The cough

In the midst of everything else going on, last week my husband Paul went in for a CT scan.

My husband has had a chronic cough for years. He finally broke down and let me make him a doctor’s appointment. I was worried especially since his mother and an uncle both passed away from lung cancer last year. His mother and grandmother who lived with him smoked during his whole childhood. His mother smoked while pregnant with him. But it was the 1960’s, people smoked in libraries. Almost everyone smoked back then and no one thought much about it.

Then after Paul left home, his mother quit smoking and he started. He smoked for almost a decade. He was exposed to cigarette smoke in some shape or form for half of his life. He had close family members die of lung cancer. I was worried.

That day at the doctor’s office, they made him wear a mask because ‘cough’ was listed as his symptom. He glared at me in contempt and muttered muted garbled words of unhappiness through the mask. Look what you made me do! I am not even sick! The doctor set up a urine test and blood work along with an appointment for a CT scan several weeks later.

After the doctor appointment, we ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant. He received a fortune cookie that stated he would enjoy good health for a long time. See! I’m fine!!! It’s probably just allergies.

In the meantime, we worried. We worried more after I lost my job.

What if?? What if I have cancer like my mom?? How am I going to work? How are we going to make ends meet? How am I going to handle the lead part in the show if I have been given bad news the same day?

What are we going to do?? It took our minds to dark places…

The morning of the show, Paul left home early for the CT scan. A few hours later, we received the results. Everything was fine. No cancer! Praise God!

I’m just fine he said with a cough. May the fortune cookie be right. May he have good health for a long time.

This time another crisis was averted. I can’t bug him anymore about the cough, but I bet he will bug me about the doctor bill. Knowing that I did everything I could and having a peace of mind that everything is okay is money well spent.

 

 

 

The rails

My husband says that life is sometimes like a railroad track. On our journey, the rails of good and bad happen side by side simultaneously. Life is never all good or all bad. Sometimes the great and the horrible bombard us at the same time. I’ve never felt like that was more true than it is now. I don’t even know what to feel anymore..

Lately, I’ve been in a bit of a funk. My go to feelings these days are anger and a deep sorrow. I thought maybe a weekend up north in isolation would force me to reflect what my problem is. I am not a negative person, but right now the rose tinted glasses makes me want to gag.

What is my problem? Why can’t I have a light and fluffy blog? Is that even what I want? Probably not…

I consider myself a realist. But what happens when reality doesn’t even seem realistic?

The funny thing is that I achieved everything I wanted in life. I’ve worked really hard to accomplish my goals. I’ve turned out better than I even thought I would. That should make me happy, but it only leaves me wanting more. What can I conquer next? I already have a wall full of medals in my dream house.

Some things have really hit me hard…the terminal cancer diagnosis of a close friend…the death of a close friend’s child. I feel like I can’t talk to them anymore about the good or bad. How can I complain about my teen throwing a drinking party at my house when her teen daughter is dead??

There is a certain isolation of not knowing what to say beyond…I’m sorry this has happened to you..Life is unfair..You are in my thoughts and prayers..What happens after you said this a dozen times? What happens when words run out to express your grief for them? Do you go back to talking about every day ordinary life? I don’t know what to say.

The death of Lisa’s daughter stings. It was so unexpected and tragic. This wasn’t my plan for either of my friends. A child shouldn’t die, a healthy person in their 40’s shouldn’t get cancer…Whereas, I have never felt healthier in my life. My body is a lean mass of muscle from running and working out consistently for the last ten years. I still get carded to buy alcohol when some of my classmates are getting asked for their AARP cards.

My children are all healthy and normal. I worried for years that I would have a severely autistic child like my brother. That worry slipped off the horizon many years ago to be replaced by other worries. But they are all normal worries that every parent has..

I have a wonderful husband. I have a great job. I am reaching the end of actively parenting three teenagers.

Yet, I feel this isolation. Change is hard, even if it is good. I love my new house, but I don’t know who my neighbors are. My youngest daughter will be going to a new school and doesn’t have any friends in the area.

