Spring, Harmful Sun Rays & Bugs are in the Air!

Spring!  Spring is in the air.  And so are harmful sun rays and pesky insects.  I really dislike both.

Fortunately, we no longer live in medieval times and have modern ways of handling this.

I am no sun worshiper, but I do not want to look like a porcelain doll either.  Did you know that in Medieval times, women wanted to look ghostly pale.  Laborers were naturally tan from doing manual labor in the sun.  These were the lower class people.  Women of means wanted to show off their social hierarchy by going out of their way to NOT look naturally tanned, proving they were above having to work outside.   This meant using a very white make-up on their face.  Unfortunately, this make-up consisted of lead, which lead to poisoning, facial deformity, sores, and sometimes death.  EGADS!

Today, we have almost equally dangerous fads, but we use these to look tanned – golden – sun kissed.  Indoor tanning (tanning beds, booths and sunlamps) can be just as dangerous as outdoor tanning.

One time, pre-cruise, I wanted to by-pass the boring task of laying in the sun, or spending a month in a tanning bed, and decided to try a spray on tan from a local business.  Really?  What was I thinking.? I am highly claustrophobic.  I stepped into this little booth as instructed, wore eye protection, and put the little plugs in my nostrils.  As soon as the spray started (down by my feet), I got so nervous anticipating this hitting my face that an elevated anxiety level kicked in.  I started hyperventilating and blew those nostril plugs out of my nose.  The plugs flew clear across the room.  I stepped away from the spray to retrieve the plugs because I knew I was going to die if I didn’t put them back in my nose.  I stepped back into the spray, got confused about when and which way to turn that I ended up looking vertically striped on my cruise.  Never again.

In addition to the harmful sun rays, we have to protect ourselves against insect bites.  Insect bites are no longer just an itchy annoyance.  We now have to worry about West Nile disease, Lyme disease, and the Zika virus to name a few.  That’s right – summer is not as carefree as it was in the days of our youth.

These days, I simply garden (not during the hottest part of the day) and use sensible sunscreen and Bug Guard.  Thank God I am the Avon lady.  I have tons of products at my beck and call.

My first deet-free pick is:

Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus IR3535® Expedition™ SPF 30 Pump Spray

Now at nighttime, especially if you are in a swampy area, my favorite pick for then is:

Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Picaridin Pump Spray

Now for my grands, my favorite is a blue disappearing lotion.  I know where I covered the skin on their squirmy little bodies, and I know they are protected against harmful rays and disease carrying insects.

Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus IR3535® SPF 30 Cool ‘n Fabulous Disappearing Color Lotion

What I really like about our Bug Guard protection is no longer being bugged by those pesky no-see-ums.  Have you ever been attacked by no-see-ums?  You can feel the bites, see the whelps appearing, but do not see something to swat at.  Please!  You cannot go wrong with our Avon products.

Best of all, after a day of being in the pool, or the muddy garden, and you are ready for shower or soak in the tub, you can now treat your skin to our fresh herbal smelling, soothing, tried and true product that is celebrating its 50th birthday:

Skin So Soft Original Bath Oil

Our most iconic brand, with the quality and benefits you love. It’s America’s favorite bath oil, and sure to be yours, too! Moisturize your skin while you bath with Skin So Soft Original Bath Oil. This jojoba infused bath oil is perfect for daily use. Its fresh herbal scent is made to both awaken and relax your senses. This luxury bath oil is made to open your pores for maximum moisture absorption. Turn dry or rough skin silky smooth faster than you thought possible. This 16.9 fl oz bottle is great to use while bathing or for direct application afterword.

Check out our products, you will not be sorry.  Feel free to contact me at AvonGretch@yahoo.com if you have any questions.

Visit my website to shop Bug Guard and other great Avon products:  www.YourAvon.com/ghegwood

 

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First Month Without My Momma

The first thing I had to learn to do in this life without my Momma’s support was to mourn her loss.

Growing up, Momma was my entire center.  Sure I had my dad, but he was a typical WWII survivor dad – the old time era dad.  My dad worked and supported his family.  That is how he showed his love.  Red, from That 70’s Show, reminds me so much of my dad.  It’s not that he didn’t love us – he just had a different way of showing us.  Mom, on the other hand, was our center – strong and soft at the same time.  Momma brought home the bacon also, and still managed to have supper on the table at 6:00 every evening for my dad.

