Category Archives: Aging parents

It’s May Day Again!

IMG_2169

I originally posted this in 2007 but I’m reposting it on this May Day 2016.  Mom would be proud.  On this fine May Day, may you dance with abandon and joy!

I took Mom out for lunch the other day and as we walked down the hall on her floor, I couldn’t help but notice all the lovely little paper cones filled with silk flowers hanging from the doorknobs of the individual doors.

“Mom, do you remember what we used to do on May Day?” I asked.

She put on the brakes of her walker and peered at me. “No, I don’t believe I do. What did we do?”

“John and I used to pick flowers and then go up on the neighbors’ porches and put them on the doormats, ring their doorbells, and then run like crazy to hide so they wouldn’t see us,” I answered.

“Oh, no. I don’t think we did that on May Day. You’ve got the wrong holiday,” she insisted.

“No, really. Don’t you remember? We’d put the flowers down and then run so they wouldn’t know who gave them the present. Sometimes we’d make little baskets up of woven construction paper and fill them with the flowers. Those we’d hang on their doorknobs. But we’d always ring their doorbells and then run away,” I said.

“No, I’m sure you’ve got the wrong holiday. I think it was a different one,” she answered.

“Well, which holiday do YOU think it was?”

“I think it must have been Halloween,” she promptly responded.

“Halloween? No way. That’s when you ring the doorbells and stay on their porches and then they give YOU a treat.”

“Oh dear. I must have it mixed up,” she said.

“Well, what did you do on May Day?” I asked her.

“I think we danced around a Maypole. I remember I was quite light on my feet.”

“Was there a prize for the child that had the streamer at the very bottom of the Maypole? Or was there some special reward for all the children who danced around the Maypole?” I wondered aloud.

“No, we just went around the pole and danced. That’s all we did,” she stated.

It all sounded rather pagan to me. I doubted you would have found a good Baptist within a mile of a Maypole. But looking at my mom and seeing that twinkle in her eyes as she remembered a May long past, I suddenly found myself wishing that I could have been there, running barefoot through the prairie grass beside my mom, laughing and light on my feet.

My Gift to You, Mom!

Mom Waits to Eat

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  Boy, do I wish you were still here so I could celebrate the holiday with you in person, but you’re not.  I can’t take you out to dinner or pop in to tell you how much I love you and appreciate what an incredible mother you are.  However, there is one gift I can still give you.  Here’s what it is.  I give you the gift of being remembered.

Making biscuits

1.  I promise to tell my grandchildren all about the fun activities we did together when I was growing up and later, when their own mothers and fathers were growing up.

Old Readers

2.  I promise to pass on your love of reading to each of my grandchildren and to share some of your favorite stories with them.

Mom with Santa

Mom with Santa

3.  I promise to tell them how you were never afraid to jump into the fun and be as joyful as a kid as you did it.

Uncle Keith

Uncle Keith

4.  I promise to tell your great-grandchildren how you loved to try new things and to encourage them to follow your example.

Mom with Moustach

5.  I promise to try to be just as playful and zany and just a little bit nutty as you were as I interact with my own grandchildren.

Mom with Laddie

Mom with Laddie

6.  I promise to tell your great-grandchildren about your life on the farm and the wonderful love of animals that such a life nurtured.

Mom with Pie

7.  I promise to tell them all about the pranks you used to pull at our family gatherings (and maybe dream up a few new pranks of my own – in your honor).

Cousin Teasing

8. I promise to share the stories of the great adventures I’ve had with you and your cousins over the years and to let them know that there are few gifts finer than a close family to  stand beside you as you face whatever the future holds.

Mother and DaughterHappy Mother’s Day, Mama!

May Day Memories

I originally posted this in 2007 but I think it is worth a repost.  Mom passed away two years ago but her memories and traditions continue on.  I’ll be making May baskets with the grandchildren this week and telling them about dancing around maypoles as we work on our baskets.  Mom would be proud.  On this fine May day, may you dance with abandon and joy!

I took Mom out for lunch the other day and as we walked down the hall on her floor, I couldn’t help but notice all the lovely little paper cones filled with silk flowers hanging from the doorknobs of the individual doors.

“Mom, do you remember what we used to do on May Day?” I asked.

She put on the brakes of her walker and peered at me. “No, I don’t believe I do. What did we do?”

