remembrance

Pogo-Stick the Not-Wonder Horse


The first time I laid eyes on her I was looking for a colt or filly to raise and finish out myself using  gentle techniques I was learning from horse training books.  I had my eye on a beautiful bay stud. This was the last visit to look for a colt or filly, but Dad and I had pretty much agreed on the bay.

The conditions the mare and filly were kept in were deplorable.  The dam was an Arabian – a hot blooded horse – who was a broken wreck of a thing – skinny, cowed, terrified.  Her eyes rolled and there were healing slash marks on her sides from a whip.  The filly hadn’t been beaten but she was no less terrified and out of control.  Those were the days before animal rights organizations intervened and my Dad was not yet a judge.  I wanted to beat the living shit of out of the “owner” to see how he liked it.

The little bay stud was gentle, hand raised, would walk up and nuzzle you, expecting nothing but goodness.  The  filly shied away, bit, and kicked, her eyes rolling in fear.  It was a clear choice for Dad.  “It’s the bay.”  I shook my head.  “Can I get both of them?”  I pointed to the dam and the filly, “Both of THOSE?”  Dad looked at me like I was insane, and in a way, I suppose I was.  I’d never attempted to deal with an abused horse before.  It was way out of my league.  “You don’t want that filly.  She’s ruined.”

Two weeks later the filly came to live with us.  Yes, I am stubborn.   I guess Dad figured it would teach me a lesson. What it taught me, was that patience, compassion, endurance and  kindness alone cannot fix all the problems created by early abuse.  I don’t know how that horrible man got her into the trailer, but when she got out in the pasture with my Welsh pony and Quarter Horse mare she was a wild and terrified thing.  Fortunately, my mare and pony were very calm and great role models.

The man would not sell the brood mare – I will give Dad this, he tried. I often wondered about who got the lovely bay Quarter Horse stallion.  He was a great horse.  The best horse for me.  But the filly needed me.  He didn’t. He would go to a great home.

It took a month of bouncing grain in a pan for the horses and having the other two greedily consume almost all of it  before I could lure the little one. I’d have to pour her portion on the ground, then move the others away so she could scavenge.

I kept bouncing grain in a pan and leaving offerings.  I offered apples and carrots. I waited without moving, fending off the other two horses with small motions as they almost trampled me in their eagerness to get her goodies.

I curried the mare and the pony, brushed out manes and tails, removed mosquitoes and biting flies from their ears and dabbed them with insect repellent.  No one got hurt.  Life was a lazy dream in the pasture with the little brook full of clean, cool water and thick with grass as well as one thickly canopied tree for shade.  The little filly got used to standing between the pony and the mare, tails swishing flies.

One day I walked up with the curry comb and finishing brush and started working on Patches, the ancient Welsh Pony who was round as an old oak barrel because he was so fat and lazy and well-loved. I scratched his ears and gave him a carrot out of my bag of goodies and started in brushing – and Zuleika (her registered Arab name) didn’t panic and take off.  She just stood next to him, her tail lazily swishing flies off his face as his did the same for her.

After a few minutes I discreetly offered a carrot around his tail… and she TOOK IT!  I just kept brushing Patches and handed Golden a carrot like nothing unusual was going on.  I wanted to run around waving my hands in the air and scream, “She’s accepted me!”

I’d like to say life with Pogo-stick was easy after that.  It wasn’t.  She was destroyed by a monster – a sub-human who should have been taken out and shot for how he treated horses.  If there is a hell, there is a special place for people like him.  I knew she’d never be “my horse.” I’d probably almost never ride her, if I ever could; but one thing I could do was keep her safe.

In time, she learned that I could use a mudder (mud removing rubber brush), curry comb, and finishing brush and she would not be injured.  Our farrier was a kind man who understood abused horses and Mr. Robertson helped me round her up and keep her quiet while he trimmed her feet to keep her healthy.  He always praised her even when she was so afraid that he had to hobble her front (or back) feet to keep her quiet.  I always had her head, holding her in place, touching her, speaking softly, keeping her attention on me instead of him. And sometimes she bit the snot out of me if I wasn’t careful.  Over time it became less traumatic for her, but never an easy thing.

