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My Mother’s Hands are now My Grandmother’s Hands

Oh, how we become our parents as we age.  While I was raising my two children, I often heard my mother’s words coming out of my own mouth.  I assume that’s because as an adult, with my own children, I finally came to realize that my parents weren’t as dumb as I thought they were when I was a teenager.  It comes full circle when your children present you with the same issues that you presented to your parents, and they to theirs.

While I believe fully that where human beings are concerned, there really is nothing new under the sun, technology has shown us that there are always new things out there.  I also believe that if you don’t learn and grow, and keep up with the times, you aren’t being fair to yourself, and you cease living authentically.

I was looking at my 85-year-old mother’s hands the other day, and recalled, very vividly, the hands of my grandmother.  I then looked at my own hands and saw that I was well on my way to perpetuating the family genes.  This prompted me to dig up an essay I wrote when my mother’s mother passed away.  I’ve shared it below.  Enjoy.

My Grandmother’s Hands

Originally written in 1992

My Grandmother!  She seemed so unapproachable, yet I had been able to get under her skin just enough to develop a delightful relationship, which I cherished during her life and remember with great fondness since her passing.  I remember that she was stand-offish when we tried to show affection, turning her cheek when we tried to zero in with a kiss.  My cousin, Sally, had given her the ultimate challenge when she said, “Nanny, if you really loved me, you’d kiss me on the lips.”  She would give in, because she loved us— all of us, each one in her own way.  There were many sides to her.

The one thing I remember vividly about my grandmother was her hands.  She always kept them neatly manicured, yet I used to marvel at her past and wonder about the millions of things those hands had done in her lifetime.  Did she scrape her palms when she fell while roller-skating down her street?  Had she ever held a butterfly in her palm or had she pointed to the sky to count the stars?  What was she thinking when my grandfather slipped a wedding band on her ring finger? 

 

I know she had a love for things that grew, and I can still picture her with dirt under her fingernails, having just repotted a philodendron.  Had she ever felt compelled to make a fist and strike someone in anger?  I couldn’t imagine that.  I recall watching when she would knead yeast dough for her cinnamon bunds, or roll the kifflin cookies in the powdered sugar.

My grandmother loved to work the daily crossword puzzle, and I can see her tapping her pencil in thought.  She would very carefully calculate the numbers on her purchase orders for the kitchen at the family’s summer camp.  My grandmother did a lot of needlework.  One piece hangs in my dining room, a constant reminder of her.  Nanny also painted.

I can just imagine her wringing out a cool wash cloth to lay across the fevered brow of any of her three children, eight grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren.  I heard stories of how she would carefully tear off just the right amount of toilet paper for everyone during the depression.

Though she tried to appear tough, there was always evident a distinguished tenderness when she would wipe away a tear.  I remember the way she held my face in her hands on my wedding day, noting how soft her skin was against mine.

When my children were born, I typically counted their fingers and toes.  I watched their chubby little hands grasp a pencil or crayon that was just fat enough to enable them to handle it gracefully.  I’ve noticed, as they’ve gotten older, how they have lost their baby fat and have grown slender, right down to their fingers.  And I’ve wondered what magnificent things they will do with their hands, and will their grandchildren marvel at them?

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Posted by on February 7, 2017 in General, Phase 2

 

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Not So Easy Street

Nobody said life was easy.  In fact, nothing about it has been actually EASY.  Even the things I thought I at which I would be good, and the things I would love… those too have proven to be challenges at one time or another.  Nothing goes smoothly.

A prime example of this was the smack in the face I received when I became a parent.  I never had any real career aspirations.  I only wanted to be a mom, because I thought I would be really good at it, and I knew I would love it.  Within the first sleep-deprived, spit-up filled, post-partum week, I found myself asking myself (sometimes out loud), “Is this somebody’s idea of a bad joke?”  I can say, 28 years later, that most of the ride has been absolutely wonderful, with only a few minor glitches along the way.

Parenting is a major example.  Something on a lesser scale?  Try putting together a piece of furniture from IKEA.  There’s always a piece missing… or a cable missing when I try to set up a new electronic gadget.  It seems we always have to run back to the store for something.

Worse than going back to the store, is ordering something on line and getting the wrong order or what you ordered doesn’t fit.  We ordered a parking pass for the third base garage and got one for home plate.  We got a new modem, and in so doing, lost our phones, cable and internet, until hours later when the cable company helped us fix the problem.

Growing up I thought I’s be a good athlete and maintain a healthy body.  Oops.  Besides falling victim to addiction to nicotine, I had to stop drinking, eating sugar and high cholesterol foods.  I’m lazy and overweight, sooooo that didn’t work out as planned.

Did I anticipate working in a field I didn’t study?  No.  Did I think I would do and say some of things I’ve had to do to further this career that was not of my choice?  No.  Is there time to start over?  Maybe.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are some things in life that have come very easy to me.  The tickle I get in my heart at the mention of my children… the swoon when my husband is dressed (black tie optional) like 007, or when he brings me roses or dark chocolate… the sheer joy I get in driving my mother to laughter..  Those things come easy.  And it’s those things that steel me to face the rest.

