A million pieces

 

“She didn’t like it all the time, but she worked hard and took a lot of satisfaction in what we did.  When we would sell a load of tobacco, she would get dressed up in some white slacks or something like that to go pick up the check.  All the ladies in the office….and Mr. Stephenson would get up and hug her, and she would have a 10 or twelve thousand dollar check in her hand.”  My grandpa beamed as he told this story, me sitting tightly beside him on a love seat in a family room at the hospice house.  Grandma’s arm had began moving around, and the nurse asked us to leave the room so she could give her medication and take care of some things.  It made me think of my dad and how I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye and how I was glad I had come to see her, even if she couldn’t speak and didn’t have her eyes open.  In my heart, I know she knows I was there.  I thought to myself that as much as I think I know, I only know what I know.  There is so much more to their story that began before my life, my mother’s life, and only the two of them know it.

I sat in her room withdrawn, on the side where her head was turned away.  I felt like I had a million things to say, and I couldn’t get up the nerve to say any of them, even though I was offered the room to be alone with her.

This place is nestled in the woods but in town.  A winding driveway takes you back into the pines.  It is quiet and peaceful.  There are gathering rooms for families, and there’s even a playground for little children.  I gazed over the blinds through to the swing set and thought how ironic it would be to see my girls playing, running around, full of life, when inside, the mood is somber, as we wait  on the inevidible.  A part of me wanted to bring them so that they could be a part of the last moments that I shared with her, but the other part wants me to shield them from the pain and sadness that overcomes my heart.  Macy told me on Sunday as I cried that it was driving her crazy to see me cry.  I try to hide it from them, but on that day and today, I cannot hold back the tears.

How do you mend a broken heart?  I stood over her gaunt body and laid my hand over her hand that bobbed around.  It rested, and I pressed my cheek and face on to hers.  I could not form words.  What could I say?  As I pressed harder, I began to cry, and I could feel my tears wetting her face.  Her eyes closed, she presented a face of openness and not death.  Though her arm moved, her spirit was restful.  I didn’t want to let go, because this might be the last time I see her on this side.  My dad let go while I was gone.  I had left the hospital to nurse, and as soon as I did, he was gone.  I wasn’t ready for that.

When my grandmother began having mini-strokes, she went ahead and told us how she wanted her funeral.  From her recliner, she told me, my mom, and one of my aunts one afteroon all the details of her service.  She told us what she wanted to wear, the color of the roses to be placed on her casket, one for each of her children, and the songs she wanted sang and who was to sing them.  It was like she was ordering dinner.  She knew what she wanted in life and from others.  She made no secrets with regard to her demands.  And now.

I stole this moment.  He made his way back to the room first, and when I turned the corner, this is what I saw:  him bent over tenderly attending to her, and it just took my breath away.  I was overcome with emotion.  This is love.  I know that it wasn’t always pretty, and times were hard, but the true test is when you make it through to the end, and you stand by, no matter what.

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Beulah Land

In one of my favorite books, The Giver, when a person reaches a certain age and is no longer a productive part of society, they would be escorted through double doors out of the community, never to be seen again. It was disturbing to me when I first read it, and it is disturbing now. The reality is that we don’t get to decide when we die, and life can be messy. I came to terms with my father’s passing quite some time ago, although, I am still saddened at his premature departure. He is the closest person I have lost. Now, I am sorting through the imminent loss of my grandmother. She’s not crossed over, but the vibrant, outspoken, powerhouse I knew is gone. She is a shell of the person she used to be. She is being taken to a hospice house in the morning where she will be kept comfortable, until the time comes for her to draw her last breath. She cannot speak or eat. Over the last few days, I have replayed so many memories of her and us over in my head. I am devastated, and she isn’t even gone yet. Her mother, my great-grandmother had a massive stroke before she passed and was the same way. Tears streamed down her face as she laid in a hospital bed, while me and my cousin Trish sang Amazing Grace to her. I don’t think I can muster the strength to go and look death in the face, after losing my dad the way I did. I cannot decide what to do: to go and have that memory in my head or to leave her be, to depart without saying goodbye to her face while she is still here. I hate this. It seems selfish, but I have prayed for her to let go, so she doesn’t have to endure the suffering of a failing body that no longer does the things that made her who she was. Her infectious smile, a voice that loved to sing and praise the Lord: they are no longer. I am so lost. I feel like I have decided that because she’s no longer my Grandma Dink whom I remember from my childhood that I have pushed her away, because it’s hard for me. I feel so selfish. I am selfish. I can’t seem to put all this in a mental box and store it away like I’m able to with other traumatizing things in my life, because it’s just too big. This is my entire life. She is my entire life. She has always been there, and I don’t know how it will be when she’s not.

thebsideandotherramblings

This is a picture of me and my dad, in his lap after work. This is a picture of me and my dad, in his lap after work.