Eventually, I could (carefully) pick up a hoof to check her for stones in the frog.  However, she had to be short tied or she’d remove part of my posterior with her teeth.  Fear biting was a huge problem with her.  She could have seriously injured me as she grew – or someone else.  I didn’t want to have to have her destroyed.

In the end I had to resort to aversive training to stop the biting.  It just about killed me, but I used the hot potato method since nothing else had worked.

Boiled potatoes were put on a towel on target areas and strapped down with gauze with a long sleeve shirt over that and then I gave her the opportunity to bite that area.  She thought I was careless and lazy so she took it.  She jerked back like she’d been stung – which she had, by something very HOT. I  cried inside to see her with a seared upper palate, but it grieved me less than putting her down would have done.  I was desperate.  I was all out of options.  There were no “Horse Whisperers.”   However, Pogo was a quick learner when it came to searing pain,  and rarely ever bit a human again.  When she did,  it was  a nip not a full-out savage bite from the fear and terror zone.  A burned palate heals. Death is not so easily overcome.

Over the years Pogo grew into a tall, lanky, half-Arab/half Thoroughbred mare. With that combination of bloodlines she was hot-blooded in spades.  By then she was not so crazy and dangerous that she was a danger to the general public. She rarely nipped unless she felt really threatened, and she’d stopped kicking much after some creative hobbling Mr. Robertson taught me that convinced her kicking people equalled almost tipping over.  I am glad our farrier was willing to help me with her since Dad figured she was a waste of horse skin and pretty much ignored her.

I was unable to hand gentle her to ride.  Everything that worked with other horses made her crazy.  She was overcome with terror and it converted to rage. I read every book, used every trick, asked for hints and tips from every good horseman I knew.  Finally I got a guy who did horse breaking to come over and let her crow hop around a corral with him doing the rodeo cowboy thing.  No spurs.  He was just a nice cocklebur, since he knew her history.  Eventually, she gave up crow hopping and let him ride her.  Not long after, I could ride her, but never entirely safely.

Pogo got her name from the fact she had such a horrible gait.  She was like riding a Pogo-stick if you got past a gentle walk.  Her trot was abysmal.  Her canter only slightly better.  She had trouble changing leads and teaching her was out of the question – I was lucky to just be astride.  She had an awesome gallop.  Since I did mostly trotting and cantering I was pondering an English saddle and posting with her, but she just never got ridden that much.  She broke a snaffle bit and ran off (with me on her)  finally stopping when she was too exhausted to go further.  I’m lucky she didn’t kill us both — and I never told my folks about my harrowing, out of control ride.  It would have been the end of her.  It was at that point I put away all the bridles, put hackamores on all my horses, and never looked back. I still think hackamores are more humane than bridles and a horse can’t spit out a bit that is not there.

In the end there was a guy in the Canyon County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse who heard about Pogo.  He was a big guy, well over 6 feet and he was strong enough to deal with her.  He had  experience with horses who were headstrong and skittish, and he could ride her.  After I was pretty much grown and gone off to college, Pogo went to live in her “forever home” and learned to do precision riding.  Whenever I saw her she looked great. Plus she LOOKED happy and content, which counts for a lot!

What does this have to do with being Hard of Hearing or Deaf?  I don’t know that it does.  But I do know that being a HoH kid I knew what it was like to feel not understand what was going on, what people wanted from me, and feeling alone.

I knew that I’d rather have a horse I could never ride than see her suffer any more.  I knew that I was the right human for her, even if she wasn’t the right horse for me, because I would give her the time and attention and care she needed rather than making demands.  Maybe I wished someone other than my mother and older brother had done for me what I did for her.

