TIME TRAVELING…through my journals

March 25, 1984
Kennewick, Washington

Paul lost his job January 4. There’s no work around here, so the last week of February, he left for California. He’s been working out of the San Francisco Union Hall since then.

Between February and March, two sinks stopped up, the TV broke, my food budget went from $60 a week to $60 a month. My fridge broke down and I lost everything in the freezer and the fridge. Robin was in the hospital for four days. All four children took turns being sick. For two weeks I didn’t get a full night’s sleep for taking care of sick, feverish, throwing up children.

They threatened to shut off my phone, power, and water for lack of payment. I’ve been out of money, out of gas, and out of fresh fruit and veggies all at the same time. I borrowed money from Gram and Mom to buy medicine, and food, and gas for my car.

Paul called and told me to rent the house in and get ready to move to California.

When the house rented, we moved in with Lan and Floyd and stayed there until I saved enough money to move. Floyd with two women and nine children. What an adventure.

November14, 1984
Wenatchee, Washington

I’m 33 years old today. I didn’t expect a party, and I didn’t get one. I had a Girl Scout Investiture Ceremony planned for my Brownie Troop. It’s my last meeting before we move. This is such a good group of girls. I hate leaving them.

When I got home, there were presents for me on the table. What a surprise! A Christmas cookie cutter set. A stationary set. A tape of children’s’ Christmas songs. It was lovely.

I was hoping Paul would call. It doesn’t look like he will. I guess I’ll go to sleep.

Happy Birthday to me – 33!

November 14, 2004
Roy, Washington

I’m 53 years old today! And I’m a junior at Evergreen State College in Olympia. What was I thinking? This is crazy. I’m crazy.

And yet. Here I am.

The best part of my life is that I’m in my little cottage parked in Katie and Josh’s drive way. I love being this close to the kids. I love visiting the grand kids and watching them navigate the world. I love being part of a multi-generational home.

I may be older than everyone in all my classes, including the instructors, but I’m definitely not smarter. Having said that, I do have knowledge … dare I say wisdom … gained from years lived. I want to tell some of those kids, “Pay attention, you guys. This is the easy part of your life. Take a breath. Enjoy.” I guess that understanding comes from time and experience.

We had cake and ice cream. Everyone loves cake and ice cream.  

November 14, 2017
Wenatchee, Washington

I’m 66 years old today. A couple of friends took me and Mom to lunch at Applebee’s. We had such a good time. The kids called and wished me “Happy Birthday.” That was lovely.

Today I’m good. I feel like I’m finally coming together. It’s been a really hard couple of years.

My family – they are what’s good and noble in my life.

Mom is my best friend. She listens to me rant, laughs when I’m goofy, and loves me no matter what. I adore her.

Zian is amazing. He doesn’t know how smart he is. He’s a bit of a whiner, but he helps me around the house and makes me laugh.

My children are the most amazing human beings. They’re wonderful, kind, good parents, good friends, good human beings. I’m proud of them.

My grandchildren own my heart. They make me happy. They’re humans becoming, and it’s a miracle to witness.

Lan and Floyd, Steve and Harriet, Rob and Shari … they help me stay connected to this world when I would float away. They are examples of work, perseverance, and overcoming. They are my heroes.  

My friends expand my world. Sometimes, I have a bad day and think I’m having a bad life. They help me see … nope … it’s just a bad day.

There’s so much to love about my life.

Happy Birthday to me.

November 14, 2020
Wenatchee, Washington

I’m 69 years old today. I thought it would be more traumatic. Instead, it makes me laugh. Yay! Here I am. Still breathing.

A couple days ago I got the chance to teach a class to about 15 kids from ages about 15 to 5. A friend asked me to do a one-hour presentation on karate.

I haven’t been to karate class since Mom’s diagnosis in March. I’m not sure they’re holding in-person classes, yet. Showing the kids a few basic karate moves and talking about karate’s history makes me homesick for class. I need to get over my funk and get back if I’m going to make black belt before I turn 75.

Everyone needs a goal, right?

That’s what kept Mom going for so long. She was a woman with a plan.

She announced, “I’m going to physical therapy so I can get stronger. I’m going to get out of this wheel chair and walk with my walker down to the beach when we go in October. I want to go to Arizona next spring. And we need to make reservations for our June camping trip to the coast so we get a good spot.”

She had her life planned into next year … no wonder it took her so long to leave this world. She was too darn busy.

She was an excellent example.

When there’s a break in the snowfall, I want to sneak over to see the kids. And in the spring, visit them more. And maybe take a week end trip to Idaho to visit friends. And Arizona some time in the next year. And next summer, maybe I can make my garden grow. And of course, get back into karate class as soon as possible. And take lessons, so I can learn to play Lan’s piano that’s now sitting in my living room. And this week, get all these apples dried. And get my massage practice up and running again.

I may be 69 years old today, but I’ll have to wait until my next birthday to act like an old lady. I’m too busy right now. No, I’ll have wait until after I get my black belt in karate.

Then maybe I’ll consider acting like an old lady. Maybe this is exactly how old ladies act.

