So, it’s been a month now and I’ve been in denial about the permanence of ma being gone. Unfortunately my head…and heart…must think it’s time for me to break through this and it’s like a storm has suddenly washed over me.
It’s funny that what you wish for isn’t always what you can handle. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve wanted to get past this wall I had up and start ‘really’ feeling the grief I know is in me. And bam. It’s a’happening.
T and I were at ma’s yesterday helping someone pick up a quilt ma was making for them. After T left to go to the dentist, I walked through the house ma and pop built and that I lived in from the age of 6. I could see ma in every room, remember her laughter, and hear her voice. I could even smell her in that ‘house scent’ we all have in our homes.
You know, whenever I used to go over to the house, I’d walk in and yell: “Ma?! Are you there ma?!” And she’d say: “Kristi?! Is that you?!” Then I’d hug her hard…always always always hug her first thing. I yelled that yesterday. Again and again. And I was wanting so fucking bad for her to yell back; when she didn’t, I think I finally realized that my ma died. And honestly, I feel a sense of loneliness I’ve never…ever…felt before.
Of course I’ve been lonely at times in my life…sometimes it’s hard being single and living by myself. But no matter how down I got, ma was there. Always there. I could call her…go to her…and just always know that despite anything else in my life, she was within reach. Always my constant. Always my anchor.
Knowing that’s no longer so makes me feel like I’m adrift in the sea…no focus…no path…no direction. I’ve never felt this emptiness and it’s one tough son of a bitch to handle. Today I was just needing a hug. A simple hug. But my hugger’s gone and as someone who craves affection, it’s hard to not have that physical comfort. My neighbors across the street are getting used to me popping over in my boxers and t-shirt so they can give me a squeeze. It helps.
It also helps to keep busy so I’ve got a huge coloring poster hanging up and I work on that. I’ve done some jigsaw puzzles…just finished a 1000 piecer…and have been getting some more African violets to fuss with. There’s around 16,000 different varieties and even though my collection is growing, I do know my limits with these.
Anyhoot, I’m going to take this grief thing one day at a time…I guess that’s all you can do. I’m going to let myself cry. Vent. Yell. Whatever I need to do to start working through this heartache. I know I’ll never…ever…get ‘over’ ma. I know I’ll grieve her until I see her again. But I also hope it will become if not easier…then ‘less’. My pain will turn to an ache that will always be with me. And that’s OK. Because I know ma is with me…in my head and my heart. And I’m going to keep her there. Forever.
So it’s been quite a while since I’ve blogged…I took the summer off since working on the computer for school all year takes it’s toll.
But I wanted…or maybe needed…to tell my sweetie peeps that ma died this morning. She was such an active, vibrant, beautiful woman and only began deteriorating in July. It was a fast downhill slide and sissy and I are in shock. I’ve written so much about her over the last couple of years and I know some of you have laughed at her antics. She always got a kick out of me apologizing to her whenever I fucking cussed (sorry, ma).
I’ve contemplated the word ‘love’ lately and realized, as I was watching her fight for breath yesterday in the hospital, that the word just isn’t big enough to describe what I felt for her. She was my light. My best friend. And the most amazing mom I could have ever ever asked for.
Ma was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver in 2006…she was an alcoholic but didn’t drink a drop after this diagnosis. Most people live about 5-6 years with the severity of damage she had…she lived 16. My sissy and I didn’t know that these last 10 years were the miracle we had been praying for these last couple of weeks. Our extra time with her had already happened.
This last decade was the happiest of her life. She was safe and healthy and happy and had so many friends that loved her. She did so much traveling and activities and at the age of 65 started a quilting business that was incredibly successful. She got to see her great grandkids grow up to their teenage years and took so much pride in sissy earning her LPN and working with special needs kids, and me being a prof. She told us so many times these past few days how proud she was of us.
I spent these last couple of days just rubbing her arms and hair…laying beside her in her hospital bed to cuddle…and telling her over and over again how much she meant to me. I think she understood.
