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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Momma's First Birthday in Heaven

October 16, 1922 she was born. Her mother died when she was a baby and her stepmother and her father moved from Kentucky to the Ohio valley when she was small. Her older brothers and her younger half sister completed their family.


To say she had a good life would be a lie. To say much of her life was difficult would be a true statement. One day I will try to write the story that tells of her struggles, her pain and her triumphs. I will write of her happiest days as she told me the stories and of some of the wonderful people she recalled as well as some of the people who caused her much suffering. It's a difficult story to even think of now that she's gone. But I am determined to attempt it one day.

We celebrated both Mom and Dad's birthdays with them every year. 
Today, though, I'd like to concentrate on the birthdays we've celebrated with her since Dad's passing 36 years ago, next week. He died one week after her 56th birthday. That year the birthday was celebrated in his hospital room. I took cake, a wrapped gift and we all laughed and ate and joked about the nightie I bought her. Dad said he'd be able to see through it when she changed the TV channel. She blushed, I believe, and told us all to stop! Since he never came home, I learned about 20 years ago, she never took that nightie out of the box. It had remained in the box with tissue until she gave it to me. She wanted me to give it to her granddaughter, my daughter, for her wedding night. Granddaughter never took it out of the box either. About 10 years ago she returned it to me. I have not taken it out of the box. 

When she turned 70, we talked her into going to a nice place and inviting all the grandkids to come celebrate with her. She reluctantly agreed. She never liked being made a fuss over like that, so it was really special that she allowed my sister, Pat, my brother, Mike and I to do this. All the grandkids came with spouses or dates. My son came with a beautiful blond that none of us had met. I teased that perhaps Grandma's 70th birthday party wasn't a great choice for a first date. My brother, however, totally thought it was a wonderful idea! Spent much of the evening congratulating him. UGH, boys!
The party was really fun and she had a wonderful time. Talked of it for months after, which she did only with good things.

She made a point each and every year after, however, that we were not to do that again. No more big ass parties, please. She preferred to just have her kids come to her house and have a meal either ordered in or cooked by us and cake. Chocolate cake, preferred, but all cake devoured!

Jo - Mike - Pat         2009 Mother's Day

The last birthday we were all together for her birthday ON her birthday was her 90th. Again, I asked if we could invite the grandkids. She said, "No, they're all busy and it's a week night. Don't make them come." She never understood they would like to come. So we all gathered at my house, also her choice, for a light mid-day meal and delicious ice cream cake! We learned later that week that she had Pneumonia. She was not hospitalized, but had medication to take three times a day so I arranged a pill box for each week so she'd not miss a dose. She did well with that. It was months before she was recovered and her strength never returned.

Her 91st was Pat and I and our husbands ON her birthday at her apartment and brother Mike and his wife came a different day so Pat and I also met them at her house for a second little birthday party.
Jo - Pat - Momma   91st birthday  2013

We had no idea those would be the last we were part of. Nor did she. It was nice and we will all remember it.

This year she will celebrate with Dad. I feel that's been going on for over a month now, the celebrating. 

Momma on my deck  2013

I have no idea how I am actually going to get through this one. I am going to visit the cemetery, which I don't like doing, but I want to take her flowers, so I will do that. Perhaps a blue silk rose or small bouquet. I don't want them to turn brown and decay before I get back to remove them. Silk can maybe stay through the snow and make it feel a little less cold and isolated.

I plan to make one of her favorite meals. Either roast beef or spaghetti. I find cooking to soothe me some days and I feel like that will be one of those days. Maybe. Or at least, I will be doing something similar to what I've done in other years. That may not be good. I don't know. It's going to be a day of tears and sadness for what we no longer have, but I hope I can pull some joy remembering all those wonderful birthdays we did share. All those happy days with her children and her children-in-law were kind of rare and each of them is so special to me because I loved those gatherings maybe even a little more than she did. Though having her three kids with her at once was always a good day for her.
Exhausting, but good. I used to laugh because I did the cooking, brother drove 4 or 5 hours each way, sister would bring cake...and she was exhausted.  :)

So Momma...I hope you are as happy as you deserve to be. I hope your heavenly reward is filled with birds to watch, dogs to pet and the man you married 71 years ago. I hope he has been holding your hand since you arrived and has not taken his eyes off of you. His wait and your wait were so long, I hope that reunion was everything you imagined. I know when you arrived God must have said, "Job well done, my child, welcome home. All is love and goodness here."

