Friday, November 6, 2009

When The Flowers Fade

I like to wog around our block.  Somedays.  On beautiful sunny days like today.

Wog is my term for the combination of walk/jog that I do.  I walk until I feel energized, then jog until I feel like I'm going to die, then I walk again.

There's a beautiful home on the road that I walk.  They've had a beautiful showcase of petunias all summer long and I've admired them on every walk!

But recently I noticed the flowers were gone.  Before I had time to feel sad because winter is coming for sure, I saw some aspects of the landscape I had not seen before because I was always sidetracked by the flowers.

Without the flowers, the grey stone walls of the house show up more.  The black shutters are strikingly black, which show off the remaining flowers with their big red dinosaur-size blooms.

I had to think.  There are days when I feel like the flowers in my life are gone.  News of the death of a friend's baby, or a friend losing their job and having trouble finding a new one.

Over time though, from experience in my own life, I've observed that when one aspect of landscape is gone in our life, we somehow see some other parts more clearly. Things we took for granted before become really special.

Not everything fades when the flowers fade.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

"I Took My Mother's Car Away"

I don't have children.  Been married 20 years, have 2 cats and sometimes joke that they are my children, but I have enough friends with children to know that realistically, cats are NOT children.  Though they take a lot of love and attention (play time, litter boxes, discipline not jumping on the counter for the millionth time, etc.) they still are NOT children.

I do have a mother.  Every person has one.  I am half the age of my mother.  She had me when she was 43.  Quite a job for someone at 43 I'd say, since that is exactly my age now.

I don't know what it's like to take away something a child loves for the sake of their well-being or put up boundaries 'for their protection', but I do know what it's like to take away my mother's car.

She's 86 and has been a widow for 8 1/2 years (for the second time).  Her first husband died after 2 years of marriage and one little boy, who later died at the age of 26.  And oh yeah, did I mention she lost another child of hers who drowned when he was just 2 years old.  She knows what it is to give up something she loves.  So taking her car should be an easy thing for both she and I - right?


I have this huge crushing weight in my heart and torrential rains threaten to pour out of my eyes if I but open the dam.  Fortunately I was able to hold them back.  Just some scattered showers.

For the past couple of years she has been saying that she needs to quit driving.  I always agreed.  But I was determined not to force this on her.  I felt she should make her own decision.

A few weeks ago she called my cell phone and left a message (though prompted by my sister) and said she was ready to give up her car .  I called her back to make sure she had not been forced into this phone call (as if my sweet sister could even do such a thing).

I have to admit I've been dreading this day.  I went through all the arguments in my mind - ya know - the "she could have an accident and kill someone" kind of thing, but it never helped.  I know that she is crossing a new threshold in life when she releases her car.  She now depends on everyone else for just about everything.  Doctor, dentist, groceries, church, holidays....oh my, the holidays.  We will now need to pick her up for everything from Thanksgiving to Memorial who knows what else.  Okay, so some of my feelings are selfish.

But right now, I feel really, really sad.  In fact, as we were talking tonight (before the rude car removal ritual) she mentioned that she heard some messages on TV today that helped prepare her for "her car being taken away from her".  I politely tried to let her know that the last thing I want her to feel is that her car is being taken away.  She gave permission.  She made this decision weeks ago.  Now I feel like the bad mother who is disciplining her child.  Is this hurting me worse than it is her?  Probably not - though it feels that way.

When I finally left her house, she said, "well, I guess this is goodbye" - to her car, not me.  That did it.  I had to make my way quickly to the car, her car that is.  If she showed any emotion whatsoever, the torrential rains would begin.

Yes, I guess I've become the mother now.  It's happened gradually.   I just hope I can be as good of a mother to her as she has been to me.
I was rendered speechless recently when a long time piano student of mine plopped down on the bench for her lesson and challenged me to guess what she just learned to do.

Now this is a girl who started back when her feet couldn't even touch the floor. Though she has always worked hard, she is quite shy and has little to say. I was shocked at both her outburst and her pride at her newly discovered accomplishment.

When she offered to demonstrate, I watched in sheer delight as this reserved young lady proceeded to lay down ON the piano bench with her head UNDER the piano keys and her hands reaching up from underneath to play UPSIDE DOWN!

All she needed to get started was for me to orient her back to middle C (a hard thing to do from the upside down position) and away she went with a few little elementary tunes made complicated by her 'reverse' position. (Halfway through I realized that this was indeed a kodak moment and grabbed the camera).

Don't be surprised if you see this new technique next time you see me in concert. I just hope I can get back up afterward.

The only thing to which I can attribute this new found boldness is the recent removal of her braces. A few weeks ago, she announced in another shocking outburst that she was finally getting her braces off. She has been like a different person. It's almost as if the braces made her feel inhibited in every way. Now she is talking and laughing and coming out of her shell......and playing upside down.

I think many of us walk around with restrictive braces on our hearts that keep us from living fully and abundantly. Sometimes it's someone elses words that inhibit us, sometimes it's as simple as our own self-doubt that causes lack of confidence.

It's fun to be a part of someone's life and watch them grow and become confident in who they are. That's a big reason why I do what I do. I hope it will create in others the courage to be all they were created to be....even if it appears upside down to my way of thinking.