Thursday, February 25, 2010

New Glasses=New Vision

So hear I am wearing my new glasses. Do you like 'em?

Glasses have been a part of my life ever since I discovered books were a window into a glorious reality. I spent most of my life with my nose in a book and thus, my eyes are now in need of assistance.

I had contacts for awhile and then I fell into 'lensy' love. I didn't just like, I loved, my glasses. I had two pairs, to match what I was wearing, naturally. One was red, the other blue. They were so big, they often left a line on my cheek while covering a portion of my forehead. Those babies were glorious. Absolutely glorious. I matched my red and white striped polo shirt and my red, lens beauties for my senior portraits (and red nail polish...of course). I was a stylin' and profilin'.

In college, I wore them because I couldn't always afford contacts. I told myself, it made me look older and more authoritative to the students I would soon be teaching. The truth was, I outspent my budget and couldn't always get them.

The blue and red beauties are long gone. I've been in contacts for years and years. My glasses prior to my new ones were a rimless disaster which the baby tied into an origami knot within minutes. They were so sad they actually had one slice of the lens melted at the top. Oy.

Recently I had a budget and splurged on some new glasses. They are artsy, pseudo-rimless and have a fancy shmancy design on the side. I feel sorta hip. I feel like I should take my Joan Didion book (thanks fiend) and read it while sipping an organic latte'.

Or I could blog about the little miracle going on with my baby blues. Over the past few appointments a little trend has emerged. My vision is getting better. I am seeing more clearly. I am getting new vision.

In my life, as in my eyes, I am getting new vision. I can see my emotions more clearly, though I still see a journey to walk down. I can see my sweetie boys running past and too quickly into a future of independence.

I'll close with a verse from one of my favorite cheesy songs. Sing if you will. No one is looking.

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone. All of the dark feelings have disappeared. There is the rainbow I've been praying for. It's gonna be a bright (bright) bright, sunshiney day!

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day

Taking a break from the mourning, the estate settling and the usual busy-ness of life, my husband and I had a date for Valentine's day. We began the date by seeing Hollywood's newest offering, suitably entitled VALENTINES DAY. It was an anemic and uncommitted and cliched version of love. The ubiquitous hybrid cars, bitter, gorgeous thirty somethings, the cheating husbands, the cute kid and the goofy flower guy. Throw in a gay football player and a phone sex girl and voila' you have a modern romance movie. For my hubby and I, not so much.

My favorite squishy love movie, in case you were curious, is LOVE ACTUALLY, followed by the original AFFAIR TO REMEMBER, with an honorable mention/tie FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL/that one with Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant where she's the actress and he's the book shop owner-brain burp on that one).

In the classic movie HIS, MINE AND OURS, Henry Fonda delivers a monologue to his step-daughter about love. He his escorting his wife, a fabulous Lucille Ball, down the stairs, as she huffs dramatically in labor. He explains this is what love is all about. I'll paraphrase. It's about babies, messes, noise and work. It's accidents and fights and dishes and dirt. It isn't the romanticized version out of the novels or t.v. or anemic movies.

In the not-so-good movie we saw today, there was another classic line. When a character (the obligatory latino in this fully diverse cast-it was like watching a multicultural checklist onscreen, "Check. There's the shy asian with wisdom. Stereotyped and accounted for. Check. Here's the witty and poor latino who makes jokes about coming to theeees country. Check...." Sorry, I digressed.

The line was how do you know when it's true love? How do you know it's going to work out? The answer. He knew because he married his best friend. I know because I married mine.

Squishiness warning: what you are about to read has all the solidity of marshmallow fluff.

The first time I met my husband he was sitting on Lisa Leeper's bed. He had on a Pirates baseball cap, a leather jacket and jeans. He was the cutest guy I had seen in a long, long time. He was a football player in high school and was in great shape. In sweat pants he was astounding. Not only did he look good, but he was smart. Really smart.

I, on the other hand, was an insecure, brainiac, theatre geek. I was too big, too loud and too smart. While I longed/lusted/liked him from a distance, I never considered such a great/amazing/cute guy would ever be interested in me.