I love you with a heart that is still very tender, but the hole that once was filled by you, is slowly refilling with all that was you. Your desire to never be a burden was accomplished. You were never a burden and always my blessing. Stubborn blessing, yes, but blessing nonetheless. I miss you every moment and I survive only because I see you with Dad, Mom-Mom, Pop-Pop, Pop Reed and all the friends from way back, the family who left so long before you and I know you are happy. Maybe the happiest you've ever been. And that is eternity, you are young again, pain free again and in love again. That's how I get through each day.

Happy 92 Momma.     
Jo - Momma  Her house in Portland    2008 I think


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Jo MIA for Now

September 28, 2014

Trying very hard to get myself straightened out. Trying to figure out how I do this new normal. You know, my life after Momma’s passing. That is my life now and I don’t think it will change for some time. I have good moments every single day. Moments where I am ME and I am happy. I also have moments where I am MOMMA’S GIRL and missing her more than i can function around. I suppose those moments will lessen with time. I’m sure they will because I’ve lost other people I love and that’s how it worked. Problem here is, I’ve never lost Momma before. There is no one in my life who holds that piece of my heart. Oh, I have many loves. I am very blessed with people who care deeply about me and one or more of them reach out to me every day. So this isn’t a case of loneliness or self-pity at all. I am so very aware of how many people I can turn to for a laugh, a hug, a crying binge or whatever I need. This is about defining my new role as a human. This is about only having one Momma.

I am a wife. There are many wives out there who do a much better job at this than I, but I do love my husband and I will return to a somewhat functional wife shortly, I think. I am cooking a little now because I discovered that doing things I love does relax and soothe me, some. I have been keeping the house ready to show, it’s for sale and it must be ready, but not really quite as pristine as I prefer and I don’t seem to care much about that. Cleaning doesn’t make me calm, it just makes me tired. I try to return to the husband-wife life we had in a day to day way, but it’s not the life we had. It’s very different. It’s very quiet and I am so sad so often that I don’t want to have silly conversations with him. I don’t want to talk about moving. We can’t move until the house sells. I can’t make the house sell. I have to let go of all things I can’t change. He is stuck in daily comments about getting this house sold. I’m over that. It will sell, when it sells. PERIOD.

So much of what has happened since August 1 has been so clearly by Heavenly Design, that I am living a much more accepting role now. I am satisfied with the realtors we have, the marketing is excellent, the buyers just have to find it. I am okay with waiting because I see that the waiting has meaning. He can’t seem to grasp that. I can’t or don't have the energy to get him over to my side of this. It’s okay, he’ll get here, he always does. I am content to know I have done what I can do and I am trudging along daily because I know He has this. He will give me strength when I need it and wisdom to move forward or not. He will lead me and I will follow. I am reveling in the gift of Momma’s last days. It is my source of strength to remember how happy she was. To imagine how happy she is now. To understand that I gave what she needed and she gave what I needed. To accept that I am to continue now without her. His will has been done. I get it. I feel it. I do accept it. But the pain of life without her is still very raw and very strong. I am trying to push through it. I am trying to reinvent myself into a productive human. The mom I should be will return. Hang in there kids! The grandma I love being, she’ll be back, too. I just am not real sure when. But soon, I think.