I can’t say goodbye to her yet…I haven’t processed everything and know it’s going to hit me hard. All I know is that the times I thought my heart was broken were nothing compared to this. Nothing. My heart isn’t broken…that can be fixed. Instead, my heart has a piece now missing that can never…ever…be replaced.
Rest in peace, ma. You deserve that more than anyone else I know.
So, you are probably aware that your name is synonymous with being the perfect mother and wife as seen on your TV show (and just so people don’t forget, you were an Oscar winner as well! 🤩) and you were one of the first women on TV to take on a leading role…yea! You know, when I’ve heard people mention ‘The Donna Reed Show’ it’s usually in a somewhat facetious manner though. Because of this, I assumed you were yet another 1950’s mom that always had the answers and always submitted to your hubby and kids when I had never even watched your show. But thanks to Amazon Video (you would love it 😃 ), I have now seen every episode and am gobsmacked by it.
I grew up watching ‘The Brady Bunch’ and ‘The Partridge Family’ (I wanted to be Mrs. David Cassidy badly) and while the shows were great, the problems the families faced were dealt with by using humor and minimizing the seriousness of what these issues were. Most often, they were trivial: for example, Marcia (on the Brady Bunch…I wanted her hair so bad…) getting bonked in the nose and it swelling up before a date. Yes, it was fun to watch but no, the ‘issue’ was pretty silly.
Anyhoot, I figured your show would be the same…trivial issues and perfect parenting. But it’s not! You tackled some really serious things. In ‘The Father’s Image’, Alex (your adorable pediatrician hubby who I have fallen somewhat in love with 🥰) has a young patient who has a chance of dying. It was going to take 4 hours or so of monitoring to see if the child was going to survive and while the surgeon kept an eye on things, Alex went home after an all-nighter with her. You knew something was wrong…you could see it in his behavior. But, when he said he didn’t want to talk about, you accepted that. Mary and Jeff both needed their father that day and demanded his time. He kept checking in with the hospital but put aside his worry to focus on his children and you. He forced himself to be a father and hubby during one of the worst times a doctor can face.
Not only was this a difficult issue to contemplate…the loss of a little girl…but it also showed how parents have to balance so much. Being there for work and then for children can be tricky and the show always handled such situations well.
In fact, I really liked it when you and Alex argued! The arguments were ‘real’ in that they weren’t solved with just a kiss. I really liked “The Merry Month of April” when Alex decides to complete the tax returns on his own. Needless to say, the stress is real. You had already given the papers to your accountant and question why Alex would want to do these forms anyway. The argument ensues over who is best for the task and your decision to use an accountant wins. I love that you win! So many wives on TV acquiesce to the wants of the hubby instead of standing up for what they think is best.
I also loved the episode “Mrs. Stone and Dr. Hyde” when you filled in for Alex’s vacationing office assistant. You quickly found out that hubby is much different in his professional life and his snapping and demands pissed you off! You argued with him about this treatment of you, but after a few spats you realized that he’s a doctor first in his office…it’s not time for the wife. And you quickly learned how important running his office to his standards was when an unconscious boy was brought in and Alex had to use various equipment to diagnose him.
And what I really like about your relationship is that passion. You don’t just see pecks…you guys kiss and flirt and dance and communicate and go out as a couple for that time together. That’s such a great example for relationships.
And as a mom? You rocked there too! You let your kids fail…let them make decisions and try these out without interfering all while understanding that our kids often need to learn their own lessons. Jeff picking up a raffle ticket he saw a woman drop which was the winning ticket for the prize: an awesome sports car. He told you about the ticket and you knew that the right thing to do would be to find the lady in order to give her the car. But, as would be the case with most 16 year olds, Jeff didn’t want too. And who could blame him? The car was amazing and he loved driving it. However, he saw the woman out and about with her little girl and did the right thing.
The point is, you didn’t force him. Make him feel bad. Get angry when he kept the car for a time. You let him make this moral decision himself and the lesson learned had to have been more impactful. Sometimes we have to let our kids fall down…but be there when they get back up.
