Tradition!

As we approach a new holiday season, about 40 days long, I am thinking about traditions. Where do we meet to celebrate? What days do we pick for each family’s gathering?

And what happens when your lynchpin of those gatherings is no longer there to bring everyone together?

I saw Fiddler On the Roof several years ago onstage, and have watched the movie a few times. The opening montage is great, with the narrator speaking and singing of “TRADITION!!”  and showing and telling of the things that are expected and how to keep your balance.  How do you stay on the roof?  Balance with tradition!  He says, “Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years.”

The narrator goes on to describe some traditions, and says he doesn’t know why they do them but they do.   Then he says this line:

“Because of tradition, everyone of us knows who he is and what God expects us to do.”

So I started thinking about this song as we approach the first Holiday season without the Patriarchs of our family.  Here is what Fiddler has to say about the “Papas”:

Who, day and night, must scramble for a living,
Feed a wife and children, say his daily prayers?
And who has the right, as master of the house,
To have the final word at home?

The Papa, the Papa! Tradition.
The Papa, the Papa! Tradition.

The Papa.  Hubs and I have both lost our Papa, the lynchpins,  this year, and now we begin to learn how to celebrate without them.  And we are not the only ones with a new learning curve.

So how do we do tradition now?

I have some experience at this. Dad has not been a part of our family celebration for about 3 years, but we kept up the “tradition” of getting together with my family on Christmas Eve and being with Hub’s family on Christmas Day, which has worked really well the last 15 years.

This year…oh, this year, we are adrift. Our traditions have been rendered ineffective and the Papas who had the final word are no longer able to speak.

I am beginning to understand why some people so dislike the holidays.

As we try to figure out what we are going to do for the holidays and where we will be, I just remember that I am blessed to have my people who are still here.

Traditions are important, but don’t always last.

So we are making new traditions this year. We have a new baby in the family, and she has been a bright spot for us. We are still alive, which is always a plus.

After my stroke in January, I am grateful that I am able to continue my traditions without physical help from someone else.

I took my birth mom home from surgery and she was greeted at her door by her cute cats…I was greeted, when I got home, by my beautiful sons and husband, and that is one tradition that I will never get tired of.

So here’s the deal….

If you still have your mom, dad, grandparents, kids, friends to create traditions with, DO IT.

If you can hug someone, and tell them that you love them, DO IT.

If you can spend time with someone you love, DO IT.

And if you can’t…create a new Tradition. There is always someone who needs a hug, love and time out there. “What you do unto the least of these, you do unto ME”, Jesus said. Do it!!

Some would say that traditions are made to be broken.  This year, we are breaking new ground, and I am going to do it to honor those who have gone on before us.  I am going to pray that God allows me opportunities to bless those who aren’t as blessed as I am, and I am going to try to spend my minutes being glad that I am still here to make new traditions. You should too.

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Speechless

I’ve written a dozen sentences in my head this past month.

About loss, death, sickness, grief.

No sentence or word that I have thought of has really clicked.

This has been a year of loss, for my family.  There have been 222 days so far, in 2017. That leaves 143 days for something else to happen.

On the 8th day of this year, I lost a quarter sized piece of my right field of vision (which was my own fault for not taking care of myself).

36 days later, I lost my father. I lost my dad. I lost the man who was my biggest critic but also my biggest supporter, the one who believed that I could do whatever he expected out of me, and never any less. The man who gave me a life and a name, the man that has influenced me more than any other.IMG_1007

And then, 162 days later, I (we) lost my husband’s dad, my father in law, a man that loved me as his own, treated me with kindness and love and patience and humor, who did for my family things like family vacations and dinners out. He attended every baseball game, every special event that my boys had, every church play or school awards ceremony, or Grandparent’s day….He was there.

Caboose had his awards day the same day as his cousins, and Roger sent Diane to theirs and stayed here for my boys….even when he was struggling for breath near the end, he always wanted to know about the boys games and lives.

These are the things that have been running through my mind the last few weeks. I thought I had a little longer with him. The last time I saw him, he was in a hospital bed, behind a big mask, but still asking about us, and wanting to know about our lives. When we got the call in the middle of the night that he was being put on a ventilator, I never dreamed that I would never be able to talk to him again.

I so want to talk to my husband’s dad again. I want to tell him how grateful I am for him. I want to tell him that his love for my boys is one of the greatest treasures in my life. I want to tell him that his pride in me makes me a better person.