Happy Birthday to me.

Me and Elvis

I know I’m entering the end stage of my life. I’m trying to figure out how to navigate this most interesting time. When I was younger, I was so sure of myself. I was busy all the time. But now…not so much.

Back then, husband, children, parents, in-laws, out-laws, family, friends, and the Lord filled every moment of every day.

When things changed, I grew a career. Cared for other people. Learned so many new things about myself and life.

The children grew up. Gave me beautiful grandchildren. Moved away.

An empty house wasn’t nearly as fun as I thought it would be. But I stayed busy. It didn’t bother me much.

When Dad was ill, I had the time to help care for him. He left the earth ten years ago.

After Mom moved in with me, we had a great time. She struggled with so many things, but always bounced back. I was sure she always would.

One morning, death snuck in when no one was looking and made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.

She’s been gone two months. It seems my heart is still draining a bucket of tears. I don’t have any idea how long it will take for my tear-bucket to be empty.

I’m sitting here alone wondering ‘what now?’ I’m not ready to buy a plot and retire from life.

I feel like I’ve been dropped into a foreign country where I don’t know the language. I don’t understand the culture. I can’t figure out how to maneuver through the streets, the experiences, and the emotions that permeate my life these days.

I’m splashing around in unfamiliar waters. Maintaining a family with growing children took so much time and energy. Maintaining a career took a lot of time and energy. Caring for sick and dying parents took an immense amount of time and energy.

And now it’s just me.

I confess that living a quiet life was a fantasy of mine. After enduring ten years of babies in diapers, raising four hormonal teenage aliens, and watching eleven grandchildren come into the world; my life was continuously full of laughter and crisis and movement.

I dreamed of having the time to do the things I wanted to do instead of fulfilling, and sometimes failing, in my many and diverse responsibilities.

However, now that I have endless days, it’s not nearly as exciting as I thought it would be. I didn’t think this ‘alone’ thing would be so hard. I didn’t factor into my fantasy the constraints of dealing with an aging body that sags and drags and aches in odd places.

When I was 20 years old, I made a list of 100 things I wanted to do before I die. I thought it was a fairly reasonable list. I figured that the 60 to 80 years I had ahead, a seemingly endless number of years from my childish perspective, was plenty of time to complete my list.

I guess I’ll cross off ‘become an astronaut.’ I no longer want to back pack around Europe. Or hike across the United States. Elvis is dead, so that dream date will never happen.

I acknowledge that I need a new list. An almost 70-year-old woman can still function in the world of dreams. I’m sure of it.

What do I want to do? I’ll probably have to pack my new “100 things to do before I die” into the next 10 to 30 years. My mortality looms larger and closer with each passing day.

I’m afraid of many more things, people, and circumstances now than when I was young and invincible. Leaving the house is difficult for me sometimes. I’m no longer brave enough to drive through snow or the threat of a blizzard. I’m suspicious of strangers who knock on my door or call me on the phone. My outside motion sensor light lit up twice last night. I stuck my head out the window to try and hear if someone was siphoning gas from my car.

It was a cat.

On reflection, I realize that one should not stick one’s head out the bathroom window at 3:00 at night to check for bad guys. Duh.

I want to be wise. Not stupid. Not paralyzed.

The dreams I dreamed as a young woman are no longer valid. I finally have time to catch up to myself and look around for new dreams. Is it silly to say that I don’t know what I want to be as I grow older? What’s possible? Where do I start? What if I don’t finish? Does it matter?

There are so many unanswered questions in my life.

What I do know is that it’s finally time for this old lady to make some new dreams.

Onward and upward.

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Pistol Packing Mama

Still Traveling

Mom said:

“I like to go camping. There’s a freedom to getting in the car and speeding down the road. I love sleeping outside. I love cooking over a fire.”

“If I had a time machine, I’d go back to when I was with Frank. We loved our camping trips. We camped solo, with Bill and Rosie, and with Oscar and Mollie. Once we went camping with Lan and Floyd down to a big campground on the Snake River. We slept in the back of our car. They were embarrassed by the quilt we threw over the back window. We thought it was funny.” 

“After Frank died, I went back to that campground by myself. No one else was there. At 3:00 in the morning a party paddle boat came by with music blaring and laughter filling the night. I thought, ‘I need to do that. I’ll bet that’s fun.’”

“When I was married to John, I traveled back east to see Jan at Belleville, Illinois.** I asked John if he wanted to come, but he always said ‘No.’”

“I carried a loaded gun when I traveled. Usually, I hooked the holster over the passenger seat. No one ever bothered me while I was traveling”.

“My car broke down on my trip to Illinois. John had to send me $300 to get it fixed. I was stuck in a closed park for three days. The bathrooms were open.  The police checked on me every day.”

**Mom was 65 years old when she took her solo trip back east.

At 88, she took her last camping trip. Campfire on the beach. Sharing s’mores with strangers. Watching the ocean for hours.

The week before she died she was planning another trip to the beach. She said she wanted to experience the ocean in October.