After Mom died, memories, long ago buried, started re-surfacing.  On my way to work this week, listening to the Jesus radio station as I always do, the preacher was teaching the power of praying – really praying – as taught to us in Matthew 6:9-13:

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.'”

Listening to this is when I remembered a long ago buried memory, having to learn my prayers when I was a young student at St. Anthony.  I remember reciting this over and over to Momma right before bedtime.  I got tired of the repetition, and said something like, “Give us today our daily bread, and all that other junk.”  Whoa.  That did not sit well with my devout, Catholic Momma.  She admonished me lovingly, but sternly, and I never said something like that again during prayer.

So now I return to The Lord’s Prayer for comfort – your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.   Oh how I look forward to the day I get to see Momma again.  Next time will be in heaven.  My Momma had such a strong faith and truly believed John 3:16:

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Friends, if you do not understand this verse, I beg you with the strongest urgency to seek someone to explain this to you.  It is literally the difference between heaven and hell.

In the meantime, time passes slowly for me here on earth.  Every Saturday I am paralyzed.  I go to bed on Friday night, and do not resurface from my room until Sunday.  Saturday’s since Mom’s death, have been deep, dark mourning for me.  I probably should have been reading my Bible, but I am being mindless, sleeping off and on and watching Hallmark Channel movies.

Next Saturday, my Avon business will break this pattern.  I have a booth in the Picayune Spring Street Fair and I must get up to work.  I am dreading leaving my bed and having to be social again.  But, in the end, this will probably save me and get me back to the land of the living.

The month mark approached of Mom’s death.  I went to bed early on Friday, but woke up around midnight.  I did not want to be up at 3:00 a.m. Saturday, marking the time of death.  I tossed and turned and finally fell asleep.

So the 4th Saturday rolled around.  I had been looking at this date on the calendar since Mom’s death.  What did I expect?  Did I expect to feel differently after a month of her being gone?  Well I don’t.

I miss my Mother.

This has been the longest month of my life.

Is God a Man?

The day started with my usual routine, driving my baby girl to school while on my way to work.  Some days we ride in silence, some days we sing Christian songs at the top of our lungs, but today, Sophie was inquisitive.

The first question posed to me was, “Is Mark Twain still alive?”  I wanted to giggle, but I seriously replied, “Well, no, my sweetheart, but he lives on through his stories.”  I was thinking what a goofy kid, until God popped a long lost memory into my head.  Probably close to 50 years ago, I was on vacation with my BFF, Celeste.  Her mom was telling us about Methuselah being a man that is reported to have lived the longest, 969 years.  I was in awe and asked Mrs. Lee if he was still alive.  I guess the granddaughter apple did not fall far from the grandmotherly tree.

So we are merrily riding along when Sophie poses the next question to me.  “How do we know that God is a man and not a woman?”  Well, I guess that is a good question on this International Women’s Day, but she should have known the answer to that.  I replied, “the Bible refers to our Father (not Mother) in heaven, as in this verse:

‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.  –Luke 12:32″

She was satisfied with both answers so far.  But then, she drops the strangest on me by far.  “If Jesus walked on water, did He swim on the land?”  I had to shake my head on that one.  I had to think of how to reply to this, but God provided the answer.  Matthew 14:22-33 popped into my head.

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

So I told Sophie that Jesus did not have to swim on the land.  Jesus walked on water to teach a lesson of faith to his disciples and that was sufficient without adding the extra step of swimming on land.

Sophie was quiet a moment, probably contemplating her next question.  Fortunately for me, we turned into the school yard and I deposited my inquisitive, precious little package in the drop off line, wishing her a great day and giving her all my love.  As I drove off, I said a silent prayer for her teachers.

A Mardi Gras Memory

The setting was Mardi Gras day on St. Charles Avenue, sometime over 46 years ago.  I do not remember my exact age.  But I remember the incident, and I remember it well.  I was sitting on the family blanket, in the family area my family staked out, probably eating fried chicken.  I was people watching.  The neutral ground was quite crowded with revelers.  I saw a man with a concerned look on his face approaching people and asking a question.  I saw the people all shake their heads no.  He wondered off and I continued whatever I was doing at the time.  Eventually, I saw the man again with his hand holding on tightly to a woman’s arm, pretty much dragging her behind him.  In my little child mind, I am thinking these people were old, but looking back, they were probably in their very early 20s.  The girl was beautiful and I liked her wavy hair.  (As I got older and remembered this incident, I compared her hair to Scarlet O’Hara hair.)  The man shoved her against a utility and pole and pushed her hard against it several times while he was telling her something in her ear.  I will always remember the look on her face.  No one in their group said anything to the man for doing this.  The girl sat on a blanket with other women and was quiet for the longest, while the man circled close by behind her.  Eventually, she was drawn into their conversation and started looking normal, so I quit watching.

