Category Archives: Regret

The Ambiguous Pot: A Thanksgiving Story of Regret

“Your name is in the pot” is what my mother used to say. That meant that she was cooking the meal and you were invited – whether you made it to her home to eat or not. I’ve thought of her words, the sayings of which are embedded into the folklore of our family history. Her words, when remembered and often expressed in a reverent tone followed by a silence in which each one of us listening, would slip back in time to her presence on earth. A smile either in secret memory or slowly spreading across a face not wanting to smile because a painful present did not want to consider any form of gaiety. Regret overwhelms an ordinary present that is not ordinary because of time. A present that goes on day after day of living while trying to understand circumstances that you are trying to forget.

Maybe forgetting is not where the answer lies. Maybe dissecting the present that is made up of the circumstances of living the past is the logical thing to do. Let your critical thinking resolve the problem. That’s not an easy task when it’s hard to know what the issue is. Maybe the problem lies with that person in the mirror – then again, maybe not.

Can there be a Thanksgiving dinner when the hurt and pain that one is not thankful for is accelerated by the very occasion itself? Once the family curtain is torn and that fragile beating tenderness is exposed, patching and sewing seems impossible, putting someone’s name in the pot seems so irrelevant. Once the “no, I would feel uncomfortable” words are uttered, the pot deflates, the bubbling aroma of love becomes a pungent smelly thing to be avoided. The table setting, though beautiful and inviting, becomes a pale unnecessary piece of furniture. And no matter that sunlight fills the room, or glistening chandelier lights shine down on the meal, the element of sorrow and emptiness in the atmosphere, leaves much unsaid, even as prayer is uttered in hushed tones.

Dowen, pronounced Do-win, is what we called her from the time my eldest first started talking and called her that name. She was no longer Mom or Punkin (for Pumpkin, I assume, as my father had referred to her). However, my eldest son, in his infancy, called her Dowen and she remained that for the remainder of her life.

She cooked oh, how she cooked. On Sundays, people would come from all around to join in our family dinners. They owned a restaurant/bar, the two of them, and Dowen cooked and Dad ran the bar at night. I can’t compare to her kitchen magic. She could walk into a kitchen seemingly empty of food to prepare for us a meal of fluffy biscuits from flour, water, lard and baking powder; syrup of sugar and water and a little piece of salt pork fried to render the grease to place in the center of the sugar syrup on our plates, while Dad got the small bit of fried meat. Oh, how good it tasted. One quart of milk left by the door early morning by the milk man measured carefully between the four glass jars that we drank from completed our meal. My two sons know that I fall short in her expertise. However, I admit that I’m no slacker when it comes to cooking. It’s just that she had a special something. She used to say that she put love in the pot just where your name was. Do I not put enough love in my pots? Maybe that’s why the thudding ache in my stomach that the visionaries call my “core” is there. It’s that pain choking the center of me tearing me apart, not allowing that sweet river to flow through my body filling every part of me with the love that my mother had in her.

It would seem that love would come from the heart. But, my pain emanates from the center of me, not allowing one end of me to be in contact with the other tearing me in two (now I know what that saying means).  Who would have thought that the man who would be the cause of that kind of pain would be one that I gave birth.

My pain is a family thing. I’m sure many families go through similar situations and either they live through it in pretense and denial or they actually fight at holiday gatherings. Some families look forward to witnessing family members attack each other verbally and physically until the last pugilist leaves for home. Since it’s an expected event, no harm, no pain.

Maybe I’m a sissy, experiencing stomach pain instead of fighting it out. But how does one turn in hatred and anger toward those turned down eyes that once looked up to me in dependence and need. His love has flown on the wings I clipped, crippled in dependence on me to another woman. She knows it to and relishes in it. She tells him what to say and do as I used to. I prepped him for the manipulation. I carefully formed his psyche for her to use her femaleness to control him. It’s my fault. It was how I kept them out of trouble as teenagers. Both of my sons feared my words and my anger even as I loved and guided them to adulthood.

