Posts Tagged ‘family’


When my cousin Rob was struck by lightning, he woke up under his own dining room table and lay there for a few minutes trying to decide if he was dead. He has never First Snowbeen a big believer in his own soul, so the thought that he might be dead and yet somehow still under the table cogitating caused him some concern.

Eventually he decided that dead would probably hurt less, and he crawled out, discovering in the process that while he was alive, all of his electronics were not. He never even found all of his cell phone. What he said later was, “Grandaddy was right.”

Our grandfather lived much of his life in fear of all things meteorological, plus snakes and moving water. In summer, he would squint at the horizon and say, “It looks like it’s going to come a thunderstorm.” In winter, he did the same squint and said “Feels like snow.” My mother grew up seriously afraid of storms and used to spend them in the (enclosed) staircase of our house, while my sister and I watched from the windows. She counted that as one of her greatest achievements—she didn’t pass on her fear.

And yet there is a genetics that goes deeper than experience, and that is why I am not a fan of snow. Where I grew up, snow was not your white, fluffy friend. Out in the country, people stayed put, or if they had to drive, they did so slowly, with chains, and even then sometimes spent the night in their cars when things went bad on Max Creek Hill or Lowman Hill. Nobody went joyriding in the snow because if you slid off the road somewhere, it might take days to dig you out, and in the meantime, who was going to take care of the cows?
So even now, I have a “Who is going to take care of the cows?” mentality. My Beloved has to get to work no matter what, because hospitals do not close due to weather conditions. Our friend the letter carrier will carry mail, and our friend the state police officer will patrol. I just can’t do the happy dance when it snows.

But there’s this: My Beloved was able to get home on Thursday evening before 81 shut down. By that time, the roads weren’t too bad, thanks to people who, metaphorically, take care of the cows. Our whole street came out to shovel yesterday; it was a party, albeit a little short on canapés and booze. Watching the dog trying to find a place to poop cracks me up. It’s the little things that matter, when the world slows down for snow.

This morning, I finished another quilt top and had bacon for breakfast for the second day in a row. The guys are downstairs watching basketball, and there might be music later. I have yet to be struck by lightning, and Rob does not pick up radio stations with his teeth, so perhaps the world is not as scary as I’m genetically programmed to believe it is.

But it will be okay with me if this is the last snow of the season . . .


Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Much)

July in Rodanthe, 2011

Okay, I promised a blog post yesterday and forgot that, as fast as things seem to be moving for me these days, they are at a fraction of the pre-June 27th speed.  It’s not just the physical movement that’s slow, but also the fact that, as my surgeon told my husband, “She’s a bleeder,” and I have a very low red blood count right now thanks to that.

Blood is important, turns out.  I had to have some extra before it was all over, and it will be a while before my body picks up the slack.  That’s okay.  We are eleven days post-surgery, we have fancy new hip joint that doesn’t hurt us, our back has stopped with the fierce spasm it had for nine days, and we are so grateful for so many things.

I have the most fantastic spouse in the world, although he just sees himself as doing the things that a half of a couple is supposed to do when the other half is gimped up.  He tenderly gets me into bed at night and aligned in a way that lets me sleep.  He brings me milkshakes.  He gives me an injection of blood-thinner every morning because I am too wimpy to give myself a shot.  He comes into our room at midnight to tell me he is learning how to play “Be Thou My Vision” on the banjo.  I thought I was imagining that one, but it turns out to be true.

He keeps our spirits up.

I have fantastic friends and family.  I actually already knew this, but when the rubber really met the road, y’all were right there with me, bringing food, visiting, taking care of so many little things and allowing me to rest and start healing.  I am loving the visits, so don’t stop now!  It will be a while before I can really get out and go places.

Two days post-op, with Sunflowers.

Prayer matters.  It felt like a blanket.  It’s not the outcome-based shallow stuff of bumper stickers, but a blanket of love that proved, once again, that it’s not what happens that matters nearly as much as knowing that whatever happens will be all right.  (And hey, once again, don’t knock off now.)

I have to give myself some grace.  I did not anticipate some post-surgical things that have been most discombobulating.  Most days, I start out bright, but feel myself

gradually trickling away until I’m in the state of can’t-quite-wake-up.  I feel unfocused and distant, and the first thing I noticed is my decreased attention span – I have a stack of things I saved to read when I was recuperating, only to find that they’re all over my head.  I can just about manage a comic strip.  Disappointing.