Right now, in this moment, I believe I will just be. I will just allow myself to cry. I will allow myself to mourn. I will allow myself to remember the good days and the bad. I am going to be kind to me and maybe stop looking so hard for my new normal and just let it creep in. Patience please my family and friends. I’ll not stay here in this gloom very long. I will emerge with some dignity and some hope. I will become the person I am meant to be and I will be stronger, love more and have even deeper faith because I am the sum of all 64 years 8 months 19 days of being Momma’s girl and your wife, your mother, your grandmother, your sister or your friend. And I am in here.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Momma Has Gone Home

In this life you have parents, if you're lucky, who guide you, set examples for you and knock you into last week, when needed. I had that. I had a sister and brother who were older than me to learn from and I did that. I learned how to maneuver through my teens without getting grounded. I did that mostly by staying out of trouble. I may have been grounded a time or two, but I don't remember.
What I do remember is mostly good or funny things and I think that's just right.

My dad passed in 1978 at the age of 56 leaving Momma alone in a world where she had never been alone. She lived 45 minutes from her closest kids. She had never paid a bill. Never used a checkbook. Didn't know whom they owed what nor whether or not she had enough money to pay them. With a little guidance from her children she took it all on head first. The once completely dependent woman became Miss Independence and she remained that until just a few years ago. Five years ago she gave up driving and became dependent on Jo's Taxi. It was nice to spend time with her and help her meet her needs at the same time. It was rarely an inconvenience. Our lives have been closely intertwined for the last 5 years.  More closely than ever before.

On August 5, she left her beautiful and beloved apartment to take up residence with Roomy and I and her two grandpups. She did this willingly and was welcomed lovingly. Life was much better for us with her under our roof. She was eating better, drinking more water and being treated pretty much like a queen. For the most part, it was our pleasure to care for her. Stress happened, but it was never more important than her safety and happiness. She was happy. We were happy.

On September 9 at 2 am I was awakened by her calling my name. I reached her in seconds and saw her collapse on the hall floor just short of my bedroom doorway.  I bent to help her up. She did not assist me at all. She always helped get herself up. I sat on the floor holding her head and shoulders in my lap while Roomy called Life Alert. Before he finished giving them details, she took her last breath and I continued to hold, kiss and cry.  Momma had left for her reward knowing she was loved. Hearing my voice tell her so. Feeling wanted and part of this household, not a visitor. I am grateful for those moments. Momma began her journey to Dad from the loving arms of her baby.

I miss her already. But I carry no regrets. I loved her fully and for the most part, gave her the best I had. I am so filled with awe. The house didn't sell because she wasn't meant to go south. The house is off the market this week because we need to mourn. She was here with us because God sent her here to pass in love, not alone.

God bless her soul and Momma, thanks for being Momma.  Give Dad a big hug and lots of love from us. I know he's been waiting a long time for your arrival.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Thoughts for a Saturday

Yesterday we dropped our realtor at the end of the 90 day contract. The home we have loved and improved for our own comfort and happiness has been viewed by 14 prospective buyers. Some couples, some singles and a couple of extended families. The failure to provide the much coveted open floor plan and the apparently much coveted bathtub, has produced zero offers.

Strange because we have often complained about how noisy this kitchen is. Everyone who is in the living room can clearly hear (actually magnified) every sound made during food prep. Dishes seem to be slammed onto the solid surface cupboard or banged into the dishwasher, when in fact, they are simply being placed. Opening up the stairway wall would achieve that open concept, but it would also increase that annoying racket. It's my belief that people who want that, haven't ever lived with cooking and clean-up IN the living room. Maybe that's just me.

And the bathtub issue has blown me away! We spent $7000 removing the tub and installing an oversized stepin shower. It's awesome and very easy to clean. We have three full bathrooms and all have walkin showers. Why? Because in the last twenty years no one has taken a bath and every week I still cleaned a bathtub. On the floor, on my hands and knees, I cleaned a tub that no one living here wanted or used. Asking around, I found very few people who take baths and fewer who liked cleaning their tub. We thought we we're increasing the "want" factor, but apparently we did not.

We added an in-law suite in the basement. Finished the entire floor into a kitchen, full bath, laundry room, bedroom, tanning room and family room. Essentially doubling the living space of our home. Has that been a benefit? No one has said so.