I feel estranged from my extended family. I haven’t seen my siblings in months. We rarely talk.

I feel estranged from my church family with all of the controversy lately. My best friend Cindy left the church and we might too. All of my kids were baptized and confirmed there. Must everything change all at once?

My husband, aunt, mother, and son have been on a school trip for the last couple weeks. I haven’t seen them in almost a month. I spent a week in Vegas and when I got back, they left. It almost feels like they are gone from me too. Is this what it is going to feel like if I, in the natural course of life, outlive my husband and mom? This emptiness?

I’ve spent a lot of time alone in reflection this past month. It’s really dark and messy in there. I want to clean things up but I’m afraid of what would happen if I disturb the cobwebs. I have to be really strong to go into the deep, dark ugly places. I just don’t feel really strong right now. It’s not the best time to poke at my demons.

My family will be coming home tonight. Maybe my mood will improve. Maybe I will find my way out of this sorrow. Maybe I will finally accept change, the good along with the bad. I’m on the right track, I just need to keep chugging along..

 

Fortune cookie wisdom #7

You will travel far and wide, both for pleasure and business.

I really love this one!

I have a dream to see the world, near and far…

I’m never going to stop until I reach the end of the path.

As of right now, I visited 32 out of 50 states. Of these states, I visited California, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Tennessee for business. Next month I am planning on crossing Nevada off of my list.

It isn’t on my bucket list to visit all of the United States, although it would be nice. My plans are far more grandiose than that. I want to visit all of the continents. So far, I’ve crossed off North America and Asia. I plan to cross off South America and Europe within the next 5 years. I even warmed up to the idea of visiting Antarctica.

A couple of days ago, I visited my friend Jen. She recently found out that she has an aggressive type of terminal cancer. The prognosis is not good. Next month will be Jen and her husband’s 25th anniversary. They booked a trip to Hawaii to celebrate. It doesn’t look like they will be going. They wanted to go to Alaska for their 20th anniversary, but never did. Now it is too late.

I don’t want to travel for special occasions anymore. I want to travel because I want to travel. I told myself that after we got back from visiting Thailand for our 20th anniversary. Time is too short.

We couldn’t travel far when we first started out. We didn’t have the extra money. We were tied down to the business. More importantly, we didn’t have anyone to help with the kids. We were lucky if we were able to get away alone one weekend a year for many years.

My husband was 40 before he stepped foot on a plane for the first time. But once he did, we both decided that we would like to travel more.

We never went anywhere as kids, but our kids went to many places already.

We took the kids to Disney World, their first time on a plane.

We showed them a world of wonder that we never got to see growing up.

I guess the moral of the story is not to wait until it is too late to cross things off your bucket list.

It doesn’t have to be a trip to Asia. When the kids were in their middle childhood years, we traveled extensively around the state. We went tent camping to over a dozen different places, mainly state parks. We braved a couple ferocious storms. We biked many trails, went to nature programs, swam in many lakes, picnicked on gorgeous beaches, hiked through the woods, fished, and watched sunsets while the crickets chirped.

After Paul got into sailing, we started similar adventures on water.

 

It doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun. Take what you have and work with it..

I have a dream to see the world, near and far…

I’m never going to stop until I reach the end of the path.

 

The second half of the weekend roller coaster ride

After church on Sunday, we went to visit our old friends Harv and Kate. Our old friends as in friends that are in their 80’s and not as in old friends we’ve known since the 80’s.

Harv and Kate invited us over under the guise of having us share our adventures in Thailand with them. They have been all over the world but have never been to Thailand. Despite being older than my parents, we share many common interests with Harv and Kate including traveling, sailing, singing, theater, the love of the outdoors, and being hard core intellectuals.

Once we arrived, I noticed in sheer panic that I forgot my phone at home. During this time, I missed the call from my friend Jen preparing me to see her with her new cancer diagnosis later in the evening at our children’s band concert. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Harv and Kate said that they had a surprise for us. We weren’t going to be eating lunch at their house as expected. They said they were taking us on a mystery date. Kate said that one time Harv took her on a mystery date and they ended up in Missouri. Wait! What? I got a little nervous when we started heading south. Not to mention that Harv went through a couple of stop signs.

