Thursday, April 7, 2016

- In memoriam

I knew when I started stitching daily patches that there would be days like this, when my mind would travel back ...

Note the  difference between the zeroes in "2008"

I wanted the text on this patch to be daffodil and forsythia yellow (my mom's favorite spring flowers), but I have learned that a single strand of light-colored floss inevitably looks too granular in backstitch and too thin when worked in split backstitch. So this time I went back and tried a wrapped backstitch (with thanks yet again to Jude Hill), shown above in progress and ultimately over the entire patch ...

Patch #98 (96 and 97 to be posted later)

When a new acquaintance asks whether I have any kids, I usually say, "Two daughters ... married four months apart, now mothers themselves." Only rarely do I add that their Nana Ruth, my mom, passed away two months before the first of those two weddings.

Today I've been reflecting on 2008. Even though I have neither daily patches nor written journal from that year, I remember much of it as a hellish travel itinerary. It actually started sometime in 2007 when both of our daughters announced their engagements and my mom began spiraling into a neurological nightmare that stole her ability to walk, then write, and finally took her voice as well. Flying as often as I could between Virginia and New York, watching her decline, I last saw her in early March when I went up to help out after my dad had cataract surgery. So many things were left unsaid.

A couple of weeks after seeing my folks, Melissa flew in to Virginia from St Louis for a wedding gown fitting and a weekend trip to the Outer Banks to assemble wedding invitations (with her godmother Barb and "godsister" Bridget, who designed them as a wedding gift). Her silk gown, chosen months earlier, turned out to be flawed. We could only hope that a replacement would come in time for a single fitting and alteration before the wedding. Details of the fast-approaching June beach wedding swirled in my head ... little did I imagine how many more complications were to come.

Next, Don and I flew to Austin for spring break to help Meg and Paul plan their October wedding. My dad reached me there by phone on April 7th at 6:00 EDT, 5:00 in Texas, saying simply, "She's gone." Stunned, I called Southwest and pleaded for an immediate flight out, but Texas to New York is a long way and no flights were available until the next day. So Meg and Paul cooked us dinner, a meal full of tender care because in our family "food is love." Don remained with them in Texas while I flew "home" to New York.

There, my father, brother and I arranged for a cremation and planned a memorial service for the following month, on Mother's Day. Then I flew home to Virginia and returned to work ... flew back to Texas two weeks later for a wedding in Don's family ... then back to Virginia ... and back again to New York, this time with Don and the girls for my mom's memorial service ...then home the next day to teach until the end of the school year.

Melissa and Jake were married at the end of the third week in June at the Outer Banks, where we have vacationed for longer than our girls can remember. My father drove down for the wedding, after which I drove back with him to New York to help sort through my mom's things. Some of her clothes (which I still wear), her jewelry (most of which I'm ready to pass on), and her crafting supplies (her quilting pins sit beside me as I write this) were packed into my suitcase, accompanying me on the next leg of the journey.

After three weeks on Shelter Island, I flew from New York to St Louis for a second wedding reception that Jake's family hosted for family and friends who couldn't come to the beach wedding ... from St Louis I flew home to Virginia with Don ... flew back out to Texas, where I first got to see the gown Meg had chosen for her wedding ... then home again to Virginia to start the new school year, ending up in the hospital with pneumonia several weeks later.

Chastened, I cut everything I could out of my schedule, determined to be healthy enough to fly to Austin for Meg and Paul's wedding in October, which I was. Flying back to Virginia for the last time that year, I knew in my heart what the future could hold.

We had our first-ever (and last) yard sale in November 2008, put our house on the market in April 2009, and retired from the Williamsburg public school system in June. By the end of July we were driving our two cars 1750 miles to Texas (with a brief layover in St Louis) and never looked back. I'm Going to Texas debuted in August and "the rest is history," as the saying goes.

Now I mark my days in cloth. Thankfully, most of the patches are memory-keepers for kinder, gentler days. But if it seems that Don and I are often on the road, it's because of the lessons learned eight years ago:

life is short and the time to do truly important things is now.