In my active imagination, over the years I wondered about this woman. Did she stay with him, endure years of violence, bringing children into the fold and crippling their little minds?  I always hoped she escaped from him and moved on to a normal relationship.  Why didn’t anyone from their group stop the man from doing this?  Why did they sit by watching this woman be abused?  What happened to the man?  Did he grow out of this abusive phase and become a loving husband to someone?  I doubt it.  In my meanest thoughts, I hope someone dished out to him what he had probably dished out to that woman.

I never forgot this, and I was not even a part of this incident.  I only saw this one time.  To think, little children who are in a family of abuse have to witness this repeatedly.  My heart breaks.

I am thankful to have partnered with a company in which speaking out against domestic violence is part of the corporate responsibility.  In 2004, the Avon Foundation for Women launched the Avon Speak Out Against Domestic Violence program.  Speak Out builds awareness, educates, and develops and implements prevention and direct service programs. Some of these projects are global, focused on ending gender-based violence and strengthening domestic violence laws.  Nearly $60 million has been raised globally by this foundation to support its goals.

Did you know 1 in 4 women will be affected by domestic violence in her lifetime?  This staggering number shocked me. Does this number shock you into action?  You, too, can join corporations that are socially responsible.  I urge you to do your research and join the fight.  Your efforts are multiplied exponentially when you combine efforts with a socially responsible corporation.

Should you decide to partner with Avon,  you can do so in two ways.   You can shop Avon Empowerment products, in which a portion of the proceeds are donated to the foundation.  You can check this out at http://www.YourAvon.com/ghegwood.  (Search ’empowerment’.)

Or, you can join me as an Avon representative and spread the word.  Go to http://www.StartAvon.com and type in ghegwood as the reference code to join my team.  Our mission is to improve the lives of women globally. In our core cause areas of Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence, we aim to accelerate progress, accountability and discovery, while also reducing the social stigma that sometimes keeps these issues in the shadows.

I am sure when I titled this blog “A Mardi Gras Memory”, you certainly did not think this would be about domestic violence.  I do have many wonderful Mardi Gras memories, but this one really sticks.  I want to help decrease incidents such as this so that children can fill their heads with better memories, such as doubloons, beads and marching bands.

 

Funeral for a Strong Woman

This day has come.  And it has come too soon and suddenly.  I should not be surprised, after all, since you are 95 years old, Mom.  The day has come too soon because you told me you were going to live to be 100.  The day came too suddenly because you have never had a terrible sickness in your life, Mom.  Your strong will finally had to succumb to death.

But this has truly turned into a celebration of life – your life Mom.  You would not believe the people who’s lives you have touched.  You would not believe the support your daughters had because you raised us to be the people we are, and our friends care deeply about us.

When I first walked into the parlor, Kris was sobbing uncontrollably.  I was oddly calm.  I knew this strength came straight from God because of all the people praying on my behalf.  I hugged Kris and reminded her you told her to take care of me, because I am the baby.  We had a little giggle about that.  Kris and I walked hand in hand to your casket.  Oh Kris helped pick out the most beautiful coffin.  You so loved roses and Paw always flooded you with the most beautiful rose bouquets throughout your marriage.  Your coffin was rose colored, with roses engraved in it, and roses embroidered in the lining.  You look beautiful wearing the wedding dress you wore almost 32 years ago to marry Paw.  Your fingers are beautifully manicured in that red nail polish you always liked.  You are holding your treasured rosary, and Eric’s cross is lying beside you.  You look beautiful, Momma. More beautiful than anyone else I have ever seen in a coffin.  In my opinion, most people look terrible in death, while mourners look down and say, “Oh doesn’t she look pretty?”  I always want to yell, “No she does not – she is dead!”  That is why I made my husband and kids promise to cremate me.  But you are different, Mom.  You are truly beautiful and look at peace.

