Thursday, July 26, 2012

Almost One Year

Dave and Mom - 2006
It's easy to tell when a wave of sadness washes over my mother-- In mid sentence she'll change the subject of whatever we're talking about in a very matter of fact manner.  Lately she's been changing subjects, during our frequent phone conversations, a lot because we're coming up on the first anniversary of my step-father's unexpected passing.

That last part took me a really long time to type.

"Anniversary" seems like a very wrong word to use.  Referring to my sweet step-dad, Dave, as "step" seems very wrong, as if he was not fully a part of our family.  And mentioning "passing" and Dave in the same sentence still seems very wrong too.

I can only imagine how it must feel for my mom-- thus the frequent sadness and subject changes when something overwhelms her and she remembers Dave is not physically there with her anymore.

In late July, 2011, my folks were in the process of packing up their home and moving into a beautiful new house in a senior living community that would provide them with not only independence but also all the medical care and assistance they might ever need down the road.

Their upcoming move was truly a blessing in that it was their idea.  Both realized their large, two-story house with no downstairs bathroom was becoming a problem for them.  Each had a few medical problems like arthritic knees that were being dealt with and when they understood they could actually afford to move to a beautiful one-story house in a community with a continuum of care, AND they could bring their dog too, they gladly signed on and started packing.

My mother is a journal writer and for years has written at length each night before turning in for bed. They've never been fancy journals-- thick spiral notebooks were practical and priced right for her needs, her small printing filling at least one full page per day.  I know from our conversations over the past year that mom has been reading last year's journal and comparing each day to the previous year and reminding herself of the life changes she's been dealing with. 

The last time I saw Dave, he and mom were in their front yard holding hands together and waving good-bye as I backed out of their driveway for the airport to return to my home in Los Angeles.  It was a hot Ohio afternoon but we felt good about the progress we had made during a massive four day garage sale we'd just completed in preparation for their move to the senior community in six short weeks.

My flight that should have landed at 10:30PM was delayed and didn't land until 1:15AM.  I was blurry-eyed by the time I wheeled my suitcase up the driveway to my front door.  Twenty minutes later, as I was preparing for bed, my phone "pinged" indicating I'd received a text message.  Because of the late hour, I knew something was very wrong.

"Dave's in ambulance on way to hospital."  Middle Sister sent it and I was stunned.  I'd just seen him ten hours earlier and he was fine.

But obviously he wasn't and no one knew (including his many doctors).  And now everything is different and my Mom is sad.

Today I asked mom if reading her old journals helped with the healing and mourning process.  Being a deeply religious woman, mom said she thanked God everyday for her husband of 20 years and that reading the journals helped remind her of their shared spirituality and of the many "little things" they did together.

When I asked why when she felt sad she needed to change subjects so purposefully, she of course-- changed the subject, I suspect because she decided she'd met her "crying quota" and didn't want to make me sad too.  I kept steering the conversation back to make the point that we are all sad, and all cry, and all miss Dave terribly.

I'm not sure what Mom will write in her journal tonight but I know she will be awake in the wee hours of the morning knowing that this time last year, Dave passed away peacefully in his sleep less than 48 hours after the ambulance had been called.  I hope she writes that her family supports her 1000% percent and are extremely proud of the grace with which she's handled herself since our sweet Dave died.

Each morning of their life together, Mom sipped tea and Dave gulped coffee down as they said their morning prayers together.  They spent about an hour each day in the quiet of their living room, sometimes glancing out their bay window and taking a moment to comment about the activities on their quiet street.  Now my mother sits at her new kitchen table alone looking out the front door window, their dog, Noah, by her side.

Dave with his first great-granddaughter - 2010

Tomorrow after her prayers Mom will take a large basket from the shelf in her bedroom containing more than 200 sympathy cards and letters that were sent to her when Dave passed away.  She'll make herself a second cup of tea and read each message drinking in the kindness and memories from loved ones.  As sad as she will be, and as deeply as she misses Dave, she will remember how many people all said the same thing about her beloved husband-- He was such a good man. 

Welcome to  -  Joanna Jenkins

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sundays In My City

I've passed this house for the past few weeks and always smiled at the door.  It's an older house that's been torn down to the frame and is being rebuilt and expanded.  Why they left an upstairs door in place I don't know but I'm sure there is a funny caption to fit the photo.

What's yours?

Welcome to  -  Joanna Jenkins