Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Virtual Hug…Downloaded

My Zach...
My eldest son lives many hours away in Dallas, Texas and I have not looked upon his flesh and blood face in over a year. 

I have a case of the Momma’s separation anxiety disorder.

Living far away from family is not a new thing, but in this vast world it seems more and more families are spread apart. Employment, life opportunities, hurricanes, all sends our kids, or parents away.

I want to be back on Walton’s Mountain.

Can’t we get back to the Walton’s model of family? Where you live and die in the same house, grandma and grandpa just move over and all the kids grow up and bring in their

Walton s Under One roof
offspring? No one leaves the roost. It is one roof, one family with many branches of the tree all underneath. One mortgage and lots of babysitters! Just think, only one electric bill, but oh, what a bill! Better yet, one cable bill!

For many of my growing up years, I envisioned a happily ever after that included a one house family. It was good enough for the rich people on Dynasty, granted, they had wings for each family group and not a tiny bedroom off the hall. 

I envisioned calling out, “Goodnight PawPaw! Goodnight Joe! Goodnight nameless children to be! Goodnight John Boy!”

click link below:

A friend of mine told how her distant relatives lived in Taiwan where the whole family lived in a three story building. The bottom level was for cooking and living while each story was a room for each family. Everyone contributed.

In our American lifestyle, we do something similar, or maybe it is a Southern thing where kids just move a trailer next to Mom and Dad’s house, or their trailer and you build up a commune. My dad built a house next to his parents, and my aunt and uncle moved in lots adjacent to my parents. So, we had family all around us growing up which meant I had cousins to play with. 

Now that my Mom is widowed, it’s having that family nearby that has been her salvation, especially since I live six hours away.

My brother took it a step further and built a self-contained apartment onto my parent’s home when he was newly married and was in school. My dad was disabled and it was a way for my brother to watch over the homestead and be independent at the same time. 

But for the most part, kids in America move away. The world is big place, full of adventure and opportunity not offered in their hometown.

My relocation came after Hurricane Katrina when I moved with my husband’s job. I love my new community even while missing my home. It’s the simple things like not being able to go over for Sunday dinner anymore. My homesickness is only cured by a quick trip down, to see my kinfolk face to face.

Even then, my eldest lived in Hattiesburg, and my frequent trips down to South Mississippi would grant me my Momma’s hug and a scan of my son’s face to make sure he was doing ok. I could tell if he was eating right, staying out too late, or if he was weary of life’s struggles or encouraged by opportunities coming his way. 

One look was all it took.  

My tiny son
Oh, but now, we have so much technology. For Christmas, my son’s handsome but virtual face was on our Christmas table, sharing in opening presents hundreds of miles away. Yes, it was better than a phone call, yes, we could see each other, but oh, it was a deficient system which allowed for no human contact. 

You can’t hug an IPad.

Today, my son’s experiencing sadness; a surrogate family who has taken him in for “real” holiday dinners and family gatherings is experiencing a life struggle of their own. My son knows the loss of a parent and these times do bring up past pains. I can hear the hurt in his voice and even in his texts.

So, today I sent my son a virtual hug. They were just words, texted over the cell towers that bring us together miles and miles apart. 

His response made me tear up, “Virtual hug…downloaded.”

That will have to do.

Challenging, satisfying, exasperating, encouraging, disheartening, frustrating, joyful, guilt ridden, and angry: the daily emotions of being a Mom. 

God's arms
Well, at least I stay connected to God because my son maybe out of my reach, but with my constant nagging to a Holy God, he is not out of Jesus’ arm length. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

R.I.P. Mom's Pool

Fifteen years is a long life for an above ground pool.

It had served its purpose.

Mom's pool was a way to cool off in the steamy south Mississippi summers, it was a social place for family to bring their little ones, but oh, it was so much more.

In 1998, the death of husband, my two sons’s father was of course a hard pill to swallow. Zach was ten years old and Luke was six. They were very young and a death of this magnitude changes the course of young ones lives. I often wonder what paths they would have had if not for this devastating injury to their innocence. 

