Category Archives: Women Before Me

Loss: A memorial of sorts.

She was the eldest of 3 siblings of which my father was the youngest. I was born on her 42nd birthday and we shared 45 of them with greetings and good wishes. I will quietly wish her happy birthday this November in my thoughts. She passed away two days ago on June 1st.
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Life was not always kind to her, but she dealt with it and moved on. She never let tragedy keep her down. She reveled in interacting with people and counted each person she shared a laugh with as a blessing. She was always ready to share a laugh with someone and her wit was quick, down-to-earth and sometimes unexpected. She loved deeply, but held her boundaries when needed. She married 3 times, the first at age 16. She bore a son from that marriage who died when he was 3 months old… or 2 years old, the notes my other aunt gave me say one thing, but I believe she told me 2 years old. My experience tells me that the age her child was when he died didn’t matter, loss is loss. Despite that loss, she loved children and loved me unconditionally. I never sensed any grief from her when she spent time with me, as a child or an adult, only joy. She understood that joy is a greater gift than holding onto sadness or grief.
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Her first husband ended up being crazy and abusive. Her second husband lost his life in a tractor accident. She married a third time in her 50’s and he was her companion until she passed away.

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Not given to long speeches, She always put things in perspective with an appropriately placed one-liner. For example, when I had gone through my divorce, I visited my aunts. I shared with them some of the things I was going through with my ex. She commiserated with me, validated my feelings and then gave me hope (along with a laugh) by telling me, “One day he will just be an asshole you once knew.” It was delivered with such perfect timing and in a tone of voice that I felt like a goal for my life had just been set, and when I finally reached the day that I forgot when his birthday was or what date we had gotten married, when those were just any other day, I wanted to tell her in person, “I’m there!!” I guess maybe she already knows.
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She loved girly things — makeup, pretty clothes. She was a cosmetologist and a beautician, and I remember loving that, because she was always up for “playing” with clothes, makeup, hair and dolls. She loved Christmas and decorated her home to the gills for it. But that wasn’t enough, no, because until recent years, she would fly to Iowa to help her sister (who also loves Christmas) decorate her house, too. In her later years, until her health declined, she genuinely enjoyed her job working the night shift at Circle K. I suspect her enjoyment of it was because it allowed her to have friendships with her customers, just as when she worked in a beauty salon. She loved people and she loved stories.
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She survived adult onset diabetes, as well as lung cancer and was even tickled to show me her scars from having a lung removed in July of 2007. She didn’t even let needing an oxygen tank stop her from traveling to visit her sister until recently. Last month (May of 2016), she was hospitalized due to severe pain, but was released the following week under hospice care with an inoperable cancerous tumor in her kidney. They thought she had a few more weeks, but she didn’t.
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I’m not certain what will happen now. North Carolina, where she lived, is quite a distance from me. I hate that budgetary concerns may dictate my desire to be there and offer love and support to her husband (my uncle) as well as my sole remaining paternal aunt. I’m not a huge fan of funerals, I don’t really know anyone who is, but the process of laying someone to rest amidst those who loved them offers closure to those who are left behind.
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I will miss her.

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Filed under Who I am, Women Before Me

Don’t Got Nuttin’.

Soooo, here we are, beginning of October. No, wait, we’re almost MID-October. If I were at my old job, I’d be harvesting articles for the newsletter! Man, it’s hard to change my mind from that job’s routine — it became such a big part of my life. When they let me go, it’s kind of like I got on a plane and went to another time zone and can’t reset the time on my watch.

(new subject)

When I was a teenager, I was bestest-estest friends with my cousin who lived in Washington state. I loved to go visit her, and we’d stay awake way too late during those visits and giggle like the little girls we were. She loved to play the organ and we would compose the silliest songs you ever did hear. They made no sense to anyone but us.

I had a crush on her neighbor boy, but she had an actual boyfriend! I worked with kids at the community center back home, she was a lifeguard! She was beautiful, just a little more brave than me and I adored her!

