Today’s list of good things

Because who doesn’t love a good list, and I need to remind myself of them anyway.

  • A comfortable bed with many pillows. I share it with the cat now. She’s not as big as Himself (a good thing) but having a presence there with me is comforting.
  • A timer thing for the coffee maker. Getting up with the coffee made and waiting is one of the great modern conveniences.
  • Recliners. Sitting in a comfortable chair, legs propped, while drinking that first cup of coffee is another great modern convenience
  • Hard floors, no rugs. Because 4 dachshunds and rain don’t mix and they are brats about peeing in the corner when it’s wet outside
  • At least the corner is predictable #whatsthatsmell
  • Modern medicine. I woke up with a painful eye that isn’t red or swollen. Last time this happened it was a viral thing, and I still have the bottle of drops from that.
  • I’ve been teaching a few women how to do simple baking. First it was biscuits, and yesterday is was 750,000 calories worth of cobblers. You know the kind: butter, sugar, lots of fruit. Someone had the presence of mind to show up with vanilla ice cream, too. Next week: blueberry muffins and quiche. There’s 2 ovens where we’re doing it,  so we will have a ball and make a massive mess.
  • I’m still having trouble recognizing my size. I’ve lost 40 pounds over the past 2 years, going from a size 20 down to what appears to be a size 12, even though my mind has trouble with anything less than 16 so I keep getting clothes that are too big. Good thing I know how to do alterations because I like these pretty clothes and I’m not taking them back
  • My penpal from the last 40 years (we started writing when we were 9!) recently passed away from ovarian cancer. I miss her, and miss having someone to write to. Getting a letter from her was a sweet treasure. I signed up with a new service, and have found a few people from assorted parts of the world: Netherlands, UK, Switzerland, Australia, Siberia, and Japan. Email is an amazing thing, and once a decent bond of trust is established, I’m hoping to go the snail-mail route because who doesn’t love a letter in the mail!
  • The cat is loudly informing me that   A) she’s out of food and  B) it’s wet outside and she disapproves because it’s on purpose to make her uncomfortable and  C) she’s out of food and  D) she’s out of food.

and that’s all for today.

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Sum-Sum-Summertime

There’s a vibe in the Summer, a casual relaxation of standards developed since early childhood.  Food goes from being something carefully crafted and meant to be eaten sitting down, with a properly set table and napkins, to stuff that’s sloppy and sticks to your face, or thrown together with the vegetables someone left in your car (because it’s how it happens here. We don’t lock our cars out of fear of theft, we lock them because someone might leave us zucchini.)

Even though I’m in school this Summer, and have all these adult responsibilities, my standards have relaxed. I’m staying up late (past 9! So carefree!), and actually sleeping past 5!  I know by August, the relaxed standards will get old, and I’ll be ready to return to a strict schedule. Only, now that #4 is a Graduate, and has a Real Job and all that, the whole thing is going to have to get figured out all over again.

You know, I am so proud of him! He gets himself up at 5:30, I hear the shower, and him and his steel-toed boots clomping down the stairs. There’s the clattering and banging of a skillet and maybe the grinding whir of a blender as he fixes his own breakfast, and then he leaves. Like a real grown up.  I guess he IS a real grown up now, just like his brothers. My word, what happened?

I don’t think the reality of it will set in until Fall, when he would be going to school. (24 years of sending people to school, folks. Can you believe it?)  And that’s when I’m going to establish yet another New Normal.  While I will never be childless, (Lord willing!), my responsibilities are rapidly shifting from other people to..well. Myself.

Learning how to care for myself is a challenge. Realizing it’s ok to think about my own needs and desires is coming painfully, because Moms are supposed to put everyone else’s needs before their own and having done that for so long, changing the thinking is slow and almost painful. Now I am starting to understand the Empty Nest thing. Not only are the kids gone, (ish…#4 still lives here but he is so darn independent), I don’t have Himself to cook for. I mean, the nest is TOTALLY EMPTY.