“John and I used to pick flowers and then go up on the neighbors’ porches and put them on the doormats, ring their doorbells, and then run like crazy to hide so they wouldn’t see us,” I answered.

“Oh, no. I don’t think we did that on May Day. You’ve got the wrong holiday,” she insisted.

“No, really. Don’t you remember? We’d put the flowers down and then run so they wouldn’t know who gave them the present. Sometimes we’d make little baskets up of woven construction paper and fill them with the flowers. Those we’d hang on their doorknobs. But we’d always ring their doorbells and then run away,” I said.

“No, I’m sure you’ve got the wrong holiday. I think it was a different one,” she answered.

“Well, which holiday do YOU think it was?”

“I think it must have been Halloween,” she promptly responded.

“Halloween? No way. That’s when you ring the doorbells and stay on their porches and then they give YOU a treat.”

“Oh dear. I must have it mixed up,” she said.

“Well, what did you do on May Day?” I asked her.

“I think we danced around a Maypole. I remember I was quite light on my feet.”

“Was there a prize for the child that had the streamer at the very bottom of the Maypole? Or was there some special reward for all the children who danced around the Maypole?” I wondered aloud.

“No, we just went around the pole and danced. That’s all we did,” she stated.

It all sounded rather pagan to me. I doubted you would have found a good Baptist within a mile of a Maypole. But looking at my mom and seeing that twinkle in her eyes as she remembered a May long past, I suddenly found myself wishing that I could have been there, running barefoot through the prairie grass beside my mom, laughing and light on my feet.

© copyright 2012 – All rights reserved

Hot Flashed Funk

Someone’s Missing!

Our Daughter and her Grandmother

Our Daughter and her Grandmother

I’ve been packing up last-minute things to take down to my daughter when she has her baby.  This is an exciting time, to be sure.  It’s also a bittersweet moment.  As I was down in the basement today looking for a baby gift bag, I found myself thinking, “Oh, how I wish Mom was here.  She would be so excited to hear about Laura’s baby arriving.”  At least I got to tell her that Laura was expecting before she passed away.

The Box

The Box

I glanced over and saw the last box of Mom’s possessions, packed up from her room at the nursing home.  I’d tackled and cleared out every box but this one.  It’s going to be the hardest one to deal with.  In it is the crown that the nursing staff gave her on her 99th birthday to wear on her special day.  It also contains two of her special teddy bears.  The one little bear on the right is the one she always slept with and the one she was holding constantly the last days up to her death.

I’m standing there in the basement on the eve of what should be one of the happiest days of my mature stage of life and the tears are rolling down my cheeks and dripping onto our concrete floor.  I can’t seem to stem the flow.  Is it possible to be happy and sad at the same time?  Apparently so.

Ready for a Bath

Ready for a Bath

I’ve been meaning to wash those little bears so that the grandchildren could play with them.  I think Mom would have wanted that.  Frankly, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to part with them.  They are too closely linked to my last moments with my mother.  Perhaps they will join my own bear, Elizabeth to be played with carefully on special occasions when the children are visiting.

In the meantime, I need to pull it together.  I have a grandson to welcome.  My own mother, if she were still here, would tell me to stop the crying and yet, she’d be the first to understand.   She missed her mother just as much, up until her last breath.

 

Cemetery Tales and Prairie Sights

While we were waiting for the new hole to be dug yesterday at Mom’s gravesite, we heard two very interesting tales about the old Lismore cemetery. One concerned this tombstone. Apparently, some people from Canada showed up in Lismore several years ago, looking for an ancestor of theirs that was supposedly buried in the Protestant cemetery. This ancestor had served in the Civil War and been buried in Lismore but there didn’t seem to be any tombstone in evidence. The old plot map gave a general location but they just couldn’t find it.

After they left, the cemetery caretaker got his hands on a special water digger and dug around that area and about 3 feet under the surface, he struck something solid. It was the gravestone of the Canadian veteran. The caretaker told us that he got the tombstone out, took it home and washed it off in his bathtub, and then brought it back to the cemetery, reinforced it with metal rods and placed it back

A Time to be Buried – Country-Style

We drove across Minnesota today to the southwestern corner, arriving in Lismore, Minnesota this afternoon. It was time to bury Mom. We headed down the gravel road toward the Protestant cemetery. It used to be surrounded by a fence with trees all around the perimeter and a gate across the driveway into the cemetery. Now many of the old trees are gone, replaced by small new plantings and the fence is long gone as well as the gate.