I also loved how you handled Mary when she wanted to forgo college in order to begin a singing career. You got her a singing job at your alma mater’s open house…the college that you wanted Mary to attend. Instead of going to the campus in a car, you got bus tickets and Mary got a taste of what being on the road was like. You also pushed her into practicing which was realistic. And? Mary sang at the open house and you were stunned by her ability. The tears in your eyes were understandable and you realized that a singing career was a possibility…you were willing to support her in that. Finally, Mary decided singing in college was a great balance. The point? You tried to show your daughter the reality of her choice while also appreciating the talent she had.
In fact, I really liked that your kids could be…well…little mouthy shits. It was much more real that way!
You know, people called you an ‘anti-feminist’ since you were ‘just’ a housewife. WHAT? You loved what you did and being a wife and mom is definitely a job…I worked harder as a wife and mama when my son was a little guy than I do now teaching 9 classes a semester! And after all, if we work outside the home, we pay someone to do this mothering gig for us for hours a day. And they get paid. When we do it ourselves, the respect lessens 🤔. But you took this societal role and transformed it. You were strong, opinionated, compassionate, etc. You don’t have to be a NASA engineer to illustrate the concept of feminism. Women can do that in any capacity…and you chose the home as your domain. Good for you.
Although Reed foreshadowed some of Friedan’s argument, the actress did not necessarily seek to overturn societal roles. She focused more on empowering women within those roles, particularly within the home. Reed’s Donna Stone reflected the dissatisfaction with the cultural emphasis on domesticity, but her character clearly values being a wife and mother. By seeking to embolden women to demand more choices within and outside of the home, Reed channeled what scholar Christina Hoff Sommers labels the “maternal feminist movement.”
Anne M. Newton
In other words, you weren’t behind the times…you were progressing through them during the tumultuous era of feminism. Yea!
Anyhoot, I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate your image of a wife and mother; your portrayal began in 1959 but is still something to look up to today. What a great legacy that is. I know I’ll go back and watch your shows again and again…I tend to do that. I’m also going to show clips in my Marriage and Family classes to illustrate a few different things. I’m sure my students will become your fans as well.
P.S. No matter what, you always looked gorgeous and I need to start wearing high heels around the house. 😃
So, the fam was at my great-nieces volleyball game the other night (she is an absolutely gorgeous, smart young woman…much like me and sis were at that age…) and during a break ma said this to T and me: “I need a new phone.”
And just like that, the world stopped spinning for a moment…T and I stopped breathing for a moment…and we could see the horror in one another’s faces.
Look, we adore ma! We love her to death! However…introducing her to ‘new’ technology can best be described as traipsing through the bowels of hell and I don’t know about T, but I’m going to be BUSY for the next so many weeks until ma’s new phone is in her sweaty palm and she knows how to use it. There are 2 ways this can happen: either I leave the country before T has a chance too or I break my fingers. Regardless of the choice, I just have to do this before T does.
Ma’s iPhone is a generation 6 and she got it in 2014. Yes. Let me say that again…2014. The screen is the size of a postage stamp and her home button is grimy with use. However, she’s been happy with it so far until she saw me and T’s bigger and newer phones.
T and I aren’t ogres…we want ma to have a new, shiny, big screened phone (which she was too cheap to buy until now 🙄) to enjoy in her golden years. We just don’t want to be the one’s to get it set up.
Let me share how this is being anticipated:
Ma: So, if I get a new phone, my old stuff will be on it…right?
Kristi: Yes, ma.
Ma: How do we know we’re buying the phone with MY stuff already on it?
Kristi: Ma, I will take your NEW phone and download your OLD info into it from the cloud.
Ma: The what?
Kristi: THE CLOUD, ma. All of your phone info is in the cloud.
Ma (scrolling through her old phone): I don’t have a cloud on my phone, Kristi.
Kristi: Ma, the cloud isn’t on your phone. It’s out in ‘cyberspace’.
