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Willie Nelson, Zingers, and Snowballs

Today it was Willie Nelson that got me thinking. Sometimes it is something else, like Zingers or Snowballs (which he may have loved as much as Willie), but today it was Willie. I saw the MP3 album on the computer screen and decided to play it while I slow danced with my five-month old son: the boy who would never know the man who loved those songs so much.  It brought me back to that day.

Some of us have that one day. The day we will never forget. The day that things changed in our lives and for whatever reason would never be quite the same.  For me that day came late spring of 2013. I remember vividly. It was a beautiful sunny, warm day and I was garage saling with friends.  After getting back into the car after one sale, I noticed I had a couple of voicemails. I recognized the number as my dad’s.  I listened to the messages and they made no sense.  He was calling from his home number, but he was distraught and didn’t know where he was.  He said he was at a house in a nearby town but he didn’t know the number or address. He said my mom had thrown him out and he needed me to get a hold of him. He and my mom had been divorced for about 20 years.

My mind raced. He had been having memory trouble for a little while. Because of the rough life he lived: fighting, drinking, doing drugs, and the resultant effect on his health, we knew there would come a day when we would receive a call that he was found dead, or that he would require some kind of specialized care. “Was this it?” I wondered.  “Had his mind failed him?  What were we to do?”  The bright, warm sun coming through the window was a mocking contrast to the storm that had just entered my life.  That same sun would mock me again days later when my sisters and I would sit outside the hospital for a reprieve.

I braced myself and called him back.  He was completely confused.   I tried to explain to him that he was at his own house-that he and my mom had been divorced for many years.  He seemed to believe me, but didn’t completely understand.  I called my sisters and 911, then headed over to his house.

After an exam, and a dialogue with the responders in which he told them I was his sister, he was taken to the hospital.  It was determined that he was going through serious alcohol withdrawals. A few days prior his doctor told him that if he didn’t quit drinking he would die. He said he wanted to be around for his kids and grandkids, so he quit. On his own.  Alone at home.  Cold-turkey. For some people that might have worked; however, the sudden withdrawal of the large amount of alcohol he was consuming every day before that sent his body into shock.  The ER doctors gave him a 50/50 chance of surviving it.

That began what would be the last year of his life. It was a year tainted with sadness, stress, and frustration in which he would require a guardian and assisted living care (which he fought almost every step of the way), but would be highlighted by mended relationships and his heart-change toward God.  I’ve had a lot of time now to think about that year.  I wish a lot of things could have been different, but given the specific circumstances, I’m not sure I could have done anything differently.  At least there is that.

Prior to that last year, it wasn’t unusual for me to go a month or two without seeing dad because of a drinking binge, or something he said that hurt me, and I just needed a break.  After a little while though I would want to see him again. Because of that, I have to admit that I didn’t really miss him right away. However, now it’s been 9 months, and I want to see him again.

I’m sure with time it will be easier, but I wonder if I will ever be able to listen to Willie Nelson or see a box of Zingers or a package of snowballs again without a lump in my throat or a tear in my eye.

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The Loss of a Relationship and the End of a Life-Season

I am going through an especially difficult breakup and as a result am experiencing a period of mourning. The relationship began over 13 years ago and I came to love my “partner.” It was an on-again, off-again relationship for the most part. There were periods of time in which I saw this person often, followed by stretches of only yearly visits. This person shared four of the most important and memorable experiences of my life. She supported me at my most vulnerable and was my advocate in making sure my wishes were carried out. How do you say goodbye to a relationship like that?

I have to admit, I cried a little when she gently told me I had to find another. I knew it would come eventually, but it seemed sudden to me. I sat across the small table from her as my mind and heart tried to reconcile that it would never be the same again. She had been just what I needed during a long, memorable, and life-changing season of my life. I couldn’t imagine what my childbearing years would have been without her. She most definitely chose the right profession.

She was everything I ever wanted in a midwife. She was kind, caring, funny, no-nonsense, and she knew just what I needed and wanted to hear. She was concerned for all of me: mind, body, and spirit. She got me, and I imagine most of her patients felt the same way. I often thought we could be friends outside of the office setting.

How does one mourn the end of a unique relationship such as that? There are stages and tips for mourning the death of a loved one, the end of a romantic relationship, and even tips for doctors of patients who die or move away.

I guess I will find my own way. As we both move on (myself figuratively and she literally) I will remember our relationship with fondness, appreciation, thankfulness, and occasionally with a tear in my eye. I won’t forget the gift she was to my family and I will pray that she will be blessed as she continues to bless others.

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It’s Like Kissing Him on the Mouth

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the things I love about having a baby is how much joy he brings to others-family members, friends, people at church. Even strangers at the grocery store and restaurant can’t help but smile and talk to him. I had a great conversation with an elderly woman at the store the other day because she stopped her motorized cart to look upon him. We talked for a while about her family, then she thanked me for talking with her. I think it made the day for both of us.

Even today, while I was at the store, I stopped three or four times for some friendly folks to smile at him and try to get him to smile back.  One kind lady in particular was asking me questions about him and just loving the innocence and sweetness that he exudes.

Then she did it.  It always makes me cringe a little.  I just ignore it and smile, but inside I am thinking, “Please don’t do that.”  Anytime I stop to let someone look at him, I hope they won’t do it. I’ll even stand back a little, slightly out of reach.  It doesn’t always help though, and it didn’t today. She reached over and grabbed his hand.

It may not seem like a big deal, but in about thirty seconds, his hand will be in his mouth.  This is cold and flu season. If someone has coughed into their hand, scratched their nose, touched something especially germy, all of that is going into his mouth in a matter of minutes-or seconds.  Hopefully I will get around the corner and be able to use my natural hand sanitizer on him before his hand reaches his mouth.

You see, I wait until I get around the corner to clean his hand because I get it.  It is super difficult to see a baby and not touch him. It’s so tempting.  Babies are soft, they smell good, and they are so incredibly cute.  If you’re lucky they smile back at you innocently and warm your heart.  I don’t want to offend someone who just wants a little of that joy for a moment.

Might I make a gentle suggestion, though?  Baby feet are just as cute as baby hands, and generally they are covered.  When I see a baby and I can’t resist reaching out and feeling the sweetness, I feel his little baby feet.  You could even get away with gently rubbing the back of his head. But please, try to avoid anything, like his hand, that he is going to end up chewing. It’s like kissing him on the mouth.  And please don’t do that either.