“The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own.” ~ Dan Zandra
I had a wonderful long visit with Aunt Janet today. We played with new clothes and new shoes, and then we had cheeseburgers for supper. She even got up and ran the halls, quite literally in some instances. Everyone knows her. There wasn’t a single hall we cruised that a half dozen people didn’t speak to her. After we stopped to smell the roses in the beautiful gardens, I bid her goodbye while she was on her second call of the day. Aunt Janet is a much beloved, popular woman. Rightfully so. Not a mean bone in her body and I love her
“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell
I had the best visit with Aunt Janet yesterday. We talked for a very, very long time. In our conversation where I pointed out that we both have hair that parts on the left, which is slightly unusual for women, I discovered that she’s also left handed. Though I’m somewhat ambidextrous, I am a definite righty by nature. She was denied her natural side. I never before noticed that Janet is a lefty because, like thousands of other lefties her age, she was prevented from using her left hand to write as a child. So, she grew up faking her way through life as a righty. Turns out that my great-grandmother Adams was also a leftie as were two of her kids, my grandfather’s siblings. These are the kinds of things we learn from our elders despite having spent decades with them. Those 20, 30, or more years they lived before we got here have a lifetime of experience packed into them. Never take it for granted. I’m so grateful to Janet for sharing her life with me. I hope we’re able to find a good long time to visit with one another again very soon.
“Stay positive even when it feels like your life is falling apart.” ~ Unknown
While dad was was with family at the hospital yesterday, I paid Aunt Janet a visit. She cried when I told her mom was okay. She doesn’t enjoy being at the nursing home, but it is an excellent facility. They vowed to look after her extra hard after they told her about mom’s accident, and they are keeping their word. She looked good (except the haircut which even she said commented on), and once she stopped crying, she understood what a strange blessing in disguise the accident had been. She was always able to see the silver lining. What a beautiful soul. I’m so thankful for her.
Yesterday, on my way to mom and dad’s, I stopped to see Aunt Janet. Time has gotten away from me this year and I had been quite lax in my visiting schedule. It was a delightful, albeit short, visit. And she looked so good! She’s got a friend across the hall that has a puzzle table, just like the ladies down the hall at work. It’s a great way to pass the time, make friends, and work your brain. I sure do love Aunt Janet. She’s such a good woman, and she’s been a wonderful friend and aunt. I’m awfully lucky.
“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” ~ Maya Angelou
I asked Janet if her leg was feeling better. “Boy, that broke hip sure hurt. It huuuuuurt,” as she made a wincing face. “Pains me in the morning and I have to take a pain pill, but it’s alright the rest of the time.” That’s Janet-speak for, “No, it doesn’t feel better.” So, this smile is about all the smile Janet can muster these days, but it’s not bad considering she doesn’t feel good. Another month or two and she’ll be running a marathon.
“To be nobody but yourself—in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.” ~ e.e. cummings
This is Janet’s first Christmas at the rest home in Campton. She’s at the same facility where both of my grandmothers stayed. The staff is exceptional, and the facility overall is really nice. For Thanksgiving, they invited families and provided an excellent full course traditional meal. For Christmas, they provided a large array of hot snacks, caroling, and Santa. The facility bought each resident something special, which I thought very kind. When it was over we wrangled one of the nursing assistants to help with a family photo (mom was telling me what she wanted printed before we snapped the first shot <sigh>). Our Janie-on-the-spot photographer did a darn good job I think.
Now, mom is all about the posed, everybody smile, nice background, formal pictures. I, on the other hand, prefer the more natural smiles, the less posed, the spirit of the moment shining through some way. If you follow me at all, you know that’s my thing. Case in point: this picture of Mom and Janet may be one of the best pictures of the two of them since they were just girls, in my opinion. And then I’ve got my hipster dad who just lights up a room anymore. Although nobody wants to see a loved one in such a situation, the fact that we were able to spend one more Christmas together is truly all that matters. We’re all grateful for it.
“There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, everyone of them sufficient”
~ Marilynne Robinson
You first met Darrell Conley in the November 3, 2015 post. As you might recall, Darrell grew up with mom and Aunt Janet. Yesterday’s baptism wasn’t just mom’s, but Darrell and Janet’s as well. Three friends sharing a sacred moment together. It was reminiscent of my own baptism in December 1979 with Mark Collinsworth. I was 14. Mark was 12.
