Slowly, slowly, slowly….

Hand-quilting was just what I needed last week.

In the past seven days I’ve watched plenty of Wimbledon tennis, walked Buttercup several times, and have managed a fair bit of sewing.

Haze from the County Fire in Lake County turned the sunset a gorgeous peach on the 3rd of July.

I made a baby comforter, basted how many hexies, cut squares for future quilts.

I considered titling this post The Hexies of Forgetfulness; it was so easy to baste while vegging out to tennis matches.

I’ve done much thinking, about various subjects, even a little about the next possible novels, several plot points having entered my consciousness.

Some machine quilting took place, waves along the solid blue.

I’ve washed laundry and dishes, written cards, and cut my husband’s hair.  I baked apricot bars due to the abundance having fallen from our tree.

And of course Buttercup napped….

And I took communion for the first time in weeks, which was particularly healing.

For all these tasks and accomplishments, everything has felt achieved in manners so ponderous, I wonder if time is trying to balance itself from the swiftness of June.  It’s only the ninth of July, but it feels like….  Should it be the end of the month, or the beginning?  Wimbledon is a set two weeks, and today was Manic Monday, but even that event colours how time has been altered; we’re eight hours behind the UK, so as the sun sets there, it’s still high in the sky here.

What does that mean?

My hubby was off all of last week, but today he’s at work, and I’ve kept busy with more laundry, snapping a new quilt, contemplating mopping the kitchen.  Writing this post supersedes the housecleaning, ha ha, but it’s just one thirty in the afternoon.  Buttercup naps most of the day, so she won’t get in the road.  An odd stillness surrounds me like a protective bubble.  Only a ticking clock permeates the quiet.

She wandered into my photo shoot this morning, bless her heart.

Is this how grieving works, not always tearfully, but in a kind of bumping-about way, as towels are hung on the line, my coffee pot drying in the drainer, games turning into sets that form matches won and lost….  And when Wimbledon is over, so will half of July as well, and then another week will pass and Mom will have been dead an entire month.

A hexie flower begun last night, finished up today while Juan Martin del Potro battled Gilles Simon.

Life beyond the here and now has never seemed closer, has never felt so certain.  Maybe it’s being in my fifties, or that I’m a grandma three times over.  Suddenly a veil has been lifted, a peek into what comes next subduing all my moments, and even in what should be an innocuous action, Mom pops into my head, as if I could again hold her hand.

In the photo above, a purple hexie was basted with red thread; I did several of those at Mom’s, probably on her last Sunday at home.  She napped for much of that day, having been a chatty Cathy on Saturday, when Justify won the Triple Crown.  When I completed sewing this hexie together, that red thread caught my eye, taking me back exactly one month ago today.  I sat to Mom’s left, my two other sisters on the sofa to her right.  We watched a race with no clue to the one we all were already in, facing the last turn. Our lives were altering as we laughed together, but time doesn’t stop.  In fact, the older I get, the more quickly it moves, except for right now.

I’m being jostled within a strange bubble.  And when it finally pops, what then?

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Into thin air….

That’s how Mom’s death seems to me, and a few others within the family, as though she simply disappeared.  I arrived to help care for her on the seventh of June, and two weeks later….  How the hell does that happen?

Mom loved yellow roses….

I’ve been facing plenty of existential queries, none of them immediately answerable.  I’ve also enjoyed numerous hugs and snuggles.  And there have been copious tears shed, not merely for the enormous hole left within so many hearts, but the upheaval stirred by such loss.  And suddenly it’s July, as if June never occurred, except that it did, and the footprint left behind is massive and invisible all at once.

How can something so grievous feel so improbable?

Mom’s at home, right?  She’s attending to various civic duties, or watering her roses, or assisting with a literacy program.  She’s baking sweet potato pies or planning to help with Fourth of July activities.  She’s watching baseball or feeding the cats.  She’s….gone.

Since coming home, I’ve thrown myself into sewing projects, fashioning a baby blanket as well as cutting fabric.  The baby comforter came together quickly, just the hand-quilting taking more time.  I did the same after Dad died, my brain too weary to do more than operate my machine.  Perhaps only three years have passed, but I’m feeling far more fragile this time around.  I’m grateful to have finished The Hawk; I simply can’t fathom doing more the most basic tasks.  My husband is home this week, and other than keeping an eye on Buttercup while her family leaves for vacation, there are few chores I need to accomplish.  I’d had grand plans for this month, writing at the top of the list.  But death has swooped in on a stealthy wind, uprooting my balance with colossal force.  Plot twists are scattered beyond my capacity to retrieve them, hexies too, as though my life wasn’t more than a box of scraps, dumped out amid tornado-strength winds.