When I was a young girl, I was fascinated by my mom’s Cat Steven’s album “Tea for the Tillerman.” There was a bearded, red-headed man whose feet barely fit under the clothed table as he sipped tea from a dainty tea cup. The table was in the middle of a dirt foot path where two children were climbing a tree that the table was situated against. A giant, orange sun was suspended over the man’s head, and in the distance was the silhouette of a girl standing on a hill next to a lightening bolt. I used to stare at the cover and imagine myself on that dusty path by the tree where the two children were playing, and I would play this album over and over again. One of my favorite songs from it is…

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More

“For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”
‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭6:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬
http://bible.com/111/1ti.6.7.niv

 

I remember when the girls were babies, and we started them on solid foods.  It was so easy to decipher what they liked and didn’t like.  If they didn’t like it, as soon as it went in their mouths, it came out.  Their palates were expanding with every new taste, and even before they could talk, if they tasted something they wanted more of, their eyes would light up, and they may even get excited and squeal with delight, flapping arms and kicking legs, to signal that they wanted more.  Nonverbal queues quickly evolve into words, sentences, and within the blink of an eye, they’re dragging a chair from the table to the pantry to get their own snacks, no assistance required.  With everything they want at arms’ reach, they don’t learn how to savor bites and enjoy the flavors they love so much, before madly shoving in something else, when the immediate bite isn’t even gone.

This doesn’t seem to change much as we grow from children into adults.  America is a country of gluttony, priding itself of bigger and better, but quantity doesn’t always equate quality.  Just this morning before church, I was watching CBS Sunday Morning, and there was a short segment on Americans and their stuff.  We live in McMansions, but we still manage to accumulate so many things that even with attics and basements, a large percentage of the population rents storage spaces for their overflow of “stuff.”  I told a friend who recently moved and hasn’t finished unpacking to put a timeline on her unpacked things.  If she gets to a certain date and the box isn’t unpacked, clearly, it’s something she doesn’t need.  Easily said, but I’m guilty of it myself.  My first home as a single person was 1500 square feet, and back then, I thought it was the perfect size for just me.  Then my husband came along, with all his studio equipment, records, and drums, and my perfect-sized home felt more like a fish tank.  My parents raised three kids in a 1600-square-foot home, and never once as a child did I think our home was small.  We had plenty of toys and things, but we did just fine and never had to store anything away from our house.  On to our second home of 2000 square feet, then the third of 2600, and now that we have kids, I sometimes feel like we need more…MORE.

I could always use more; more time, more money, more things, but I don’t need any of them.  I should be content as my essential needs are met.  I have food, shelter, water, and most of all, I have love.  I have the love of my Lord and Savior, and the Bible says that with that, I should be satisfied.  I have a husband who loves and cares for me.  I do not worry.  My children adore me, and I adore them.  And still, I lone for more.

I was so aggitated last night that our hot water heater is on the blink and that I had to take a cold shower.  For that cold shower, I should be thankful. I am so blessed.  On the same show this morning were people in Africa who couldn’t get drinkable water from the ground and had to grow watermelons to filter the little liquid they were able to get from them.  How selfish am I to complain about the gallons of cold, drinkable water being dumped on my head, in my four-bedroom McMansion filled with all our stuff.

I prayed the prayer this morning that I learn to be content with what I have, to realize the shower of blessings I receive daily that I take for granted.  I want to savor the days with my family: the moments yesterday that Madi repeatedly asked me to read her books.  She was relentless, walking up to me with a book in hand, not phased by the deafening noise of my air compressor.  She didn’t care that I have a garage full of work.  She just wanted me to read to her.  So I did.  It won’t be long, and she’ll be reading those books to me.

I am at the assisted living facility visiting my grandmother today, and I have put it off for weeks. I last saw her Mother’s Day, and she was sitting at a table, eating chicken and pastry, spending time with us, seeming ok, not well.  Today, she can barely swallow, and yesterday, she put her hands over her mouth when they tried to feed her, not wanting more.  She’s finished with wanting more. I don’t know if she’s decided that she’s finished all together or if she even knows what she wants.   She didn’t even acknowledge me.  I don’t think she knew who I was.  I am heartbroken.

We go from little gluttonous cherubs to hollowing souls waiting in line for Glory.  It is a progression we all take, and still the same, it doesn’t make it any easier.  I used to dread the days of getting up with the stars in the summer at my grandparents’ house, knowing that it would be a full day of hard work that I was going to have to put it, and I wasn’t even doing it for free.  They paid us $100 a day and fed us.  Even then, I wanted more of the things I didn’t have, and now, I realize those were the simplest times of my life.  They were there best days.  We were always together.  Family.  Pray with me the prayer of growth in spiritual maturity.  I continue to be full of myself and of the world.  Less of me and more, more of Him is what I need.  More.

