Saying Goodbye

Published October 13th, 2017

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Published October 13th, 2017

October 10, 2017  10:44 pm

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. This is not due to procrastination, lack of ideas or general laziness. It was an intentional choice. Let me explain.

When I write these random musings, it feels more like writing in a diary or a personal journal than it does writing for an audience. There is no filter. It’s easy to forget that other people will read these words once they get released into Internet-land. I think that’s the case with many bloggers, especially those of us that are attempting to capture the day-to-day events in our lives. Especially when those day-to-day events turn out to be life-altering experiences that will forever change the semblance of what defines normal in our lives.

It’s not that I feel that I have over-shared in these blog posts about what I experienced this summer with my mom passing away. I don’t think I have. But I recognize the danger. The temptation even. There’s a freedom in purging one’s self of all the thoughts and feelings that don’t come easily when words are spoken instead of written. So I put myself on a self-imposed moratorium on blog posts this fall.

The reason for my going silent is simple. I did not and do not want to write about selling my mom and dad’s house until the deal is done. And although there are plenty of other things I could have written about, things I’ve done in the past five weeks, tending to and selling that house has always remained foremost in my mind and it felt weird not to write about it in some manner. Call it an abundance of caution or paranoia or maybe even superstition, but I do not want to put anything out there in Internet-land that could jinx the deal. I’m not even sure what I could write that would do that, but the fear is there all the same.

So even though I am writing this Tuesday night, I will most likely not push the “publish” button until Friday afternoon, when the deal is done.

As you may remember, the disposing of my mom’s household items and the sale of her and my dad’s house has been a priority — actually, more of driving need than just a priority, since the end of July. Part of this is because there is a reverse mortgage on the house, and the bank wants their money. I knew if I took several months to list the house, I’d be listing it in October or November and would likely be taking care of it through the winter until it sold come springtime. But more importantly, selling the house is my symbol of moving on past this difficult, shitty summer, past the grief and the shitty memories I’m still trying to stamp out, past this chapter in life that I’ve always dreaded. None of it can be over until the house is gone.

Well, the house will be gone come Friday afternoon. Tomorrow morning (Wednesday morning) I will go to the title company and sign my half of the paperwork as my mother’s official Personal Representative. Friday afternoon the buyers will sign their half of the paperwork and the house will be theirs.

The selling of this house has been extremely stressful for me. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why. Obviously, there’s the whole trauma of having my mom die and going through all the household items but it was more than that. I was extremely worried that I would do it wrong. I’d make wrong choices. Which is pretty silly considering I’ve bought and sold four houses and the majority of the times I needed to sell one house in order to close on another. That’s a way more stressful scenario than selling my parents house, which has no financial hold over me at all. The bank would like their money sooner rather than later, but if they don’t get it, they don’t. I’m still not financially responsible for the debt.

So why be so stressed about selling the house? I think I finally figured it out. It’s the last thing I will do for my parents to make them proud. I felt the need to get it right. I admit that this is not a rational thought because I don’t honestly believe that they are looking down from the afterlife judging how I’m handling the sale of their house. But if it’s one thing I’ve learned this summer it’s that emotions are not rational or logical beings. They are there and they must run their course. Whether or not they make sense is immaterial. I’ve found it’s easier to go with whatever I’m feeling at the moment than it is to resist. And I needed, really needed, to make the right choices that would make my parents proud of me when selling their house.

I fully recognize that it’s just a house, a thing, and I don’t put much stock in things. It’s just stuff and I’ve never lost sleep over stuff before. Even when I’ve made bad decisions that cost me money — and I’ve made a few of those along the way, that’s for sure. But in this case, it’s my parents stuff, not mine. It’s the place they built, cared for and lived in for thirty-three years. When we moved in my mom said she was never moving again in her life. They were going to have to carry her out of the house feet first. She got her wish.

The sale of this house has been incredibly, mercifully easy. The buyers saw the pictures of the house on MLS and asked to write an offer before it was even listed. My realtor declined, saying they had to at least walk through it.

The buyers walked through the house at 7:30 am on the first day it was listed. It was earlier than my realtor thought they’d be there, and we didn’t even get a chance to turn on all the lights before they saw it. They wrote an offer that day. Through out the process the buyers have been steadfast that this is the house for them. They could have nit-picked problems found during the home inspection (the house is in very good condition but it is 33 years old) but they did not. They have been the dream buyers and I am so very grateful for them. My gratitude for them goes beyond just getting the house sold. I feel like I’m turning the house over to people who truly want it and will love it, unconditionally, as much as my parents did.

Personally, I had mixed feelings about the house, especially at first. I should clarify that statement. I liked the layout of the new house just fine, and I loved my new bedroom, but I wasn’t an enthusiastic proponent of leaving my old neighborhood. Like most kids, I didn’t want to move.

I graduated high school and we moved into the house a week or two later. And even though it’s only about 25 minutes from where I spent my teenage years, it seemed like a long way away. I was worried I’d lose touch with friends, worried that my new boyfriend of a few weeks wouldn’t want to drive that far to see me. There were new roads to learn, new routes to take me to familiar places I’d never had to navigate to before. And this was well before Google maps or even GPS systems. This was hand-drawn maps by my dad territory.

My parents said that since I was graduating high school that everyone would be going their own way anyway and it wouldn’t matter if I moved or not. For the most part they were right. I made new friends at college and I kept in touch with the old friends, too. My new boyfriend drove to see me for the next 3 1/2 years (until he dumped me one rainy Friday night in November). I was back in the old neighborhood every weekend for several years. But, yet, I wasn’t a part of it anymore either. I was visiting but I didn’t live there like everyone else. I lived in the new house twenty five minutes away.

I only lived in that house for five years. I spent most of my college years in that house when I commuted to UW-Whitewater, with the exception of one semester that I lived in a dorm.  I spent many a night creeping into that house well past bar time after hanging out at Denny’s with girlfriends, only to have the crap scared out of me by my mother snapping on the light in the family room where she was still up, sitting in her chair, waiting for me to get home. To say she was livid about the hours I was keeping is an understatement.

There were plenty of fights in that house between my mother and myself. I lived there as a young adult who had all the answers. At least in my opinion I did. Of course, I did not. But I had some of them, or at least the start of them. I lived there during the years that I struggled to carve out my independence from my mom while my mother struggled just as fiercely to hang on to me and try to mold me into who she wanted me to become. A no-win situation for both of us.

I lived in that house until I left home and got married at age 23. But I didn’t move far. My new husband and I bought a house a few miles away and I visited my parents and the house often. Four houses and a different husband later, I still live just a few miles from the house. However, I’ve never spent another night under that roof after I left.

There were happy times in that house. My son spent a lot of time there with my parents. And when I was overwhelmed with how to take care of a baby, that house and my mother, were my haven and my security. She’d help me. She’d know what to do. She take care of him so my husband and I could go out to dinner by ourselves once a week.

Later, when I started working full-time again when my son was almost 2, that house became his second home. My parents took care of him during the days while I worked. As he grew up he had is own room there. With his own stuff. When his dad and I were divorcing, that house, along with my parents, were an important thing that didn’t change in his life. A safe haven in a world upended. A security.

The past six years since my dad died, and my mom lived there alone with Charlie, that house has held so much sadness. Despondency oozes from the walls, and it’s oppressive. It still feels to me as if the grief seeps from the very pores of the wood beams in the ceiling, settling down like a heavy gray fog over the spot where my mom always sat in her chair. The same chair where she used to wait up for me thirty years earlier.

It’s hard for me to be inside the house now with it empty of all my parents belongings. It’s strange, but I still get the clenched feeling deep in my stomach when I pull into the driveway and for a brief millisecond I forget Mom’s gone. I wonder how she’ll be today. Will today be the day that I have to call an ambulance? Or worse?

We’ve been through quite a journey together, that house and I. It was an important part of my and my son’s security at different points in our lives.  It was my duty to take care of it these past few months and find it new owners to take over its care from my parents.

And now it’s someone else’s house and in my world it will be relegated to someplace my parents owned where I used to live for a few years. I’m okay with that.

I went into the house today for the last time. I picked up the last of the cleaning supplies so the new owners could do their final walk-thru before closing on Friday. I looked at the wall where my parents charted my son’s height one last time. I visited my old bedroom one last time and looked at the walk-in closet which has the last remaining remnant of the nauseating purplish-pink color that 17-year-old me thought would be a fantastic color to paint a bedroom. It wasn’t.

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I looked at the stenciled borders on the walls that my mom did when my son wasn’t even one year old yet, and I looked at the small twig of a tree that my dad planted by the patio where my mom and my son would enjoy its shade when he played in his kiddie pool. It’s well over 30 feet tall now and it’s a living monument to the passage of time. So. Much. Time.

The tree inside the fence is the twig my father planted 25 years ago.

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I thought about taking Charlie with me today, for that last visit. I decided against it. I thought he might be confused or sad to see the house empty with no furniture. He might run to where my mom’s chair used to be and look for her. I don’t think I could have handled that, so he stayed home while I went and said goodbye to the house on my own.

Goodbye’s are hard, but necessary stepping stones to get to what’s next. And heaven knows, I’m ready for what’s next, that next chapter in life, whatever it may be. I think the house is ready for it’s next chapter, too.

October 10, 2017  11:58 pm  (I left myself run a bit long since I was catching up on five week’s worth of thoughts.)

 

 

The Stuff Life is Made of

7:16 8/7/17

I haven’t posted in close to two weeks. Less than a month into my promise to post daily and I already blew it. I’ve been writing a lot in my head, though, if that makes sense. You writers out there understand, right? Sometimes the words need to marinate up there before they can be put down for the world to see.

There’s been a lot going on in the past two weeks so there’s been a lot to marinate on. Since this is a blog about letting go of perfectionism, I’ll consider my lapse in writing a nod toward embracing my imperfect self. At least it sounds like a good excuse.

The hard, cold fact is that after someone you love dies, life goes on. It has to, whether you want it to or not. Things have to get done. Stuff needs to be dealt with. Decisions need to be made. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past two weeks while I was marinating my words. I’ve been dealing with stuff.

I decided to list my mom’s house on the market which was not an easy decision. Here’s the handy dandy MLS listing if anyone is interested in buying a house in Sussex, Wisconsin. This is where I lived from the time I graduated high school until the time I got married in 1989 (minus a brief stint in the dorms at UW-Whitewater).

http://www.flexmls.com/share/10pLl/N71W27054MeadowWoodLNLisbonWI53089-2336

I decided to have an estate sale company come in and sell the entire contents of the house. That sale in happening this Thursday and Friday.

Not only are things moving along, they’re moving along fast. Which is good. I’m not anxious to dilly dally through this particular time in my life. I’d prefer to get it over with as fast as possible. However, that also means I need to move fast, during a time when I’d rather not move at all.

I scheduled the estate sale two weeks ago, which meant that I had two weeks to take whatever I wanted to save out of my mom’s house. I picked away here and there and procrastinated really digging into it for the first week. (In my defense, I’ve also been sick with this horrible virus that just won’t go away). But still, I admit there was a fair amount of avoidance going on.

Lollygagging, procrastination and denial only get you so far, though, and time keeps on marching along, so finally my only option was to jump in and get through it. Which I did toward the end of last week and this weekend.

It was hard deciding what I should save, not only for me, but for my son, Tony, who might want some memorabilia someday, but making sure I wasn’t taking too much. I already have a house full of stuff and being overrun with every closet stuffed to capacity with my parent’s stuff isn’t going to make me happy nor is it going to bring them back.

So I culled. My dad was an artist. He painted duck decoys, carved wooden figurines and made country art wall hangings.  This is a picture of a few of his wood carvings. I remember them from when I was a kid. Some of them have names. Ferdinand the Bull is third from left of the top. I like him, but he didn’t make the cut.

Bambi is third from the left on the bottom. When I was ten I broke off Bambi’s ear and I was devastated but my dad wasn’t mad. He just glued it back on said he’d carved it too thin. At some point from 1976 to 2017 Bambi’s ear fell off again, and this time the piece was lost. One-eared Bambi came home with me.

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And so it went. Some stayed, some came home with me. For the ones I’m selling, I thought my dad would be happy to know someone wanted them enough to buy them and enjoy them. Although, truth be told, if the wood carvings don’t sell at the auction, they’ll all come home with me. There’s too much of my dad in them for me to let them go to Goodwill.

Same with the duck decoys. The country art wall hangings, not so much. They’re his designs but they don’t have time and detail as the others. Plus I painted a lot of those myself as a side job in college and I’ve seen enough of them to last me a lifetime.

My mom’s stuff was a bit easier since she’s been funneling the few keepsakes she had to me for years. I did pull down a cross stitch hanging she did, I kept a serving spoon she always used when she cooked us dinner,  and took all the boxes of pictures. I probably don’t know who many of the people are in them, though, without her here to tell me. But I’ll know some of them for sure. That’ll be a hard box to go through. I sense a bout of procrastination coming on for that task.

I struggled with my grandma’s afghan that she crocheted for my mom and the many, many crocheted hangers my grandma made toward the end of her life twenty years ago. I ended up taking them all, although I now have enough hangers to replace every hanger in my entire house and still I’ll still have extras. Unfortunately, I had to re-hang all my mom’s clothes on old hangers to get the crocheted ones out. Some of the clothes still smelled like her — it’s face powder, I think. That job sucked. That job sucked a lot. Don’t want to do that one again ever.

Yesterday afternoon, Dennis and I went back to do a once more check to make sure I didn’t want anything else. I grabbed an old art book I remember by dad using when he tried to teach me to draw as a kid and I noticed a newish looking file cabinet I hadn’t checked yet.

It was locked, so Dennis pried it open. More stuff. Lots of paperwork, messy and unsorted. Not my mom’s style of organization at all. MY style of organization. It was all MY stuff. I moved to a condo briefly in 2004 and I stored stuff in my parent’s rec room. I thought I moved it all back when I bought my house, but apparently I forgot about this cabinet.

So we hauled all this paperwork back to our house and I spent yesterday afternoon going through it all. It was, hands down, the worst part of this culling job yet. It was all stuff I had saved from 1990, when I was married to my first husband, up to about December 2003, when I was getting ready to move into the condo. A hell of a lot happened in those years, and it was laid out on my kitchen table for me to peruse.

I unearthed my college diploma — a good thing, old school pictures of Tony, a picture of his dad and me when Tony was about 5 (I was so thin!), divorce papers, a receipt for an alarm system that I had installed when I dated a seriously unstable guy after I was divorced, old writing and poems I wrote when I was getting divorced (a couple weren’t bad), an old vet bill from a cherished cat that died in 2012 that I still can’t look at pictures of her without tearing up, results of standardized tests for Tony where I saw his propensity for math started at a very early age, valentines from Tony when he could barely write his name, a booklet Tony completed in second grade where he listed Dennis as a “safe” person he could trust (that one made me cry — Dennis and I were friends at that point but not anywhere close to getting married), old job offers, cards from co-workers wishing me well when I left for a new job, email address from old friends I never used, old reviews from bosses I loved, bosses hated, and one boss that is now dead. Whew.

It was a lifetime of accomplishments, failures and memories all crammed into two boxes. It was the tangible, hold-it-in-your-hand evidence of the passage of time.  They were the hardest two boxes I’ve had to look through so far.

I was going to tackle the boxes of pictures I brought home from my parents this week, but I think I’ll procrastinate a little longer on those.  I’m still recovering from my last trip down memory lane.

8:08 am 8/7/17

Soon Defined

8:32 am 7/11/17

Yesterday I wrote, “…I don’t know when soon is. The nurses have been saying for days that my mom will die soon. But this soon concept seems to be a bit elusive. Is soon days? Is it weeks? It can’t be months, can it?”

This morning “soon” is defined. My mom passed away yesterday, 6 hours after I wrote those sentiments. It was a bit of surprise as I thought we were looking at days, and I feared we were looking at weeks, but it wasn’t meant to be. Soon came at approximately 6:00 pm, while Dennis and I were driving to see her on the same roads I wrote about yesterday, which is the perfect ending to a very long story. As a writer I couldn’t have scripted it better.

Yesterday morning when I went to see Mom, she was adamant that I not return in the evening. She truly wanted me to go about with my day-to-day life and not “run back and forth” to see her as she put it.

I told her I would be back, because I wanted to check in and make sure that she was okay and didn’t need anything. She regained enough consciousness and energy to tell me that I was so stubborn, and I always had been. I never would listen to she her.

I told her not to scold me as I was just trying to look out for her. She said she’d scold me if she wanted because she was still my mother. She even laughed. So did I. For a few moments we felt normal again.

It was a good-natured scolding, but it also had a strong vein of truth running through it. I am stubborn and so was she. We are cut from the same cloth, as the cliche’ says, and ours has been a challenging relationship throughout my life. I didn’t appreciate her trying to control my life from time I was about 16, and she didn’t appreciate me trying control hers after my father died and she needed help. We loved eachother, but we challenged each other, too, in ways no other human being on this earth could do.

I laughed at her comments, and I agreed with her that I was stubborn. I told her that I would still see her again that night.

But I didn’t.

This morning it occurred to me that she found one last way to get her way. The irony of her passing while I was literally driving to see her isn’t lost on me.

If she’s in a place where she’s aware of what is going on down here on earth, I know she’s chuckling at getting her own way one last time.

I am sad at her passing, of course. And it will take me awhile to process this new world without parents that I’m now living in.

Most of all, though, there is an immense sense of relief and of peace. Our final journey, hers and mine, the one that started almost a month ago when she became sick, the most difficult journey, I think, of either of our lives, is over.

Mom is no longer suffering, physically or emotionally. My responsibility and the dread of not knowing if I was doing the right things for her, is done. For the first time since I was 25 and I had my son, I’m not responsible for another human being. That’s going to take some getting used to.

I went out Chinese food for lunch yesterday. This was the fortune that I received in my fortune cookie. I thought it was very appropriate given the past few weeks.

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And so, as my next journey begins in this new phase of life, I think I will start it by doing just that. Taking a good long rest. It’s been a long summer.

9:33 am 7/11/17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monopoly, Match Game & the Royal Wedding

5:49 pm 7/1/17

It’s hard to believe it’s July 1st already. I feel like I’ve lost this last week in a black hole of chaos and we’re finally coming out on the other end. At least for now.

July always reminds me of the quintessential childhood summer. Riding bikes in the subdivision and staying outside with friends until my parents turned on the porch light. I’m sure it rained and was cool sometimes, after all, it is Wisconsin, but in my memory it’s always hot and it feels like it’s sunny almost 24 hours a day. Which, when you go to bed at 9:30 or 10, isn’t too far from the truth.

By the time July rolled around, it felt like I’d been out of school forever, even though in reality, it was just a few weeks. The start of school was so far off that it wasn’t even on the horizon. It was some far-off distant milestone, like wearing make-up or learning to drive. I knew they would happen at some point, but it was so far off, it wasn’t worth much thought at all.

Childhood summer’s meant summer TV on the three stations we got with our antenna. ABC, CBS, and NBC. Also PBS, but we never watched that once I was done with Sesame Street. On a rare occasion we could pull channel 18, which always ran reruns of old shows. It was always snowy and hard to see, but it was treat when it we got it nonetheless.

In the mornings I watched Fury, the black and white show about a boy and his horse. Then Price is Right with Bob Barker, way before he was the kindly white-hair gent we all remember. I always said that if I got to the showcase showdown I’d bid on the showcase with the trips. Cars, furniture and appliances were boring. I might actually still do that today, come to think of it.

Afternoons were often spent playing Barbies or Monopoly (I was an absolute Monopoly-fiend for several years. I played for blood, took no prisoners and had no remorse about annihilating friends).

Sometimes we watched Match Game with Gene Rayburn and all the drunk celebrities. I was really ticked about the Watergate hearings because they pre-empted Match Game for what seemed like weeks. I understood very little of the sexual innuendos that were a regular staple of the game. I’ve watched a few of those shows on rerun on GSN and I’m surprised with how much they got away with airing. The new Match Game with Alex Baldwin doesn’t compare. You can’t hand a guy a long-necked microphone and expect him to capture the magic that was Match Game circa 1974.

