Tag Archives: Childhood

The Truth About Aging (and it ain’t what you think)

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Last week my mom just lost another close friend.  And I wonder what it is like to be my mom’s age and to have suffered through the loss of most of her childhood friends and those women whom she knew so intimately all during the newlywed/young family/teenagers/empty nest/marriages/grandbabies/widowhood years of her life?

How do you  cope with funeral after funeral?  Do you lie in bed each night and wonder if tomorrow it will be your time to die?  Do you long for sleep to dream about all your loved ones who have been gone these past many years.  Do you wake up in the middle of the night and relive the past….the joys and the sorrows?

Even at 62, I often go back to the past when I can’t sleep.  I see the neighbors who are now gone, some who had a profound part in my growing up.  I see them all in their younger years, gathering for coffee at one another’s house or on the tiny patios or lawns each had.  I see Eleanor and Bernice, Joyce and Cel, Millie and Sylvia, Diane and June, my Grandma Tillie and Mrs. Kiehl, Nancy and DeMaris and Mrs. Persh sitting out on her back steps.  In my mind’s eye, I see them all, I remember their homes and the scent each one had.  I remember being yelled at by some and being given cookies by others.

I remember them all.

Is that what it all boils down to?  To be remembered?  Does anyone lay in bed and think of me?  Will anyone remember me?

I hate with a passion getting older.  Not because I have lost my looks or that my body has expanded and that everything hurts.  No, it is the future that scares the heck out of me.  The inevitable losses that must come.  I am not a brave person.  I don’t do well with emotional pain….it sits like an elephant on my chest and the ache overwhelms me until I retch with unnerving sounds that crawl up from the deepest parts of my soul and frighten me with their intensity.  It is in that pit of despair and hopelessness that I struggle with ending the pain myself.  But I have to remind myself that ending my pain will only bring pain to those left behind who care for me; and do I not love them more than myself?  If you have ever struggled with the longing to step from this world into the next, you know the fight that goes on inside your brain.

I am not brave.

My mother is brave.  She mourns her loss and then goes on with life.  She is the poster child for aging right!  She looks forward to each new day.  To the adventures that day may bring.  She does not hide from the pain of life.  She LIVES.  And LIVES well.

I hide.  I close up.  I retreat.  I am not aging well……

I WILL go gentle into that good night…..

img_1341This poem is by Dylan Thomas.

This post is in memory of Bernice Olson who died last week and who was the “Ethel” to my mom’s “Lucy”.  Bernice lived next-door to my mom for 47 years.  She was my “second mom”.  We had keys to her house and she ours.  Need something from her cupboard?  Go on in and find it.  It was normal to come downstairs in the mornings and find Bernice in her robe having coffee with her hair up in pincurls or rollers.  She had piercing blue eyes that she highlighted by the use of cake mascara….like clumps of black spider legs were surrounding her eyes.  I was always fascinated by those clumps.  Bernice seemed to bring me a lot of places with her.  She had one son who was like six or so years older than me and who got the biggest kick out of teasing me.  He was the love of her life.  I don’t think she had the easiest of lives.  Her husband died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 62 and then her beloved son died of a heart attack at 54 and if memory serves me, she was there to witness it.

Rest In Peace, dear Bernice, with Larry and Laird….as long as I live, you will be remembered with love……

Robyn

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COFFEE TIME WITH MY DAD

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imageTonight as I was scrolling down my FaceBook feed, this came up and I read it and my dad popped into my mind.  He died back in the fall of 1990, nine days short of his 59th birthday.

What came along with the thought of my dad was a rush of all the things I had wished we could have talked about but never did.  My dad was uncomfortable talking about feelings.  He had a hard time showing tenderness and love.  He believed that he showed his love by working hard and making sure we had everything we needed. We never went without material goods.  He was a product of the times and of his own upbringing.

Sometimes when I can’t sleep at night, I think of my dad.  I wonder what kind of childhood he had.  Did he feel loved?  Did he feel safe?  Was there tenderness and kindness in his world?  Did he ever go to bed and cry because he was hurt or lonely or felt unloved.  What did he think of his mother and father?  How did their lives shape and mold his?  Did he have dreams as a boy?  What did he want to grow up to be?  Did he do well in school?  Was he liked by the other children?  Did he have friends?

