surprise endings

For many years in late summer I have enjoyed a week in the cool, forested North Carolina mountains in the heart of the Blue Ridge. It’s kind of a reset. On the surface my life appears stress-free… I am retired, my son is grown and living a happy, successful life on his own. But stuff does happen. Things build up. So these precious few days alone in the cooler air seem to clear my head and I get maybe not a do-over but a restart.

This is usually in prelude to a visit with my family at a beach south of where I live. We’ve been meeting there for the past ten years, for a week at a little inn where the same families come back each year. For better or worse it is our “family vacation” and I always look forward to it.

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Until Lily.

Two weeks ago today we were outside for the last perimeter check before bed. The people on the other side of the fence behind my house have a super-aggressive dog that loudly charges the privacy fence between us. Rescue dog Lulu, all 20-pounds of terrier responds in kind. Rescue dog Lily, somewhat protective of her little sister wandered over to be sure aggressive neighbor dog failed at her efforts.

Then Lily quickly walked back by me and sat down. Hard. I looked over at her. “Lily?”

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She turned to me. “Can you come over here?” I asked. She rose, painfully and with a pronounced limp came over to me.

No. But yes. The other acl is now torn.

So no plans. Cancelled the little mountain cabin the end of this month (I’d planned to bring Lily and Lulu this year). The only pet sitter I trust Lily with declined staying with her, understandably concerned about the intensive care Lily will require after her surgery.

I have not yet told my family I won’t be joining them though I have cancelled my reservation at the inn.  There is a reason for everything.

I reflected on life, years ago in my chaotic vortex, newly divorced, sudden responsibilities of single parenthood, jobs, schools for my son, sitters, car maintenance, the whole aspect of LIFE that happens for everyone but I had never had it all. And I believed that. I believed it was all on me.

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Bit by bit, mistake by mistake I gradually learned I could depend on God. No matter what it was… a new clutch for my car, an unexpected medical bill, leak in the ceiling. No, God did not come here to fix these things Himself. But He gave me peace. He strengthened me when I wanted to run away. He helped me persevere, gave light and calm in the storms.

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And I remembered my feeble prayers! Sometimes just a faint, “Help, please!” And He did. He heard me. He strengthened me. Every time. For any reason, crisis or not. He truly never left me. He keeps His promises, even when we forget, ignore, disbelieve or panic. He doesn’t give up on us.

My prayers in those times weren’t great. Sometimes I don’t think even I believed them. But He did. Because what or how or why I prayed them was not the point. His faithfulness is all that matters.

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So Lily and I will get through this. And about the time she is finished with her physical therapy and beginning to be strong the weather will have cooled enough for her to enjoy her walkies again.

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calm

There seems to be an increase in doomsday predictions. Naysayers. This is terrible! Focusing on something no one knows anything about except that it will happen loses sight of what’s important.

The here and now.

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No one knows the future. When people get all in a twist about something nobody knows will happen they make chaos.

Stop it.

IMG_1067.JPGLulu dozing in the shade

Being grounded takes a lot of effort for me. I am easily distracted. But doomsday people have never held any interest for me. Staying focused on what’s important matters. But the end of the world? Why stir everybody up over something no one knows?

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Maybe this is why I love flowers so much. And trees. They just are. Day after day, season after season, year after year. They are what they were created to be. Some become diseased and die. So do we. Some grow old. Very, very old. So do we. We have seasons. We change. But nature doesn’t freak out over an ice storm. It endures it. Or a hurricane. Their leaves are blown off, they may get drowned but if they live they put out more leaves.

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We replace siding, or shingles, or whole roofs, or whole houses. But mostly we face whatever disaster or trouble we get. We have to. Jumping the gun, skipping to the end when the end isn’t here yet, when we don’t even know when the end is, doesn’t make any sense.

IMG_1066.JPGLily staying safe under a bench

So I have to take the end is near people lightly. The end I don’t take lightly, but I have no idea when that will happen. So I need to keep on keeping on and trust God. He knows.

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That is all that matters. It’s His business, mine is to trust Him.

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time and tide

I can’t remember who decided to make Mom breakfast in bed but my brother and I would wake early on Mother’s Day morning to prepare a breakfast surprise. Sundays were good days because our parents either attended or hosted a party Saturday (and Friday) nights. So nobody but us ever woke early.