Mom, the parlor started filling up with your friends, Paw’s friends and our friends.  Mom please do not worry.  Kris and I work with some fabulous people and they were there to support us (and mine had to drive quite a ways to get there).  We also have fabulous friends, old and new, that were there.  I even had an Avon sister that we have only talked online, but she came to your funeral because she felt like she knew you through my stories.  Kodi’s in-laws came all the way from Purvis to New Orleans, at the height of Mardi Gras season, to see you one more time.  Your Theta group was there to honor you and gave a wonderful little ceremony on your behalf.  Two ladies from the group said I sounded like you.  They said they heard my voice and laugh from the hallway (meaning I am loud like you) and both were astonished at how much we sound alike.  I was truly honored by this.  Kris and I have had hundreds of messages from well wishers that could not attend your funeral, but they were thinking of us.  This was beautiful, Momma.

Of course, Kris had to tell my co-workers about the time I came home drunk at 15 and you were horrified.  Oh big sisters!  What am I going to do with her, Momma?

And I want to thank you, Mom, for marrying Paw.  You knew what you were doing marrying into that wonderful family.  Kris and I gained a sister, brother, nieces, nephews-in-law and great nephews.  These are truly wonderful, loving people.  They honored you so wonderfully.  They mourned as if they were actually born to you.  They knew your love for them and you have touched their lives tremendously.  And you might get a priest out of one them, Mom.  Little Sammy is definitely touched by God.  He is so pious and grounded in God’s word.  Even though he is not blood related to my brother, I think he just might join the Seminary, just like Eric.

I was calm until the closing of the casket.  Wait, you are taking my Mommy away.  That was rough, very rough.  I cried until I thought I was going to throw up.  We got into the vehicle to follow your hearse to church.  I was almost to the point of hyperventilating.  Guess what was on the radio?  Vince Gill’s Go Rest High on the Mountain.  That supernatural calm returned.  This was another gift from God.  Then Collin Raye’s In this Life.  Yes, in this life, I was loved by you.  Being loved by you is the most precious gift God has given me.

As we walked into church, behind your casket, I had to concentrate on the man (from Mothe’s Funeral Home) walking at the head of your casket.  He was walking backwards, holding onto you.  I had to concentrate on this for two reasons, (1) That he could walk so well backwards, and (2) concentrating on him walking backwards kept me from thinking that your little, lifeless body was laying in that casket.

Mom, your Mass at St. Cletus was beautiful.  Your favorite song, Ave Maria, was sung.  Father Tuan Pham gave a phenomenal sermon all about your goodness.  He made us laugh.  He said after every Sunday Mass, you would kiss him on the cheek and call him Junior (because that is what he was called in Seminary).  That sounds just like you.  Dana, your granddaughter, gave wonderful readings.  Her voice was clear, steady and paced perfectly.  But what I was most impressed about was that Dana could walk up and down those steps in high heels without tripping or falling.  You know I could never do that, Momma.

But I must admit, me, Scooter and Jay kind of misbehaved in church.  It has been quite a long time since I sat through a Catholic mass and some of the wording was changed.  I said Amen at the end of everything, but some of the replies were words such as “Thanks be to God.”  Scooter told me to stop.  So every time I said Amen I turned to him to make my point – gosh darn it!  He said if I keep it up he knows where I am going.  Then he spiraled his hand downward.  We giggled.  Father Pham came down from the alter to shake our hands and I almost missed it because I was goofing off with the family behind me.  I turned around in time to give him a kiss on the cheek and call him Junior.  When Father Pham began the Eucharist, and retrieved the host from the sacred place, Jay said “Well that’s the man who had the Holy Grail all this time.”  Mom, that kid is so funny and it was all Scooter and I could do to not burst out laughing.

This reminded me of another time in church, probably about 45 years ago.  You, Kris and I were sitting in our usual area.  There was a tiny ant crawling on the back of the pew in front of us.  You did not see it because you were intently listening to what Father Poche’ was preaching.  Kris and I, on the other hand, were quite entertained by the ant.  The ant crawled onto the back of the lady in front of us.  Kris and I looked at each other, giggled and watched the ant crawl circles on her back.  Then we had to stand.  The ant crawled downwards and starting crawling circles on her rather large backside.  As it is in the Catholic Mass, sit, kneel, stand, sit kneel, stand.  She sat.  Uh oh!  Kris and I waited with bated breath to see if the ant survived.  We were elated to see the ant crawling up her back again.  This tiny entertaining creature got back onto the back of the pew.  It crawled past Kris and she moved her hands so the ant could march on.  It crawled past me as I moved my hands away.  And then – you spotted the ant and squashed it with your thumb.  The end.  Kris and I looked at each other horrified.  We had quite some time invested in that ant!  What a memory to pop into my head during your Mass.  But this reminded me of good times, such as leaving church to head to McKenzie’s Bakery for a ‘sweety’, then heading home to eat the wonderful Sunday meal you cooked for us.  Such fun, innocent, carefree times for me and Kris.