We drove into the cemetery and as we approached the gravesite, my brother said, “I don’t see a hole, do you?” I looked and didn’t really see one either. Of course, neither one of us knew how big of a hole to expect.

We got nearer to Mom’s tombstone and all of a sudden, John said, “Nope! There’s the hole. I see it!”

“No,” I said, in horror. “It’s in the wrong place. It should be on the other side of the tombstone.”

“Son of a gun,” John said. “Are you kidding me? Well, I know what’s going to go in the blog tonight!”

“Call the digging company,” I told my brother. “We can’t bury Mom BEHIND her headstone!”

And So the Journey Begins

 

Last week the Command and I made the uncharacteristically snap decision (well, for him anyway) to trade in the Nanamobile for this snazzy little Prius C. Believe me, it is much more my style – loud, edgy, and in-your face…er, trendy and colorful and zippy. I love orange and I love “sticking it to the man”, er, getting one over on the gas companies, er, getting great gas mileage and I LOVE sporty looking little cars and this fits the bill on all counts.

 

That’s how I found myself back home with my lovely orange “Tigger” one week before heading off to Michigan and then Minnesota with Mom’s cremains. It has been wonderful to begin to learn all the intricacies of this little car and how to drive it the most efficiently to get the best gas mileage. I love having the gas economy screen showing so that I can glance occasionally over and see if I’m running on hybrid power or coasting and charging the battery or using strictly the gas engine. And this time around, the sound system works great with my iPhone.

Two nights ago I packed up the Prius to get ready for the jaunt out to Minnesota to bury Mom’s cremains. When you fold down the seats, there is a surprising amount of room. I left plenty of room for my brother’s things since I’ll be picking him up in Michigan.

 

My trusty little co-pilot, Elizabeth hopped into the front seat and one short sleep and a coffee mug filled up and I was ready to head out. Oh, my! The Commander had entered all of my addresses into the GPS system of the Prius earlier so all I had to do was pick my brother’s address and press “Start” and I headed down our street. “MAKE A LEFT IN 50 FEET,” screamed a voice at me. Sheesh, I was so startled that I almost drove over our neighbor’s curb. I quickly pulled over to the side of the street and started pressing icons, trying to figure out how to lower the volume on the built-in navigation system. I thought I had it figured out but “Frau Do-As-I-Command” ordered me to turn left at the stop sign again and I had no recourse but to turn the whole darn thing off and just switch to one of my Audible books. Whew! What a relief!

I hit rain shortly after I started on the turnpike but it wasn’t too bad. It got steadily heavier across Pennsylvania but the little car was doing great. I was clocking mileage between 53-58 mpg. I wasn’t pushing the car either. I decided to just hold it pretty steady around 55-60 mph and let the rest of the world whiz by. They could burn through gas like idiots. I wanted to enjoy the view and see what my little baby could do through the mountains of western Pennsylvania and then out on the Ohio Turnpike.

 

A quick stop at a rest stop and refueling with a Starbucks brownie (oh, and $14-worth of gas, too) and I was good to go again. I decided to start the navigation system back up and just live with the yelling but it dawned on me about halfway across Ohio that I hadn’t heard a peep out of Frau “You WILL turn here.” I fiddled with the loudspeaker icon again and yikes, she was soon booming out. It seemed to be all or nothing with her. I made my turns off of the Turnpike and began the trek up through Toledo and towards Michigan. It was REALLY pouring now and I found myself wondering how Mom had done it all those years as she was in her late 70’s and early 80’s in a full-size conversion van, no less. That got me to thinking how much I had been looking forward to the time when I was retired and could travel at any moment with Mom. Then it hit me….I WAS traveling with Mom, just not in the manner I had imagined. Oh, just great! Now it was not only pouring outside, but the tears were pouring inside as well.

One last stop (requisite picture of my “Tigger” but believe me, it was NOT sunny) for gas (this time it was just $2.80 worth of gas) and I headed off into the cattle chute that is the Detroit area freeway. Of course it was rush hour and by this time, a horrible storm had struck and it was raining so hard that I could barely see the road. I had to laugh at the sign that said, “Please do NOT exceed 50 mph around this curve.” We all were barely going 5 mph. From the time I hit the Detroit city limits to the time I came through the other side to my brother’s town (a northern suburb of Detroit), it took me 2 ½ hours to drive through that stretch. It was a nightmare. It didn’t help that Frau “YOU WILL DO AS I SAY” was screaming at me, trying to get me to head off at different junctures that I did not want to take. I also noticed that the screen hadn’t moved since I turned off the Ohio Turnpike. Hmmm, yet the Frau was spot-on with her voice commands. I obviously had hit some button that froze the screen. I froze the Frau and switched to music. Thank goodness that I knew where I was going. I think I need to look at that manual again. On the plus side, my last leg of the trip through Ohio and all of that stop-and-go traffic , I managed to get over 60 mpg with my little Prius. I am LOVING this car.

