Friday, September 30, 2011

Hello to Autumn

Yesterday I performed my annual first rite of fall.  I moved my summer clothes; shorts and tank tops to the box stored in the back of the closet.  From that box I had already pulled out sweatshirts and long jeans.  From the sweater storage in the vinyl zippered bags, I removed my sweaters and some dress pants.  I put in cropped pants and the sleeveless tops and swimsuits.  The sundresses and summer pantsuits were hung in a winter closet and the fall and winter outifts were re hung in the bedroom closet.  I do this twice a year, but the spring changing over is a drawn out affair as spring is a fickle mistress here.  She may tease us with 70 degree days in March and early April but we know it will not last so we tend to just keep the jeans in place and replace the sweatshirt with a t-shirt for that day.  We slowly replace sweatshirts with tees and finally sleeveless and tank tops.  The shorts come out last and it is likely June before the full switch over is completed. 

Somehow in the Fall we just know when it is no longer shorts weather.  It happens in September and we go from loving having shorts on to the rapidly shortening days and cooler mornings and earlier evenings of wanting jeans, seemingly overnight.  We just know.  And so we begin the switch.  We do it grudgingly, acknowledging that Fall is here and much as we would like to turn back the clock to the glorious days of summer, its not going to happen, until Autumn and Winter have had their say.  I usually do this switching over with great resignation, boxes and clothing taken out of drawers sitting in the bedroom for weeks at a time, but this year it just seemed to be a good job to do on a rainy day, and so I did. 

I used to embrace autumn and I would like to do that again, and so I smiled fondly as I put away clothes that would wait another year to be reworn, sorted through the fall and winter clothing, gleaning good clothing I hadn't worn for the last two years to send to the church run clothing bank.  It gets easier as there are just the two of us, and I care less about what clothing I have.  I realize I am slowly sinking into that mode of preferring what is comfortable to what may be the latest trend.  I am finding that it has crept up on me, but is not without its attractions.  I don't endure uncomfortable shoes for the sake of style, and admit I have "problem feet" and need the support of solid shoes and don't really care if high heels make my legs look longer.  It does me no good if I can't walk for four days afterward.  I find I am still most comfortable in good fitting jeans and a comfortable, well worn sweatshirt.  I dress for warmth in winter now, not style. 

I hope I have retained my love of harvest in the fall as I have been gathering apples this year, the last of the tomatoes to bring inside and allow to ripen wrapped in newspapers slowly so I have garden tomatoes into the late fall.  I have cut the last of the garden basil to make a pesto, as frost will surely do that delicate annual in here.  I still have carrots and onions to dig, but they will wait until later in the fall.  This year I will not plant the 600 or so tulip and daffodil bulbs I generally do every October.  My spring bulbs will have to be what they are next year.  But I have many "housekeeping and yard" tasks to do this fall yet, and I will not lack for things to button up and tighten down.  It is the farm girl in me to want to harvest and then store my "nuts" as does a squirrel.  The wild turkeys are every where now foraging on the nuts reigning down from the trees, another sign fall is upon us. 

The days are shortening and the trees are now changing color rapidly.  We have reached that window of perhaps 3 weeks of color in our part of Michigan.  The maples begin it all along with poplars and aspens.  Next the oaks and locusts, go to reds and shades of gold.  Finally the weeping willows turn yellow and drop their leaves in late November winds.  We go from color abounding to bare, brown trees which will be our landscape for the next 6 months.

It is the time to put up and store away.  To plan for the winter projects and look back over a year, hopefully, well spent.  To review and decide how you have learned and grown.  To realize the worrying and the "stressing" probably didn't accomplish anything.  To mourn the loss of dear friends and loved ones, and to appreciate the new lives entering, to make our senior years ones of joy.  It is a time to appreciate the little things, that are taken for granted much of the year. 