Lest you think she was totally dysfunctional, she was a great herd member.  She respected Golden as the leader.  She was a great auntie when Gemini came along.  She was pals with Patches, even though she was twice his size by the time she was grown.  She just didn’t have a lot of use for humans.  I can understand why.

Maybe being on the outside looking in as a HoH kid made me willing to try an enormous, overwhelming task like this.  Or maybe I am just soft in the head, like Dad said.  Either could be right.  Maybe both are.  I just know that even though Dad considered her a waste of hay and grain, that she was one of my greatest teachers in so many ways.

She’s long since gone, of course.  They all are.  Only I remain to remember it all.  The dogs. the horses, the chickens, gleaning grain from the local fields to feed my horses, gathering sugar beets for them, feeding them the sweet white bull rush bottoms, dandelion blossoms, just the whole nine yards of life in rural Idaho.   

I only wish I’d found her earlier; other than that, I would not change a moment.  Yes, I’d have had more fun with the bay, but I’d have never learned life’s lessons about what happens when animals are abused.  And I had my beloved Golden Butterfly as my main horse to ride and bond with.

Golden was sweet and easy and loving – having been raised by the awesome Laurie Tipton.  Patches had raised dozens of children and was about as knowledgeable and headstrong a horse as there ever was – also good natured.  Gemi was my sweet, sweet boy who was spoiled rotten and eventually became a barrel racer.

Only Pogo absolutely NEEDED someone to understand her and help her transform from an angry, terrified horse to a content, if not quite happy,  horse.

Are there horses in “heaven?” If not, I want to go to where the critters are – the dogs, the horses, the barn cats, the toads and frogs and all the other creatures I grew up with.

Sugar cubes, handkerchiefs and horses


As a HoH kid growing up in rural Idaho I quickly discovered that I could relate to animals – especially dogs and horses – better than to most people. Why? Well, because horses and dogs don’t talk with words, they talk with their entire being – as if they were deaf.  You can read ears, tail swishes, quivers, and snorts or growls.  They are total communication creatures.

I never really understood why I got along so well with farm animals until recently. I’ve been reading two books sort of simultaneously. One is Zoobiquity and it talks about the treasure trove of information Veterinarians have on medical problems that relate to the human animal as well as all the critters they are trained to treat.  The other is a book called Animals Make Us Human by Temple Grandin.  I  highly recommend these books for the physical and emotional insights provided.

In particular, the Grandin book explains to me why I was largely so simpatico with dogs and horses.  They communicate in ways I could see and respond to. As a HoH kid I was very attuned to behaviors rather than words – to expressions.  To this day, I remember faces far more easily than names.  I learn how to get places by landmarks rather than written directions (turn left, go 1/4 mile, etc.).  I see seasons change – don’t need a calendar to tell me when to plant or harvest.

When I was in my mid-teens I realized that I could train my colt to perform tricks.  I’d already taught his dam (mother)

Thanks to Superwoman 79, photobucket, for a good likeness of my former colt.

to drink out of a soda bottle by holding it between her teeth and lifting up her head so it drained into her mouth.  Cute trick, but in this case I decided to do something Gemini could make a name for himself with.

It began with a sugar cube and a handkerchief.

First I presented him with a sugar cube – beloved by all horses (although not particularly good for them).  And he lipped it off my palm with great gusto.  Then I put a bandana on my palm and put the sugar cube on it.  In a little while I folded the handkerchief over the sugar cube and he learned that either a red or blue bandana equaled a yummy sugar cube.  I started sticking the bandana and sugar cube in an easily accessed pocket.

Soon, every time he saw a farm worker with a handkerchief in his back pocket that little horse would sneak up, lip the edge of the bandana and sort of nudging the guy with his head in an affectionate manner until he could get a corner of the handkerchief with his teeth and pull it out.  Then he’d lift his head and trot off, waving the bandana like a flag.  Triumph!  And sometimes he’d curl his upper lip back in a horse laugh.