It makes me think…I actually really could decide to take a road trip somewhere. Just pick a place and go. How novel! I could pin a map on the wall and throw a dart at it. Or I could do the New Google Way and let Google pick a place, and simply go there. Without consulting anyone. And if someone protested, making noises about delicate women or whatever, I could ignore them because ain’t no one the boss of me!

Of course, I’m unlikely to do that. Uncertainty and all…But just thinking about it, knowing I could, if I wanted to has a certain excitement to it. Summertime means RoadTrips. Maybe I can do the rest of Route 66. We never did get from Joplin to Chicago. Or Amarillo to San Diego. I do still have the convertible. It could be fun. But who would go with me? Trips like that require 2 people, a Thelma and a Louise (well ok, maybe without the crime).

I went to a friend’s house last night, and upon leaving around midnight (SEE? I never do that…or never did, but apparently now I do), realized how completely Summer it felt. Here, it gets humid and heavy, even with the sun down a few hours, the air was warm, still, and kind of dense.  She has spanish moss in her trees, and with all those bits, it was  so very Southern.  My mind immediately fell back to Summers of my childhood in North Georgia, with nighttime neighborhood games of Spotlight Tag and sitting around talking about (whatever it is 14 year old girls talk about). There were spontaneous spend-the-nights, and cicada-shell hunts. We had lightning bugs to collect, too. I remember falling asleep to the thrum of the attic fan, or the sound of a whippoorwill in the woods behind the house.  I grew up in the era of mothers shooing their kids outside in the Summer, with instructions to not return until we were called in for supper.  The heavy heat and humidity at midnight last night wrapped me in the blanket of memories, and I savored them for a while. I feel very privileged to have experienced those things.

Now, it’s time to make some new memories. I’m not sure how those will unfold, but I am grateful to have friends with whom I can make them.  Summer seems exactly the right time for that. I can concentrate on this, instead of tending to a bunch of people, all regimented with responsibilities of school and that ingrained sense of what Motherhood is supposed to be like. Now I can be…whatever. I’ll let you know when I get that figured out.

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And on the plus side…

Yesterday I got a text from a friend, “El Som!” to which I replied “When?” and she answered “NOW!” so, because it was 8pm and that’s practically bedtime, I told #4 I was going out because I could, and didn’t know when I’d be back. I felt so…I’m not sure of the word…FREE (? is that it? It felt strange to not consult with anyone about it). El Som is the local name for a local Mexican place called El Sombrero. It has 3 incarnations: RailRoad Tracks, Little, and Taj Mahal. The first is the Original El Som, located…yes, by railroad tracks. Little is in a strip mall, and is…right. Very small. Taj Mahal is Very Fancy with a big copper dome and terrible acoustics.

Image result for el sombrero statesboro ga buckhead

Anyway,

I showed up before everyone else because I had a 10 minute drive and they had a 20 minute one including children and a fluid sense of time, and secured a table for 8, right after which I received a text and was informed a few others were showing up. No problem,said the Hostess, “those people will be leaving soon and we could slide one of their tables over.” “Those people” were 4 Europeans sprawled all over a table for 8, and they were obviously indulging in that delightful European style evening repast thing that lasts for hours. I was pretty sure they weren’t leaving soon, and my inherent Scottish pragmatism was mildly uncomfortable with the uncertainty, so I ordered a margarita while waiting for everyone else.

Eventually everyone showed up, and one of them (who is more of a Free Thinker than I am, and unafraid to demand the extra table) secured that extra table, complete with irritated looks from Europeans. One of the extra people about whom I was informed after getting there was a tall and attractive blonde woman who was explaining her embarrasment at an event in the grocery store earlier that day. Apparently she’d been not paying attention and had cut someone off in the aisle. (I’ve done that, one gets deep into one’s head and doesn’t see the people.) I looked at her, Shocked and Disapproving, and said “THAT WAS YOU”. She returned the shocked look and stuttered “I thought you looked familiar!” to which I replied “not really…I wasn’t at the store.”  Himself used to hate it when I did that…but my filter left when he did.  And she took it with good humor, with her husband and niece thinking it was pretty funny.

