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Four Times

It was only four times yesterday I thought to myself that I needed to call and check on Mom.

That’s down from five times last Monday.

It’s been a month. Holy shit.

I can’t bring myself to even open the big pouch from the funeral home.  It has all the acknowledgement cards, the guest book, and all that shit I need to send thank yous to the people who came or sent flowers, or baked pound cake (which I may, or may not, have eaten every last morsel of).

For now, it sits on the floor of my room…my she-cave…the one room in my house filled with just me stuff.  It’s judging me for being so damned intimidated by a friggin’ leather pouch, and probably fake leather at that, isn’t it?

This will get easier, right?

That’s A Big Hole

When a larger-than-life character departs from this world it leaves a big hole.  A ginormous, gaping wound of a hole if that person is someone you love-despised.

That someone, for me, was my mother.

She died on April 25th, 2016.

I just typed that my mother died and I still can’t wrap my head around it. Granted, she was not young nor in the best of health, but her death was very sudden (heart) and unexpected.  I mean, six hours before she left us I was talking to her and her last words to me were “I love you, baby”.  She was in the hospital, having been admitted that morning with chest pains, and we were still awaiting test results.  The EKG was normal and all they’d found so far was she was dehydrated.  Then they found her on the floor, unresponsive, and with no clear code status in place (no idea why, but that got missed on the admission questions to my nurse-sister) they resuscitated her for AN HOUR.  By then, the mom we knew was gone.  It just took another 24 hours for her body to catch up.

She was exasperating, exhausting, funny, mean, smart, vulnerable, beautiful and flawed.

And I loved her awful…and sometimes did a terrible job of that, but she knew and I knew in the way only mothers and daughters can know.  It’s that tie that binds, for good or bad.

R.I.P. Mom, and give ’em Hell up there.  Lord knows you are capable.

donna johnson 1968

This Isn’t A Real Post

It’s a post about why there isn’t a post.

Remember how I said I was working on a long and whiny post about my mother?

I did write that post.  It took days, and days, for me to write.  And, that’s not like me. I usually write a post in a matter of minutes and then share it with my devoted reader without even proofing it.

Not this post, though, this one was epic, for the ages, with things everyone can relate to.

Well, everyone with a dysfunctional parent anyway.

I wrote it, I read it, I laughed, I cried.

And, then, I deleted it.

It’s supposed to be cathartic to write stuff, like long letters, to and about people who’ve hurt you.  You’re never supposed to send (or publish) those letters, and still you’re supposed to feel better. Unburduned.  Like a beautiful butterfly, emerging from the cocoon of anger and hurt.  Like an addict, finally free of….well, you get the picture.

Except that didn’t happen.  I mean, the only thing I felt good about was not publishing a diatribe against someone who will never change, cannot understand her flaws, and ultimately someone who despite it all loves me unconditionally.

So, maybe the catharsis part will hit later.  Like the delayed reaction you get when you down the third shot of tequila (not that I’d know what that’s like, people).

About Beek…

…my grandpa who died last week…

When I was little, Grandpa Beek was the only solid male figure in my life.  He was an Army medic and served in Korea and Vietnam, earning a Bronze Star along the way.  He was big, blustery, profane and I adored him.

He had one arm much shorter than the other, a curly mop of hair that sat right on top of his head and tattoos up one arm and down the other.  His ears were large and Dumbo-ish, and I adored him.

That is until the day I overheard him loudly tell my mother he didn’t want me calling him “Grandpa” anymore, because he wasn’t my grandpa.

I think I was about 8 or so and my world swam in and out of focus as those words rang in my ears.

What on Earth was he talking about?

I walked into the room and all eyes turned to me.  I pretended like nothing had happened and I continued to call him Grandpa Beek.

Over the years I finally got the courage to ask my mom what that had been all about, and she said it was because he was my step-grandpa and felt way too young to have a grandchild at the time.

He’d also just gotten back from a tour in Vietnam.

So, there’s that.

Time passed and my Grandma died at a very young age from surgical complications.  At first, Grandpa Beek kept in touch with my mom and me. 

Then, he re-married and the communication slowed to a trickle.  Finally, it stopped altogether.

By that time, I was married and raising kids of my own.  Kids I wished could get to know gruff ol’ Grandpa Beek, but every attempt to reach out to him was rebuffed.

Hurt and confused I gave up.

Then, two years ago I joined Facebook at the urging of cousins to keep in touch with family and was friended by my aunt – Beek’s daughter – who is only five years older than me.  We’d grown up thick as thieves,  but like everything else time and distance came between us.

Still, when we did re-connect it was as if no time had passed.  We quickly caught up on one another’s lives – our kids, husbands and grandkids.  We exchanged pictures and I finally asked about Grandpa and why he had turned his back on me.

She said she didn’t have a clue.

I asked her to take a picture of me and the kids to show him at the nursing home where he now lived.  

She did, and he said we had a lovely family, but he wasn’t interested in talking to or seeing me.

The wounds were refreshed, so I quickly covered them and didn’t mention it again.

When he passed last week I asked my Mom, again, if she knew why he’d shut me out.

Her response?

….and I swear I am not making this up…

1.  He remarried and because his new wife looked, and acted,  like my Grandma, my mother kept comparing the two.  It grated on new wife’s nerves.

2. When he and new wife moved from Indiana to Arizona they were involved in a near-fatal car wreck.  My mother never did a thing to help or contact them when it happened.  (I had no clue that it had happened).

3. My mother constantly rode Grandpa about a $100 debt he owed her.  Mom says she doesn’t remember this, but my Dad does.  (Really? $100? Really?)

So, I guess it all makes sense now, and Grandpa if you’re listening I’m giving Mom $100 on your behalf.  