How did his parents show their love?  Was strict discipline and physical punishment the only signs of love he got?

He met my mom when they were both 16.  What did he think of her?  How did he know when he fell in love?  What did it feel like to him?  Did he have any role model of what a good marriage looked like?  What were his expectations of his bride and how did he think the “man of the house” should act and think?  Was he at all afraid to marry and have a family?

What was his idea of a perfect life?  Of a perfect family?

How did he feel when my mom told him she was pregnant just two months after they were married?  Was he happy?  Did he long for a son?   What were his thoughts on life with a baby?

What did he experience during the 38 hours my mom was in labor with me?  Was he terrified she would die or that I would?  And when they came and told him that they would have to take me by C-section and all he heard was “sections” and thought I would be coming out in pieces, did he cry?  Did he mourn the child he might not have?

And when I was born whole and he got to hold me, what was he feeling?  Pride? Fear? Disappointment that I was not a man-child?

How did he cope with sleepless nights with a colicky baby?  Was he sharp with my mother?  Did he think she should be doing a better job?  Did my constant crying make him irritable and angry?  Was he worried that I might really be sick and he was secretly scared?

And how did he feel when 2.5 years later another daughter was born.  And there would be no more chances to have a son?  Did he care?

How did he cope in the lean times?  Was he ever afraid of losing his home?  Did he stay up nights worrying how to pay the bills?  Did he ever resent us for having to work so hard to keep us fed and clothed and sheltered?

What gave him joy?  What made his heart sing?  What were his adult dreams?  Did he dream big or did he feel he was not educated enough to do better?  What were his fears?

And when we started dating, what thoughts went through his mind?  Did he worry when we were late or did he just get mad because we disobeyed?  Did he ever think we were never coming home again?

He and I had a very difficult relationship.  He wanted strict rules that were to be followed to the letter.  I wanted freedom.  He wanted control over everything.  I wanted control over something.  So we clashed.  I rebelled in every manner I could get away with even though I knew the consequences would be ugly.  I never felt rebellious, I just wanted to do what most everyone else was doing and he was trying to keep me safe in his own way.

How did he feel when I left home after an awful argument? Was he heartbroken?  Was he sad?  Or was he just so mad that I had once again not played by his rules even though I was a 21 year old adult working full time.  Was he ever sorry for some of the things he did when he was angry at me?  Did he ever wonder if I hated him and if so, did that thought break his heart?

How did it feel to have his favorite child get married?  Did he miss her company?  Was it hard for him not to show any emotion at the wedding?  Did he want to weep at the thought of his little buddy becoming the little buddy to someone else?

And when he found out he was going to be a grandpa, how did he feel about it?  Was there an inner excitement in him when he found out it was a boy?

There is one question that never needed to be asked and that was if he loved his grandchildren.  He adored them.  He showered them with love and affection and I wondered where it had been stored when we were growing up!

My dad had his first heart attack at age 36 and from that moment on, we all lived on eggshells.  I wonder what thoughts were going through his mind as he lay in the hospital for 30 days.  He was a boxer in his younger days and was always so strong. Did he feel tiny and vulnerable?  Did he think of his mom who had just died the year before of a massive heart attack?  Did he think he may never see his girls grow up, never walk them down the aisle?  Or were his thoughts more about how the bills were going to get paid while he was off of work?

Then there were the two open heart surgeries and the cancer diagnosis.  What kinds of thoughts raced through his mind?  Did the thought of death frighten him?  Was he more worried about my mom and her welfare than of his own?  Did he ever cry in the middle of the night at lost dreams, chances not  taken,  roads not explored?  Did he regret anything in his life?  Did he wish he had done things differently?  Did he feel all alone?

So many questions I wish I could have asked.  I would have liked to have known my dad as a person not just my father.  I would have liked to have known his history.  Perhaps I could have been more forgiving having known how he grew up and the things he suffered.  I cry sometimes when I think of all the hurts he may have endured that we knew nothing about.  The loneliness he may have felt.

