Sunday, March 27, 2011

Growing Conditions

Your plants made the small house smaller. And they dropped leaves and needed water or had too much water and sometimes they’d drip water all over the console stereo that Dee bought at Gimbel's with her first paycheck. Dad took the stereo part out years ago and turned it into a cabinet where you kept Golden Books and extra napkins and plants on top. And others hanging above. The ones that dripped.
When I’d visit you’d want to show me something new. A bud. A brown leaf that confounded you. A macramé hanger that Roseann made. I lived in the small house with the plants long enough to know their vagaries, I even knew individuals and remember their arrival. Mother-in-Law’s tongue from your father’s funeral and Boston Fern from the Philadelphia Flower Show. Wandering Jews that escaped and set roots in the Weeping Fig and an amaryllis that Grandmom found in an alley in the 1930’s. Mistaken for an onion set she was deeply disappointed by flowers at Christmas instead of food.
The disappearance of philodendron was a good sign. Big Mark could finally fit on the end chair at the dining room table. Then silence and the missing bromeliad. The stereo console turned into cabinet top was clear and the few hanging plants struggled with something. You weren’t sure what it was. No ideas. No talk of spider mites or mealy bugs or root bound problems. The dining room surprises me in March, awash in a new light after all the hanging plants are gone. Indifferently, I ask why because I kind of like the emptiness. Your answer doesn’t bring me any closer to knowing but I am trying to find a missing Golden Book and little Mark is rummaging through a cereal box to find the surprise inside. Distracted, we are satisfied.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Now, I count, add, the years. At least eight. But more like ten. Unless you count when you recommended I visit the Empire State Building during the Washington trip.
Should I count that? Will they count when I said Labor Day instead of Memorial Day?
A lot of people do that. I think. No. Definitely at least eleven. I remember Aricept at the millennium. At least eleven but if we count the nun who talked to you through the television. That would be more. Or less. I can’t remember. Really. It is a long time, either way. To be caught between the here and there. So, they tell me I should be relieved. Definitely eight. We went to a party and you had to relieve yourself and you couldn’t tell me. I figured it out then in the car on the way home. And made them stop at the mini-mart where the key was attached to a giant wooden paddle and you wore pantyhose and underpants and it took too long to take them off. You cried in the backseat afterward and I brought home the giant key holder. Accidentally.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Life Lessons

As a little girl I would play with the kids in the neighborhood and I recall having a fight with one of the girls. I went home angry and crying, my mother washed my face and soothed my ego. I asked her to talk to the other girl. Gently my mother lifted me from the couch onto the floor and said “Lorraine, if you want to play outside you will need to learn to fight your own battles” . My mother taught me how to be brave.

When I was a young teen, I was not so industrious. I was in fact, spoiled and a little lazy. After working all week my Mom would clean the house on Saturday and feeling a little guilty, I would offer to help. I wasn’t a great worker and I recall asking my mother how she could stand doing all this housework. She advised me to “offer it up to God”. I didn’t fully understand this but instead of complaining I would begin each task with a loud reminder that I was “washing the dishes for God” or “cleaning my room for the souls in purgatory”. But the work did become easier. I finished projects, I started new ones without being asked. My mother’s entreaty helped me to learn that there is joy in doing things for others. My mother taught me generosity.

As a young adult I was quick to judge the behavior of others. I could be harsh and unforgiving at what I perceived as foolishness and disrespectful toward beliefs that I did not share. During lunch one day, as I complained about a friends behavior my mother said, in a quiet and peaceful voice “Lorraine, don’t judge a person until you walk a mile in their shoes”. For weeks afterward, I would hold my tongue instead of voicing my opinion. I would try to walk in the others shoes. Soon, I realized that I wasn’t qualified to judge anyone except myself. My mother taught me tolerance.

These last few years, I’d sit with my mother at the nursing home. She greeted me, until the very end, with a smile. She’d stroke my hands, touch my face. Whisper words that often I could not understand. Invariably, my thoughts would lead me to wonder about the lesson I needed to learn from her illness. I always left empty-handed. There was nothing to learn. One rainy Saturday morning I visited early and helped her to have breakfast. There was music playing, so I started being silly, dancing around the room singing. She was smiling at me and shaking her head, much as she would have done when she was well. In an instant I realized that my mother was able to attain what most of us will never be able to do. Without a memory of what was past, or a worry of what would be, Mom’s awareness was wholly in the present. My mother taught me how to live in the moment.

Monday, March 07, 2011


A compass rose, is a figure on a map, or a nautical chart used to display orientation -north, south, east, and west. The compass rose is an element that provides direction. Mommy was our compass rose. Her direction helped us navigate through the rough seas of adolescence and traverse the rocky paths of adulthood. Her gentle demeanor and strength of character inspired us to action. Her generosity helped us to prosper. Her humility led us to wisdom. Like the compass rose, she pointed us in the right direction but allowed us to get there on our own. Mom’s passing, however sad and painful for us, is for her, a blessed rest after a long and beautiful life.. And when our time on earth is through our compass rose will be there to lead the way to the Lord.