Still fresh in our memories was the summer of 97 when Norman and I had brilliantly thought it was an easy thing to buy a hundred dollar do-it-yourself pool for the boys. It came from Wal-mart. It was cheap. It was promised fun. It was torture for parents in a box!

We spent, long arduous hours, from morning til dusk setting it up. Filling it up. In the end, it was worth every back-bending swipe of the hoe in the thick grass! Those boys loved it!

It was those treasured memories I wanted to replay again, so when the summer was approaching during the first year of our loss, an ideal of a backyard pool kept creeping in and I could not get it out of my head. But not the cheap kind that only lasted a couple of months. I was thinking big. …much bigger.

There was one major flaw in my plan, I did not have my own backyard.  

However, my parents did, and  a nice, flat area in the far back of their own property made a perfect spot. Since they were grieving at the time and worried about my babies, they would have said yes to anything I asked. They said yes to a pool.

At first, I thought an in-ground pool. The cost was so much greater and then the permanence of it scared me off. I did not want my parents to have to deal with this forever. An above ground pool, a really nice one can be dismantled and hauled off if it’s a problem.

We drove to Slidell, Louisiana to a nice pool store and that is the first time we beheld the ‘lake.’ The largest above ground pool they made at that time and it was the definition of fun.

As the installation of the pool began, I took my parents, sister-in-law and boys on a Smoky Mountain vacation so that when we returned, the lake would be in their back yard, ready to go. 

It was.

Those are great moments, the kind where fun and laughter are involved.

Now, at 27 and 23 the boys don’t care to play in the lake anymore and live hours away from my parents house.

The pool had served its purpose.

When my sons quit coming over to swim, the pool was acquiring new purposes. The backyard became an escape for my Mom. 

Years of painful rheumatoid arthritis had twisted my poor dad’s body and at 48 he was disabled, as a result, his emotional state from being confined only deteriorated. My demanding and grumpy father became much for my Mom to bear. Her weekends should have been rest and relax time, but was not. To escape my dad’s mood or the house of dread, she would turn up her music that was popular when she was in high school (50s) and float in the lake, drifting away from all her problems.

Its been over two years since Dad died. Mom has not used the pool nearly as much. She misses him, but not the life she had those later years of his. 

Mom did not have to escape to the backyard anymore....she has been on cruises around the world and Disney World and living as much as she can.

The pool had served its purpose.

However, Mom’s pool was still used during the summer, by a couple of neighbor kids and nearby family kids. You can’t have a pool and not let anyone use it. It sits there beckoning company. An unused pool is a tragedy.

My example is the one behind my home in Huntsville.

My neighbor's kids live far away. Their in-ground pool was small but very inviting, especially as I worked twenty feet away on my side of the small mountain creek on my lot --sweaty and steamy. I gazed longingly at that pool, but was never invited to enjoy its cool, blue refreshing waters.

Apparently, no one was invited. For five summers, I recall less than a handful of times someone used it. The neighbor lady, always friendly except to point out deficiencies in my landscaping, never offered an invite to my twins. They could have made that pool a happy place, but it lay there in a state of neglect and despair until one morning I heard a large ruckus in the backyard. I saw heavy equipment banging and digging up her pool. 

It’s now a manicured lawn.

It never got to serve its purpose.

I mourn for the loss of my Mom’s pool. It did not go willingly. It burst in the night, years of use had finally weakened a wall and ripped it magnificently to its ruin. No amount of Mom’s duct tape will fix it. It has held its last water.

No more happy children’s laughter from Mom’s backyard, no more cooling off on a hot day, no more using the pool water to flush the toilets when the electricity or the well go out, no more bathing after a catastrophic hurricane steals your inside shower for weeks…..for that, the pool still had purpose.

Nothing lasts forever. Kids grow up, people die and toilets begin to flush again.