This year as I put away the clothing of another summer of my life, I also put away the happy memories and all that I have learned, to be pulled out in the coming winter months as something to celebrate.  This year, I am determined not to mourn the ending of summer so much as to reflect on all it taught me and look forward to the challenges and comforts of autumn and the ending of the year.  I learned much from last winter's hard lessons, and now hope to celebrate good health and a new decision to make the most of what I have right now.  I have reconnected with my Lord and I want to keep that growth as something I strive for through every day remaining to me. 

Hello to Autumn and a fond farewell to a Summer I won't soon forget.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Memorial

Last week I went to the funeral home for an old friend, who died rather unexpectedly.  Don had survived a heart attack little more than a year ago.  He was alive because another friend knew enough to do CPR and demand a frightened high school softball player help him.  He survived bypass surgery and survived the post operative, when many thought he would have major memory gaps.  He survived all of that and when I talked to him the following summer, I never would have known except for a profound gratitude that he had survived it all.

It was then a huge shock when I was called and told he had passed away after surgery for a tumor in his colon that had complications.  He passed quickly but was able to say goodbye to his kids. 

I had known Don since I was a kid.  Four years older than I he sometimes came over with some other kids in 4-H to play soccer on our stretch of road that bordered a Catholic mission church.  The road widened there to include parking and we quite often used the area for fierce soccer games.  Later on, Don took my best friend's older sister to the prom and her sister's and I peeked out from behind a door as he picked her up.  I went away to college and when I would come home summers I would see him on my brother's fast pitch softball team.  He was a record setting pitcher and was well known in the area.  He pitched for years and was entered into the Michigan softball HOF. 

I would see more of him again when I met my later, husband Kurt on his softball team.  Don married had two children and was an excellent dad to a step son.  He lived on the family farm and worked it all his life.  He never wanted for more than what he had right there. 

I walked into the funeral home and the viewing.  Don had been cremated and the table was decorated with a simple box and mementoes from his life.  Upon walking in I was immediately asked if I had done the framed picture on a stand near his box.   My first response was "No" but then I realized my name was on it.  It was a pastel picture and I had done many, more than 25 years ago.  Don was kneeling in his softball uniform holding a softball and looking back at me.   I studied that portrait I didn't really remember doing, and I would have done much of it differently but the face.....I had gotten Don's expression even all those years ago.  He hadn't changed much in 35 years.   I may not have remembered doing the picture, but his sister saved it all those years.  She had stored it in the attic and gotten it out, cleaned it up and framed it and it had a place of honor.  I felt honored that someone had saved something I had done so long ago.  Honored and humbled that in the celebration of a man's life after his passing, something of mine survived and was remembered as being Don.  He would have been embarrassed by all the fuss and kind words, but he would have loved the stories we shared.  We spoke of all of our best memories of him and looked through the scrapbooks and photos, someone had made and saved, probably his sisters, we laughed and we cried a bit, and we rejoiced that we had known Don in all his quirky, plain spoken, stubborn allegiance to his friends and family.

We will miss Don and everyone I lose now seems to be the continual road of people going on before me.  A shadow box my dad had made to hold a retired softball jersey of Don's sat among the mementoes.  He had gone on and Bill had followed and Don now, and so many more.  They have walked that road and we will all someday follow.  The things we leave behind are the memories and the good we have done that live on...and on....

I Left my Heart in San Francisco

My beautiful grand daughter was born in the middle of August in San Francisco.  I have lived vicariously, seeing many pictures of her and knowing her other grandma was out there just enjoying the heck out of her first grand child.  Pictures are wonderful, but they just don't aren't the same as seeing that face and feeling those tiny hands in person.  But I knew my time was coming so I treid to be patient amid the steely waiting that has become my life. 

