Lizzie….

…is home.  She came in last night as a result of a stolen purse and no ID.  Has to get all new ‘stuff.’  As much as I hate her misfortune – phone, drivers license, make-up gone – I am happy.  My daughter is home.

I love all my children.  Sometimes one more than the other.  Nature of the beast of motherhood, I guess. 

My boys are attentive.  They do as I ask, usually, and with no hesitation.  They are sweet- tempered deep down, really deep, and always make me feel that what I’m asking is no biggie.

Lizzie is different.  She will show displeasure with a statement I make, and we push each others buttons.  Always have. 

But I saw her when she was less than a minute old and was gone.  Bamboozled. Probably because of miscarriages between Alan and she.  No child has ever been as wanted.

I know her by heart.  There are connections/wires/attachments between us that can’t be put into mere words.  It’s physical and emotional and necessary to my existence.  She has brought me and taught me more than I ever did for her.  She is my breath.

When she is with me I’m at peace. 

Sometimes.

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What fresh hell is this????

I wasn’t going to do this.  Write about dying.  Still may not post.  I also was never going to go through treatment WHEN I was diagnosed, because let’s face it, I was playing Russian Roulette.  Tough to admit.  Opinions change when you are given that news.

Background:  After taking care of Jeff since his bypass – 6-14 – he was making plans to go back to Birmingham on a Tuesday late in July.  The same day all the tests were put in front of me and showed a large mass on my left lung and three substantial ones on my brain.  The only symptom I had had was a numb knee I attributed to propping one leg over the other while at the computer.

So.  Action .  Agreed to all treatment offered.  Broke down once with my best friend, and proceeded to start a new trip.  We are all given expiration dates.  I know that mine is sooner than I had planned.

I will live as long as I can.  I refuse to be a ‘patient’ and take to my bed.  I abhor pity.  I will carry this extra 30 steroid pounds around like a circle of karma saying “get out of my way you bitch cancer” and I will do this my way.  My children, family, friends, rank strangers have been kinder than I deserve.  God has been more gracious than my actions ever merited.  Living really is more than getting up every day and going through the motions.  It’s about fronting your life. 

I plan to.  And signing off now – God and I have a sunrise date in my sanctuary.  He’s always there first.

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Life suckers

My daughter has impeccable taste.  She is always immaculately put together, down to the perfect earrings and one stunning bracelet or ring.  She did not follow her mother’s example of gaudy, excessively loud arm jewelry.  I know she wishes I were quieter in every way.  I know because she tells me.  And not tactfully.

Her exquisite taste extended to every young man she brought home to meet the family.  I heard horror stories of boys who drank too much, or hit girls, or weren’t dependable.  None of these would have ever passed the entrance exam for my girl.  Her standards then, and now, were/are sometimes impossibly lofty.

I loved everyone she dated.  Except for one.

I called him the Life Sucker.  He walked into a room and the air immediately went stale.  He talked, and giggled, incessantly, about nothing.  He was nice looking in a fleshy, unformed, doughboy kind of way, but his presence cancelled out any of his physical attributes.  He literally sucked the life out of a room. 

He also bought her a green Fossil watch, because ‘all the girls love them.’  Yeah, not the thing to say to the queen, even if she had liked it.

He was also a dumbass.  Mr. Jock of all Trades at his high school, and expected that to translate, somehow, into admittance to medical school.  He did not lack in self-confidence.  Oddly, he flunked first semester at college and had to finagle a way, with a letter from me, to stay in school.  Eventually he earned a degree, but we suspect it was given for longevity instead of knowledge.  He was there eight years.

I’ve known other life suckers.  They can empty a space of usable oxygen upon entrance.  I always wonder if they realize that as soon as they walk in others beat a hasty retreat.

Life is supposed to be tranquil, or exciting, or productive.  It was never meant to suck.

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The Help

I just finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  I read it in a day.  Strike that.  I inhaled it in a day. 