I want to thank him for the many vacations he helped finance in making so many memories.

I want to thank him for my husband, who looks so much like his dad.

I want to thank him for being such a great public servant.

I want to tell him that every time I told someone who I was married to, that I made sure to mention who my father in law was.

I want to tell him how proud I was to be his daughter in law.

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My boys spoke at his funeral, all three of them, and so did my niece.  Caboose was last, and was so sweet; he said “I love my papaw Roger because he was a ….9   1   1 guy”.  He said it very slowly because he had a tendency to say “991” when he spoke fast.  All 3 of my boys spoke of the love Roger had for his job, him being the “911 guy”.

19 days after he’s left this earth, I am just missing these 2 men. I cannot believe that my husband and I have both lost the most important men in our lives within 5 months of each other. My dad was 82, Roger was 60 (how fair is that??)

But fairness has nothing to do with it.

Job says that it rains on the just and unjust alike. Habukkuk mentions empty stables and barren vineyards, and stills writes, “…yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful.”

I cannot believe what we’ve had to endure this year, but I know that my faith is in God.

I cannot believe that I am living this life without 2 of the most important men in it.

But I do know this…I will see them again. This world is not my home, and I will rejoice daily for the opportunity to tell others about the home they can have too.

God is good, even when life isn’t. And that will be enough. It has to be.

Still not that mom

We have been playing one sport or another for the last 11 months.  I think we had November off, 3 weeks with no practices to go to.

Baseball started in February before basketball was even over.

And now, it’s only a month till school starts, and we are still playing baseball. And I will have 3 children, at 3 different schools, with 3 different schedules, once August kicks in.

And I have to ask for forgiveness every day, and the Hubs gets more and more annoyed with me every day.

My fruit of the Spirit has shriveled up, and it really bothers me, but I seem to be unable to care enough to change it.

I am selfish. If I had to name my biggest flaw, evened out over my entire lifetime, selfishness is it.  And if I think hard about it, all of my faults extend from this one huge flaw; the yelling, the impatience, the annoyance with things that I don’t care about, all of that is about selfishness.

My middle, Monkey, loves baseball.  I really wish I did. There are parents on his team that go to every practice and actually stay there; I drop Monkey off and tell him his dad will be there to pick him up, because it is July in Alabama and eggs will fry on your car, man, eggs will FRY ON YOUR CAR.

So I complain….A LOT.  I have tried to keep it to a minimum, but have decided the only way to really rein it in, is to not go to the games or practices, and just text his dad to find out how it’s going, and we all seem to be happier that way.

And I totally admire the parents who make the effort and love being there, and are in it for real, and then I really feel bad, and then I get mad because I feel bad and doggone it, I am selfish and do not want to be outside sweating and stressed at his games.

So I had a conversation with my mom, who says, “you are doing this to yourself.” Um, no, Monkey has done this to me.  She said, “No…you can choose not to go, or participate, Hubs will do what is necessary, and if he doesn’t, then he will figure it out.”

This blew my mind.

I have to do this baseball thing, right?

I will be judged by other moms and families if I don’t, right?

My mom said, “So what? You are you, and the stress this causes you is what you do to yourself.  Same with your house.  You always apologize about the mess when I come over; if you really cared about the mess, you would care enough to do something about it. Own it, admit it, I don’t care about it, and stop stressing.”

WOW.  She is totally right. I am not the person who is ever going to have a super neat and “everything is in its place” house.  Ever.  Never have, Never will. Because there is always something I would rather be doing.  Reading a book.  Reading Facebook.  Playing a game. Hanging out with the kids. Napping.

So what if I decide to not go to the big World Series? Weatherman does not want to go, and Monkey says he doesn’t care if I am there or not.  I played volleyball in high school, and my parents came to maybe one game per season, and they came when we won state my junior year; otherwise, I knew they had lives outside of mine, and really didn’t care if they were there or not.  My dad worked so I could play ball, and have a car, and have a life that was pretty comfortable.

Will middle son mind if I am not there?  His dad is ready for me to stay home, because even though I think I am pretty funny with my “not a baseball mom” comments, he’s not getting my humor.  Don’t get me wrong….I LOVE MY SON.  I would jump in front of a train for him, take a bullet for him, but do not want to sit in what I have been told is the hottest place in the south for him. And even more, do I want to face his dad all weekend if I complain all weekend?

