Friday, December 1, 2023

Boring, Oregon

As a resident of Normal, Illinois, I was delighted to pass through Boring, Oregon on a recent trip to Portland for the birth of my grandbaby! I'm happy to report that Boring* was not boring at all, but a charming town, as was Sandy, Oregon, both on the way to Trillium Lake, pictured here with Lola and her mother (my daughter!) in the foreground and Mount Hood in the background, near sunset, looking golden. It was still white on our way up.

*It's named for a fellow, not a state of mind. And Normal, Illinois is mentioned in the Boring, Oregon Wikipedia article!

And here is Lola as a polar bear. Shortly after this, she had a diaper change and nursed in a warm car. Reality. Golden background or no. It was an absolute delight to be with her. I was present at her birth, a long labor. I held her for hours many nights, so her parents could get some sleep. I did what my mother did for me, with both my children. I was so grateful to be able to do so! And it makes me cry to say so.

I miss my mommy. People, I have to tell you I would stare at the photo of her I sent for her obituary and posted on my Facebook page, and say, "My mommy!" and cry every time, as I am crying now. At first, in the thick of it all, labor, delivery, tending the baby, I just kept going. I knew what to do; it was what she would do. Then grief would surprise me with its whack in the heart. My husband tells me this will keep happening. My heart goes out to all of you who have lost someone dear to you. Especially, if she was a good one, your mother. Mine was. I know I am lucky.

Upon my return to Normal, I went to work. I did laundry. I paid utility bills. I tried to catch up on various tasks. I visited my father, who is doing OK. I love to get mail. Good old-fashioned snail mail. But, so far, I have been unable to open the many condolence cards that arrived in my absence, were held at the post office, and got delivered in two bunches on my return. I'm sorry! I will open them eventually, and reply to you, as would my mother. I will probably use the box of cards she had saved, that I found in her house as I was clearing it out in September and October so it could be sold. My father closed on the house on November 1. Lola was born November 4. My mother died November 5. It was a lovely circle, and it makes me 1) weep 2) grateful.

I'm grateful that my sister could travel to Normal while I was gone, and that she slept beside my mother on the night she died. I'm grateful that my dad could be included in a big, lively, joyful Thanksgiving celebration with my brother-in-law's family! And that we had a lovely celebration of our own, in Portland. I'm grateful that my son is perfecting the traditional orange-pretzel salad, a favorite my mom used to make for holiday meals, and that he will be able to come home for Christmas this year.

I'm grateful to be boring! To post relentless pictures of my grandchild! Grateful to be a grandmother. It's what my mother was! Both my kids joined me for a Zoom church remembrance of my mom. Grateful for that! And that my brother could also attend, from California. (We'll have a celebration of life later, in warmer weather. In Normal.) I'm grateful that my mom's sister and her daughter came to town the weekend it all came to a crisis, and saw my mom in her last lucid moments, before she seized and slept.

And now this next adventure, navigating grief. I'm starting with evasion, leaving those letters sealed, doing chores, decorating for Christmas, but, as my dad said, I have to "go through it," and we will. Together and on our own. In my case, some poems are coming, to rescue me. Words are suddenly rolling out, not quite randomly.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Peacock Crossing

We knew a peacock was crossing the road behind us because a dog was barking at it. Bret turned to look and pointed it out to us, as we prepared to cross the one busy road on our neighborhood walk here in the SE quarter of Portland, OR. Another neighborhood walk is planned for today, a sunny day, timed with the baby's nap after a feeding, as she loves sleeping in the stroller on a jiggly walk. I love being a new grandma. It is helping me continue to accept my mother's death, in part because I am doing the things she did for me, when she came to help with both my babies. I am continuing a motherly tradition, and wearing my Mother Road hat to shield my blue eyes from the sun.

Baby Lola's eyes will probably be brown. Both parents have dark brown hair and brown eyes. But maybe not. Green eyes appear in Bret's family, and Lola currently has auburn hair. His grandpa had dark red hair. Wouldn't that be a delight? 