Afterward we went to a house Far, Far Away and enjoyed a bonfire, young-ish boys (8 and 9) waving burning sticks around and attempting to set each other on fire (ok not really, but it nearly happened a couple of times), and hammock hi-jinks. (Ok I haven’t seen or heard that term “hi-jinks” since the ’80’s). Getting home at 1 meant #4 was standing by the gate at the driveway, looking at me. He didn’t say it but I felt it. “Young lady, where have you been?” (You’re not the boss of me)  “Are you sober?” (Duh.)  And I thought “Oh my word. I had a good time. I wasn’t accountable to anyone but myself and even if something did happen to me, my kids are all old enough to take care of themselves.”

That’s the thing…my kids are all old enough to take care of themselves. I can go out and do (whatever) without checking with anyone. I even have clothes that I can throw on and look halfway decent.  I can sleep late the next morning (it’s Saturday anyway), eat leftover Brunswick stew for breakfast, and decide what to do, whether it’s go sew something (I need a new skirt), or chuck it all and go to the beach (not gonna but just knowing I could is nice). It has been since 1985 that I haven’t needed to check or coordinate or consider ramifications before going out at 8pm and staying out until 1. And while I didn’t do anything to be embarrassed or ashamed of, I’m feeling a certain frisson about it.  Even with #4 acting like the local Pater Familias, I’m still the boss of this house and can do what I want.

Himself wasn’t an autocrat, insisting I consult with him before doing anything, but when you’re married, it’s what you do: consult with the other one. There were plenty of times he’d tell me on short notice “I have a thing (it could be a late meeting, or a dinner with colleagues) and won’t be home.” He nearly always prefaced it with “Are you fixing anything special for supper tonight?” It was his very thoughtful way of leading up to the information about the dinner meeting.  Generally I thought “Ok” knowing that was Life with a husband who was in Industry.  But I never felt the particular freedom of simply going out, without asking or consulting or in some way running it by him. He never once complained when I did want to go out, but I was uncomfortable with the idea. But now? Well, what a difference. It’s a whole new thing. It’s not a BETTER thing, it’s just a different thing. Plusses and Minuses, you know.  Just the other day I was whining about not having my Person with whom I shared memories and could travel. Definitely a minus. Going where and when and how I want, no consultation, certainly a plus but not as big as the minus. I don’t think anything will ever be big enough a plus to balance that giant Minus. But, I’m going to look for plusses where I can find them, and midnight bonfires and watching people in hammocks startle small dogs, and young boys playing with dangerous flaming sticks are sweet little plusses.

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It rained yesterday (which probably contributed to my emotional funk). Not only did it rain, it was 65F. Which is February weather, not June weather. When I checked the internet Weather thing, it said something about 40% chance of rain. A long time ago I decided that “40% chance of rain” means it’s raining 40% of the time, or maybe it’s raining over 40% of the South. It doesn’t not mean there’s a 4/10 chance of rain. Because it always rains when the chance of rain is over 10%.  Not only did it rain, it was a cold drizzly sort of rain like happens in February.  Or it could mean 40% of us have sense enough to dress for a cold rain. Which was proven at Wednesday Prayer Group. Our of 8 of us there, 2 were wearing sweaters. The rest of us had to peel the stuff off our umbrellas and wrap up in it like some sort of emergency blanket. (ok maybe not but the ones with sense to have a raincoat were wearing them even though we were inside).  And I wasn’t one of them. No. I was wearing a skirt and a t-shirt and kind of wanted all of Pat’s tissues so I could drape them all over myself and try to stay warm. Instead I chose to use Emotional Energy…which gave me a headache but whatever.

Seriously, the weather here is…fickle. Normally, this time of year sees those sudden pop-up storms in the evening. It blows in off the coast around 4:30 pm (we’re about 90 minutes inland),dumps about an inch in 1/2 an hour, and goes away, leaving the air steamy and all the patio furniture soaking wet.  Inconvenient but cost saving, as that $100 a jar L’Occitaine face cream isn’t necessary for keeping our faces dewy.

