My greatest love affair

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I can’t recall our first meeting but I can tell you it was love at first sight.  My curious gaze met his warm, brown eyes and the rest is history.  I was a year old, and he was a stuffed bear, but ours is a love story for the ages.

Me and Winnie

When I couldn’t fall asleep, Winnie was there.  When I was excited to read my new poem or short story, Winnie was there.  And, sadly, when my roommate’s dog escaped her confines and ran up to my room, Winnie was there.  After some moderate facial reconstruction and many tears on my part, Winnie, or a new version of his former self, was still there, he is still slightly angry that he had bad plastic surgery.

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He may have slightly faded with time, as have I, but he still remains the same stoic character that I have come to rely on over the last 47 years.  We celebrate our birthdays together and, although I have the benefit of one extra year of wisdom since he was carefully crafted by my mother on my first birthday, each year is just as special because he is there to celebrate with me.

This is the fifth year I have been able to write a blog post on our birthday and I have written a tribute to him every year, so why should this year be any different?  He has been my confidant, my best supporter and the shoulder (albeit padded) that I know I can cry on whenever I feel the need to shed a tear or two.   He, like me, has experienced an encyclopedia of reference material when it comes to life events but we have come out remarkably unscathed.

Happy Birthday Winnie!  May the scars of our past help carve the road that leads us into our future.

A decade plus a year

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My mom and I sat at the end of his hospital bed.  My brother had just left to take care of his young family and my mom and I remained.  There was one dim light in the corner that cast shadows on his bed and our two chairs.  The rest of the room was bathed in darkness.  We sat for several hours as my dad continued to have small seizures.  When we couldn’t bear to watch his suffering anymore, I had the night nurse call our doctor at home shortly after midnight to increase his morphine.  The seizures stopped and both my mom and I silently counted the seconds between his breaths.  The last time was 14 seconds and then he just stopped breathing.  It was 2:00 am on March 9th, 2006.

It is a strange experience watching the life slip out of a body that once cradled you as a child and was always there with open arms.  We said our goodbyes and I drove my mom home, neither of us crying because we wanted to be strong for the other.

It took a few months for me to be able to picture my dad as he was in life and not how he was in death.  The body that we said goodbye to in the hospital was not my dad.  My dad was the life of the party.  He was charming and funny.  The men loved to hang out with him and the women loved to dance with him.

Now when I think of my dad, the picture I have in my head is of his infectious smile and the mischievous twinkle in his eye. I think of him tanning in the nude at the end of our dock and using folding chairs for privacy as the boats went by our cottage.  I think of our family spending time tanning on the ice in February when the sun’s warmth grew stronger.   And I think of all the time my dad spent to try to make our lives happy.   I miss you, dad.

 

 

The day in between

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March 8th had never previously had a profound effect on my life.  It had always been a day like any other.  But three years ago, that day marked the separation between the calendar date that my mother and my father passed away.  Although the losses were separated by almost 8 years, the fact did not go unrecognized that the dates of their individual passing almost overlapped.  March 7th was the third anniversary of my mom’s passing and March 9th will be the 11th anniversary of losing my dad.

Time is a funny thing.  Had those moments not occurred within less than 48 hours of each other, eight years later, that single day on the calendar would go by inconspicuously.  It would still be a day like any other.

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But today has become a bridge – a connection that holds the memories of both my mom and my dad in a splendid moment of happiness between the two saddest days of our lives.

Today is the day when their laughter is heard and the thoughts of their smiles are etched in our memories.  Those moments shine above the heartbreak of their losses.  Today is the day that will hold us in its embrace, allowing us to live in the contentment of how wonderful life was when they were both still with us.  And today is the day that we can stand on top of that bridge and not feel the pain of loss on either side.

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One thousand and ninety six days

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Three years ago today, March 7th, was the worst day of my life.  I woke up to my cell phone ringing at 7:00 am and the voice on the other end of the phone told me my mother had passed away in her sleep.  We knew she had been ill, but she had been having a great week during the week leading up to her passing so her death came as a shock.

There are still days I get excited to tell her about something that happened and mindlessly reach for the phone to call her.  I’m sure that will never  change.  Below is the poem I wrote and read at her celebration of life.  I miss you mom.

