In memory of my mom. She would have loved this Alabama spring.
I see her everywhere, but nowhere as clear as in her beloved flowers and birds near her home on the lake.
In memory of my mom. She would have loved this Alabama spring.
I see her everywhere, but nowhere as clear as in her beloved flowers and birds near her home on the lake.
I’m at the lake house, enjoying the view and the weather and what appears to be spring happening all around me. But evening comes early in this part of the country and during the long dark hours I wander the house, noticing stuff that needs to be done.
Like cleaning — especially those places that aren’t automatically done during a regular visit.
So I decide that the cold air return needs to be spiffed up. I doubt it’s been cleaned in the almost fourteen years since mom and dad left us the house. It’s not something a person would normally pay attention to, but after two weeks of living here, it’s moved to the top of my to-do list.
I look at it more closely and figure I’m going to need a phillips-head screwdriver to get it off the wall. We still have dad’s workshop set up in the basement so I traipse downstairs to search.
There’s a lot to choose from, and I quickly find what should be the perfect tool.
Back up the stairs I tromp, petting Katie-girl who is waiting anxiously at the top, unsure of where her mama went. I get down on the floor to begin loosening the screws. But darn! The screws need a flat screwdriver. I don’t know what I was looking at before.
Shaking my head I get myself up off the floor (which isn’t all that easy these days) and stomp back down the stairs to the workshop. I put the phillips-head back in it’s appointed spot and grab a flat screwdriver.
At the top of the steps Katie waits patiently, wondering what in the world mama is doing now.
Back on the floor again I get the first three screws out; both sides and the top of the grate came out pretty easily. But the screw on the bottom, right down at the floor, is smaller. And, as I peer at it my head flush with the floor, and through my trifocals, I see that it needs a phillips-head screwdriver.
“Hey Katie,” I say, “Want to go to the park?”
I started feeling melancholy last night, laying in bed staring at the ceiling in a house she and dad built a long time ago, surrounded by some of her special things.
All day today, as I ran errands in town, I felt a certain heaviness as I drove past stores we shopped in together, past the university where she worked.
Heading back to the house late in the afternoon I noticed the redbud in bloom, the delicate purple-pink flowers shining against the still bare branches of the rest of the forest. She’d have liked that.
I thought I’d take Katie to a park, sort of a reward for patiently waiting for me all day. But she wasn’t in the mood, and to be honest, neither was I. I thought I’d settle for a nap. But I was restless and sleep wouldn’t come.
So Katie and I headed out to the dock to sit and wait for the sunset. I wasn’t expecting very much, there were only a few clouds in the sky and the last few nights haven’t been very interesting.
Still. It was nice to be sitting on the end of the dock with my feet hanging down over the water and my Katie-girl laying tight up next to me. I was still feeling sad, but it was a peaceful sort of sad.
The water was still, reflecting the sky and clouds. I smiled, and watched the water move as small minnows just touched the surface, creating gentle circles that quickly moved outward.
I couldn’t see the actual fish, just the circles appearing like magic and spreading across the water. Soon there were circles intersecting other circles.
I focused on capturing those gentle patterns. Katie fell asleep beside me.
I was so intent on trying to get those circles, trying to get the light right, the focus crisp. I almost forget to check the sky. But the sun waits for no photographer; the sky was beginning to show a bit of color. And I was starting to feel a bit better.
But those little fish were still making circles and I wasn’t sure I had captured the exact perfect one. So I turned the camera back to the water.
And then I realized the circles were now pink. The water was pink. Which meant the sky must be…..pink.
I looked up. And had to hold my breath.
Katie stirred and agreed to pose with the sky. She didn’t even ask for a treat. The sky was enough.
It’s impossible to overstate how the sky this evening picked me up. I was laughing and running up and down the beach trying to capture it all.
Katie stood on the dock and watched me with a patient look on her face. She knows her mama and she was happy that I was happy.
Thanks mom, for sending me the sunset tonight. I know you were there watching me watch it. It looked like something you might have painted.
For all I know you did.