I got my ears pierced the first time on one of those visits with her. She shaved her legs for the first time on one of the visits. We would try out each others shower soaps and sniff each others arms. The kind of stuff that I suppose sisters would do together, but I never had a sister and she didn’t have a sister at that time.

One time when I went up there, she and her two brothers picked me up from the bus station in their pickup truck. We drove all the way back to their house in first or second gear, laughing all the way, because the transmission wasn’t working.

When we were separated (doesn’t that sound dramatic?), we would write each other the longest letters, pages and pages, going on and on about absolutely nothing. When I wrote my letters, it was all about how long can I make nothing but silly last?

That’s kind of where I am today. I got nuttin’ new to report and I’m just trying to make the silly last.

I guess I better get to the silly. I have a to-do list I have to get workin’ on…

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No Love & Loathe…

I was planning to write my weekly Love/Loathe/One Last Thing but, bummer for you, I have much more to say than bullet points.

I keep waiting for the panic to set in, the panic related to “Oh my God, I’m jobless in the highest unemployment rate the country has ever seen!!” But so far it hasn’t. In the meantime while we wait for the panic, we’ll talk about the hurt over the way they handled my termination — my boss wasn’t even there! When I explained the situation to my Aunt Marjorie, she summed it up best with, “Sounds like a lot of skullduggery going on!” She went on to tell me, in the no nonsense manner she has, to “put some starch in your britches and don’t fall into depression like so many other people do when they lose their job.”

I surely do love my Aunt Marjorie. I come from some amazing survivors.

I cried a lot Monday night and Tuesday — and that’s OK. I think it’s OK to feel hurt. I think it’s OK to grieve the loss, not only the financial loss, but the loss of so many friendships — people I truly adored working with each and every day. Dear God, that part of it really hurts. The handful of people who were around when I was terminated (you can’t hide much in cubicle land) were liberal in their comforting hugs, sympathy and expressions of shock — I think the adoration was mutual.

There’s something special about that company. Something I’ve never been able to quite lay my finger on and say, “That’s it! That’s where the magic is!” That company has managed to hire people who are genuine, helpful, incredibly talented, smart… every single person who works there is willing to be there for you if you need them. Sure they’re human, and there were day-to-day frustrations and irritations, but those were always, always dimmed by the overriding “magic.” I never experienced true, willing teamwork until I worked there and it was a daily gift.

I’ve tried to reach my former boss, but she’s “unavailable” and I suppose I would be, too, given that I’m sure she doesn’t want to deal with someone who she thinks is bitter and angry, when that’s what HR is for.

The thing is, I’m not bitter and angry… I’m hurt and I’d like to tell her that and hear what she has to say. But mostly, and perhaps oddly, I wish I could tell her that I’m thankful for the time I had there. I’m thankful that I had such a wonderful boss as her, and the other two gentlemen for whom I had the honor to work. She gave me the platform on which to grow my confidence and skills. She was gifted in assigning new duties to me — she knew I could do them, but never left me feeling like I was doing them alone. Her trust in my abilities and judgment, and her support of the business decisions I made, enabled me to heal from the antics of the boss I had at my previous job. She mentored and coached me in such a way that I never felt “less” when I wasn’t sure what decision I should make. She always, always greeted me with a smile and took the time to answer my questions, even when I knew she was having a rough day. There are so many other things I could list about her, but the bottom line is, those traits are not common finds in many executives, and for that reason, they were gifts. She is an incredible businesswoman.

And I guess that’s the thing. It is just business. This was a business decision she made on behalf of the company. She’ll take on my work, I’m sure, and will go back to working 18 hour days, the kind of hours no one should have to work. But she will, because she’s just that way.