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These breakfasts were generally not messy! No attempts at pancakes a la eggshells, or half-cooked scrambled eggs. Neither of us ever even thought of trying something that involved dangerous appliances like stoves or blenders. No, our breakfast for Mom consisted of carrot strips, burned toast dripping with butter. I don’t even think we tried to make coffee. Back then Mom ground coffee beans every morning. But juice and probably milk or at least water, which sloshed over the tray and the plate making her toast a sodden mess. She always gave us a big bright smile and oohed gratefully.

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And we were so proud of ourselves!

My mother had served her country. She graduated Smith College 1943 and enlisted in the Navy. Her father had served in WW I, Army, in France. Her uncle was Navy, serving again in WW II. Mom was responsible for a psychiatric ward in San Diego. She loved what she did. She was deeply patriotic. She never spoke of her time in service.

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My mother was one of the strongest people I have ever known. She survived my childhood, the loss of a child, life with my difficult Father, and cancer. She kept busy. In addition to raising my surviving brother and me, she volunteered in Junior League building a Nature Museum at a popular park, complete with planetarium, was member of a DAR chapter, even participated in a sit-in with other moms when the local government planned to take part of our elementary school playground away for a nearby college parking lot.

Having worked in advertising where she met my dad she was fashionable and confident. I was shy, and shunned fads and fashion.

She lived for golf, and though she was in a garden club she killed any plant she touched. She was in a book club, and second only to golf was her love for bridge. Something she once told me I wasn’t smart enough to learn. But she was so smart, and very funny, and she had many friends who were so dear to her.

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She and I were close in a love-hate kind of way. I argued about everything. She called me a maverick. I had trust issues. Nobody’s perfect (least of all me), but Mom had one failing  my brother and I still disagree over. There were many nights when Dad was not home (he commuted weekly to New York), where I would help Mom to bed, and lock the house. From the age of about 6. My brother and I called it her mood, but she drank. I once told my father who I suppose confronted Mom, who likely denied it, or maybe he didn’t and just assumed I was being the height of disrespectful. Whatever, I got a spanking I will never forget.

So I never said another word.

And I wish I could forget.

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When Dad’s company finally moved us up north and we spent actual evenings home at the dinner table together everything changed. No more ‘moods’. We all became closer. Well, inasmuch as any dysfunctional family can. We did try to find a church but it was a ‘high’ church and swung incense so we didn’t go back. To any church.

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I don’t remember when I decided that she never liked me much. After my divorce she could not understand why I grieved. She and my father had disliked my ex-husband and could not understand that my sadness was not so much for not being married to him as the death of my marriage which I had wanted so badly to work. The distance became greater when she told me my struggles as a single mom were no different than her raising my brother and me when Dad commuted.

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I guess the real sadness was I never tried to talk with her about any of this. She has been gone for 30 years and, with all the tides that have ebbed and flowed and all the time that’s passed, I still miss her.

Or maybe I miss the relationship I always believed we had because I wished so hard for it. So this is a facet of my brokenness. A critical aspect of who I am, but it stems from who my mother never was. And I do try to focus on the happy memories but they are few.

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Kind of like these two boats rescue dogs Lily, Lulu and I watched coming down the river this week. Mom and I were never quite together on things.

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But I suppose we can find grace in the chinks of light that shine through our brokenness. These flowers greeted me early this morning. They are from my sweet son. He lives several states away. He’s grown now, successful in his work and friendships. I am so proud of him. There are many regrets though that I have from when he was growing up. I had to work so hard to pay bills and buy food. He doesn’t remember it like that, mercifully. He doesn’t remember my frustration, or what I always thought he lacked.

Grace. What we receive and do not deserve. And mercy. What we deserve but do not receive.

God is so good.

To any Moms who may be reading this,  Happy Mother’s Day.

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a compendium

Since rescue dog Lily’s surgery in early January progress has seemed very slow. She was not permitted to use her leg for about 6 weeks after, then very limited. She was not allowed to go for her beloved car rides so life became uncomplicated, and rather boring.

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This week we have ventured out more. The azaleas are just coming into bloom which is really good because the famous Azalea Festival is this weekend, complete with the Azalea queen and her court of azalea belles (I’m not kidding), hoop skirts, Citadel cadet escorts and all. The parade was this morning and though we were completely awash with rain yesterday it held off today, just cloudy and very humid.IMG_0928.JPG

The fanatic dog was out in full force, with intrepid rescue dog Lulu eager to meet his challenges. Fortunately he did not get over his fence this time, either.

