My Harper Valley PTA Momma

Back in the late 60s, my sister and I were students at a Catholic school.  My sister, Kris, was in 8th grade.  Parties were the rage then.  They were innocent parties during innocent times.  But someone, I do not recall who, maybe the nuns, got the notion there should not be any parties, at anyone’s house.

This did not sit well with my strong-willed Momma at all!  AT ALL!

Mom had Kris and I later in life, so she wasn’t a spring-chicken, push over Momma.  She was set in her ways and knew what she wanted for her family.  Momma was mature enough to smell bull-doo and wipe it clean when necessary.

Momma marched to that PTA meeting, and listened to the nuns and some parents proclaim a decree that there will be no private parties held at anyone’s house.  When all was said and done, my Momma went all Harper Valley PTA on the congregation (minus the mini-skirt).  You younger folks will have to google Harper Valley PTA.

Momma said there will be a party at her house the next Saturday.  The entire 8th grade was invited, so were all the parents, all the nuns and the priest.  The party-nayers were incensed and all started speaking at one time.  Momma stood firm, said they do not pay her house note, she was having a party and if the nuns and Father Poche didn’t like it, they could all GO TO HELL!

With that, Momma turned her back, walked out, got home, and started prepping to have a party for my sister’s class.  Kids came (I don’t think any parents came), I spied on them from the kitchen (such an aggravating little sister), and a fun time was had by all.

I thought we were going to be plagued by crickets, or something, after my Momma telling the nuns and Father Poche to go to hell.  But we weren’t and my Momma and Father Poche remained very good friends until the day he died.  He would always say, “Gladys, remember when you told all of us to go to hell?”

By the time I made it to 8th grade at the same school and had parties, no one, and I MEAN NO ONE, questioned my Mother on this.

Today, Momma and Father Poche are buried across the hall from each other in the local mausoleum.  And I bet they are up in heaven still laughing at this story.

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.

Life of a Strong Woman

Mom called me from her ICU room this morning to wish me happy birthday.  Ironically, she was in the same hospital 56 years ago today delivering me.  Her little 95 year old self sounded so frail and tired.  But I know the iron and steel behind that frail sound.  Momma has been a fighter since the day she took her first breath and has lived to witness much happiness, lots of tragedy, and almost a century of history.

Late December 1921, when Warren G. Harding was the 29th president of the United States, my mom was making a two month premature entrance into this world.  The doctor and the mid-wife were at my grandmother’s house.  A lifeless, tiny one pound baby girl came into this world.  The midwife put the dead baby into a shoe box and returned to tend to my grandmother.  Once finished, the midwife was about to prepare the baby for burial when she noticed the tiny baby kicking and full of life.  1921, no neonatal, no oxygen tents, no major medical advancements, this little miracle survived and became a full-fledged fighter.  While that little baby was making her entrance, the U.S. Supreme Court had just ruled labor injunctions and picketing unconstitutional.  People were flocking to see The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which vaulted Rudolph Valentino to stardom (maybe because he did that sexy tango dance in a smoke filled Argentian cantina), and the kids were dancing to  I Ain’t Got Nobody by Miss Marion Harris, and Ain’t We Got Fun by Van & Schenck.

Valentino’s sexy tango was nothing compared to my mom’s parents going through a divorce in the late 20s.  Scandalous.  Her daddy left her, a little sister, a sick baby brother and a good wife, all for wayward women.  That left an impression on my mother all the way to this day.  This made her fight for everyone she loved, to keep them close and protect them from the hurt she felt as a child.

The Great Depression came, but being poor was nothing new.  After her dad left, the family, once thriving and financially fit, was thrust into a world of poverty.  But my mother only grew stronger.

In 1939, mom graduated high school at 17 and married my daddy.  Franklin D. Roosevelt was the 32nd president of the United States.  Lisa Meitner, a Jewish woman in exile in Sweden, published her discovery of nuclear fission, otherwise known as atom splitting.  The United States declared its neutrality regarding the war in Europe.  Kids were dancing to Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday, When the Saints Go Marching in by Louis Armstrong and crooning to Over the Rainbow by Judy Garland and Moonlight Serenade by Glenn Miller.  My mom and her friends flocked to see Gone With the Wind to hear Rhett Butler say that famous phrase with the curse word, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

The 1940s came, growing my mom’s family and taking my daddy off to WWII.  My mom was told she would never have children, that her insides were too small and deformed from being a preemie.  That didn’t stop my momma.  In 1944, while WWII was raging and FDR was re-elected, making him the only U.S. president elected to serve a 4th term, momma delivered a bouncing baby boy.  The favored movie that year was Arsenic and Old Lace about two sweet old spinster sisters poisoning lonely gentlemen callers and burying them in the cellar.  The last line of the film was censored and changed from “I’m a bastard” to “I’m the son of a sea cook.”  Kids were dancing to Swinging on a Star by Bing Crosby and the Trolly Song by Judy Garland.