Should I be blamed for how I raised two sons? He left me while I was pregnant with the one now flown away to go to and marry another pregnant woman. He had no care that I had a two-year old in tow and the flown one in my belly.  He married three other times. At our beginning, after a year of dating, he had convinced me that my love was not true if I did not prove it before he reported for a two-week duty assignment for Uncle Sam. My proof immediately became my shame in my junior year in high school. I had good parents and they supported the three of us with love and care until death took them from me. It’s so ironic now that he is older, he’s good to both the flown one who has always desired his love and the older one who does not care.

As I think it out, all that togetherness and guidance has turned into a situation. Words in simple conversation have become daggers flying wirelessly through the air entering my ears and landing point down into the soft flesh turning and twisting to maximize the hurt. The good thing is that I’m losing the weight that I’ve attempted to lose for years. Food does not sit well in a weakened core.

I still smile. The true laughter will return. It always does. If I can conjure up that same love that Dowen carried with patience and beauty until she died, then I’ll be able to put love in the pot as she did with thanksgiving and praise.

Bearded Ladies: A Story of Unwanted Hair Regret

Dealing with and regretting unwanted hair growth is an issue for both men and women, young and older.  However, my experience with those spurious, countless villains post menopause has become an every day life-changing part of my life. An encounter with a friend reminded me of my challenges with this part of aging.

As she chided me for not attending the weekly dance class that she lead, I looked in horror at the long lean face that heretofore had been a welcoming one exuding pleasantness, kindness and quiet beauty. Her face had dark, fine hair growing from all the wrong places for a female. My mind immediately zeroed in on that quarter sized area on the right side of my chin that sprouted the sneaky hairy mini monsters on a continuing basis.  I battled every day the same never-ending war against a stealthy enemy that, to my shame, my double-crossing body worked quietly with.  I fought the urge to feel my own quarter size battleground to check for new growth.  I secretly knew that I would feel something there, there always was. It was just a matter of how much and how long the follicles had grown.

The hair on Minna’s head was fine and curly. She had worn “sister locks” for a number of years and had recently had them cut off to let her natural hair be cut and shaped to a becoming style that she had worn often over the years. As I tried not to stare, while trying not to touch my own face, while still trying to think of another excuse for not attending her dance classes; the sun glinted on Minna’s face accentuating the healthy nature of her mustache and beard.

The irony of the moment was not lost on me as my friend, Asia, from back east, Atlanta to be exact (maybe Georgia is still in the South; however, Atlanta is not), and I had had a discussion last evening concerning facial hair and the problems thereof.  I had stepped out of the shower and looked in the mirror to check on the war-zone to make a tactical decision on what best ammunition to use on this kill. Would it be my favorite tweezers, a weapon I had heard that after a few years of plucking, the follicles would finally stop growing?  Not! (I’ve been tweezing this same area for years, and if anything, it’s getting larger)

I like to sit in bed with my magnifying mirror held in one hand, my trusty, menacing tweezers in the other – going after those sneaky, lying, creatures that hide, grow and multiply on my face against my will. I had gathered my artillery on my bedside table: alcohol, cotton squares, aloe vera, my mirror and my trusty t’s.  I was at first annoyed by the sound of the ringing phone until I saw her familiar number on the display. “Hey lady, what’s up?” I said as I picked up the receiver. “How’s it going in Hotlanta?”  I heard the smile in her voice “Doing well, what are you doing?”  The conversation that followed revealed that although Asia is fifteen years younger than me, she is battling an annoying mustache that was intent on growing on her elegant upper lip. As I had a church event to attend early the next morning, we promised to continue our conversation regarding battle plans, evasions, artillery and munitions in our common ongoing war – as two heads or faces are, better than one.