The plot is driven by a fictitious group of housekeepers – maids – and the setting is the early 60s in Jackson, Mississippi.  I was in Jackson during this time period – my dad stationed as army detached at an Air Force base there.  We were only there a year, but what a year it was. 

While we were there the University of Mississippi met a young man named James Meredith, the United States experienced a catastrophe at the Bay of Pigs, and JFK announced that we would put a man on the moon.  Pretty heady stuff for a nine-year old news nerd.

My mother, unlike every other mother I knew, left home every day to work in a hospital, and later a doctor’s office.  I guess she figured she had little need of her education unless she used it.  We – my brothers and I – were tended by a series of housekeepers.  And make no mistake, that’s what they were.  My mother might refer to them as maids while talking to friends, but we were never to use that word.  Housekeeper sounds so much more genteel, I guess.

Helen, my mother’s favorite, was also mine.  She made me peanut butter and marshmallow sandwiches every day when I came in from school.  She also saved mixer bowls for me to clean with a spoon.  Her cakes were delicious but her batter was divine.

She also let me talk her into using her curling iron, then instruments for ethnic hair only, to curl my stringy locks.  Burned it to the scalp and brought about my first haircut in years.   You would think this would make my mother fire her.  It was only when Helen dared to use the sink in my parent’s bathroom to change for an after work date, and left telltale signs of dark hair in the sink, that my mother got around to doing the deed.

Some things aren’t forgivable.

This firing brought us a series of interesting substitutes:  Johnnie Mae, who came to work one day with an indention in her forehead as a result of a fight with her boyfriend, was taken to the free clinic in the Black part of town by Daddy, and let go as soon as the doctor told her she would survive.  My mother might understand being so angry that picking up a hammer and beaning your significant other was the only thing to do but she didn’t want her children to see the aftereffects.

Then Odessa.  Probably seventy when she came, and seventy year olds aren’t as swift as my brothers required.  She mainly sat and shelled peas and watched her stories.  I don’t think her cleaning skills were up to snuff, either.  My daddy’s commanding officer and his wife came to dinner one night and as Odessa tottered around with a tray of canapes a strand of pasta dangled from the underside of the tray.  My mother gently guided her into the kitchen, gave her bus fare and sent her on her way.

When I was twenty-five, newly married and one child, I found Ruth.  She would work for me for the next fifteen years, and remains a treasured friend.  I watched her children grow up as much as she watched mine.  They all worked for me at one time or another, and all six are productive members of society.

I think they were afraid not to be.

Forget mixing bowls and curling hair.  Ruth refused to clean the oven.  When I asked her to she told me that her daughters cleaned hers and would do mine, if I paid them.  I did.

Ruth also didn’t cook.  She might shell peas or break beans if she had time, but the one time I talked her into making dressing I ended up throwing it out.  She couldn’t cook.

What she could do was take care of kids like they were her own and clean house like a team of twenty.  My house has never been that clean again. 

She was at my house by 8 every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and worked Tuesday and Thursday for a good friend.  She was so thorough that every lightbulb in every lamp and light fixture was dusted weekly.  So were baseboards, door frames, and window sills.  My refrigerator – inside and out – was cleaned and sanitized every week, too.

I’ve had help since Ruth, but it was like trying to make a mule into a racehorse.  It wasn’t going to happen.  She spoiled me and my children and when she took early retirement – at 55 – I thought my life was over.

I always wondered what she did when she wasn’t helping me.  She had children, but they were getting older so the minutiae of parenthood was behind her.  She had no husband or a steady male friend, so she wasn’t taken up with romance.

I asked her once what she did for fun.  She told me that she gave up on having fun years before, that it always got her into trouble.  She did allow that she liked to fish.

Reading The Help made me wonder about how I was perceived by Ruth.  I’m going to ask her next time we speak about what she thought of me while she took care of my life. 

If I’ve had several glasses of wine.

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New Digs

I am a furniture rearranger.  Always have been, to the dismay of friends and family.  My childhood rooms had more configurations than a Rubik’s cube and I liked it that way.

