Cat grumbles and squawks
Not liking to be ignored—
Cats never hold back.
Cat grumbles and squawks
Not liking to be ignored—
Cats never hold back.
As September looms, it brings an anniversary of sorts: around this time last year I left what turned out to be my last job. It, like many changes in life, turned out to be the right thing at the right time; my mom had gone into home Hospice care. If I hadn’t been out of work at that time, I would not have been able to help my parents. Once I left that job, I could concentrate on what really mattered—my family. Suddenly I became a retiree.
What exactly does it mean to be retired? For me it was a change in attitude more than anything. I discovered things about myself I didn’t know existed—for example, I found grace and solace in helping my dad take care of Mom. I also found that I didn’t miss that job one bit; not even a little. I realized that, after decades of claiming I was a real “people person,” it turns out that I really wasn’t. The jobs I liked best where those where I could hole up and write my technical manuals alone and in peace.
Leaving the job, I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted. From the time Mom went into Hospice until the day she died (a scant three and a half months later), it was a gift and a pleasure to be there with her and my dad and to help out. Just being with them at this time was incredibly precious.
These days I find myself busier than I could have imagined—with this blog, with visiting my dad, with friends, and of course more time with the Crankee Yankee and our four cats. I started reading again (after Mom’s death I found I couldn’t settle enough to read for several months), and later on, I began making jewelry again—something that also came to a full stop while Mom was ill. I have inherited my mom’s considerable bead collection, and have been inspired to make more styles of jewelry than I would normally have done. (Between you and me, I think that Mom is inspiring me!)
I also find a lot of pleasure in harvesting from our raised bed gardens: cucumbers, peas, tomatoes, broccoli, chives, basil, parsley and oregano. This year we planted corn for the first time, and it is now taller than we are. Tiny ears are forming; we can tell from the silky tufts of corn tassels. Our sweet potatoes are spreading their vines so thickly that you can’t see the soil. Our brussels sprouts already have little buds all along their stems; the promise of delicious roasted garlicky sprouts for the fall!
Perhaps the biggest change is having time to do as I please. It’s been decades since I had that freedom, and it’s a real pleasure. If I feel like sitting on the porch and reading all day, I do. If I walk away from my housework for a day, who cares? It will eventually get done. If I don’t make that lasagna I promised, then we’ll just have leftovers. Big deal.
There is also the possibility of becoming involved with new things, new people, new projects, new ideas, new ways to honor the gifts I’ve been given. While I was working crazy schedules at my various jobs over the years, I never imagined how refreshing retirement could be. Also, after years of collecting stuff, I get a lot of pleasure in giving a lot of it away.
Funny, isn’t it, what we keep and what we can let go? I am finally getting to the ‘letting go’ part, and it’s surprisingly fun. For example, that intricate silver bangle I just had to have years ago? I’m giving it to a friend this year. Just the thought of her getting enjoyment out of it makes me happy.
It’s an old saying that we spend half our lives accumulating stuff, and the other half giving it away! But what you don’t get until you are retired is what a joy AND freedom that can be.
So call me a retiree; so what? I now fully embrace it, and I’ll take all those senior discounts, too, thanks very much!
I have a short list of things that really bother me, and for the most part, I try to keep away from them. Here they are (in no particular order):
I KNOW that these things not only bother me, but if I allow them into my head, they will haunt me. Have you noticed how the Internet constantly posts these little teasers about everything you can imagine, plus stuff you don’t want to imagine? For example, I often see teasers for “Scariest Bugs in the World,” or “You Won’t Believe What Divers Found in the Great Barrier Reef!” Frankly, I don’t want to know, much less see it.
(What possible good did it do me to stupidly click the scary bug button? Now I know that the biggest and most poisonous spider (the funnel spider) lives (and thrives) in Australia. That’s way too close for me.)
As for neglected animals, the story line always starts with some tearjerker about an abandoned mother cat and her kittens, BUT it all turned out well in the end. I don’t want my vulnerable heart wrenched over it—but am glad that things turned out well.
Then there are all those apocalyptic theories of how the earth will end. Well, as for me, I hope that, if I am on earth when this happens, I am right on top of whatever blows it up; I don’t want to be a survivor. (Plus, what the heck can I do about what may happen?)
But the Queen Mother of all my phobias is the ‘stuff on the ocean floor’. That is, anything that should be above the water or on land (cars, washing machines, stoves, etc.), but most especially downed planes and shipwrecks. I had to watch “Titantic” with one hand over my eyes until my companion told me it was ok to look.
I’ve felt this way since I was old enough to think. I have had psychics tell me that I went down in my plane in one of the great wars. I can’t prove or disprove it, but I know that the sight of a plane or boat at the bottom of the ocean makes me break into a cold sweat, and I have trouble breathing.
Is this a past-life memory? Who knows for sure. But in this lifetime so far, I have learned to simply to stay away from these triggers of mine. That way, they don’t take root in my head and keep me up at night.
Remember that old joke about the man going to his doctor with shoulder pain? He says to the doctor, “Doc, it hurts when I do this (raising his right arm above his head).”
The doctor says, “So don’t do that.”