In 1948, my mom thought her family was complete when they welcomed a daughter into the fold.  Harry S. Truman was the 33rd president of the United States, and he ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Korea (to be completed in 1949).  Ella Fitzgerald sang Tea Leaves and Judy Garland starred in Easter Parade.

The 1950s brought some surprises.  In 1956, Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III of Monaco, and the Methodist Church opened fully ordained clergy status to women and called for an end to segregation within the denomination.  And 8 years after they thought their family was complete with a boy and a girl, mom and dad welcomed the birth of a 3rd child, their second daughter.  Surely this was the final child and the baby of the family.  Dwight D. Eisenhower, our 34th president, was re-elected.  The movies to catch that year were Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The King & I, and the Ten Commandments.  Doris Day sang Que Sera Sera and Elvis Presley shocked audiences with his grinding hips while singing Heartbreak Hotel. My mom thought he was so vulgar.

So if mom and dad thought the 50s brought surprises, they were in for it in the 60s.  Six years after their little bundle of joy, my mom was sick and not getting better.  She finally went to the doctor for tests.  The doctor later called her and asked, “Gladys, you really don’t know what is wrong with you.?”  She said “no I don’t and you are scaring me.”  He said, “You are pregnant.”  Momma cried.  She said this baby will be in kindergarten and she will be walking with a cane.  My daddy couldn’t believe he was going to have kids going on dates while a baby still played on the floor.  They accepted this fact and just knew they were having a baby boy, which they would christen Matthew.  Surprise again.  Their 4th child and 3rd girl was born.  John F. Kennedy was our 35th president, the U. S. broke diplomatic relations with Cuba and East Germany erected the Berlin Wall. Breakfast at Tiffany’s and West Side Story were the popular movies and Patsy Cline was rising to fame, signing I Fall to Pieces.

In 1962, their son graduated high school and joined the Franciscan Seminary. In 1963 a horrible tragedy struck and Kennedy was assassinated.  In 1965, their oldest daughter got married.  But a terrible tragedy close to home was about to happen.  In 1967, their oldest child, their only son, would succumb to throat cancer.  While movie goers were being shocked by The Graduate, and young girls were fainting at the sight of The Beatles, my mom was burying her first born.

My momma’s heart was pierced.  Mom had a picture of the Blessed Mother hanging in her room.  Mary’s heart was pierced by a small sword.  That picture used to scare me until my mom said it was a representation of how Mary’s heart felt after the crucifixion of her son and how her heart felt after losing Eric. Well now I was terrified by that  picture.  Whatif my mom died of heartbreak and left me?  After that I was truly protective of my mom’s heart.  I was so afraid of her fracturing.  But my mom was tough – a true steel magnolia.  In 1968, when Robert Kennedy was assassinated, I saw tears streaming down my mom’s face.  The pain on her face was so raw.  I knew she was thinking about Eric.  I was so heartbroken for her.  But she plowed on and tried to make things as normal as possible for us.

Onward to the 70s, and we were hoping for a calm decade.  In 1975, as President Ford (our 38th president) announced that the Vietnam War was “finished as far as America is concerned.” He said that “the fate of responsible men and women everywhere, in the final decision, is in their own hands, not ours.”  We were rather oblivious to this though because my oldest sister was about to give birth.  My mom and dad were having their very first grandchild, a little girl.  Such exciting times.  Jaws and Rocky Horror Picture show were the box office hits, and John Denver was thankful he was a country boy.  At the end of the decade, mom’s 3rd child was preparing to get married, and her 4th child was going to graduate from high school.  Things were looking bright (except that Jimmy Carter was our 39th president).  But fate would try to smack down my momma again.  As people were watching Alien and dancing to Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop Until You Get Enough, my mom was burying her husband of 39 years.

In 1980 mom welcomed another grandchild, but also found out her 2nd born (and 1st daughter) had cancer.  How can that be?  How can fate deal this.  My mom lost one child to cancer, and now another had this horrid disease.  This just could not be.  But it was.  We lost Donna in 1981.  While the world impatiently waited to find out Who Shot J.R., my mom was burying a 2nd child.

Life moved on.  Mom married off her youngest child (me!) in 1982, welcomed two more grandchildren in 1985 and 1988, and married a wonderful man – our neighbor.  I told her that brought on a whole new meaning to Love thy Neighbor.  We welcomed new siblings and grandchildren to the family, faced the deaths of mom’s mother, her aunts, her sister and her brother.  Now it is just mom and her sister 11 years younger than her.  And that youngest sister has developed dementia these past few years.  My mom is the lone one standing out of her siblings – the oldest – and still kicking.