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The Beginning, the End

Foreword

I wrote this narrative in the spring of 2008: before kids, before death.  There is a maker in my life, like the birth and death of Christ.  There’s my life after his death, and then everything before it is a blur, a distant memory.  Yesterday, my husband and I took our girls to see the new Beauty and the Beast movie.  It was heartbreaking.  This was the first movie we took my little sister to see in 1992.  I recall holding her in my arms, because she was just a toddler, and she fell asleep.  She was with us yesterday.  She is almost 27.  This is probably the last movie my dad took my mom to see before they divorced.  I don’t even know what movie he saw last.  There’s so much I don’t know about this, and now that he’s gone, I never will.  His birthday was Friday.  Another year my girls celebrate a man they never knew.  Macy was just 5 months old when he passed.  Time marches on, and we are creating A host of wonderful memories, my heart holds on to The past.  How can it not.

Tomorrow is the first day of spring, and I’m reminded of warmer days, more fond memories.  This is what I want to remember.

 

The Only Sand I Know
By Myra Mills

About a year ago, my husband and I decided to uproot and move from Hope Mills to Clayton to follow our careers for better job opportunities in the Raleigh area. At first, it didn’t seem like that big of a leap, because I could still drive to my mom’s in about an hour. Johnston County is only two counties away from Cumberland County, but the two-county difference hit me the other day when I decided to plant a forsythia bush in my front yard.

I lived in Cumberland County for much of my life, but I was born in Lumberton and grew up in Saddletree. Even after I moved to Fayetteville with my parents, I spent my summers waste deep in rows of green, right up until my second year of college. That year, my grandparents retired as tobacco farmers. My mother was still in college when I was born, and not yet trusting enough to leave me with my dad when she went back to summer school at Carolina, I was put into the arms of my maternal grandparents, Cecil and Dinky. Many of the pictures of me when I was little are with her or at her house. She let me run around barefoot in hardly any clothes, and she used to say that my skin would turn brown like a pumpkin from being outside all the time. I think I was in junior high before I figured out that my grandmother’s real name is Josephine, when I overheard my Great Aunt Adelaide call her Jo. My grandmother is named after her maternal grandmother, Josephine Lowery, the daughter of Henry Berry’s oldest brother Patrick. I had no idea who my Aunt Adelaide was talking about when she mentioned the name Jo, and I don’t remember who broke the news to me that my grandmother’s real name wasn’t Dink, but I just remember feeling devastated, like my grandma was one person to me, and someone to everyone else. Not many people call her Dink anymore. She prefers to be called Josephine, but I think her nickname is more endearing.

My grandparents’ farm used to run like a well-oiled machine, to me at least. We got up with the stars, and we didn’t call it quits until the barn was loaded and locked and everything was in its place. Even in the scorching heat or the pouring rain, we didn’t stop until we just couldn’t do anymore. My grandpa was in the fields all day driving the harvester, and my grandma used to bring loads of tobacco to us at the barn from the fields to unload into boxes, and for whatever reason, they never put a tarp over it as it traveled from the field to the barn. If you’ve ever driven behind one of these contraptions, you know that leaves fly everywhere, if there’s nothing on top to hold them down. She used to yell at us, “Pick up those five dollar bills,” and all I saw on the ground was a bunch of tattered and torn tobacco leaves scattered about. It just didn’t make sense to me to pick up the ugly leaves and put them in the box, too, but I now know that every pound counted when they went to sell at the market. It didn’t matter what it looked like when we were “puttin’ in”, as long as it was golden brown when it came out.

I didn’t realize how much I loved to grow things, until it was my own freshman year at Carolina, and I was on the 9th floor of that concrete jungle, Hinton James. I nursed a spearmint plant and chrysanthemum through the winter on my window sill in a make-shift green house. I shoved pencils down in the pots and made an enclosure with plastic wrap. Quite innovative, I thought. But those plants were the start of a love affair that will never end. I have spring fever right now. After fighting traffic on the beltline out of Raleigh everyday to get back to my little house in the big woods, my hands loosen around the steering wheel as I pass American redbuds in bloom, and dogwoods on the brink. I love this time of year. It is a reminder of God’s glory and His presence. Each spring, everything is renewed, including my passion for gardening. I’m turning into my mother, because she too, has a green thumb.

I attribute my work ethic to how I grew up, and I take pride in my family history as farmers. I believe it’s something to treasure. Working hard is how I grew up, and it’s how I work still today. I spend my work days in a cubicle on a computer, and when I can, I love to get dirty and put my hands in the earth to grow something. Just the other day, my husband and I were cutting down trees in our front yard to make room for flower beds, and we decided to go to the grocery store, filthy, covered in oil and saw dust. It made me smile to see people look at us strangely and tighten up on their pocketbooks.