Just shows what a HoH kid who is into behaviors can pull off with one little sorrel half-Arabian colt and a Quarter Horse mare.

Like Grandin says, animals make us human.  🙂

A Hard Week for the Deaf


In Burlington, NC a Deaf man was repeatedly stabbed by a gang-banger who mistook American Sign Language for gang signs.  The bonehead responsible has been charged with intent to kill as well as other crimes. (from the Crimesider)

In Denmark, deaf twin brothers committed suicide (assisted suicide, no less) because they were losing their vision and decided that their suffering was too great to bear. (Huffington Post)

Today I spent 5 hours with a Deaf-Blind consumer; a brilliant individual with a wonderfully quirky and

Helen Keller and President Eisenhower

unique outlook on life (don’t we all?) and we discussed the suicides.

We were both profoundly saddened that Denmark – while offering assisted suicide – apparently does not offer therapy to help individuals adjust to loss and go on with happy and productive lives after losing a sense.

Imagine if Helen Keller had decided life was simply too great a burden to bear. Imagine the loss to the world were that bright light to have extinguished herself.

It brings to mind the quote from the book Dune that is the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear

I must not fear.  Fear is the mind-killer.  Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.  I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.  And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.  Where fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

I am actually all for assisted suicide if the person is suffering from a terminal illness, there is no hope, and there is great pain or debilitation which cannot be alleviated. These men did not have a terminal illness, they had an incurable disease process. My guess it that they had Usher’s syndrome and could have been fitted with Cochlear Implants and taught to hear as they were going blind.  They could have been given the gift of tactile sign, been taught braille, and given hope and support rather than a final exit.  All I can do is murmur an ancient Celtic blessing for the dead.  May the Nature Spirits guide them home; may the Honoured Dead welcome them among them; may the High Ones grant them rest, and rebirth in due time. As it was as it is, as it will be. There will be a returning for them.

So on the one hand, we have a Deaf man almost murdered by a knife-wielding imbecile in a street gang who is too stupid or drugged out – or both – to recognize the difference between the fourth most commonly spoken language in America and gang signs ~ and on the other hand we have two men with everything to live for who find living a life with a new limitation is too much to bear.

What are we teaching people around the world (not just here) regarding the differently abled among us?  That life without full sensory awareness is life without meaning and therefore life that should be ended?

She did a magnificent job


My eldest granddaughter was devastated when her Grandfather abandoned the family.  She was poleaxed (as was I) when he died so unexpectedly.  My beautiful, gentle, loving, compassionate granddaughter was never given the opportunity to tell her grandfather goodbye.  He died half a world away and she was denied so much as holding his hand or kissing his cheek.  It is the sort of loss which is irrecoverable.

What does one do with that sort of grief and pain?  When my mother died I went into the fields around the farm and screamed into the sky.  It was the day I gave up on “God” because “God” gave up on me.  We’ve never been on good terms since, and deity has been demoted to Higher Power.  Instead, I’ve the Tao, the Buddha, Celtic heritage spirituality, and the Higher Power of the 12 steps.

Life and times have changed. There are no fields to go to and scream out one’s agony.  Instead, we have the Internet.  She tweeted her farewell and blessings on the Grandfather she loved and lost, not once, but twice. Why does love have to come at so great a cost?

Life is so fleeting.  So fragile.  We often make such hideous blunders without meaning to.  We often harm innocents – both adults and children.  It is the children who suffer most, their spirits crushed, consumed by feelings they were to blame for the debacles created by the adults in their lives.  It is why abuse and neglect is generational – we get it from our parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents.  Hopefully, there are other family members to pick up the mantle of love and responsibility and help the innocents recover from profound loss.

“Fly High, Grandpa, Fly High.”