Now Harv and Kate are by far the happiest married couple that I know. Although they have been married longer than I’ve been alive, they act like a couple of newlyweds. They said that they often plan surprises for each other to keep their relationship alive. Maybe Paul and I will have to start doing that.

Soon we arrived in a small town to a hole in the wall bar/restaurant/theater/art gallery/hotel that was 150 years old. Harv and Kate surprised us with a dinner theater show that Harv and Paul performed in together years ago. We had a marvelous time. When we got back to their house, they wouldn’t let us leave until we saw Kate’s drawings, they watched our son’s solo and ensemble performance, and we set up another date to tell them about our Thailand experience.

That set us on the road with just enough time to grab my forgotten phone on the way to the concert. I didn’t have time to call Jen back.

Arabella, my mom, Alex’s girlfriend, Paul, and I attended the concert that evening. We saw Julia sitting by herself and invited her to join our crew. Our other old friend Vince showed up. He sat down next to Julia. He asked Julia if she was married. She replied, “Not happily”. Her husband never attends their children’s events, just like my dad. Julia told Vince that it was so nice that he could come out to watch his grandson perform. Vince told her that he wasn’t related to us.

That can be the awkward thing about unconventional friendships…people always think we are related. He is not your dad?? No, my dad takes no interest in my life and Paul never had a dad. At this point, we don’t even bother explaining all of this anymore.

Paul invited Vince over to our house after the concert to watch the video of Alex performing at S&E. That was before we ran into Jen, before I found out that she has terminal cancer. I cried all the way home. I cried while Vince was at our house watching the video of our son perform. I cried myself to sleep. I was still crying when I got to work the next morning.

For so many years, I stuffed my feelings. I don’t remember crying when my grandma died. I told myself that she was still alive. For years, I crammed all of my bad feelings in some back closet of my mind. I wouldn’t allow myself to feel. After a while, I could no longer pick or choose what feeling I put behind the door…all feelings got locked up until I became completely numb to life.

After awhile I got sick of living in the empty void. Eventually I opened the closet door and all of the old junk of emotions came crashing down on me. I sorted it out. I processed it. I dealt with it and lived to tell about it. It was only then that I started to live again.

This time I told myself that I was going to deal with my feelings. If I’m sad, I’m going to cry. If someone can’t handle me crying because I found out a close friend is dying, then why would I want that negativity in my life??

But I didn’t cry in front of Jen, in front of her husband and children, in a public place. There is nothing I can do to heal her. But I am going to her house later on this week to see if she needs anything to make her last days happier.

So there you have it…I have a new friend with lupus, an old friend (15 years) with cancer, and 3 old friends in their mid-80’s.

Just because our time with others may be short doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t forge relationships…because, who knows? Nothing is guaranteed in life. Might as well start living every day to its fullest.

 

 

Why God? Why??

I didn’t recognize her at first. I think that was one of the hardest parts. I just saw her a couple of weeks ago.

She talked about how busy she was then…with a son graduating from college and moving back home. Her other son was finishing his first year of college and moving back home. She needed to get a storage shed. But we should really get together for lunch sometime.

She left a message asking for a call back.

I forgot my phone at home that day, which never happens. I got home with enough time to grab my phone and leave for the band concert. My car was left running in the driveway when I got her message. Never mind calling her back, she was probably on her way to the concert as well.

Her voice sounded strange. I asked my daughter if something was wrong. Jen’s daughter and mine have been good friends since they were babies. Is there something you aren’t telling me? Is there something I should know? 

Jen has been my daughter’s coach for the last 5 years. It was hardest for me to tell her that I was moving, leaving. I was sad that my daughter wouldn’t be on her team next year. But I didn’t know then that things would never be the same for other reasons…

After the concert, an elderly woman approached me. Perhaps she was confused. She acted like she knew me. I didn’t know her. When she opened her mouth, she whispered…I’ve been sick.. I recognized that voice. Jen? I have cancer…incurable…inoperable.. What??