Me, well, I’ve filed for unemployment, completed the termination paperwork, took the time to redesign my resume, contacted my references, and have already started the job hunt. On the extracurricular side, I’ve gone swimming during the daytime, gone to the San Diego Wild Animal Park (on a guest pass) with my friend, Grace, and helped Tony out with a couple of projects. Since I have the time, maybe I should go visit some of you guys? I’ve already teased my mom that I might come see her in South Korea! *grin*

So, yeah, termination sucks and I’m very sad, but it’s part of life. From here, the journey continues and I’m hopeful (right now) that the next job will be even better and I’ll be even more blessed. That hope is, in no small way, attributable to you guys, and my friends and family. All of y’all are my inspiration.

I am so blessed.

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Filed under I feel Hope, I have Family, I have Friends, I Left Home for Awhile, Mermaid Envy, Money Hump Building, Women Before Me

Love & Loathe – 072109

Love:
* Working in an air conditioned office. It’s crazy how hot it’s been, I feel like a sissy complaining about it since I know you Texans and Okies have it much hotter.
* Visiting my friend at lunch because she’s so close.
* S’mores.
* Playing in the surf at the beach.
* Time with family.
* Having a husband to whom I can tell anything, laugh with and who accepts me, imperfections and all.

Loathe:
* The battery in my watch needs to be replaced. This is going to be an expensive project since I can’t do it myself.
* California’s deficit. Hoping we won’t get reamed, but knowing we will. We got notices in the mail that our homes have, again, gone down in value. Now they want to raise the taxes on our lower valued homes. Nice.
* Everyone in the office has been infected with something. They’re all full of phlegm — feverish, coughing, snorting and clearing their throats. The hell? I leave for a week and the plague hits? I wanna go back on vacation!
* While I was on vacation Someone in Authority moved the plant that’s been my joy at work for over three years out of my area. (sigh) It’s their plant, but still… Tony’s response to that was, “That’s just stupid.” I agree.

One Last Thing:
I love both of my dad’s sisters dearly. It’s a long story, but in a nutshell, there was a period of about 15 years that I didn’t see my Aunt Marjorie and about 25 years that I didn’t see my Aunt Donis. Now, I try to get back to see them when I can and when airfare isn’t prohibitively expensive. They’re getting on in years and I treasure every moment I have with them, in person, or even on the phone, e-mail or letters.

Aunt Donis had surgery a couple years ago to remove lung cancer and she appears to be doing well, but it’s always something the doctors monitor and are concerned about. I’ve been a little more distracted than usual because, I learned last week that my Aunt Marjorie has breast cancer. I don’t even know that I should be sharing that on here, I hope I’m not crossing a boundary by doing so, but … I don’t know, I just think that any prayers or positive thoughts you could send would be helpful and appreciated.

There’s a lot going on in my Real Life these days, so please be understanding if I’m not as present in my Virtual Life.

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Filed under I own a Home, Love/Loathe, Money Hump Building, Women Before Me

Mom’s Mom.

The house was silent, the way she liked it these days. She really didn’t mind the sound of conversing among live people, but she held a grudge against that television, the one that stood silently, now, in the living room. It had taken her family away from her when it was invented, with its ability to laugh-on-command and numb the brain.

The dishes were stacked in the rack, dripping their way to dryness. Soon, she’d put them away in the cabinets. A silent army ready to host food again for her husband, maybe her daughter and her daughter’s kids. It’d be nice to have supper at the dinner table, some conversation and clinking of silverware to bring the kitchen to life.

The woman sighed and mindlessly continued moving her fingernail over the grout on the counter top. She did a lot of things the slow way these days. Hand washing dishes, cleaning grout with her fingernails. Gave her time to think. There was a time when she would have given anything to have time to just think. She supposed she could spray some of that bleach cleaner on and wipe it off and that would clean the grout in two seconds. Grout she hadn’t wanted. She hadn’t wanted this house at all so far from her family, with its close proximity to the dirt road out front. Seemed as if she was forever dusting everything and it never stayed clean. If one car drove by five minutes after she was done dusting, which it always did, the dirt would fly up and permeate through the cracks and there it was again. Dusty, dusty house.