We are all flawed human beings – even my perfectly imperfect eldest granddaughter.  All I could do was tell her that her Grandfather loved her as much as he was able.  As an adopted child who never bonded with his adoptive parents or elder sibling, his ability to accept or express love was severely damaged.  So he showed his love  in the only way many men of his generation could – by buying things.  He already knew how kind and intelligent she was so he loved to hear the stories of her walking down the aisle at a restaurant, waving to everyone as if she were Miss America.  In his heart, he always knew she actually WAS Miss America.

Our eldest grandchild was his first chance to learn how to love a child.  He was amazed at how tiny she was, how perfect those little fingers and toes, how soft her white-blond curls.  He was terrified he’d damage her by touching her.  She was his chance to learn how to love – how to really reach beyond himself and his own terror of relationships – to reach inside his patched and tattered soul – and give something more than he’d ever given before.  He talked her through colic by distracting her.  He became a furby after hers broke, making Furby noises.

And our eldest granddaughter? As always, she did a magnificent job.

It is still all about perceptions


Around a year ago I was merrily attending  ACA meetings online at stepchat.com  The only thing I missed with the fellowship of a real life group. In talking with a variety of people in other 12 step programs I heard a lot of comments about really needing an ACA group (rather than an Al-Anon ACA group).  The focus of the programs is decidedly different.

So I ordered a few hundred dollars in books paid for a meeting space and endeavored to start a group. Of the three core members one’s in Great Britian, another is now working two jobs and the rest of the folks who drop by are just checking it out.  Last week I gave notice at the church.  We can’t make the rent and – to be honest – I’m tired of holding it together.

The perception is that if you build it they will come. There a million reasons not to come and the perception of “I can go next week” is all too easy.  It’s like a lawn.  It can be seeded with grass, but if the turf is not tended then you end up with barren muck.

I’ve heard shock, “Oh, you’re closing it down?  Where will I go?” My thought, “You’ll go wherever you’ve been doing these last 6 months won’t you?”  No muss, no fuss.  I gave it six good months and this is all I’m giving it.  Seems logical that it would either catch fire or fizzle.  It fizzled.  Back to stepchat.com  I love stepchat – I can always hear there since it is all java based chat. 🙂

Mabon


Today is Mabon, the second harvest.  The first was Lammas (Lughnassadh).  It is an equinox festival.  The fruits of the field are coming in.  We’ve got locally grown pumpkins, peaches (sort of small this year) and other fruits.  The corn of various types have been harvested.  The early veggies are all picked unless there was a second planting during mid-summer.  The next major time of year for farmers is in the fall when the slaughter of animals took place.

When I lived on a farm in Idaho I was more in tune with the cycles of the earth.  I still don’t need a calendar to tell me the season.  I look to the world around me.  The trees are now tipped with scarlet, orange, and gold.  The hydrangeas are starting to turn myriad colors.  The crops – vegetable and fruit – are largely in, although some still linger.

When I was a child this part of summer was filled with work. Mom and I harvested peas, beans, raspberries, carrots, corn, and more from our garden.  We canned and froze for the winter ahead.  I went to the orchards and collected windfall fruit for a pittance and we turned it into jams, jellies, and preserves.  I climbed the peach tree on the back ditch and got all the peaches I could.  We traded tomato jelly, jam, and aspic for the cherries (earlier in the year) from a blind friend’s tree – and we were all happy.  Neighbors cringed to see me coming with baskets of squash – they always produce too much.  (laughter)

I was a bit less enthusiastic about harvesting our chickens.  I was the head holder while Dad was the neck chopper.  I was the one who hung them on the clothesline to bleed out or chased them around the yard if they got loose headless.   Man, those birds could run!  I learned to dip the carcass in scalding water and pluck the feathers before we processed them for the winter.  The turkeys – they were mean and they were big – I never got to participate with thanksgiving dinner.  We wintered over the quackless ducks 🙂 I loved those ducks!

I miss being a part of the circle of the year.  Today we’re so disconnected from the land.  I’d love to raise chickens in the back yard, but no-go where I live.  I’d love to have all sorts of critters and plants.  But plants take water and water costs money and we all live crammed together and people today think food plants are ugly, because they are stupid used to getting everything at the store.