Ma: KRISTI. I DON’T HAVE A CLOUD WITH MY PHONE.
Kristi: MA. For fuck sakes…everyone has a cloud and I have yours set up! Everything on your phone is uploaded to it for saving. Think of it as a file cabinet in the sky.
Kristi: OH NO! Ma, I have to go…Edward needs to pee…
After I recovered my sanity from that conversation ma had more questions and called me back:
Ma: Will the buttons be the same?
Kristi: No. There is no home button on the newer iPhones.
Ma: How will I get ‘home’?
Kristi: Take the bus!
Ma: Kristi. How will I get home on my phone?
Kristi: You’ll swipe…everything is swipes…
Ma: Will you show me how?
Kristi: Yes. I’ll show you a hundred times. T will show you a hundred times. O will show you a hundred times. Then, you’ll have it down pat.
So, sometime in our near future, T and I will be taking ma to get her new phone. I truly feel the need to psychologically prepare for this and I’m sure T could use some prepping as well. However, as much as I tease ma about her technology gaps, O does the same to me and for some reason, it’s actually not as funny then. 🙄
Now? Google the topic, go through the 1000’s of hits, learn more about the concept, read the books/journals in the area, and get more info in 10 minutes than it took me hours to get in school. I love this in so many ways because I’ve come to depend on Google for so much info…but…I also miss the days of seeing scads of students in the library, researching their little hearts out, traipsing through the aisles and aisles of reference books, and pulling all-nighters together to finish up the work. Ahhhh…the good old days. 😳
But, it seems a little ‘too’ easy now. You know? We can just say: “Hey Alexa…who was Emile Durkheim?” And poof, the answer is given. (To my past and present Intro to Sociology students: you know the answer to this…right??)
I was reading one of my fave books the other day (I have dozens of fave books)- “The Accidental Tourist” by Anne Tyler, and one of the characters is suffering from dementia and talks to his grandson about all of the inventions he’s working on: A motorized radio that will follow you around, a floating phone, and a car that will come when you call it. This was proof to the family that gramps was diminishing quickly; actually, he was ahead of everyone.
When I first read this book in the late 80’s (it was published in ’85), these inventions made me laugh. “Ha! A car that will come to you!” But all of these have come true (I wish Anne Tyler would have patented these ideas she wrote about…)! Wasn’t the Sony Walkman the radio that would follow you around…and then the iPod…then phones? And think about phones…no phone booths you have to wait for (that’s how I had to call ma when I was living on-campus)…no more waiting for T to say goodbye to her boyfriend and finally hang up…no more talking where everyone can hear since phones were plugged into the wall. Now? We have them all of the time. And cars that come when you call them? When I was dating ‘The Counselor’ he had a Tesla and we were coming out of Walgreens in the dead of winter and not wanting to traipse through the slush. He got on his phone and the car started up, backed out of the parking spot and came directly to us. My mouth hung open but I tried my best to take it in stride.
It makes me wonder about my future grandkids (if I ever get any… 😐) and what they’ll grow up with and how much things will have changed by then. I try to think how it can and I simply can’t! I can’t imagine anything more than what we have…unless it’s faster, etc. I said the same thing after my pink Motorola Razer I had in the early 2000’s: “What can be better than this?”
Anyhoot, we’ll get ma her new phone. T and I will help her set it up and we’ll tag team it: she can explain some things and then bump my shoulder and I’ll take over for a bit while T practices meditation and deep breathing. However, cough cough…I think I feel the ‘flu’ coming on. Bit by bit. Like maybe it will really hit me the day we have planned for shopping. Hmmmm…
So, Bill is in Sarasota which is pissing me off royally. He’s visiting his son and having a great time but here’s the thing: it’s WINDY, COLD, and DREARY here but SUNNY, WARM, and BEAUTIFUL there. Blech. Anyhoot, I started thinking about the times I would travel down to Texas to visit my sonshine when he lived there for 3 years.