I had a poem accepted for the Claude Monet issue of Poetry East. It is, of course, a mother poem, as well as a Monet poem. It's titled "Bridge." I was gazing at lots of the "Bridge Over the Lily Pond" paintings and anticipating my mother's death. Right now I am simply gathering lines that come to me in my poetry composition notebook, brought along on the trip, along with my daily diary, a dream journal, and a tiny reading journal. I am reading and writing steadily, in snippets between baby holdings and diaper changes.

Lola's father is excellent at diaper changes and sleep swaddling. Here he is, and here she is, swaddled with a little white noise machine near her head. My daughter is doing well, healing, nursing, walking, creating new routines. She plans outings, so we have been to a park and a garden where we saw many ducks, a flock of geese that rose from a pond, circled it, and resettled, and a bald eagle in a treetop.

Another outing was to Doe Donuts, which I highly recommend if you go to Portland, a town well known for donuts as well as Powell's Books! We all loved the whipped-cream topped donuts called Portland Fog! Their logo has a sweet doe, but I don't have a picture of that. And while Doe Donuts doesn't love day-old donuts, I do. Another favorite was cranberry lime.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Peacock on the Roof


It's a beautiful day in Portland, Oregon, sunny, with bright fall leaves blowing down and gray clouds massing in the distance, after days of rain, and that's a peacock on the roof. I came here to help my daughter have a baby, and that has indeed happened. A beautiful baby named Lola, 8 lbs, 12 oz, 22 inches long. So far, she likes to sleep in the daytime and keep her parents awake from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., like lots of babies who sleep while the mother is active by day and kick around nocturnally. I am happy to hold this baby and stare at her. The activity that rocked her to sleep in the womb included a daily neighborhood walk that I got to do with the family a couple times before the birth, and that's where the peacocks come in. Just as there is a flock of wild turkeys back at home, or trail turkeys, since they walk the Constitution Trail as well as the neighborhoods, here there is a flock of wild peacocks. Or you might say a pride of peacocks, a muster of peacocks, or an ostentation of peacocks. Although these local peacocks are quite modest and unostentatious. Shortly after getting this picture through my son's window, I got to witness this one fly gently down to earth.

Then time stood still, as they say, suspended itself, and we had days of labor in a hospital room. The baby was born, and then my mother died, as if she had been waiting for the baby to come into the world before she went out of it.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Empty Shelves

What a difficult and sweet, sad and joyous time it has been. We cleared out the house with the help of friends and family. I never thought I'd see these bookshelves empty of books. And today we moved my fierce and feisty mother into hospice care. I'm glad I got to spend some quiet time with her in the hospital and that I got to see her moved safely into the hands of calm, experienced people who will help my dad through whatever is to come next. 

The full impact of losing my mom--a gradual and imminent process--hit me as I drove down the driveway of my childhood home for the last time. The empty house...was her. 

And this is her, too!

Friday, October 27, 2023

All Around Me

All around me, so much beauty, the fall happening in sunshine and rain. I've been so busy, so preoccupied. I am clearing out my parents' home, giving things away. So many people have helped, and are still helping! My brother and his wife, her brothers with trucks! Now my sister is coming, and her husband, with a truck! Two Men and a Truck came, such hardworking guys! Recycling Furniture for Families. Habitat for Humanity, their Home ReStore. Friends baking cookies for an event Saturday afternoon. Friends helping with moral support and labor. I am so grateful. And the nasturtiums are still blooming!

Meanwhile, I am still working, still editing. The poetry has mostly been set aside, but today I was revising two poems, and that felt good. My printer broke, and ironically these would go to a snail mail publication. But I have let so many deadlines pass during this necessary time of other work. A poem came out, in Border Crossing. Other poems were (kindly) rejected. Again, gratitude.

Other people's fathers are failing, dying. Other people's mothers. The trouble continues in Ukraine, in Gaza, elsewhere. So much suffering continues. Yet my time has felt suspended, even as tasks went on. 

These nasturtiums are hiding under an umbrella of leaves. So am I, maybe.

But I led a board meeting, I met with a banker, I did an all-day work training on mental health in older adults. Met with co-workers to plan a Death Cafe. I am feeding the neighbor's cat. Packing to go help my daughter have a baby! It all somehow gets done.

Meanwhile, the burning bush went red!