Does this make me a bad mom, and should I care if others think that?

My parents’ lives never revolved around me.  I found rides home from volleyball practice or I wouldn’t have been playing. My dad decided what we did and where we went.  This is hard for me, to let my child’s schedule dictate my life, and I am not sure if that’s all due to my selfishness.

So if you don’t see me at the World Series, know that I decided to be selfish, and if I am there, well, I will give Hubs some earplugs so he doesn’t have to hear my complaining. And I will not apologize for either.

 

 

Step Up

We celebrated my Granddaddy’s 91st birthday today.  There were several people there, and several missing, but it was a great day.

But here’s the deal.

He’s not my real Granddaddy.  I do not like when people use the word “real” to describe relationships; “real dad”, “real mom”, “real grandparents”.

As an adoptee, I use the word “birth” parent, not real parent.  I use “adoptive” parent, not another description.

But back to my granddaddy.

There are a lot of “step” parents out there, so therefore there are a lot of “step” grandparents.

Do you “step” grandparents know what power you have?

You have the power of belonging. You have the power of love, of inclusion, of giving a child a family they didn’t have before.

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Step grandparents are “REAL” grandparents, trust me.  I know.

Mine became my grandparents when I was 9 years old, and they have never treated me any differently that before.

My “step” father was just about as good a dad to me as my dad was.  My “step” dad’s family treated me just like I belonged to them, and I have never felt unwanted or unloved.

So my Granddaddy, who is my “step”mother’s dad, has Alzheimer’s and it is a getting much worse. I remember when I first realized that it was happening, about 13 years ago, when I heard him use a curse word which would have never passed his lips before.

My “Step”granddaddy has Alzheimer’s but let me tell you one thing…He ALWAYS remembers my name.  He looked at me Sunday, on his birthday, and said, “Tina, are you leaving?”

“Yep, Granddaddy, I’ve got to go.”IMG_1099.PNG

He said, “Well, you know you can come back, I’ll be here.”

I hope so, Granddaddy.  I told my mom (“STEP” mom) yesterday that I believe I will miss my Granddaddy more than I miss my dad at this point…Grandddaddy still talks and laughs, and knows who I am.  What in the world will we do when he’s gone.

“I was the last of 16 children, Momma looked at Daddy after I was born and said, “Jim, I think I am done.”

See, all you “STEP” parents out there….you have the ability to STEP up or step down, but I challenge you to step up to make a difference in your child’s life.  My STEP’s did.

Just keep going

Have you ever wanted to just stay in bed, not do anything but watch Netflix or sleep or just lay there?

Yeah, me neither.

Seriously, though.  I was living life. Working. Churching. Momming. Wifing. Probably not doing a great job at any of them, but things got done and kept moving.

We get very caught up in the day to day, don’t we?

This year has been the year that I have wanted to just say, “Okay, I am done, I just want to sit on the sidelines and watch and not participate.” This year has been HARD.

In January I had a stroke, and in February my dad died.

I have started this post more times than I can count.  In 2013, I wrote about starting and not stopping.  I did okay for awhile.  I lost 97 pounds, exercised every day, took a diet pill for 8 months, and basically got myself under control.  I got cocky and braggy and thought, “Hey, I got this, I have lost weight and I will NEVER gain it back and I am going to lose even more and I will be in CHARGE of my life.”

Then a parent got sick.

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If you have followed my blog, you know that in 2013, my dad was diagnosed with a horrible form of dementia, and I went off the tracks.  For those who have never dealt with any sort of addiction, it’s hard to describe how insidious it begins.  “Oh, I will just have this and it will be okay.”

“Oh, I can have this, I will buy this, but I won’t eat it.”

And then I stopped the diet pill, and then it was like, BAMMM.

My dad was put into assisted living and my boys had lives and I had a life and we were busy, and the next stinking thing I know, I have gained back every stupid pound I had lost.

I can tell you this, reader, because I can’t flipping hide it, can I?  The Bible talks about secret sin, but us heavy people who are Christians, we can’t hide our stupid sin, like all the gossipers, the enviers and the mean people, oh, wait, mean people don’t hide their sin well either.

Romans 7:15 and beyond says:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

So why can’t I get a grip on my sin???

I am writing this because I know that there are those out there just like me.  I am struggling.  I have struggled all my life.  But once I accepted Christ, that struggle has been shared with Him.