I finally pulled up into my brother’s driveway and he helped me unload. He carried one little bag into the house as I was heading back out to bring in more things. “Sheesh, what is in this bag?” he asked me. “It weighs a ton.”

“It’s Ma,” I replied.

Oh, boy. This is going to be a fun trip.

Better Bring a Shovel!

Heading to Lismore

Heading to Lismore

I’m heading off to Lismore, Minnesota soon with Mom (in the trunk) to take her cremains for her final burial.  I couldn’t resist saying “Mom in the trunk” since it has been a long-standing joke about Mom herself taking Dad in the trunk when she carted him off to Wisconsin to bury his cremains.  My brother will be accompanying me on this journey as we retrace our route that we took for many years on family vacations, going across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, over to Marinette, Wisconsin to visit my father’s grave, and then stopping at Marine-on-St. Croix in Minnesota to visit the site of our great-great-grandfather’s brewery before heading to the little Protestant cemetery outside Lismore where Mom will be buried.

I used to walk into Lismore from the family farm.  If you look at the picture above, you can see where I’ve circled the farm and then you can get an idea of how I’d follow the road and then cut across little side country roads to walk into town.  My grandmother’s parents used to live next to the lumberyard in town so I’d walk past that house which is still standing.  I’d usually stop for a cold pop at the one little grocery store in town and then often head over to the Presbyterian church where my grandmother was the church organist and perhaps sit in the shade of the trees in the side yard or perhaps meet up with my grandma who often came into town to practice the organ.

A lovely view

A lovely view

I was trying to describe the cemetery to someone the other day.  In the above picture, the cemetery is circled at the bottom and our farm is circled at the top.  Here is how I described the view:

“It’s surrounded by cow pastures and fields.  You can stand by the fence and look out over the fields and see our old family farm.  It’s just lovely out there.  Very peaceful.”

They looked at me as though I was nuts.  In truth, there aren’t many buried there these days.  Most prefer the big, fancy cemetery in Worthington or even Edgerton.  I don’t care.  I prefer the sound of the mourning doves and the soft bellowing of the cows with the wind whispering through the few pine trees that are still on the property.  When I had my horse on the farm, I used to saddle up and ride over to the cemetery, enjoying the orange tiger lilies blooming along the side of the roads.  For some reason, my Colorado-raised horse was terrified of Holsteins so when I’d get to the road that went to the cemetery, I’d have to dismount and lead him past the herd that was always congregating beside the entrance to the cemetery.  It was such a lovely way to spend a bit of a hot summer’s afternoon.

When I was looking at Google’s image of the cemetery the other day I thought, “Gosh, I don’t think there are any graves there now but our old Graf plots and the few smaller headstones of our family.”  Then I realized that the other tombstones are now the flat ones that cemetery caretakers favor because it is easier to mow.  Well, Mom has an upright tombstone and she took the liberty of engraving my name next to hers.  That’s ok.  I want to be buried there, too.

Do-it-Yourself Cemetery

Do-it-Yourself Cemetery

If you look to the left of the center trees, you’ll see a cluster of headstones.  That is our old Graf family plot.  Just to the left of that are the markers for my grandparents and Mom.  Speaking of burials, our funeral coordinator has been coordinating long-distance with the diggers in Lismore to have a hole dug for Mom’s cremains vault.  Today my brother called out there just to double-check that they will be ready for us.

“Now, you’ll have someone there for us at 2, right?” he asked.

“Um, you WANT us to be out there?” the secretary asked in surprise.  “Normally, we just dig the hole and then let the people have a private service.  Then you just call us when it is over and we’ll come out and close up the grave.”

“How deep will the hole be,” asked my brother.

“Gee, I don’t know,” said the lady on the phone.

“You’d better bring a little shovel,” I told my brother.  I’m not leaving Mom sitting out in the open when we put her in the hole.  We’ll at least put some dirt over her and then call them.”

