Monday, November 26, 2007

Did we ever tell you this one?

I recently renewed contact with Linda Peacock, who was in the art school when Ian was still small. As I was reading her message, I was reminded of a little event that epitomizes Dad's sense of humor, and I didn't know if you guys had heard it:

When I was working full-time at Saxon Glass, during Mom's last couple years with us, Linda used to watch Ian for us. She would sometimes stay with him at 33 S. Main and would often take him to The Collegiate Restaurant and other places, and I think she helped look after Mom, too. Anyway, we were at 33, and Linda was either coming or going, and she told us how the rumor around town was that Ian was her baby and our family was looking after him for her. Dad overheard this from the other room, and said " . . . and we're happy to do it for you, Linda!"

It still makes me laugh.

For Our Mother

I always loved my mother at the deepest levels, although I know I did not always feel that way at the surface of things. I may have even told someone (I’m not sure the words ever left my lips but I fear they may have) that I hated her, when I was a teenager. I know I responded very negatively to some of the things she did, but I know now that she had limited control over some of them, and that some of them were side-effects of medicines she needed to take. But this is not one of those stories from someone who’s trying to make peace with a deceased loved one, after the fact. I spent hours with Mom, even before cancer began to steal her energies, wrestling with things that had come between us. On several occasions, we ended up crying and hugging, understanding each other much better, and forgiving each other for hurts and misunderstandings.

I am the last of five children and I’m afraid our father has never fully grasped the depth of reconciliation that Mom and I found in the last ten years or so of her life. He seemed to think that I hurt Mom’s feelings, but I believe we truly were able to work our way through most of the things we had done in the past that caused each other pain, and I know I only think fondly of her now.

Over the years, a few acquaintances, and even a few members of our extended family, treated our mother with a lack of respect, and even with scorn. I always suspected this was in response to her emotional idiosyncrasies. She was very emotional and obsessive/compulsive and all, but little did other people know – at least until recently – that Mother’s foibles have specific, medical labels. They unfortunately also bear stigma, even if less so than in the past. We, her children, have always felt set apart, apparently because of our close association with Mom, and perhaps because we resemble her. It is not that people haven’t been generally cordial, but many have let us know they regarded us differently. I think in some cases they couldn’t even have acknowledged that they felt that way, to say nothing of knowing that they were sending such signals. Perceptions are such elusive things……..

Anyway, it was a lovely surprise, last Friday, when a family friend joined me in walking up the street, and made a point of saying that they missed my mother, even though she’d died seven years before. In the course of conversation, I remarked that some folks thought Mom was a “strange bird” and this friend reminded me that my mother’s love was never in doubt, and that it always flowed freely from her. This friend said “we go back a long way, don’t we?” It was my pleasure to concur.

Even in this time of Muslim-bashing and Christian fundamentalism gone amok – it would be no surprise to Mom that this Muslim (ZR) friend would have recognized her love for people, for all living things, and for beautiful things like sunsets…….she was that sort of woman.

G. Douglas Clarke March 20, 2005

Sunday, November 11, 2007

How does doing something active give a person energy?

What a difference some dancing with one's spouse and friends, getting some work done, and some sunshine can make! But somehow I know that even those things aren't all that's behind my feeling better about things. It's not magic, but it's not entirely in my control, I'm certain. On a day-to-day basis, I can often will myself to not dwell as much on my difficulties, get busy and do what I know needs to be done, and move along. But a couple of weeks ago, none of that worked. Then I was about as enervated as I have ever been, but still was not confined to my bed. Today, I feel rejuvenated and as eager to get things done, as I ever have. Inexplicable, since my situation has not changed a lot. But Jeanette and Ian and I took Ly and Walter and Rein to Geneseo for a dance last night, and I woke up this morning feeling as energetic as I have in months. Such things are fickle, though. I wish I knew (and I'm certain I'm not the first to wish so) from whence such things arise. It could be gone by this afternoon.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Rainy days

Dear brothers and sisters, biological and adopted,
I wrote a poem for Election Day:

"Rain patters down
Steady, hum-m-m, drum
Make patterns up
All day long"

I just read Doug's posting from Sunday. The Alfred Magazine came yesterday and reinforced the 'orphan feeling' as I read the class notes for 1941. I do miss both Mom and Dad, especially in the autumn and around Thanksgiving. Speaking of Thanksgiving, I'm trying to think ahead and hope that Doug, Jeanette, and Ian will be in the City with Sherm and that we can meet!
The need to journal and evaluate and get control of that 'fight or flight' feeling all resonate with me. Now I have to do it!
Much love to all,

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Rock and Rolling

Hello again siblings and other kin,
I wrote in my notes to the last posting, how I was feeling better after getting through a meeting I had been dreading. That was last week, and today we have to get through the next one I've been dreading, but my stomach isn't off the way it had been. Last week it was the church trustees meeting, and today our church meets to discuss financial challenges, etc.
At least I'm back to feeling just normally overwhelmed, but not in "Panic/Hide!" mode. At least the rock is rolling again. I have lots to do, and plenty to worry about, but at least I haven't had the constant, queasy feeling. And at least I haven't had the migraines and such that Bert reported in her last letter. I hope you have no more of them (same to Cathy, and anyone else who has migraines)!!
But I think all five (and more) of us recognize the "orphan feeling" that Eric Van Horn asked me about, when I called to tell him of Dad's death. Both his parents have been dead for a number of years, and he used that term to describe how he's felt since his mother died, Gene having died several years before, and his brother Roger later on. Bert referred to "the dark, cold gloomies and scaries with no Dad or Mom to go to". How Dad must have felt each time someone important to him, died?! We'll just have to take it from here (and I don't say that glibly, but grimly, with as much resolve as I can muster). I'm no PollyAnna, but I'll keep on trying.
Over the last 20 years, I gave so much of my time and energy to the Alfred S.D.B. church and Allegheny Association and the denomination (driving to West Virginia for Christian Social Action Committee meetings, going to General Conference), our Fire Department, Alfred Historical Society, Allegany County Historical Association, to Citizens for a Clean Environment (a local group of which I was president for a couple years), lots of other organizations, and quite a few individuals who needed help or wanted favors, that I wish I could have some of that time back. It's especially hitting me, now that my 50th birthday is approaching. That's been behind some of my "hide!" feeling, and I've been pleased to at least be showing some visible progress around our house, although not nearly enough, yet.
I still haven't been called to interview for the Facilities Manager at the Equestrian Center, but it's soon, yet. I have also put in applications at North Main Lumber, where Sean Phelan is now working. After so many years of working independently and struggling, at least now he has a salary and some benefits, and I hope he will do well. He gave so much of his life to keep nuclear waste out of Allegany County, that all residents should bow in his presence, but he gets much less respect than he deserves. He keeps much of it secret, because he's that way, and because, as he says, we might have to fight that same struggle all over again, and it would be foolish to give away any secrets. But I know enough to know that his keen thinking and determination accomplished things that would not have been done without him. On top of that, he cares deeply about the environment and our future, and is a good friend.
As soon as I get done with laying concrete block under the west porch, and do some more painting of trim and the roof, and insulate around the entryway, and set up the wood stove, and tune and sharpen the chainsaw and get some firewood cut and split, then I hope to settle in to organizing and re-organizing and remodeling the interior of our house. Then we have to figure out how to pay for repairing Jeanette's Subaru (>$2000.00) and replace the Blazer and augment Jeanette's salary. I see some light at the end of the tunnel, but hope it's not a train.
Michael and Audra spent a few days with us, for which we are grateful. Our busy schedules and a house-fire prevented our spending more time together, but they watched Ian while we went to our meeting, one evening, and they got some painting done that we hadn't, and we enjoyed several meals together. Michael and I went on a hike or two and a bike ride in "our" woods (the NY trails adjacent to our place), and it was all good.
I'll write more later, but better get busy. Lots to do, today!