It is cathartic to write this out, as if by seeing these emotions in print I can somehow set this bizarre truth somewhere in my head where it makes the tiniest bit of sense.  I’m not prone to visiting the cemetery where my family is buried, Dad next to my brother, grandparents, aunts and uncles and great-grandparents on the far side.  However, once Mom’s name is etched on the marker she shares with my father, perhaps I’ll mosey out for a chat.  I might sing a song; lately I’ve been listening to Kate and Anna McGarrigle.  I don’t know if Mom and her sisters know their music, but I imagine a few tunes were enjoyed when they were younger.  I leave you with one of my faves; Mom and her family used to camp at Patrick’s Point in Humboldt County.  On our next trip up that way, I’ll certainly be thinking of her and my aunties.

10 Days

Not sure what Mom would have made of these colours together, but I love them.

I’m home, but feeling so adrift; Mom died last week only ten days after we received the stage four diagnosis.  I know I’m supposed to be eased that she didn’t suffer, but that barely scratches the surface.

I’m slightly calmed by a gorgeous quilt proffered by a guild that makes comforters for each of the patients at the hospice where Mom spent her last days.  My siblings kindly allowed me that keepsake, and I’ve already told The Burrito he can use it when he sleeps over at our house.

I’m especially keen on the quilting; makes for a great rippled effect after having been washed.

Yet….  My heart is ripped apart, scattered along the roads between Silicon Valley and where Mom took her final breaths.  And while I know those ragged pieces will again one day beat steadily within my chest, it’s damn difficult to fathom how, when, wtf???  My mother was fine three months ago, just fine!  Well her knees were a little achy, but she was taking turmeric and feeling better and….

And now I’m beyond stymied how stupidly fast this occurred, how insanely unreal it seems, how mother-effing this day appears.  It looks like any typical late June day, but for the love of God what the hell happened in the last few weeks?  I was merely going to help my littlest sister, Mom suffering from a bad back.  Now Mom’s dead, really?  REALLY?

Usually I’m not fond of gingham, but here it works, as does the black and white; sometimes life is just that way.

Shite; I’ve used a lot of blue language recently, because despite how pain-free Mom was at the end, the friggin’ speed of this has hit all who love her like a freakin’ bullet train.  This is nothing like how Dad died, this is some alternate reality.  I know people die of cancer with barely any warning, and I also know people die in accidents and there is no loving goodbye shared.  But I’ve never been on the effed-up end of it.  This is new, it hurts, and I’m groping around, looking for pieces of my heart.  And my head; oh my goodness, barely enough brain cells to make the morning coffee.  I’ve been drinking a lot of coffee, but never again will I get Mom a gift card for her favourite java corporation.  So many never again’s makes me wanna puke.

Not sure when I might post next, maybe tomorrow, maybe September.  Last week I told the hospice social worker I’ve had one foot in the corporeal, the other in the ethereal, and never had I felt so stretched.  Finally I’ve fallen on my arse and Lord Almighty it’s a killer getting back up.  Currently I’m on my knees, nowhere near standing on two feet.  But on those knees, prayer seems easier, about the only task I can manage.  Mom’s final ten days have been swept away on a hot summer wind, bitter against my face, strangely cold at my back; I never dreamed she’d leave us this soon.  May the peace she now possesses find her beloveds; we are aching tremendously.

The sunset after Mom was gone; she’s with Dad, both interceding on behalf of those left behind….

Stage 4

When I left last week to give my youngest sister a hand at Mom’s house, I never imagined what has unfolded since Monday; my mother has terminal cancer, metastasized all down her spine.  Severe back pain that started in mid-April has suddenly become more than I can fathom, my siblings and Mom’s four sisters feeling the same.  It’s as if I’m now living in an alternate universe where the sun still shines yellow in a blue sky, leafy-green trees blowing in a stiff breeze, yet my mom will never see another summer.