“I’m bringing my paracord bracelet in case we have to lower her down deep.  We can jury-rig it up to lower the vault,” he suggested.

“Jeez,” I laughed.  “I guess they do things differently out in the country.  Maybe we ought to bring some grass seed.”

Mom would find this highly amusing, I’m sure.

 

 

Retirement and Health

Throw the Dice

Throw the Dice

Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out in this game of “Where Should We Retire?”, along comes another factor to consider.  The other day I opened up the paper and saw this article about which states are the healthiest for seniors.  Hmmm!  I hadn’t really considered that in our retirement deliberations.

Forget Michigan!

Forget Michigan!

Got a drinking problem?  You don’t want to live in Alaska.  That’s the worst place you can go.  Struggling with extra pounds?  Head to Hawaii.  Apparently, looking at all those tanned bodies in Speedos and bikinis will put you on the dieting straight and narrow.  Whatever you do, don’t go to Michigan.  That’s the worst state for anyone who packs on pounds easily, according to the article.

Couch Potato Central

Couch Potato Central

One area we’ve been seriously considering just got struck a direct hit in this article.  Since we have one child living on the East Coast and another in Houston, we thought that perhaps we should settle in Tennessee and just split the difference.  Well, if you tend towards sloth (cough, cough, and BIG squirm), you don’t want to live in Tennessee.  You guessed it…that’s the worst state for those who are physically inactive.  You’d be better off heading to Colorado.

We aren’t smokers but if YOU are, you might want to consider retiring in Utah.  There apparently aren’t many smokers in that state.  Whatever you do, don’t go to Nevada.  I guess everyone must light up in those casinos.   And if you want to make sure that you continue to practice good dental hygiene in your golden years, consider settling in Connecticut.  On the other hand, West Virginia might not be such a great choice.

Neutral Territory

Neutral Territory

 

On the plus side, Texas is neither known for being a healthy haven or for being a magnet for unhealthy lifestyles.  That’s good news. That still doesn’t solve the dilemma of figuring out where to settle but it IS one less thing to worry about.  I think it’s time to break out the guacamole and cheese enchiladas while I ponder this latest news for seniors.  A girl needs her brain food, after all.

 

 

 

June Randomness

Purge Time

Purge Time

I was packaging up some wool for a fellow knitter recently and she emailed me to ask if I’d hold onto it until she had completed a move.  She was complaining about how stressful moving was.  I joked back that I’d been in our house about 15 or 16 years now and it was driving me nuts because I couldn’t move every two years.  I LOVE to move!

There are very few things as much fun for me as that feeling of anticipation of going to a new location.  Heading out each day with a realtor, I get the same feeling that I get when a big snowstorm is predicted.  In the case of the latter, I usually wake up often in the night and race to the window to see if the snow has arrived and how much has fallen.  Well, when we’re going around with a realtor, I get that same feeling but it happens during the daytime and I feel it each time we cross the threshold of another house we are inspecting.

Bag at the ready

Bag at the ready

I just love change!  As I drove around on errands today, I was mulling over my conversation with my knitting friend and thinking about my nephew and his family who had recently moved to Alaska.  Oh, man, do I miss that.

Just then, “MacArthur Park” came on over the radio.  Ah, yes…Richard Harris.  What was he thinking when he recorded that song? For that matter, what was Jimmy Webb thinking when he composed it?  Have you ever listened to the lyrics?  If that isn’t an object lesson for artists in not using drugs, I don’t know what is.  As for Richard Harris, well, I think he must have been drunk when he decided to record it.  He DID like to drink.  I wonder if his buddy, Peter O’Toole put him up to it.

It seems like it was just last week that I was listening to “MacArthur Park”  in my college dorm, secure in the knowledge that my parental “safety net” was firmly in place back home.  I was carefree, focused on things like what guy I was going to set my sights on and what play I was going to try out for next, and thinking that I had an infinite number of years ahead of me.

This week, I turn on my radio and I’m suddenly in my sixties, parentless, and all too aware of how fast the years really go.  It makes me angry.  Why does the park have to melt?  Why was the cake left out in the rain?  Why are you able to talk and joke with your mother one week and the next week have an urn with her cremains in your house?  Where’s the reset button?

Adam and Eve, I blame it on you!  You had to go and eat that darn apple.  It wasn’t even a doughnut, for Pete’s sake!

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: