Tag Archives: maturity

What’s in your heart?

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The other day I ran into (almost crashed with our carts!) an old high school friend at Walmart.  I had seen just before I went to Walmart, on her fb feed that she had just lost one of her beloved furry kids.  Anyway,

I told her how sorry I was, and she was very gracious, but something she then said kind of shocked me.    “This is why I look the way I do today!”.    Wow!   Wow I thought.  To feel the need to say that to me, at 55 years of age?  We will both soon be 56.     It just struck me odd.  And perhaps its because for years now, I’ve not focused on the way I looked, nor the manner in which I dressed.  I admit, some of that had to do with depression, but when I see people I love, I don’t look them over from top to bottom.  I look into their eyes, and I’m paying attention to their words.

It saddened me, and also baffled me at the same time that she would be concerned of such.  A member of her family just died, who gives a shit how she looks?    Or have i just become too uncaring about this stuff?

She’s a beautiful woman, with the biggest blue eyes, and a gorgeous smile.  And she was in pain, I could see it written all over her face and in her eyes.  My heart hurt for her and her family.  I know how hard it is when our furry families leave us.  It’s painful as hell.    No one wants to say goodbye to such unconditional and gentle love and companionship.

So I’ve been sitting with that memory of our meeting.    And I’m not insinuating that she did anything wrong, but why did it stand out to me?   Why did that response come to mind for her, when she was sharing of her pain?

I suppose it could’ve been that I looked like crap.   Laughing.   And I didn’t have death of a pet (Thank God) to blame!    And I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t about her, it was about me.    I guess if someone is going to judge me by the way I look, for whatever reason, I guess I deep down know, they aren’t my friend!    I never once looked at her to think anything of her.  I wasn’t judging her, I was judging myself!  And with her comment, I felt like she was looking at what I looked like, not who I was, and the words I was saying to her.

How hard we are on ourselves.    This saddens me and continues to be the biggest issue I contend with on a daily basis.  I’m learning to be kinder, softer with myself, but it’s the first place that retorts back to old behavior, and I have to be vigilant with my self talk, turning it to positive.    There are some days, that’s all I accomplish.  Recycling old negative thoughts into positive ones.  With that said, the days are fewer and far between what they used to be.

What isn’t important to me is what someone drives, the diamonds or sapphires they wear, but I do look at their eyes, and I try to see what is in their heart with the limited time I’m with another.    Because THAT is how I want others to look at me!!!   But will they?   Doesn’t matter, it’s out of my control what another person thinks of me, and I’m grateful I don’t care today.    But here is where the whole process ended up for me.

What if?  What if we all felt better about ourselves, and loved and cared for ourselves.  What if we didn’t feel the need to “look” or “play” the part?     What if we stood one with our grief and said “I’m having a crappy day, I need to be gentle on myself?”

Are you one that can do that?      I dare ya!

So if the person reading this blog and whom I met in the Dog Aisle at Walmart, my bestest from way back in our teens, You are beautiful!   Your eyes are as blue as they were in high school, and your smile as bright.    Be kind to yourself!    Give yourself permission to grieve, and don’t judge yourself (or me) on the way I look!    Love ya girl.

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Experience…

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“I remember standing on the corner at midnight, trying to get my courage up.  There was this long lovely dancer in this club downtown, I loved to watch her do her stuff.  Through the long lonely nights she filled my sleep, her body softly swaying to that smokey beat, down on Main Street…”

In 1980 I was at a Bob Seger concert at Boston Garden.  When it was announced that they were recording this concert for a new LP (yes, I’m that old), I was standing on the chair, screaming, jumping up and down!    It was a great concert.

In 1980 I was almost 20 years old.   At the concert with a guy that died a young death in a snowmobile accident.   He was 27 years old, with a wife and two kids.  We were long gone as a couple, but we both loved music.   We went to many concerts in the short time we were together.   He had big blue eyes, curly blonde hair, and was a big guy, someone who I felt protected with when we went to a “Black Sabbath and Blue Oyster Colt” concert in Boston.      My god, there were more people tripping than straight.  But I digress.

I often relate music to times in my life.  More so than not.   The memories can be very vivid, and can raise me up or drop me to my knees.  It wasn’t until later in life that I learned what real hardship and heartache was.  And don’t get me wrong, as a young person, love is a hard thing, especially lost love, but now, I think back and smile, grateful for the memories.    Some things weren’t meant to be.   And as true with most things, as I lived out portions of my life, I would understand why things didn’t work out the way I wanted them to, or had hoped they would.   I see young people and I think “My God, was I really ever that young?  That innocent?”   Hell YES!

It’s been many years since I stood on that chair screaming and singing my lungs out.   And when people say “he or she has changed”, I smile and listen, but my thoughts are “Have they?”  Have I?     Yes, life has a way of smartening you up, experiences have a way of defining moments that change the course of your life.   But are we the same?

Best as my experience tells me, when you knew someone in your youth, if they were good, kind people, then chances are they still are.   And if they were an asshole?  They may still be!      Life dishes out suntans AND wet towels!   Sometimes the wet towels are so heavy it takes everything you’ve got to keep moving.   But experience has taught me it helps to toss the wet towels, grab from it all that you have learned, both good and bad, then drop it in its path, and continue on.

Maturity is a beautiful thing.   In life we learn all kinds of things about people, ourselves.   I learned at the age above in my life this relationship was not meant to be.  While there was pain, it passed.   And I’m very grateful that I wasn’t his widow at 27.

The kind of people that draw my attention are the people who have walked through hell and kept walking.    Because NO ONE’s life is perfect, and some of us have learned the value in being honest about it.   That doesn’t mean you stay sitting in the sand, with the wet towel around your neck.  It means you learn to be kinder to yourself, to accept change, and you learn the type of people who are deserving of your time, your heart.

Real people, with real issues.    I like people who have survived major shit.  Why?  Because they know who they are, they know what they don’t want, and what they do, and they value the smaller things in life, like the values of a person, not their mistakes.  And when we can finally accept that about ourselves, those of us who are blessed to live long enough to figure that out, there is comfort and peace in knowing, everything is as it should be, even if we don’t like it.

Very grateful for my life, and where I am today.  Is it perfect?  Not even close, but it’s mine, and I plan to make the most of it!

Negative space

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I’m getting some much needed alone time.     With music (therapy) in the background, windows open, I am painting today off an easel, a piece I had designed many years ago.  I’m not painting it the same way, nor with the same paint.   Today’s version is more realistic, and the palette much brighter than that of before.    I attribute that to high pigment paint AND my own growth as a woman, as an artist.

So I’m not using the old reference photos for anything but placement.  Basically trying to keep my life simple, because I recall the agony I had when first sitting down to design this piece.  It initially had a couple of watering cans in it, and it was too busy.   Back when I analyzed the shit out of everything, I would sometimes “fill” my paintings to the brim, instead of breathing, detaching, and appreciating or recognizing the need for negative space.  MUCH like the alone time I am having today.  I don’t mean to infer that I’m negative, not in the least today, but my alone time is crucial and vital to my peace of mind, creativity, and general health.  Therefore, I’m comparing negative space in a painting to alone time in my life because it’s needed and I’m usually pleased with the end result.

Such is true of food, as well.  I’ve been off sugar since April.   The first week was HELL.  I had headaches, quick trips to the bathroom, dizziness, and generally feeling like all I wanted to do was pick up a pop and drink it.    Anything to quiet the toxins that were being excreted from my body.    A week later I started feeling better, and stronger, and now some 14 weeks later I’m feeling SO much better, dropped a few pounds, and my goal is to remain happy and kind to myself.   The inner critic that resides in the darker parts of my mind is silenced at this moment.   When I catch it coming to forefront of my mind, I do what I was taught to do while learning to meditate.    Acknowledge it, and then go back to focus.   It helps.  And I’ve learned that it really is the smaller things that help me, not the large and drastic changes the critic sometimes pushes me to believe I need.

Music is a huge source of happiness for me.   Today, as my playlists echo throughout my studio, I acknowledge where the song takes me, the people that were in my life at that time, situations, circumstances.   And then when the song is done, I do it all over again with the next song.    I have several playlists that I’ve made, one all about my life, songs that come from the most significant times of my life.  And I’m here to tell you, “significant” wasn’t necessarily  big events like marriage, but reaching understanding, un-complicating my life from worry, finding peace, acceptance of things that LARGELY contributed to the bright side of, and improved quality of my life.

I’ve no answers for others, this in itself is a valuable piece of information.  I can’t live my life or make decisions for someone else, just myself.   And some days I have all I can do to do this for myself.    So the point I’m trying to make is, ridding myself of the clutter, both mentally and physically, in all aspects of my life have gifted me with this day of feeling happy.   I’m much looser with my painting, I’m focusing on the moment, and in the moment, and enjoying all this “negative space”.

Hope yours is going well, too!

 

On love

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It seems much of my life I have spent questioning my decisions.   I’m sometimes afraid to make decisions for fear that I’ll regret them, rarely has anything to do with the consequences.   I guess, in short, I lack self confidence, in some things, and then in others, I stand strong, tall, stoic to criticism with the ability to see clearly and fully that my decisions are just, sound, right.     Why the variance?

I had some crap dreams last night.   I will include that Trump was in one of them.  Rolling my eyes.    I don’t normally dream about our 45th President!   So why now?

When I access the parts of my life that include pain, disappointment (and we all have it), I weaken and have a tendency to “feel it” emotionally.

I’m reminded of a poem I came across at the young, ripe age of 15 that finds its way back in my life on occasion, and when I need it most.   The woman who wrote it was young at the time, and I remember reading something she had written on it saying she has never understood the depth of interest and popularity of it.     I found that interesting, because for me, this poem helped me stand up after assaults to my being or character.   I’ve shared this poem with many people during challenging parts of their life.   So why would it mean so little to her and so much to those of us who used to it carry us through difficulties?

She wrote about specific things that I have experienced, and I suppose, love and youth, or youth and love.   Earlier times in my life when love was defined differently than it is today (Thank God!).    “Kisses aren’t contracts”, we all “get this” when we experience the end of relationship, of death or loved one and we find ourselves alone.    The most important part for me was and still is ” So we begin to bring ourselves flowers”.    Hence, what I still continue to learn, to love and take care of myself versus others.

Of course I still lend a hand and my heart to others, but I’ve learned to first make sure I’ve filled my own needs.    I’ve also learned that it’s okay to have needs, it’s not selfish to take care of yourself, or put yourself first.    So perhaps, the answer to the author of the poem not understanding how or why her early poem was so popular is because, she learned with only one lesson to give to herself, or to love without losing herself.  And then there are many people like myself, who only after heartache and discord, learn, and even after that, continue the cycle until we finally “get it”.    Our hearts want one they want, but what if our idea of love is whacked?    I’m reminded that the “definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over hoping for different results”.

For whatever the reasons, I still love this poem, and while I no longer cling to it like I did as an innocent 15 year old girl, as a 55 year old woman, I reminisce and bathe in the memories of “love”, and how over the years I’ve learned to accept self love!

Here is the poem by Veronica Shoffstall

Image result for after awhile you learn the subtle difference between

 

Artistic growth

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As I continue with the art challenge to post pictures of my artwork for 6 days on my facebook page, I am having an internal conversation with self.

I look at the scenes and see how much I’ve grown as an artist, and always, as a woman.   I have been trying to find my very first painting to post, alongside my last.   I think what I need to do, for my own sake, is to repaint an earlier piece.

I know it’s important that I honor every part of my journey.   I am mostly self taught, with a few classes with awesome teachers.  I’m now looking to take some classes on painting animals, because I’m enjoying it very much.  The roosters I’ve been painting have come easy for me, but when you add the body, the sprawling and presence of many beautiful feathers, I become perplexed and sometimes, overwhelmed.  But I know I can do it, I can learn this.  I know i will.

Most of my earlier Santa’s have taken on a provocative look.   I will share this lightly.   Most of my Santa’s noses ended up looking like male genitalia.   My students and I would laugh over it, and many comical, highly amusing stories have come from my earlier work.   Perhaps now I can paint noses as I’d have to reach deep into my long term memory to paint male genitalia!   I say that laughing, laughing more, and laughing loudly.

Just like our growth as a person, an artist has to start somewhere.    The ideas and things that I have in my head that I’ve yet to put to canvas are so different from my paintings of past.  But that’s because I’ve changed, we all change.   I’m not the same person I was when I designed and painted prior.   I see things differently, and my colors and interests have evolved.   Honor the process, Donna, honor the process.

God speed to you and yours

In my youth

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I’m painting (on canvas) for the first time in months, listening to a playlist on Spotify that depicts my life and times in words, songs.   “Rocky Mountain High” just played, which was, I believe, our 8th grade graduation song.   John Denver got me through MUCH in my youth.   The, what seemed insurmountable problems of youth, which seemed so very difficult, something like a blemish on my face, or my favorite Levi’s not clean for a date, etc.   I think about it sometimes, as I drive by the local high school and see these YOUNG KIDS and I question, “Was I really ever that young?”    And then, putting into proportion the immense deep feelings I had for a kid that I had hoped would last into adulthood.  I’m laughing now.  IF ONLY relationships were that easy!  ha!    But it’s nice to think about being so young, so innocent.  And certainly the woes of that time were real, and feelings are so deep because you’ve yet to experience life, to experience loss, to experience the pain of broken hearts or dreams.    I’m not meaning to sound cynical, not at all.   I guess I’m just saying, the innocence and naivety are covered with blankets of protection of our youth.

I’ve often written about music.  How important it is to my well being, to my mental health.  I simply don’t know how I could ever live without it.    In thinking about life’s necessities, and if I were given only one luxury, would I choose music over art?    I think I probably would!  And yet art is so important to me, ingrained in every aspect of my being.   I’m so fortunate that I have known passion for such.   I’m grateful for that.  I’m grateful for where my paint brush has taken me in life, and all the good it has brought me to.

Now, a song by Toni Child’s “I’ve got to go now”.   A song about a woman in love with an alcoholic, who tosses her and his children aside for the almighty bottle.   This song actually relates to the three major relationships I’ve had in my life.  All alcoholics.  The first, who physically beat me, the second who emotionally did, and the last, the one who gave me so much, and likewise, took so much of me when we parted.     “Must be addicted to all this pain, because I keep coming back for the shame.  Dear God give me the strength to leave, I’ve got to keep going, keep going this time”.   Powerful song, and an epitaph of my past relationships.    Listening to this song does not always make me sad.  Shat it does is get me in touch with the courage I have mustered in my life.  The starting over, the strength and fortitude that comes when you say goodbye to the one you love, because you know, if you stay, you will die before he.

Now, “Landslide” by Stevie Nicks.  I LOVE this song.  It’s been, what I call, my “recovery” song.  Questioning, seeing, surviving.  “Oh, mirror in the sky.  What is love?  Can the child within my heart rise above?  Can I sail through the changing ocean tide?  Can I handle the seasons of my life?”   I go to this song when I am questioning,  seeking strength, seeking guidance.  Doubt becomes certainty, becomes strength, endurance, and then even on top of that becomes the silver lining of it all.  “But time makes you bolder, and children get older, and I’m getting older too…”   Life, learning, lessons.   I’ve become the person I wanted to be, when it comes to morals, standards, strength.  And how did I do that?   Only after the landslide took me down.

Life these days is pretty straight forward.   I am working hard on myself, and my home.  I am focused, aligned, very content with my life.  Change is coming, I’m not afraid of it, nor am I afraid of how it will change me.    I’ve got a track record now.   All the difficulties have thickened my skin, but not my heart.  My heart is strong, my thoughts are clear, and damn, I just had pistachio ice cream!

Music?  A necessity for me.  I have an italian friend who says she couldn’t live without olive oil.  Me?  I couldn’t live without music.   What’s your necessity?

And now I’ll close as “Rhythm of my Heart” Rod Stewart, is playing.”The rhythm of my heart is beating like a drum, , with the words I love you rolling off my tongue, Never will I roam, for I know my place is home, where the ocean meets the sky I’ll be sailing!”  Have a great weekend!  Chase your desires, your dreams, or hell, just get yourself an ice cream, and sit and listen to your favorite tunes.    Love to you…

 

Like sand through the hourglass

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The past couple weeks I’ve had to take a hiatus from working on my house, given that I lifted my mantle off the gas fireplace and wrenched my back.   So I have found myself sorting, tossing, and thus, revisiting my life with notebooks of writing, poems, boxes of pics, and more.  Where the hell did the last 54 years of my life go?

Further depth came after the tragedies in Orlando.   I will not even go here.  I will say that I have been and am praying for all those affected by such monstrosities.   I am saddened beyond words, of what has and is transpiring in this country, in this world.   I pray for ALL of us.

But I will admit, there is something more going on with me.   I don’t fully understand it, nor am I questioning it, but I am at peace with so much, even in spite of all that is going bad in this world.   I FEEL something coming.   I have random thoughts of what it may be, but I’m not going to go here either.  What I want to share is, I’m accepting myself for who I am, where I’ve been, and finding peace with all that I wanted to be, do, but probably never will.

While looking at pictures from my past, I feel the moment, I recall the times, the feelings, the good, the bad, and the beautiful.   I am aligning with who I am.   And while I want to lose 75 lbs, and more, I am finding peace even with that.  What if I don’t?  Do I want to spend another minute of what’s left of my life worrying about or condemning myself for NOT  BEING PERFECT?

It’s interesting, the story of my life told in pictures.   I have known great love.  I have known great pain.  I have accomplished a lot on my own, without formal education, and I have met SOOO many wonderful people in my life.   Many friends have come and gone, and that’s okay, it is just the ebb and flow of life.  Today, tonight, as I write this blog, I am right with all that has transpired in my life.   I have found peace, and for that I AM TRULY THANKFUL.  If my life ends tomorrow, I am okay with it, because this place where I am is amazing.

I am grateful I was there with my sisters through the illnesses that stripped them of life.  I am grateful that I spent almost a decade of my life with a man who shortly thereafter, drank himself to death.  I am grateful for this “fat” that encompasses my body, because it helps me feel protected from an uncertain world.    Feeling safe anywhere today, is a big thing.   But most importantly to me, I am thankful that I am a good, honest, hard working person who finds pleasure in the simplest of things, in nature.   I don’t spend my time wishing I was in a relationship, or with anyone else, I am happy with my life.   I have learned the most through every tragedy and laughed immensely through much.

In many ways, where I am right now reminds me of surviving and completion of treatment for breast cancer.  It was freeing.   I had (and still have) no room in my life for luxury drama, or bull shit.   It’s actually a little frightening how vocal I can be now regarding this.   The tiny filter that I once had is almost entirely invisible now.   The older I get, the freer I feel about speaking my truth.

Long gone are the days when I worried about someone liking me, or what they thought of me.   I’m right with myself, with God.   I’m right where I’m supposed to be, and it feels good.

I hope that you are finding peace in your life.  I hope you are, too, realizing how precious life is.   How every second of every day is not promised to anyone, and in the blink of an eye your life, and those lives around you, can be altered drastically.  Anyone hearing of the massacre in Orlando, can you help but think this?

Sending you love, light, and as I mentioned earlier, prayers for the world we live in.

 

I’m a big girl now -Dylan

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Today I drove to China Town, Boston to become a patient at Tufts Dental School.   My last trip down was a fiasco, forgot my wallet, etc., but this trip?  Pretty good!  As I walked around the markets, restaurants I thought of this Bob Dylan song from “Blood on the Tracks”.   http://spotify:track:4ukHl5HFRNARRnIWc4Oj83  Well, It’s “You’re a big girl now!”

Make no mistake, I’m a country girl.   I love the mountains, back roads, wild life, nature, but for today?     China Town Boston proved to be fun.   It will never make me want to live in a city…. EVER!    I feel most comfortable, safest nestled between and surrounded by mountains.   I think I always will.

On the trip home I had my front windows down and rock playing.   It was great.   I do not know where I would be without art, without music…. one in the same.     It was one of those rides where what bothered me in past, today was acknowledged, accepted.    A sense of acceptance for who I am, where I am.  A desire to just be.    Happy!  I would like to share that while on Beacon Street a convertible whizzed by me (opposite direction) and they were listening to…. ready?   Are you REALLY ready?   “The Archie’s!”.     I laughed, remembering a scene from a Sigourney Weaver movie where a serial killer left “The Archie’s” playing in a vw bug with one of their victims.  Hey,  If The Archie’s does it for them?  Good on you!  Have fun!   Sing to your hearts desire, and enjoy this beautiful day.  When I reached Vermont, like clockwork for me, I pulled over, admired the view and said to myself “My God, I live here!”    New England is beautiful.  Just beautiful.

I was thinking about my life today.  The journeys that I found myself on.   Certainly not all roses (which I’m allergic to) and whipped crème (which I love!).   It is the most difficult treks that have brought the most growth in me.    And thinking back on my career, going through breast cancer, traveling days after a surgery (or four), I did what I had to do to pay my bills, keep my house, and get through some pretty shitty times.    A phone call with a girlfriend from Newfoundland, Canada said to me “Those were the days.  I would pick up a Paintworks’ magazine looking for your latest design(s).   I sat in awe of that statement, and at the same time, shocked.    Could it be that the hardest time of my life, the time that I poured into my career, mostly out of need, could it be that these were my shining hours?   And then I smiled and reflected back on my accomplishments, milestones.    It was nice to be reminded of who I was, and perhaps still am, perhaps not.  Who knows?   And more importantly, who really cares?   It is who I am becoming that interests me most.

Great day.   Hope yours was too!      Hugz!

My dad

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In a couple of months my father will turn 81.  My father, a Navy vet who served his country, sent home money to his parents to help raise his younger siblings.  He is one of six children, the second oldest.

He and my mother had five children together.  Their oldest, my sister Karen, took ill at the age of six with meningitis. From that diagnosis she spent months in a coma, came out of it with the ability to only move her eyes. Intensive rehab brought her back from that, but she started seizing, (Seizure disorder) having numerous grand mal seizures a day, which reared her paralyzed on her left side, unable to speak, walk. The seizures slowly and continually kept taking from her.

My father became an apprentice, and learned to be an incredible carpenter.  He did this so that he could build a home for us.  He (and my mother) built two beautiful homes. He worked more hours in one week then I’ve probably ever put into a job in a month, and I don’t consider myself lazy.  A very meticulous carpenter, and a house filled with four other children, weekend runs to pick up my sister and bring her home and back, proved difficult for everyone, including Karen.  The more seizures my sister had, the more it took from her.   I cannot imagine having a child and having such an awful thing happen to her.  I cannot imagine what it must have been like having made the decision to turn your very ill and medically needy daughter over to the ward of the state.   I remember judging my parents.  Asking them “If I get sick, will you send me away, too?”   Now I cringe at the very thought of asking that.  I cringe at the slightest thought that they could have chosen better.  Who the hell am I to ask such a question?   How much their hearts must have hurt.  But responsibility of four other children, and having worked night and day to pay off medical bills that today would have been covered by insurance, my parents made a difficult choice.  A choice that I believe was right for Karen.  A choice that I now believe gave me and my siblings, a more “normal” life.  If you can define normal.

My father has a wonderful sense of humor.  My whole family does, really.    And no matter whose company I am in, it is with my family that the laughter is the strongest, loudest.   I learned at a very young age that laughter heals.

My father became a plumbers apprentice and then went on to work for a company who sent him (foreman) and his crew many hours away, which they drove back and forth each day.  My father made a good living.  We always had a balanced nutritious meal on the table, a warm bed to sleep in and even “space” of our own.  We never needed for anything, and were taught that it was because of my fathers hard work, that we had the good life we had.    We also were taught that we lived in the best country in the world, and that our freedom is due to the many men (and now women) who served our country, many whom never made it home.  It’s sort of ironic how the man who gave most of his life to a job for his family, had at one point became invisible, absent.  But working for this company enabled him to give his children a good life, a good start.   His absence was only because he was working to give us this.  The company didn’t appreciate him.  They offered his little for pension.  But he kept going, day after day, for his family.  I know not how to live so selflessly.

He was our loudest fan at softball games, my brothers hockey games.   I always knew I was loved, and while I didn’t agree or like some decisions he made, including ending a 27 year marriage to my mother, I humbly have long since realized, I have no right to judge him or her on that, either.  What do I know about

He and my youngest sister, Darlene, were particularly close.   He admitted to the three of us remaining children last year “Okay, okay, Darlene was my favorite!”   He looked at us like it was an awful thing to say, only to find the three of us bent over laughing.   No shit, Sherlock!   The truth is, they were great buds.  They fished together, they did so much together.  It is nice to look at pictures of the two of them together.   The way Dad looked at her, she was “it”!   And this is not to imply he doesn’t love us, or look at us with swelling pride.   They had something very special.     I remember sitting next to my sister when she made the phone call to dad to tell him that her cancer treatment wasn’t working.  She said “I’m so sorry dad”.    I recall a conversation she and I had, one of our last and she said “You know Donna, he came to every ball game of mine”.  She was talking about after my parents split.  “He would get there late from work, but he always came”.   I am teary eyed thinking about her smile when she said that.  For whatever he didn’t do right (you know what I mean), being her loyal, faithful fan made it ALL right.  My sister was an old soul.  There was and would never be any jealousy there.  She was ALL OF OUR favorite.

I’ve spent a lot of time reminiscing of late.     I do not know what it is like to be my dad.    I know what it is like to watch him age, lose physical and mental strength.  I sometimes have to look away so he doesn’t see my tears.  And yet, I know how very fortunate I am that at the age of 53, I still have both my parents.

I always thought I knew it all.   And for a long time I chased “his approval” foolishly.   That ended about a decade ago when I was unpacking my van, having been travel teaching.  He was helping me.  I pulled out a new painting and he looked at it, didn’t say anything, just looked.    I was tired, disappointed that he didn’t respond the way I wanted him to.  “Am I EVER going to do anything that makes you proud?”  I said with the sharpness of a razor.  I will never forget his expression.   His jaw lay on his chest.  It was that very moment I learned, my dad would probably never shower me with the compliments the way I once wanted him to, but he was proud of me.  And the chip I had on MY shoulder that day, hurt my dad.   “Of course I’m proud of you, Donna.  I love your artwork, I think you are very talented and I’m proud of all of my children.”   I have not, nor will I ever again question his pride for me.     I am SO over judging my parents on anything.  Thank God!   And now, I am working on doing the same for myself.   The crap we get into our heads!  It’s static!    It’s all just frigan static!

It’s funny as I age and realize just what an ass I have been in my life.  I’ve put my parents through some major worry, particularly when it comes to depression and mental illness.  I remember my second hospitalization.  My sister was with me at the phone.  She had brought me a teddy bear, I named him “Arthur”.  I think I was 24.   “Dad, I need to tell you that I’m in the Brattleboro Retreat.   I am getting help for my depression”.   “You have to pull yourself up by your boot straps Donna!”.   Of course I took that wrong, and he, being the age group that he was, wasn’t as educated on mental illness as he is now, 30 years later.     I was so hurt and angry.   Now I know, in HIS head and heart he was fearful.   My father “pulled himself up by his boot straps” over and over and over his entire life, to give to his children.    His heart, his head spoke from his experience in life, to hide the fear he had of what I would or have done to myself.  He wasn’t judging.  He was saying the only thing he knew to do!

I’m not sure why it’s taken me all these years to figure out how intelligent both my parents were and are.  And as I watch them losing ground, I am fearful of losing them.    I’ve been single for over a decade now.   My dad has always been there for me, to help me in any and all ways he can.   “I’m sorry, Donna, that I was focused on your brother’s education, and not yours.   I ignorantly thought that you girls would be taken care of, in marriage”.      There was once a time, and probably too long a period of time, that it angered me that I was raised with this mentality.  That the only way I would have a home is to have a husband.   But that has long since passed.   I am responsible for my choices.  I am responsible for marrying children, two of them!  I am responsible for where I am in my life.   If I had to do it all over again, I would have sought out college.   I know I could have made better choices for myself, could be financially secure, but I’ve also come to realize that even that isn’t as important as being a good person.   Doing my best, day in and day out, and living within the morals that I was raised and were taught.    The day I bought my house out from my ex-husband was one of the proudest days of my life.  I AM responsible.   I AM who I am because of the stable childhood I was blessed with, I learned the importance of family, and while I have no children or even husband of my own, I sometimes think about how difficult it is to keep my head above water.   I take pride in caring for and giving my animals a wonderful home.   And that is NOTHING compared to what my dad gave.    I am the strong woman I am today BECAUSE of my experiences.    I understand, now, why at the age of 30 when my 10 year marriage ended, how come that was so hard for me.  Because I felt like I was nothing without someone.    Oh my god have I grown.  Thank God!    And for all the things I thought my mom or dad did wrong, they did TWENTY TIMES that right!

I’ve watched my parents bury two daughters, their oldest and their youngest.  No parent should have to bury a child, but sadly, well, too many do.  I’ve watched both my parents battle cancer, and seen the anguish and hell it brought them to watch their three remaining children battle it too.     My dad has not had an easy life.  Like all of us if he had it to do over again, I’m sure he would have made some different choices, but my dad?  He’s only human.   My dad has led a good, honest life.  He knows what it is like to work hard for your family, to start over, and he will always remain “our father” in worry for his children.  My dad, what a great human he is!  He is visiting with my sister right now in NC.  I know he chose fathers day visit to mask the fact that I am his new favorite!   🙂

I have been blessed in life with an honorable man as my dad.  He really is my hero.    I am very grateful that I have had 53 years with my dad.   I am the good person I am today largely due to the good person my dad is.  Thank you dad.  I love you and you will always be my hero, and I, your little girl.

On loss

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My uncle died this morning.  He was my mom’s youngest brother and only living sibling.   His life was far from easy, having been in a very bad automobile accident in his teens.   I have been thinking about how hard it must be to be the last survivor of your siblings.    I do not have a death wish, but I do not care to walk through the pain of losing my surviving sister or brother.

It feels like I have lost 20 years of my life.   I find myself reflecting back to what seems a couple years but reality, now 10, 15, 20.   My parents are in their 70’s, my dad will be 80 this year.  The older I get the “younger” the years become.   I remember thinking I would never make it to 21…31…41…51 and I’ve surpassed all.

My parents found relief when my oldest sister, Karen died 2 years ago next month.  Karen’s life, like my Uncle’s was not easy either.  I am so not “up” on what is politically correct, both severe handicaps, both experiencing brain damage.    I heard the same relief in my mom’s voice tonight as I did when Karen died.   I know it is that she can die knowing he is okay.  She had promised her mother that she would watch over him, take care of him.  My mother did her very best.  My Uncle wasn’t always an easy person to get along with.   He could become belligerent, defensive when there was no threat to him.   Because of his mental and physical challenges he, like my sister, were in harms way of others.  I remember too well, the gifts we bought my sister, only to have them stolen from staff who were taking care of her.  Pitiful.  What kind of person could take from the handicapped?  Pitiful, may God be with them.   My Uncle, too, was manipulated many times over in his life.   Very sad to think about but sadder to think of the person(s) who did so.

My mom was with him, holding his hand when he passed.   I can’t help but think about all the defensive actions he took against a woman who loved him, who was only trying to help him, because he was persuaded by the greed of others.   I can’t help but think that when he opened his eyes this morning, my mother was the only one with him, he understood her efforts.   I can’t help but think how he felt when upon opening those eyes he gave her a great big smile.

My Uncle could squeeze the poop out of a buffalo nickel.   At one point when he was getting food from the local food bank, he sold the huge bars of cheese for $4.   When my mother found out she was aghast.   How could he do that Donna?   We laughed.   We found this out one of the many times he was in the hospital.  My mom gave his neighbors some of his food so that it wouldn’t go bad.  A male neighbor said to my mom “You mean, I can have the cheese for free?  I don’t have to pay $4?”    You couldn’t blame him, however.  His limitations played a part in his entire life.   When we were talking today we shared this memory and once again, laughed hysterically.  What’s worse?  He selling the cheese or the man who didn’t know it was available free to him as well and paid him $4?

I remember my Uncle fondly.   I remember as a youngster being “afraid” of him because it was obvious he was different.   I think back on that now and feel sad, yet I was just a kid, what did I know?

A couple of years ago he had a broken hip (?).   My mom wasn’t able to do for him as much as she did because she, too, had physical limitations at that time.  I would go to my Uncle’s, pick up his grocery list and try to pull the $20 bills out of his hand that he didn’t want to let go of.    He still owes me $60 from the last time I went.   I had forgotten this, my mom hadn’t.   Again, we laughed.

I saw him 2 weeks ago when I was leaving a doctor’s office and he was walking in.   My mom and he looked so much alike.   He, of course, had more hair on his face.    I kind of chuckled when I saw that he was finally wearing the new glasses my mom had arranged for him to get a few years ago.  He wouldn’t wear them.  He wanted to “save” them so he wouldn’t have to buy another pair in his lifetime.   As comical as I find all of this, I also saw the pain, the anguish some of this caused my mom.   She only wanted to do right by him, and she worked hard to do so.   I think she did great.  There were times when her patience was truly tested and she had to walk away to maintain composure.   She loved him.   He was her kid brother.   As difficult as he was, as stubborn as he could be, she loved him.    She really did love him.

When I think of some of the things my mom has had to endure in her life I am in amazement of her strength.   A strong willed personality, a strong intelligent woman, it doesn’t settle well within me to see her aging, to see my father aging.   I realize how fortunate I am to still have both my parents, I also realize if they die before me I will feel like an orphan.  I depend on my parents moral support, their advice.   I guess you know when you’ve grown up when you realize your parents DO and DID know what they were talking about.   Ahh, if I only knew half, now, of what I thought I knew then.

I will go to bed tonight envisioning my sister’s welcoming my Uncle on the other side.   He loved all of us kids and was particularly close to Karen, my oldest sister as he spent a lot of time with her when she was little.  My mom and he lost their mom too young, but older than many.  I suppose we all think of those we have loved and lost that it was too soon.

With teary eyes I just looked up into the sky to see if there was a particularly bright star.  My heart is in my throat at the moment as I think about life, as I think about death.    I’m not afraid to die, I am, however, afraid of losing others.   I barely made it through the grieving process with my sisters, with Jim.   Yet, death is a part of life, just as birth is.   The old adage “there are 2 constant’s in life…. death and taxes”.    I

I meant what I said earlier.  I do not want to be the last sibling to die.   I don’t know what is in store for us, for me but I hope that I will not live through another siblings death.  It will be hard enough accepting my parents.   One of the three of us will be the last to die, it’s a fact of life.  Not easy, but a fact of life.    My girlfriend lost her mother unexpectedly and quickly a few months ago.  She is a mother, a grandmother.  She struggles still.   I’ve said before, I don’t think we ever really heal.  I think that times teaches us how to coexist with the pain.   I’ve watched my parents lose their oldest and youngest daughters.  My heart hurts at the thought of it.   That has to be one of the most painful things in life, losing a child.    It must truly suck.  I think sometimes that my mothers strength was not only out of need, but faith.   Like my Uncle, my mom’s life hasn’t been easy either.   There are times I want to smack her, but those times are few and far between.  I value her opinion, and trust me, she is more than willing to give it!  I value her advice.

Rest in peace Uncle Hank.  I want to believe you are reunited with your parents, your brothers, your nieces.   You deserve to be walking in the house of the Lord, it’s time to rest, the dense path you carved through your life has come to close but you will not be forgotten.   I will always laugh at some of your antics and smile at the thought of you.    Rest in peace….  ♥