We wandered in the same circles. We shared the same friends. We became friends.

I was rejected by two other guys as he became the center of attention for what came to be known as the Ron Robertson fan club (a group of girls in the dorm who fawned over the guy every second). One night, he and I made a pact to pretend to flirt so that the other girls would give him a break. It worked. Later, we ended up spending the night on a couch in a friends dorm room. Nothing like being two inches from each other overnight as an introduction.

What is astounding to me, as I look back, is his same-ness. He is the same guy I fell in love with over 20 years ago. He still takes my breath away. While I have become and broken and become again, he is still who he is and will always be.

Who will he always be? My Valentine. Mine.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Wii Bit of Respite

Funerals, estates and ceremonies, oh my! It's been a very big, busy, painful week. And it's only the beginning.

Last night, however, we had a Wii bit of healing. I got the video game Wii Fit Plus with a balance board. Dad, my brother and I spent time playing.

I didn't grow up in America. Mostly I grew up in Germany, as my father served in the Army. We didn't have much t.v. Often we had only 4 hours, the bulk of which was news. To keep us from going insane, Mom and Dad bought an Atari videogame. It was the original, bleep bloop kind moving slowly across the screen. We would have family tournaments for hours. We had family rivalries around certain games. I wasn't very good at anything. My brother rocked out on Pong and Space Invaders. It was a time of togetherness, of love and of fun.

Here we were, 30 years later. Our mother, my father's wife, was gone. The grieving only just beginning. Yet, we gathered together to play in the same way our family has always done.

I still wasn't very good. I got lost on a new level of the Bike game and ended up 'riding' a bike over 7 miles. My brother smoked my records on nearly everything while Dad sat on the couch and laughed at our antics. It was the first time we laughed in a very long time.

It was a surprising Wii bit of healing.

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Insides Outside

My insides are now on the outside. I have blogged at length of my complicated relationship with my mother. I have come to realize there were two women. The private/inside was my mom. The public/outside was Kathy.

The series of events that characterizes mourning in our American, western PA community is bewildering and exhausting. It's a series of must dos and expectations. I am thankful for Ryan our amazing funeral director (a tall, handsome young man who looked like he should be coaching football, not grieving families).

There we stood, my brother and I, dressed in black. We clutched each other's arms. He rubbed my hand until it was red and raw. I didn't notice. We took a deep breath faced the Others.

The Others were the seemingly hundreds of people who shared life with my mother. I found myself holding sobbing women who drove over an hour to pay their respects. Many had memories of sharing holidays and meals and time and life with Kathy. They tearfully talked of Kathy's caring and giving heart.

At one point I began to add up the holidays she spent in Others homes. The same holidays that she was 'too tired' or the weather was 'too bad' or 'too...' something to spend it with me and my family. Yet it was these Others that had glowing memories of Kathy playing with their grandchildren and eating at their table, while mine and my brother's remained empty.

The whole series of viewings and endless Catholic services slowly turned me inside out. The life I wanted to share with my Mom, the life I longed for in my heart was lived outside with these Others.

Though we didn't verbalize it, my brother and I made a decision. This week was about the public Kathy. It was to allow the Others to grieve and express and thank. We would grieve later, in private.

Below is the text of the eulogy I read as part of the funeral mass. I wanted to share something personal about her. I couldn't think of much. Instead, I relied heavily on what the Others had shared and a little literary license.

I am slowly putting the insides back where they belong. Sharing this is a first step.

