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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Circle of Life

The month of December has always been a hard one for me. Anything tragic or sad or scary that happens in my life usually happens this month. Now I have another unhappy event to add to our December calendar--the passing of Gregg's mom.

We were putting up the Christmas tree when we got the call that she was dying. If it wasn't already up we wouldn't have bothered this year, but since it is I'm glad to have it. The warm glow of it is cheerful in the house.

Yesterday my friend Marla came over and spent the afternoon with me. We are so thankful for her help while we were in Raleigh last week; the dogs and Marco love her and so she came over and made sure they were fed and cared for while we were away. She's a true friend that can always be counted on when a need arises. What a comfort friends are!

And yesterday she confirmed something I've been suspecting for a couple of months now: she's expecting a new baby at the end of May! Regular readers here will remember how she tragically lost her first child, Alice, three days after she was born. Marla and her husband were heartbroken and it was too sad for words--they never even got to bring their daughter home from the hospital. I felt that I had lost a niece, a niece of the heart and not of blood, maybe, but no less precious for all that.

And now a new baby is on the way! Marla seemed well and cheerful and deeply happy when she told me. I had been telling Gregg for two months that I thought she was pregnant and he was beginning to doubt me, since nothing was said. But I knew. Marla's been one of my dearest friends for about 15 years now, so I know her pretty well! She is now 15 weeks along, and she and her husband decided to surprise their families with the happy news at Thanksgiving, so of course she didn't want to tell friends before her mother and father and in-laws. So yesterday was the day, and I was finally able to tell Gregg, "Told you so!!" We're so happy for her!

"In the midst of life, we are in death......" but also, in the midst of death we are in life. It's so wonderful to think of a new baby to love next summer after the loss of a mother this winter. Edythe would be absolutely thrilled for Marla--she was so sad for her when Alice passed away, and she loved babies and young children. The circle of life continues as long as there is love and family and friendship tying us all together. What a wonderful, comforting thought that is!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Saturday Poem


You Darkness

You darkness, that I come from,
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes
a circle of light for everyone,
and then no one outside learns of you.

But the darkness pulls in everything:
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them! —
powers and people —

and it is possible a great energy
is moving near me.

I have faith in nights.

Rainer Maria Rilke
(translation by Robert Bly)




I first read this poem on the night Edythe died, lying in a spare bed at her house, in the darkness. As I was sleepless, I had pulled up the blog on my phone and Cate over at Beyond the Fields We Know (see sidebar) had shared it. Something about it spoke to how I was feeling in that silent, sad house and it's been on my mind ever since, especially since we are entering the period of the year with the longest nights. I did a bit of reading about Rainer Maria Rilke and it turns out that his birthday was the same day that Edythe died--December 4th. It seemed a strange coincidence.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Peace

Thank you everyone for all of your concern and kind words after my last post. Gregg's mom passed away peacefully Monday night, surrounded by her loved ones.

I would like to write more about Edythe, her life and what she meant to me and to the whole family, but I can't right now. Things are still too raw and my emotions are still too mixed up to do her justice, so I'll just say this: she was a good woman and as devoted a mother as I've ever seen. From the day I first met her almost 20 years ago, when Gregg and I were still barely more than friends, she treated me like one of her own daughters. People make jokes about mothers-in-law, but mine was a second mother (and a dear friend) to me. I am so grateful for her life, and for the son she raised into the good man he is today.

As per Edythe's wishes, her body has been donated to Duke University Medical Center for research purposes, after anything still useful was taken for organ donation. We are so proud of her for that! Lou (her husband) told us yesterday that her corneas have already been donated to someone to help them see again. When I think of what a blessing that will be to some family over the upcoming holidays, a tiny bit of the hurt inside me is eased. I admire Edythe's spunk. Not many girls born on a farm in rural North Carolina in the 1930's would ever consider foregoing a traditional funeral and instead will her body to science and ask her family to throw a party in her honor, but those were her wishes! How cool is that? There will be some sort of very small gathering for the family a bit closer to Christmas, the details of which still need to be worked out, but will probably involve a catered meal at the house and a little time for everyone to be together. It's all so wonderfully easy on the family; there's nothing pressing anyone needs to do right now, and that's a blessing at a time like this. What wonderful foresight on Edythe's part, and a loving thing to do for us.

We're sad, but doing okay. We have each other, and we have the rest of the family, and that's all that really matters in the end, isn't it?  Love is stronger than death.


Edythe in late 2016, pictured here with her three greatest treasures on Earth--her beloved children.



Monday, December 4, 2017

Family vigil

My dear mother-in-law is dying.

Her health has been steadily declining for years, due to a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease and (suspected) Lewy Body Dementia, but the sudden deterioration of her condition has been a shock. We got a call from Gregg's sister Saturday night letting us know she was in ICU and probably not going to live through the night. We jumped in the car and drove the 3 hours to Raleigh, NC, immediately. She's still with us, but hanging by a thread. Her blood pressure is getting lower and lower, and her kidneys and liver are failing. It's a matter of time.

