AND THE PAINTED PONIES GO UP AND DOWN

carolbryantblog

My daughter, Cassie, turns 30 today. As much as that is certainly a milestone worthy of celebrating, I will also be celebrating my own milestone today. March 1, 1985 was the day that I first stepped onto the never-ending, always-spinning carousel of Motherhood. Thirty years! And what a long, strange trip it’s been.

Nothing can really prepare you for the ride. At times it slows down, like on those interminably long, rainy days when your kids need to be outside because there is only so much finger painting, coloring, dress-up and story time that you can pack into a gloomy, rain-soaked afternoon. Other times, it speeds up into warp speed, like on those family vacations when everyone is happy at the same time and each sunset brings you one day closer to the end of the best week at the beach you could have ever hoped for. Occasionally, it stands…

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BLUE BIRDS OVER THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER

via BLUE BIRDS OVER THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER

BLUE BIRDS OVER THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER

Posted on March 4, 2018 by Carol Bryant

He was sitting in a well-worn recliner, head rolled back, dozing in the sunshine slanting through the tall window. The room was standard institutional bland but he made it look almost classy with his dapper, baby blue sweater vest, pressed pants and shock of wavy white hair. He had shaved and dressed early in anticipation of our lunch date. The rehab schedule was light on Sundays and we planned to break up the long, tedious day with lunch at his favorite steak house. His eyes fluttered open as I tiptoed into the room.

“How’re you doing, Dad?”

He smiled that gentle smile. “Mighty fine.”

Nearly 90, with failing vision, a weak heart and decreasing tolerance for walking even short distances, he still managed to find something positive to say each day. On good days, he was mighty fine. On less than good days, he was “Coming along. It’ll take some time.” If I had to deal with all of his health issues, I might simply pull the covers over my head and never get out of bed. Yet there he was, mighty fine and ready to hit the road for a good steak with his middle daughter.

Our world had tilted in so many ways since the death of my mother the previous year. Lately he handed me the keys to his car and almost trusted that after 40 years, I finally knew how to drive. My mother’s walker, which we folded up and tucked into the back seat, was now needed by him for anything more than a few steps around his living room. His pace, our pace, had slowed to nearly a shuffle. But still, he was mighty fine.

As the hostess showed us to his favorite booth, I watched the charming man who never missed the chance to flirt with the ladies. Everywhere we went that day waitresses, nurses, and even the checker at the grocery store, indulged him as if he were their very own grandfather and seemed to truly enjoy his company.

The sun was shining as we headed back to the car. Even though it was close to his nap time, I decided to keep our special day going a bit longer with a ride along the waterfront, a ride he had taken countless times with my mother over the years but not once since her death. I popped one of their CDs into the player and, as tunes from WWII filled the car, he crooned along to the songs of his youth. His mellow voice transported both of us back to happier times when he was young and strong with years of endless possibilities ahead.

One song, The White Cliffs Of Dover, resonated with me that day as never before.

There’ll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover tomorrow just you wait and see

There’ll be love and laughter and peace ever after tomorrow when the world is free

It was a song of hope, made popular at a time when our country was fighting an evil force threatening to destroy the free world. I thought about how frightening it must have been to live through that time in history.

“It must have been so scary during the war, Dad. Weren’t you afraid all the time?” I asked.

“Not really. We knew Hitler wouldn’t win”, he said.

“How were you so sure?”

“FDR told us it would be okay and we believed him”

He made it sound so simple. He had grown up at a time when the world was turned upside down, yet he had believed it would all be okay. And it was. The same generation that never lost hope as bombs fell on London, Pearl Harbor and around the world, was now the generation living into their 90’s and still finding a reason to get out of bed in the morning. The Nazi army had goose stepped across his formative years. Rather than break him, that time in history had turned my father into a man of strength, hope and endurance.

Did that explain his optimism as he faced down the cruelties of aging with courage and grace? How he could adjust to the steady chipping away of his independence and still give it his all at the rehab center, proving to the naysayers that he could indeed live out his remaining years in his own home, on his own terms? His missed his wife of 65 years with a sadness that was constantly just below the surface. Countless tears were shed when he was alone in his bed at night. But each new day brought that gentle smile and the reassurance that he was once again mighty fine.

