Posts Tagged With: journey

Home is Where the Family is …

For the second year in a row – Ben, our oldest boy/ man will not be coming with us to Myrtle Beach.  It is not that he does not love us anymore.. I hope.  He is now in college – and the colleges have already had their break.  This leaves him home – alone – for a week – with a car.  Hmmm.  Am I too naïve to be worried  – nay.  Trusting.  Life is changing.

For the first year in a long time I have not had to plan, plan, and plan care for Dad.  I was always so worried that one of Dads caregivers would not make a shift and then Dad would be left alone on a week-end.  So – I over-scheduled and had back up after back-up.  The food was all prepared, packaged, and frozen for the week.  The bills were all paid in advance.  Phone numbers and contact information was thoroughly communicated… you get the drill.  Dad would also be a bit worried I would imagine – although he was in such good hands – none of us really needed to be concerned.  This year I am so under-planned it is ridiculous.  Yet – here we are – without Dad… I would rather have the plan, plan, planning to do!  Two very special men are out of the Myrtle Beach plans this year.  Weird as it is – there is a giant hole that is left behind.  Not sure what to do with it yet – can it be filled with books, rest, wine (grin) or good conversations with friends..

This is the first year that a dear friend of mine will not be joining us and our families reuniting.  She has a new life with a new partner and there is no Myrtle Beach in her blood it seems anymore.  She deserves this happiness as her life has not been easy as a single parent.  Again, there is a hole – a divide. 

And this is the third year that Mom is not around.  There will be no one asking me for contact information – to watch for sharks – to be careful on the roads and to watch those crazy drivers!  No one will be buying me a bathing suit as Mom always knew what would look relatively civil on me and I hated buying it myself.  No Mom to take me out to spoil me with a meal from Red Lobster – just because – and fight me for the bill.  No Mom to call and explain that we have arrived safely  – not to worry.  No Mom who will wish my family a great trip – and to not worry about a thing!  To have fun.  To get some rest (you look so tired, Stacey, you do too much!) But each time I pass a white rose … I will think of her.

Life happens.  It happened to my Mom and Dad and now it is happening to me.  I remember so well when my parents spoke about the changes their lives had endured.  Some of their friends passed away – others divorced – others grew apart… I thought nothing about it at the time as their lives were so far apart from mine. 

It seems that distance has almost been bridged.  I am so glad I remember them talking about life changes – talking about firsts.. growing older… it makes my divide seem like it is a part of life.  They survived it – I guess so too can I.

Mom and Dad were always there for my brother and I. In fact, I remember thinking that wherever they were – that was my home.  Now that they are no longer here there are times, I must admit, that I feel a little homeless.  But – other times I feel that life is happening to me the way it happened to my parents – and that it will all be okay.  I wish they were here to talk to – to listen to my epiphanies as I age.  Aha – I get it – moments.  I wonder if they felt the same way? 

As time passes, it seems I become more distant – yet closer to my family on so many dimensions.  Life has a way of bridging gaps.  Ben, Dad, my friend… my Mom.  Through it all – I still know that I am home – home is where the family is – forever in my heart. 

Categories: Family and Friends | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Apartment 1001 in 2013 – nothing new

There is a showing tomorrow in apartment 1001 and so I needed to be sure that it was in good shape and I needed to pick up the mail.

I went this afternoon for a “check-up” and to wish Mom and Dad a Happy New Years.

I don’t know what I expected.

I walked in and the room was dark.

I turned on the light.

I looked around.

It smelled fresh.

The place was empty.  Mom didn’t say, “hi”.  Dad didn’t say, “hi”.  What did I expect? I knew they were both at a better address – yet, I felt their “hello”.  I felt their “excitement” to see me.  They were always excited by a surprise visit.

I went to the pantry to check things out.  Nothing new.

I went to Dad’s room.  Nothing new.

I went to Mom’s room.  Nothing new.

I poured myself a glass of wine to cheer them with.  Nothing new (grin).

I cleaned the glass.  I had a cry.  Nothing new.

I left and locked the door behind me.

I opened the door – half expecting to see them giggle sitting in their chairs – as if they really had not passed away and they were just checking to see if I’d say, “TTFN” and “I love you”.   But, there was no one.  Nothing new.