So now the family is keeping vigil at her bedside. Gregg and I were without sleep for over 36 hours until last night. His brother drove up from Florida with his wife yesterday, and his sister and stepfather  haven't left the hospital in three days. Everyone is exhausted, and terribly sad.

Please keep us in your thoughts as we try to make it through these hard days.



Saturday, December 2, 2017

It's time!

December is here!

For the first time in years, I'm actually excited about celebrating the holidays. There's only two more weeks of school before our winter break and then I have two weeks off!! Our last day is Friday, December 15th, which is a half day for the students. Once the kids leave, we're having our staff Christmas party, and after that I won't have to go back to work until January 2!! I'm really excited to be getting a long holiday break for the first time in my adult life, especially after 17 years of working in retail.



The holiday fun has already started at the school. There's a giant 12-foot Christmas tree in the lobby, a smaller (but still big) tree in the library, and, as you can see, huge sparkling wreaths on the front doors. We're adopting four families of children through DSS and buying gifts for them, which is a really nice thing to do and something I'm happy to participate in. Several offices are decorated with tiny trees, garlands, and strings of lights. I'm planning to add some decorations to my desk next week, and I'll post a few pictures of it when I do.

At home, we've decided to finally buy a pre lit Christmas tree this year. That's what I'm planning to do this morning--go pick out and buy a tree. Tomorrow while I have the house all to myself I'm going to spend the day putting up the tree and decorating the rest of the house for the holidays. Now that we're into the month of December, it feels like it's time!

What about you? When (and how much) do you decorate for the holidays?

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thanksgiving weekend camping trip

We went camping last weekend at Lynches River County Park, over my Thanksgiving break. It got really cold (down to freezing both nights!) but we stayed warm and had fun. I think the dogs did, too. Ginger discovered two tiny kittens sequestered in a large woodpile as soon as we arrived. We enjoyed watching a wild mama cat sneak in and out, caring for them, all weekend. Thanks to the efforts of the park rangers,  there was plenty of free firewood cut and stacked for any campers to use. We were able to keep a big fire going the whole time we were there. We saw four shooting stars. We had lots of delicious camp meals.

All in all, it was a nice time.

Here are some pictures.















Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thankful

This is the first Thanksgiving in 17 years that I've had a real holiday with time off work. I spent today shopping and running errands in a leisurely way, and it was such a luxury!  Tomorrow I'm making a roast turkey breast with a few easy side items for our holiday meal. It will be just the two of us, enjoying the day off together, and then Friday morning we're going camping for two days. I'm so excited! I love building fires, sleeping under the stars, and spending time in the fresh air. It's going to be a perfect holiday weekend for us!

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends. And to all my friends here, no matter where you live, please know that I'm thankful for each and every one of you!



An anniversary

Ten years ago today (on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving) I came home from work and found a stranger hiding under a chair on our back porch.

Image may contain: dog
Thanksgiving Day, 2007

At the time, I was less than thrilled. We had lost our beloved spaniel, Nicky, the prior December, and I was still devastated by the loss. I wasn't even close to ready for a new dog. The previous spring we had moved to a house in the country on a large piece of land (14 acres) and we only had a couple of close neighbors. It was pretty obvious that someone had dumped an unwanted puppy from a car and left her to fend for herself. (We heard later that that's a pretty common practice out in the country). It's a terrible thing to do to a dog.

The young dog was friendly and determined to make her home with us. The original plan was to try to find someone to take her, someone who was ready for and wanted a dog. Of course, that never panned out.....

....and thank all that's good or right in the Universe that it didn't! Ginger has been a blessing to us. She is the best dog I've ever known.....fiercely loyal and protective of her people, intelligent, loving. She's never done bad-dog things like chewing things up or barking excessively or getting into trouble.

Ginger is country girl at heart. Her first three years with us she lived a wild and free outside life on the property we were renting. When we finally moved back to the city she adjusted beautifully to life in a neighborhood, much to our surprise. She still prefers being outside almost all the time, especially as the sun comes up in the morning or when it sets in the evening. She likes watching the birds and squirrels and people waking up and moving about. She loves her daily long walks, and still requires a good deal of exercise. She has a certain dignity now at ten years old.

She's helping us raise George (we need all the help we can get with that wild boy) and has no problem putting him right in his place. He shows her ultimate respect and understands she's on par with us in the family hierarchy. It's funny to watch him defer to her now that he's so much bigger than she is! He loves her devotedly, though. It's really sweet.

Happy anniversary/homecoming to our beloved girl! We had no idea on that Thanksgiving eve 10 years ago how much joy and love this abandoned puppy would bring to our lives.



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