----------------------------

Postscript: Once again I take metaphorical hat-in-hand to also thank Judy Martin, whose post today began my ruminations. Because "there are two sides of everything" and "all things contain their opposites" ... and because my mom loved cloth and quilts and deer, among many other things. 

19 comments:

DILOU said...

Bonjour, Il est vrai que la vie est parfois tellement difficile que l'on se demande si on va pouvoir endurer la suite. J'ai vécu quelque chose de similaire avec ma propre mère qui a fini par partir me laissant seule au bord du gouffre, papa étant parti plusieurs années auparavant. Il y a des anniversaires qui sont tristes. Bon courage

Marti said...

When we are in the whirlwind of life, it's all we can do to put one step in front of another...2008 certainly was a whirlwind year for you Liz with sorrow and with joy, that balance that makes up both sides of life. Your words here movingly speak of how it was and how it is; of how when the wind dies down and we can look back and remember, it is love and family that are our weather vanes.

Thank you for sharing this time here, it matters deeply.

grace Forrest~Maestas said...

incredibly well written for a period of complexity....how it all weaves, this
living....

Liz Ackert said...

Thank you. As I said to Don after writing it, "It's all about me." But somehow, I needed to let it out, and hopefully let it go.

Liz Ackert said...

Thank you Grace. I look back and I'm not sure how a full-time job fit in, too. I now know what I'm capable of, but don't ever want to tap those depths again.

Liz Ackert said...

For those who do not read French, a rough translation:
It is true that life is sometimes so difficult that one wonders if we will be able to endure it. I experienced something similar with my own mother, leaving me alone on the brink, dad being gone several years before. There are anniversaries that are sad. Take heart.

Liz Ackert said...

Merci ... je vous souhaite la même (Thank you ... I wish you the same)

grace Forrest~Maestas said...

yes...tap those depths....
but writing it like this...good to do, to then realize that maybe at the
time you might have wished to do MORE, but that what was done was
ENOUGH indeed...as much as anyone possibly could, more than many would
have been able to do. i just read again. yes. no regrets.

Liz Ackert said...

Thank you ... there was indeed a demon I was trying to exorcise: the comment overheard at the memorial service that implied I should have been there at the end.

grace Forrest~Maestas said...

in your way, you were and in your way, you still ARE with this post.
no demon. no regret.

Liz Ackert said...

Ironically, this is precisely the advice I would give someone else ... for me it's always easier to give advice than to take it.

Thanks for reading between the lines to the inner truth. Maybe now that it's out in the open, it will wither away.

handstories said...

Oh, Liz, this post holds so much, as does your remembrance square for your mother in its two shades of yellow and careful stitching. Looking back and sorting through those times of whirlwind (emotionally & physically) is a gift to yourself & others.

Liz Ackert said...

A gift to self mostly, I think ... and balm from comments such as yours. Thank you.

Mo Crow said...

(((Liz)))

Liz Ackert said...

Thanks Mo

deemallon said...

wow. good lord. not surprised you got sick 3/4's of the way through. thank you for sharing this. it reminds me that we all share but a teeny fraction of what goes on. it also reminds me of 2009=10 which I might describe on my blog, having read this. did you experience any relief to see it in print? to share it with us?


Liz Ackert said...

Good question ... I confess that I questioned the wisdom of writing the post when I re-read it today, but everyone's kind comments kept me from hitting the delete button. I just wish I could stop the endless loop that runs through my head ... only time will tell if "blog therapy" is the way to do that (so far it hasn't).

Dana said...

Wow Liz. Thank you for sharing this. It helps me to know you a little better and reminds me (as many things do these days) of the intricate interlacing of love, sorrow, and joy that life begets. I am fortunate at this moment that my birth family (Mom, Dad and six siblings) is still intact, but Mike has been nowhere near as lucky. And as Judy says, the moon is waning. So, here's to an open heart for what we have now, regrets included.

Liz Ackert said...

Dana, thank you, too. So much written, so much more remembered. I look forward to seeing the faces of your family at the wedding.