Even as a HoH little kid I could easily get along on our little farm. It wasn’t much, mostly Mom’s garden, the horses, the birds and the field out back, but I loved watching the polywogs in the ditch grow into frogs, loved feeding the horses the white bases of the bulrushes, harvesting the bulrushes and corn stalks as decorations.  It was another world.  My daughter and grandkids will never know it – and that’s sad.

May you have a blessed and joyous Mabon celebration!

Meniere’s and Tinnitus: a personal history


I was 14 years old and bored out of my mind that summer, so I enrolled in a summer school typing class.  It was during that class that I had my first Meniere’s attack. I felt light-headed and then nauseated; my balance was so bad I could not get from the typing desk to the door. After Mom got me I spent the next 24 hours clinging to the sides of the bed as the room spun around me, vomiting and sweating like I had the flu.

Only it wasn’t the flu. I ended up sick day after day, sometimes getting a day off, most times being sick part of each day. I was too sick to do my chores, ride horses, or much of anything else. I couldn’t walk, read, watch TV or turn my head without feeling as if I would be flung off into outer space. The low-level tinnitus I’d had all my life was raging. My hearing, never great, was in free fall and when I could hear my ears rang with sounds no one else could hear.

No one knew what was wrong. Doctors poked and prodded, drew blood, even hospitalized me for tests, including an EEG and a spinal tap. Then, when I was 16, a doctor got the bright idea to do the ice water in the ear test and as I spun out of control (and vomited) they congratulated themselves for finding out I had an inner ear problem.  I was sick for days after that test.  Oddly enough, no one ever tested my hearing.

Walking was my new final frontier. Walking a straight line was next to impossible and to this day I tend to veer to the right and bump people walking next to me. I learned how to focus on one spot like a dancer focusing on a spot on the wall. In time, I developed some control. I learned I had an “aura” and could identify when an attack was coming. I could drive because I had enough advance warning that I could pull off the side of the road and let the waves of dizziness and nausea pass.  I started focusing on reading – one letter at a time.

Once, in a bookstore I was surprised by an attack that hit so hard and fast I would have fallen down if not for grabbing onto a pole.  Those are called “drop attacks” and signal the later stages of the disease, although I didn’t know it at the time.  I lived on Dramamine. Salt restriction, mega-vitamin therapy, you name it – nothing helped.

My hearing, absent on the left side for as long as I could remember, went into a sharp decline on the right.  My ears felt full almost all the time. However, I never had ear infections until I was an adult and those infections were caused by an allergy to the plastic in my hearing aid.  Go figure.

In my late teens I developed severe headaches diagnosed as “cluster headaches.”  They often struck in the middle of the night with such ferocity that I literally fell out of bed and ended up at the hospital. I now see Migraines and Meniere’s tend to go together, so that those headaches may have been Meniere’s generated – or just an unlucky coincdence.  Between the headaches, the light-headedness and the dizzy spells I’m amazed I functioned at all.

I was 25-years-old when the Meniere’s finally burned out and the cluster headaches burned out with them. I’m still headache prone, but I no longer want to cut my head off to stop the pain. The dizzy spells are gone, but I still feel light-headed at times. I can’t abide rocking chairs or office chairs that tilt back. The tinnitus comes and goes.  Sometimes it is a low-level noise that goes on for days; sometimes it vanishes for a time and then comes back with a vengeance.

Wearing my hearing aid can exacerbate the tinnitus.  Or it can cover the tinnitus with other sound.  There is no rhyme or reason to these almost ultrasonic or subsonic noises in my head.

Loud, abrupt sounds are like getting hit on the head with a two by four. No matter how good my hearing aid is at cutting off abrupt noises, there’s a bit of a sound wave that gets through before the override kicks in, and for that one millisecond it is like I’ve had my brain stuck in a socket.  That’s all it takes to leave me reeling, light-headed, and disoriented.