Back into the car to follow you in your final ride to the cemetery.  You are riding in style, Mom, like the Queen of Mardi Gras.  We arrive to your final resting place.   You are being reunited with my Dad.  Kris, Cindy and I are sitting holding each other.  I start rubbing their necks because I can feel how tense they are.  Father Pham is saying beautiful words – I think – because Cindy and I were busy battling gnats.  Good grief, can we have a moment, please?

We now head to the house you and Paw have shared all these years.  Cindy’s church bereavement group have been busy setting up food.  We had a wonderful time celebrating you with family and friends.  We were missing your presence terribly.  You would have loved being a part of this.  All the great grandchildren were outside playing, running, laughing, having such fun.  It was good to see children in the old neighborhood again.  Mrs. S. had been at the funeral and she came to the house after.  I know this was so hard for her, so soon after losing her son.  But she loved you so much she was able to push past this pain.  The chocolate brownies didn’t hurt either.  You know Mrs. S. and her love for chocolate.  She taught me how to make a chocolate sandwich – remember that?  Well I poured her a tall glass of chocolate milk to go with that chocolate brownie and we shared stories.

Life goes on and things already start happening.  Your microwave broke, my washing machine breaks – all of this to remind us that we cannot melt into a puddle and stop living.  Life goes on and we will carry your memory with us.  We will draw on the strength you have exhibited your entire life.

Night time comes.  I do not give in to tears and self-pity.  Instead I thank God for all the wonderful years I have had with you.  I am thankful that you now get to spend time with Eric and Donna.  It is their turn to have you.  I will see you again one day, due to God’s promise of eternal life.  And I thank God so much that in this life, I was loved by you.

 

Love Letter to my Momma

I am beginning to not like the phone.  The phone is not my friend anymore.  As I was leaving work, my sister calls to say, “Hurry Gretchen.”  Is today the day you are leaving us Mom?  “Lord,” I pray, “please Lord, let me make it to the hospital on time.”

After consulting with the family, the doctors are removing tubes and medicines from you Momma.  They fully expected you to fade away quickly.  Your BP immediately dropped by half.  But those doctors don’t know you, Mom, like we do.  You stabilized yourself and kept whispering, “I love you, I love you all.”  Then you started saying your prayers.  I really think you were saying the rosary.  And, of course, you were talking to your deceased children, Donna and Eric.  You will be seeing them soon, Mom.  I know you miss them so much, and we had you far longer than we could have ever imagined.  We are at peace with letting you go.  But it still hurts, DAMMIT!  (That brings a laugh.  DAMMIT was your favored curse word.  I think that was the first word all of us kids muttered.)

We are all in your hospital cubicle, Momma, up here in SCU at West Jefferson Hospital.  The staff is the most wonderful staff in the world.  They had all been celebrating your fighting spirit and your will to live.  They are all as heartbroken as us.  We are watching every breath you take.  We are watching the monitors.  Surprise, surprise, your BP climbs a bit and your oxygen is at 100%.  Every little sound you utter we jump up and surround you.  Please Momma, please, open your eyes one more time.  I have got to see your eyes open one more time.  Nothing.  The priest visited earlier to give you your Last Rites, and that seemed to be the end for you.

Late at night, everyone has gone home except me & Paw (my most wonderful step-dad of 31 years).  I feel a sneeze coming on.  I always said I had a sneeze that could wake the dead. Time to test that hypothesis.  Achoo!  Sure enough, you open your eyes wide and stare at me surprised.  Then you look a little angry.  I say, “Sorry Momma.”  You grumbled something and shut your eyes, possibly never to open them again.  But that is okay.  I got to see your eyes open one more time.  God granted me that wish.  And a little lagniappe, your BP rose even higher.

