21 years ago today, when I was 22 years old, the world stopped turning for a few hours. There was nothing and nobody outside of the labor and delivery room in the basement of the Margot Perot building of the Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. I had tried to eat the huge Thanksgiving feast that my mom had prepared the night before, but the contractions that had been plaguing me off and on for a week had organized themselves into a storm the strength of which I had never known. The wind of that storm overpowered the wind of my will and I could no longer function normally, nor be around people, let alone eat.
So I went home.
When we arrived at the hospital the next morning around 5am, the world was dark. The red and yellow lights glowed softly in the frosty November air of the parking garage. For all I know, the world stayed that color of darkness, with softly glowing lights, while my 22-year old husband checked us in and we were led through the fluorescent-lit, sterile hallways with the green doors and the quietly echoing beeps of electronic monitors. And we went through one of those green doors into a dimly-lit room with soft, glowing lights and I sat in the rocking chair until I could no longer sit and I breathed until I could no longer breathe and I writhed and I waited and I pulled on reserves I didn’t know I had until heard my daughter cry. My world stood still through all of that before everything changed forever. It stood still and it waited while it allowed me the freedom to move through that storm until I came out the other side.
And I held her in my arms.
And we fell hopelessly in love.
And just like that, the world began to turn again.
Today, that world has turned for 21 years. Today, I am a half a country away from that little girl and a half a lifetime away from being 22 years old. It is the first time in an world of times that I have not celebrated this day with her. And while that doesn’t stop the world from turning completely, it definitely slows it down a little. And I am allowing myself the freedom to slow down with it. And to remember. And to come out the other side.
Tonight I will go into a dark and frosty November evening with my family and my loved ones. We will sit in the darkness of this land called California, beneath the eucalyptus trees and we will watch the soft red and yellow lights of the fire illuminate the night as it warms our world. Our world that continues to turn, in this, our new home.
And my baby girl that I once held in my arms will celebrate with all the love that her world has given her in her new family of her own. Happy birthday, baby girl. Thank you for turning my world upside-down. I am glad it is still turning with more love than it knows what to do with on this Thanksgiving Eve. My hope is that the love spatters as it turns and that a little bit of it lands everywhere.
“Watch over thy child, O Lord, as her days increase; bless and guide Callie wherever she may be, keeping her unspotted from the world. Strengthen her when she stands; comfort her when discouraged or sorrowful; raise her up if she fall; and in her heart may thy peace which passes understanding abide all the days of her life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
So much to say, so little time. Here’s the gist of it:
It’s Thanksgiving week! My sister-in-law and three nephews are coming to visit! We’re going camping with friends! I’m working all week! Well, not Thursday or Friday but all week before that!
I’ve always admired my friends who go Thankscamping every year. And now I’m doing it too. One way or another, I’m doing it. Don’t know exactly how to prepare, but I’m doing it. I may just go sleep on the ground with a pillow, but I’m doing it. I’ll at least bring coffee. I hope somebody knows how to make it for me. I don’t know what the heck I’m doing, but I’m doing it. And I’m thankful.
In the meantime, here a few musical links to share. My Sadie has recorded a song she recently wrote up in her little attic room with extremely steep stairs. She put it on SoundCloud and shared it with people. Thus, I feel entitled (and privileged) to also share it. I love her perspective on life and am so glad that she has music, since she doesn’t say much through speaking.
Where you been, my baby child? Tonight I’m heading up 6th street, it’s been a while. You’re on my mind almost all the time. Your insipid games lack a worried cry. These scars are harsh words written on my skin, as I’ve intensely watched you beginning and here I am down on my knees, telling you to pick yourself up as I please. Wait, is it me, do I think too deep or should where you are in your life be concerning to me? I want everyone to be one of my kind. Don’t want you to move on or fall out of line.
I can’t hold on too tight. And I can’t always make things right. But you are part of the fight. And you’re still with me, cause so am I.
I think I forgot that time has moved on. I’m here in California but my mind is at home. I think that I’m stuck somewhere in between trying to put back together a list of all the things we said that we’d do but not one of us knew where time went to. Oh, time, never on my side.
But thats alright cause I can’t hold on too tight. And I can’t always make things right. But you are part of the fight. And you’re still with me, cause so am I.
Look up the stars are out tonight. Grab my hand, come on, lets go for a ride. I’ve learned time won’t stop for you and me, it just pulls us along like gravity. And He’s not inconveniencing me. He’s giving me an opportunity to throw away everything, give it all up, and just love whats around me, love what surrounds me. Cause love’s not holding on too tight. And love’s not always making things right. But you’re still part of the fight. And I’ll always be by your side, cause so am I.