Saturday morning, the sun bright in a blue sky filled with puffy white clouds, was perfect for a little boat exploration.
The boat traveled under a few bridges and then up a creek, looking for the resident eagle. It was a beautiful day, and it turns out there was a fishing competition going on. We came across several father/son teams tucked in the backwaters of the lake. We slid by them as quietly as we could.
The creek narrowed, and I moved to the front of the boat looking for the eagle. Katie kept a close eye on me from the other side of the wall.
This was her second boat ride ever, but she wasn’t too concerned about the engine vibration or noise. She likes being outdoors, and she’s always up for an adventure.
Eventually we were as far as we could go up the creek. We hadn’t found the eagle, but a bit further was a low waterfall making lovely splashing noises, and more fathers and sons were fishing from kayaks. We dropped anchor to listen to the water and enjoy a biscuit breakfast.
Then we turned around and slid as quietly as we could back down the creek to the larger waters of the lake. The clouds were piling up in the blue sky.
Out in the open water Captain Carl throttled up and Katie and I enjoyed the wind in our hair.
She’s a very brave little dog and enjoyed every bit of her boat ride adventure. I did too.
Mama says this blog needs a little levity and I think I’m just the girl to provide it. Besides, you haven’t heard from me in a long time and I have been off adventuring! I knew you’d want to hear all about it.
So let’s begin at the beginning. With snow. Mama and I decided we needed to escape winter. This year we’ve had plenty of snow up in Michigan and the lake house in Alabama was calling our name. So Wednesday morning, bright and early, we hopped in the Katie-mobile and headed south.
It took us forever! We had to stay in a hotel for two nights! (Don’t tell mama but I sort of like that, all those new sounds and smells you know.)
Both times we were on the second floor so I got to do the elevator a bunch. I am very good at elevator, though I have to say I don’t really like it. I mean, who wants to get in a little windowless box and then stand there while the floor shakes and there are noises and then get back out of the box again? What’s the point people?
Sometimes we used the stairs. I have no trouble going down stairs now, if mama goes ahead of me to show me the way. But I refuse to go up them. I don’t see so well and I misjudge the distance and end up flopped on my tummy. That hurts (mostly hurts my ego) so now I don’t want to go up stairs at all. Mama carries me and says she’s glad I don’t weigh any more than 20 pounds.
On the drive I made mama stop a bunch. Just about every rest stop. I just love rest stops, all those dogs before me leave messages and I leave my messages for the dogs that will come after me. It’s a great communication system.
The very last rest stop had the best dog walk ever! It wasn’t just some mowed pasture, it was a trail that went up and down a ravine. It was like being in the woods! There weren’t any big trucks nearby and no cars either.
Mama and I walked around in there for a long time. Some other dogs just walked along the top but my mama and I are adventurers and we went way down to the bottom and then up the other side even though it was really steep and mama is a wimp.
Our trip was a little longer than it needed to be because mama fell in love with a bunch of barns in Kentucky and she had to make a few side trips looking for more. She says it’s not fair that she sees all these great places when we’re on the freeway and there aren’t any exits. I let her have her way, but I’m not letting her post her barn pictures in my blog. No siree. She can post them later while I’m taking a nap.
We did stop and explore a little town when I decided I wanted to take a walk. We looked for a park and found one way down a big hill. We walked a bit along a flooded river, but it was pretty muddy and mama made me get back in the car.
Then we walked around the downtown area a bit. Mama saw this cool mural and wanted my picture with it. She tried to make me sit on that bench in front of the mural but that didn’t go so well so she settled for this picture of me with the mural in the background. Sometimes I win our little arguments.
Well, as you know, we eventually got to the lake house. We immediately explored the back yard and I marked it as mine. Mama wanted me to sit on the dock so she could get me and the clouds that were reflected in the still water. But just as she set me up a boat came roaring down the shoreline. She tried to get the picture quick before the water was disturbed, but I wouldn’t look at her. So this is what we got. Mama gets aggravated sometimes, but never with me.
