I Haven’t Taken a Bath Since 2014

Yes, I figured that title would grab you.  Yes, it is true – since October 2014 to be specific.  A sit down bath that is.  I have not taken a sit down bath since my bi-lateral total knee replacement in October 2014 – 33 months!  Most of my fellow knee-warriors know this experience.  The fear is real people!

We have a very small tub here at Spooky Hollow Southern MS.  The shower portion is handicap accessible (done by my husband to take care of his klutzy wife), but the tub portion is not.  The only way for me to get out has been to kneel and slither out like a snake.  Well ouchy – I cannot kneel on my metal knees because that still hurts!  The fear is real people!

Oh how I wanted a bath.  Things have been rather stressful here at Spooky Hollow and I wanted to soak.  While a shower is cleaner, a good, long soak in hot water can do wonders for the mind, the headaches and the blood pressure.

AND, being the Avon lady, I have a bevy of bubble bath scents at my disposal (Endless Ocean, Cherry Blossom, Vanilla Cream, Cucumber & Melon, Lily & Honeysuckle – to name a few).  I stock up on these for so many uses besides in the tub.  However, this is a favorite of my grandchildren – and thank you Lord for that.  Did you know as the Avon bubble bath is cleaning your kids, it is cleaning your tub also?  Yes – so true!  No ring around the tub.  You get a twofer – clean kids – clean tub.

I keep multiple scents for multiple uses.  See a small compilation below:

  1. Use to wash down the tub surround, shower walls and doors (Mix baking soda, Avon Bubble Bath & vinegar).
  2. Leaves bathroom fixtures shining.
  3. Cleans the vanity top, cabinets, any surfaces, even your walls.
  4. Can replace your body wash.
  5. Good refill for liquid soap, it’s mild on hands – THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITES!
  6. Helps reduce toilet bowl build up. Place 1 cap full in the tank every week.
  7. Can be used to hand wash dishes in the sink. DO NOT use in a dishwasher.
  8. Clean the fridge inside and out. It will help remove odors.
  9. Use as a laundry detergent and you no longer need a fabric softener. 1 cap full is all that’s needed to do a great job and to remove stains.
  10. Great for hand-washing delicate items. Miserly substitute for Woolite.  I like the Sensitive Skin Bubble Bath for this.
  11. Pre-treat stained items. Just dab the stain with bubble bath and let sit 10 minutes. Then wash as normal.
  12. Will clean your jewelry.
  13. Use to clean your eyeglasses.
  14. Add to the children’s wading pool to keep the pool clean.
  15. Add to cleaning water for cars, campers or trailers. (interior and exterior surfaces)
  16. Use to test tires, blow up pools or gas lines for leaks.
  17. Use as Snail Repellent  in the garden – mix equal parts water and bubble bath and spray on flowers. Do not spray directly on edible plants, spray soil around base.

BUT now I wanted to use my bubble bath for a relaxing soak, specifically the Lavender Garden.  DANG IT!  What’s a girl to do?  Well since I didn’t have a hoist readily available in my bathroom, I used the next best thing – my cell phone.  Yes, I brought my cell phone into the bathroom, just in case I got stuck.  What?  I needed a plan of attack to take the plunge – literally.

As advertised on my Avon website (YourAvon.com/ghegwood):

Bring the spa treatment home with the Lavender Garden Bubble Bath. Soak yourself in bliss and soothe your senses with the fresh aromas of lavender and chamomile. This relaxing bubble bath is great for daily use and its long-lasting bubbles stay the duration of your soak. Comes in 24 fl. oz. bottle.

BENEFITS
• Relaxing bubble bath calms mind and body with fresh scents and long-lasting bubbles
• Up to 24 bubbly baths per bottle
• Dermatologist tested

I started the water, I poured in the bubbles, I smelled the heavenly scent, I was about take the point of no return.  Momentum was building.  In my mind I heard drums beating – maybe it was my heart.  Get in, get in quickly – before you change your mind (said the little devil perched on my shoulder).  I hesitated before I stepped in.  I put a toe in, I pulled a toe out, I shook it all about.  I turned around to run from the temptation.  Slowly I turned.  I put a toe in, an ankle in – then I went for it – I took the plunge.  Aaaaah!  That relaxing moment.  Life was good.  Like turning off the faucet, I had to turn off my mind as to how I was going to get out of the tub.