Once again, my choices are about life and death. I had a stroke 4 months ago.  I can still brush my own teeth, walk, talk and perform personal hygiene.  Do you think that’s a wake up call?  So life and death.  I now have 5 different doctors. FIVE.  I now take 5 pills a day, I had to buy an old lady pill box because I got tired of opening pill bottles.

Choice.  Life or death.  Walking or limping. Speaking or slurring.  I got real serious about my health then, and started seeing all sorts of doctors and taking 5 pills a day, and started exercising again and talking a good fight…

Then my dad died. The man that helped make me who I am, and the man I loved and admired and got frustrated with…died.

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I lost myself for a few weeks.  I quit. I couldn’t function.  But one morning, God used 2 women to get me out of my funk, and I have been getting closer to the light ever since.

So  I am blogging again about my weight struggle.  Because it’s time.  And I try to be honest with people. And because I need to vent.  And because life is hard and I can’t eat every time I get stressed or I will lose so much of what I want.

Do you feel like you are out of control sometimes? Me too.  Do you want to give up? Me too.  Do you still get up every morning? Me too.  Is this life harder than we want it to be?  Yep.

I am going to take a step from AA.  Just for today, I can do this. Just for today, I will not eat  a French fry.  Just for today, I will walk a mile, even if it takes me an hour and if I were behind me in a car I would be cussing me out.  Just for today, I can do this.  I will fail, I am sure, but just for today, I will do what I can.

Life has come at me fast for a while.  I cannot excuse the position in which I find myself.  We are totally responsible for our choices. For today, I choose to live.  I have to. And I hope you will too.

 

 

learning curve

I know more than I did less than 60 days ago.

I know that if you ignore high blood pressure, it does not go away.

I learned that I am not a good candidate for MRIs.  Those machines are small.

I learned that I can pee on a bedside potty, without dying of embarrassment.

I learned that I can take 5 meds a day, even if I have to put them in a little old lady pill box that is labeled for S-M-T-W-Th-F-S.

I learned that Ativan will really calm you down; I could become addicted to that drug easy.

I learned that God allows second chances and wake up calls.

I learned that I can live without reading, as long as I have Netflix.

I learned that when your parent is sick for a long time, and then dies “suddenly”, you still grieve.

I learned what it’s like to watch someone take their last breath….on this earth.

I have learned about the love of a grandson for his Papaw, when he wouldn’t let go of his Papaw’s hand throughout his visit.

I have learned that the people who take care of your loved one, love them almost as much as you do, and treat them with dignity and respect, and cry with you as you lose them.

I learned that laughter is easily intermingled with tears, and both are good for the soul.

I say all that to say this….

It has been a rough 55 days.  But I have learned that life goes on, we still wake up, your kids still have to go to school and do the annoying dress up thing for whatever fundraiser thing of the week, you still have to work, your life doesn’t stop just because your dad’s life did.

I have blogged a lot about my dad.  I have blogged a little about my health journey with my weight.  Both of these have been huge players the last few weeks.

My dad couldn’t say my name since November. He would smile and say, “there you are!” when I came in his room, but he stopped being able to say much more.  The last 3 days of his life, he said nothing.  His breaths were hard won, and his eyes were closed most of the time.

I told my dad good bye Saturday night, February 11, at 6 pm.  He didn’t die until Monday night at 5:45.  I told my dad, through tears and sobs, that I loved him and wanted him to go, that it was time for him to go, that God had prepared a place for him, and it was ready and his life had been full and joyful and productive.

I told my dad of each individual grand child, from the oldest to the youngest, and how much they loved him and wanted him to be free from this world.  I thanked him for adopting me, for being the one constant in my life that kept me going, that was always in my corner, the person who loved me more than anyone else.  I told my dad that he was my world, so he could go to the world beyond.

The last 30 minutes of his life were hard to watch.  I stepped out to get a Diet Coke and ended up on the phone, and the Hubs came to get me because something had changed with Dad, and later my younger brother told me, “If you had missed his last breath because of a Diet Coke…” See?  Laughter and tears.

My Dad, opened his eyes and looked straight ahead the last 5 minutes of his life. I know that he did not see us; he was seeing what was next. We had sung to him, prayed with him, laughed around him. I had laughed so hard at one point (we pretty much had a small party in his room during this time, and the younger brother had tripped and fell on his wife, and it made me laugh hysterically)  I laughed so hard Dad opened his eyes and looked around.  But not for long.