No one lives forever and my father gave up the good fight not long after his 90th birthday. It’s been a long, dark winter as I adjust to a world without our daily phone calls. There are days when I resent what aging is now doing to me – the wrinkles, the aches and pains, the sense that I am becoming invisible.

But spring is in the air, the birds are returning and I’ll never be younger than I am today. I’m grateful to have come from such solid stock. Whenever I play his CDs, I can still hear him crooning and will forever cherish that day cruising along the waterfront of North Carolina. So as I think of my dad, and the lessons he taught me, I too am feeling mighty fine.

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BLUE BIRDS OVER THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER

He was sitting in a well-worn recliner, head rolled back, dozing in the sunshine slanting through the tall window. The room was standard institutional bland but he made it look almost classy with his dapper, baby blue sweater vest, pressed pants and shock of wavy white hair. He had shaved and dressed early in anticipation of our lunch date. The rehab schedule was light on Sundays and we planned to break up the long, tedious day with lunch at his favorite steak house. His eyes fluttered open as I tiptoed into the room.

“How’re you doing, Dad?”

He smiled that gentle smile.  “Mighty fine.”

Nearly 90, with failing vision, a weak heart and decreasing tolerance for walking even short distances, he still managed to find something positive to say each day. On good days, he was mighty fine. On less than good days, he was “Coming along. It’ll take some time.” If I had to deal with all of his health issues, I might simply pull the covers over my head and never get out of bed. Yet there he was, mighty fine and ready to hit the road for a good steak with his middle daughter.

Our world had tilted in so many ways since the death of my mother the previous year. Lately he handed me the keys to his car and almost trusted that after 40 years, I finally knew how to drive. My mother’s walker, which we folded up and tucked into the back seat, was now needed by him for anything more than a few steps around his living room.  His pace, our pace, had slowed to nearly a shuffle. But still, he was mighty fine.

As the hostess showed us to his favorite booth, I watched the charming man who never missed the chance to flirt with the ladies.  Everywhere we went that day waitresses, nurses, and even the checker at the grocery store, indulged him as if he were their very own grandfather and seemed to truly enjoy his company.

The sun was shining as we headed back to the car. Even though it was close to his nap time, I decided to keep our special day going a bit longer with a ride along the waterfront, a ride he had taken countless times with my mother over the years but not once since her death. I popped one of their CDs into the player and, as tunes from WWII filled the car, he crooned along to the songs of his youth. His mellow voice transported both of us back to happier times when he was young and strong with years of endless possibilities ahead.

One song, The White Cliffs Of Dover, resonated with me that day as never before.

There’ll be bluebirds over                                                                                                                  the white cliffs of Dover                                                                                                         tomorrow                                                                                                                                            just you wait and see

There’ll be love and laughter                                                                                                           and peace ever after                                                                                                                        tomorrow                                                                                                                                        when the world is free

It was a song of hope, made popular at a time when our country was fighting an evil force  threatening to destroy the free world. I thought about how frightening it must have been to live through that time in history.

“It must have been so scary during the war, Dad. Weren’t you afraid all the time?” I asked.

“Not really. We knew Hitler wouldn’t win”, he said.

“How were you so sure?”

“FDR told us it would be okay and we believed him”

He made it sound so simple. He had grown up at a time when the world was turned upside down, yet he had believed it would all be okay. And it was.  The same generation that never lost hope as bombs fell on London, Pearl Harbor and around the world, was now the generation living into their 90’s and still finding a reason to get out of bed in the morning. The Nazi army had goose stepped across his formative years. Rather than break him, that time in history had turned my father into a man of strength, hope and endurance.

Did that explain his optimism as he faced down the cruelties of aging with courage and grace? How he could adjust to the steady chipping away of his independence and still give it his all at the rehab center, proving to the naysayers that he could indeed live out his remaining years in his own home, on his own terms? His missed his wife of 65 years with a sadness that was constantly just below the surface. Countless tears were shed when he was alone in his bed at night. But each new day brought that gentle smile and the reassurance that he was once again mighty fine.

No one lives forever and my father gave up the good fight not long after his 90th birthday. It’s been a long, dark winter as I adjust to a world without our daily phone calls.  There are days when I resent what aging is now doing to me – the wrinkles, the aches and pains, the sense that I am becoming invisible.