Next evening, as I prepared for bed, I thought about the revelations of the past twenty-four hours  The church event had been a wonderful concert in the park featuring all types of music: blues, jazz and gospel. It was well attended and well-organized.  Minna and her group had been invited to perform a few dance routines and she lead in some training in the newest “stepping” dance craze enveloping the community. As I envisioned Minna’s shadow beard, Asia’s elegant upper lip mustache and looked at my own freaky right side chin hair, I thought of the circus freaks of my youth.  One of them was the bearded lady. Had I, no, we – become circus freaks?

Was this the ultimate bane of growing old as a female?  Then, I thought, what about men? What is it that they suffer in common in growing old?  Both men and women have the wrinkles war in common with aging – to Botox or not to Botox?  However, the ultimate battle for an aging male seems to have been resolved with the production of the little blue pill called Viagra. No matter how they look or how wrinkled or hairy they are, with that little pill (and financial security), they seem to have conquered the major male aging problem.

Unwanted hair removal is an industry in our country.  Late night television infomercials abound with unwanted hair removal products and kits. You could even get two for the price of one – just pay for separate handling and shipping. I purchased one such product. It worked as advertised; however, the cute little razor with the built-in light only seemed to trigger more growth and I went back to my trusty tweezers. I tried the hair removal creams – didn’t like the smell that seemed to remain on my skin long after the hair was removed. I found waxing to be painful and for such a small area, back to the t’s.

Just thinking of all the areas on my body that I need to do battle with unwanted hair seems overwhelming: legs, underarms, eyebrows, face, sideburns, and the bush.  Luckily, I don’t have the thick, coarse stuff that some others are bothered with.

Now, why do we care? Why do we spend so time and effort at war with our bodies?  And further, why did I react to Minna’s choice with horror and judge her.  Some men like hairy legs. Academy Award winner, Mo’ Nique says she and her husband love her hairy legs.  The French are not ashamed of underarm hair on their women.  Latin American artist Frieda Kahlo’s eyebrows met in the center of her forehead and Diego Rivera loved her until her death.  A young Audrey Hepburn had the thickest eyebrows ever, and she was considered beautiful.  And a bushy bush can remain hidden under clothing, only to be dealt with when wearing a swimsuit.  However, a bearded lady is considered a freak.

Although many young women have issues with unwanted hair, for women over fifty who are post menopausal it’s almost a given.  Sometimes referred to as “The Change” it’s when a woman’s body stops generating those frilly feminine estrogen and progesterone hormones that tell your female body that you can bear children. When that egg stops being produced and ceases that monthly trip down the fallopian tubes to the uterus looking for fertilization, the male hormones – those dirty masculine testosterone’s – use the opportunity to take over, telling your body to grow more hair; in most cases get dry in the most inopportune places and in some cases, become indifferent regarding sex (now that one is a real bummer- then again maybe not). Does the word “men o pause” tell us something? Is it subliminally offering us the message that we are now becoming more man like? (I’m just saying).

There’s good and bad in all of this. Some women are so glad to be passed the childbearing stage that any price is worth it.  When that egg is not fertilized and the incumbent nurturing blood is expelled from the body for three days to a week (longer for some) for most women, is a monthly drag. Menopause meant no more monthly bloodletting. No more required purchases of blood catching products. No more associated odor and no more inconvenience as far as sexual encounters (for some – no big thing – one of my ex’s didn’t care).

The further irony of my encounter with Minna and my discussion with Asia is that I don’t remember any previous talks with my over fifty friends (the average age for menopause is 51) about menopausal unwanted hair growth. We’ve discussed hot flashes, mental stability, night sweats, dryness, Alzheimer’s, Dementia and whether or not to take estrogen supplements. As for me, menopause seems to have affected my mental state above all other symptoms besides my quarter sized patch of hair. I feel crazy most of the time. However, most of my friends and relatives seem not to notice any difference. I guess since mine is not an aging crazy and I’ve been feeling this way for so long it’s become a part of who I am. A personality change is not uncommon with menopause.