Funerals are always a curious mix of loss and celebration. We all have lost someone who touched our lives in a myriad of ways. Last night many of you shared how important Kathy was to you and for that we are profoundly grateful.
For some of you, Kathy was a colleague and a coworker. The ‘go to’ woman who had her finger on the pulse of Richland Elementary School.
For some of you, Kathy was a friend. Someone you knew ‘before’. You knew her before she was a grown up, a woman and an adult. You knew her as the one who played on the porch or played kick the can.
For some of you, Kathy was a friend in the faith. Someone you worshipped beside and with. Someone who sang songs to God. Someone who worked in the kitchen downstairs for festivals.
For some of you, Kathy was a friend during a difficult time. She was someone who brought soup or cared for someone who was ill. She was the person who brought a little comfort in your time of need.
For some of you, Kathy was all these things and so much more. She was an extension of your families, eating at your table, playing with your grand kids.
For my Grandmother Ruth, Kathy was a daughter. Her only daughter. Two women in a house full of men. She was a lifeline and a caretaker and someone to pass the day with.
For my brother and I, Kathy was simply mom. Our relationship was never simple and sometimes not so easy. However, she always was and always will be our mom.
As a mother myself, I have learned a new respect for My Mom. Did you know Kathy took two children under the age of 4 and traveled internationally? She once drove down the East Coast, into Texas and back again on her own. She was the bravest mother I ever knew.
Growing up she was also ‘mom’ to all my friends. She was the one who managed to work full time, and still be the chaperone for every trip.
Yesterday, when I was looking in her calendar, I found fundraising tickets from two different school groups. She still was the Mom who never met a fundraiser she didn’t like.
She was very much like the turtles she collected. She could have a hard outer shell, underneath which beat a very tender and soft heart. She never was flashy and always made it to the finish line in good time.
Turtles can live for 100 years. Today, and I think for days to come, we would have wished for Kathy to have shared that trait.
She has left our lives. Her influence and care will never leave our hearts. I hope you know how much you all meant to her.
Richland Elementary School was her center, her reason to get up in the morning. She knew details about the children’s lives. She cared for them as if they were her own. She watched over staff, both old and new, to see what she could do to help them or keep them from messing things up too much. She would want me to thank you for being there in her times of need. She would want me to thank you for listening to stories of her grandsons over and over again with a smile. She would want me to thank Mr. Moran and Patti for giving her dignity and care following her last moments.
Grandma, she loved you very much. She wanted nothing more than to make your life easier, as she carried your burdens along with her own.
Michael and I want to thank you Mom, for being brave in these last months. Brave to reach out when it was hard. Brave to accept new beginnings and a new life. We thought we had time. Obviously, we did not.
She would be embarrassed by all the things said last night and today. She would have been overwhelmed by the attention. She would have preferred to hide in her shell and just be.
So, in closing, I would ask you a favor to honor her memory. As Michael and I ran out of time to hug our mother, take time today to hug those important to you. Call that parent you haven’t spoken to in too long. Reach out to that friend, child or co-worker. Do it today, as we have no promise of tomorrow.
And one final thing, every time you see a turtle. Think of the little lady with the big heart. Think of your friend. Ruth’s daughter and my mom, Kathy.
Thank you.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Call

It's usually a phone call that changes the landscape of your life. Suddenly and without warning a statement or two over the line is 'the moment'. The last moment when things made sense and the new, confusing and bewildering life begins.

Tuesday morning I got the call. Tuesdays are my Mondays so I was moving very slow. I was getting ready when the phone rang. It was Mom's number. I was so pleased as it marked the first time she had ever called me in years.

"Is this Kimberly Robertson?" the surprisingly male voice asked.

Do I want to be?

"Yes, this is she." Sit on the bed. Remember to breathe.

"I am sorry to have to say this, but your mother is dead."

A screeching of brakes in my mind. What?

There was more to the conversation. I can't recall what. I called my husband and father repeating the sentence, "Mom is dead."

I screamed and had to clutch the side of the bed. A sudden shaking and cold overcame me. Then the baby came up. "You got boo boo Mommy?"

I do. In my heart.

Since yesterday Gosh was it only yesterday morning? I've made seemingly hundreds of calls on the phone. I made other calls too. I've made the call on how to handle the 'arrangements'. I've made the call on what casket, outfit and other minute details.

I've called on God and taken Him up on His offer that His grace is sufficient for me. I've called the Holy Spirit to do His job as comforter. I've called on Jesus to be the Savior of my cracked soul. They have answered the call splendidly and in ways I will be sure to share later.

The call changed the landscape of my life forever. The woman of whom I have only recently begun to reconcile with is dead. Her life, her legacy, her memory is what is important now.