Also, last night we got to go hear Jackie Greene in concert with friends who won tickets. I discovered his music a few years ago and really like it, but I was blown away by his live performance. The man is an incredible musician and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I highly recommend going to see him live if you ever get the chance. Here’s a taste (long, but worth it):
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Let’s do this thing.
* I should get up and take a walk
* My eyes sure are blurry. And watery. And blurry. I rub them.
* My little toe hurts. It always hurts. I wiggle all my toes to try and bring them in sync with one another. Now my foot is cramping. Stop wiggling and flex. Oh, right. I feel that in my knee. My knee still hurts.
* Which reminds me of my hands. Do I still have that carpal tunnel-like pain from sitting at a desk and operating a mouse and keyboard all day? Oh yeah. I feel it in that tender space between my thumb and forefinger. Rub it out. Wiggle it out. Stretch it out. Shake it out. Wait. That makes the bed shake and Chris is still asleep. Stop shaking and just stretch.
* I should go for a hike today. There’s so many places to choose from around here. Which one should I choose?
* Today’s the day I am tackling all the unpacked boxes in the garage. All of them. TODAY.
* It sure is nice that I have the luxury of just laying here and relaxing on Saturday mornings. No need to get up instantly and start working and engage my brain.
* I should get up and read. It’s so quiet out in that house and it’s all mine.
* I should get up and make breakfast. What do I want? I can make anything. Anything. This morning is mine for the taking. Think of all the food I could make.
* My hand really does hurt, actually. Stretch it out. Now shake it. But try not to wake up Chris.
* I love how the morning light streams in through the tree branches that I am looking at through the windows at the top of the bathroom that my bed faces. I bet if I get up now, I’ll catch the first rays of sunshine as it peeks its head over the mountain directly in front of my east-facing house.
* My eyes are really blurry today. Come to think of it, my throat hurts too. And can I breathe through my nostrils? Hm. Nope not too well.
* I wonder if my boss’s wife and daughters made it on time to their events last night? I should check my phone and make sure everything’s okay.
* I should get up and relax. Think of all the relaxing I could get done before everyone gets up.
* I wonder if I stretch my whole body at once, if all the pain will stop and my body will just start working together, like a body should. Big stretch. Nope. Stop. Foot is starting to cramp. Stick it out of the covers and flex it.
* Whoa. It sure is cold outside of those covers. For a place that’s sunny all the time, this house sure does get cold.
* I should go tackle those boxes in the garage. I should hang curtain rods in my room. I should read. Both a novel AND a book that teaches me new things and edifies my soul. I should make an amazing breakfast. I should go for a walk. No, make that a hike. I should go down to the beach and have morning prayer.
* I wonder what I’m going to make for the potluck tonight? I hope I don’t have to go to the store and I can make do with what I have here.
* I wonder what’s happened on Facebook while I was asleep? Grab my phone off the dresser next to the bed. Unplug it. Wow. My hand hurts. Shake it. Look back at my phone and try and distinguish the Facebook app from all the others with these blurry, watery eyes. I think I got it but now that I’m in, I can’t see a thing. Only blur. It looks like I might have some new notifications down there in the corner, but the words all blur together. I don’t have a clue who is trying to notify me. I guess I’ll find out later after I’m more awake.
* Okay. Let’s go. I’ll just start with coffee and see where the day goes from there.
The month of October 2015 got all jumbled up together and now it is over. It seems that the world just kept on turning right through October, and now it is November. It seems that I now live here… in California… where I need to be. Where it never rains and we love to be outside, especially when the sun is setting behind the Pacific Ocean. Where the frat boys down the street try to win back our neighborly love after a late-night party by bringing Halloween treats for the kids, complete with a glow-in-the-dark Frankenstein mask. Where we join our new friends every Friday night for a bonfire on the beach. Where we hike up little hills so that we can sit on fences on the edges of cliffs and take pictures. Where we know there are bigger hills to hike and we want to find them. Where October ends with Halloween, just like every other place we’ve ever lived. Where, in the words of Bono, there is no, yeah, there is no end to love.
In the crazy, upside-down-ness of my life right now, I have been trying to process some things. It’s probably not the best time to process, since I can’t seem to get any distance in order to look at things objectively, but life keeps going on and that means that I process as is. Which means I am turning inside-out. Taking the very marrow of my bones and calling it my whole life right now.
It’s hard to lose a grandma that I wasn’t ready to lose. My grandma’s sister told me at the funeral that my grandma had told her a few weeks prior to her death about how we had moved to California. How she knew she would probably never see me again because of it. Every time I think about that, I cry.