At one time, I considered Jen to be my best friend. Our daughters were best friends. Jen is truly a good person. She is a better person than me. She is a good wife and mother. She would give you the shirt off her back if she needed it herself.

When the kids were little, she volunteered a lot at the school. She was a board member for the parent teacher association. She chaired several book fairs, I co-chaired. She helped me start a babysitting co-op. She was always an active church member. She did more than her part to try to make this world a better place.

We didn’t see each other as much once the children got older. We weren’t needed as much anymore at school. She got a job. I also worked. Her mother got cancer and she was needed there. It seemed like we saw each other less and less with each passing year. But every once in awhile we met up for lunch or went out.

It took everything I had to not break down in front of all of those people. I cried all the way home. I didn’t sleep well last night.

It hurt to see her husband have to help her out of her chair. She seemed so feeble and weak. I don’t understand. She didn’t smoke. She rarely drank. She exercised, made a point to make her family healthy meals, wasn’t overweight, and in general lived a healthy lifestyle. How could this happen?? It’s not fair!

She quit her job. She was too sick to go to her son’s college graduation. Nothing would’ve stopped her from going to that.

Why God?? Why? She is in her 40’s. She still has a child at home. She was fine a couple weeks ago. Now she looks like she is in her 80’s. The color in her face is wrong. I’ve seen this before. She looks like my mother-in-law did right at the end of her struggle with cancer. Skeletal, feeble, and old. I didn’t even recognize her! The last time I saw her a couple weeks back she was vibrant and full of life! How could this happen in such a short period of time?? How could God let this happen??

I remembered all of the good times together…the play dates with the kids, trips to the zoo, camp fires, days spent at the beach, boating, visiting their cabin, winter days spent searching records together for our genealogy hobby…Now all of this is gone. Her future gone. The dreams she had for retirement gone. The rest of her life with the love of her life…gone! Being a grandma some day…gone. Poof, just like that. Healthy one day, dying the next.. I can’t believe it!

I don’t think she has much time left. I can’t believe this is happening. There is nothing I can do. I am in complete and total shock right now.

Last week I talked about feeling old…needing reading glasses, friends children graduating from college and getting married. But nothing prepared me for the reality of losing a close friend…Death.

 

 

Paul’s journey, part 9

The earliest years of building the business were rough.

Whatever little money he made, he invested back into the business.

He felt like he couldn’t get away. But the business was new and exciting in those days. It was later that we started to feel burnt out. There is so much stress and pressure from the responsibility of owning a business. I don’t even know where to begin. But all of the hard work paid off over the long haul.

Paul went into work on the day our last baby was born. He dragged himself into work with strep. He drove in during major snowstorms. He even went to work after major surgery.

He had a cancer scare. He was having a lot of back pain. He went to the doctor for an x-ray. We didn’t have great insurance, so he didn’t want to spend the extra money on expensive tests. The x-ray showed a mass. They were simply going to drain and remove the mass, but the ultrasound was showing something scary. They thought it could be cancerous. They didn’t want to puncture this mass and have it spread to all of the nearby organs.

Instead they scheduled a major surgery that included the removal of several ribs. Paul spent a week in the hospital. I remember the evening of the surgery well. I sat alone in the waiting area watching the snow fall. I felt empty. This is going to sound funny, but I didn’t feel worried. You all know I am a big time worrier. Maybe I was in denial, I don’t know. He was so young then, too young to have cancer I told myself.

To tell you the truth, I am terrified that he is going to get cancer now. Last year his mother passed away from cancer. She had 3 different types of cancer and battled it twice. The year before last, his uncle died from cancer. His grandma had cancer. Currently, he has an uncle in the last stages of cancer. If I wasn’t worried before, I certainly am now.