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I always like Brett and Fannie the best.

 

As I got a few years older, July meant drinking lemonade and playing Hearts with girlfriends and swimming. We’d play records (Billy Joel’s Glass Houses album is still one of my all time favorites), go shopping at the mall and have sleep overs. When I wasn’t with friends, I preferred to stay up really late, reading and listening to the radio and sleeping in past 10:00. My grandma lived with us at that point, and it drove her nuts when I slept that late. My grandpa died in late July, 1979.

Later on, when I was old enough to date, July became all about the nights and dates with boys. There were drive-ins, renting VHS movies and playing games. I still played Monopoly sometimes, but not quite with killer instinct I did as a kid. The Royal Wedding between Charles and Diana was in July, and I kept a scrapbook for several years of clippings about their growing family. I still have it, although I don’t know why. It seems wrong to just chuck it.

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This was one of my favorite pictures from the Royal Wedding.

Once I started college, July blended with the rest of the summer and became a chance to make money by working full-time while I was off from school. It wasn’t special anymore. There was still fun, nights out at night clubs with girlfriends or a boyfriend if I was seeing anyone, but it didn’t have the magic that July held during those early years. I was well on my way toward adulthood, and July was one of the first casualties of my youth.

There’d be plenty more.

On this July 1st, I wonder what this month will hold for me. There are many changes afoot as I’m getting ready to enter another new phase of life where I will soon be the elder of the family. It still amazes me that this can be true when I remember the Julys’ of my youth so vividly. Was it really that  long ago?

I think maybe I’ll see if I can talk Dennis into a good, spirited game of Monopoly tonight. For the old days.

6:24 pm 7/1/17

 

…And Here’s the Twist

3:07 am 7/1/17 (blogged for 6/30/17)

On Wednesday I posted an entry called Is there a twist? In it I said that the writer in me was wondering when the twist would come when we received the news that my mother would recover from her illness after we were told on Sunday that she would not.

The twist made itself known the very next day on Thursday. While my mother’s lab numbers were indeed getting better, she, however, was not. In fact, she was more weak than she was when we brought her to the hospital on Sunday.

Upon hearing the good news on Wednesday, I had scheduled a meeting for Thursday with the social worker at the hospital to discuss assisted living options. However, when we met with her on Thursday, I hijacked the meeting from our original topic and we instead discussed Mom’s option to decline further medical treatment.

Mom’s been telling me often, for well over a year, that she’s ready to die. She’s even said she wished she would just not wake up some morning. It just took me this long to finally listen to her and for this, I’m ashamed of myself. In a moment of clarity Thursday morning, as I put on my make-up, I understood what I needed to do. What she needed me to do.

After a very frank discussion with the social worker, we understood Mom’s choices.

The social worker talked to several of Mom’s doctors and all were in agreement with the prognosis. They came in to tell Mom the news.

Even though the problems she came in for were getting better, her heart condition was worse and it is the cause of her to not gaining strength. She would not get better without open heart surgery.

When Mom heard this she was adamant that she wasn’t going to have surgery. Which I knew. She said that back in October when she was diagnosed. This time, though, the doctors actually agreed that at her age that was probably the right decision.

We talked about her options. How she could reject all medicine and attempts to extend her life and just accept treatment that would ease her pain. How the medical community would neither help to sustain life but nor would it hasten death. Nature would take it course in the most painless manner possible.

Palliative Care. Hospice.

For the first time in a long, long time, my mom looked relieved. She could finally be done.

One doctor, the one who told her she would survive “the event” we brought her to the hospital for, didn’t seem quite as on board with the decision to stop all treatments as the other doctors. He told her that he understood her viewpoint, but she should know that she wasn’t “actively dying” and no one knew how long she could live in her current state.

Actively Dying. Those words have stuck with me since he said them. They make perfect sense. I think it’s the inference that if there’s an “actively dying” there must be a “passively dying”,  and everyone who isn’t actively dying is passively dying. Which I knew, of course. I just never thought of it quite that way.

