my husband hates to hear me even mention that i ever feel like this, but he says he know i must feel like this, because he would be much much much much much worse if this had happened to him.  he says sometimes he’s sure he would just hide at home, not come out, not talk to anyone.  i tell him no, but really i’m not sure about that.


sometimes are better than others.  this week has been a particularly difficult week, for no reason that i can pinpoint.  maybe it’s worse when i do get out more.  maybe it’s more apparent that i don’t matter anymore at all, because the only places we go are my husband’s school, and church, and the grocery store, where everyone recognizes him as the teacher.  they only recognize me as possibly his elderly, handicapped mother.  and they ask him “is his your mother?” like being old has robbed me of the ability to speak or something.  and it’s not like it happens rarely.  oh no.


but it’s not just him it happens with. it  happens with friends my own age. they  get asked “is this your mother?”  i never get asked “is this your daughter?”   maybe  that would be worse, i don’t know probably i’d throw up or cry or something.


the accident was three and a half years ago.  i was a teacher in another community.  all the kids that i taught are out of school now and we are never there.


i go to school with my husband in the mornings now occasionally, when someone is picking me up, because our road is too muddy for my ride to come down it and get me: i wait in his office before and after for a couple of hours.  his students stare at the elderly lady on his couch with the blanket draped over her, curious.  my cane is by me ready and waiting for me to hobble up the hallway.

i am disappearing.  i am not a person anymore.  my children call him for advice, with their problems, with their joys.  i am no help at all.  i cannot come and pick anyone up.  i do not figure into any logistics.  i am a nonperson.  i can barely do anything without major help, and sometimes nothing at all.  i try not to cause extra work, but most of the time that is an epic fail.  i try not to complain, to be cheerful and smiley and pretty and fun to come home to because that is the least i can do for such a hard working man who sacrifices and does SO MUCH all the time, but most of the time i even screw that up.  people, out of the goodness of their hearts, load me in their cars, make sure i have all my stuff, my purse, my blanket; hold my hand and help me out of their car; practically carry me across parking lots and into buildings; our elderly parents look after me like i’m a child again, and they’re both in their eighties.


sigh.  it’s hard.  but i can’t even feel sorry for myself because that makes these people and my husband frantic and they try to help me immediately.  EVERYONE tries to help me immediately.  they’re all terrified i’ll commit suicide, sink into a deep depression, or something even worse.  but i promise i won’t.  i would in a minute if it wouldn’t absolutely kill everyone around me, but i’m only too aware of the pain that would inflict.  so i don’t.  i won’t.  i just keep on surviving as a nothing.  probably it will get better tomorrow.  or next week.  or the next week.  or next month.  i’ll still be a charity case, though.  nothing in the near future will change that.





Grandma Harriet

My sister-in-law’s family owns a campground in Wisconsin that we’ve been returning to frequently for nearly 18 years now. The entire surrounding area owns a huge chunk of real estate in our hearts, because of so many shared memories and funny stories.

Grandma Harriet lived in a modest house right on the shores of the lake, and we always had full permission to walk down from the campground and use the beachfront that came along with the house.    I only knew “Grandma Harriet” as a tall, lively, red-haired, former music teacher, who had been married three times (the first two husbands had died) and who would sometimes bring her accordion up to the campground and lead the sing-a-longs they used to have there on weekends.  We always got a kick out of how incredibly spunky she was…she used to get up and dance along with the song, and her current husband (who obviously adored her) was, as far we saw, almost totally silent when they were in public and just sat watching her smiling.  And then one year we heard that her husband had died, and not long afterward Grandma Harriet went too.  The family kept the house and often one of the adult children were living there, so we just kept using the beach and telling stories of Grandma Harriet to our kids.


And then came my accident.  At age 52,  I was naturally struggling with depression and feeling that my life was over.  I had recently come to grips with the realization that I would most likely never teach high school chorus again, or play piano at all well or so easily again.  I had most of my identity and self worth wrapped up in that.  I was determined not to be whiney or negative.  I wanted to be someone people wanted to be around, but it was just so HARD!  I kept praying about it and reading only positive things and trying to think only positive thoughts, but I was starting to lose the battle.

And then we were invited to visit the lake and stay in the house for a week with our daughter and her husband. We hadn’t dreamed of having a vacation with our financial circumstances, and with my problems, but this seemed perfect!  We quickly said “yes” and agreed on a week.


It was the most magical week ever.  Ever.  The bedroom we slept in had a giant picture window that opened right on the lake, and we went to sleep every night to the sound of loons, and woke up every morning to sunshine sparkling on the lake.  It must have rained sometime, but it didn’t seem like it ever mattered.  And then there were Grandma Harriet’s scrapbooks.