So far mama and I have been mostly napping. One time I was taking a great nap on my deck when suddenly a boat showed up! I thought that was very interesting and I watched intently as these guys kept throwing something out into the water. I swear, people are crazy. They didn’t even have a dog with them to fetch all that stuff back!
Our first day here was sunny but it rained last night and made my driveway all green. Mama thought it was pretty so I had to sit there and let her take more pictures. Sheesh. But I made her pay for that one by taking me to Keebler park in town.
It’s a pretty little park with a paved trail. I only walked half of it because, after all, I am a princess and a princess does what she wants to do. Even though I made my mama drive me all the way there I soon let her know that it was time to head back to the house for another nap.
I’m sure we’ll go on more adventures down here, at least to visit my Uncle on his lake and my Aunt at her house. We might even get some visitors here, you never know. I’m just very happy to be here where things are blooming and it isn’t snowing!
Stay tuned, if I do anything exciting I’ll let you know!
Aunt Vi’s funeral was Tuesday. She looked beautiful, and though I know she was no longer there, I have to think she’d have been pleased by how pretty she was.
She was so ready to move on to her next chapter that I could only feel relief for her. Still, it was hard walking past her for the last time at the end of the service. “I’ll see you soon,” I thought, words I’d often used as I left after visiting.
It was hard, too, to leave her at the cemetery, amid the piles of snow scraped from the ground to make room for her pink casket.
She hated to be cold, and at the last nursing home she took advantage of having her own thermostat to keep her room toasty warm. Tropical, I used to tell her. “Are you too warm dear?” she’d ask me. “No, I’m just fine,” I’d tell her as sweat ran down my back.
It felt wrong to leave her in the cold now.
I knew she wasn’t really there, that she was already celebrating with family and friends, someplace filled with light and music and love and completeness. I knew this, but still.
And then, during the luncheon, all of us sitting in the rec room of the apartment building she had lived in for over twenty-five years, someone across the table from me exclaimed “Look! A cardinal!”
Sitting in a tree just outside the large windows sat a lone cardinal, staring intently at the goings on inside.
“You know Vi really loved cardinals,” I remarked. “She called them red birds.” The red bird outside moved to a different tree, still watching the people inside.
The next day Katie-girl and I headed to Alabama in an effort to get away from the snow and cold. Midway on the trip we stopped in a tiny little town in Kentucky at a riverside park to stretch our legs. I took a short video of us walking along the river and posted it on Facebook. A nephew noted that he heard a cardinal in all the bird chatter I captured. Hmmmm…
And today on our final day of driving, at the last rest stop of the trip, Katie and I were walking along the top of a ravine. The sun was shining and we were enjoying it’s warmth when a cardinal swooped down low to a branch very near us and began to sing.
“OK!” I said, under my breath. “OK! I believe you!” And then the bird flew off into the trees. Mission accomplished.
She said she’d try to send me a sign that she was alright. I’d say she got her message across.
Loud and clear.
I’ve been wondering, lately, what it’s like to be bedridden, with failing eyesight, sitting for more than a year in a small room, dependent on other people to do everything for you.
I’ve been wondering what it’s like to never know what your next meal will be, but being certain you won’t want to eat any of it. Except the ice cream.
What is it like to know you’ll never have a piece of fresh fruit, or your favorite holiday meal again. To spend your days waiting. For visitors, for your medications, for someone to change your sheets, bring you another blanket, a fresh pillow.
What’s it like to know the only escape from this room will be death?
She and I had a nice visit on Monday afternoon. She was in a good mood; the sun was shining and she let me open the blinds so she could see the light. She told stories from the old days, stories about her husband and her son, long gone before her, stories about growing up in northern Minnesota and the winters there.
She was surprised and a little proud of the fact that she was a hundred and two and a half years old. She never imagined she’d outlive so much of her family, so many friends.
Tuesday she was less jovial. Her clothes weren’t hung up correctly, the light hurt her eyes, lunch had been terrible, the staff wasn’t helpful.
Mostly she was lonely.
And that’s my one regret. That there wasn’t some way to keep her entertained, to get more people to visit, even for a few minutes, to convince her to get out of bed and into her wheelchair to explore the facility.