Tonight my arms ache to hold him and to tell him I really did love him even when I thought I didn’t.  To listen to his story and to cry with him and to laugh with him and to look him in the eyes and see the love he had for me that I couldn’t see all those years ago.  And to tell him I am sorry that we never had the chance to be close and to ask his forgiveness for all the times I made him angry or sad or disrespected.  And to tell him I forgive him for not being a perfect father and that I can now see that he did the very best he could with what skills and knowledge he had and that everything he did was out of love for me and my sister and my mom.

I don’t know if I shall ever get to see him again in the next world.  But if I do, this time it will be a perfect relationship, in a perfect place and there will be no tears, no anger, no disappointments, no rebellion,  just PERFECT LOVE FOR ALL OF ETERNITY.

Keep the coffee on dad…it won’t be long and we will have forever to talk.

I loved you when you were here and I love you still, Dad.

Robyn

THE EYES HAVE IT

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I have been trying to tap into my inner artist (I say “inner” because so far it hasn’t gotten to the outside yet!) and this morning I was reading about making a self-portrait and my brain came up with thoughts for a new post.  That is how I write.  I may go for days and days without any promptings to post and then something will trigger the idea for a post and no matter what I am doing, I  HAVE to write.  Man, I wish I could say the same for exercise…..

self-por-trait:  NOUN: A pictorial or literary portrait of oneself, created by oneself.

What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you think of making a self-portrait?  For me it is the fear of having to look into my own eyes.  I may complain and bemoan my facial flaws but for the most part (and in candlelight and with my glasses off) I can live with what I see.  But I cannot look into my eyes.  What’s with that?  I know it’s not because I am ashamed of who I am or who I was (I have been forgiven by the blood of Jesus for my past, present and future sins) but I am terrified of looking into them and seeing the pain of a fearful, little girl.  Now, please understand I was not beaten or molested or any other of those horrid, horrid, things.  I did have a very strict and quick tempered dad (whom I loved) and you never knew what might set him off and I was very afraid of him when he was angry but I was also terrified of just about everything in life.

I hated playing outside because I was so afraid of bugs.  Any kind.  Ants, flies, moths, bees and God help us if we got a woodtick on us!  My mom would have to call in help as she was beyond terrified of them herself and could not take one off of us.  Back in those days the way to get a tick off was to take a cigarette or a match and hold the hot end near the tick so it would pull its head out and you could grab it because Lord only knew what fatal disease you would get if the head was left in!  (I now have had so much experience with them that if I feel one crawling on me when I am in bed, I figure I will find it in the morning somewhere and don’t give them a second thought.  Joys of living in the woods. So not only did we fear having a tick stuck to us, we also had the fear of being burnt in the process of getting it off!

I was terrified of the dark.  I had to have the hall light on and our bedroom door opened a crack so I could see the light.  I think there must have been a time when our door had to be closed because my sister would yell out to my dad (if she was mad at me) that I had opened the door and he would tell me to shut the door and it was always a toss up as to which was the worse of two evils…the dark or my dad’s anger!

I was afraid of eating.  Ya, I know.  You are all thinking, “Well she certainly got over that fear”!  Mealtimes were shall we say, “stressful”.  My parents believed that there were starving children over in China and it was their responsibility to make sure we ate everything on our plates because of that fact.  I, on the other hand, only could eat a few select foods without the abject fear of gagging which would lead to the BIGGEST FEAR OF ALL….VOMITTING.  So you can see how mealtimes at our house were awful.  Very awful.  Extremely awful.

I was also very, very, very, afraid to go to birthday parties because what if they had food that I didn’t like (unless it was peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches I probably couldn’t eat it and those dang Chinese kids had infiltrated all the minds of the parents of the 1950’s so we were required to eat what was put in front of us no matter who’s house we were at!) and what if I felt sick?  (Can you see an agoraphobic in the making?)

I could go on and on and on with my fears, but you get the picture.  Fear ruled my life.  Absolutely.  100 percent.  All the time.  In every area.  I could never get away from it.