There’s a lot of loss in moving; even when you are excited about the move. I not only lost certain things that just won’t fit in our new house, I lost my ten-year old, beloved coffee maker that just didn’t survive the move. That coffee maker was given to me by a friend that lived with us years ago. She used to make sugar cookies with my little girls and clean my clock in every single game she played with me. And now, she lives a half a country away with her own beautiful little family that she makes sugar cookies with and will eventually teach them how to play the games that she is so good at, I am sure. I am so happy for her and her new life, and yet I’ve lost that old life and it will never come again. I’ve lost one of my best friends who moved with her family to another country, a half a world away and her kids have gone on growing and I don’t know them though I love them like my own. I’ve lost my doctor, my dentist, my grocery store, my pharmacy. I’ve lost my best friend from high school that has lived within walking distance of my house for the bulk of the last 30 years. I haven’t lost her friendship, but I’ve lost meeting in the middle at a moment’s phone call and taking a quick walk around the neighborhood while we catch up, which means I’ve lost her friendship as I have always known it. I’ve lost watching the news every morning while I drink my coffee because I now start work at 6am and there is just no time for news and we don’t have tv anymore anyway. I’ve not only lost one daughter who got married and is physically gone, but I’ve lost all those little girls I once had. I’ve lost the knowledge of what exactly to do and how exactly to be a mom as the issues have turned so incredibly complicated. I love them all so much and I have not lost the love, but there is definitely a loss in our children growing up that every mother feels.
And now I’ve lost my grandma that I naively thought I would have for another ten years. The hole feels bigger than I think it’s supposed to feel. I’ve lost the games of Scrabble, the late night talks about the days when she was first married to my grandpa, the undying love and support she always had for her family. She was so incredibly proud of us. So incredibly proud of me. It’s a big loss and I’m feeling it.
I’ve lost what WAS, is what this really is. And I don’t yet know what WILL BE and so I’m here in the grieving time. This grieving time is what IS right now for me. I know that being in a new place and having so much unfamiliar right now is feeding this grief. I know that. I really just wanted that familiar part of my life to hang on a little longer.
I do love my new house and I love my new friends and I love the weather here and I love my grown-up children who talk about things that matter and sometimes give unexpected but much desired hugs and kisses and call me out of the blue from a half a country away to tell me they love me and make me laugh my head off with joy when they are just simply being them. And I love the life that has been passed down to me from my grandma. I love what I have while I grieve what I’ve lost and that sometimes feels bigger than I know how to handle. I heard a friend say tonight that there really is no love without grief. That’s sinking deep into my marrow tonight. I know I want the love and that means I must figure out how to live with the grief.
In my search for the familiar lately, I have discovered that the same sun rises every morning and the same moon rises every evening. And both of those events happen facing the same direction off my front porch, which is helpful to me these days. I try to catch these familiar events every day and it helps. It really helps.
The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected – Robert Frost
Two months ago, we moved to California. In those two months, I…
…worked. At my JOB job. Every single day except for the week that we took to drive out here. From 6am-3pm every single day doing nothing except trying to keep with up with my insane job, remotely and without an office, or even a desk…
…looked at about twenty houses with about 400 other people, put deposits down and tried to rent three of them and got beat out by one of those 400 other people…
…finally found a house that I love maybe more than any house I have ever lived in and this time we beat out all those other 400 people. Yay! They even took our cat and he has his own kitty door! And we’re within walking distance of Grace’s school…
…moved in on a Wednesday because that was the only day that worked with the moving truck driver’s schedule and were amazed at all the people that showed up to help on a weekday during the hottest time in I think the last 400 years on the central coast of California. What made it even more fun was the fact that, for reasons still not clear to me, the moving truck had to park with it’s opening at the bottom of the super steep hill we live on and we all got to carry boxes, furniture, piano, yes piano, UP the super steep hill and into our house where it was 96 degrees inside (oh yeah, I didn’t work at my JOB job that day, I guess)…
…tried desperately to fit our huge couch into our new tiny living room, to no avail. Tried desperately to find lamps to turn on so that we could find boxes that maybe had clothes in them that we had not had in two months. Tried desperately to do a load of laundry of said clothes to no avail because our dryer had an old-fangled pluggie-innie-thing and the outlet on the wall wouldn’t accept it. While Chris was out trying to find a hardware store to do some new-fangled jerry-rig to to the pluggie-innie-thing, I found a lamp but in the turning on of said lamp, I plugged it into an extension cord that had been damaged by something heavy sitting on it in the moving truck and the exposed wires burn two black spots in the flesh of my thumb and middle finger. Oh, and shot a flame in the air. And made an electrical buzzing noise while it hurled me backwards. It hurt. And smelled. Like burning flesh…
