>Days of Future Past

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“Our memories are the only paradise from which
 we can never be expelled.”


It feels like she has been gone longer, but we have just passed the nine month mark…and tomorrow will be a melancholy Thanksgiving Day for our family.


It is still hard to imagine that my beautiful mother, dressed in her casually elegant style will never again arrive slightly frazzled; relieved at having survived the harrowing drive through city traffic. She will never again unload enough food from her trunk to feed Pharaoh and his army. She won’t sit with each of us through the course of the day, asking and listening; living a little vicariously through our stories and adventures.


She won’t be there to bask with us in the delicious once-a-year smells that signal our homage to tradition. We won’t pass around my sister’s picture books, reminiscing about time and people now gone. And without her, who will insist that we all gather in a circle to share what we are most thankful for?


A year ago, we came together at my brother’s home for what would be our last Thanksgiving with her. It was also the day I should have realized she was dying (denial trumped by hope). The moment I walked into the house, I was ushered to the back bathroom where my visibly shaken sisters were trying to fix my mother’s hair and put some make-up on her ashen, hollow face. She was struggling to breathe, and while we tried our best to move through the motions of the day, the air was heavy with fear and concern.


Sadly, we won’t be together this Thanksgiving. Perhaps we are still feeling a little lost as we continue to ponder our new roles within our forever-changed family. I long for someone to lead us, but it isn’t time. Maybe we have convinced ourselves that our sadness entitles us to this limbo. For now at least, we have chosen to honor our grief over our mother’s memory.


So my Dad is going to join my two sisters. My brother is driving his family to California. For me and my husband, our blended family of eight daughters, their men and a grandbaby will put us in the center of our own Thanksgiving.


My oldest daughter, Joni Rose, trying to ease the stress and sadness of this day for me, offered early on to host. She wants to cook her first turkey. Of course, she has her own ideas of what she wants the day to be. Casual wear and comfortable shoes will replace high fashion and high heels. An open house and buffet table will replace our formal sit-down dinner. Friends and extended family will most likely come and go throughout the day.


She has also told me that she does not want us to sit around in a circle to share what we are thankful for. But even without the circle, my list of thankfuls is long. I might not be able to say it out loud tomorrow, but I am so thankful for the precious memories of the family we used to be. And I will stay hopeful for the family we can become.

>Lost in Eugene

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Some people have an amazing sense of direction. Without a landmark (mountains, ocean, buildings) to gauge their whereabouts, they possess an internal compass. They relish the adventure of finding new places, not quite sure where to turn next, but confident that their destination is patiently waiting for them to arrive.

Others can’t find a place they have been to ten times with a map, directions, and a GPS. (My husband would prefer I not divulge which one describes him here)


On this particular Saturday morning, I know exactly where to go. This is my second visit in four months and I have visualized the road and our journey many times before today. I am behind the wheel of the shiny silver Camaro my daughter Joni Rose insisted we rent to drive the scenic miles ahead. We are excitedly on our way to the Oregon coast…or so I think. My aunt Judy is going to meet us at her beach house later, as Joni and I have a little boutique shopping to do first.


I can’t wait to show my oldest daughter the breath-taking green forests, foggy cliffs and crashing surf of the Northwest Pacific. I follow the winding road from Judy’s house through the trees, down the hill and turn onto the main road to begin our adventure. Joni and I are talking and all of a sudden I realize…I AM LOST!


None of the roads look familiar and the way I have mapped in my mind is very wrong! At first I feel stupid, as this is shocking to my directional superiority (yeah, I’m that one) and then I get anxious. I have NO idea where to go and it throws me into a slight panic. Joni is trying to be calm (we have no map) and I am wracking my brain trying to remember how I got the directions so wrong, how I could have made this mistake, and what the hell I should do next.


In that moment, my cell phone rings….it is Judy. “Angie, are you okay?” she says sounding slightly worried. “No, I’m not. “I am quite lost” I tell her. “What?” She is surprised. “I have no idea where I am and which way to go!” I confess.


As she calmly talks me through my navigational faux pas (I was headed in the exact opposite direction), the scenery starts to look familiar again. Joni whispers over our conversation, “Why did SHE call? I look confused. “Why did SHE call US?” I ask Judy, and she says something about the last gas station before Florence. I look down. The gauge reads half a tank, and my heart has stopped pounding. ”See you at the beach” Judy says and the call is over.


“Don’t you think that was strange?” Joni asks. “Why did she call at that exact moment? And how did she know we were lost”?


Later, at the beach house, I ask Judy about it. She tells me that she doesn’t really know what made her call; she just felt that something wasn’t right, and she dialed my cell phone instinctively. She said her first thought was, “This is stupid…they just barely left. “And”, she said “Angie will think I am being a Mother Hen”.


Her words pierce something inside me, and I blink back tears. It is a sign.


Throughout my life, I’ve had many days of feeling lost and alone. How often my phone would ring with my Mother on the other end. She would explain she had been thinking about me and somehow sensed I was struggling and maybe needed someone to talk to. It felt like she was tuned in to my soul.


I stand in Judy’s kitchen wondering if it is possible that Mom somehow transferred her loving intuition to the one woman in my life she knew would carry on for her.


A mother hen? Surely she knows how much I still need one.