You left us in the early hours,

so peacefully your spirit would roam.

Through a gentle wind and the rising sun,

the angels called you home.

A ladder was built for your journey to light,

each rung meant to make you content.

While bathed in the glowing light of rebirth,

you gracefully began your ascent.

Loving arms awaited  you there,

curling you into their embrace.

Heaven welcomed an angel back home,

 rejoicing her love and her grace.

You leave behind your spirit and joy,

in those who loved you each day.

While our days will be saddened by the emptiness we feel,

we know we will see you someday.

~

Jane Eleanore Nairn – May 21, 1940 – March 7, 2014

 

It was never just a muffin

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I am addicted to Pinterest.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  But Pinterest has opened up new avenues of cooking for me as well as opened a few doors to my past.  Today is a glowing example of that.

I wasn’t looking for anything specific so when I came across a simple picture of a blueberry muffin, I was immediately transported back to our house on Foreman Road.  I was 10 or 11 and I was in our kitchen, as I always was on Sunday mornings, making Betty Crocker Blueberry muffins for breakfast.

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I loved Sundays.  I loved the fact that my parents trusted my ability at such a young age to prepare a breakfast that we would all eat in their bedroom, they tucked under the covers and me (and sometimes my brother) sitting at the end of the bed.  Thinking back to those wonderful times, I can almost smell the freshly baked morsels just out of the oven.  I can see the pat of butter melting into the white cake, making the blueberries glisten in morning light from their bedroom window.

If I close my eyes, I am back in that kitchen mixing the ingredients ever so carefully, taking the lid off the tin of real blueberries in syrup and making sure I am careful not to spill the syrup and stain anything in its path.

Just when I feel like my parents have slipped a little further into my memory cache, one simple picture of a blueberry muffin was all it took to bring them stampeding back into my thoughts.  And now that I look back at all those breakfasts in bed, it was never really about making muffins.  It was about making memories…..moments that will help my parents be with me forever.

 

Finding light in the darkness

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“What happened in the past that was painful has a great deal to do with what we are today.” ~ William Glasser

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Looking back at my past, I can almost see the lines in the distance of the paths that I have chosen.  They are faint in the waning light but the traces are still visible.  Those lines, those roads I chose to follow, helped to carve the figure of the person I am now.

Along that road not everything was painful but I can say that those arduous moments gave me more definition as a person than the happier, less stressful times.  Those darker moments made me a stronger version of myself.  Those difficult stages during my life gave me the tenacity and the persistence to overcome obstacles that I may not have been able to cope with had my life been easier.

It is how we carry ourselves through the difficult moments that gives us our strength.  It is how we persevere through misfortune that builds our character.  I am who I am because of what I have experienced.  I am a better version of the me I could have been because I endured pain and suffering.  I made a point to learn from it and now my inner light far outweighs any of the darkness from my past.

The Wooden Spoon

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There are a million wooden spoons.  I’m sure I could go to any store from a Walmart to the highest-end Kitchen gadget store to replace the one I have.  But the one I have has a special function that none of those other spoons would have.  The spoon that I have is able to transport me back in time.

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This wooden spoon is the spoon my mother used to stir her brownie batter with and, when I was being good, I would be allowed to lick the leftover batter from that spoon.  When I become old enough to help in the kitchen, I was entrusted with the spoon and left on my own to make the brownies without my mom’s help and, as a teen is wont to do, I still licked the spoon.

This wooden spoon has had an epic journey and has lived in many kitchens but it now finds its place in my home.  It was one of the only kitchen items I chose to keep from my mom’s vast collection of kitchen gadgets after she passed away. It shares its space with the shiny stainless steel utensils, in just as shiny a container, on the counter in my kitchen.  It looks like a misfit toy lost in the pristine surroundings of Santa’s workshop but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

There are times when I am afraid to use the spoon for fear that it will break and I will lose that tangible part of the past that I shared with my mother.  It feels like the last piece of her that I can physically hold on to and be six years old again in our kitchen.

This inanimate object is far from lifeless and its spirit will continue to fill my kitchen, and my heart.