But yesterday? What the heck? It was February in June and made for all sorts of confusion. I HAD SOUP FOR LUNCH. Who does that in June? Tomato bisque even! Not a light chicken broth with fresh vegetable or a gazpacho…NO…thick, hot, creamy tomato bisque. I could have had broccoli-cheddar or New England clam chowder and it would have been just as appropriate.  The thought of eating a salad made me want a wool afghan and a cup of tea. I PUT A BLANKET ON THE BED LAST NIGHT.  June is meant for air conditioning and iced tea and discussions about the heat while standing in line at the hardware store! Not soup!

AND, according to The Weather, it’s supposed to get down to 59F tonight. I mean. Ok, I actually like the cool weather but it isn’t NATURAL. Well ok it is, but it isn’t. My dogs have all had their summer haircuts and now they’re burrowing under the dog beds because the blankets have all been washed and packed away.  I’m eyeballing socks and wondering if a fleece top could be retrieved from The Winter Closet without upsetting the natural order of things.

That may be going too far. Maybe I’ll just layer some stuff.

 winter cold a christmas story coat bundle up GIF

 

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Here I go, putting it all out there again…

Most days I do pretty well. There’s daily routines, weekly routines, schoolwork, chores, occasional trips to Alabama to work on The New House, and spend time with the kinfolk. Grandpunkin is growing, he’ll be 2 in a couple of weeks. Can you believe that? It’s been 2 years since he was born and I became a Grandma.

And some days, stuff hurts more and some days, it hurts less. Today is kind of a “more” day.  I see people with their spouses…ones they’ve been married to for many more years than Himself and I were together, and it hurts. Or, on Facebook someone will put pictures up of a trip she took with her spouse (of many years) to someplace romantic, and that hurts too. It’s not their fault and I surely don’t expect the world to tiptoe around and censor themselves so they don’t hurt my Delicate Feelings. Most days I really like seeing the pictures of castles and mountains and bridges. Most days I’m rejoicing with them, vicariously taking a trip somewhere interesting. But once in a while, I’ll see a selfie with a castle and it hits me: We were going to do that. We were going to go see that castle/bridge/canyon/mountain but now we aren’t. I am not interested in going there without the person with whom I shared so much fun. What’s the point in visiting that town full of interesting antique stores if I can’t hold up a thing and ask “Don’t you think this would look nice next to the (other thing)?” and then spend the next umpteen years going “Hey, remember that trip to (wherever) when we got (whatever)? remember that restaurant/coffee house/curiousity shop/guy selling things?”

Every now and then, out of the blue and without warning, it hits me that my friend, the one with whom I took the Route 66 trip and played on Big Brutus, is gone. I can’t talk about Pop’s or that place with the amazing pie in Vinita, OK with anyone who shared the experience.  That hurts.  2-1/2 years later and it still hurts. They said it would and I believed them, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less.

I dislike wearing my feelings out there in the wide open. It’s embarrassing when someone has to hand me a tissue so I don’t wipe my nose on my sleeve (because I always forget tissues and an old receipt is an unsatisfactory nose-wipe.) And the problem with emotions is they compound themselves. Once they get going, it doesn’t take much to set them off again. Which starts the whole embarassment cycle all over again.  I resent having lost that thick skin I once had, that allowed me to pat people on the shoulder without actually sharing their feelings. Now? Holy cow. Someone has a bad day and I’m all over that like gravy on a biscuit. And just as messy, too.

I don’t like that I am not “normal” anymore. Whatever “normal” is. I don’t like that my sense of self has been fractured, but I recognize that my identity isn’t really dependent on Himself now. I did see myself as half of a thing, rather than an individual.  Being an individual is taking some getting used to. I still think of something and want to run the idea past Himself, or show him something, or ask a question, or lean on him when things are hairy. I can’t do that anymore and when someone else gets to do it with her husband it is difficult to watch.  I know a couple of other widows (well, former widows? ) but they’ve remarried and have someone else to lean on now.  I don’t know if I’ll ever have that again.  I’m not going to go put myself “on the market” or anything, but I’m not ruling it out, either. I figure, if God’s plan is for m to remarry, then He’ll put someone in my life and I will.  In the meantime, I am wobbling here like a dog that just lost a leg and hasn’t figured out how to stand.