The first time I went was when O and I drove to Texas to unload all of his stuff he and his dad had already dropped off. Yes…you read that correctly. He and his dad took a U-Haul down with all of his stuff but DIDN’T unload any of it. “That’s women folks work! 🙄 ” So, when he got back to IL, we took his car down (and then I hitch-hiked home. Just kidding…I flew). The drive is about 12 hours and the first 4 were fun. Then the tedium set in and come to find out, I have to pee a lot more than O does. I’d need to stop every couple of hours (since I was guzzling water while he drove…in hindsight, it should have been more of an ‘adult’ beverage😳 ) and he’d say exactly what his dad used to say to me: “Already? Are you sure?” Hmmmm. Yes, already and yes, I’m sure. We would then look for places to ‘go’ and he’d keep driving by great prospects. I would say: “What’s wrong with there?” And his reply? “Ma…we need to get a few more miles in.” So I said: “For fuck sakes (sorry, ma), if I go NOW or LATER we’ll still drive the same amount of miles.” The response I received consisted of him rolling his eyes, sighing dramatically, and then taking me to a rest stop where serial killers like to hang out. Sheesh.
When we finally got to Texas and my ass was asleep and tingly, we spent the next few days getting his apartment set up. Then, I told him I wanted to sightsee before I left. We first went to the Cultural District in Fort Worth where there are museums all over the place. You can walk from one to other and they are pretty close together except for the museum I wanted to go too which was about a half mile away. O wanted to drive to it and I told him that we could just walk…it wasn’t that far. Well, a half a mile isn’t that far unless it’s 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade. Literally. But, here’s what I always heard: “Dry heat is so much better than humid heat.” Bullshit. It’s not. With humid heat, you at least have some moisture on you. So, after trudging to the museum, he was grouchy (I’m using a very mild word for his mood because I can’t think of a stronger one 🙄 ), I was gasping for breath and we both felt like raisins that had just trekked through the Sahara. Now, I’m sure my sweet peeps are asking if all of this was worth it. Long story short: No. 😐
I also wanted to go to the FAMOUS Fort Worth Stockyards because of the AMAZING cattle drive they have. I had to convince O it would be great to stand outside in an area that smelled like cow poop while waiting to see cows stampede down a street. But, there were other things to see too; for example, shops that sold t-shirts saying “My cowboy went to Texas and all I got was this t-shirt” and other such goodies. However, 90% of the shops were closed the day we were there…we don’t know why. Of course, before the cattle drive I had to pee…again…so we finally found an open shop. They directed us to a bathroom in the building and told us the ‘code’ we would need to open the doors. Well…the ‘codes’ didn’t work and I was starting to worry a tad. But, I knew if I peed myself, the 105 degree heat (it was much cooler that day 🤨) would dry it quickly. Finally, someone else came to use the toilet and we just slunk in after them when their code worked.
Finally, it was time for the ‘stampede’! People were lined up, 3 rows deep, all along the street and the excitement was palpable. There was a good ole’ boy (that’s Texas talk 🤠) with a big cowboy hat on standing behind us and after hearing us talk with our mid-western accent, asked where we were from. Since O was grouchy again and didn’t want to visit with anyone, I told the guy that I lived in IL. He got so excited…he said (in the best Southern drawl ever): “Why, I know some people named ‘Miller’ that live in IL. You know ’em?” Now, I swear he said this…O will attest to it. So I said: “Sure! They’re nice people!” He was very pleased we had this national connection to one another.
Anyhoot, it was time for the cows. We started hearing some hooves and here it was…what we had waited an hour for. It was 5 (it had to have been an off day) long-horn cattle PLODDING down the street more slowly than my 95 year old neighbor walks, with 2 men who looked like they had never ridden a horse a day in their lives behind them. The entire ‘drive’ took 2 minutes and I’ve been more impressed watching grass grow… however, I told O how awesome it was so he would think it was worth it. He didn’t. 🐮
Ma drove down with me a couple of times too and those drives were always interesting but the first one was the most memorable.
