this chest also suggests what a worker thinks of himself and how society measures the value of his work.

Judy asked if I got it, and I replied.  Judy responded by saying I should post the following to my blog.  I hope others enjoy the story of my father and his special love of tools.  And of me!  …

I WROTE:

Yes, indeed, I did look at the fabulous tool chest, and then I forwarded it to my son David.  He will love it too.

One does wonder, though, whether someone who works from a tightly packed chest like that puts the tools away each time they are used and then “finds” them again, or whether, maybe, there is an occasional moment of “mess” on the workbench with a lot of chaos and tools here and there while something is being made.

I recognize the special devotion to the tools, and I get it from my father, who spent much more time designing places for all his tools in his basement workshop than he spent using said tools.  It is one of my pungent memories, all those leather pockets for a zillion specific awls, and bits, and gears and calipers and files, (on and on and on) that he kept and showed me how to use.

I was about four when I first learned about nails and hammers, and how not to hit your fingers.  Also about what I called (to his delight) “hole nails.”  These were screws, of course, with the slot in the head for turning…but they were “hole nails” for a time back in those days.

He had an old post office fixture at the end with maybe 150 cubbyholes into which he fitted wood cigar boxes labeled things like WASHERS and FINISH NAILS and POLISHING WHEELS and JUNK.  I loved to go through them all and see what was what.  Always very carefully and with the joyful oversight of my Dad who called me “Shorty” (because we were a duo and I was the short one.)

My Dad was a semi-reclusive guy (and I am like him often, in this way) who loved to tuck himself into his armchair with the foot stool, with his big supply of cigarettes and Scotch and his newspaper and hunker down for hours with TV running sports, or news, or westerns.  The livingroom was always stuffy with the layer of second-hand smoke.  My children later would come make swirls in the smoke layer.  (their poor lungs).

He was one of my best friends, although he and I had philosophical differences, and some pretty touchy issues that we disagreed vehemently about.  We were open-faced with each other, and did a lot of “admitting/confessing” and apologizing between us over the years.

By the time he died on December 14 in the 1970’s I had done my serious grieving…while watching him slowly run down in a local nursing home.  My mother and I visited him, one of us at least, each day to feed him dinner, and to bring him his prescribed dose of Scotch and Soda (Dr. Metz carefully wrote that out as an order so we could bring it in to him each day.)  He was a double amputee (both legs) and blind during those years…and used to say he was “one of the lucky ones” simply because he got a visit each day, and most of the others in that nursing home got no visitors ever at all.

When he closed his eyes the last time, I told him to “go find Jesus, and He’ll show you the way.”  A tear came down, through his coma, and I took that to mean either that he DID IT, or that he was frustrated by my last ditch effort to get him to believe.  I won’t know til I get there.

But I whispered to him…”Dad, this is what you wanted for Christmas…rest and go.”  And he did.

That night we had planned for the whole family (my five and my mother) to go to the Pacific NW Ballet’s Nutcracker.  We asked ourselves what we should do.  We decided we would be missing Dad no matter where we were sitting, and that he would say…go to the ballet!  So we did.  What a night.   I remember, it was Maurice Sendak’s fabulous costumes and sets, and the ballet was wonderful.  One of the children in the ballet was a neighbor of ours.  Dad would have been delighted…but he would have sat out the event and preferred to nestle down in his chair with his smokes and his drink and his paper.  He would have looked up with a smile and a cocked eyebrow as we came back, and asked, “Well, Shorty, how was the ballet?”

I was blessed with some really fine people in my life.  I am so grateful.

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One Christmas Day, a Sunday,  in the late 70’s, it was very snowy in Issaquah WA and all family parties were cancelled.  But we had a driver in our house who grew up in Minnesota and we had a good car for snow driving.  We decided that, now that the gifts were all open, we would go OUT to dinner (gift to me, the Mom) and then out to a movie (gift for the Kids.)   The movie we chose was really special, and I feel sure it had been scheduled to attract the Jewish folks who were not doing Christmas, but wanted to do something special on a Sunday.

The film was a Canadian release just now in 2011 restored onto DVD, and it was called Lies My Father Told Me.

Check it out!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We do tell our children lies.  They are called by many names,  including stories, tales, fairytales, traditions, mysteries, fables, wishful thinking, and other euphemisms.  But we do tell them to our kids even while sternly requiring them to always tell the truth.

The first big lie my parents asked me to tell was the memorable moment my father told me to keep my little brother in the dark about Santa.  I had asked the definitive question about Santa and got a straight answer from my Dad (I was about five).  He then inducted me into the world of Lies Because We Love Them.   I was to perpetuate the lie about Santa to be nice to my little brother!