Friday morning we met with the Palliative Care team and devised a care plan. Last week at this time, I didn’t even know what a care plan was.

We worked with the social worker to get mom placed in a hospice near our house. They transferred her there Friday afternoon by ambulance and Dennis and met her there to do the paperwork to get her admitted. This is the same place I checked my dad into 6 years ago when he had a stroke, although, that was a much different experience. Same vivid memories, though, when I walked into the building.

When I walked into Mom’s room, I was stunned. It’s gorgeous. She has a patio door and a big bay window that looks out on to a terrace where there are trees, flowers and small river. They have wildlife everywhere, and she was sitting up in bed watching the birds in the bird feeder.

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For the first time in well over a year, if not longer, Mom actually looked happy.

4:02 am 7/1/17 – (blogged for 6/30/17)

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Top 5 Summerfest Memories

11:03 pm 6/29/17

Today I thought I’d take a break from all the somber posts and write about a the annual music festival, Summerfest. Summerfest started yesterday at the lakefront in Milwaukee.  This is a major deal around here. Almost as big a deal as the Packers, but not quite.

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Every year, Dennis and I see a band that’s playing that we would like to see. We talk about getting tickets. We plan what favorite food vendors we’ll visit and what we’ll eat first. Then we remember the traffic, the lack of parking, the crowds and the super-grody bathrooms (that’s more my thing than his). Ultimately, the bad out weighs the good, and we decide to stay home.

I guess that means we’re getting old. Or are we already old? Maybe I don’t want to know.

That being said, I do have many fond memories of Summerfest. Attendance was basically a rite of passage for growing up in the Milwaukee area in the 1980’s — and I believe it still is today.

Here are 5 of my favorite Summerfest memories:

  1. Seeing Helen Reddy with my parents, my grandparents and my BABYSITTER (no idea why they brought her along) at the old main stage.  I remember it was super hot and sunny and we were sitting on bleachers with no shade. My parents must have hated it. I was probably 7 or 8 so it must have been around 1974 or so.  It seemed like we waited for hours for Helen to come out and when she did she was wearing all black, with sequins. I remember being very impressed by her outfit. I don’t think we stayed long. How my mother ever got my father and my grandfather to see Helen Reddy, I’ll never know.
  2. My girlfriend and I were part of several bowling leagues at Red Carpet Lanes one summer when I was 21, and we got lots of free Summerfest tickets from Red Carpet. After we had gone down to Summerfest several times to see all the bands we wanted to see (it runs for around 10 days each year) we still had leftover tickets. One night after we were done bowling with the league, we drove down to Summerfest at 10 pm (it closed at midnight) in her black Cougar with red leather seats. It was a warm night and we drove with the windows down while blasting music from cassette mix tapes the whole way. We shopped the craft vendors and got Saz’s mozzarella marinara (Mozzarella sticks wrapped in wonton wrappers and deep fried. So good!) and went home. We never gave a thought to getting up for work in the morning, or how far we’d have to walk or if we’d get stuck in traffic on the way home. We just went on a whim and it was awesome.
  3. Being allowed to skip out on a family Fourth of July get-together with my 2nd cousin and her family to go to Summerfest with my boyfriend. I don’t remember much about Summerfest itself that time, but being grown up enough to get to do my own thing — and on a holiday to boot, was pretty cool. I was 17.
  4. Sitting on the great big boulders that used to line the lakefront before they built the breakwaters and watching the Big Bang fireworks with my boyfriend.  I was 18. (Same guy — different year.) It was always cooler by the shore thanks to the breeze off the lake, and the water lapped against the rocks in a slow rhythm. We listed to the strains of music from the bands nearby until he fireworks started.  It was the epitome of romance to me at the time. (As opposed to now, when I think it’s romantic when Dennis is the one who gets up to pull the dog off a cat for the 4th or 5th time that night while I’m trying to watch Big Brother.)
  5. The most memorable Summerfest experience I had, and one that is still mentioned now and then as part of Summerfest-lore, was the great flood of 1987 when I was 20. I was there with my boyfriend (again, same guy, different year) and his 15 year-old sister and her friend. My boyfriend and I were at the mainstage watching INXS and the sister and friend were on their own in the park. A huge storm came through, and I mean h-u-g-e, and it flooded the entire park. They stopped the concert and closed the park and told everyone to leave. Everything was under at least a foot of water, if not more. Some people left the park right away. Many did not and chose to slosh around the grounds. We spent the better part of an hour searching for the sister and friend and we finally found them in the playground area, kicking water at eachother and having a grand old time. Boyfriend was not amused and it took us close to 2 hours to make our way home because the streets were either flooded or gridlocked in traffic.  Good times.