The second thing I’ve found is that I have no energy available for creative things, whether they are paint, fabric, or words. I feel  a bit like a well where the water table has suddenly dropped – before the 27th, I had creative energy fizzing all over the place; afterward, it must be all focused on acclimating to the new hip.  The post-op goals I had set for myself seem ridiculously naïve now, but I have to let them go and give myself the grace just to be.

The overwhelming balance of my life right now is positive – good outcome, good aftercare, good vibes as I look future-ward.  It may be a little slower in coming than I thought, but we’re gonna get there.  I’m so grateful for all of this love, support, and gentleness, but I gotta go take a rest now . . .  J

Thursday evening, eight days post surgery. Woot!

Annnd, A Quick Addendum on Role Models

Mom and her great-grandpuppy, Gambit.

In 2006, my mother suddenly lost her husband of 49 years, my dad.  In April of that year, her sister, who was also her closest friend, had a massive stroke that left her (my aunt) incapable of doing much more than smiling.  In 2007, Mom was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer, in 2011 her sister died, and in 2012, she popped up with breast cancer.  Her reality has really, really gone off the internal script.

And here’s the thing:  Mom has never once been angry, whiny, or entitled.  Not once.  She picked up her life after Dad and made new friends.  She took fantastic care of her sister.  When the first cancer diagnosis came, she said, “If I die tomorrow, it’s been a good life,” and she’s a walking miracle almost five years later.  She didn’t even blink at the breast cancer thing, although she did eye the radiation therapy with some skepticism.  She has been funny, gracious, and faithful.

Mom has never held too tightly to that whole “How It’s Supposed To Go” thing.  She’s always had the ability to accept what happens to her and move on, which may be why she’s such a survivor; she doesn’t waste energy on things she can’t change.  She’s fiercely loyal to my sis and me, and doesn’t try to change us, either, although she will drop the Word on us when she thinks we need it.

Mom’s my hero.  And my role model, too. The other day, she told me to stop fretting about the surgery, because Jesus had been in attendance at all of hers, and she knew He’d be at mine, too.  Mom’s the bomb.  I think I’ll call and tell her.

Post-Nuptial Nonsense (or Not)

It has been almost a week since Sarah and Jeff’s wedding.   I have not written much, at least not much that’s serious, about that subject, because I still don’t quite know how to put everything that has happened into words.  I think the single word that I can hang my thoughts on is:  surprise!

We have had a lot of time to get to know Jeff and his family.  He and Sarah dated for almost six years before this wedding.  We had a big multi-family graduation party when the whole gang finished at JMU.  Sarah lived with David and Caroline for a while when she first moved to Richmond, and Jeff has spent vacations, holidays, weekends with us, not to mention a couple of moves that tested more than his physical strength.

So I thought, going into this experience, that it would be a kind of formal celebration of Jeff and Sarah’s commitment to each other, but we already had a relationship.  Why would that change?  Then the first surprise I got is that those relationships did indeed change.  They’re closer.  Tighter.  More real.    Marriage creates not just a new nuclear family, Jeff and Sarah, but a new extended family – Campbells, Hankses, Murphys, Lindseys.   Suddenly I thought of everyone in a new way and was profoundly relieved by David’s Elvis impersonation at the rehearsal dinner.  We may be more of a stew than a melting pot, but at least we’re compatible flavors.

Even our relationship with Jeff has changed.   He is our son-in-law, or as my friend Fran says, “son-in-love,” a phrase I like better.  We have four kids now!  But even more surprising than that is the way we now think of Sarah and Jeff as a self-contained unit, one where they are responsible primarily to each other.  We have moved back a step in Sarah’s life.  That’s really important, too, even though it’s one of the painful things.  She has grown up, grown wings, and she and Jeff have flown away into their future, where we shouldn’t follow, even if we could.

This awareness expresses itself in both joy and tears, I think.  Hank and I are happy . . . deliriously so . . . but we are also aware of a letting-go of our daughter , as David and Caroline let go of their son.  We’re still a family—a new, improved family—but Jeff and Sarah are an autonomous unit within it.  Our job is the delicate one of supporting that unit while giving it the space and freedom to grow on its own. 

That’s going to be interesting terrain to negotiate in the months and years ahead.  It’s a bright new world, this side of the wedding, and that’s the biggest surprise of all

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