Today, while I was showering, I was thinking of my six year old grandson who is boasting his first ever missing tooth, and is still trying to figure out how the tooth fairy found it under his pillow and replaced it with two quarters without him knowing when or how.  He had been staying awake waiting for her, but she seemed not to have come.  In the middle of the night he visited his dad about some other matter, and his dad took him back to bed, and casually asked whether the tooth fairy had come yet.  Nope, my grandson assured him.  Better check, said his Dad.  The eyes nearly popped out of his head when he found the tooth gone and two quarters in its place.

I was showering and smiling and then I thought…I know…I’ll send a letter from the Retired Tooth Fairy saying that she had heard skuttlebutt about the going rate for detatched children’s teeth having doubled in the space of about thirty years, and she was wanting to know if he REALLY got TWO quarters instead of one.     Then I thought about the lie that would eventually get outed and decided I had better not aid and abet or I would also be in bad graces when all was exposed and the young man was disabused of his delightful belief.  Just one of the disappointments that we run into as we grow into adults.

Do these lies hurt our sense of truth?  Do they help us to use magical thinking when the chips are down and we are really not wanting to know something…like that if we don’t study our vocabulary list we will not pass the quiz?  This could escalate into a habit that affects other more important matters.(“If I sneak off and have a clandestine affair my spouse will never find out about it and so it will be okay.”)

It was quite a long time ago that I found out that lying takes an enormous toll. What a good aha that was!!  The self-blackmail we use to cover a lie is possibly the largest part of the price we pay– how many lies pile up to cover the other lie before it all falls down like a pack of cards and we are then ashamed and must possibly pay lots of retribution to family , friends, or the government.  Not only that, but we have had to keep a close watch on whether other people are suspicious.  All the time.  And the trust that used to be between us and “them” is corrupted… we know they shouldn’t have trusted us,  and we are afraid of any who will eventually learn that we are not trustworthy.  So we act guilty.  And it’s because we ARE.

Getting a clean slate is the most empowering thing.  Keeping it clean is fairly rigorous, too, in today’s ethically sloppy  society which values image over fact, and which allows lies to prevail “for the good of all concerned.”

It’s a full-time job trying to be a Truthteller.  I am flawed by human nature (it’s not a perfect world) and lying to myself is the beginning of lies to others. (“ I’m not going to suffer if I eat this second half of the pie. And no one will notice, and if they do they won’t mind if it’s gone.”)

Even that self-justifying “Serves him right,” when saying a hurtful thing or slamming the door is the beginning of a lie.  The closer that sort of mundane self-justification is followed by an admission of wrong the more quickly it is off the slate.  Things like latent memories of slamming doors can actually fester into lifelong barriers!!  Really!

I am not Miss Goody Two Shoes.  I still say bad words when I drop something into a muddy driveway, or spill coffee grounds all over the counter.  And it’s very tempting to forget certain things I have said I would do.   I am pretty good at forgiving myself, once I have owned up to myself that I am remiss and that I need to clean up my desk in certain areas.

In truth, I am REALLY MESSY about a lot of things,  but at least I am trying hard not to lie to myself or others about it. I just say so, and people are amazingly accepting of that truth and forgiving of my sins.  They are sort of glad to know that I am just a fellow human.  It brings fellowship!

I like Santa Claus.  And the Tooth Fairy.  They make me smile.  Maybe it’s because they fall into the realm of diapers, potty chairs, booster seats, rope swings and tricycles.  These are temporary fixes that work well for little children in wonderland.  It goes with the acceptability of baby talk, and allowing the little ones to believe that we understand “goo goo gaa gaa” perfectly.  (Well, we do, if we’re watching closely and know our child well. Besides, we expect them to believe that the mashed peas are really  “a choo choo train that is coming .. toot toot..and wants to go down the little red lane.“)  Fantasy is wonderful, and long live those things that make life move along more pleasantly!  But not at the expense of Truthtelling.

I wonder what it will be like when my grandson gets to that portal where he crosses over the delicate partition between his belief in the lie, his questioning of the truth of the lie,  and his participation in perpetrating the lie; when his father tells him to let his little sister believe in the Tooth Fairy.

I never considered my father a liar .. at least not a seriously mired-in-the-mud one.  He lied to himself about things we all knew, and he tried not to know…he did more smoking, for instance, than anyone else I knew.  It contributed to his death, which came much too early.  But he mostly told truth as he saw it,  and even ruefully admitted when he had missed the mark and had to own up! He even admitted regrets like this to his children!   This is good parenting, to my way of thinking;  excellent modeling for a child to grow up with.

It helps me to remember a time a month or so ago when I saw a prank afoot in the kitchen of my son and my grandson.  My son had a mischievous look in his 40+ year old blue eyes when he shrugged and indicated he didn’t know what had happened to the six-year old’s plate of ice cream that had suddenly and mysteriously disappeared from the table.    My grandson planted two feet on the floor and crossed his arms and said, “Daddy….TELL THE TRUTH!”     This is good stuff.

Old Swimmer

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