They removed a benign cyst that was the size of a football from Paul’s adrenal gland. After surgery, he lost a lot of weight. He was pale and gaunt. I’ve never seen him so thin before or since. He was supposed to take a couple of weeks off of work. This was before the time that working out of the house was remotely possible. He was also taking a 4 credit accounting class for his MBA.

I drove Paul into the office after surgery. I helped him walk down the steps to his office wincing in pain. I left him there and picked him up at the end of the day.

Things got easier as the business grew and with technology. I joined him after a couple years. We have been able to get away. We have staff that can help keep an eye on things now. But there is always a strong sense of responsibility that comes with having your name on the door. There are times that we have to drop everything to respond to work issues. Going on vacation always meant checking emails and working.

I am excited that for the first time now, we will be able to take a vacation without working. I wonder how we will respond without the constant pressure.

 

A glance back to look ahead

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. Instead I believe that every day we should strive to take steps to further our goals. I have a long bucket list and I hope you do too.

I am not looking forward to going to the gym on January 1st. I will probably have to forfeit ‘my‘ parking space in the third spot of the second row. Locker 16 will probably be full. The treadmill closest to the window on the left side will be taken and I will have to wait in line on a Saturday morning for one of the 50 machines like I did last January. The shower in the far left corner will belong to some other naked body.

Anyway, I am not here today to complain about other people’s resolutions…really, I am not. If you want to get healthy and go to the gym for 3 weeks..fine..I will cope.

This is a perfect time of year to reflect on 2017’s winding journey.

I was able to do a lot of traveling this year. We took a trip to Chicago to see the musical Hamilton. We went to Detroit where I ate Greek food for the first time. Opa! We visited Belle Isle. We went to Utah and dipped our feet in the Great Salt Lake. We listened to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing. We took a trip to Walt Disney World without the kids. We sailed for a week to Washington Island. On our 20th anniversary, Paul and I renewed our vows on Rock Island.

We watched our daughter Angel take a lead in her first opera. We watched our son get a perfect score at state for music. All of our kids went to state this year for their theatrical/music performances. I took the community theater stage along with Arabella and Paul to perform in the musical Annie.

But the year was not all roses. There were a few thorns. This year we lost our first parent. Paul’s mother passed away in February after a long courageous battle with cancer. A few weeks later, I lost my last ‘great’ making my parents the oldest living generation. Time is precious in its ticking away.

My daughter Angel broke up with her boyfriend Mitch after 3 1/2 years. My son Alex broke up with his girlfriend Baylee after 1 1/2 years. I thought that they might be ‘the one’. But things didn’t work out that way..

I look on accomplishments of this past year. I did my first trail race (18 miles). I finished my 3rd marathon with a PR. I finished my first Olympic triathlon and my first Half Ironman. I want to add that I never was satisfied with my accomplishments..I never celebrated them until I finished my first Half Ironman. It was the greatest moment of accomplishment that I ever experienced in my life and I am happy that for once I allowed myself to feel the joy from the fruits of my labor.

I just signed up for my first trail marathon next summer on my birthday with my cousin. I will be spending the weekend sleeping in a tent. It will be a pretty hard core birthday celebration. I am thinking about getting a tattoo.

It has been a great year as small business owners. Paul and I received a special certification and hired two new employees.

I know this next year will hold some big and exciting changes…but until then, I want to take some time to glance back before looking ahead.

This year we laughed…

This year we cried…

This year we lived life to its fullest.

Confirmed complications

In a few weeks, my youngest daughter will be confirmed. So far there are so few people attending that I might not have to clean my house.

My oldest daughter has to work late the night before confirmation. There is no way that she can switch with someone. She felt bad because she had the dates wrong on her calendar and told her sister she was coming home. Angel said that she was willing to get up at 4 AM and drive the 8 hour round trip just to attend the ceremony. I told her not to.

I called my brother Luke last night and his family is not coming either.

This past summer my brother Luke got a big promotion. He was thrown a huge party, but I didn’t attend. He mentioned bitterly after my apologies for not attending that he was upset his wife’s siblings attended, but his own siblings did not. I told him again that I was sorry. Paul and I had our 20th anniversary trip planned out before I even heard of his party.