It seems that there are so many more diagnostic tests these days than in the late 50’s and early 60’s, but the reality is that I don’t see much more than can be done to help people with Meniere’s or Tinnitus.  They are what they are.  All one can do is buckle down, endure, and hope for the best.

Independence Day


Independence day reminds me of the day I left home for college. The day my daughter left for a life of her own with her new family. The day my Mother died and I had to independently parent myself, asking WWMD (What Would Mom Do?).

On July 4th we celebrate a day when our country made a decision to become independent of it’s creators. Like most moves from interdependence or dependence, it wasn’t easy for either side and there was more than a little fear, conflict and general blood, sweat and tears.

I’d like to think that we’re all the better for it.

A Love Story


I love my Mom. Until recently I don’t think I realized how truly blessed I am to have had her in my life.

On a women’s forum the question came up as to whether we wanted to be like our mother or not and how successful we’d been in that goal. I responded that if I were half the woman my Mom was that I’d be a remarkable human being. Over the next couple weeks others posted their observations about their mothers poor decision-making, angry personalities or other decided failings.

Laughter:  So many times Mom and I laughed until we cried, the tears of laughter streaming down our faces like rivers of joy. Sometimes we had to hang on each other or risk falling down and rolling around on the floor. I can’t think of one other person in my life I’ve shared that sort of laughter with. I guess she took that particular form of joy along with her when she left.

Renaissance Woman:  Mom sewed clothes, tailored, founded and ran her own business, did her own bookkeeping, handled all the production schedules, did all the record keeping and ordering, did the production work and the delivery and did it looking like a classy Western businesswoman. She cooked, cleaned, organized the house, raised a garden the size of a small Eastern state – canning and freezing food – and sending me door to door to give away all the food we overproduced and couldn’t eat.  Mom played the piano, taught me the joys of the Polish musical genius, Frederic Chopin, and accompanied me when I was studying voice. If it wasn’t for her I might never have beaten dyslexia. She found ways to help me before there was any treatment for something she didn’t know I had. She was amazing in what she could do. I am still astounded by her capacity for being able to do seemingly everything she turned her hand and mind to.

Gifts:  Mom was warm, loving, positive, genuinely caring, kind, compassionate, the kind of person who invested in making the lives of others better. She gave of herself in so many ways to so many people. She taught me it is not the words we say, but the acts we perform that make a difference in our own lives and the lives of others. She practically fed another family who were having hard times. Mom was truly humble; she never sought any recognition for all her good works – which were legion.  She is the reason I ended up in social work – helping others one life at a time.

I’m sure that there were times she must have shaken her head over me, but she never made me feel as if I was a screw-up.  She had endless patience with me – and as an ADD/ADHD, dyslexic hard-of-hearing kid with dyscalculia I bet I was a handful.

Mom did tell me once I was the hardest kid to raise because I watched my older sister and brother and in trying not to make the same mistakes I made all new ones she didn’t anticipate.

I think this illustrates her point: I remember one night I picked up a bottle of Strawberry wine that was on the counter. My sister-in-law’s mom had made it for them.  I peered at it because it looked like tomatoes “working” (spoiling) to me.  Just then the top blew off (thank heavens the bottle didn’t explode!) and shot rotting strawberry wine all over.  I was trying to get it over the sink while it geysered – slipping and sliding as the rotten wine spurted through my fingers.  It was like trying to hold warm, shaken soda in a bottle.  I’m not sure I managed to get much down the drain because it was everywhere on Mom’s bone-white kitchen walls and ceiling – and me.  It was running down my hair, dripping in my eyes, and I reeked of rotten wine. I tried to get it cleaned up as best I could and stripped off most of my soaked and stinking clothing.  Then I had to wake Mom up because it was such a disaster.  She opened her eyes and groaned, “Oh, my God, you’re drunk.” It took the better part of the rest of the night to clean the kitchen. We found rotten strawberry drops for months.  It is like confetti – confetti lives on in shag carpets forever.  We could not clean the stain off the walls. I had to primer them – twice – and repaint them. My clothes never did come clean and I smelled like rotten strawberries for a couple of days even after repeated scrubbings. That’s what she meant, I think, by the kind of things I got into.  And no, I was not drunk.  I was sober as a judge.