What had I expected?  I don’t know.  This is a new place and space for me in 2013 as it is for my departed parents.  It is new – but there is nothing new.

And as I exited the building – and apartment 1001, the reflection of the sunset caught my eye.  It was Dad – I know it was – saying, “TTFN”.  “I love you, Stacey.” And delightedly I thought, “nothing new”.  Thank God.

The Setting Sun - nothing new

The Setting Sun – nothing new

 

Categories: Life's Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Forwards or Backwards?

Lessons my Dad taught me

David and Poppa

My daughter was excited this Christmas to open up one of her gifts from Mountain Equipment Coop:  a slack line.  I wondered where she would be able to attach it in the middle of winter – now that the basement poles are no longer exposed.  Of course, we needed to explore the possibilities anyhow.  My daughter is quite driven to find solutions to problems she has.   After there was a “no go” decision for the basement, she turned her eyes to the front yard… and voila.  The street-light was a good distance from the maple tree and it would be perfect.  The snow below would also serve to cushion the multiple falls that we were advised she would have initially.

With snow pants, boots, mitts, and all the winter garb, Katya was ready.  She hopped up on the slack line with great caution and focus.  And fell.  She tried again, and again, and again.  Finally, she called it a night and unhooked the line.

My husband and I watched from the front room.  I thought about how my mom and dad would have been so excited to see her tackle this new sport.  This was something new – something that they had not seen before… much like New Year’s will be for my family and I.  I recall I was anxious to leave the year 2010 (the year Mom passed away).  I don’t want, however, to leave 2012… the year Dad passed away.  Moving forward will mean leaving the past.

I have always found New Year’s to be somewhat nostalgic.  It is a time to think of highlights, things for which we can be thankful, and things that we want to improve.  How important is it to not forget the past and to reflect?  I think it is vital to pause and reflect.  It is not easy, though.  Sometimes mistakes we’ve made – mistakes I’ve made seem unforgivable.  But these mistakes have also been such powerful lessons.  Mom taught me, for example, what not to do – and by learning from her – I was able to help Dad depart this world with dignity.

What lessons did I learn from Dad?  I’ve learned that everyone needs a purpose – no matter how old you are.  I’ve learned that that purpose can be as simple as what Dad had decided.  “My purpose, Stacey, was to make people happy.”  I’ve learned that to forgive people, you first have to be honest with them and tell them how you feel.  I’ve learned that it is vitally important to count your blessings.

It is a tricky balancing act – to not fall too far on either side of this line that sits between history and future – the stroke of midnight between 2012 and 2013… the “dash” between one’s birth and one’s death.  It is tricky, but not impossible.  And tomorrow, Katya will, no doubt, be back up on that slack line… finding her own balance – just like me.

Thanks to all of you who have supported my Dad and I through this blog – our sentimental journey.  I hope that this journey has allowed you some insight into your own lives.  And so, I will write the last post for 2012 and bid all of you, “Ta-ta for now. ”  (TTFN) from Bill Duff, (Dad) and I (Stacey).

All the best in the new year!

Categories: Family and Friends, Life After Dad, Life's Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Sentimental Journey Continues: The Christmas Season

The Snowman sits at his piano and pounds out three melodies:  Oh, the weather out side is frightful,  jingle bell rock, and finally have a holly, jolly, Christmas.  And David, my youngest son, still delights in watching the motion of this battery operated Hallmark toy.

Today, however, he didn’t do laps around the room.  David sat and reminisced about Nanna.  “It’s not the same, Mom.”, he said to me after the Snowman had entertained in his historical fashion.  The Snowman was so much more fun when he was at Nanna and Poppa’s house.

And then only seconds later, he and I were back at decorating the tree… Nanna’s artificial tree that she had given to us when she down-sized to a foot-tall model that sat on her stereo cabinet.

Was this the same tree that sat in a box for years in our basement?  Hmm.  David thought it was much smaller than he had remembered it being at Nanna’s house.

Yes, it is the same tree.  It’s just that now, this tree is the tree that Nanna gave to us – and that makes it special.  More special than a tree that we could chop down ourselves.

As David and I assembled the pieces, spread the malleable limbs,  and then wrapped the lights around it, we talked about Nanna and Poppa.  “What I like most about Christmas David …. is tradition”.  Tradition anchors us to our roots, our memories, our heritage.