We have a whole house generator which automatically runs everything 10 seconds after a power outage. Cost? $6000 and it's one year old.  Benefit? Nope.

The pool and landscaped backyard is appreciated, but not worth our asking price apparently.  I suppose the cost of all of that seems minimal, unless you're the one paying for it. Yes, everyone likes it, but still no offers.

I am so disappointed. I am so deflated. I am so ready to move to Florida. I need to be re-energized.
I need an offer. I need a serious buyer who will love living here.

It's so hard for me to understand why everyone doesn't just feel at home here. The first time I walked in the front door, not this one cuz we just replaced that 2 years ago, I looked around and knew it was our home. I have never regretted the purchase for a single moment. I have honestly loved this house from that moment.

I need THAT to happen. Soon. THAT buyer needs to find us and their new, nearly maintenance free home.

Tomorrow we begin round two. Realtors who know how important online listings are. Realtors who will council us with their expertise and listen to our needs.  I only regret that we didn't go this way first. But everything happens as it's supposed to happen and tomorrow is a new beginning in this process.

I promise the new buyer that this house will become their home the moment they hold that closing paper and they will relish every summer day they spend in that pool, on that deck or poolside with a cool drink.

It's coming soon. I know it is.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014


I promise list...yes, it's a list because I believe once written, things become real to me. So, it is written.

I promise:

1)  to be the person I want as a friend.

2) to answer when called upon.

3) to tell you the truth, even if you don't want to hear that.

4) to love without condition or not love at all.

5) to put forth my best me 90% of the time.

6) to be there for my family, always.

7) to LISTEN better.

8) to speak mostly after thinking, it's a process.

9) to try to be the wife my husband deserves; the mom my kids deserve, the grandmother my grandbabies deserve and the daughter Momma deserves.

10) to be the friend you deserve.

I want to promise to age gracefully and never be a burden to anyone, but aging isn't always like that so instead, I'll try very hard to stay healthy and active until the end. Failing that, I'm sorry to the care givers and it's okay to ship me off somewhere. Really. But if you take me in, feel free to tell me what you need from me and I do promise to give that a try.  With luck, I'll be gone before any of that matters. I want to live until it's over, really live.

I also promise to answer any of your comments as soon as I see them!  ❤️  Cuz both of my readers are very special to me!  ��


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Losing Your Rights in Senior Years

I just finished reading Mickey Rooney's speech to Congress about how he was abused by family and how he lost his human rights in his later years.

It's a moving speech.

He was an actor.

As a senior citizen here in these United States, let me just say that as of today, I maintain all of my rights. I can eat what I want. I can sleep where and when I want. I can live where and how I want. I have a reasonably sound mind and the ability to meet my own needs. This may not always be true. When it is no longer the case, I hope someone loves me enough to intervene and make decisions "with" me to assure my safety and reasonable health as well as my happiness. In the Golden Years it really should be about happiness. I may not always see where my happiness lies and I pray that my kids or my grandkids will see it and help me focus there.

I'm not denying that elder abuse happens. I'm saying that sometimes what feels like manipulation is really caring and helping. As we age we do lose the ability to be flexible and some of us lose the ability to accept this aging thing with all it's limitations. Often the manipulator is actually trying to secure a better and safer lifestyle. Let's allow for those cases to be seen from the caregivers viewpoint.  Do you just leave your loved senior in an unsafe and unhealthy environment because they want to stay there? They say it's home and they're happy. They are actually depressed and frightened being alone. They don't see that. What then? Butt out? Go on about your own business? Or do you talk and plan and try to convince them that there is a better way? Ultimately, you hope they feel it's their choice, but in fact, it has to happen either way. Emotional blackmail? Mr. Rooney says it is. I say it's loving and protecting and avoiding life in a communal care facility that will not be home, ever.