Marriage was like that, though. She’d done things just because her husband had wanted to. He was a smart man, a good man. She just wished he’d ask her opinion and listen when she gave it. But he never asked and never listened when she gave it anyway. Made her wonder sometimes why she bothered. Married for over 50 years and he still did his own thing, thinking it was best for her without asking. Stubborn, bull-headed German. She shook her head and muttered to herself.

It was coming up on her birthday, she wondered if he’d remember. Probably not. He never did. She remembered his and everyone else’s, always mailing birthday cards with a little note. Hardly anyone remembered hers. Sometimes, though she’d get a note in reply, sometimes even in Swedish, the language of her parents. It was reason enough to keep on remembering.

She’d given her body for her children, six of them, with the last two being twins at 40, no less. Took it out of a person, growing life inside you, expelling them into the world and then raising them. Her back was hunched now, her hips fragile. Osteoporosis does that to a person.

Brought the first genuine smile to her lips in days to see the shock on her granddaughter’s face the other day when, in a skirt, she’d climbed over the barbed wire fence in the back yard, did it oh, so carefully, but showed her that grandma could still do that tomboy stuff of her youth. Just on a smaller scale these days.

The door knob rattled and the backdoor opened and there in the kitchen appeared that granddaughter, tall, straight and slim. Her eyes lifted from the dirty grout in hope, thinking perhaps her granddaughter was coming in to sit down and talk for a bit. Nope, the young girl slipped silently past, heading to the bathroom. Would it kill the girl to acknowledge her grandma instead of walking by like she’s invisible? Teenagers these days. Her eyes lowered back to her fingernail moving over the grout, thinking that someday that girl might understand what a little time given would mean to someone.

The stories the old woman had to tell, such fascinating stories. How it was unheard of back in 1930’s for a woman to drive, but she had learned how. How her mother had swept a dirt floor and the irony of that, sweeping a dirt floor to get the dirt out. The stories of her courtship with her husband, that sparkle in his blue eyes and the glint of the sun in his hair the color of which echoed the sun. How handsome he was. Oh, how they had enjoyed their ridiculous banter with each other back then. Probably made no sense to anyone else, but sometimes that’s how love is. Lordy, how he’d made her laugh back then. His motorcycle and how she rode on the back of it. Their first child, a little girl and the joy she brought. How starting a family had made them feel like they had crossed an invisible fence into adulthood. How children are a marker of how time passes you by all too quickly. What a hard worker her husband was and how he always seemed to buy the right piece of farmland at just the right time for their needs. Their second child, third and fourth child. How the time, it just seemed to accelerate and blur. The children growing, going through school.

The ups and downs of hormonal changes, the feelings of being alone in the middle of chaos. He’d somehow given up making her laugh and instead devoted that effort to his friends in town. Then having the twins, such a surprise at the end. Her regrets that she had no time to spend with each child, to see their accomplishments and kiss their boo-boos. There was just too much to be done. How no one had seemed to understand how a person could get depressed and overwhelmed, and then feel guilty for feeling that way. How could one feel depressed and overwhelmed when you have so many blessings?

She’d had to go away for awhile to get better, she hadn’t wanted to. In fact, she didn’t remember much about that time, except feeling resentful toward her husband for making her feel like she was inadequate and immature. He sure could’ve handled that transition a lot better than he did. But intuiting things about feelings and emotions just wasn’t part of him. Understanding things he’d never experienced himself, such as depression, loneliness and being overwhelmed, well, those are things you were expected to snap out of. Maybe someday, she hoped, someone would understand her. Maybe someday people would realize she hadn’t “gotten better”, she’d just gotten better at swallowing the pill of bitterness.

In early 1987, my grandma and I had gone to Sprouse Reitz, a variety store similar to Woolworth’s but on a smaller scale. We had shopped together, she had bought a new dress, I don’t even remember the price anymore, but I don’t think it was very much money. It was special, though, because it was such a rarity for her to buy herself something, and even moreso because we had chosen it together.