“What I like about Christmas, Mom, is family.” , said David.

God bless him, that little boy.  His Christmas list that I opened to read today asked for hugs and kisses.

He is a sentimental little guy, our son, David.  I love to spend time with him – and I love lighting the tree with him – and talking about his memories of Mom and Dad.  I feel much more reassured that their memory will live on through our children when we remind out children about the wonderful things we shared.

This is the first time that we will not share it with Nanna and Poppa… yet they are everywhere … when I open my heart to them.  They are in the tree, the wreath, the photos, the children, the decorations… the list goes on.  Christmas is a season of memory – of tradition – of hope – and holly – jolly … or so the Snowman says.

TTFN

 

Categories: Family and Friends, Life After Dad, Life's Lessons, Mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Where Does the Journey End?

I have not had much to say lately.

Mom and Dad continue to be on my mind – often – but I just don’t know what to write.

Maybe it’s writer’s block?

Maybe it’s grief?

Maybe it’s time to put closure to something else?

This blog, and all you wonderful readers, have been a great source of comfort for me through a very challenging time.  I’ve lost both parents in less than 18 months.  To me, this has been traumatic.  It has been a long, long, journey.

I wonder now, though, if the journey is coming to an end?

Is it time to put this blog to bed?

The condo up for sale.  I have a difficult time going back there to even check in on it.  It’s difficult to go “back” in time.

Yet, I sit faithfully in front of the digital photo frame as images of our lives fade in and fade out.  I sent some new photos to it the other day and I enjoy watching those fade in and out too.

What would it feel like to say, “good-bye” to this sentimental journey – or rather TTFN?  Letting go is the hardest thing to do, yet I think I need to know my limits and not stay too long.  I feel like the guest that never left… not knowing when enough is enough.

I need to move on – but how much of the past do we need to break from?  Does the past propel us to the future?

Does the past help us to build a foundation, yet anchor us to the ground?

It is inescapable, haunting, yet at the same time it is still my greatest source of comfort.

Should I stay or should I go now – I believe someone else used that phrase and sang a tune along with it (grin).

Maybe the falling leaves have brought this feeling of loss to front and centre.

Where is my faith? What is my purpose?  When will “this” sentimental journey end?

I guess today is a day of questions.  And having said that – maybe today begins a new “quest” for closure.

How is closure best achieved?

And the photo frame flashes images at me like pieces of a patchwork quilt.  They all blend together in an odd, yet harmonious blanket of comfort.

TTFN  – for now.

Categories: Family and Friends, Life After Dad, Life's Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Dad – where are YOU???

Where are you?

Why aren’t you answering the phone?

Dad, I have so much to tell you about my day today!

I called you  – but no one answered the phone.

Dad, I know you were only a phone call away.

Where are you?

Why did you not answer?

Dad, I love my students – they are so challenging – but you would love the stories.

I called you – but no one answered the phone.

Dad, I thought you said you were only a phone call away?

Where ARE you?

Why did you not answer?

Dad, you would enjoy hearing about the students.  I DID have to remove a student from my class today – but she is so amazing – I don’t know her story yet – but I know I will admire her for overcoming her adversities.

I called you  – but no one answered the phone.

Dad, I feel like you are so close – but so far.

Where ARE YOU?

Why did you not answer?

Dad – you would love these stories – to whom do I tell them?

I called you.

You didn’t answer.

Are you there?  Will you listen tonight? Were you with me today?

Dad – you didn’t answer.

Are you okay?

Dad?

I’ll call again tomorrow.

TTFN

Hope everything is okay.

You were always there…

Categories: Life After Dad | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Everything Will Be Alright: If I remember correctly.

One of the things I miss most about Mom and Dad is their infernal, eternal, and ever-so-clever words of comfort.

Mom:  “Stacey, you’ll be fine.”

(Never believed her!)

Dad:  “A hundred years from now, we’ll all be dead.  So what does it matter?”

(This one had me stumped for a long time!)

Mom:  “Just do your very best.”

(I wasn’t reassured as a child as I didn’t think that would always cut it!)

Dad: ” If they don’t like it – too bad for them!”

(Didn’t get that one at all!)

 

How I miss their reassurances these days.  It really doesn’t matter who you are or how confident you are – everyone needs a cheer-leader.