As I had a hysterectomy in my late thirties due to fibroid tumors, I was not experiencing monthly periods (becoming irregular is one of the first signs of menopause) and didn’t recognize or associate this feeling as a symptom.  When I described my feelings of brain-death and the impenetrable black curtain where my brain had previously been, my OB-GYN male doctor looked at me as if I were truly crazy and told me that I was going through the perfectly normal life process of menopause and that I was fine. I changed to a female physician who seemed to understand as she prescribed hormone replacement medication for me which did not seem to clear my brain or lift the curtain.

There was the irrational me who went into a funk over seeing grey hair on my “sweet pea” (a former lover called that certain part of a woman’s anatomy ‘pie’ because it resembled a slice.  We laughingly called mine sweet potato then with even more giggles shortened it to “sweet pea’) while the ever multiplying grey hair on my head didn’t seem to matter.  Was the depression because I objectified that part of my body growing old?  I proceeded to bemoan my symptoms with my friends; however, after hearing their tales of hot flashes, night-time drenched bedclothes and sheets, uncontrollable and embarrassing changes in color accompanied with personal climate changes as well as dryness during sex, none of which I was experiencing, I decided to just deal with my own issues. I found that brain games, higher learning and exercise really helped.  Over the years the dark curtain in the frontal vortex of my brain has faded (it’s never gone away entirely); I am now lucid most of the time.

I can’t recall ever discussing unwanted hair with my doctor either. And seeing that first follicle of hair growing from my chin didn’t send me over the top (as the grey on my sweet pea had). Although it seems that particular phenomenon didn’t surface for me until some years post menopause and by that time the slow dance of growing old presented major fast paced, battles for me to fight “issues” regarding relationships, economics, housing and health.

In fact, I thought that first follicle on my chin was just a stray. I hurriedly plucked it out and it was weeks before the appearance of the next and then the next and the next.  I think I’ll perform an informal survey among my friends and inquire about their favorite form of removal and control. I know I spend hours trying to stay relatively smooth. It is war. I am in battle on a daily basis.

I sometimes invest in the painful wax job. There are the more expensive professional hair removal options from a dermatologist using electrolysis, laser or other forms of removal. At other times, I run a nice warm bubble bath to shave my legs and underarms while in the tub as it’s difficult to shave ones legs in the shower.  I sit in bed with the music of Joe Sample’s “Invitation,” Kenny G’s “Classics in the Key of G,” John Coltrane’s “The Gentle Side of John Coltrane,” Chris Botti’s “When I Fall In Love” or Gene Ammon’s “Story,” with my artillery and ammunition at ready, as I pluck away at my eyebrows and chin.  I’ve become wise enough not to deal with the music of Marvin Gaye, Al Green or Johnnie Taylor and especially not James Brown on these most auspicious occasions because the last thing you want to happen is to uncontrollably bust a dance move.

For me, the hardest cut is the sweet pea trim.  I seem to always nick myself or in the case of the swimsuit required bikini trim, I dread the bumpy, prickly grow back.  I dream of my perfect mate who will not shy away from trimming my sweet pea.  We will laugh and talk together as we listen to music, while he clips, plucks and trims.  Having a person in the trenches to wage the war with you is a good thing.

Full Circle: Regrets Regarding Life, Death and Dying

In writing about promises and regrets as I age, the one experience that I count as a challenge in regret was the death of my mother.  I count it as a challenge because I could not have changed the outcome.  Whether she had lived to a ripe old age or died as she did at a young 66, I regret her death even as I recognize the inevitability of it.  Losing a loved one to death is one of the most difficult challenges that one must face.  Until my mother died, the reality of death had never affected my life as her death did.  Other members of my family had died; an aunt, a cousin, my grandfather, whom I had only met once when he came here from Texas to visit us.  My mother was my best friend.  We talked by phone almost every day, sometimes for just a short time, while on other days long, lingering conversations were a smooth flow of easy laughter, natural understanding and quiet joy.  Some days, after work, no matter how tired I was, I would stop by my parent’s nearby home just to share a hug with Mom.  I was Dad’s “Baby Girl,” and he knew how much I loved him; however, I splashed and floated in the quiet waters of the love I shared with Mom.

