If the Creek Don't Rise
When I was in eighth grade, my mom’s cousin had a surprise party for her mother’s 80th birthday. We told her we weren’t sure we’d be able to get all the way from St. Louis to northern Minnesota, especially since there was so much flooding and the highway we would normally take north was closed due to being flooded out.
“Well, we’ll see you if the creek don't rise,” said Aunt Martha. She was a Minnesota woman, having to plan, reschedule or not go to events due to weather was something she was intimately familiar with.
This was 1993, the year of the great flood. The river was higher than it had ever been in recorded memory – in fact, it is the worst river flooding on record for the whole USA as far as I know. Things were shut down, caskets were popping out of the ground and floating downriver from cemeteries in towns by the riverside. I wanted to go help sandbag with the youth group but Mom said no.
I was 11, my little brother Stevie only 7. It would be a long, boring car trip with a little brother who delighted in doing everything possible to annoy me. I was perfectly fine with skipping a trip to see relatives I barely knew.
The flooding had shut down the Great River Road, which we usually took north for the scenic view, but several other routes between St. Louis and White Bear, MN were impacted. We didn’t tell Aunt M that we were going to try to make it, figuring we’d just surprise her if we could.( Collapse )
Where was he?
I had decided to splurge and go to Union Avenue Opera. They were performing the Scottish Opera Version of Candide, which was my first show I performed in when I went to college. I sang the Baroness Von Thunder-Ten Tronchk and then in the chorus (as the Baroness dies in one of the first scenes of the show) and hadn’t seen the show since then.
It is a LONG show, about 3 and a half hours, so I told Dad I would call him when it was over. Of course, that was the one day I left my cell phone at home. Time ticked by, I was standing out in the parking lot as they were locking the venue.
Where could he be? It wasn’t exactly hard to find the opera, it was right on my route to work and we drove by it every day. Plus, the name was kind of a clue that it was on Union Avenue…surely he couldn’t be lost.
Never mind that we’d been to that theater earlier in the week, to see something else, which was still playing. His brain said “opera” and he apparently muted out the rest of what I said. He accused me of not telling him where I was going to be and of leading him on a wild goose chase to find me.( Collapse )
Open Topic — Loss, Grief and Learning to Move On
The treatments weren’t working. That much was obvious. Every day I watched my mother grow weaker, unable to keep any food or water down at all. They tried TPN feeding, but it started to affect her heart. One step forward, three steps back.
My mother opened her eyes and looked at me from her hospital bed, and simply said “I want to go home.”
I responded, as a good daughter, that we would have to talk to the doctor and find out what we needed to do to make that happen. My blood chilled and alarm bells began ringing insistently in my brain, when she replied “I want to go home and be with Jesus.”
One night not long after that the doctor came by and called my father out of the room. He confirmed what we already knew in our hearts. Mom was going to leave us, and we needed to put the wheels in motion for hospice.
For the next week, I spent every waking hour at the hospital while the nurses taught me what I needed to know – how to change the sheets with the patient in the bed, how to help her use the bedpan, and how to administer her meds, among other things.( Collapse )
They say blood is thicker than water. Well, my mother and I were like oil and water. No matter how hard I tried, I could never seem to please her.
Then, we made a discovery.
Mom’s cousin was a travel agent, and she invited Mom along on a trip as she had someone cancel after the deadline, and she couldn’t refund them unless someone else took the spot.
I was envious of the fact Mom was getting to go to Ireland, but kind of looking forward to a week without her, some time alone with Dad and, to be honest, a bit of peace that I never seemed to find living with her.
Then the situation changed. I opened a small package on my birthday and there was my passport, an itinerary, and an air ticket to Dublin. I was going WITH Mom. I smiled as expected, but inside, I was panicking. How was I going to survive rooming with my mom for a whole week?
April came, and we headed off to Ireland. And that week, I made another, very large discovery, that I wish I had discovered years before. Mom and I got along perfectly well on neutral territory. Finally, finally, some blood harmony. We were acting like I had always dreamed a real mom and daughter would.
Unfortunately, when we got home, we were back at it hammer and tongs.( Collapse )
I thought my high school had the absolute most stupid mascot in existence. Since we were a “North” branch off the main high school, and their mascot was the comets, they named us the stars. Yeah. The NORTH Stars.
Most of my high school experience didn’t really have a permanent effect on me. It is the people who became my true north, the ones who stayed in touch and have helped guide my life.
