Remembering

Memories are fleeting. As I create new memories with my children, I find that my memories from childhood are becoming more difficult to summon. This is me trying to preserve them.

Some memories seem more like folk-lore and I really have no way of knowing if they are real or pieces of an old movie that I’ve seen or a book that I’ve read.

I remember being in a room, on the top floor of either a hotel or an apartment. There was a balcony just outside the front door. I think it had to be an apartment because I remember coming from down the hall to hide behind the chair my mother was sitting in. I remember the same hallway though from a house we would live in half a decade later But because, I would read once, years later, that my mother had called the police; that’s my memory. Real or not real. Standing behind my mother’s chair in the front room as men stormed in. Except, I wonder how real it is, because in my memory they are dressed as the Village People. Is it something I actually witnessed but could not make sense of as a child and so created a version that made sense to me?

I have no way of knowing. My mother died this past year and our family history is not recorded except in the memories of those left behind, many of them not shared memories.

My mother, the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. I will never be so beautiful, I’m not sure anyone every will. It’s what I always remember, good memory or not, is how beautiful she was. Perhaps, it is how we all remember our mothers.

There are memories of the senses. The smell of the green house, one of my childhood homes, the first time we walked through it, before my mother rented it. The green house smell, musky, dank, hot still air.

The sound of the old clock radio all through the nights spent at Dorothy’s house. The radio voice that was present in the wee hours that we stole and the moments when we woke from sleep.

The taste of a warm tomato, sprinkled with salt just out of my mom’s garden, only one of two I remember her having. I was sitting in one of those gardens when I remember her running out of the house. She had just recieved a phone call saying either her dad had just died or was about to.

The sight of my mom and dad carrying a yellow plastic kitchen across the patio from a bedroom window above on Christmas Eve. I still believed in Santa after that.

The taste of coffee cake for the fist time sitting at a table, looking out the window at a lake cross the street. I was 9. I still remember the taste, wishing just once I could taste it again. My attempts a making it have never been successful.

There are awful memories. That’s just want they are and I wish they were not.

Guilty memories. Making it hard to forgive myself, but maybe forgiveness isn’t necessary. I’m learning that as a child, taking care of me, instead of another, was not wrong. Although years of self hate and self doubt make that a hard place to find firm footing.

Angry memories. The sort that are hard to forgive and steal many more moments of happiness from me than exist in anger. That I am letting go one by one. I think I am finished.

And the other tons and tons of memories. The black eye from my cousin Dusty when we played baseball at Easter. Dancing in the kitchen with my mom and sisters at almost every holiday. Laying in the back of the sation wagon with my sisters on trips to Gothenburg. A prisoner named Shorty, who would flood ground squirrel tunnels when we visited on Sundays just so we could watch them run out of the other end. Being baptized the same day as my sisters. Kid meetings. A bed of mashed potatoes covered in a mixture of hamburger, pork and beans, ketchup and mustard that tasted like heaven. A hundred pretend weddings to Bobby Fred in the sloping dining room at Dorothy’s. The first time I held his hand walking to Kipp’s for an ice-cream. And bike rides and fisher fountain, worms at Crazy Dick’s, delivering the tribune on my bike, sitting on the roof much to my mom’s displeasure. My first bedroom at the house my mom found for us when she was better.

My room when we first moved to Hastings with my mom.
I loved riding my bike.

Oh, memories. I suppose they could go on and on. My childhood was not ideal and yet in many senses it was extraordinary. I had experiences you could never pay for and that only come once or twice in a lifetime. There are parts that left room for healing. Some of it seems as if it held magic. And it was enough to fill pages and pages with my stories.

Advertisements

My Home

I love this state I call my home. Here is a poem I wrote 20+ years ago that still rings true for me.

MY HOME

My home is in Nebraska

where the long grass sways in the powerful wind.

The grass is a sea of greens and yellows,

drowning in the wind.

The grasses swim as the wind blows.

In summer storms the wind is full of strength,

as it dives into the green seas,

causing them to scatter across the prairies.