But spring is in the air, the birds are returning and I’ll never be younger than I am today. I’m grateful to have come from such solid stock. Whenever I play his CDs, I can still hear him crooning and will forever cherish that day cruising along the waterfront of North Carolina. So as I think of my dad, and the lessons he taught me, I too am feeling mighty fine.

Posted in Aging, death and dying, grief, Memories, never give up, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

CARPE DIEM

The room is dark.  The technician is polite… professional… distant.

“Any history of cancer?” she asks.

Cancer? God no. We’re looking for gallstones, right? Find the stones. Remove the stones. Easy peasy. Cancer? Why did she ask that?

I lie on the table and hold my breath at all the right times. Roll this way and that at her command. Maybe if I’m a good patient, I’ll get a good diagnosis?

I think about my mother, gone for nearly a year, and of the endless medical procedures she endured during her last few years of life. She was old, nearly 90 when she died. Like most old people, she spent an inordinate amount of her dwindling time in a health care maze of doctors appointments, lab tests and hospitals.

Now, lying on the exam table, I wonder if I have taken her place on the medical assembly line.  I suddenly feel old. Vulnerable. I’m in my 60’s… early 60’s… but 60’s just the same. I’ve entered the decade when stuff happens. I stare at the cheap reproduction of Monet’s Water Lillies on the wall while snippets of recent conversations float into my brain.

“Did you hear about Jane? She had a heart attack last week.”

“How’s Bob doing after his knee replacement?”

“Did you hear how Eileen’s tests for lung cancer went?”

I used to be young. I miss being young.  I look up at the ceiling and bargain. I’ll never take another day for granted again. If I get through this without one of those heart stopping diagnoses that divide your life into “before” and “after”, I’ll make the most of each and every day. I know I’ve said this before, but this time I really mean it. Really.

I spend the next few days trying not to think, or worry, about the test results. And then the email comes from my doctor. All is well.  My life has not yet divided into “before” and “after”.

The sun is shining brightly, beckoning me to keep my promise. I head out for a walk around my neighborhood.  I finally make plans for that hike to see the fall colors before the first snow blankets the mountains.  I may not be young anymore but I’ll never be any younger than I am today.

My wise mother once told me to seize my sixties because it could be my last good decade. Okay Mom, you got my attention. I’m listening.  Tempus fugit.  Gotta run…

 

Posted in Aging, CARPE DIEM, death and dying, TEMPUS FUGIT | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I JUST NEVER KNEW

I never knew how much it hurts when your mother dies.  The nurse in me had always accepted that death is inevitable. No one lives forever. Everyone loses their parents eventually. It’s the na…

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I JUST NEVER KNEW

I never knew how much it hurts when your mother dies.  The nurse in me had always accepted that death is inevitable. No one lives forever. Everyone loses their parents eventually. It’s the natural order of things.  Except when it is your mother and then the abstract becomes excruciatingly personal.

Confusion is one stage of grief I did not expect. I expected denial. But I’m not in denial.  I know my mother died. I watched her take her last breath. No, what I feel is confusion. How can this be? My life has regained some semblance of normalcy. Work keeps me busy. I have moved past gut wrenching inertia and regained some of the  energy I need to do the things I always loved.  Snowshoeing in the mountains. Spending time with friends. But then I walk through a department store and see a jacket my mother would have loved for her birthday. DSC01819DSC02781 And there is no one to buy it for. And I’m confused.

How can this be? It just doesn’t make sense.  A world without my mother? Her heartbeat was the first sound I ever heard. While safe in her womb, her heartbeat was my first awareness of the world. And when it stopped, the world tipped, throwing me off balance and bringing me to my knees.

Since before I drew I my first breath, my mother was there. For my entire existence, she was there. She’s always been there. And now she is not. And how can that be? Okay, I know she died. I accept that. But why does it have to be forever? Why can’t she come back? Once in a while? Just for a chat? And a hug? I know she can’t stay. But maybe a visit now and then? Catch up on what my kids are doing. Chat about books and movies and how things used to be when we were all young and happy on the shores of Long Island Sound. How can it be this permanent? I can’t handle the permanence. It’s the permanence that makes no damn sense.

 

Posted in Aging, death and dying, grief, Memories, motherhood | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

WRITE NOW

Last year at this time,  I was lucky enough to still have my mother. A generous woman who remembered every birthday, every anniversary, with cards and gifts. I also had a lot of stuff. Too much stu…

Source: WRITE NOW

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