I relaxed.  Tension starting melting away.  The headache was going away.  Life was good.

UNTIL……

Until it was time to get out.  I starting letting the water out and started wrestling the exodus from the bathtub.  I could not stand up like normal people, because – well those that know me – you know I am not normal.  The bottom of my tub is much higher than the bathroom floor.  I threw my legs over the ledge of the tub, but my feet didn’t reach the floor.  I sat there scrunched like that a while, like someone put me in a fold-a-way bed and closed it on me.  I was trying to figure out a way of slithering out without having to put weight on my metal knee.  By now, the water was gone and I was getting cold.  My attempted exits lasted as long as my 20 minute soak.  Finally, I had to do it.  I had to put weight on one knee to get out of the tub.  Oh did that hurt.  And so did my back and neck from all the stretching and craning I was doing trying to get out of the tub.  Man oh man, I needed a good epsom salt tub soak now to relieve sore muscles.

Was it worth it?  You bet your sweet bippy.  In this hectic world we live in today, a 20-minute Avon bubble bath infused soak is a must.  Lesson learned:  Next time I bring in a thick piece of foam to kneel on for my exodus!

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Death of a Strong Woman

I heard it.  I wanted to pretend I didn’t hear it.  That ringing of the phone in the middle of the night could only mean one thing.  I didn’t want to answer it.  I wanted to live in a world a little longer of where my Mom was alive.  But, alas, I had to answer.  Yes, she is gone.  Mom slipped away in the wee morning hours, holding Paw’s hand.

I was oddly at peace.  But I know why.  God’s promise – that is why.  The most important lesson Mom taught us was Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins, and believing and trusting that, we would have eternal life in heaven.  I can temporarily step out of my selfish grief and rejoice for Mom for the reunion she is having now.  I know there are days of tears and pain ahead, but God’s promise and love will pull me through this.

1 John 2:25New King James Version (NKJV)

25 And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.

Mom was – oh how strange that sounds – ‘was’ – past tense – Mom was a fierce defender of her family.  She prayed so hard for us.  Now I know I have a tiny, mighty champion in heaven, and that is comforting.

I choose not to look at Mom’s death like a terrible burden of sadness.  She is free.  She is free of anxiety and worry that plagued her.  She is free of pain from a 95 year old body.  Momma is hugging her son and daughter that she has missed for so long.  It is Eric and Donna’s turn now.  They are having a heavenly reunion with our Momma and that brings me true joy.

 

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.

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.

Frank the Faux Pug, Part 2

For months I knew it was getting closer and closer to the time we would have to put Frank the Faux Pug down.  I dreaded that day.  I teared up every time I thought about losing him.  You see,  Frank was my constant companion for 16.5 years.  He chose me as his person.  I was his voice to defend him and protect him from ‘those mean people who tried to correct him.’  My rule was no one was allowed to fuss at Frank or correct him.  Yes, he was my spoiled baby and I was his person.

I prepared myself so much that when this day came, I was clinical, I was numb, I was ready to see Frank out of pain.  But obviously, the rest of the family was not clinical, or prepared.  My 12-year old grandson was brave enough to carry Frank in his arms and put him on the table for that final shot.  And then he was shattered.  The tears came in like the mighty Mississippi River overflowing her banks.

I am a puddle of mush when I see someone cry.  I may not know what they are crying about, but I will join in.  So my tears were more for my grandson than for Frank the Faux Pug.  I was clinical and numb to the process by now.

My husband, myself and my grandson arrived back home with our lifeless Frank the Faux Pug.  My son and granddaughter barreled out of the house with tear streaked faces to give Frank a final hug and kiss.  My 10 year old granddaughter was wailing and shaking with grief.  I cried for her and my son (who was supposed to be Frank’s person, but Frank chose me) because I was clinical and numb to the process by now.

The funeral procession marched to the backyard by the blueberry bush, Frank the Faux Pug’s final resting place.  More hugs, final goodbyes and crying.  The family group hug as Frank was being buried brought on more sobs.  I cried for them because I was clinical and numb to the process by now.

I gathered my grandchildren close as we walked back into the house.  They were a sobbing mess and I hurt so bad for them.  They were already feeling the pain of a life without Frank the Faux Pug.  I was okay because I was clinical and numb to the process by now.

