‘Tis the Season

It’s Sunday morning, and my little family is piled in my bed.  I’m enjoying my first cup of coffee since Friday morning, because I’ve had some kind of stomach bug that’s had me grounded since Friday afternoon. Macy keeps asking me when we’re going to have presents under the tree as there are none.

Every year, I say I’m going to scale back and not buy as much, and every year, I go overboard and spend like crazy.  Not this year.  I don’t know what it is, but I’m tired, and it shows.  The advent calendar Madi got at school hasn’t been touched.  The Santa countdown chalkboard hasn’t been changed in 3 days.  I haven’t pulled out my kitchen Christmas decor, and the one package that arrived last week hasn’t been wrapped and is holding down the corner of the dining room table.

I awoke this morning from a dream that was so real.  Just like in December 2005, my entire family was on a cruise.  Everyone was there, including my Grandma.  I watched her eat, and someone was standing by her with an umbrella to shade her from the sun.  We were at a beach in Charleston, before boarding the ship, and she stood on the shore with her skinny legs. For the past few years, she’s had difficulty maneuvering walking unassisted, so I thought it odd in my dream that she was standing in the edge of the water alone.  She began to walk slowly into the water, and I was cringing, looking around for someone close to her to go to her side, and before I could spot someone, she cannonballed, on purpose, into the water, with nothing but sheer delight on her face.  She never said a word in the dream.

2017 has been riddled with difficulties for me, beginning in January with my DVT diagnosis.  I am not under a doctor’s care and have been told to go on with my life, but the evidence of this clot is still here.  I wore my black riding boots the other day, and on the right side, I can fit a few fingers in next to my leg, but I can’t on the left.  I wonder how this will affect me when I’m older.  I think, “Will this be the way that I die?”

It seems like it was so long ago, but there began the downward spiral of my Grandmother’s demise.  In real life, she had become quiet.  I recall the last normal day I saw her was Mother’s Day.  She was at the assisted living facility, eating on her own, and she told me how skinny I was.  I still feel like we killed her.  I have read so much about hospice care, and I have tried to reconcile this process in my head, but ultimately and simply put, she was drugged until her demise.  I can’t bear the thought of it.  Twenty one days, she survived, before she finally let go.  How incredible.  How sad.

I feel like I have been asleep, and the joke is on me.  Macy’s been missing turning in work at school, and apparently, it’s been going on since the beginning of the school year, but no one bothered to tell me, until two weeks ago.  I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me.  I hate being put in positions where I have no control or say in what happens, and this situation is no exception.  She’s only in second grade, but I have felt the worst feeling of failure over this.  It’s like the recurring dream I have of being back in college at Chapel Hill and discovering that I was enrolled in a class that I didn’t know about and hadn’t been going to.  I am a control freak,   so this is my worst nightmare.  I feel like I have been rendered powerless and useless, and when I took full responsibility for the situation and asked to make up the work, I was told no.  I am heartbroken over this.

These series of unfortunate events have led me to this very moment in my life.  The girls are playing in the living room now.  Otara is still snoozing, and I’m thinking of all the things I have to get done today that I didn’t get done yesterday, because I litterally laid in bed all day, all night.  I realize that in the midst of this mess, I, and my family, are blessed.  Just three days ago, Otara talked to one of his friends who is now in the hospital recovering from a massive stroke.  He has lost use of one side and cannot speak.  We never know what is next for us.

I really love Christmas and all the activities that go along with it, and I am trying to focus on the reason for the season and not feel so stressed about all the epic failures I have managed to achieve this year.  I am working on so much, but it seems like I still have too many irons in the fire, leaving the important ones in waiting.  I explained my feelings to my mom last week.  “Is this normal?”  “Welcome to motherhood,” she said.  “This is the rest of your life.”

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Way too fast.

I wrote this December 3, 2010, days before my father died.  Life has brought many changes since then.  Macy is now in second grade, and her little BIG sister, Madi, is trailing her every move.  Lately, there are days that I feel like a failure as a mom, because there’s just so much to do and so little time.  How do we find balance?  How do I make sure she eats enough vegetables and gets her schoolwork done, when I’m not there to oversee her every move.  It feels like the world has sucked her in, and I’m just an observer on the sidelines.  Between work and everything else, life pulls us away from our babies, and this one doesn’t seem to mind.  I mind.  I MIND! I pray for guidance so that I can set an example for my girls. I pray for protection over their lives and that they are able to discern the difference between good and evil forces.  I pray for the unknown.