Paw and I call it a night about 1:00 in the morning.  Paw starts to cry on the way home talking about you.  It hurts to hear Paw cry.  He goes home to his empty, over-sized Paul Bunyan bed.  You have shrunk so much in recent years, Momma, and Paw always had those little, short legs.  The little set of steps on each side of the bed are so adorable.  It was always cute to watch you two, tiny elderly people climb in that big, old bed.  Now Paw doesn’t even sleep in the bedroom.  He sleeps in his recliner, missing you, Momma.  Your laundry basket with the rope tied to it sits empty by the dryer.  You were always so cute dragging that laundry basket behind you all around the house, dragging clothes to and from the wash room.  Your presence will live on forever in that house.  Please, Momma, please wake up and come home.

I open my eyes to a new day, Momma.  Our new life without your lively self.  Before I head back to the hospital, I have to go see your friend, Mrs. S.  You don’t know this yet, Momma, we haven’t been able to tell you that Dennis passed away.  Like you, Mrs. S is burying a 2nd child.  As I am walking across the street to her house with tears in my eyes, my mind wonders back almost 37 years.  I was 19, home alone, after visiting Donna in the hospital.  I had to come home.  I couldn’t take watching my sister die.  Everyone else stayed at the hospital.  I was home alone and the phone rang.  My phone was not my friend that day either.  It was your aunt, Momma, calling to say how sorry she was Donna had died.  But I had not known that yet.  I was home alone, after just burying my daddy a year before, and I hear my sister died.  I panicked.  I ran out of the house to Mrs. S’s house, crying the entire way.  I ran into her house and into her arms, and she hugged me and took care of me until you got home.  Today, once again, I have tears in my eyes.  Donald, Dennis’s older brother, opens the door for me before I even knock.  We look into each other’s tear filled eyes and don’t have to say a word.  I rush into Mrs. S’s arms and we cried and cried.  We cried over Dennis and we cried over you.  We remember good times and finally part, but we each have a little lift in our step.  Please, Momma, please wake up, your friend needs you.  Mrs. S needs her friend.

Kris and I are headed to see you again, Mom, wondering if today is the day.  We stop to buy a muffaletta for Paw and Cindy (our beloved step-sister of 31 years).  Today is the day you are being moved to a private, hospice room.  I do not like that word – hospice – so final.  I do not want final when it comes to you, Momma.  Your BP was down to 60/33 when Cindy first got there in the morning.  But her hugging you and rubbing your hand raised it back to 70/33.  The family is ushered up to your room to wait for you while you are being prepped for the move.  I hand Paw a root beer and he says the root beer is really big and will last him well into the night (he’s used to sharing his root beer with you).  Then he knocks it over and spills most all over the floor.  Well now it won’t last you all night, Old Man.  Then Cindy drops her muffaletta on the floor.  Well I tell you, Momma, that was the best fed floor.  We were having a good laugh when your bed is rolled into the room.  You look so tiny.  I had to tell you about Paw and Cindy how they were misbehaving and you should get up out of that bed and fuss.  Please, Momma, please wake up and fuss at Paw and Cindy.  But you chose not to comment on that.

Paw’s legs are swelling, Momma.  He’s not taking care of himself like he should.  We convince him to rest with his legs up in the recliner.  He is struggling with those little short legs and Cindy is trying to help him.  Well, lo and behold, the recliner is on wheels and Cindy inadvertently sends Paw rolling across your hospital room.  I tell you Mom, we can’t take these two anywhere!  We are belly roll laughing as the social worker walks in the room.  He must be wondering what kind of nuts we are.  We diligently listen to him speak about hospice and we become somber.  But, it doesn’t take long before we are belly roll laughing, again, and the social worker walks in, again.  We are filling your room with laughter, Momma.  Please, Momma, please wake up and laugh with us.

You have a visitor, Momma.  It’s Bradley.  Well, of course, I had to tell the nurses all about Bradley.  Remember, this is one of our favorite stories, Momma.  I remember coming home from first grade at St. Anthony.  I said, “Momma, there is this bad little boy named Bradley at school.  He’s really, really bad.”  Remember you told me to stay away from him?  Then one day I am looking out of the window from our house and I yelled, “Momma, Momma, that bad little boy Bradley is across the street!  Momma, Momma, come see.”  You told me to just stay inside.  Little did we know that 24 years later that bad little boy Bradley would become my step-brother.  Poor Bradley (my beloved step-brother of 31 years).  We never let him forget that.  But he is a good sport and let us laugh, at his expense, to make you happy.  Please, Momma, please wake up to hear the Bradley story one more time.