Sunday dinners at my parents’ home was an invitation that all of our friends coveted.  Not only was the food cooked with love, that special ingredient that Mom said she put in every pot, but she, with that affectionate smile, welcomed all those who came to partake in our Sunday rituals of   church, then home for Dad’s prayer, food, and laughter.  The food was simple, nourishing and delicious.  We, invited friends to enjoy those large bubbling pots of beans, greens, black-eyed peas, rice, large pans of corn bread, candied yams, and mac and cheese.  A couple of chickens, cut into small pieces and fried were bone-in nuggets long before the colonel ever thought of such, completed those Sunday plates that fed everyone to satisfaction.  There was a desserts of peach cobbler, banana pudding or butter cake.  A certain warmth and kindness exuded from her that is indescribable.  Love poured from her like a Caribbean rain, lush and life giving.

In the summer of 1986 when she complained of a pain that moved around in her chest I thought that she had pulled a muscle while working in the yard.  Upon being x-rayed, examined and a four-day hospital stay for tests, we were given an appointment for the test results.

It was early August when Mom and I drove to Kaiser Hospital in Oakland.  The doctor saw almost immediately.  He told us it was cancer and it had spread to most of her vital organs; it was in her lungs, around her stomach and there was a shadow on her liver.  A sudden dizziness and lurching in my stomach caused me to feign an ordinary trip to the ladies’ room where I splashed water on my face and tried to focus so that the pained expression didn’t reveal itself in my eyes.  When I returned to the doctor’s office, I asked if anything could be done, the doctor thumbed through Mom’s chart and said that the surgery performed over a year ago had been the only surgery that could be performed; this time the cancer had spread too far.  In hazy recollection, I realized that Mom’s previous surgery, the hysterectomy, was not for the fibroid tumors as she had informed the family and me.  Having had that same surgery myself, I had recovered quite quickly from it and Mom had seemed to recover just as well.  My head was spinning.  This meant that Mom had known that she had cancer for over a year; had gone through surgery for it, and had said nothing to me or anyone else in the family about the seriousness of her condition.

The doctor said that chemotherapy would only delay the inevitable for a short while, and that the illness associated with the treatments would weaken her already precarious physical condition.  “Less than a year” was his response to my question of how much time?  She decided against the chemotherapy treatments with no prompting from me. Secretly, I was glad.  A few years previously, I had watched another colleague, Mrs. Southlan go through days of violent illness after each chemotherapy treatment for her diagnosed cancer. To me, her last days seemed additionally chaotic and pain filled because of the chemotherapy.

Years later, in 2000, while, concentrating on getting my degree, a class assignment to read Doctor Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ book “On Death and Dying” was a revelation to me and I wish I had read it before or even during my mother’s illness and death.  I know Dr. Kubler-Ross’ words would have provided comfort and understanding at a time when I needed somewhere to turn when prayer seemed not to provide the logic I needed.  The subtitle of her book, “What the dying have to teach doctors, nurses, clergy and their own families”, expressed the buried, but not forgotten feelings that remained thirteen years after her death.  The five stages of death and dying described by Doctor Kubler-Ross are: Denial and Isolation (First Stage,) Anger (Second Stage), Bargaining (Third Stage), Depression (Fourth Stage), and Acceptance (Fifth Stage).

The denial and isolation stage, completely described Mom.  When the two of us arrived back at her home after the doctor’s fatal prognosis, my three brothers and my dad were waiting to hear the test results.  To my amazement, Mom announced that she was just fine, that the doctor had found a “tiny shadow behind her liver, but that was all.”  Of course, my brothers and father were visibly relieved to hear that everything was fine.   Later, when I could get my father alone to explain to him what the doctor had actually said, he took the news very calmly and never returned to the subject with me.  He too was in denial.