Wow…First I’m a Grandma, then gravy coated biscuit, and then a 3 legged dog. I guess that’s better than being a 3 legged biscuit and a gravy coated Grandma.

 

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Mixed emotions

#4 was fully graduated from grade school Friday night. All the ceremony and pagentry and speechifying and people dressed nice (I’ll eventually get a picture of #4 up, but he wore his Full Formal kilt and stuff. Of course he did. It was Expected.) With a graduating class of 17, it was short (ish…an hour total) and there was much serenading and bagpipery as well.  It’s a Presbyterian school, so that was appropriate.

I am not, to be honest, exactly sure how I feel about it all. With the other boys, there was another one behind them still to come. This one is It. The Final Boy. Next up will come The Grandpunkin, since he’s the first of the next generation. That’s another 16 years off. I think the dominant emotion, for me, was sorrow that Himself wasn’t here. All the people were saying “Thanks, Mom and Dad!” in their speeches. Even the divorced families had both parents there. And here I was. Not entirely alone, as my parents and brother were here. (Himself’s parents wanted to be here, but for health reasons couldn’t travel. Today #4 is driving the 3 hours north to see them)

I have settled in with the whole idea of being Just Me, but Friday was a struggle to keep contained and smile, because Friday wasn’t supposed to be All About Me. It was #4’s big day and I wanted it to stay that way.

Whew, y’all. 4 kids raised and educated and 3 of them out on their own and the 4th one has Good Plans.  It’s all a little bit dizzifying. No more of the obligation to get someone up, fed and out the door by 8. I can cook when I want to and not cook when I don’t. If he’s hungry he can cook for himself.  He’ll get no more allowance, since he has 2 jobs. Unless he asks for help, he’s on his own. All I ask for is a time when he’ll return so I can know if the sounds at 2am are him or someone who isn’t supposed to be there. I already have him trained to announce himself as he comes in the door, just so I don’t greet him with a loaded .45. True story. It’s happened before.

All this, with Himself not here, made me alternate between sad and angry and bewildered. For the most part, 2 years and 3 months of widowhood has become normal, but every now and then there will be a milestone: the birth of Grandpunkin, the graduation of #4; or a decision to be made of which I feel ill prepared: Is that car noise important? Do I need to cancel a particular service?  That’s when I most keenly feel the loss.  Those milestones are the ones we discussed celebrating. How would mark them? Who would be invited to the party? Won’t it be fun to sit on the front porch together and watch the festivities? I can still do those things, sort of. There will still be a party and people will still be invited, but different ones this time, to some extent. The front porch will still be employed for sitting, but I doubt there will be anyone who’s hand I can hold. Oh well. It is what it is.

Friday after graduation, #4 and 2 of his brothers (#1 had to work) enjoyed the bottle of Scotch #4 brought back from Scotland. Himself loved him some good whiskey, so they drank in his memory. I choose to be elsewhere, because it seemed something they needed to do together, without me hovering around. One of #3’s friends (who we’ve known since they were in middle school together) also came over and joined in. Quite the guy thing. He stayed the night (as we have many recliners that are comfortable for sleeping), as usually happens when they have someone over. (there’s a different one in a recliner even now).  Himself liked it when they’d bring a friend here, as it was important to him that these young men feel welcome and comfortable.

So, while I am very happy about the sort of young man #4 has turned into, and also that he actually has graduated (I learned never to make assumptions about such things), I am sad and even a little bit angry that Himself didn’t sit next to me in the sanctuary during the ceremony. There was no dry sarcasm about the Valedictoran’s Speech (which was actually fun to listen to. She gave a shoutout to #4 and thanked him for not blowing up the school “even though everyone knew he could”) (his senior project was on explosives).