I pray constantly that I will have the wisdom required to help my mom through her Golden Years. I pray that the love we share will not be tattered and blemished because I insist on her safety. As we are preparing to move south where she will live with us, I pray her happiness will return and my sanity will also. I pray that this move can happen soon for I hear her telling people she has to move. I was so hoping by now she would be be saying she is going to move, rather than has to move.  I know that she feels I am making decisions for her without her input. I am making decisions for her because she has told me that she fears being alone sometimes and yet wants to stay in her own home. She has told me that it's nearing the time that she must move in with us. Yet, left entirely to her, she would remain where she is. She'd love for me to move in with her. I can't. We have dogs and her apartment complex doesn't allow dogs. I have a husband with whom I've planned to move south for many years. I have made every decision along this path considering her needs and her passions. We will be certain to have a walk-in shower for her. We will have a screened in porch. We will have a place that is just hers for her privacy. We will figure a fair financial arrangement so she isn't feeling like a freeloader, but will have a better life. That can be her decision alone, the money thing will matter to her, doesn't matter to us. All of her furniture will be in our new home because it matters to her and I want it to feel like her home. I feel we have made some decisions together, but she feels like I have made them all. Perspective. I get it. Giving up independence. I get that, too. But having a better quality of whatever time we have left together trumps all for me.

Hope she gets that.


Friday, July 18, 2014

When the Mom is Still the Mom

Today we crossed another milestone of sorts. I bought Momma a beautiful and very functional walker. It's purple and has a cool seat with a padded back rest. Yep, it's as cool as a walker can be. But it's a walker. Now, some would be happy to be able to walk safely just by pushing this little cutie around and some would even be excited to be able to venture outside alone because of it. Some would simply say it'll be nice to use for the night time potty trips and tell you it should be stored in the bedroom next to the bed for just such a case. Oh, that is my Momma...the last one.

I have been watching her stagger and catch herself for months. I have worried constantly about her falling while home alone. I have been reminding her constantly of the "Help I've Fallen" necklace function. That it must be worn at all times. Sometimes it's on the table beside her when I stop in. She takes it off if we are leaving the apartment. She doesn't sleep with it, but keeps it right beside her bed and tells me she carries it with her if she gets up. I hope that is true. I truly believe this walker could restore her independence somewhat. It could make her feel safe venturing outside or even just going around the apartment. She walked so smoothly and so quickly when she tried it out. I was amazed how well she did with it and she seemed unimpressed. It was as if she thinks she always walks like that. I made it very clear that she does not. I hope she listened.

For those of you who have not been in this position, may I just say it's very hard some days to be the kid. I want so much for her that she is unwilling to do. She is still my mom. She is still in charge of her own life. I have limits and I am fighting to keep myself in them. It is my nature to nag her into being more active and eating better and doing what she could do before she is not able. Every week there is something else she is no longer able to do. Her strength is failing rapidly. It's very hard to allow this to happen when you are so aware of how little she would need to do to regain that strength. I am not good at this. I am learning how to keep my big mouth shut, but I'm not exactly there, yet. I'm sure she hopes I get there soon. I hope so, too. Nagging is not working and only upsets us both. Yes, I know this. Yes, I want to be the loving daughter who allows her to be whatever makes her happy. I'm working on this...

The walker was parked in the kitchen when I left because she doesn't like it in the middle of her living room floor. UGH. She does not have company often, but it bothers her just sitting there next to where she sits, though it would only be helpful from that spot. I give up. I hope she figures out how much simpler her mobility would be using it and having it close by. I also hope that I learn to let it be.

I am so blessed to have such a fiesty momma and such a fun person to hang out with and to care for. I am so blessed that she is healthy and for the most part independent in nature and spirit. But mostly I am blessed that at 91 she still wants to be with me even if I am a nag. She knows I only want what's best for her, but I need to learn that what is best for her now is whatever she wants. Period.

If you have this in your future...take my advice and start now learning to butt out. Provide what is needed and offer whatever help is needed and otherwise, shut-up. Just love and enjoy and provide. That's where I'm trying to get.