So Temporary

While entries have been few, I’ve been sewing up a storm; English paper piecing has become my go-to fave, while hand-quilting remains the evening distraction.  Paper piecing truly lends itself to recent travels, and I find it’s a great way to start the morning, what with no words being written.  Just today I started this block; it might sit on the kitchen table a few more days, then I’ll tuck it away with another made solely from scraps.  I’d like to fashion an entire quilt of these from leftovers, a long-term project with no concrete date of completion.

Mandolin block in progress; thanks to Jodi from Tales of Cloth.

I felt that way about The Hawk, then found The End earlier this year.  But shortly after that novel wrapped up, Mom got sick and….  Suddenly everything felt half-baked, like my life was prematurely tossed in the can alongside my mother’s.  Or more rightly how I saw my life; maybe I had become complacent, not in that I’d finally finished a very long story, or that grandkids had become my focus, or any sort of reason or mantra that now seems trite.  Trite isn’t the correct word, but that’s apropos as well; I feel like a scattered jigsaw missing several key pieces.  And what I’m discovering is that those pieces aren’t magically going to turn up under the sofa or behind a bookcase.  They are gone for good and the puzzle that is my life will eventually adjust to their permanent absence.

When I sent this photo to my eldest, Little Miss wanted to know why the block was broken, lol.

I’ve lost loved ones before; my brother, my dad, a dear friend when I was quite young.  I can’t put my finger on why Mom’s passing has so rattled me, or there are too many notions for one to be outstanding.  We are so temporary, just fleeting blips along a timeline, like single stitches within a quilt or solitary sentences inside a novel.  Or maybe a speck of water, bumping into another, forming raindrops that I would love to see fall from the sky.  It’s autumn, and while a deluge is drenching the East Coast, California would love a little precipitation.  Yet even our endless summers don’t last forever; everything changes, including the most stalwart people and ideas.  We are here for brief moments, some no more lasting than the blink of an eye.

Then I sent this shot, nearly finished; urchin block courtesy of Tales of Cloth.

Then you blink again and the beginning of one season heralds another, and quilt tops go from patchwork to paper piecing and novels sit in hard drives while ideas for others linger in my mind.  And Mom sits there too, that’s where she now dwells.  Photos are reminders, but I can’t speak to her or receive emails or letters.  It’s weird how our brains retain certain facts, but our hearts ache for other manners of reciprocation.  Yet there’s nothing doing; can’t find those puzzle pieces, can’t go backwards.  We can only go forward, even if it’s so damned temporary.

Done! Now to figure out what to do with it….

Losing Mom has been like losing my right leg, and now I’m facing an uphill battle to reclaim my footing.  I’m not sure when I’ll post again, because there’s only so many grieving entries I feel capable of writing.  But good awaits on the horizon; a little brother for The Burrito, more quilts certainly, maybe another novel, ha ha.  Previous sabbaticals always brought me back to blogging, so until then wrap your arms tightly around those you love.  And if one is missing, blow them a kiss and keep on walking.  The smooth plain might appear far away, but is often closer than it seems.

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A rebooting of sorts….

We’re home from holiday; my youngest daughter married her partner whilst on vacation, so I have a new son-in-law.  The wedding was small, a larger affair scheduled for next spring.  This alteration isn’t due to Mom’s death, but better news; The Burrito will get a little brother before the end of this year and his folks decided to adjust their nuptials accordingly.  Which means a wedding quilt is now in the works, which I officially started this morning.

Not exactly hexies, but definitely paper piecing….

Well, I began glue-basting honeycombs a couple of days ago, but now a block’s worth of paper pieces are waiting to be sewn together.  Not sure if that will commence today, but at least I managed to arrange these shapes into something eye-pleasing.

Our vacation was fraught with airline mishaps, but those were set aside amid the wonder of Miss Em learning to pull herself to standing, as well as three-year-olds having a fabulous time on boat rides.  In the flurry of wedding prep I was able to forget what happened in June, enjoying a brief window of life as it ever was.  Coming home, I immediately went north to help pack up Mom’s house.  However my siblings did a bang-up job, so instead I assisted in a new bride going through her closets and The Burrito’s wardrobe.  Not only did I bring home mementos of my mother, but bags of 2 and 3T sized clothes waiting for another little one in which to romp and roam.

Cousins awaiting the big event; my sister-in-law turned these into gorgeous bouquets and boutonnieres with blooms to spare.

Some items left for me didn’t make it to Silicon Valley; I gave my father’s quilt to my youngest, as when I made it she lamented the aged fleece blanket used for the back.  Upon inspection, my hand-sewing has stood the test of the last four and a half years, making me long to again hand-sew a quilt top.  Right now more comforters than I can count await my machine, one of which is for an impending grandson.  Fortunately that blanket won’t be more than some whole cloth quilting that I will probably do on my machine to save time.