As an adult I have designed and redesigned furniture placement, artwork hanging, and sometimes wall removal.  It’s what I do.

As I was reading another blog (still waiting on a better word) and admiring the writer’s page as well as her words, it occured to me that I could change my look for fall as easily as I used to move sofas.

So here I am, in living color and with a snazzy new header, ready to greet the dragon in a few weeks, (aka sophomores) with an entirely new look. 

So far, we are happy together.

 

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I’ve moved!!!

My actual home is far too small these days, and there isn’t much I can do about that, so I have been blogsphere shopping.

I’ve found a new home – please add to you address book.  Stop by and visit me, often.
https://bht826.wordpress.com/

XOXO,
BT

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Joe

I lived downtown for most of my adult life.  We laughingly referred to it as the historical ghetto – yes, it was in the historical district, but it was surrounded by examples of white flight.  Our three little avenues were a cocoon of homes always needing repair and requiring more maintenance than a single woman who teaches school could deal with.  I sold my house several years ago and now live in a smaller and more manageable abode.

I loved my neighbors, my sidewalks, and my hundred year old oaks and pecans.  I also loved Joe.

Joe Hope took care of my lawn and most of the others in the district.  He was of no discernible age – could have been 40 or could have been 60.  He wore the years well and no job was too much for him, unless you asked him to plant any white flower or shrub, or a nandina.  He hated them as much as I do and quit one family when they insisted he plant the things.

The first year he worked for me I told him I wanted five white azaleas to mix in with the pink and red.  I might as well have asked him for a kidney.  When I insisted he said he’d do it, but they ‘wouldn’t do.’  Asked me why I wanted a flower that would just look ‘rusty’ when they turned. 

He was right – the next Spring was a banner year for dogwood and azaleas, except for those five white ones.  I’m sure he poisoned them.

He was also a master garden designer.  I might look out one day and have monkey grass around a camellia bed, or the crepe myrtle might have changed places with a Japanese maple. 

He didn’t mind ‘borrowing’ plants from other people in the neighborhood.  When I mentioned my new monkey grass to a friend up the street she told me that he had thinned hers the day before.  Mystery solved.

Joe had other quirks besides white flowers and nandinas.  He always came to my house first because he liked my coffee.  He and I spent many mornings on my front porch, drinking coffee and talking about everything.  He had several children – I’m still not sure how many – and all of them had children.  If  you ever needed to call Joe you had to go through five or six people to get him to the phone.  I think they all lived with him.

He wouldn’t use a weedeater.  He spoiled me by using an old-fashioned edger on wheels.  He took great pride in his sharp edges and told me he sharpened his tool every day to make sure his lines were clean.

He was also sensitive.  A mention that maybe the grass needed to be cut shorter was enough to make him quit you.  It took many phone calls and promises that the offender would never question him again about grass height before he would come back, and an even longer time for him to stop sulking.

I never questioned him about anything after the azalea incident.

I’m not sure how much he charged.  It varied.  Sometimes he’d knock on the door and say “I had to charge you more today – I fertilized (or cleaned gutters, or poisoned).”  If he wasn’t in a pout he did some of those things for free; if not, you could spend your grocery money paying him.

Joe got mad at me when I started work.  He was used to starting his day in my neighborhood at my house – he said Mrs. So-and-So’s coffee wasn’t fit to drink and it got his day started on a bad note.  He got over it and worked for me as long as I lived downtown.

When I sold my house I told him where I was moving.  He looked disgusted and said, “Mrs. T, you know I’m a townie just like you.  I ain’t gonna go down that Drive.  You gotta find you somebody else.”

I miss my friends and the camaraderie you find downtown.  Front porches really are the best places to visit.  I miss the convenience to church and the post office and the library.

But I really miss Joe and our early morning conversations on my porch, me in the swing, Joe propped up with one leg on the stoop.  Both of us content just to be in the world.

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