We left the day after Christmas and luckily, there wasn’t snow to worry about. However, this happened to be during the time of some of the worst flooding Missouri ever experienced, and it started in mid-December and lasted through the beginning of January. The news media literally reported and said this: “DO NOT TRAVEL THROUGH MISSOURI!” I said this to ma, and her response was, “Kristi, we are going to Texas come hell or high water.” Well, the high water was there, so I prepared for hell. 😈
The first couple hours through scenic IL wasn’t bad but as we got closer to the Missouri border, we turned on AM radio (take a look at your navigation/computer system on your dash my young peeps…it’s a button around the area of Sirius and your iTunes library 🙄). A reporter (a couple of miles away from us) was yakking about how she was outside in ‘flood waters’ and how she had never seen anything like it in her life. In fact, she sounded a bit hysterical and I looked over at ma who was serenely looking out the window and wondering if we had passed the “Hen House” yet. A ‘greasy spoon’ dive that was last cleaned (at least this one) in 1973.
Anyhoot, sheets of rain started falling and we saw rivers in ditches beside the road…it was getting precariously close to the highway. I said: “Ma. I need you to keep your eyes open. I’m driving in a freaking flood so you can see your precious grandson and wander around an Ikea for the first time. I need your help navigating.” Her reply? “What do you want me to do?” I said: “MA. KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN AND TELL ME IF I’M GOING TO DRIVE INTO THE FUCKING MISSISSIPPI.” I felt like Noah steering the Ark at first, but then realized if this really was another biblical flood, the only survivors on earth would be me and ma and I wondered how long we would last. You know…without us killing one another.
Things weren’t too bad until we got a bit farther south and the rain started to turn into icy drizzle. My hands were gripped on the wheel and we started creeping along at about 30 MPH in my ma’s light sedan, and while I was trying to say “Our Father…”, ma asked if we were getting behind schedule. “Yes, ma. We are behind schedule. But only because I’m trying to keep you alive.” With that, she started looking around for a place for lunch…my biggest worry too. By the way, we settled on a Wendy’s. When we travel, we go whole hog. 😉
Back on the road, things were getting worse. There are a lot of twisty, hilly roads in Missouri and it was fun navigating through them while they were covered with ice, while barely being able to see out the windshield and ma asking me what other shops I like in Texas. I snapped out something and she asked if I needed a break driving. For fuck sakes, of course I needed a break. I was about 20 miles from getting out of the car and hiking home. However, there was no way on God’s green earth I was going to let ma drive. I don’t know how to put this and want to be tactful: ma’s driving sucks balls.
I know she’s picking up the phone right now to screech at me, but it’s true. She decides what lanes are turn lanes, whether or not she can make it through a yellow light a quarter mile away, and likes to sight-see instead of concentrating on the road. So no. I did not want ma to drive in a floody ice storm. 🙄
We finally made it to the middle of Oklahoma and got a room in the first hotel we saw. Well…let me clarify…the only hotel in this town of 30. The guy behind the bullet proof, locked cage gave us our key and we traipsed up to the room. The walls were beautiful, the color of baby poop after carrots have been consumed, and the towels for the shower were so thin I thought you were supposed to flush them. Anyhoot, the room was like a little oasis after that driving and after we (meaning me) moved every piece of heavy furniture in front of the door, we slept like babies. The next day, when we just had a couple more hours to go was sunny and bright. Go figure.
Anyhoot, I both hated it and loved it when O lived in Texas. It’s an awesome state with so so much to do and the people are truly wonderful…I’d always come home saying ‘howdy’ and ‘y’all’ for at least a few days. I wasn’t single then (of course) but I’m telling you that some of those cowboys were sexy as hell. I made so many great memories with O and ma and we always had a blast. But, I also had to say goodbye to O and that was tough. I was never able to do it without bawling. The plus side of that? The stewards on the plane thought I was a basket case (which I was) and always gave me free soda and extra snacks. Yum.