Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tell my children who I am

We have been having family time for two weeks with our granddaughters. On Sunday I had a premonition that I was going to have to speed up ...that the rhythm was going to change. Do you ever have a strong sense of things?

Well, things have changed. My life has three, maybe four lifetime friends. These are the people who have been part of my story so long I can't imagine my life without them. These are the people who will be my ghosts or companions when I reach my end.

Nancy Bailey is one of these friends. She was my cohort in mischief when I was a (too) young mom with the burden of life already heavy on my shoulders. Together we were just girls who played and laughed and tortured our men with silliness. I loved her children and her husband with fierce purity. She loved mine. We could complain wildly about our lot in life but then returned to our people with willing hearts and hands. We were good for each other.

Nancy was the first woman I 'fell in love with' ... had heart pounding excitement when I knew we would see each other, laughed more than my quota when we were together and experienced her as brilliant, thoughtful, maddening, beautiful and fierce. Before her I thought being with men was ultimate. I just didn't know. Have you come to love women like that? ... you women, I mean!

Of necessity and sometimes choice, our contact was remote for some years, but she lived inside me. Friends do that. They move their stuff into our rafters and there it is ... quietly steadying our fears and strengthening our resolve just by taking up space. At least, that's what my friends do for me.

Well, Nancy died last night. I can't really believe she is gone. I talked to her daily until she couldn't talk any more and then I talked to her husband Joe about her. I feel like there is a big wind tunnel in my life, a tunnel that used to be full of 'stuff' and now it is empty and a huge fan is blowing wind down it.

So BS and I will make the grueling drive to Regina to be part of her funeral. She asked me to speak. She said, "Please, Mare, tell my children who I am." What a lovely thing to ask of a friend. I will do just that.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

sweet rest

Continuing on the children theme - this month of being a mom again... we did it!~ We tired them out today.

It is no small thing to exhaust a child. It means many things... not the least is that they will go to bed and fall asleep. Which is what I am looking forward to, tonight.

Monday, June 15, 2009

keeping them warm

This month I am living in an old familiar way: two pre-teen girls in the house and up to 7 neighbor kids whirling around at any given time - meaning constant cleaning, negotiating, laughing, cooking and handing out freezies. But while all this is going on I am aware it is temporary, (thank God!) and even in the middle of the chaos I feel like I am watching from the edges, from the outside.

Sandwiched between ten year old problems and squeals of joy I stand on the porch and listen to the reserved voice of Joe, husband to Nancy, my first adult woman friend. She lies beside him, sedated with morphine, unable to speak for herself, so Joe and I speak for her. He reads me a letter her 35 year old son penned to her, to hold her soul until he can arrive by her bed to speak for himself. We both cry.

I am past growing and now aging, with my generation. Like the plants in my garden I am acutely aware that old plants give way to young new growth. We who are aging are not essential as far as the future of humanity is concerned. Or are we?

As a gramma who is almost able to order off the 'seniors menu' I am coming to understand my role as something like a ballast. My chance now is to live in such as way as to stabilize and calm the way for those who are rowing like mad to keep the ship going. This means, among many other things, it is not a time for me to be unstable. My issues mustn't drive every conversation and encounter. Somewhere along the way I had to grow up or I cannot be a calming, gentle presence.

Recently I received this picture from my dear daughter in law, Kari, wife of Ben. Take note of the yellow log-cabin quilt covering the girl on the left.

This quilt was stitched by the hands of a large comfortable farmer's wife named Elizabeth Gitzel. Made from natural fabric and sewn with care, it was a gift to cover our son Jordan when he was born. The quilt has travelled across provinces, been slept on and walked on and wrapped around more than a few babies. Now it is covering my precious grandkids who are sleeping in Bandung, Indonesia.

I am thinking as I absorb this picture that Elizabeth was one of the old women who calmed my soul, whose presence in the margins of my life made it possible for me to believe my life could be done. She was not the only woman who gave me this kind of gift. And the quilt was not the only gift she gave me. Nothing of what she gave was intrusive or demanding. None of it had to do with her, really.

So when I see this quilt wrapped around my beautiful baby girl I feel a sense of satisfaction - that maybe I am passing on gifts that make the future slightly surer for them. The challenges my adult kids face are impossible for me to comprehend. But I will keep standing in the margins, taking care of my own issues, and sending them signs of hope and calm.

This week I am doing that by loving my granddaughters while Rae and Curtis take a rest. I am not 'mom'. Steve is not 'dad'. But Mimi and Papa can be pretty good stand-ins for a while. It's another way of sewing a quilt.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

a mind at ease

so when your mind is at ease, what floats through it? Here are some kernels of wisdom that have been passing back and forth through my synapses.

First a story - our Blaise in Indonesia, loves his cowboy costume. A few nights ago, according to Ben, he was in his bedroom and started shouting out, "Will someone please help me tie my bandana?" He parents said, "Just come out here and we'll help you." And so he did. The dear boy had put on his whole costume, chaps, hat, belt, gun, vest... without any clothes under it. A VERY BIG family laugh at that one...

So... other things...

1. Having kids around (two girls, not to mention names) means you do a lot of kitchen work. I forgot how much a kid can eat.

2. It is not advantageous to pluck nose hairs in preparation for sex. Even though it may possibly make one look more attractive, it is not good for the disposition.

3. Pouring pop onto ice cream makes a mess. Far better to put the pop in first and gently lower the ice cream on top.

That's pretty much the wisdom for today. We'll wait to see what tomorrow brings.