Mom stopped talking with me and I did not understand.  Her silence was overwhelming.  Dr. Kubler-Ross says “Denial is usually a temporary defense and will soon be replaced by partial acceptance” (Kubler-Ross, 53).  One of the only statements that Mom repeated during her illness was “ I am at peace with my Lord.” Not temporary, her silence lasted from August until November 18, 1986 when she died.  No matter how I approached the difficult subject of her silence in my one-sided conversations with her, she would not respond.  I loved her dearly, but I did not understand why she wouldn’t help me prepare for the carrying on after she was gone.  My mother carried the family.  My dad didn’t know how to write a check.  My brothers depended on her for all their business transactions.  I was the only girl and only child with a separate home and family (with my two sons). I didn’t know where to begin with the business of her household.

In retrospect, through my own faith and expanding wisdom, I understand my mom better now than I did at the time.  She enjoyed a strong religious belief in the power of God in her life.  Now I know that she had turned her life over in the faith that had fueled her life and justified her existence.  She had been a good wife, mother and grandmother.   She worked in her church and community.  She saw to it that her four children and my two sons attended Sunday school, church and were grounded in the basic Baptist/Methodist Bible training all our lives. Her words regarding being at peace may have been her immediate entrance into what Doctor Kubler-Ross describes as the third stage of “Bargaining”, and I did not recognize it.

As Mom’s health quickly deteriorated, I lived in a whirlwind of daily issues concerning terminally ill health care, medications, hospice and social services.  Day care, special diets and finally Ensure, as a dietary supplement to offset her lack of appetite, became part of my everyday existence.  My brothers and Dad were afraid to perform personal care for her.  The malicious evil of cancer stealthy attacked the once robust woman of five feet eight inches, weighing 175 pounds, and we watched as she shrank into a gaunt birdlike figure before our eyes.

The major difficulties were the denial, the pain and the morphine.  Mom said she was at peace; however, the household was not.  My brothers were devastated.  My father (her husband of 49 years) was scared and confused; he never entered her sickroom.  He would peek around the corner in the doorway shielding his body with the doorframe as if to protect it from harm, in a shaky voice, he would inquire as to how things were going.  I instinctively knew that he really didn’t want any truthfulness from me.  In all my own confusion, I was confronted with the realization that these two stalwarts of my life, who had been my rocks of support, were both “only human” in dealing with the reality of this dreaded disease.  Mom had always recognized my dad as the head of the household; however, she was the glue that held everything together.  She was the air that we breathed.  She was our bread of life.  She was love.  None of us wanted to believe this was happening to us.  I spent many long hours in the emergency room for one reason or another-sometimes for infusions to “plump her up” as she would call it.  She couldn’t eat.  Shopping for Ensure became the order of the day.   A hospital bed, adult diapers, gowns that are easily removed, bedpans and morphine were everyday occurrences.  Hiding the morphine from my eldest brother, and dealing with all the lovingly concerned friends, family and church members was overwhelming.  Fortunately, at work, I had an understanding supervisor, even though my coworkers were not, and my absences and tardiness’ were forgiven.

As I watched Mom shrink into a small shadow of herself that I could lift, turn and easily handle, she became ever more silent, a surreal quality seemed to engulf the house and her sick room in particular.  In an almost dream-like state on the evening of October 18, 1986 I walked down the hall toward her room and it became a tunnel.  I could actually hear water splashing under my feet as I approached her room.   When I looked in on her, there seemed to be a soft yellow light surrounding her bed.  It seemed important for me to bath and change her again, even though I had performed that task lovingly only hours earlier.  She hadn’t spoken in days or rang the bell we given her to get our attention.  After I finished changing the bed and bathing her, I held her in my arms and was giving her water by dropping it into her mouth, as one would feed a baby who couldn’t suckle.

As I held her, I could feel the rhythm of her heartbeat.  It seemed strangely strong and healthy as it beat against my breast.  She moaned in pain, I gave her morphine and gently held her.  The yellow glow surrounded us both now and I felt a peacefulness that I had not felt during her illness.  It seemed that we had come full circle; through birth, she had given life to me; now, in death, I was protecting and caring for her as she traveled this mysterious, unsolicited journey. I felt the last heartbeat – it stopped, suddenly.