I wish I had taken her fresh grapes and half a banana last week. Or that personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut she talked about my last day with her. Oh I know I baked her favorite cookies on occasion, and I brought her flowers from our garden, and a pretty white tree with pink bows and birds on it that my sister made for her. I know most people would think I did enough.
But she was lonely.
And that’s why I’m not sad that she escaped her room Saturday morning. Today her eyes work just fine and she’s enjoying the company of her husband and her son and all her sisters and many of her brothers. Today she’s hugging her mom again, and spending time with her dad. Today she’s dancing again. And best of all, today she is no longer lonely.
A few months ago she and I talked about what might be waiting on the other side. She didn’t want to talk about that much, she insisted she didn’t want to leave us, that she’d miss us once she had to go. I asked her if she’d try, once she was there, to find a way to give me a sign that she was alright. She grinned and said she’d be sure to do that.
So today begins my wait. I’ll be waiting to see what she comes up with, how she’ll let me know she’s safe and warm and happy. I know in my heart that she is.
But for now I’m just a little lonely.
Did you know Wolfgang wrote his Symphony No. 1 at the ripe old age of eight? And that Mozart had a favorite pattern of notes, three notes rising, the fourth falling, which were included in both his first symphony, written as a child, and his last, Symphony No. 41, a symphony he probably never heard performed before his death at age 35?
I didn’t know any of that either.
Last night we learned all that and were privileged to hear both Symphony No. 1 as well as Symphony No. 41. And though you could clearly hear his childlike interpretation of music in the first, it was much more intricate that I could have imaged at age eight.
And Symphony No. 41? The fourth movement was my favorite, the most intense, the most intertwined, the most triumphant. It’s eight and a half minutes long. Get a cup of tea or coffee and settle back to listen, it will be time well spent. There’s so much going on in this movement, let it take you where it will.
Now, take a moment to listen to the first notes of Symphony No. 1. The juxtaposition between that first symphony and the very last symphony movement he ever wrote was breathtaking. Isn’t it amazing what he created within his short lifetime?
All in all it was a special evening for this clarinetist.
As I sat listening to the symphony building up to the final moments, the music swelling, the entire hall entranced, I gazed up, lost in the music, and wondered. On this birthday was Mozart’s music being played all across the world? Were there concert halls and high school auditoriums and living room stereos playing Mozart in celebration? And was he listening from somewhere, tapping his toe, smiling a bit wistfully, happy to hear his work, glad not to be forgotten?
I like to think he was.
So, as Maestro Lipsky said last night – Happy Birthday Wolfie. Thank you for your gift to us all. I hope you enjoyed the Ann Arbor Symphony’s gift to you.
I know we did.
Back in those days commercial drivers recorded the hours they drove in paper logs; safety advocates sometimes called these logs comic books because of the amount of made up information that got recorded. Truck drivers are paid by the mile, not by the hour, so it benefited them financially to drive further and faster, maybe even further and faster than was legal.
So after dad was killed, and I began to learn more about what happened, I began to work toward mandated electronic logging devices, ELDs. Last Monday, December 18, 2017, thirteen years after dad died, my wish came true. Trucks are now required to have electronic logging devices, and though some truckers are still opposed to what they consider is a infringement on their right to privacy, or their right to make a living, and though I’m sure there will be some unintended consequences, I’m happy.
As far as I’m concerned this was a very big, very important, Christmas present to the families of people killed and injured by tired truckers across the country. And, if they’re honest, perhaps it’s a gift to the drivers too, because it will be harder for an employer to push a driver past legal limits now that everything is monitored by ELDs.
ELDs might have happened without the Truck Safety Coalition and our volunteers pushing legislators for years. The American Trucking Association (ATA) which represents big truck companies wanted them too, so for once we were on the same side of an argument. But I have to think it was stories of regular people like us that helped tip the balance and get this technology mandated. So to all of you out there that have supported our work, for this gift of safety that begins this holiday season, I say thank you.
I think I’ll consider the ELD mandate as a personal Christmas present sent straight from dad.