Kris decided to share a Katrina story.  You remember this one.  This was when you, Paw and Kris were hurricane refugees in Beaumont, TX.  Paw wanted to fill up Kris’ car and get it cleaned so he took her to a quarter machine car wash.  Well Kris is handy with a sewing machine, but don’t give her anything else mechanical.  She has never held a car wash wand in her hand.  She put the quarters in, and had no idea of the water pressure that was about to come out of that wand.  Paw happened to be standing in the wrong spot at the wrong time.  Paw was now covered in pink, blue and white suds from head to toe.  Kris is still trying to control the wand and continues to squirt suds all over him.  He said Kris wouldn’t point the wand the other way.  Cindy asked Paw why didn’t he just move.  He said he was in shock.  After the spraying quits, Paw and Kris are laughing and he removes his eyeglasses.  Kris said all she could see were two big eyes staring at her from a mound of pink, blue and white suds.  They said you were so shocked when they returned to the apartment and Paw was soaking wet.  Oh Momma, please wake up and laugh with us.

Look Momma, you have more visitors, your nephew Rusty, his wife Gladys, and one of their daughters, Ingrid.  Now Erica is here, or as you lovingly call her, your first bad-egg grandchild.  And then Shawn (our beloved niece of 31 years) stops by.  Your room is full, Momma.  We are all reminiscing, laughing and filling your room with lots of love.  Please wake up, Momma, and join us.

Well Mom, it is time for me to return home.  I have to go to work tomorrow.  I leave the hospital crying crocodile tears.  I want to call my daughter, Kodi, but I cannot get that lump out of my throat to speak.  I finally get my act together and call her, but she doesn’t answer.  So I continue with my cry-fest, Momma.  I am already missing you.  I am in full blown hysteria mode and my phone rings.  It’s Kodi.  I summoned your strength, Momma, and got my act together to talk to my baby.  Well I could have kept crying for the blubbering mess me and Kodi were.  She doesn’t want to lose her grandmother.  Please, Momma, please come back and live with us a little while longer.  Eventually, our phone conversation turns to fun times, but she has to go to tend to her young family.  Rowen, your youngest great grandson, has taken off his diaper with poop in it.  Shane and Kodi must go search the house for poop.  I am once again left alone to my memories of you.

Life is still rolling along whether I want it to or not.  I stop to see my Avon sister and we discuss our Avon booth at the upcoming Picayune Street Fair.  I called Kris to let her know I made it home.  Home – to Spooky Hollow – and the tears start flowing because you will never be able to visit here again.  Your son-in-law, grandson and great-grandchildren are all waiting to greet me in my fragile state.  Please, Momma, please wake up and come visit me at my crazy Faux Farm.

But I know that will not happen.  The phone, which is not my friend, will soon bring the dreaded news.  When that does happen, please, Momma, please come and see me in my dreams.

As a Strong Woman Hovers Between Life & Death

I get the call no one wants to hear.  You need to get to the hospital, your mom might not make it through the night.  Wait – What?  Is my Mom’s life going to end in the same hospital where she gave me life – almost to the day – 56 years ago?

I sit at my Mom’s side, 2 weeks after I buried Frank the Faux Pug.  Her breathing is terribly labored and ragged.  Her blood pressure and oxygen levels are critically low.  The doctors say the odds are stacked against her.  My step-dad is telling me I need to spend as much time with her as possible.

In a very weak voice, Momma starts calling for Eric and Donna, over and over, my dead brother and sister.  Chills run up and down my spine and I think they are coming to take her away.  Mom told Paw (my step-dad) after her kidney surgery, she had dreamed about going to heaven and Eric turned her away, saying it was not her time.  I wonder if it is her time now.  Lord, I pray, Mom’s breathing is so bad, please take her quickly.  Please don’t let her suffer.

I sit there and think about a conversation we had just the previous week.  I, as her Avon lady, supply Mom with all things beauty.  She says in her thick N’Awlins accent, “Dawlin, I need some of that Natural Beige Cream to Powder Foundation.  I’m almost out.”  I re-assured her that I had a compact waiting.  My Mom has the tiniest face, but for some reason, she sops this stuff up.  My big, round face does not use the exact same product in the short span of time she does.  Maybe her 95 years of well deserved wrinkles need extra foundation, I don’t know.  This thought carries me even further back, 37 years, to a conversation I had with my dying sister in the hospital.  I was an Avon lady back then also.  I told my sister to order anything she wanted out of the book and I was getting it for her.  I was desperate to keep the conversation as normal as possible.  My sister didn’t even look at the book.  We both knew she wasn’t getting out the hospital.  Was history repeating itself.  As with my sister, would my last conversation with my Mom be about Avon?