I don’t know who took the picture of Mark and I but I’m awfully thankful for it. We were baptized during a revival, and we insisted we be baptized together. Everyone knew we were like siblings, so it made sense. The preacher with me is Rev. Eugene Haney who is married to my mother’s first cousin, Velma. The preacher with Mark was the pastor of the church, Brother Rudasill. I don’t remember his first name. This is the same baptismal where mom, Janet, and Darrell were baptized yesterday. No doubt you see the differences. The original baptismal was basically a huge tank that could hold numerous people. Over the years, it began to leak, and eventually couldn’t be repaired. The church went with a more portable, one-person model that I’d never seen until yesterday.
Mamaw lead me to believe that Janet had been baptized. I think even mom thought she’d been baptized as she framed Janet’s baptism as “rededicating her life.” This is not an altogether uncommon practice for those who feel they need a clean start, either because they feel like they backslid or maybe they changed churches or even faiths. There could be a host of reasons why someone might want to be baptized twice. But in Janet’s case, she, like mom, had never been baptized. She has now!
Darrell, as you might recall, is the last of the three Conley boys. Like mom and Janet, Darrell’s a private, low-key kind of person. A production baptism didn’t really suit him. Yet, he was totally comfortable being baptized with mom and Janet. His wife, Barbara, plus her two sisters, Rebecca and Rita, and brother-in-law (whose name I don’t remember) were with us, and that was all that attended. Perfect. It was a heart-warming event in that sweet little church. Although it was very different from the way Mark and I were baptized, the sentiment of a spiritual bond with God and family was exactly the same. It matters that we have loved ones walk this journey with us. We don’t have to see one another every day, but the memories we make can be a powerful force that help us through our lives. I’m grateful to have had that with Mark, and I’m especially grateful that mom, Janet, and Darrell have each other.
“We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid that it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity.”
~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh
I was in West Liberty today with my folks. Aunt Janet called so excited, announcing that we had to come over to see her right away. We obliged. She directed us to the bedroom where we found a cute flower arrangement very clearly meant for Valentine’s Day. We asked who sent it to her, but she didn’t know (because she hadn’t opened the card we thought). So, we opened the card for her. “To Someone Special,” it read. Aunt Janet had a secret admirer! It was very exciting, and she was clearly tickled by it. She directed us to another arrangement in the bedroom that we didn’t see the first time. Sure enough, there it was. Its card was also still sealed. “To Someone Special,” it read. And then our lightbulbs came on simultaneously! These were Valentine’s Day gifts for us from Janet. She had the florist deliver them to her house knowing we would come over. It was one of the most clever things I’ve ever seen her do, but more than that, it was the sweetest gesture from the sweetest woman on the planet. There will never be another like her.
“The hardest part is letting go of what I think I’m supposed to be.” ~ Erin Chandler
It was completely soggy during the Sorghum Festival parade. It didn’t start out that way. We thought we’d dodged a bullet with the overcast skies. Ten minutes into the parade the drizzle started and didn’t stop.
The rain didn’t stop Ryan and his friend Chastity from grabbing handfuls of candy. The DAV spent $200 on sweets, so whether there were 10 kids or 10,000, rain or shine, there were Tootsie Rolls to be thrown. Those kids made a haul! I’ve never seen that much candy on Halloween. Such is the advantage of a soggy Sorghum Parade.
Fortunately, they put the horses well behind the candy, for obvious reasons. Plus, horses don’t care if it rains or not. Although, Keith Barker’s mule looks a little put out, but that could be because he’s Keith Barker’s mule. I always liked ‘ol Keith. His mom and dad were wonderful people, and Keith was always sweet as he could be to me. I don’t believe he recognized me behind the camera. That’s alright, I got pictures of him on his mule and one day we’ll catch up and laugh about him and that big cigar in the rain. That is but one joy of being from a small town.
“I’ve been absolutely terrified every minute of my life and
I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”
~ Georgia O’Keefe
I couldn’t help noticing the juxtaposition between the present and the past as I watched Aunt Janet wash breakfast dishes. On the wall hangs a photo of my grandmother washing dishes in the old house. The old kitchen was lit by a bare bulb, creating stark shadows across a room packed to the gills with dishes and knick knacks. Janet’s new house has a lighting fixture and ceiling fan, ample counter space, and little that’s unnecessary. The lighting is far less extreme, but the sentiment of an older woman stooped by Osteoporosis in a singular, small space is very much the same. I’m lucky to have these women show me how to grow old.