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.