Betty

Today would have been my mother-in-law’s 85th birthday. As an awkward 20 year old newlywed, I didn’t know what to call her. Mrs. Bell felt too formal. Didn’t know if I should call her Mom. So I didn’t call her anything. It took me years to be able to call her Betty.

She loved me and loved on me. As a mother of three boys, I think she was glad to have a daughter. She always remembered birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day. She bought Key Lime pie when I visited. When she hugged me she would tell  me I smelled good. This poem is for her.

 

August 21, 2017

 

The phone rang early in the murky sleep-state of morning

Packed a bag, boarded the dog, headed home

Into the day-darkness of that solar eclipse

Alabama to  Florida

Ominous shadowed light dimly glowed all around me

Driving home to say goodbye

To someone who loved me unconditionally

Pulled off at a rest stop

Where a stranger loaned me his glasses

To behold this obscurity of the sun

As I looked through bleak eyes

To a future without her

 

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Mom

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April, 2016

 

Mom was born April 9, 1936. She would have been 83 today. It’s been 14 months since she died. So many little things happen throughout the days that knock me back, that remind me over and over that she isn’t here. I wrote the following poem in April, 2010. It was the first year I completed the PAD Challenge. I never really shared my poetry with her. Haven’t really shared it with anyone much in my family. Perhaps I should apply these words of Ray Bradbury…

“Self-consciousness is the enemy of all art.”

 

Mother

There at the end of the line
The hand of my dear mother
Her sweet comfort, it was mine

Never a woman so fine
There is not another
There at the end of the line

Her spirit, gentle, kind
None else would I rather
Her sweet comfort, it was mine

Growing round her like a vine
Myself, my brothers
There at the end of the line

So lovely, so divine
No, there is no other
Her sweet comfort, it was mine

For days of old I pine
Yes, one after another
There at the end of the line

Pre-PAD Poetry

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I look forward to April every year. It’s like a magical month that kickstarts my poetic creativity, thanks most especially to Robert Brower over at Writers Digest.  This week I was subbing in a middle school class that had to complete a metaphor poem. I tried my hand at a writing a few. Here’s the first one…

Tightrope

Motherhood is a tightrope walk

Between birth and death a mother balances,

shifting her weight just slightly

to accommodate the ever changing tension

Swaying on her soft shoes, she grips with all she’s got

Trying to maintain her center, she walks

high above in terror and love,

without a safety net

 

And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. Genesis 3:20

 

 

 

My Solace

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No Hard Feelings by the Avett Brothers has been my solace for the past year, though at times I’ve had to skip it on my playlist because it almost always makes me cry. I lost my mother-in-law in August 2017, then my Mom in February 2018, and today my dog, Loretta. Yes, I understand there are huge differences in losing a pet vs. a person, but when one comes on the heels of the other it is just nearly too much.

The song begins
“When my body won’t hold me anymore
And it finally lets me free
Will I be ready?”

I wasn’t ready to let any of them go, but in Loretta’s case, I think SHE was ready. She had a good life and enriched ours in so many ways.

Then
“When my feet won’t walk another mile.”
My dog, Loretta, hit this point  so suddenly last night I can’t wrap my head around it. She was fine and peppy one minute, then lethargic and unresponsive the next. She perked up once for a few minutes, a sort of last hurrah I guess, then just could hardly move. My husband carried her to our room where we’d made her a soft blanket “pallet” to lie on. We finally fell asleep, but both awoke at 2AM to sit on the floor beside her as she drew her last breath. I can only guess it was her heart giving out.

Listen to this song – more than once if you can. It is overflowing in meaning and may be a balm for YOUR spirit.

 

Califoregon Day #4

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Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

 

Mr. Kohlah (after losing an eye) said that was all right. “One eye is sufficient for the hings I am looking forward to seeing,” he smiled, touching his wife’s swollen belly. Whereas, he added, the ugliness of the world would  now trouble him only half as much – from  A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

I am thankful for the two eyes I had to take in the beauty of the redwoods. Pictures just can’t do justice to the sheer hugeness of these gentle giants.

We drove back north a ways to begin the day at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Here we got upclose and personal with the big guys.

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I always love when I stumble upon something someone else has made or left behind, such as a cairn.

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Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

After enjoying the redwoods, we headed for Crescent City. Although we were able to find some pockets of beauty, this little town was a disappointment as far as my expectations went. Perhaps it would be better to visit this area in the summer.

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Crescent City, CA

 

The lighthouse I was hoping to explore was unreachable. I should have read this:

“Visits to the Battery Point Lighthouse and Island are only possible at low tides. Extreme care and caution should be used when crossing the two hundred feet between the mainland and island anytime wave action may cover the crossing area. Sneaker waves at any time can threaten visitors standing on or near the rocks and the shore of Battery Point Island. ”

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Battery Point Lighthouse

 

I did read more about it after the trip and there is a fascinating story HERE about the time Crescent City was hit by a tsunami in 1964.

 

We still had fun exploring a bit …

and I spotted Sasquatch near the lighthouse!

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Crescent City, California

 

We also went to The Trees of Mystery, but I’ll save that for another post.

Monday Music #21

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“… for music alone can abolish differences of language or culture between two people and evoke something indestructible within them.” –  from Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

 

 

I was introduced to the music of JJ Grey and Mofro, many years back by my daughter. I’ve only seen him in concert twice; once in concurrence with the Jacksonville Symphony (with my daughter)  and then again in Birmingham (with my husband). On my many trips from Jacksonville to Tampa I’ve driven through Lochloosa and I always think of Grey’s love for Florida.

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View from the Buckman Bridge – 2013

 

My father-in-law had a little trailer in Astor on the St. Johns River for many years.  The pictures below are from a trip I took up the river with my brother-in-law and niece back in 2012. We went out to Lake George and stopped at Silver Glen Springs. It was one of the most relaxing days I’ve ever spent.

 

 

This song, The River, grips me every time I hear it. Growing up minutes from the St. Johns in Jacksonville, I never appreciated it like I do now. As a kid, it was just the river we crossed to get to downtown. Now I understand a little more about the vastness and beauty it contains. I long to get back to this river someday.

 

 

 

 

 

Monday Music #19

 

There are songs, special songs, that can transport us back in time to a certain point, a specific memory. Leaving On a Jet Plane is one of those songs for me. I think I mentioned it once before in a blog post.

The song, written by John Denver, was recorded by Peter, Paul, and Mary in 1967. So, I imagine it was around  the summer of 1968 or 69 when my cousin Paula and I sang it at the top of our lungs in the back of her parents station wagon. We, all us Graham/Denmark cousins, had been to the next town over to swim. We were headed home down a south Georgia two-lane, the summer air blowing our hair around as it dried our swimsuits, and I don’t remember if the song came on the radio or if we just started singing it. I’m not sure why this moment in time has stuck with me all these years. I think it was the pure joy of the moment, the carefree happiness of a childhood that was always made better when cousins were around.

A few weeks ago I reunited with Paula for a weekend in Arkansas. It was the first time, probably since that summer, that we had been together for any length of time. In fact, we’d only seen each other 4-5 times in the intervening years. But, there is something about the bond of cousins – the years made no difference – it was like we picked up where we’d left off so many summers ago.  We have led such different lives, yet the bond of family and the bond of Christ has held us together. For that I am grateful.

 

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