I can’t remember one time she lost her temper with me. There must have been at least once, but I don’t remember it – or maybe she really was the Saint I remember her to be.

And I can’t remember ever being really upset with her except the time she ran over my foot with the car. It was the only time I ever remember yelling at her.  Of course, I was hopping around holding my bruised foot at the time. I did apologize later.  She didn’t mean to run over my foot, after all.  And we both learned something from it – like the fact I needed to get out of the way when she pulled out of the driveway.

If there is an after world – something none of us will be able to ascertain for sure until we are dead – hers is the first face I want to see, the first arms I want to fall into, and I want to laugh until the tears run down our faces and we have to hold each other for eternity to keep from falling down and rolling around on the floor in helpless laughter.  Later, I’d like to meet her father, but I want to spend the first few eons with her.

Mom… Miss ya.  Mean it.  You’re my hero.  You always have been. You always will be.  I have done my best to model my life on yours; avoiding the few potholes you fell into during your life journey.  Our lives might not have been able to be more different if I tried, but I’ve always put my actions first and words second. I hope you approve. I could not, in any reality, wish for a better mother than you.  It is a love story – I love you  now and forever.  If there is one thing I have learned it is that love never dies.

Forgiveness


There is disaster in the air.  Miscommunications. Anger. Blame. Recriminations.  It is so incredibly difficult when we find ourselves in the middle of a firestorm of emotions and conclusions when relationships fall into disrepair.

Whether it is friends who part with acrimony or parents who find themselves fighting over children and property in a failed marriage, it results in truly being unable to see the other person in an rational manner.

Sometimes I find myself attempting to bridge a chasm of communication between various warring parties and find both feet on fire. Tact and discretion is strained.

Having “been there” and “done that” a few years ago I understand how emotions can run rampant when friends find relationships have reached a rupturing point and when long-term families sunder.  What begins in such hope, joy, and promise is laid waste by time, miscommunication, and an inability to forgive and move forward.

There is finger pointing, harsh words are exchanged, mistrust developed, and for the married folks, lawyers and legal point/counter-point. Sometimes parents lose track of what is really important (the children) during attempts to achieve a particular goal – custody, a house, who gets the dog, and so on and so forth.  Former friends may divvy up friends in common, forcing them to take sides (never a good thing).

Sometimes there are true crisis points and when the warring parties are unable or unwilling to look beyond their own pain, their own mistrust, then even greater harm happens.  All situations pass in time. All pain lessens in the long run.

It is difficult to forgive in the middle of a firestorm. It is not impossible, though, but difficult as the firestorm itself whips up emotions time and time again.  Just as things calm down another raging bout of inferno sweeps through triggered by some life event.

Sometimes, only through reaching forgiveness and acceptance can we survive emotionally.  Sometimes only forgiveness allows us to see how we are harming others – and ultimately, ourselves.  Failing to forgive is like drinking poison and then expecting it to kill the person we’re refusing to forgive.  It ain’t easy, merely necessary lest we die on our own sword of anger.

Usually, forgiveness comes pretty easily to me. The worst case for me was three years of agony attempting to let go of what I could not change and accept that I have no control over another person, since the only person I have any control over is myself. It was probably the worst period in my life, bar none.

If, today, you find yourself at a juncture at which you can rage or at which you can step back and
consider forgiveness as a tool to helping yourself, I hope you travel the path less chosen.  The one of forgiveness.

Sincere forgiveness isn’t colored with expectations that the other person apologize or change. Don’t worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them. Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time—just like it does for you and me.  ~ Sara Paddison