The explorer in her refused to be denied.


The Brown Binder

My mom died two weeks ago. Since she’s been gone, I feel like I fell down a rabbit hole and there’s no way to climb out.

I can look up and see the light of day far above me, but where I am the light is dim. There are several tunnels going off in different directions. When I look down them, all I see is dark. There are no signs above the doors to tell me where each one goes. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

“This way out.”

“This way to a bottomless abyss.”

“This way to adventure.”

“This way to nowhere.”

I don’t know which way to go or what to do.

Eleven years ago when mom moved in with me, we were both independent women. We traveled alone and together. We came and went as we pleased. We created a new little family unit. It worked.

Her freedom began eroding over time. She developed partial blindness. She couldn’t see to drive or read her books. She couldn’t see to cook or sweep the floors.

She could make her bed. Take care of herself. Fold laundry.

We worked it out.

She spent a week here and there with grandchildren. Week ends with her other children. A trip to Arizona every summer to visit her sister, Mollie.

This spring, she got sick. I took her to the emergency room. They diagnosed her with pneumonia and put her in the hospital for two days. Because of Covid, this was the first time we, her children, couldn’t rally around her.

The next month, she got sick again. I took her to the ER again. Another chest x-ray. The hazy cloud in her lung was in the same place it was last month. More tests. The ER doc said it was probably a tumor and referred her to a lung specialist.

After a biopsy and several scans, she was diagnosed with a tumor in her right lung. Cancer. Because she was a dialysis patient, she wasn’t able to take chemo. She did a series of radiation treatments.

She got sick again. I took her to the ER again. They ran tests. The ER doc said it wasn’t pneumonia or bronchitis. He said they could admit her to the hospital and give her breathing treatments, but really there was nothing else they could do for her.

She responded, “Damned expensive hotel, don’t you think? I want to go home.”

She was put on home oxygen and lived with a canula up her nose for the rest of her life.  

Her primary doctor said she probably had six months to a year to live. The radiologist told her that 50% of the people who get the radiology treatment she was getting die within six months. The other 50% are alive three years after treatment.

She said, “Let’s do it.”

She flunked out of Hospice. Twice. She didn’t want to stop dialysis. Or course not, were they crazy?

She was referred to Home Health. Once a week for six weeks, she saw a physical therapist. She did her exercises and got strong enough to use her walker instead of the wheelchair. A nurse came in and documented her steady weight loss. An occupational therapist taught her how to breathe slowly, inhale smelling a flower, exhale blowing out a candle. This, and some medication they prescribed, were designed to help her manage air hunger.

Air hunger is an ugly, scary thing.

She got better. Then worse. Then better.

In one of her better times, we spent a week in July on the Oregon coast. She loved the coast. We sat on the beach and watched the waves. We had a campfire on the beach and cooked our dinner over the coals. We invited two very cute guys with a toddler to join us roasting marshmallows. They were all darling. It was a good vacation.

Many of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren came to say good-bye. She loved seeing them.

She and I spoke about her death.

She said, “I’m old.”

“I don’t feel good.”

“I miss my one true love.”

“I want to dance again.”

Toward the end of August, she decided she’d start doing her exercises because she wanted to walk with her walker on the beach in October. She was a fighter. She never gave up. She never quit making plans for the future.

Then, she hit a tipping point. She was standing up from her chair when she felt a terrible pain in her ribs. We got her to bed.

That was the night she started the hard work of dying. She still got up to use the bathroom. Then she was too sick to go to dialysis. Missing dialysis is very bad.

For months, members of our tribe came to spend nights with her so I could get some sleep.

In these end times, we flowed in and out of the house all hours of the day and night caring for her. We gave her sips of cold water. A blanket. We talked to her when she opened her eyes. We talked to her while she slept.

She slipped away on Monday afternoon.

I believe there’s a life after this one. I believe her true love, her parents and other family, friends, and grandchildren were there with a giant “welcome to heaven” party. I think she and her true love danced all night.

Today, I’m sitting here in our empty house thinking that I should get up and do something. There’s lots to do. I’ve been puttering since she left. I put all her stuff in her bedroom and locked the door. I’m not ready to erase her from our home. I’ll deal with it all in the spring, maybe. I miss her so much.

This rambling story finally brings me to the Brown Binder.

I’ve been cleaning up my room and I stumbled on it again. I bought the Brown Binder at a thrift store. It’s a 3-inch binder and it was full of blank paper. I decided I wanted to put something on every page. I’ve also stuffed it full of old calendar pages. I found pages dated 2014, 15, 17, 18, and 19. I have no idea where I put 2016. It may turn up one of these days. Or not.

I’ve been wanting to write on my blog. I didn’t have the time or energy to think about it. But now I do.

I’m going to start with stuff from my Brown Binder. It’s things I’ve written, quotes from interviews I’ve heard, notes from books I’ve read, and thoughts I scribbled on my calendar pages.

It’s a place to start. I guess I’m choosing to move. Choosing a tunnel. I have no idea where it will lead me.

I invite you to join me if you wish.

Thanks for listening.