When I look into my eyes, I see the child who would lay in bed at night and pray to die.

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray The Lord my soul to keep, If I should die before I wake, I pray The Lord my soul to take”.

I understand how little kids can take their own lives.  Please, please don’t think it was because of how “bad” my parents were because they were just typical parents of the 1950’s.   The pain came from the FEARS.  The FEARS were my demons.  THEY were in every cell of my body.  THEY followed me everywhere.  THEY were even in my dreams.  I could not escape THEM.

Eventually I outgrew some of THEM but OTHERS took THEIR place.  Today, 58 years later, most of them are gone.  Most.  Someday I will tell you about the ONES that remain.  Not today.

So when I do actually make my self-portrait, I have decided to put mirrors in the space where my eyes should be.  Why?  I’m not sure.  It just seems right.

“The eyes are the windows to the soul”.

Maybe I don’t want to see my soul?  Maybe I don’t want you to see my soul?

What will your eyes reveal in your self-portrait?  Go and look in the mirror.  Look deeply into your eyes.  What do you see?  What do your eyes tell me about your life’s journey?  Will you put in mirrors where your eyes should go or will you be able to paint your eyes in but maybe you will leave your mouth blank.   How many of us have self-portraits that will not be able to be complete?

I would like to know what your portrait looks like.  Will you be brave enough to share with me?

 

 

THE GIRL IN THE PLASTIC BUBBLE OR I WAS AN OVERPROTECTIVE MOM

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Maybe it was because my daughter was an only child that I was (and still am) a nut case about protecting her from the dangerous, hurtful, harmful, sad, scary, bad, uncomfortable, embarrassing and downright not nice things in life.  In other words, LIFE.  I did it out of love, of course.  Not a need to control her…just a need to control the world around her.  If I am to be truly honest, and at my age I have found it to be a whole lot easier than trying to remember some fabrication (heck, most days I’m grateful just to remember my name), I think I was more afraid of how I would live in a world without her than how it might affect her.  To understand my dependence on her we will have to go back in time…..

I had a difficult childhood and can remember much of the pain and fear that I lived with and I never wanted my child to suffer in that way so I went in the opposite direction.  I was going to do everything possible to make sure she never had to experience it.  In theory it is a noble idea but now that I am a wise old sage, I can see where it could have crippled her emotionally.  Alas, if we only could go back and redo the past.  Many of the things I tried to protect her from I would still do as they were sensible, normal things but the over-the-top things I did, I wish I could go back and erase….or at least tone down.  I worried about everything.  Child abductions, childhood diseases, molestations, bad influences, were Smurf’s really evil, fires, drowning, choking (I wouldn’t let her eat a hard piece of candy without breaking it up for her until she was like 8), animals coming out of the woods to attack her as she walked down the driveway to get the mail (I would look out the window the whole time eventho it was only 75ft from the house), I wouldn’t let her have her bedroom windows open at night cause she slept in the basement and someone might try to get at her (we were surrounded by woods so who might be lurking in the woods at night?), I wouldn’t let her ride her bike on the road, or walk by herself, I didn’t want her babysitting, I didn’t want her to eat anything if I wasn’t home (see choking above) or to stay overnight anywhere (there were a few families that I felt were “safe” and she could stay overnight there), I could go on but you get the sad picture, I’m sure.   Over-the-top crazy woman.

So you must be wondering what mental facility my daughter is living in as there should be no way that she is normal after having that kind of upbringing but I am happy to say that God was merciful and she lived through it and turned out to be a very laid-back, non-fearful, funny, non-neurotic person.  And did I save her from all the world’s pain?  No.  Of course not.  To fully live we must experience pain to understand joy, to cry to understand happiness, to grieve to understand love.   Sad thing is, that eventho I just wrote those words and believe them in my head, my heart still wishes I could have “saved” her from those experiences.  Is that sick or what?  And eventho she is married and a mom herself, I still try to protect her and her kids from the world.   And I still have to ask myself, “Is it for her or for me?” and I struggle with the answer I know to be true in my heart.  The real person I am trying to save from pain is ME.