I have often wondered which is worse…to lose a loved one suddenly or watch them be sick and die a long death.  I know that we have had it better this way, in a way.  I started grieving for my dad 3 years ago.  I cried all day the day my mom told me that he didn’t know whether he charged $2.50 or $250 for his first adjustment, and that was in October of 2012.  My tears have show up at inconvenient times the last few years, and my whole family has been mourning the loss of my dad, pretty much since he went into assisted living on May 23, 2014.

Still…I have learned that no matter how long you have to prepare, it’s still not enough.  I have a deep ache in my chest, and those 3 days we spent at my dad’s bedside, I sobbed and grieved until my jaws hurt.  I do not grieve like someone without hope, either.  I know where my dad is.  I just am sad he is not here.  My world has been shaken off its axis, and a quote I heard recently sums it up: “I don’t know how to exist in a world where my dad doesn’t.”  But I’ve been learning for the last 3 years…

Since my stroke on January 8, life has seemed much more precious and the small stuff has seemed very small indeed.  Now…everything seems pretty inconsequential.  Except for the people I love, my family, church family and friends.

I have learned that relationships with your loved ones are the only things that really matter in this life.  And that’s been the most important lesson of all.

 

We celebrated my dad’s 82nd birthday today.  It was a good day.  He is still with us. He can still smile. He can squeeze my hand. He still follows the Grands with his eyes.  But he is not himself, still.

I speak of him often. One of the stories I tell at least once a week goes as such:

When I was five years old, my mother dressed me in frippery froppery, dresses with more lace than sense, and panties with ruffles.  Good thing, too, because she kept my hair cut so short that if I didn’t have on a dress, then most people mistook me for a boy, and I hated that.

I can remember the day well, the day My Dad taught me a Lesson that will never be forgotten.  I had on that lacy red dress with ruffledy panties, and Dad, for reasons known only to him, had given away some puppies or a dog and we (my brother and I) were upset about it.

Said brother was quite upset, and decided that he needed to know why Dad had done this, but he must have realized that he didn’t look as cute as I did in my red ruffledy outfit so he threw me under the bus and told me, “You go ask Dad WHY HE GAVE OUR PUPPIES AWAY!!”  I specifically remember him saying it just like that.

So away my flouncy self went.  Let me set the stage: My dad was at work, seeing patients and concentrating on their health.  Our house was connected to my Dad’s office by a door.  A single door. We lived on one side, and he worked on the other.  So I opened that door, marched my way into the office and then into the treatment room where my dad was working on a patient and I proceeded to ask him, in a probably not nice tone, “WHY DID YOU GIVE AWAY OUR PUPPIES???”  and then I turned around and SLAMMED the door of the treatment room.  In the patient’s face.

OH. MY. STARS.  If one of my boys did that to me now, I am not sure what would happen, but I can tell you what my dad did.

About 5 minutes after the shot that was heard around my family, when I was feeling pretty good about myself and had waltzed back into the house part of the building, my dad came through that door.

I remember looking up at him, and seeing the look on his face…

So I then got the only spanking my dad ever gave me, and he told me to “Sit on that couch and don’t you get up” and 2 hours later I was still in the same position; my mother says that I wouldn’t even get up to get a drink of water.

And I never talked back to him again. Oh, I disagreed with him and argued a little, but never, never did I show him disrespect. Ever.

And today, I think of those stories.  I am so glad my 2 older boys knew him before he was taken hostage by this disease.  I am grateful I can hug him still.  I am grateful for my 2 brothers, who help me remember my dad as he was, and who are my memory keepers.  I am grateful for my sisters in love that love my dad and my family.  I am especially grateful for my mom, who loves him still and grieves for him as I do.  I have friends that are the only caregivers for their parents, and my Mom takes that burden and does not share it with my brothers and I.  She is one extraordinary woman.

Today was a good day. Dad is still with us.  He now doesn’t know my name and doesn’t remember the lessons he taught me, but I will not be forlorn.  He is still here.  That’s more than some of you have.  He can’t make a complete sentence, but he is still speaking a little.  I am still able to say good bye.  It’s taking a long time, but hey…life’s too fast, and maybe this reminds me to slow down.  I love you, Dad.  You don’t remember my name, but you know I am yours.