 

This is for my Dearest…Macy.

It just seems like yesterday I found out you were growing inside me.  Next thing I know, you were here, and two became three.  At only two months, you were sleeping through the night, at three, rolling over, at 4, you have a tooth, and you’re cooing away.  You never would take a pacifier, because you were way too big for that, and you never, ever want to be cuddled like a little baby.  You prefer to sit up, better if you stand, and when you’ve had your fill of mommy’s arms, you whine to get down and be put back into the comfort of your basinet.  My, how the time flies.  You’re growing up way too fast.

Next month, we’ll be starting you on cereal and a sippy cup in preparation for your surgery, and there will be no more bottle.  I just feel like you’ve been rushed through everything from the very beginning.  This is the way of the world now.  Everything is instant, express, or rushed, and though I’m a part of the now generation, you being a baby is something I want to savor as much as I can.  I feel like I grew up way too fast, and for you little girl, I did not want that.  You may have your daddy’s eyes and lashes, his ears, hands, fingers, and toes, but you, Miss Lady, have the legacy and destiny of a strong Indian woman.  You come from a long line of head-strong, aggressive, overbearing, powerful, and outspoken LOCKLEAR women.  We are proud of the hardships we have persevered through and have never, ever asked for a handout.  Our expectations are high, just as they should be.  You are truly a part of this legacy, and I can already see, you will carry it on, just as I have and will until the day I die.  I can tell you will never doubt yourself, just from the way you can pull yourself up from lying on your back to the standing position, just with your daddy holding your hands.  You already know who you are.

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Red

It’s Thanksgiving. It’s my first one without my grandmother. As I drove down the back roads of Robeson County yesterday, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with thoughts of her when she was here, better. I remembered driving her around the land on the golf cart, so that she could survey the bountiful garden my grandfather tends to every year. She was a proud woman. I spent so much time trailing her, in her shadow, like she was my own mother. And she was my mother, because you can’t have just one. How blessed are we in my family to have come from her. I miss her.

thebsideandotherramblings

I had a dream the other night that there was a crack in the tile of my kitchen floor.  I’ve fixed cracked tiles a million times, but when I pulled this tile up, I discovered that there was no cement board underneath.  In fact, there was no subfloor at all, and the tiles were floating on framed grid, much like acoustic ceiling tiles, and this was my floor.  I was horrified.   I began pulling each tile up, revealing a dark, empty space that was right under my feet, all this time, and I didn’t even know it.  The dream woke me up.  I remember feeling in my dream that I couldn’t believe that I had been living in a house for all these years with a floor that could collapse at any moment, and I danced on it, a lot.

In trying to make sense of the places my…

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Rolling Over

I wrote this on November 16, 2010, just a few weeks before my father’s death. Macy was just a few months old, and I was busy planning out first Christmas as a family.  Dad had gone to live with my grandma, and I thought he was fine.  I had no idea he would be dead in weeks.  Since then, I have lost and gained much.  Our lives have changed tremendously.  And the fact remains:  life goes on, no matter what.

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A couple of weeks ago, Macy rolled over for the first time, and everyone missed it. Mom walked out of the room, only to return to a frightened baby who had flipped from one side to the other. She was crying, I’m assuming, because she didn’t know what happened.

Yesterday, she rolled from back to belly and then back a few times while I was at work, so when I got home, I knew I would be seeing it for the first time myself. Mom laid her on the floor, and sure enough, within minutes, she rolled over. It was funny to see her expression. She’s still frightened of the process, and sometimes, she can’t figure out how to free her arm from underneath her own belly. But the more she did it, the more comfortable she was, and it seems like today, every time we put her down, she wants to roll.

