Saturday, October 26, 2013

Happy Birthday, Janer.

The summer after 9th grade, I was granted the privilege of taking my best friend to the beach with us for our family vacation.  That week stands out in my mind quite a bit... we were days away from getting our Golden Retriever and while laying on the beach we decided that we would name her "Sandy"... we made numerous trips to the post office on Hilton Head so that my BFF could send letters to her boyfriend... and that same BFF nicknamed my mother "Janer".

22 years later, my heart smiles when I remember "Janer".

My mother was and is the smartest woman I've ever met.  She spent her career managing people in the information technology world- something that was groundbreaking as she entered that field out of college.  College, by the way, that she attended and earned a degree in 3 short years.  With all A's, except for a pesky "C" in swimming.  She married her high school sweetheart who may not have been the World's Best Choice for her... but he sure made her laugh back in the day.

She struggled for years to have children and celebrated like crazy when she had my brother.  His baby shoes- both bronzed and the bright red pair- were saved in her cedar chest along with a maternity dress. I found those this week while I cleaned out her house... along with some baby outfits, *more* baby shoes, baby keepsakes, and baby pictures... all of the treasures of being rewarded the desires of her heart.

Three years after having my brother, she had me.  If she could she would tell you that I was a perfect child- no lie- which quickly changed when I became a teenager.  From the moment I began thinking that my mother didn't understand anything (and that I was right on so many things), our relationship changed until the point I realized that she just might be right after all.  I cringed every time I heard her sigh and say "Oh, Becky..."-- yet I realized after looking at each church bulletin, school newspaper, award, and card that I ever sent her that I filled her life with more pride than disappointment... regardless of how it may have seemed in those turbulent teenage years.

I developed a love of travel from Janer-- Hilton Head, Europe, Canada, New York... I saw them all through the lens of vacation with the best of intentions to enjoy every moment.  Our last "big" trip together was to celebrate my 30th birthday.  Her attention to details (and handwritten lists) made me roll my eyes at the time... I wanted her to "wing it" in moments when she couldn't... and now I see that time as one of the last big gifts she would be able to give me.

We started noticing her illness early- when you are that smart and that "with it", it is startling when things start to "slip."  Gently I tried to talk to her about getting help, but because of the walls broken down by disease, that wasn't possible.  Nearly 2 years ago we intervened in a big way, and almost a year ago we moved her to an Assisted Living site in town so that she could receive the care she needed.

Daily I struggle with how my mother has become another person.  Dementia is a horrible, horrible affliction and robs people of their identity.  Daily I want "more" for her... and I live with the doubt and guilt and sadness that comes with all of our decisions.  Over the next week I will finish up cleaning out my childhood home (the only house I ever lived in until college) and will officially end my mother's chapter in Asheville.  And because of that, I weep.

But today.... today is her birthday.  Today we will celebrate.  In a few short hours my house will be filled with family and friends.  We will have a luncheon and eat some of my mom's favorite foods.  I called her late yesterday to prepare her for the crowd- thanks to her caretakers, we had determined a plan that would allow her to be "ready" to see people and not be alarmed.  When I told her, she nearly squealed with excitement (if she was the type of person who squealed, that is.)  And in "old" Janer fashion, she said, "Don't worry, I won't tell anyone you told me.  I'll act surprised."

Who knows how she will be today- whether it will actually be a surprise for her or not.  Who knows if she will remember all the people here.  But I do know this: she will be surrounded with those who knew her as she grew up playing the piano, being the valedictorian, climbing the corporate ladder, as she was raising two children, and was a wonderful mother and grandmother... just by being Janer.

I wish you all had had the chance to know her then- but even if not, those here today could tell you story after story about what an amazing person she was....

... and still is.

I love you, Mom.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

the wonder of it all.

Today was a day for the books.  I nailed it.  I was so productive that I'm about to get in bed... and it's not even 7:00 yet.

Apart from my productivity (which I now refuse to document on here, lest I jinx my life) (and yes, I may be a wee bit superstitious from past experience), today stood out because of the roller-coaster-ness of it all.

Our pre-bus time was great this morning.  E woke up on the right side of the bed (surprisingly, since she went to bed so super late) and we enjoyed a cooked breakfast before school.  Cooked Breakfast doesn't always happen.  There's usually cereal, and 80% of the time she's finishing it at the bus stop.  But this morning, we had time- shower and all- for her to enjoy a more filling option.

I came in from the bus stop feeling my "I nailed it" High and got on Facebook.  Within moments I learned the tragic news that my home church family was hurting.  Death is never easy, especially when it's one so young.  My heart plummeted into the "there is so much sadness in this world" realm... I am grieving with you, Hominy Baptist.

I worked on uploading the pictures that my friend John had sent of items in my Mom's house.  Rather than head home to take pictures of items we have for sale, I emailed one of my oldest friends and asked him for a favor.  As I uploaded pictures, I was comforted by the love I've gotten from my second family... the past 2 years (and the 35 before that) when I've needed something they have been the first to arrive with helping hands.  I can only imagine that E will have that same kind of connection with one of her oldest friends, too.  Preschool connections are beautiful... we both are blessed to have them.

Thankfully, I've had lots of friends check in on me as I've posted details about closing up my Bradshaw Lane world.  While Monday threw me for a loop, today was less rough as I went about details about moving.  And as people started buying furniture, I knew that it was a blessing that the first 3 pieces to go were purchased by people I love so much.  One by my 2nd grade best friend, one by my high school BFFs sister (and the older sister that I coveted), and one by someone who is one of Mom's caretakers here.  It feels like Doing Good to pass things on to loved ones and not "just" selling them at a yard sale.  (But we're not above that.  Need some random furniture?  Let me know!)

I left that task feeling accomplished and encouraged and went on to my main task of the day.  Part of it was overwhelming, part of it was thrilling to finally have some organization to a previously messy part of my life.  And during it, a message popped up that one of my besties got AMAZING news today regarding her adoption process.  Such beauty in the midst of sadness.

I then went into full on Business Mode and made more phone calls on Mom's behalf... I am thankful to have time in my day to knock these things out.  They aren't "fun", but as I've said before, I feel like I'm honoring her life by taking good care of her affairs.

Shortly after (yes, the day went that fast) a sweet first grader ran off the bus full of stories of today's field trip.  We enjoyed catching up while I fixed dinner.  And then my sum-total of today hit me.  I was standing over the oven- looking at what I was cooking.  Normally, my meals "make sense" and fit together nicely.  We usually have dishes that would make sense in a menu-planning session.  But tonight's meal didn't.  Without thinking much about it, I prepared my Daddy's spaghetti sauce and my Mom's broccoli casserole.  I've never made those two dishes together- usually we'd have a salad or steamed broccoli if anything.  But tonight it felt right.  And I'm not surprised.  Sometimes, even your subconscious needs a little bit of home and it comes out in comfort food.

While we ate dinner tonight, I reflected on the sadness- and the happiness- of my day.  Broccoli casserole and spaghetti may not go together, but neither do tragic death and joyful adoptions.  Neither do Power of Attorney work and making chocolate chip pancakes.  Well, we don't seem to think they go together... but in this twisted up world we live in, they do.  I won't try to explain it... at this point I won't even try to understand it... but sometimes dishes go together and life goes together and emotions go together and it all just happens.