I am trying to prepare my sister that Mom is not coming home from the hospital.  My sister keeps nudging my Mom to open her eyes and look at us.  She tries.  She even nods sometimes to our questions.  Mom’s little hands, with her painted red nails, are so swollen, and leaking fluid.  My Mom is leaking.  Why is my Mom leaking?  Mom’s don’t leak.  The nurse explains this is her body getting rid of excess fluid.

My mind drifts back again, probably about 46 years.  My Mom came home from the doctor and said she had diverticulitis.  I grabbed our “D” encyclopedia and looked it up.  I was terrified because the encyclopedia said my mom could die.  I told her that.  She said, “No Dawlin, I just need to watch what I eat.”  When you are from N’Awlins, how do you stop eating Corn & Crab Bisque soup?  You don’t, and you end up in the hospital over the years off and on.  Then you end up in the hospital with scar tissue from severe diverticulitis, have to have a colostomy, right after you just had a cancerous kidney removed.  See Momma, I told you this diverticulitis could kill you – the dictionary told me so at 10 years old – just took 46 years – but it is happening.

We try to make sure my step-dad is eating and resting.   His daughter and family are terribly worried about him.  My husband fries him chicken tenders, mashed potatoes, gravy, Ceaser salad and deadly corn.  Paw eats and tears up as he tells us before the last surgery, my Mom told him to kiss her on the lips because she was probably going to die.  My husband said don’t count Mom out.  She is a tough little lady.  But me and Paw are not holding out hope.

That very same night, I found out a childhood friend had died.  I sit on my Mom’s porch looking across the street at my old neighbor’s house.  Another momma in this neighborhood is going to bury a child.  And this one, like my Mom, will now have lost two children.  The Angel of Death is surely lurking over our old neighborhood.  My heart is so terribly heavy.

The next morning, Paw is heading to hospital.  He picks up his WWII Veteran cap and his Retired U.S. Navy cap, holding one in each hand.  What is going on in that adorable, little bald head of his?  Is he wondering which cap will make him look most dapper?  He decides on one and heads out with tears in his eyes.  Lots of us descend upon the hospital.  Me, my sister, step-sister, her daughters, one son-in-law and our step-brother.  We are all gathered around my unresponsive Mom.

Eventually, we end up chatting about everyday stuff.  My crafty sister and the crafty niece start discussing embroidery machines and how she will go to the crafty niece’s house to show her how to use it.  Me and the non-crafty niece said we will join in and drink Bloody Mary’s that the nephew-in-law will make.  Then, a miracle happens.  Mom is turning her head this way and that, like she is trying to listen to the conversation.  We ask her to open her eyes.  She does.  She looks at all of us.  She responds to our questions – somewhat. She tries to smile.  The nurses are shocked.  The nurses said she obviously needed everyone around her.  I guess Mom wanted an audience.  Heart rate went up, oxygen levels went up. We are cautiously rejoicing.  Other family members came throughout the day – grandaughter – great grandaughters.  With each visitor, Mom responded even more.

That evening, the nurses are turning my Mom and trying to get her to respond.  Mom opens her eyes and asks, “Am I alive?  I thought I was dead.”  We leave the hospital with better spirits.  The nurse said he would call during the night if anything happened.

At almost midnight, the phone rings.  Paw and I almost have a heart attack.  Turns out it was a nun friend that didn’t realize the time.  Phew.

The next morning, Paw picks up both caps again, picks one, and said “Well, we made it through another night. I am dreading heading in.  I am afraid your mom will be unresponsive again.”  Well not so.  The drain tube was removed.  The oxygen mask was removed and replaced with the nostril tubes.  Oxygen and BP were higher.  They are feeding her warm broth through her feeding tube.  Mom was opening her eyes more, responding more, excited to see her grandson and more great-grandchildren.  Then she yells out loudly, “WATER, WATER, WATER.  Swab my mouth.”  We all almost jumped out of our skins.  The doctors and nurses are astounded at this turnaround.

Yes the odds are against her, but my Mom has met the odds many times and showed them who was boss.