Sunday, March 23, 2014

Two Friends 1981

It was a tough week. Two weeks ago,  my 85 year old mother tripped over her dog and fell in the night, landing on her left shoulder.  All seemed to be going well, and then Tuesday of this week she experienced terrible shooting pains in the shoulder she had fallen on.  I'm in Corrales, she's in Santa Fe, about 65 miles away.  Not exactly an emergency, but close to it.  All ended well, but it was frightening, made even more so because of the distance.  Your mother's voice, thin and weak, her words not quite making sense and you, more than an hour away.

This morning I went for my every Sunday Morning for the Last 23 Years walk with my friends Jeanne and Cinda.* Most of the walk was spent with me telling them about the events of the week,  then I listened as they advised me on ways to deal with the on-going  and newer problems around my mother's care and safety.  All of their advice was spot on:  thoughtful, kind, and perfect in keeping me from rushing in to try and solve everything in my usual blunt way.  It was great to be heard, but best of all, was how wonderful it was to be surrounded by their genuine care and concern as we walked along the dusty road.

*Cinda is newer to the weekly walk

Sunday, March 16, 2014

My Aunt Beth 1983

My mother's older sister by ten years and a twin, Aunt Beth lived in Colorado Springs with her husband and two daughters.  When my mother was a teenager, she would spend summers with Aunt Beth and her family and I know those visits were islands of happiness for her. Aunt Beth continued to be in my life throughout my childhood and adult years.  Once her husband died, with her daughters grown, she would often stop to visit while escaping the Colorado winters on her yearly trips to and from Arizona . She was a chain smoker and loved to talk.  I took this photograph of her while she was visiting me at my  home in Phoenix.  I wouldn't let her smoke inside, so she would go out on the porch when she needed to light up, which was often.  With the eternal cigarette dangling from her mouth, she would talk to me though the screen door, the screen inches from her face, never missing a beat.

The best thing I inherited from my Aunt Beth was her writing style.  She would write my mother long letters, terribly spelled, no punctuation to speak of, always typed and my mother would read them aloud to us as soon as they arrived.  I loved the letters.  They were streams of consciousness that let us see inside her mind--the mind of a lively and curious woman with lots to say.  Her letters taught me that it was important to say what mattered,  without fear of judgement, censorship, punctuation, or spelling.

She died of emphysema, claiming with her last breathe that it was the depletion of the ozone layer that caused her not to be able to breath--nothing to do with her multiple pack a day habit.  About 8 months later her twin followed, falling down the basement stairs while visiting her niece.  The only explanation we had for why she would have gotten up in the middle of the night and tried to go down those particular stairs was that Beth, missing her beloved sister, had finally lost patience and just beamed her up.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Quiet Horse 2008

A few nights ago I stayed up late looking though old albums of my mothers.  One of my favorite photographs was an early image of her in cowgirl regalia on a small paint pony being led by her older brother, Grant.  Other, later photos showed her with different horses, and then, as an older teen with her own horse, a bay mare called Daisey. Another favorite:  my mother leading Daisey with a small, proud figure on her bareback--my cousin Sue at  the age of  4.  The last photos of Daisey are with a newborn filly by her side, Pretty Penny. *

I can only guess at how important horses were to my mother as she was growing up, the last of five children in a dysfunctional midwestern family.  Horses gave her strength and unconditional love, and, later, they also gave her a connection to her sister's middle daughter, her young niece Sue.  Sue also turned to horses for probably many of the same reasons my mother did, and it was a bond the two shared for many years.  Now, as my mother struggles with memory loss, and as her world closes in, it is Sue who drives from Colorado Springs to Santa Fe once every two months to spend a week to ten days with her.  Sue helps her stay organized, cleans out cupboards and closets, takes her to doctor and dentist appointments, bakes her pies and loves her.  I don't know if  their love of horses started the bond between them, or if, both being horse girls, they were just naturally drawn to each other.  Whatever the reason, now some sixty years later, as Mom once helped Sue stay on top of Daisey, Sue is now the one leading the horse and helping Mom to stay on until the ride is over.

*Not long after those photos were taken Daisey and her baby were sold for next to nothing because Mom  couldn't afford their upkeep.