Mom was born when the United States had only seen 29 presidents and she recently just watched the swearing in of the 45th president.  She has lived through highs and death blow lows.  I truly believe had my mom not had me or my sister late in life, she would have succumbed to sadness after the death of her second child.  Eric died at 23, Donna died at 33.  The year Kris turned 43, my mom cried the entire year, fully expecting to lose another child.  Alas, the spell was broken and mom didn’t even wince when I turned 53.  Mom never expected to see me, her baby, grow up.  But she has surpassed that. She has watched me become a senior citizen and has seen her great grandchildren.

Yes she called me from ICU this morning, but she is going to recover fully and live to be 100 just like she promised me.

God Knew We Needed a Cat

I never liked cats.  I wouldn’t touch one, much less own one. My two best friends from school (KB and PO) loved cats.  I’m surprised that friendship endured.  One of my more serious boyfriends, who I envisioned of marrying one day, loved cats.  That sunk that deal.  My kids never asked for a cat.  I figured they didn’t like cats either, or was it because they knew their momma would explode if they asked for a cat.

And then………grandkids come along.  My oldest grandson has persistently asked for a cat.  My persistent reply was, “No, no, no, let me think about it, no.”

He’s 12….he now owns a cat, several cats.

You see….while I was busy living my life like I thought it should be…..God was working another deal.  On Easter Eve, a very pregnant cat showed up on our porch begging for food.  We live in a rural area with only two neighbors (who did not own this cat).  We have 300 empty acres behind us.  Where did this cat come from?  But we had to feed her.  We couldn’t turn away a pregnant mommy.  I called the SPCA about bringing her in.  They said, “We don’t like taking pregnant cats.”  My reply, “Neither do I.”  They replied, “Well you have to make an appointment to bring her in, or it will cost you $20 to drop her off, and we don’t have any more appointments open today.”  My thought was, great, come Monday, I will probably have a herd of cats to drop off.

We fed and watered her.  The two grandkids living with me kept vigilance over her that day.  And guess what happened that night?  Yes, she went into labor.  The grandkids kept running to me giving me updates.  I would not go outside because I did not want to see.  My husband stayed up with her until 3:00 a.m. until all kittens were born, making sure momma cat was okay (Dear Husband doesn’t like cats either).

Easter morning.  I wake up to a basket of momma cat and 6 babies.  Good grief.  I started that moment preparing the kids that as soon as the kittens were able to go, go they would, and the momma would go too.  The momma cat didn’t like my Frank the Faux Pug.  Frank is king at my house.

And then……we named her.  Momma cat was now named Clara, after Dr. Who’s last companion.  We even said it with a British accent.  I posted pictures of Clara and her brood asking who wanted kittens in a few weeks.  One friend, a non-cat owner, immediately claimed one.  Thank you so much RHK!  The kitten would be named Begniet.

And then……one kitten died.  My grandkids had dubbed it Runt.  Runt was buried with ceremony on our property – which is turning into a regular pet cemetery.

The days were passing and the grandkids had a name for each kitten.  12 year old named one Whiney because it was vocal and full of meows.  I was furiously posting on FB for people to adopt these kittens.

And then…….I noticed my grandkids were outside more….off the computers…..off the tablet…….off the TV…….outside laughing, cuddling kittens.  I started looking at the kittens.  They were so darn cute with their antics.  We were quite entertained.  And the kittens were tolerant of Frank the Faux Pug.  12 year old resigned himself to the fact the cats would leave and asked me if I would only give them to someone we know because he wanted to know how they grew up and to make sure they were treated right.  My mind conjured an image of someone adopting Whiney, driving away, and 12 year old waving goodbye.  Broke my heart.  I spoke to Dear Husband (DH) about keeping Whiney and letting the 9 year old pick a kitten for herself.  It was agreed upon and we broke the news to the kids.  They were super excited.

I started noticing a change in my grandson.  12 year old is severely ADHD, a label I never believed in.  I always thought people who medicated their children were just lazy and didn’t want to discipline their child.  While that may be the case in some, God showed me that was not an attitude to take.  We, as his family, always saw a compassionate side in this child, but his wild streak dominated, wreaking havoc in home life and school.  My grandson’s compassionate side was growing beyond belief while nurturing these kittens.

Begneit was adpoted and is happily living with the RHK family.  No one asked for the other cats.  DH admitted defeat and said we will keep them all, including Clara.  Next order of business, spaying all the females.

While my skin still crawls when a cat brushes up my leg, and I go into orbit if one wraps its tail around me, I have resigned myself to the fact that I am now that lady – The Cat Lady.  (I liked it just being called The Avon Lady – what the deal?)

We dropped the British accent and now Clara is just plain old Clara, the American Calico Cat.  But I added a middle name.  She is now Clara Grace.  By the Grace of God, Clara showed up on my porch, pregnant and hungry.  By the Grace of God, Clara has pulled us away from our busy lives and we now sit on the porch all together laughing at Whiney, Skittles, Rae and Nix.  By the Grace of God, my grandson is becoming this nurturing, sweet little fellow.  By the Grace of God……..