So, when it comes to my own ‘what bothers me most’ list, I do my best to just stay clear of them. In fact, if I am on the computer, I make sure that during my time on it that I pull up something beautiful or amazing or funny, like Hawaiian sunsets, sea shells, gems, or cute pictures of cats.
Works every time.
My grandmother, whom we all called “Ba,” was a magnet for animals of all kinds. The birds were her favorites; she kept them fed all through the hard winter months.
She and my grandfather lived in a house with a large meadow behind it, and for years she kept a large vegetable garden and several flower gardens. Many’s the time I saw birds fly around her head when she was gardening, and once I saw a doe lay its beautiful head on her shoulder.
One time a skunk got its head stuck in a glass peanut butter jar; it had been trying to lick the last bit of the peanut butter from of the bottom of the jar.
As it frantically bumped and bumbled around, Ba stepped out on the landing and said, ‘go to the stone wall, and knock the jar against the stones, and you’ll be free.’ Behold and lo, it did just that. It stopped to finish up the last of the peanut butter on the bottom piece of glass, then ran off into the woods.
Once when a hawk flew into Ba’s shed and got caught in there, she walked in and tried to move the basket that had fallen on it.
The hawk screeched at her, and she said, “oh, stop your noise; you’re as safe as if you were in God’s back pocket.”
She moved the basket, and off flew the hawk, uninjured except perhaps for his pride. That was a saying she often used when dealing with birds or animals. It was as if they could understand her, because they calmed down, and let her help them.
I like to think that in some ways I take after Ba. I too now feed birds, squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, stray cats, and lately, a big woodchuck whom we call “Fat Bottom Charlie.”
Just the other night the Crankee Yankee found that a baby skunk had gotten into the temporary enclosure he made in the driveway to hold the snowblower, lawnmower, tools, etc. We could hear the poor thing bawling in there, trying to find his way out.
So the Crankee Yankee opened the door back a few inches, and we placed a bowl of kibble in front of it to entice the baby out. A few minutes later, I checked on him, and there he was; busily and happily crunching up kibble. When he had eaten his fill, he toddled off to the back yard to his home and family.
I think of Ba to this day; of her gentleness, kindness, generosity and love of all creatures. When I am worried or afraid about something, I hear that phrase in my head: “you’re as safe as if you were in God’s back pocket.”
The full silver moon
Climbs the sky like silver smoke,
Burnishing the ground.
I chose my own dad. I was about four years old when Mom and Dad started dating. Mom had been divorced from my birth father for quite a while, and she and Dad met on their jobs in Bangor, ME. We had wonderful picnics and drives together as I went with them often on their dates. I especially remember picking buttercups with the man who would soon adopt me, and I remember asking him if I could call him “Daddy,” and he said yes.
I know that many adopted children boast about being “chosen” rather than simply being born to their mom and dad. I understand now that sometimes kids get to pick their parents, too. So I really did “adopt” my dad.
Biology doesn’t make a father; it is love, choice, commitment, kindness, understanding and decency that makes a father. The Hawaiians have got it right when they include and embrace non-family people into their own family; it is called “ohana,” or ‘extended and blended family, not just blood relatives.’ You don’t have to be related to love each other.
With the loss of my mom last December, Dad and I have become closer. We talk with each other every morning and afternoon, and I treasure each phone call. Twice a week, I or the Crankee Yankee and I go up to visit him and go out to lunch. Afterwards we chat for a while, and we do some little project or other that needs doing.
Dad tells me often to just take what I want from the house; I appreciate that very much. But the few things I will eventually take into our own home can wait. Right now I am happy that Dad is comfortable in his home with all that is familiar and has been for years.
He does very well each day, getting out in the morning to meet the world and see his friends and have coffee with them, go for the occasional walk, pick up some groceries and the mail; all things that make a pleasant routine. When I am not there with him, I picture him in his chair, reading and always striving to learn new things, keeping in touch with his old friends, and making a life for himself.
Of course we both miss Mom; she was our North Star, our point of light and a big presence in our lives, her friends’ lives, and in the community. Somewhere in previous posts I have mentioned what Dad told me shortly after she died: “If I had been the one to die first, she would of course have mourned and missed me. But she still would have gone out with her friends, stopped in three times a week for coffee with the gals at the local bookshop, gone out to lunch now and then; in short, she would have LIVED. And that’s what I intend to do: to LIVE.”
So, we two who used to be “we three” go on—loving and supporting each other, and
“*…talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
So, from that long ago day of picking buttercups, there is this wonderful, precious and amazing connection between my dad and me. It enriches both our lives, and makes a soft cushion between missing Mom but being present ourselves.
Even at four years old, I was smart enough to choose the best dad for me.
*From “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” by Lewis Carroll, 1832 – 1898
Because you are you, and I am me
We may not always see eye to eye, you see.
So we put aside what is trivial
And accept all things convivial
That make our kinship such a fine thing,
Such a graceful and beautiful thing
That the angels must stare in wonderment and awe
At how we humans, full of judgement and flaw,
Can finally come to joy and love
As pure and lovely as the wing of a dove—
Even though we may stumble and fall,
We still look for the best in us all.