The time actually flew by as I rushed to finish the baby quilt conceived so many months ago and a calming influence amid the rushing I seem compelled to do, that takes me no where but in circles.  To hand quilt anything means to sit and be quiet while you put hands to the rhythmic in and out motion of the needle.  It was a pleasure I had put off too long and one I hope I will find use for again very soon.  I have reconnected with many past pleasures this year, baking, quilting, and my garden, in a way that was not rushed or futuristic but something that allowed me space to slow down and look at each moment as caught in time and enough of itself.  

The flight out was fun as I met several women going to a Susan B Komen event in San Francisco from my area who ended up flying all the way to my destination with me.  I met up with Annie in Minneapolis and with some juggling we managed seats together, along with a young mother and her three month old baby.  The baby was a love and the mother, relaxed and interesting.   The flight flew by and upon arrival in San Francisco, daughter in law, Jen and Vittoria met us at the airport.  The first thing Jen told me after hugs and kisses was to pick up my grand daughter and with silly tears in my eyes, I accomodated her.  You can fill your heart with love in just seconds, and once again I was introduced to the mysterious wonders that being a grandma brings forth in a huge eruption within my soul.  It kind of amazed me both times, the length and breadth of my feelings upon first gazing at my new grandchildren.

The visit was a huge success.  Vittoria was a peach.  She is as alert most times as the pictures indicated, a very good baby who seems to know she is loved and wanted.  She puts up with her goof ball daddy, calling her little arms, "chicken wings" as he dresses her, and gives him a startled look as he sits her in the small tub to bathe her and then brings her eyebrows together, just as her father does, to let him know she is studying on the whole situation.  I think she is already plotting ways to get back at dear old dad for all of this.  I fed her, dressed her, changed her, (her Aunt Annie's first changing of a diaper), helped bathe her, but mostly just held her and watched her.  I couldn't get enough of her and I guess, knew my time with her was short and the next time I saw her she would look so different.  I know now how fast babies change in those first months and I didn't want to miss a second of Vee. 

But we managed to take in the sights of San Francisco.  We walked miles up hill then down hill, as I discovered there really is no level spot in the "City by the Bay".   We did Fisherman's Wharf, the Farmer's Market, Ghirardelli's,saw Lombardy Street, Chinatown, and walked across the Golden Gate Bridge.  We had sunny, breezy weather, and only one afternoon of the misty, damp cold I had expected.  I learned the weather changes drastically from one spot in San Francisco to the next, and was grateful for the sunny weather I had while there.  We took Vittoria in her stroller and took in the sights, (she slept pretty much the whole time), and she had her first changing of the diaper in a public place, (a restaurant we stopped in at for a quick drink).   I ate sourdough bread, great cheeses, and an excellent fish taco, (my first).   We stuffed ourselves on Ghirardelli chocolates and the only sight I missed was the tour of Alcatraz.  But maybe for a next trip....

Annie and I caught a cab as our planes left very early on a Monday morning.  I had said goodbye to my new Baby Girl the night before, but my heart still broke off a piece when I walked by the door of my slumbering grand daughter so very early that Monday morning.  I left the nursery room, Annie and I had shared, with its crib, (Vittoria slept in it for the first time after we left),  decorated in shades of pinks and browns, the delightful chandelier and whimsical pictures and shadow boxes adorning the walls.  A wonderful first room for a little girl.  I left tiptoeing out and know that pieces of my heart were scattered across the floor.  I'm a Grandma now, suddenly gone to mush when I look at my grandchildren.  I guess all my friends were right, you fall into the "rabbit hole" and nothing is the same Alice, and now I know.

I am home now, where I know I belong, and missing seeing her every day becomes a little less every hour.  I still marvel at her alertness and her serious nature and the unexpected smile I induced, which wasn't gas.  I now look at her cousin, Luca, who smiles joyously all the time and coos and talks to us, and know that one is not complete without the other.  I hope I can enjoy each new step that my grand children achieve, even though it may have to be long distance with the one.  Its not a perfect world, but I have long since realized that I don't crave perfection, and that I can learn to cherish each moment I am here.  Thank you for the gift of grandchildren, and the lessons they teach....