I have been reluctant to speak of that last night with my mom; however, Dr. Kubler-Ross helped me understand that what happened was not unusual:

Those who have the strength and the love to sit with a dying patient in the silence that goes beyond words will know that this moment is neither frightening nor painful, but a peaceful cessation of the functioning of the body.  Watching a peaceful death of a human being reminds us of a falling star; one of a million lights in a vast sky that flares up for a brief moment only to disappear into the endless night forever.  To be therapist to a dying patient makes us aware of the uniqueness of each individual in this vast sea of humanity.  It makes us aware of our finiteness, our limited lifespan.  Few of us live beyond our three score and ten years and yet in the brief time most of us create and live a unique biography and weave ourselves into the fabric of human history (Kubler-Ross, 276).

If caring for a dying loved one was difficult, preparing for the funeral was beyond comprehension. At the wake, (viewing of the body by family and friends), I watched as they came forward to look at her as she lay in the bronze casket, appearing somewhat as she had looked before the devastation.  Her once warmth had become cold and hard skin with body fluids drained and replaced by the cough inducing fluid of death.  Some came forward in humility and love; others in gazing curiosity.

The next day’s church service, then going to he grave site and watching the coffin lowered into the ground was devastating.  Afterwards, there was the repast, where the consumption of food provides family and friends with a familiar ritual for saying the last goodbye.  After the feast in the family service center at the church, followed by family and friends accompanying me home for talk and further commensuration, I was kept busy into the late hours of the evening.  However, by far the loneliest night of my life was that night of the day that I buried my mom.  With the rituals complete and all the well-wishers retuning to their homes and families, an emptiness absorbed the air around me and I was enveloped into a realm of aloneness that I had never experienced before. Prayer helped me through that night.

My father died a seemingly peaceful death in October 1992 on an early fall morning as my brother prepared his breakfast. After Mom’s death, he had lived his life sitting at the kitchen table listening to talk radio, punctuated by his visits to the doctor to get more medication.  He loved to take pills, always had.  My brothers were much more helpful in caring for him in his illness and death. He died quietly of a heart condition. They told me they felt more comfortable caring for my dad. I guess there is a certain kind of intimacy that remains off limits even in sickness and death because I could not fathom, taking my father to the toilet.

Over the years, I had become accustomed to taking her place as the chief bill payer and grocery shopper. I was more prepared for his death and although it was difficult, his funeral and the rest of the rituals were much easier to bear.  My sons poured out their abundant love for him as they eulogized him in a quiet memorial service.  The repast was held at my home and I’m sure I didn’t have the “too busy to deal with nervous breakdown” that I know I had during my mother’s illness and death.  It’s the kind of nervous breakdown where you know that you are crazy, your actions prove it, but you have to keep functioning because so much and so many depend on you, so you do keep moving forward until you finally work your way through the crazy, taking one day at a time.

I’ve learned valuable lessons through the deaths of both my parents, my mother in particular:  the value of a strong religious belief, the value of prayer, of family, friends and church as an invaluable part of the mystery of life.  The cycle is inevitable. It’s a sweeping, never-ending circle of birth, hopes, disappointments, dreams, and realities, then, finally that last heartbeat of life.  Doctor Kubler-Ross’ final stage of “Acceptance” is the key.  Acceptance by both the dying and the loved ones who live on who may not always understand those you love, but realize and accept the reality of death as an integral part of life itself.


Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth.  On Death and Dying.  New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1969

Regrets? I Have Many…

I remember staring longingly at the one shoe sitting alone on the closet shelf among the mated pairs long after I had tossed its mate with the busted seam into the wastebasket. The one time lovely pair boasted pale yellow silk-like material with delicate swirls of black, red, lime green and white had instantly entered my heart at first sight as I openly lusted for them as they exhibited themselves on the store display rack. An open toe with a 2 1/2 inch heel (just right for walking or standing) completed the shoes as I fell in love with shameless passion. When I tried them on, they slipped onto my feet as if they were designed for my feet. As I stood, then walked a few steps, the floor and my feet became as one with the universe. A glance in the low floor mirror confirmed that my feet and legs were kindly accentuated by these lovely silken shoes. They certainly weren’t super expensive, not on the Manolo Blahnik or Jimmy Choo scale, just a great pair of shoes that made a summer’s day outfit scream out “best dressed” look.  And, of course, there is no greater thrill than looking good while wearing a comfortable pair of shoes.  I try to be reasonable in my shoe purchases, keeping the cost in the $150 range.  Oh, why do we love shoes so? If Carrie from “Sex and the City” could respond, what would she say?

Looking back, what I regret is tossing the one silken shoe that was still in good condition.  So, why did I toss it? Who keeps one shoe? Sometimes in a fit of crazy, one does things that one regrets later. I tossed that good shoe on a day when I could not think of a logical reason to keep it. It had sat on the shelf in my closet, as a shimmering example of never to be worn again, and one day I asked myself why? And, as I couldn’t give myself a reasonable answer, into the wastebasket and out to the curbside my wonderful shoe went. It was weeks later, as I began to miss its presence that I recognized the crazy fact that I longed for an absent shoe. I missed seeing it on the closet shelf.  I missed the pair; however, I realized that the one shoe served some subliminal need in my spirit. Was this absent shoe a metaphor for the things that I miss most in my life as I age?  In an illogical fit of logic, did I judge this shoe “not a complete package” and feel that I had to shed it to live an organized life?  If I had the one shoe back, would it make my life better? The answer, of course, is somewhere between probably not and I don’t know. But, the further question is – what was one silken shoe doing for my spirit?

I had tried to find a repair shop for the shoe with the busted seam. Each of the three repair shop personnel had advised me that the shoe was not worth or could not be repaired.  I had stuffed my wide, size nine feet into them so often that I had worn the one shoe out.  The silk-like material was tattered and torn where is should have connected to the sole of the shoe and was, in one word, pitiful. My weight gain in menopause and the pressure on my feet as I often walked in those beautiful, delicate shoes no doubt caused the breach.

There are those who like to place beautiful things in a drawer or closet and in private, lustfully look at and touch the preciousness of beauty. Me, I use and wear what I love, receiving great pleasure from the objects. There are no good dishes, silverware, glasses, jewelry or anything else that I own that I do not use to the fullest. And, I wore those shoes on every occasion I could on summer days and fall nights.  I wore one shoe into serious injury, finally tossing it, while the other sat on the closet shelf as a reminder of some kind.  Why did I not recognize the one shoe’s meaning so that I could have framed it (which would have been a great project) or preserved it in some way?  Instead, on a crazy day, I tossed it out.

Did I toss the one good shoe because it sat alone among all the pairs?  Was I making a connection with my life? Or, was it simply because one shoe is an unnecessary object to keep in an over-stuffed closet.  Then why did I keep one shoe so long? What relevance did it serve? Those are the questions I asked myself as I tossed it into the wastebasket. Now, as I miss its presence, I realize that one shoe represented more than the obvious reality of its being. That one lovely silken shoe, that I still long for, meant much more to me than an unusable object of outer ware.

I am usually a thoughtful person, therefore, I want to explore, in journal format, what one silken shoe could possibly mean to a 73-year-old female who has been living alone among the pairs over many years.  A woman who regrets tossing out the beautiful thing that I loved because I could think of no logical reason to keep it. Does life always have to make sense? How can you love something and still toss it out because of logic?  Why couldn’t I discern and accept that the beauty of one shoe remained on its own.

I believe in God, therefore, I believe in magic and miracles. I want to explore my longings and my regrets as related to one silken shoe. It could be that once I unlock the mystery of my regrets regarding my shoe, I may be able to unlock the miracle of my living with all my regrets and who I really am.