Growing up, we were never encouraged to support our siblings endeavors. Luke didn’t attend my college graduation or party because he was too hungover. Granted, he was a teenager then and I am in my 40’s now. I am happy that he has a successful career. I felt bad that I couldn’t be there, but I wasn’t going to cancel our vow renewal anniversary trip. I guess he is mad at me now..

My dad and my brother Mark only attend social events that they are required to. You will never hear my brother Mark’s childhood story. It is locked away in some deep dark place to be buried with him.

Mark gave up drinking. He said that it made him feel better not to. He has stomach issues like me and half of the family. He was the one that started drinking the previous summer while we were up north at 6 in the morning. He said he gave up drinking on January 1st for health reasons, but it sounds like a New Year’s resolution to me. I am happy that he is feeling better.

I rarely saw my brothers at all this summer.

My brother Matt tore up the whole family this year. After he was taken off of his anti-psychotic meds because of liver strain, he started hallucinating again. He became fixated on Luke’s young daughters and expressed a desire to kill them. He was put back on the medicine, but it might take months for it to be fully effective again.

Before he was originally put on the medicine, he was fixated on hurting my daughter Angel. We had to limit their contact with each other, but he did hurt Angel on her 4th birthday. This was before he was placed in a group home. This started a time of deep isolation from my family. They spent weekends up north together, but I wasn’t included.

Matt has always fixated on hurting little girls. I should know, I was the first little girl. That was before we heard about the voices. This summer my mom had fear again. She was afraid to take Matt to his appointments because there might be little girls there. Little girls that he could hurt and she wouldn’t be able to stop him.

My brothers and I helped my mom take Matt to appointments when we were younger. We had to be hyper vigilant to signs that Matt might be getting agitated. My mom would try to make appointments when there weren’t little girls coming in to the doctor. But that didn’t always work. At times adults would bring little girls with them to appointments. Sometimes we had to sneak in through the back door. My brothers became quite effective in restraining Matt. It usually took a couple of people to pry him off.

This summer Matt was on lock down. He couldn’t go on trips to the library or to the bowling alley with his group. My mom became fearful of doctor appointments again. It was stressful up north with young kids playing next door. Matt talked to the voices this summer. He laughed like a mad man to whatever the voices said. He is starting to get better…but will he be able to be around the children for the holidays??

So, at this time, only my mom is attending Arabella’s confirmation besides our immediate family.

Paul’s mom and step-dad are Arabella’s sponsors. Paul’s mother passed away this year from cancer. Her husband Darryl moved on with life. Darryl recently told Paul all about his love life with his new girlfriend. It makes us very uncomfortable. We are not ready for someone new to take his mother’s place. We don’t want to meet a new lady at the confirmation. I’m not sure if Darryl will be there.

Whoever would’ve thought a confirmation could be so complicated??

Day 9: Homeward bound

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This morning it is clear as glass on the bay. I’ve never seen so many fishing boats on the water. I am ready to go home but feel sad that our trip is coming to an end. Oh, to sleep in my own bed again!

It was a remarkable time. Our vow renewal ceremony on Rock Island was the highlight of our trip. We were surrounded by strangers that became friends. There was hardly a dry eye at the ceremony. It was so beautiful.

Then something unexpected happened, right after the ceremony we talked about divorce. A happy marriage seemed to remind several of their bad experiences.

Why did our marriage make it and theirs didn’t??

Both guys said that many people warned them not to marry the person they did but they didn’t listen. I could’ve easily been in the same boat. I met Paul when I was 21. Before I met him, I was engaged twice.

The second guy I was engaged to was Mac. We were going to fly to Vegas to get married but it cost too much for the plane tickets. I bought my own engagement ring because Mac had bad credit. Why did I ever like the guy anyway??

In every relationship I was in, I was the pursuer. I liked the chase, the challenge. But being the chaser, I was never sure if the one that I pursued liked me as much as I liked him. Mac was different. He relentlessly pursued me. He made me feel like he couldn’t live without me, that I was special. It was all flattering at first…until he started pushing me around. My story could’ve been different if that plane ticket wasn’t so expensive (and from a lot of prayers from my mother).