Seriously. They were really good times that were never much about the music for me. It was always about the people I was with, the joy of being young and spontaneous, and the adrenaline of the shared energy with the crowds who were also young, joyful and spontaneous.

Maybe we should go see a band this year…

12:03 am 6/30/17

 

I did what?!

9:22 am 6/20/17

It’s a gorgeous morning here in Sussex, Wisconsin. It’s warm and sunny with no humidity. It’s the kind of morning that keeps me living in this state where gray skies and snow are the norm for at least six months out of the year.

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This is the view from my swing this morning in the front of my house. It’s damn good one, I think. Yes, I do have a fenced in front yard. It’s odd and somewhat unsightly. Our backyard is basically swamp land and it slopes down, so our basement is partially exposed. It’s pretty and I wouldn’t give it up for anything, however, it means there’s no door that leads from the house to the back yard. Just a patio door that leads to a raised deck. Hence, the need for a fence in the front for the pooch.  It’s not ideal, but it works.

Sitting here this morning, I was thinking back to when I was about 21 or 22, and was just starting to get ready to start out on the journey of adulthood. Having an apartment of my own was a significant goal. At that time, I couldn’t fathom how I would get from living with my parents to ever owning my own home.

It was a journey. More of a journey than I anticipated it would be, with both good and bad surprises.  A divorce. Being lucky enough to find a lucrative field I enjoyed which was miles away from my liberal arts education. Being a single parent. Remodeling a house, buying a condo that I ended up hating, and finally purchasing this house that I love. Loving animals, losing animals and loving new animals. Marrying my best friend after swearing for close to ten years that I would never marry again.  Loving jobs, hating jobs, and starting my own small business. What’s next?

Thankfully, I don’t know. While hindsight may be 20/20, as the saying goes,  not knowing what the future brings is a huge blessing. Through the years, the one thing I’ve learned that helps me in every situation, good or bad, is to live in the present. I look forward and plan only as far I can envision myself and what I want for my future. Sometimes it’s merely hours, or days at the most. Other times, it’s years. On the worst days I look forward only seconds.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband, Dennis, hurt his knee. We spent the morning at the clinic and left with pain pills and an appointment for an MRI the next day. The next morning when I got up, Dennis was having problems staying awake and his breathing was very shallow. Scary stuff to say the least. As I rushed him to the hospital, I was looking forward in increments of seconds — getting past the car before me and the car before it. Nothing else mattered.

Once I got him into the ER, I looked forward in minutes. When the next test result would arrive. When the next check in with the doctor would occur.  When would the nurse be back, and did I need to call her?

When we got the news that it wasn’t a heart attack, or a stroke or brain aneurysm as I feared, I began to look farther ahead to hours. Time was measured in when he’d be released and we could go home.

Five hours later, with the diagnosis that Dennis had a bad reaction to the pain meds, he was released and I could breathe again. So could he. It was a wonderful thing.

Time went back to normal. I’m back to looking and planning months, if not years ahead. However, the memory of looking forward to only the next second, and the horror of the possibility that it could have been a bad outcome instead of good, is still fresh. I offer up a silent thanks to whoever or whatever is out there, whenever I think of it.

That terrible, frightening experience reminds me, that however far ahead I think I can look, life can change on a dime. Looking forward is a hope. A haphazard plan at best. It’s not a forecast or a promise. And because of that, the possibility for changes I can’t anticipate or control, I always live in the present.

I have to say that the present this morning, is a pretty damn awesome place to be. In spite of having a fence in my front yard.

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10:05 am. 6/20/17