I’ll not share another Easter with her, or Thanksgiving.  Not Christmas or her birthday or Mother’s Day….  That was the last time I saw her before last week.  She looked tired and thin, but back pain will sap the energy right out of a person.  Cancer does that too.  Most likely she’s had it for months, but only in the past two was it noticeable.  And, and, and….  The writer in me sits in stupefied silence attempting to fathom this awful truth.  Dad’s only been gone for three years and now Mom’s right behind him.

I’m grateful for my faith, but this remains difficult because my eyes view that which is corporeal.  Yellow sun.  Blue sky.  Green trees rushing about in the wind….  When I headed home yesterday, all I saw seemed like new vistas.  My whole family is gearing up for a huge adjustment day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment.  I’ve been mulling over the moments since last Sunday night when my sister and I realized there was more to Mom’s poor health than a wrenched back and achy hips.

Driving away from Mom’s house last Sunday night, her final evening spent at home.

When Dad died, I consoled myself that Mom was in fairly good health, also six years his junior.  Time seemed a plentiful notion, but time is as slight as the fleeting breeze, as brief as the sunset, as ethereal as the last five days since we took Mom to the emergency room where the ER doc gave us the news, then confirmed by another physician who used those words: stage four.  Now that term seems almost quaint after how many MRIs and CT scans and biopsies.  We wanted to know why she hurt, and yes, information is better than ignorance, but this cuts so deeply.  How she can be so peaceful is a mystery; I told my brother either we’ve been graced by an angel or she’s the best con artist alive.

While I know it’s the former, my heart throbs pondering memories and times that won’t come to pass.  Again I turn to my faith, for which I am so grateful, a belief Mom shares.  Usually I’m a calm sort, my hopes set upon an unseen future.  Yet currently my feet are mired in clay that clings as if another day shall never dawn.  With much effort I pry one foot loose, setting it on dry ground, straddling two worlds.  Mom seems to be doing that with ease.  I, however, am struggling.

In the interim, I’ll be making road trips, spending as much time with Mom as possible.  Maybe I’ll sew hexies with her, I know we’ll enjoy some lovely chats.  But mostly I will cherish these upcoming days and weeks, tucking them away in my heart.  When our hearts are breaking, I like to think they are growing, and once healed, more love can enter.  I pray that happens again, and when Mom is gone, ample space will be waiting inside my chest muscle.  We are here to love and laugh, and to move forward.   I don’t know how it might happen, but by grace I’m sure it will.

A Duvet Cover Done and Dusted

Last week I finished Little Miss’ duvet cover, but proper photos never came about.  Her mum loved fabric from Heather Givans’ Literary collection, of which I have several fat quarters stashed just for my eldest.  In the meantime, both sides of the cover are edged in Classics, providing a little break from the superhero theme.

Draped in Marvel comics with a hint of library cards; Little Miss is quite pleased for her new bed cover.

I wasn’t certain what to start next sewing-wise, and as for the writing, I’m currently rereading what was recently published, checking for stray typos.  However, I’ll be leaving to help care for my mom, who hasn’t been well since April.  I might take some hexies with me, as they are portable, but more on my mind is family requiring love and assistance.

Of course my thoughts go back to when The Burrito was new and my dad was ailing.  This with Mom is different, yet parallels remain, the biggest being no longer am I of the younger generation.  A grandma now for three years, my role is that of a matriarch within my immediate family.  As an eldest daughter, I work in conjunction with siblings to facilitate the best care and treatment for our mum, but it’s not like when Dad was sick, because Mom was in charge then, and we were following her example.  While that experience prepped me for the future, often the future emerges with different rules.

Making a duvet cover was challenging, and while I wasn’t always enthralled with the task (and am not certain I would ever sew another), new processes were learned, increasing my sewing skills.  Mom will appreciate that metaphor, as she’s a seamstress from way back.  We can discuss fabrics and patterns in the coming days, or whatever she feels like chatting about; I recall my dad dictating our conversations, he loved to talk.  But I don’t feel like somebody’s little girl anymore, maybe the death of a parent ends that notion.  Now I’m someone else, an abuela yes, also….  Taking a deep breath, I await what comes next.  The best way to meet these changes is with open arms, a willing heart, and the awareness of grace at my back.  Of those three, the latter is most important, and upon that I will gratefully rely.