I was thinking while I was witnessing this beautiful, innate act of growth that it is apparent that we are genetically predisposed to be afraid of things we’ve never experienced. Even as adults, we get uncomfortable when we’re put into situations in which we’ve never been. Some people flourish and are social butterflies in groups of strangers, others get an adrenaline rush from new adventures, but I think most people like the familiarity of everyday things and everyday occurrences. How do we re-train our brains to welcome the unknown? After all, this is the scope of our lives. None of us knows what tomorrow will bring, and that is scary for a lot of people. Think about it. You wake up, and God may have beauty, tragedy, or wonderment in store for you. None of us knows what’s going to happen when we get out of bed and start our day. Either way, we are not in control, and we have no choice but to open our eyes and experience whatever it is that is out there for us. There is nowhere to hide from our own lives.

Some people seem to be crippled emotionally by this whole process. “If I ignore the awkwardness and things of which I am fearful in my life, it’ll just go away.” No, you’ll just look like a crazy fool. Why is it so hard for some to acknowledge their fears and take the necessary steps to “roll” towards conquering those fears? For me, it’s easy. I just do it. I can’t explain how I get to the place where I know what to do. It just happens. Just like Macy knowing what to do to roll over. Something in her brain tells her, “Roll over,” and she does it. She doesn’t have the vocabulary or knowledge to verbalize what she’s feeling or her fears. A switch turns on, and ready or not, she does it.

We should all take a note from babies, and step out on our fears. Step out on faith. Trust in God and know that where ever you roll or where ever your feet land when you do take a step, you WILL be ok.

 

 

 

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Rocket Man

9 In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭16‬:‭9‬ NIV)

God has the roadmap to our lives, but he gave us free will.  We have the ability to choose, to be, to say, to do.  Even when it seems like we don’t have control over our lives, we do.  While we cannot change sometimes who, how, or when, I have learned over the years that I decide.  In all situations, the good and the bad, we play a roll.

There are rare moments when I allow the girls to do something or go some place of their choosing, and last night, it was to curriculum night at school.  I would rather dig my own eyeball out with a spoon than learn second grade common core math, but I indulged my first born, and I’m glad I did.  In the reading segment, I found myself sucked in to a short story about a boy who closed his eyes and escaped to the moon.  The story is Regards to the Man in the Moon by Ezra Jack Keats.  The boy, the son of a junkyard owner, decided he would defy the odds and prove to the kids who bullied him that he was going somewhere.  And he did: to the moon.

Dad.  My mind wanders to my dad.  He had no father, and he closed his eyes, and he imagined he could, and he did.  He defied the odds.  The eldest son of a bootlegger who couldn’t read, he went on to graduate from college.  It doesn’t seem like much to many, but like the boy from the junkyard, it was something.  He became somebody.  No one had done in his family what he set out to do, and he figured it out, and he went for it.  I think about the pictures of him as a boy, all dressed up and no shoes.  This was the best they had.  When he became a teenager and got a job and was able to buy clothes, he bought the best.  He wore ties to school.  Even into adulthood, my father was a clotheshorse, and it went back to the boy on the dirt path waiting for the school bus.

I was driving to the gym today, and I noticed my hand on the steering wheel, and how it moved left to right, keeping  the truck in the center of the lane.  I remember as a child watching my parents drive and not fully understanding how their hands moved the wheel, and still, the car remained moving forward.  My mind was not able to understand that the smallest movements have a great deal of influence in driving….in life.  How do I change the trajectory of my life?  How do I move in the direction I want to go, without completely running off the path?  I wish it were as simple as closing my eyes and imagining myself in that place, and when I open them, I am there.  I listen to my girls tell me what they want to be when they grow up, and Macy has already proclaimed that she will NOT be going to college, because she says it will be too hard.  Bless her.  If college was the hardest part of my life, I would go back in a New York minute.  Life can be hard sometimes, but today, I want it to be simple.  And it can be.  I choose.  I decide.  I say yes or no.  I can do or not do anything.  I can close my eyes, and be where I want be.  We all have this power within, and it’s God given.  He loves us and has gifted each of us with a talent that can completely alter the trajectory of our lives, for the better.  I can’t even imagine how wonderful life would be, if I worked in a place where my thoughts and my deeds were appreciated or even welcomed. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine what it’s like to be respected by your peers and not completely demoralized for being nothing more than yourself?  I cannot,  because I’ve never experienced it, but I know it is real.  It’s  out there, and I’m going to imagine it, and then, I’m going to go there.  My dad wouldn’t have this any other way, both heavenly and earthly.

 

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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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