There was this one moment…

I didn’t want to write about my recital. It was so perfect in my memory I didn’t want to touch it for fear my words might rewrite the experience. But there was this one moment, this one beautiful moment…

When I made it to the last movement, almost everyone in tears (including myself), I was waiting for my friends to join me on stage. I had asked some of them ahead of time if they could come up, but in the moment only two of them did. I looked up at the audience and felt this fear. What if no one else comes? We can’t end this piece with only three people!

So I took matters into my own hands…literally. I just went up to people with my hands outstretched, eyes pleading, please, please come with me, help me. And every single person did. Till I finally turned around and watched all of The Wild Beast occupants standing together, supporting each other, singing with me.

We heard my mom’s voice and I wished them “Be well.” And that moment…that moment is one of the single most powerful moments of human connection I have ever experienced.

My words can’t do it justice. Here is the link if you’re curious (this moment comes at the end): 7 Stages/Coping 

(If you do want to watch and want the program I think it’s helpful to following what’s going on so let me know!)

And the link to my dad’s reaction which was far more eloquently written than my own: May the Circle be Unbroken

Footprints in the Sand

When my mom first shared this story with me, even as a child, I easily gleaned its importance to her. We sat on her side of the bed, the room dark, but for her small nightstand light providing a welcoming glow. The words were printed on a bookmark, and she read the story aloud, glancing up to catch my eyes, insuring my rapt attention. And, as a child often does, I wondered in awe of my mother’s wisdom. To me, she was not reading someone else’s words or story. The tie she felt wove its way into her speech so that the language became her own. She stared at me for a moment when her heart had been lifted by the sharing of stirring words. I don’t remember what conversation passed between us after, only that I carried the moment and message forever after. Now, I have a chance to intertwine myself and share my own version.

footprints

I think of my mom often. I think of what our relationship would be now if Alzheimer’s hadn’t come to claim her body and infect her mind. Now I must rely on my memories of my childhood. Memory is such an unreliable thing, but these words I write, they help me remember.

My dad always carried this air of intelligence. When he spoke to me I would marvel at his charisma and strive to earn his approval as he taught me the power of experience and wisdom. He insured I understood the difference between that and intellect, and although both important, the real goal is the journey to wisdom.

My mom did not speak like this. She did not spell out lessons or share time-worn stories riddled with morals. Where my dad’s cleverness and penchant for solving puzzles eagerly filled space with awe, my mom’s heart delicately encased it. And so, I was taught gentleness with wisdom, kindness with logic, and love with reason. These scales are not always balanced, but I yearn to honor them both and make it so.

The Footprints though, my mom did share that story. And how poetic, how unifying when I reflect on it now. My mom marveled at how when the narrator is at the lowest of the low they cry out in anguish to be left alone by their Savior, when in fact He had been carrying them through the bleakest of moments, the darkest of nights.

My mom only had one boyfriend, one husband, one love. She met my dad when she was twenty and that was that. When she was diagnosed he helped her make and complete a bucket list. And now, even as we near the inevitable end, he is still by her side, caring for her more than most spouses will ever have to care for each other. He stayed for better and for the literal worst. Her white knight, her caregiver, her endless one love.

I was in the car the other day listening to Sia. My mind slightly wandering until I hear her sing the words, “Your footprints in the sand“. I remembered the story my mom had shared with me all those years ago. I heard her sing, “but you were carrying me, carrying me to safety” and it hit me.

My mom can no longer make her own footprints in the sand. She could not control her toes to squeeze them through the warm sand, letting it sift over her skin. But now, in her bleakest moments, in her darkest hours, my dad carries her. And I know when she looks back at her journey she will see their path together as they wandered through forests and scaled mountains, as they struggled through hard times and basked in the good, how they raised three children and embedded themselves in a community, how they supported each other through career and job changes, how they embraced nature with an understanding that few posses… Yes, she will look back and see how long they traveled together and then she will marvel when the two footprints become one, knowing exactly who it was that carried her to safety.

carrying

Z is for Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, #AtoZChallenge

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay. My, oh my, what a wonderful day…

I can’t hear Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah and not think of my dad. When I was trying to think of an idea for Z this song popped in my head and I knew it was time to make a post.

I can perfectly picture my dad belting this song out. I see myself on the street I grew up, warm sunshine, lush green grass, shade from the maple and oak trees. When I was little my dad would carry me on his shoulders and sing.  My dad sings a lot. His singing to me as a child is the reason I love sharing songs with my students today. This is how we pass on our folk songs and traditions. This is how we connect generation to generation.

I have a book called “The Fox Went Out On A Chilly Night” and it’s held together by duct tape from decades of use. I take it out to sing with my students and I tell them how my dad used to sing it to me when I was a child like they are now. Their eyes get big and they scoot in closer to listen and join me with the town-o, town-o, town-o parts. Now when I take out this book they exclaim, “This is the song your dad sings you!” It makes me smile every time.

When I sing to my students “One finger, One Thumb” I can hear my dad leading the youth group in our church. Making us all jump up and down, frantically waving our limbs trying to keep up with the words and his enthusiasm. My students always appreciate the songs I love, and I love so many songs because of my dad.

I sing when I’m happy. It’s something I’ve noticed about myself because it’s just a general reaction to happiness, not a planned event. What better song to sing to express happiness than Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah? A song that brings me back to my childhood and makes me appreciate the love of music my dad gave to me.