The Hawk, Part Thirteen

Usually when another piece of this saga has been published, an accompanying entry is brief; it’s up and you can find it here.  But while I plan to release this tale in a formal manner, more needs to be acknowledged.  Making the conclusion available closes a large circle that I couldn’t have dreamed when first starting this book over four years ago.

I wasn’t a grandmother then, my familial role that of supporting my parents while Dad battled cancer, occasionally helping out my offspring when the need arose.  This tale started humbly, but quickly I sensed a wider scope emerging.  At the same time, my father underwent chemotherapy while quilts knocked on my door.  Writing fell by the wayside; it was difficult concentrating and sewing required less brain power.  Then my youngest became pregnant, followed by her elder sister and….

Suddenly my existence as an author seemed to have vanished on a stiff wind.  Now I wonder if not for The Hawk, might I have eschewed writing altogether?  Yet there was a story to tell, at times bigger than I thought I could tackle.  In bits and chunks I wrote, then decided to simultaneously publish what had accumulated.  That too kept me writing, although the more I fashioned, the longer this tale grew.

In the interim, babies were born, my dad passed.  Eric, Lynne, and the rest became an extension of my own clan; when not writing, I wondered when I might return to their realm, and when I was working, I pondered how blessed was my life with The Burrito, Little Miss, and Miss Em.  My father would find their antics amusing, perhaps how he views my foray into fiction.  How I see my novelistic endeavors has altered, and this story stands like a demarcation; closing my eyes, I easily recall my previous life as an author, but in taking a good look, that woman appears half formed.

Maybe that is simply indicative of life’s changes, but how often do we get a guidebook or pamphlet in the middle of such transitions?  For me, that is what The Hawk has become, a Life Echo minus the sound.  Yet melodic memories waft right over my head, laying their healing beauty within my ears as I read Eric’s laments, Lynne’s dreams, Stanford’s hesitations, Laurie’s joy, Sam’s eagerness, Renee’s hopes, Marek’s wisdom, Seth’s fears, Klaudia’s wariness.  My goodness, that’s quite a collection, but The Hawk isn’t a small novel, lol.  It’s many love stories, a few tragedies.  It’s fact and fantasy set in the 1960s and thank the Lord it’s finally finished.  The entire collection is available on Smashwords, and will be released in full on various other online retailers soon.

All Sorts of Sounds

A recent shot of chatty sisters, rattling toys nearby.

Recently Little Miss celebrated her third birthday.  A party was held, plenty of festive notions, and now she stands alongside her older cousin, far away from Miss Em who at five and a half months is a happy, grabby, drooly infant.  I have been in full grandma-mode lately, but even while cuddling nietos and enjoying family, ponderings of an audible nature have continued.

I wonder if my grandson heard the water, birds, or leaves rustling in the breeze.

A couple of weeks ago I learned about Life Echo, a project that connects sounds to memory.  I don’t mean songs, but everyday noises which hearken to moments within our lives; from chirping birds to rollicking waves to clanking vehicles, sounds are harnessed to map out a person’s past.  Clients fill out questionnaires and those at Life Echo interpret the data, fashioning a memory soundtrack.  Investigating the website, I felt as if entering a new world, in part that when I think of sound, music emerges as the main element.  But there was also a newfound appreciation for the audible world surrounding me; from planes flying overhead and children’s laughter to basketball announcers and my fingers on a keyboard.  Our lives are bordered and buffered by sound, and how much of it do we tune out as irritating or unnecessary?

I recall the buzz of my sewing machine as well as the clunk of the presser foot lifted and released many times over during the quilting of this coaster.

Yet what if our existences were stripped of noise?  I’ve been mulling over how that element could figure into my next novel.  I’ve also paid closer attention to the ticking clock here in my writing room, considered how the floor creaks near the big quilt wall.  I’m cognizant of the dishwasher’s faint hum, how the light rail’s doors open as if in a vacuum.  Being aware of background sounds has become a new hobby, not that I need more to do; this is so easy, maybe a little distracting, but in a good way.  It’s a renewed manner of observation, and I am so grateful for the reminder.  Our memories aren’t merely that of faces and events, but an auditory sense that isn’t music.  Another kind of melody wafts through our days, adhering to the gray matter, then poking us when again those sounds are realized.  Sometimes the pricks are gentle, sometimes a bit sharp.  Life Echo brings to the forefront those which lift the heart, heal a wound, rouse a smile.  Thanks to Justin for sharing this amazing project!