You can pay me back by buying me a beer when I get to Heaven, and in the meantime keep a barstool warm for me.

RIP Grandpa Beek

The Most Fascinating Thing

I took two of my grandkids to Mickey D’s Sunday afternoon.  We, and by “we” I don’t mean hubby and I…because you know FOOTBALL…I mean “I” had agreed to babysit them for a while so their Mommy could attend a meeting.

Knowing they’re six and four and there’s nothing better than a huge indoor playground I decided to take them to our local Mickey D’s for some ice cream, french fries, soda and playtime with other little hellions like them.

They had platforms:

Those two little monkeys are my grandkids.
And gigantic tube slides:

Gi-normous structure - with twisty slides. Awesome.

And these connecting tubes that swayed or bounced:

Long crawl-through tubes connecting both sides of the huge slide-crawly structure. Kid heaven.

And the tubes connected both sides of the structure:

Super fast slides on this side, according to my granddaughter.

But every bit of this fun was outclassed by this:

What's under there? Don't ask.

Before there was a yellow cone, there was an impressive pile of french-fry laced vomit.  And, every kid in the room had to investigate.  One boy simply couldn’t stay away from it and one little girl stepped in it barefoot and proceeded to smear the stuff all over that blue platform to the left.  I giggled uncontrollably, but one mom was on the verge of fainting and ran frantically to the manager screaming for a vat of disinfectant, a haz-mat suit for everyone in the room, a biohazard team from FEMA and I’m pretty sure the declaration of a disaster area for the entire restaurant.  It was awesome. 

Southern Hospitality

*DISCLAIMER – and I hate disclaimers, but it is what it is….I am NOT racist.  I am, in fact, a healthy dose of Native American along with the whitebread of England.  My maternal grandfather was a full-blooded Apache/Cherokee, and my maternal grandmother was German/Irish.  On the paternal side, strictly English. What follows is a true story.  I’m just the messenger.*

In the 1960s, my mother met and married a distinguished gentleman from the South.  Soon after, he became my stepfather.

Mom had been born in rural Indiana, but  never really a country girl she and my dad had moved to the big city (St. Louis) when I was five.  

Soon after, they decided to divorce.

She loved the big city life, and once worked at the St. Louis Playboy Club – and before you get all excited, this was a regular nightclub – as the bunny who played bumper pool with guests.   She was good, and once beat Minnesota Fats in a best of three series.  He was so impressed (and I’m sure her beauty had little to do with it…yeah, right) he gave her an ebony and ivory custom made pool cue.

She still has it, and I have dibs.

After she and Dad split, Mom took a job working for a major radio station in St. Louis.  From her desk, as secretary to the station manager, she met celebrities and sports figures, movie stars and recording stars of the day.

Yet, when it came right down to it a li’l ol’ country gent is the one this dark-eyed, black-haired exotic beauty fell for.

He’d come from the South. 

The Deep South…as in southern Alabama.

His family wasn’t into cotton, and all that that implies.  They had a modest farmhouse and acreage on the outskirts of town. 

But most of all, they had status.   In the South, status means something.  Mind you *I* have no idea what it means, lacking status myself, but I have often heard that it means something so I’ll go along with it.

They married in the winter of 1968 and we planned a summer road trip – me, new dad, new sister and mom – to meet our new family.

As the trip got closer Mom grew increasingly anxious.  She worried she wouldn’t fit in, that the southerners wouldn’t take to this Yankee, and so on.

She knew that her big coming out, to the social circle, was going to be an afternoon tea.

They aren't wearing gloves! Tsk..tsk..simply scandolous.

No, really, they still have these things in Alabama.  Complete with hats and white gloves.  It’s a very honored tradition.

The day of the tea arrives, and Mom dresses in her nicest summer dress, fixes her hair and make-up and left off the gloves – everyone simply had to marvel at her custom wedding ring set, so why bother?

I wasn’t present, it was a strictly grown-up affair, and that was fine with me.  I had seen a small pond, full of frogs, and I was intent on capturing a few, so I spent my time failing at that.

After the tea, I went inside to find my Mom crying on Dad’s shoulder.

“They hate me!” she sobbed.

“No, they don’t.” he said, patting her reassuringly.

“Really?”, she sniffed.

“Really”, he said smiling at her.

And that was the end of it.   Although I’m pretty sure it was followed by a generous application of alcohol.

I didn’t find out, then, what the problem was.  I found out a few years later, and what follows is a recounting of the event that caused the meltdown….and I should preface it by saying that my mother, with her Native American blood, tans easily…and darkly.

The tea nearly over, the ladies huddled together as Mom awaited their verdict.

Was she in?  Out?  Granted, they had seemed rather reserved, but Mom just thought that was the way southern ladies were. And, she desperately wanted to be accepted into this society. 

She wrung her hands and paced the garden path, not even noticing the sweet and heavy lilac scent in the air, as she pondered these things.

At last, one of the group came to talk to her.

Gloved-Hand-Fancy-Hat Spokeslady for the group:  Ms. Johnson?  We were just delighted to make your acquaintance.

Mom: Thank you! I was delighted to spend the afternoon with all of you.

GHFHS: There is just one, minor, problem….ummm…detail we needed to clarify.

What could it be?  Did I use the wrong fork, chew with my mouth open, uncross my ankles…WHAT??  

Mom’s mind raced.

Mom:  And that is?

GHFHS:  Well, to put it delicately, Ms. Johnson, we were wondering….

Mom: Yes?

GHFHS:  Are you normally that…..dark?

Mom said she was speechless, although her first inclination was to burst into laughter.   She also didn’t fully understand the implications.

An awkward silence ensued, broken only when another of the group walked up and said it was time to go.

The South, where it was always 1940 in the minds of some.