… got up at 3:30 the next morning to fly to Illinois for the unexpected funeral of my dear Grandma Ruth (I didn’t work the JOB job that day either, I guess)…
…flew directly to Dallas after an emotionally packed, but really special time with family in Illinois, met my dear husband who had already been there for class for three days, and then went and worked at the JOB job in the actual office where I used to work for three days…
…picked up my children at the airport when they flew in for Chris’ ordination, attended the ordination, went out to a really late dinner with a lot of really wonderful people after the ordination…
…flew back to our still un-put-together home in California and started trying to address the fact that we are now in about half the square footage we used to be in and we have just got to start over in some departments. Like the couch department. Let’s start with that one. I listed the huge, brown, sectional couch on Craigslist and sold it that same day. I loved that couch. I might have cried a little. Went out and bought a new, much smaller, but still beautiful couch, as well as a few new chairs…
…took the car into the shop after it backed out of the driveway on the steep hill we live on and scraped the front (which pretty much happens every time we back out) which ended up violently ripping the entire bumper and other stuff off the front of the car…
…attempted to sing the soprano descant during the communion hymn during Chris’ first baptism at our new, wonderful parish. Most likely will not be attempting that again anytime soon…
…comforted and cooked and cleaned and and put pictures on walls and found new doctors and made appointments and attended appointments with my sick children and just basically mommed…
…got a desk! a beautiful desk! handmade especially for me by the most amazing and loving people ever! I can’t even tell you how nice it is to have the place where I am sitting for 8-9 hours every day be so functional AND beautiful. My job job suddenly doesn’t seem like the first one needs to be capitalized anymore….
…took the cat down the street to the emergency animal hospital when an abscess burst on his back hip, causing him an immense amount of pain and growling and hissing, and a slightly smaller immense amount of blood to ooze out all over my new white chair…
…am really, really, really tired. I was going to add pictures and stuff but I think I can’t. I have to start that Jj thing tomorrow at 6am after all, so I’ll save the pictures for another time. Suffice it to say, that the sunsets and the beach and the fresh milk and eggs, and the church potlucks and the ocean breeze that’s always blowing and the beach and did I mention the sunsets??? Well, suffice it to say that it pretty much all balances out over time…
My dear grandma entered into her rest today. It was completely unexpected and we are all a little shaken. As I understand it, she went to church this morning and as the pastor greeted her in her pew after the service, she went directly from shaking his hand and into the loving arms of her dear savior. As my mom said, the hand of her pastor was actually the hand of the Lord, pulling her from this world and into the next.
She was my last living grandparent and I feel a little disconnected right now. I wish that I could have said goodbye. The last time that I saw her was at Callie’s wedding a year and a half ago, where she looked stunning as always and then whipped us all at Ladder Golf the next day. She usually whipped us all at whatever game she ever played with anybody. I am thankful for the many, many games of Scrabble and Boggle that I got to play with her over the years. I didn’t beat her much but when I did, it was something worth bragging about because not many people could beat my grandma in word games. I come by my competitive nature honestly. :)
As I sit here tonight, alone in my temporary home in California, while the rest of my family sets up house at our new permanent home in the next town over, I am amazed at the brevity of this life. My grandma, in her brief eight-plus decades on this earth, did brevity well. She built quite a life for her family, always steady, always working, always worshipping God, always making things beautiful, always taking time to play. She never wavered in her devotion to my grandpa (or the rest of her family), and was always willing to pass on the things she had learned to me, in the brief moments that I had with her in the brief life that she lived.
I am so very thankful for the love that was passed down to me through her.
I came across this video tonight from just a few years ago, where she’s sitting by my grandpa’s side as he plays one of his old songs. Everything about this video makes me smile, from my grandpa’s long-windedness, to my grandma’s silent adoration by his side, to the memory of how their house sounded every time I ever visited. I’m going to miss them both for the rest of my life. And I will look forward to seeing them both again someday, which should only be just a brief while from now.
Abide with us, O Lord, for it is toward evening and the day is far spent; abide with us, and with Thy whole Church. Abide with us in the evening of the day, in the evening of life, in the evening of the world. Abide with us in Thy grace and mercy, in holy Word and Sacrament, in Thy comfort and Thy blessing. Abide with us in the night of distress and fear, in the night of doubt and temptation, in the night of bitter death, when these shall overtake us. Abide with us and all Thy faithful ones, O Lord, in time and in eternity.