So no, life isn’t easy, but if you revel in the things that bring you joy, then running back to IKEA, or tolerating the “not-so-perfect” job, or cleaning the dishes after a diet meal… none of those things are insurmountable.  There just may be some bumps in the road on Easy Street.

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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The Other Shoe

It’s a Chicken Little kind of feeling that the “sky may be falling,” or an Eeyore lament of “Oh well.”  It’s a feeling that things are going too well… an impending sense of doom, a fear of the inevitable, when the other shoe is going to drop?

Last fall, when my mother celebrated her 83rd birthday, I wrote her a letter telling her how I had learned so much from watching her go through the phases and challenges of life with such poise and grace.  Mom has always faced change well.  She has been a “fatalist” all her life.  She fears nothing, not even dying, as she has said for as long as I can remember, “When your number’s up, its up.”

This most recent change is no different.  She decided to move herself to an independent living facility.  Mom determined, on her own, that she needed to be around more people, that she didn’t want the responsibility of being a home-owner anymore, and she certainly didn’t want to be a burden to her children should something happen to her.  She found the place she wanted, and with a little help from me, made the arrangements and moved this past weekend.  I helped her sort through her belongings, determining what to take, what to sell, what to give to her children and what to throw away.

I helped her pack, forward her mail, list her condo, change her power and cable service and secure a mover.  And it was done.  We moved her most prized possessions ourselves, and let the movers do the rest, and before we blinked, she was making new friends, enjoying the cuisine and taking walking trips to the bank and drugstore.

I’m so very proud of her and very grateful that she is happy and healthy, as I look forward to many more years with my best friend.

So what is this other shoe thing going on?  Maybe I feel like it went too smoothly, because NOTHING ever goes smoothly in my life.  I’m used to looking at everything that way.  We’ve never made a purchase when we didn’t come home to find a broken section or a piece of the hardware missing.  That’s just the way it always happens.

And I never win anything (except Scrabble against my husband).  Haven’t had three numbers at Lotto in 12 years.  Or, I don’t deserve the praise…  I could have done better… that kind of thing.

I do know that I had wanted to move out of town; almost secured a job to take us there, but it fell through.  Then I tried to slow it down by trying to find a part time job.  Thought I had a fabulous opportunity, but that fell through as well.  So, now mom is settled in her new place, locally, I’m stuck working at the same job, locally.  Once again, I have to adjust.

Perhaps instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop, I need to just switch to sneakers.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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Alone Again, Naturally

This is not an interpretation of my Empty Nest.  Nor is it a diatribe on issues of abandonment.  It’s more a commentary on the transition, or at least one of them, that we go through in life, for which we are completely unprepared.

We come into this world butt naked.  The things we learn early on are the things that are put into our head by our parents and/or caregivers.  We are, hopefully, schooled, given some sense of self, and exposed to one version of spirituality or another.  We hit adulthood (much too early for me), and think we know an awful lot, only to find out that we haven’t even begun to live.

Life hands us all kinds of crazy scenarios over the years, whether we choose a professional life, a family life or both.  Sometimes, we choose neither, and let life just happen to us.

And then we get old.  We hit 50 and hear from AARP.  We get into are 60’s and some ask us if we are ready for retirement.  Our bones start to creak and it isn’t so easy to climb out of bed in the morning.  Some of us deny it and try to act like we’re still 23.

Our kids leave us to start their own lives; our parents leave us as their lives have run full circle.  We range close to, if not reach, retirement.  Our friends take off to find their final futures.  Some of us have been so wrapped up in the ride, we never see it coming, and when everyone else starts making those last moves and changes, and the dust settles, we find ourselves alone again, caught with our pants down… butt naked.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2014 in General, Phase 2

 

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Over the Speed Limit

Well, it has finally happened.  I’ve done it.  I have passed the speed limit.  Tomorrow marks my 56th birthday, and since most highways (except for maybe the turnpike system) have a speed limit of 55 miles per hour, I think it’s finally time for me to slow down.

Not that sitting in my car for nearly three hours every day, travelling at an average speed of 27 miles per hour is going fast.  I know that because my car can tell me my average speed.  It can also tell me my average miles per gallon, an approximation of how many miles are left in the current tank of gas, who is texting or calling me, and what color underwear I have on.  This is part of what I’m talking about.  Life is going too fast.  Information is flying in and out of my world as fast as best friends did when I was seven.

I’m tired.  I have done my time.  I’ve raised two children to adulthood.  I have been working full time since I was twenty-one.  I’ve maintained a home, the finances, the health, the kitchen (including a table full of teenagers every night for a span of about six years), and a not-so-demanding husband.

I am often reminded of Rose, in the story of Gypsy.  The consummate stage mother, wife, etc.  When she was left alone in the end, which is what we, today, refer to as the “empty-nest” part of her life, unlike me, she sped up.  She sang about how it was “Mama’s turn.”

When I first felt the very painful effects of an empty house, less errands, laundry and cooking, and an eerie quiet all of the time, except for maybe the drone of television sports emanating from the man-cave, I suffered a deep depression.  I didn’t know what to do with myself.  Everyone around me said I should find something to do.

Not me.  Not now.  For me, it’s time to slow down.  It won’t be long before I’m looking through the steering wheel rather than over it.  I’ve got to make the morning last.

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2013 in Phase 2, Uncategorized

 

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