…Plenty of sunshine headin’ my way. Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay!

P is for Picture, #AtoZChallenge

I wanted to explain the picture I used in my last post, O is for One Perfect Moment, #AtoZChallenge.

Goodbye

I went home for Christmas this winter thinking it would be the last time I saw my mom. My flight back to California was ridiculously early so I had to say goodbye the night before. I asked my dad to tell me when it was time to say goodnight and he let me know when Mom was finally ready to go to bed. I went to her and tried to stay really happy and positive, giving her a hug and saying goodnight. It was quick because I didn’t want to think too hard about the situation, but as soon as I left the room I realized I forgot to tell her I loved her.

I had to go back in, I knew I needed to tell her in person because it might be the last opportunity I got to do so. My sister came in after and while I was hugging my mom on one side, my dad hugged her on the other side and she took this perfect picture. In it we all have genuine smiles. We are holding onto each other and although the practical reason is we have to hold on to Mom to help her keep her balance, in the picture it just looks like a warm embrace (which it also was). When I look at the picture I can’t tell my mom has Alzheimer’s. I see happiness, love, family. That’s why I was inspired to write the poem that I did.

I don’t like to talk about perfection, because I think it’s generally an unobtainable and unrealistic goal. I see this picture though, and it really is one perfect moment.

O is for One Perfect Moment, #AtoZChallenge

after the hourglass has filled

with time-worn sand

turned dusty and coarse

after the air has settled

still and stagnate

after the weight

of disintegrated decay

that plagued the mind

after the realization

that change is inevitable

after the faces

streaked with saline

after the anger

hot and unbridled

after denial

after rage

after acceptance

afterafterafter

after everything

comes one perfect moment.

Goodbye

Then, after comes….

 

 

F is for Forgetting, #AtoZChallenge

This might get sad.

If you’ve spent any amount of time reading my blog, you are probably aware that my mom has Alzheimer’s. She was diagnosed about four years ago now. I remember because it was during my first year of teaching when we got the official diagnosis. She had been showing symptoms since her late forties, but the doctors kept saying too young, too young.

They said she was too young for about four years. I don’t remember the way the news was delivered. I’m not sure if someone called me or if it was in a message. I don’t remember if it was my dad or my sister who finally broke the news. I do remember that after I found out I went numb for a second.

Then I wanted to scream.

Then I wanted to punch something as hard as I could. I punched my pillow and it was satisfying for a second and then that seemed so completely irrelevant.

And then I just cried instead.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know it was coming, we all knew it was going to be Alzheimer’s. It’s just that, the official diagnosis made it so real, so undeniable.

I remember feeling so alone. I don’t know why I couldn’t talk to anyone. There were people I could call, my roommate in the next room, even. There was just no way for me to communicate the way I felt. I didn’t even know how to try.

Before my mom got diagnosed I had a morbid mantra I would say to myself. It was before I’d do something stupid or something I knew I probably shouldn’t. I’d just think, “I’m just going to grow up to forget this anyway.”

We have Alzheimer’s on both sides of the family, my mom’s and dad’s. It feels kind of inevitable, and if it’s not me, probably my brother or sister. It’s a heavy weight to carry that thought.

Maybe a breakthrough will be made and a cure will be found, or at least a more powerful way to slow the progress. Maybe we’ll all get lucky and discover that gene passed us by.

Or maybe, in just twenty years or so, just like my mom, I’ll start forgetting.

Momandme

Why is Christmas Special?

Last week, while teaching one my early childhood music classes one of my five-year olds turned to me and said, “Do you want to know why I love Christmas so much!?” I expected him to talk about presents or this “elf on a shelf” or something to that effect, but he followed up with, “Because we always go to Colorado to see my grandma and also because there’s snow there!” Another boy chimed in, “Want to know why Christmas is the best time of year? Because you get to be with all the family you don’t see a lot!”

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Goodbyes with Family & Friends and Beginnings Born from Ends

I meant to publish this post four days ago, the day before I left for California. As I was going through all my family and friends and visiting one last time the title for this post popped in my head. Instead of beginnings from ends I first though of “nights we don’t want to end” because indeed, each of my goodbyes I drew out for hours. Awkwardly standing around saying “alright” about 50 times before finally heading out the door. There were tears, there were embraces that shook from the power of our sobs, but there was always laughter and the reassurance, “See you later.”

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A Weekend in Norfolk

I grew up in the very small town of Norfolk, CT. It seems fitting that the week before I leave this place I’ve considered home for 24 years, the town puts on a celebration of its rich history. The weekend was packed with activities, music, and exhibits showcasing the way this small town has developed over the years. And by that I refer to what I always tell newcomers, “Norfolk is a town untouched by time.”

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Life Lessons From Furry Friends Pt. 3

Scott

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted one of these, and that’s because Scott stumped me and I refused to go out of order! The original idea was that I would pick one lesson from each pet I have owned. I just could not decide what lesson to pluck from living with Scott. I thought maybe humor because he was such a funny character he always made everyone laugh. Now, I’d just like to tell his story, and maybe by the end I’ll narrow down one word like forgiveness or patience (from part 1 and 2)…and maybe I won’t. :p

Scott

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