I have been juggling and struggling this week to find a balance between work, home-life, Dad’s condo, a visiting German student, and play.  Play-time has never been a priority for me as my family were strong subscribers of the Puritan work ethic.  Work first – then play.  And there is too much work to do to play these days.

Play. For a long time I didn’t understand that word.  I really thought it meant have fun at work.  I think I still do.  And I think a lot of my play is my work.  Others, however, have a more realistic version of what play means… I think.  And I get the impression that play means recreation.  In any case, I am struggling to redefine my definition so that everyone in my family is on the same page.

Anxiety.  This emotion seems to be two emotions attached to each other:  stress and anticipated failure.  I find myself anxious these days about a lot of things.  It happens usually when things pile one on top of another.  I forget to isolate the projects and so they blurr and give me an overwhelming sense of .. anxiety.  Dad’s condo. insurance – moving furniture, marking assignments, making muffins, cleaning toilets… you get the picture.

Comfort.  I long for Mom and Dad’s words, “Stacey, everything will be okay.”.  We offer these words to our children – or we ought to offer these words to our children… but how often do we hear them as adults?  Will everything be okay?  I know, in the long run, things always find resolution.  It’s the process that is sometimes derailing, debilitating, confusing, and frustrating.  But, as fate would have it – there is always a better resolution that falls than one that could really ever be planned.

Yes.  I miss my Dad’s casual, “Don’t worry, Stacey.  You worry too much.  100 years from now… ”

I know, Dad, we’ll all be dead.  Kind of puts things into perspective.

Patience.  Perspective.

Everything will be alright.

 

 

 

Categories: Life After Dad, Life's Lessons, Mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Rainbow: It Only Comes After the Storm

My morning walk with Barb began with a message from Mom.  I didn’t notice it at first, nor did I put the pieces together until several houses into our walk.  It was Barb who first wanted to just “stop” and look at the rainbow.  It was Barb who said, “this is a gift”.  Her words flooded my soul and cleansed me as I understood this was a gift from Mom.  The rainbow meant, “Stacey – it will all be okay.   You can’t get the rainbow without first having the storm.”  I felt this rainbow was meant for me.  It was not meant for anyone else in the world – just me.  Of course that is ridiculous – but at the time Mom was speaking right to my soul.  And had Barb not knocked on my door to get me for our walk, I would have missed this message.

So true does this ring in life.  How often is it that the darkest moments we flood our brains with feelings of doom and gloom.  The storm brews.  There is chaos – emotional chaos.  Last night was my storm.  The feeling of having to take Mom’s dishes away from the condo was just too much.  They are only dishes to everyone else… but to my brother and myself they are so much more.

They were carried in Mom’s hands as an extension of her love to us.  She served us literally and figuratively on those dishes.  We needed the food as much as we needed her love – and both were served in generous quantities.

It takes time to organize an emotional storm into something that is beautiful – just as it takes time for the rain and sun to produce a rainbow.

The rainbow reminded me that when one door closes, a window opens.  The dishes will be moved from Mom’s loving reach at the condo today – to Mom’s loving reach in my own home.  It’s my turn.  Mom may no longer be literally serving us – but we have been well served with her memory.

TTFN, Mom

Mom

Everything about Mom was gentle.

Categories: Mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Janine

I could not bring myself to turn around.

I don’t know why.

She was there.

She was there for me.

She was there for us.

Janine.  My colleague, my friend, my angel.

I was at school on Friday, preparing for the up-coming school year and I heard her voice – her laughter – in the front office.

Janine.  So happy.  So loving.

I just couldn’t turn around.  There was too much to say to her that could not be said in the hustle and bustle of that place.

She supported me throughout the entire decline of both Mom and Dad.  “Stacey, if your father wants to eat his meat in whole pieces because he enjoys the texture – it is not up to you to tell him otherwise.”

Another tidbit of wisdom, “Stacey your parents have been making decisions about their lives long before you came along – it is not up to you to take over their decisions now.”.

Janine gave me back my childhood.  Thanks to her I became a daughter again.

And I remained a daughter throughout the entire two days of Dad’s final moments.

Thanks to Janine, my Dad had wonderful quality of life and wonderful quality of death (if that’s possible?).

Janine guided me throughout Dad’s final journey.