The grass sways as the wind blows.

On spring days it is gentle,

flapping the clothes in the line

and catching the hair of young lovers.

The grass dances as the wind blows.

It shakes and moves and no human could.

It would wear red, if in a hall,

for it is free, moving in which ever way the wind directs.

The grass is a wild mass of color.

It is free.

Never stopping for the breath that it steals

from the inhabitants with whom it shares the land.

D-Day

July 8th.  It will forever be the day that changed everything.

Max, April 2010, he was diagnosed in July.

14 years ago, on July 8th I was pregnant with my oldest son. It was the hottest summer I have ever experienced. I was so big and I was so hot, but I was happy. Our daughter was going to be a big sister. My husband was going to have a son. We had good jobs, a house we loved and I was living a dream.

13 years ago, on July 8th, we were in Toronto, Canada. My husband was a groomsman and our daughter was the flower girl for dear friends from college. We left for Toronto the night of the 4th of July and we watched fireworks light up the night sky as we drove through the night. The wedding was beautiful, our daughter had more fun than she had ever had and somewhere in the midst of the wedding chaos I started to think and soon found out we were pregnant, again.

11 years ago, on July 8th, I was pregnant again, with anotgher little boy. We laughed our at ourselves and with everyone at the speed at which our family was growing.

10 years ago, on July 8th, we were a happy family of 4.  We had give our fourth son two middle names to make sure we used all of the important family names as we were sure our family was complete.

9 years ago, on July 7th, we were pregnant with our fifth child. We had a house full.  My husband’s parents were at the house.  They were going to stay with our kids the next day so that we could take our oldest son Max, 4 years old, to a specialist in Omaha.  I’m not sure what exactly I thought the day in Omaha would entail, but it was nothing I could have expected.

9 years ago, on July 8th, I walked into the specialist office with what I truly believed was a healthy, beautiful boy.  I left with a son that was going to die.  It broke part of me.  That day broke part of me.

After a brief talk of family history and a brief physical exam, the doctor turned to us. She said that she would confirm it with a genetic test, but she was confident that Max had Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. For the first and only time in my life I experienced an out of body experience.

I saw myself sitting there in the exam room, just me and Jason and the doctor. The doctor had asked a nurse to take Max to another room (I should have suspected something awful at that point). There were drawings on the whiteboard of our family tree. The doctor was saying these words: wheelchair bound, not able to perform activities of daily living, weakened heart, weakened lungs, carrier, 50 percent chance, other sons, die by age 20. Words I could not comprehend.

My mom called me on the way home.  I cried.  I cried. I cried.  I would not be able to tell you what I said to her, but I remember we passed a semi-truck when I was on the phone with her.

I cried all the way home.  When I think of that day, as I am right now, I experience the same brain dehydrated, broken hearted, fierce headache.  When I think of that day, I can feel how bad my eyes hurt from crying.

I remember getting home and not letting go of Max.  He was asleep, exhausted from the day.  I laid on the couch, 10 weeks pregnant and held him to me.  Silent tears slid down my cheeks and then my neck, slipping between the skin on my neck and the skin of Max’s cheek. The tears binding us stickily together.

I remember my father-in-law.  He kept rubbing his head.  And in his own heartache, as we explained what the doctor said, asked, “will his mind be okay?”

I kept laying down.  It was as if Max had died already. That is the way I grieved.  I know I scared my husband.

I remember that same day, going down to my then 9 year old’s bedroom and telling her.  She never cried, but the word wheelchair upset her.  She couldn’t imagine.  Neither could I.

And somehow, at the very end of that day, my husband started a fire pit and we had s’mores and I watched the kids play on the swing set, the same one we have now.

9 years ago, on July 8th, at about this time, you can maybe begin to imagine the number of pieces our shattered hearts were holding together as we began to realize the life we had prepared for had just been flipped 360 degrees and after hearing the same diagnosis 2 more times we would begin a journey we never wanted to be on.