Beside the fireplace in the living room were built-in shelves holding a number of photo albums and scrapbooks.  One lazy afternoon, early in the week of our vacation, we were lying around in the living room talking about what might be in those old books.  My husband started pulling them out and looking through them.  Quite a few of them had been compiled by Harriet, and told the story of her life.  In a paraphrase of her words, ” by the time your children and grandchildren become old enough to be interested in your life, you’re not around to tell them stories.”  These books were her way of leaving a story behind so that by the time her descendants were interested enough to want to know more, the whole story would be here for them.

Turns out she was quite a girl with quite a story.  The last line in every one of the books, save one, was “This has been the best year of my life!”


When she and her first husband had been married over 30 years and had 2 adult children, he was fixing a gravel truck right in front of their house when it fell on him and crushed him.  She saw the whole thing happen.  That was the only year she left that line out of the book.  She wrote that she took to her bed several weeks with grief, and then one morning she heard her son and daughter in the kitchen discussing who would drive her down to Florida (she and her husband had spent winters in Florida for years).   She lay there thinking “I’m not a baby!  I can drive myself!”  and hopped out of bed and ran into the kitchen and explained that to her children.  They eventually agreed to let her try it, and so started a whole new chapter in her life.  We started seeing many more references to a group down in Florida named the “Sojourners” that was made up of snowbirds, who would have weekly meetings, socials, dinners, eat at restaurants, card games, and in every newspaper clipping and picture about the group there would be Harriet smiling somewhere.  Husband #2 she had met through this group.  He had been a widower, whose wife had been dead several years.  That marriage was a happy one and lasted quite a few years before his death.  More years went by, and then she reconnected with Clark.  He and his wife had been friends of Harriet’s and her husband years before, and the two men had hunted together.  They had lost touch through the years, but reconnected through the Sojourners Group and fell in love.  This was the husband we saw, the quiet man that just sat watching her, quietly adoring. And again, after several years, he died first.  They were all good marriages.  Because her first marriage had been so fortunate, she wasn’t at all afraid to run wholeheartedly toward the next opportunity with no hesitation, no worries about “this time it might not…”.  And so it always worked out.  Who could resist being loved by such a woman?

Harriet had a daughter with polio, she had seen her husband of over 35 years die in front of her eyes:  she had had the courage to remarry, and that had been a strong marriage, but he had died too.  She had still had the heart to risk another time and that had been another win, but he too had predeceased her:  yet at the end of her book she wrote these words which I’ll never forget:  “Life has treated me kindly.”  What a gift to another woman who feared that her life was over.  Harriet started over and over and over, and at the end wrote those words.  I’m certain that it was a God-thing that placed us in Harriet’s house with those scrapbooks and led us to them.

Our last morning, I woke up very early and walked out in the dim early light of morning.  “Harriet?”  I whispered.  “Are you here? If you are, I want to thank you so much.  I think you saved my life.”  But there was no answer, no sense of her presence.  Not that I expected there to be.  Harriet had moved on to better things.  She wasn’t the type to stick around when things were over.


Mornings. Or Rather Mournings.

rain-on-window-glass Wednesday morning. Rain falling. Temperature hovering right above freezing. 7:00 am rehearsals looming. Labrador with an unexplained lame paw. Neighbor’s labrador, temporarily ours, needs food, water, trip to the bathroom. Dishwasher cycle (again) interrupted last night so no clean dishes. Forgot to put the breakfast pastry into the oven. Forgot my keys when I switched to my raincoat from my wool coat. Son needs shirt ironed for pictures today. Supposed gravel (actually dirt) road almost too muddy to traverse in a small sporty blue Cobalt. Late. Again.

But…..by 7:30 am I’m at school. I’ve had my coffee and some of the (burned) pastry. Borrowed a key from the secretary. Made it through the mud. Successfully got son to rehearsal (late, but…whatever). Dogs both fed and tucked in. Putting a stamp on Mom’s valentine to get it into the morning mail. First lesson student has laryngitis so a little unexpected break to blog.

In the last 3 weeks we’ve lost a mother and an aunt. Two funerals–one died on the day of the other’s funeral. Somehow that makes all the little things both harder and easier. I don’t have a lot of resources right now to draw on when things go south. But, somehow, it all seems a little less important. My father-in-law’s grieving face fills my thoughts, not the wrinkles in the shirt. My mother, valiantly smiling as she watches her siblings all go and leave her here alone–that’s a bigger deal than my (burned) pastry. It’s been such a strange time, really. So fun to see all the far-flung family again, to eat together and smile together just as we did when we were young. We miss them all dreadfully. To look at pictures of younger, stronger, healthier people rather than the actual faces of the gray, weak, helpless actual people, and to feel confident that they’re restored now. Really rather wonderful, except when you realize Valentine’s Day is coming and we won’t be delivering our usual flowers. Mother’s Day will come and we won’t write a silly song, as we’ve done (and complained about) for 28 years. I don’t know. It’s just all rather strange.

So I think, “good morning.” Or, rather, “good mourning.” Everything is all tangled up together. I just hope my dog’s paw is all right.