I’m having to think about my own future now. I still have a couple of semesters left in school. I’ve doing some volunteer work and wanting to get more involved with that. The yard is an absolute disaster and everytime the lawnmower starts working, someone does something and it quits.  #2 is moving back out soon.  There are a whole bunch of transitions happening all over the place and while I know that this is the way life goes, it is more upheavily when you don’t have the person on whom you relied for providing a degree of stability.  I have to make my own stability now and I’m still not used to it or happy about it.

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It’s been a lovely weekend

Friday it occurred to me (again) that #4 is graduating from high school and it’s the turn of a page to a new chapter in my life. For the past 25 years (!!) I’ve been getting kids up at 6, feeding them breakfast (I honestly can’t remember if they ever got cereal. I’m pretty militant about a Good Breakfast), packing lunches (ok the first 3 got school lunches until they finally got around to tellimg me how nasty they were, then we moved to Georgia where the school lunches were made in-house and were so good people actually came in to eat there. Fer real.)(so I only really packed lunches for #4, because he went to a completely different school 6 grade and up), monitoring homework, making sure everyone was tucked in bed and lights were out by 9. Summer relaxed, of course, but by mid-June I was kind of over Summer and ready to return to sweet routine (and no one else in the house for 7 hours). #4 graduates at 7pm Friday night. He has no school tomorrow (Monday), as it’s Field Day for the school and he’s going to claim Senior Privilege and go to the local coffee house to study for the 2 exams he has on Wednesday. I don’t know what he’s doing Tuesday, but probably it will be at the school, maybe cleaning out his locker and schmoozing with the teachers.

And then…he’s on his own to get up in the mornings. I will no longer be policing the electronics (well, I will a little bit but not to the degree I’ve been). I will not really care how late he stays up as long as he gets himself to work on time. Nor will I be paying out an allowance. He will start paying rent, or doing certain tasks in exchange for living here. (Above the regular chores, that is). If he wants something he will have to figure out how to get it for himself, whether it’s deodorant or software or or whatever. The extent of my responsibility is to let him have a roof over his head and necessary food.

All this change has me a little bit dizzy, once in a while. I’ve been planning a graduation celebration in his honor- a big Southern style BBQ with smoked pig and assorted sauce-laden carbohydrates (which totally count as vegetables around here), cold beverages both hard and soft, and possibly music if it can be arranged. All casual of course, as befits someone like him. I’m not even writing out invitations or anything. Purely word of mouth to whomever crosses my path and I think would like to come by and have a bite of pig and pat him on the back.

I spoke to someone at church this morning about the whole thing and she said *I* needed a graduation party as well, since I was finishing up 25 years of shoving other people through their education. Another person heard that and said “TOTALLY! We’ll have it at my place the Saturday following!” Which sounds like an excellent plan. I have very good friends.

It does certainly feel like I am staring at the end of a particular road. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has never been dull.  I am certainly proud of how all 4 of my kids turned out. Each one has chosen their own particular path, and each one has turned out to be a solid, decent, and kind person. What more can you ask for? I would never have wished for them to lose their father when they did. Generally you imagine something like that happening when they’re 50 (or older), not when they’re 20’s (or younger). I have no idea what sort of impact that event will have on their lives, long term. But like I said, they’re solid, decent young men, kind and generous in their own ways. Some of them are tidy, some are messy. All are good cooks. Sometimes they take paths that are all twisty and weird and uncomfortable to watch, but knowing that eventually the path will straighten out, and that the twisty and weird are where learning experiences come from, makes is possible to watch and be confident that everything will be all right.

Goodness knows I’ve had my own twisty-and-weird, some of it (ok maybe most of it, which qualifies as “some” because it isn’t “all”) of my own creation, and all of it contributing to learning and growth and an occasional “ok that is not to be repeated”. I have a few, maybe several and possible almost 12 but that has yet to be decided, months to work on the next chapter, of getting used to all of them being out of the bounds of my full responsiblity, and of getting The New house ready to live in (gradually). Then I’ll move and a whole new chapter starts all over again.

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