By bedtime, I was more weary than everyone else.  But that is nothing unusual.  Frank the Faux Pug and I always retired first.  He would let me get about 6″ of the mattress, then he would perform his ritual of 3 turns and plop against my back.  This was our nightly routine.  I could immediately drop off to sleep once Frank was firmly planted against my back.  Then we would wake up in the morning hugging each other.  We shared a pillow.  I would lay in the darkness of my bedroom petting Frank.  This moment was always my calm before the storm of a new day.

This morning was different.  I awoke hugging a stuffed giraffe.  My husband told me our grandson brought this in after I fell asleep and tucked it up against my back.  My grandson – who is usually a terror – who always writes the word ‘poop’ on the foggy bathroom mirror after his shower – who always sticks his fingers in candle & scentsy wax and messes it up, even after constant admonishment – who poured baby powder in front of a running fan and covered the entire room with powder dust – who took Vaseline and rubbed it over all the faucets in the bathroom – who also has a heart of gold.  My grandson knew that come morning time, I would  not be clinical and numb to the process.

I was clinical and numb to the process of putting Frank the Faux Pug down.  But I am not clinical and numb to life without him.  As I lay in my darkened bedroom this morning, petting a stuffed giraffe, I was having the calm before the storm of a life without Frank my Faux Pug.

Frank the Faux Pug

Oh how my son wanted a pug to name Frank after seeing Men in Black.  He talked about that constantly.  This was in 1997.  In 2000, we finally relented.  My son was turning 15 and someone had pug puppies for sale in the local paper.  Welcome to the family!  Frank was so tiny.  He would fit in the palm of one hand.

And he was sick. Very sick.  We did not buy him from a true dog breeder.  He was full of fleas and sick.  We almost lost our newest family member.  But thank God for vets.

Then Frank grew a nose.  What?  He was supposed to be a pug!  He had bulgy pug eyes, the curly pug tail, an adorable pug personality.  But where did the nose come from?  Oh well, something else was in the woodpile, but we loved Frank no matter what.  Who cares if our pug was a faux pug.

Like all 15 year old kids, my son’s attention span was everywhere besides Frank.  So Frank decided I was his person.  He was my constant companion, my shadow, my confidante.  If I sat, he had to be touching me.  When we lay down to go to bed he had to be touching me.  I carried Frank everywhere.  A friend jokingly said the little succor had no legs.

One day, as was usual in my house, my children had many friends over.  Three times I found either the front door or back door open and all of our dogs outside.  Three times I fussed at all the teens for leaving the doors open.  They swore up and down they didn’t.  I said, well who did, the Holy Ghost?  Who could have known Frank the Faux Pug was the Holy Ghost.  I walked into the foyer to find Frank standing on two legs and repeatedly hitting the door handle with his two front paws until the door opened – and out ran all the dogs.  Well now this became true entertainment.  Every party we held, Frank the Faux Pug had to show everyone his trick.

Frank had another trick.  I would say ‘catch your tail.’  He would glance backwards to see if his tail was watching.  If he thought it was watching, he quickly turned away.  When he thought the coast was clear, and that his tail had no idea he was coming after it, Frank would start spinning like a top.  He thought he was as sly as a fox, but he never caught that tail.

While recovering from bilateral total knee replacement starting in October 2014, I was on short term disability for 3 months.  My only job was to focus on recovery.  Frank’s only job was to be my constant companion. He cuddled me every time I cried out in pain.  I swear he cheered me on through physical therapy.  He rested when I rested.  Frank did his job well.

We held Frank’s funeral at dusk today.  He crossed the rainbow bridge at 16.5 years of age.  My two oldest grandchildren, 12 and 10, made no attempt at hiding their tears as we walked from the house to Frank’s final resting place by the blueberry bush.  Frank was their best friend.  They knew Frank their entire little lives.  Me, the grands and my son stood in a circle and cried, while Paw Paw buried his little buddy with tears in his eyes.

Frank will rest peacefully on Spooky Hollow ground, along with Furry Murray the Donkey, Precious the Yorkie, and a scattering of chickens.

Rest in peace Frank my Faux Pug.  Your person misses you more than you could ever know.