The teachers who realized my parents had absolutely no idea how much they were restricting me by limiting what I was allowed to listen and watch, and guided me towards the good stuff when I was rebelling against only allowed Christian music, classical and hymns. They started me off with an appreciation of GOOD sacred music I hadn’t been exposed to that my mother really couldn’t complain about, and then fostered a love of their own favorite types of music. Ms. Larsen made me into a Beatles fan, Mr. Marsh and Mr. E taught me to love big band, swing and good choral music.
Ms. J and Mr. S fostered my love of art and, and Ms. J assisted in my love of books – she gave me additional, GOOD reading when I had read what the class was reading already.
Mr E was my, advisor who was like an extra parent, and who I still keep in touch with.
Mrs. P, my psych teacher who tries to come to every public performance I have with the theatre company I work with, over 20 years since I was in her class.( Collapse )
I’ve always been the responsible one.
My brother was feckless enough for 5 kids. You couldn’t depend on him to do anything. It was always “in a minute” or “ok” and then it never got done. And he didn’t improve as he got older. It was easier to just ask someone else or do it yourself. Thankfully that didn’t translate to work, just at home.
This carried on into his young adulthood. It drove me crazy as I would never, ever get away with that kind of behavior. He went out and played magic and D&D until all hours while I, the older one, had a 10 pm curfew even when I was home in college. I guess they worried more since I was a girl, but it really rankled that I the responsible one had more rules to try and follow.
But then, my brother met someone. He didn’t even tell us her name for the first six months or so. Slowly, he started dressing better, shaving without nagging, some of his rattier old tshirts were replaced, and he actually started talking about saving some money and moving out.
Then one day, he brought the girl home. The next week he started house shopping. She moved into the new place when he did. He’s totally henpecked. She’s got him doing dishes, eating vegetables, and they got married in August. She tells me he’s moderately trainable. I guess feckessness is curable. You just need the right motivation. Unfortunately this has not, so far, translated into his sister being able to rely on him to do things…but I have hope.
Walking did wonders the first time I needed to lose weight and start getting my body healthy. It opened up new worlds, and the weight began to fall off. Now that I am on medical leave from most outdoor exercise, I miss it, like an ache. I can’t wait to get back outside. I’m doing my walking inside for now.
Five years ago, I would have suggested you needed to be committed for mental observation if you suggested that I would enjoy walking – even, for a brief period, running. I used to loathe when we’d do running in gym class at school. The only walking I ever really enjoyed was a slow nature walk, or in 6th grade when my teacher, who was determined to get her own exercise in, took us out walking with striding poles for a few times a week as a class.
What changed five years ago? My doctor told me I needed to do something immediately to get some of the weight off. He suggested virtual running, and I signed up for my first race through Yes Fit. My race, my pace, so I could walk it, and get a cool medal. broken up into small bits, it didn’t seem like much.
But it all added up and by the following spring I was walking 5 miles a day. Then I discovered a new online club that was doing SO MUCH. And it was Harry Potter themed. I joined on to what was then Hogwarts Running Club. I hate the new name with a deep loathing, google if you want to know. But the people, oh, god, the PEOPLE.( Collapse )
I hate it. Having to guard my words so carefully, because you don’t know who else is listening or whose lips are looser than you think they are. Hearing whispers behind your back, which stop abruptly as soon as your presence is noticed. Having to combat rumors that have no basis in the truth, or worse yet are twisted from something you actually did say, completely out of context.
People you are supposed to be able to trust, people you are meant to confide in… your best friend, your Sunday School teacher, the pastor’s wife, your locker mate at school, your supervisor at work.
The worst is not knowing which of the people you trusted violated that trust. Sometimes it seems easiest to stop trusting anyone.
But then everything you no longer have a vent for builds up within you like a pressure cooker.
It has taken me years to figure out who my safe people are. But every now and again, I learn someone is no longer safe, or perhaps that they never were. Some of those people truly believe that they are still very close to me, but I don’t tell them anything I wouldn’t be comfortable if it were broadcast on NPR. They have no idea how much they don’t know, and how much they are missing out on.( Collapse )
Can’t be done. Why are you even trying? We’re the teachers, we know best. We’re the parents, we know what our kids are capable of.
Most kids’ lives change entering high school. Mine, more than most. All due to one incident. One of the girls who was a year in front of me rolled over my foot in her electric wheelchair and broke three of my toes.
Her mom felt sorry for me and invited me home with them for dinner. I accepted, and I discovered a whole group of people at school who were constantly being told things were impossible.
She’ll never learn how to do that. She can’t take that class. He doesn’t have the capacity to do that work. Why are you insisting he be included? They can’t understand that book, we’ll have to dumb it down. They can’t go on that class trip, the logistics are impossible.( Collapse )