I listened to their stories and I felt sad…I felt sad for one couple in particular. The guy said that being married the first time forever ruined marriage for him. His long term live in girlfriend was never married before but would love to marry him. It was her birthday the last day of the trip. I felt bad because I didn’t know soon enough to get her a present. It had to be hard for her to watch my ceremony knowing that she most likely will never be a bride. I wanted to make her birthday special for her but didn’t feel like I could.

The thought crossed my mind that it could be her last birthday. My new friend, although just a couple years older than me, has cancer. She just went through several rounds of Chemo and was scheduled for an 8 hour surgery later in the month. This sailing cruise was her last hurrah before the most difficult part of her grueling fight. She gave her boyfriend a way out but he decided to stay by her side. I am happy for that..

The last day all of these thoughts swirled through my mind.

Once again the sky grew dark. We made it back just in time. We unloaded our things from the boat just as thunder boomed in the distance. A strong storm with hail was coming. The winds picked up. We sat in the clubhouse watching the storm come in worrying about George who was far behind us with engine trouble.

Even though our paths were different, we all made it home safely.

Martha’s eulogy

When I first met my mother-in-law Martha, she was only a few years older than I am now. She was taking care of her mother in Paul’s childhood home on the highway.

Time has been slipping by fast since then. The seconds turned to minutes to hours then years past and a few decades slipped away as well.

This will be the 20th year since Martha’s mom left us. I was glad I could meet her and see Martha’s kind and compassionate care for her.

Paul’s childhood house is gone too. A gas station stands where the house on the highway used to sit.

And now he lost his mother too.

I have to be honest that the last few weeks have been totally heartbreaking. Martha became someone I didn’t recognize anymore. I want to forget the last couple of weeks and only remember the good times. I want to remember her laughter and not our tears.

Martha always had a way of taking the negatives and turning them into positives. I remember taking her in for her biopsy right before her diagnosis of breast cancer many years back. She wasn’t even worried. She had a good attitude saying things like ‘it wasn’t so bad’ and ‘I can handle doing this again’. She fought the first battle courageously and won.  Little did we know at the time that she would be facing this fight again. But she battled it courageously with optimism and hope.

Most people would describe Martha as a lot of fun. We spent a lot of our time together laughing. I will miss her laughter. Although she was one of the nicest ladies you would ever meet, it was in your best interest not to get her mad.  She was afflicted with the family temper, which believe me, I have learned quite a bit about. If something was bothering her, you would be sure to hear about it. But once she spoke her mind, it was forgotten. She was never one to hold a grudge. She was never one to judge either. She accepted people with open arms and made them feel welcome.

Unlike me, Martha never spent her time worrying. She was carefree. We needed her to bring the fun and excitement to the room. She didn’t worry about time, structure, or routine. She got there when she got there. This is the one time that she showed up to heaven’s gates too early.

She was happy with what she had. She didn’t need the newest fashions or glitzy bling.

I remember the days when Martha drove around a puke green 1970’s model station wagon. We were quite the sight driving around town. People stared. She would just laugh and say something like, “It is not much, but it gets me where I need to go.” She really didn’t care what people thought of her. I really liked that about her because that mind set is so freeing. She was herself.

Some might have said, at the time, that her biggest mistake was having a child at a young age without a husband. But I would have to say that her biggest mistake has been my greatest blessing in life. It is the reason I am here now with a wonderful husband and these beautiful grandchildren of hers. I will always appreciate the sacrifice that she made to raise Paul on her own. She held down a job. She put her life on hold for him. She always told him that he could do whatever he put his mind to. She was a great mother and thankfully Paul had the opportunity to tell her that.

A few weeks ago, she shared that the biggest regret in her life was that she didn’t meet Darryl sooner. Darryl was the love of her life. They shared many wonderful years together in their house in the woods.

She loved the time she spent with her family and we will miss her.