She passed away in 1987 after a long struggle with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. I’ve often wondered if what she died of was symbolic of the life she lived.

She was buried in the dress from the five & dime store. I insisted on it, actually, in my 16 year old wisdom, because even though the dress had cost maybe $20, she had bought it because she thought it was so pretty. Plus, it was the newest dress in her closet.

I’ve thought about her over the past few years. I wish I could tell her that I now understand her, at least in some ways.

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Not Ashamed.

I can feel that my hormones are weirding out on me. It’s been over a year, now, since my surgery. I wonder if, at some point, this crap will stop. I’ve been through it enough that I recognize the tiny nuances when they’ve barely started. Today it’s a headache and my body temperature — one minute I’m hot, with beads of sweat between my breasts. The next minute I’m shivery cold, checking the thermostat on the wall because I’m certain a cold breeze has somehow made it through the walls. I hope tonight isn’t going to be filled with hot flashes. It’s so draining on me when my body does this to me. I took a hot bath tonight for awhile after I got home from work, sometimes that helps.

Last night, I was working with my Great Aunt Edith’s photographs again, also known as the “scanning project”. I ran across some school looking type pictures. By the names written on them, I knew they weren’t family, so I figured they must have been friends of hers. Their ages were written on the pictures, the dad was 32, the mom was 28 and the two boys were 7 and 6. The pictures were taken in 1973. I wondered about their story, how they knew Edith. I ran an Internet search and I found someone who I thought might be the person in the picture. I e-mailed her around midnight last night and she replied today, as follows:

“My husband and I bought the 15 acre ranch in 1970 from your great aunt and her first husband. We carried on the fuchsia nursery which she had had there. We remained friends and, after her first husband died, we met her second husband and visited them at their home in the foothills several times. Our boys are 38 and 39 now, so time flies.”

Edith at her fuschia farm …

There was more to the e-mail, but I closed my browser window. As I sat in the tub after reading that email, I just let my mind wander as it may. One thought that popped in my head was “I’m proud of where I came from.” I grabbed hold of that thought and examined it. I’ve learned that sometimes the biggest keys I can turn in my brain come from the internal dialogue that I have with myself. As I examined that thought, I realized that tonight is the first time I’ve ever really felt that way. It’s been a two year journey to get to this point.

When I took the trip back to my childhood state last July, I realized that my parents moved to the country because they wanted us to have acreage to play on and tons of animals to love. I had always thought the reason we moved there was because we were poor. I realized, after seeing the house that we moved from, that we weren’t poor until my dad chose to spend his paycheck on alcohol instead of his family. I also realized that his decision to do that is in no way my fault (classic ACOA). My mom did what she had to do to protect herself and her kids. That doesn’t make my dad someone I need to be ashamed of. That doesn’t make my mom a hero. It makes them human beings who made decisions and who did what they had to do to survive. These are things I’ve known all my life, but last year I understood them. Seeing where I came from made it real.

My dad is gone now, has been since 2000. I’ve chosen to reconnect with his side of the family. I’ve made two trips to visit my aunt (his sister) in the last two years. When I visited her last September, I came home with Edith’s pictures. The pictures she took throughout her life that meant so much to her. She meant so much to me, she passed away when I was 23. So I treasure having the opportunity to get to know her better through the things and people she loved enough to keep their pictures.

I think it’s interesting that I’m learning to love myself through getting to know where I came from. My dad was a hard worker, he tried, but alcohol was stronger than him. My mom is a determined, compassionate, joyful, loving person. Every single person in my family, my grandmothers, my grandpa, every person in my direct lineage — they’ve been determined, independent, hard working, smart people. They made their own way in this world, they never mooched off of anyone. When they were down, they still managed to move forward, one step at a time.

Edith …

I will get through this hormone crap. I will move on with my life. And, someday, when I’ve been gone 11 years … maybe my grandniece will look through my pictures and get inspiration from them.

I hope so.

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