She gave me books, she gave me her shoulder to cry on, she told me how strong I really could be. “You can do this, Stacey.”, she said.   She checked Dad’s breathing, she affirmed how to speak to him as though he were still with us, she told me to keep him posted about the time of day – even when he didn’t open his eyes anymore. “Your Dad will still worry that you have not had dinner, so tell him it is dinner time and you are going to go and eat.”  Wise.  “Tell your Dad it’s morning and describe what a beautiful day it is – open the blinds.”  Wise.

Janine helped us to “live” though this journey – and helped my Dad to “live” until his final breath.

How do I say, “thank-you”? to a woman like this whose gift was far greater than any gift I could have asked for?

If you are reading this, Janine, I wish you peace.  You were a gift to my family and I – and I know you continue to be a gift to all of your students too.

To you, Janine, my colleague, my friend, my angel… I toast you, “Sante”.

 

Dad:  You done good, kid.  Thanks for looking over my family.  In turn, I’m looking over you!  TTFN

 

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So much has changed… one year later.

“Did you kick anyone out of class today, Stacey?”, I remember my Dad joking with me.

It was only this time last year.

I can’t believe how many things can change in such a short time.

When I think back to this time last year – I was worried about going back to school full time as that meant that Dad would be on his own.. well… somewhat.  I spent so much time with him after Mom passed away – it was almost a full year.  We grew a garden together last summer (on his patio) and decided what worked on his patio and what didn’t .  The cucumbers, while fun to watch, did NOT work.  The cherry tomatoes were a favorite of “Julius” and so we were going to grow cherry tomatoes again this year… The onions were okay – but no one ate them so they were out.  There was just no garden this summer.  And I think Dad knew that there was no point in planning one.

For years, I remember Dad planning his garden.  He would anxiously await the arrival of his “Stokes Seed” magazine (at that time I thought I’d rather EAT dirt than read that magazine) so that he could choose the latest and greatest of upcoming vegetables.  He’d plan for nights on end.  Make a list.  Order the seeds and then wait for their arrival – which meant that spring was on it’s way.

I could never understand how patient he was to await the first sign of a sprout so small that I thought he was totally nuts! But sure enough, those sprouts would turn into tomato plants, Brussel sprouts, and cucumbers.

The autumn harvest was always accompanied by the glow of orange, yellow, amber, red maple leaves.  And I was always, always, always back to school.  Dad would always, always, always be excited to hear about my students.

Working at the Learning Centre never disappointed him as I’d always have stories of triumph over adversity for him.  The students I teach often come from very difficult circumstances and I always, always, always appreciate that they are managing these circumstances at the same time they are trying to graduate from high school.

Dad knew my students well.  Every time I’d visit him – especially in September – he’d ask about the classes and what great things were happening.  Dad knew that the students were challenging – and Dad knew that I loved my job.  We’d have so many chats about how lucky we were in life.  We were given so many blessings.  Indeed.  Our lives had never been challenged as much as so many of my students’ lives – in that we always had family to count on.  Dad was my rock in the end.  He knew he had to be.  Mom was always the one getting involved in my student – stories.  But when she was no longer there – Dad knew he had a responsibility to ask the questions and to be interested.   I think he rather liked this new role.

This year, however, things are different.

I wonder how it will be to not report back to Mom or Dad about my first day at school?

How will it be for Ben, Katya, and David to not report back to Mom and Dad about their first days at school?  There are so many wonderful things that they will encounter this year – and I know “Nanna and Poppa” would have been proud of them.  There would have been a plethora of questions.  How will my children feel about the absence of the oh so familiar sounding boards and cheer-leaders?

So much can change in one year –

So much has changed.

How can one respond to such change without reflection?

I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to learn from my parents all these years… that “wisdom is knowing what to say and not saying it.” .  That, “if you don’t have anything good to say – don’t say anything at all.”

These two phrases are perhaps the greatest legacy and prophesy left to us by my parents.

Maybe this year – it is my turn to communicate these messages to my students?

Maybe this year – it is my turn to ask my children more questions about their school-days?

And maybe – just maybe – I’ll tell Mom and Dad about my first day at school anyhow….

Maybe things don’t really can change in such a short time, after-all?

Maybe they do.

We’ll see.

Categories: Life After Dad | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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