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All the rain has left many swampy puddles and try as I might I can’t keep Lily and Lulu out of them, nor can I convince them it isn’t real drinking water.

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The crazed wisteria vine must cover about half an acre and it is in full bloom. The fragrance is heady.

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Wild blueberries are in bloom! I miss them every year, the birds are way faster than I. Maybe I will get a sample this year.

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For years I have heard that the new growth on pine trees begins a few weeks before the Sunday that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus. As it gets closer they begin to resemble crosses just before. Here is a small native loblolly pine which I will try to watch and see.

Anyway, a relatively uneventful week, but progress.

Onward and upward.

 

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help

Funny how an outcry can become triumphant in a short span of time. The problem is until you know help is at hand it seems it never will be.

At a loss about many things I was looking into do-it-yourself classes when I had another idea: could the local pest control company install a dehumidifier?

Yes, they could!

And they are–

IMG_0887.JPGRescue dogs Lily and Lulu supervising the project

It appears this will take all day, but my requests were large: could they replace the old, fallen-down insulation with new, replace the old vapor barrier with new and better and install the dehumidifier?

Yes. The only thing is when I ask someone to do something seldom do I really understand what is involved. The old vapor barrier is kept and the new one simply placed on it but the debris from a 20-year-old crawl space has to first be swept out. Then the new insulation goes in. Then the vapor barrier goes on. Then the dehumidifier goes in (which cannot be done until the outlet is wired which happened Wednesday). Then the pump is connected and the moisture tube routed out through a vent. Then all the vents are closed off so no additional moisture gets in the space. Then the dehumidifier is tested to see it all works.

So this isn’t like installing, say, a new refrigerator filter or an air purifier. A lot has to happen.

And I noticed other happier things that also happened

IMG_0886.JPGA tillisandia bloomed (like tiny bromeliads, air plants)

And the camellias that were barely opening a week ago bloomed despite the hard frost we had a few days ago

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And someone is coming to pressure wash my house Monday and will take a look at the gutter that got dinged when the neighbor’s bradford pear tree gave it a glancing blow as it fell during Hurricane Florence.

Maybe most importantly I have learned patience. None of this had to happen immediately. I have learned some other important things: take my time discussing logistics, get more than 2 estimates for the work, understand these are also people with things that are happening in their lives– illness, new babies, dealing with their own repair and maintenance. Never forget this.

So much to be thankful for.

I think I will wait a while with the other projects. For me this was a lot to happen in a week!

“Lord, show me just so much (neither more nor less) about myself as I need for doing Thy will now.”           –C. S. Lewis: The Collected Letters, Volume III, Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963

not handy

My dad could fix anything. Clocks, electricity, cars, jewelry, plumbing, shoes, you name it. I used to follow him around in his work shop peppering him with questions until he sent me back in the house to “help your mother”. So the little I gleaned from watching him isn’t enough to be my own repair person.

It is not easy to find someone to fix things. After the storm I knew it would be near impossible because everybody needed to have something fixed. Fence, roof, I did have repairs for, and very quickly. But there is a list of things I would like to have done, from small things like a crawlspace access door rebuilt, to insulation replaced.

I don’t have my own handyman. My neighbors seem to have their own personal handymen but theirs are all “just so busy”, so I looked up a few on a neighborhood email community I subscribe to. Those I could reach to speak to all said they’d be glad to come take a look around. One did. Said he was very busy but would come look at everything. He said he’d be back next day for gutter repair and send estimates a few days later for everything else.

Never saw or heard another word. From him or anyone.

IMG_0884.JPGCamellia in my yard just starting to bloom

My dad and I were close. After he passed away 13 years ago I saw hawks everywhere. On phone wires and poles, in trees, on my back fence. I decided this was a spirit animal sent by Dad to watch over me. I stopped seeing them so often, or maybe just didn’t notice after a few years, but lately I have been hearing them everywhere. I see them sometimes sitting on a fence or a house or flying across my backyard.

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So I tried one last person, who actually did come look at everything and gave me an estimate and a day they will come and do the repairs. I patiently explained that it would be ok if they decide it’s not a big enough job, or something better comes along to just please let me know.

It’s much easier for me to know someone’s not going to make it rather than leave me hanging, knowing nothing.

Maybe I will take a carpentry class. And one for how to replace damaged gutters?

proxy.duckduckgo.jpgRoy T. Bennet, @twitter.com

Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.” –-Isaiah 40:31