I designed this today, adding some hastily cut up batiks to round out the necessary large squares. I’m happy with it, and we’ll see when I get around to sewing it together.

Saving time…. That’s a funny concept as August is already half gone, this summer still feeling like I’m dwelling in an alternate universe.  Glue-basting honeycombs and 1″ squares was also a part of it; what has happened to all my lovely routines?  Everything’s different, and yes I know that’s a part of life but, but, but….  In checking out Dad’s quilt, I was sent back to when both of my parents were alive, no grandkids were present, The Hawk just a shell of itself.  Dad’s quilt remains, my novel turned behemoth is done, a fourth nieto is on the way, and now I paper piece.  My, my, my; that’s a lot of changes.

Up close with my dad’s quilt; no obvious weak seams, yay!

Right after Mom died, I thought about what I was grateful for, because even during a storm taking stock of the blessings matters.  Goodness knows I have heaps of treasures, and I am cognizant of them.  But recently I shared with some of Mom’s sisters that I feel like everything, little and large, looks as though a veil has been removed.  I then expounded upon that with my youngest sister that the accompanying glare is pretty damn bright and boy I’m tired of squinting.  I’m weary of all this newness, wondering for how long will the sensation last, or is this just how the rest of my life will be, constantly staring out finding yet another long-held tenet is askew.  I don’t know, nor will I find that answer immediately.  I suppose if I live to be an old lady, squinting won’t seem odd mostly because my eyesight will be shot.  And if I do live a long time, with most of my wits about me, will I still miss my parents or might this enormous sense of loss remain?

My first quilt, now in a new home. What tales could this comforter tell….

Plenty of queries, maybe as many as the quilts waiting to be fashioned.  I can’t fathom when I might write again, but it’s not like I’m aching for distractions; I’m most grateful for fabrics and thread and my ironing board.  And exceedingly thankful for my family, their patience overflowing.  One more is on the way, due the day before Mom’s birthday, and I’m very appreciative of that too.  Maybe that’s the biggest lesson of all, saying Thank You while I still can.

Works in progress….

Improv blocks that one day will be a quilt for yours truly….

Sewing has kept me sane lately, or at least out of trouble.  I’m currently hand-quilting a comforter, as well as playing around with scraps in an improvisational manner.  Seen a fair amount of my grandgirls, and of course there’s baseball.  The SF Giants just lost another series to the Oakland A’s, le sigh.  But the longer drawn breath, let out ever so slowly, is released as I can no longer chat about these games with Mom.

I love capturing a quilt draped over the ironing board; it looks so stained glass window-like.

Plenty of those moments have arisen, some easier to push aside than others.  I can’t seem to stop watching the Giants, not for as bad as they seem to want to start the second half of the season, ahem, nor for what they signified to my mother.  My mother….  Another deep sigh is taken for how she slipped out of view, that a month has passed since she died, for so many thoughts, too damn many to be honest.  The last few nights I’ve gone to bed, but not right to sleep, considerations popping like bubbles inside my brain as closed eyelids attempt to send me into dreamland.  Then I wake and it’s time to get my husband’s bag packed, make coffee, eat breakfast, drink coffee, and today write a little something.  While sewing has been a godsend, writing anything beyond a grocery list seems impossible.  I’ve read over maybe two chapters of the recently published section of The Hawk, should really get to grips with Part Thirteen, but it seems so hard.  And wondering when I might write again feels….

Some circular hand-quilting of which I’m pretty pleased.

It feels like some other life.  Mom sewed, I sew.  Mom read books, and I’ve done that, stumbling through one of my old drafts just to kill time.  That was last week, Friday I think.  The days kind of run together, one patchwork square at a time.

A quilt in memory of Mom, baseballs definitely one of the fabrics of her life.

I’ve been admonished to take each day as it comes, or each moment, whatever I can manage.  I do, it’s not like I have a laundry list of chores other than the laundry, ha ha.  And good things are waiting on the horizon, a family holiday in the Midwest right around the corner with a special event attached about which I’ll expound upon one of these mornings.  Still, losing Mom has been so effing different to when Dad died, I can’t begin to compare them.  Maybe I shouldn’t, for they weren’t the same person, the situations wholly opposite.  But they were my parents and I lump them together, especially now that they truly are together, lol.  They are back at each other’s side so far away from me and everyone else who loved them.  And even though I know I’ll be with them again one of these days, it’s an absolute bitca to be separated.

She’s seven months old with four teeth. Such a blessing to us all….

I’m fifty-two years old, but sometimes I feel as young as Miss Em, who has learned to crawl, added two more teeth to her growing collection, and is a superb snuggler.  God knows I need all the cuddles afforded me.

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?

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.