I never thought that I would miss the tobacco fields, though. Topping and suckering just wasn’t my cup of tea. But even after my grandparents retired, I transferred to UNC Pembroke to finish out college, and my eyes would drink up the land on my commute from Hope Mills to Robeson County. As much as I was glad that I didn’t have to work out there anymore, as I would pass a crew lining up to walk those miles of rows that never seemed to end early in the morning, I would miss working with my family, side by side by my cousins and aunts, but most of all, by my beloved grandparents. That era of our lives is over. My grandparents have moved on from golden leaves to the golden years of their lives. They’ve aged, but I believe that hard work has kept them healthy and alive. Over the holidays, the old crib out by the barns burned down. It was a building of kindling, it was so old, and any kind of spark would have easily caused the ancient structure to burn down. It was filled with memories and old stuff that can never be replaced. Its loss was a reminder of our mortality and the cycle of life. All things do come to an end.

I miss the black, sandy soil of Robeson County that is so easy to work and manage. It is the only sand I know, and I believe just about anything will grow there. Where I live now, every time I drop my shovel to make a hole, it lands on a rock lodged in the dirt, or in red, hard clay. It’s impossible, but I will figure out something that will grow and flourish here and make my new place my home.

This is dedicated to my grandparents, Cecil B. and Josephine Locklear. Without you, I would be nothing.

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The Women

To all my friends who know that it’s perfectly okay to support one another! Happy International Women’s Day!

thebsideandotherramblings

Disclaimer:  This is by no means intended to bash either men or women.  They are my thoughts and my opinions, intended to inspire and not to incite.

I was struck yesterday by a very small gesture made between two girls.  Otara and I took the girls to the history museum in Raleigh for the annual Indian Heritage Month celebration, and Macy has a tendency to be a little shy and scared in big, noisy crowds (unless it’s the State Fair).  My friend’s daughter, 5 years her senior, was there, dressed out in her regalia, and Macy had never met her before.  Macy was standing there, with her hands covering her ears to muffle out the powwow music, when my friend told her to hold her daughter’s hand and get a little closer to see the dancers.  Macy looked at me, looked at the girl’s mother, then looked at the girl…

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August Moon Day Five

Celebrating International Women’s Day! This is for women who were made to feel you aren’t good enough, nice enough, pretty enough, strong enough. You are perfect, just the way you are.

thebsideandotherramblings

imageIt feels like someone is always stepping on my head and that I’m making the face that a cat makes when you thump it on the nose.  I love being a woman.  I love being first born.  I love being a Leo.  I love being opinionated and aggressive and brash and all the other things that make me who I am, until lately.  As much as I try, I can’t seem to stay above the fray.  I can be sickly sweet, but still have that face that intimidates and causes people to treat me like a cactus.

I’ll admit, once upon a time in my life, I was that mean, judgmental, girl who saw things only in black and white, you know, the text book type AB personality.  I took that test in college, and it said that the perfect job for me was a field sergeant.  I stayed disappointed…

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water

The thunderstorm this morning must have disturbed Macy’s sleep, because she appeared at my bedside at 6:00 a.m.  She was rambling about her sheets being off the bed, and with less than and hour to go before my alarm goes off, she climbed into bed, and I dozed back off.  This interruption caused me to linger this morning, and despite how noisy I was getting ready for work, she stayed asleep. I went to grab my phone off my nightstand, and I looked over at her, with her pink stuffed kitten, and it looks like she grew overnight.  I leaned over and gave her a kiss, thinking she would surely stir, and she didn’t.  I hardly ever have opportunities as this.

Everyone is so consumed with rushing into 2017, and I’m thankful to have my child alive.  I suffer from PTSD, and when I am under stress or around stressors, I suffer from flashbacks of the most traumatic things in my life.  I’ve been to counseling, tried EMDR, calm-safe-place, prayed, but there are just times in my life when I am consumed with the visions that I would love to tuck away in a part of my brain where they cannot be retrieved.  It’s usually my father’s jaundiced face as he lay dying in the emergency room, but over the past few days, it’s been Macy, floating facedown in a swimming pool.  I cannot shake that day in June when I looked up and saw her lifeless body floating in the water.  It was terrifying, and it still haunts me.  She’s so full of life.  My husband and I took her and her little sister to the movies to see “Moana” on Tuesday, and I had one tucked on either side, and although I enjoyed the movie, I was more content watching their little faces, glued to the screen in awe.  I want time to stand still, but that wouldn’t be fair.  Children grow up, people pass on, and things and people change.

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