Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Resting Place

Funerals cause me a lot of introspection.

As family gathered, it was so nice to catch up with faces we see so seldom, and embrace others who we may never see again.

Remembering Grandma is so different for me and my brothers than for the younger grandchildren. We were the first of the 29 grandchildren, and we remember the years when Grandpa was still with us. I remember the nights that my parents would play Canasta with their parents, while I sat on my dad's lap. I remember falling asleep under the hum of the old circular florescent light above the kitchen table, watching the second hand on the black and white clock that clicked it's seconds off, posted above the kitchen sink like a sentry, watching the family gathering while strong hands flipped cards until someone declared the winning hand.

I remember the annual popcorn balls at Halloween that grandma made each year, and the years of backyard bonfires after a family hayride around the neighborhood.

I remember Santa's visit, excited little ones shoulder to shoulder in the living room as we heard his heavy black boots stomp up the basement stairway, his booming "HO-HO-HO" alerting us all to his much awaited arrival! The Christmas lights glowed, there were gifts for all, while sitting on Santa's lap was the highlight that held us over for 364 more days until the next year. Our "Santa" tragically died in 1995, but his memory will live in our hearts forever. The tradition has been kept alive by other uncles, honoring the beginning years when it was all so magically beautiful.

Easter brought us together each year, with the anticipation of candy treats in pastel colored plastic eggs hidden in the brambles of the back yard, or in the lower hanging branches for us as we grew taller with age. The spread of delicious dishes in the kitchen had already filled our growing bodies, so we ran off our energy as the adults visited in the living room, a lovely aunt recording our holiday with an early 1960's movie recorder.

There were short, black and white movies on the darkened bedroom walls, featuring "Our Gang" that we loved to watch over and over. The oldest at the time would control the player, the whirring of the projector with it's jumping pictures entertaining a roomful of grandchildren and aunts who were close to our same age!! We would play the "Twister" game on the floor, until one of collapsed in laughter at the twisted mess we would create of young giggling bodies, fighting over who would be the next to spin the cardboard spinning wheel to decided the colors for the next move. I imagine the adults and babies were enjoying the peace and quite of having the rowdy kids in the next room over, playing and making memories to last a lifetime.

Memorial Day, Labor Day, birthdays...all were celebrated at the grandparents home, the gatherings growing larger over the years, while we welcomed boyfriends or girlfriends into the fold, some who would marry into the family that welcomed them.
The big, black piano would create hours of plunking out familiar songs, with a couple of us playing round after round of "Heart and Soul" to the amazement of our supportive adults. Grandma loved music, so each holiday she encouraged us to bring our instruments, breaking the shyness of performing in public. We squeaked and squawked our way to a final applause. I felt so loved.

There was also the Christmas eve pageant each year, where we took turns portraying Mary, Joseph, Shepherds, Wisemen or angels, swaddling a baby doll from my younger aunt Andrea's room to be the very special Baby Jesus. The story never grew old, the director changed from year to year, and another tradition established. It's here that I could read what I had learned to write out on lined school paper, my cousins so supportive of stories, poems or dreams I had recorded, asking me again and again to read the newest creation I had penned. An atmosphere of encouragement sent me off to believe I could accomplish nearly anything I set my mind to. Family should be that way. This was the family I came from.

Aunt Toni orchestrated a scavenger hunt each year, with strings or slips of paper that lead us to prizes. I imagine it was quite the work for her to put together, but I bet it's part of the early training she received for the lifework she does now as an activities director at a home for the mentally challenged. She was good at it, and I hear she's excellent at her job still today.

So many memories flood my mind. The house, the family that is so precious to me.
My dad looked around at the burial and said, "Mom really created quite the family. She would be so proud." Yes, Dad, she would have been so proud to see how large, how loving, how wonderful the family had become.

After the funeral and saying goodbye to my dear grandma, I received a slip of paper from my Grandma's prayer book from 1983. I have a folder of her handwritten stories in my office, but this piece of paper is a different type of treasure. It is a time in her life when she recorded her prayers for my young family, bolstering me in ways I could sense. Did she ever realize how very much her prayers kept a large family together and brought us to a place in our lives we could never have reached without her faithful intersession?

The youngest grandchild today is around 10. She never really knew grandma before her mind clouded and she was swept into oblivion. She never tasted one of her popcorn balls, or sat around the family living room. With 40 years between us, there is so little we have in common. I rest in the fact that Grandma's legacy will live on in all of us grandchildren. The older, the younger and all those in between. I hope we can share the stories of the wonderful woman we knew, passing on to the generations below us the desire Grandma had to protect, encourage and love each of us as if there were no one more important in the world.

Because that's what family does. That's who Grandma was to me.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Storm

When a high winds storm knocked our power out on Friday night, there were some interesting things missing from our daily life.

No TV. Oh my. You would think my kids were totally deprived of life. I could unplug the set, carry the box out to the trash heap and not miss a it at all. The kids, on the other hand, realized there could also be no Wii games, so what in the world would they do now?

Everyone was asleep on the livingroom floor by 9 pm. And is wasn't even dark outside yet. There was definately a stuffiness in the house, but the light glow of candles kept it cozy and peaceful. They slept all night long, which is not typical at our house. I missed the hum of the fan, and my comfy waterbed upstairs. I was afraid if they all fell asleep on the floor and woke to me missing from the couch there would be panic from the little ones, so I continued to fitfully sleep beside them. Mike missed the airconditioning more than I did. I was just so aware of all the sounds, and lack of sounds, that I am accustomed to at night time.

Kids who normally have to be urged to shower were suddenly distraught over the fact that they could NOT shower. The ones who are typically forced to brush teeth were now crying that they could not now.

The ones who delve into the refridgerator numerous times an hour for a snack thought they were near death when we told them they had to open the door sparingly to make our ice last through the undetermined amount of days that we may be without power. We had traveled about 25 miles to get $20 worth of ice, so it became our most precious commodity this weekend.

I missed the ease of morning coffee. A couple of times I reached for my cup with coffee pot in the other hand, just to realize I was on a fruitless journey for now. Or the kids wanting lunch, and thinking we couldn't heat the leftover spaghetti on Saturday because our microwave was useless without power. Gee, it's then that I realized my hubby is a smart guy. He fired up the gas stove, and they had their lunch!!

We are campers, so going without the shower meant throwing on a cap. Surely the power would be back before bedtime, eh? By evening, we had grilled burgers outside, filled our tummies for the night, and glanced at the couch for another restless sleep. My waterbed had now grown too cool to sleep on, even if I could convince the little ones to go to their beds in the complete darkness that was falling.

Smart husband struck again!! He called a campground 7 minutes away, we hastily packed the kids and jammies, threw together a few nighttime necessities and pulled out of our driveway. Oh the excitment of a spontaneous trip!

And then the power returned to our home. What?? Do we cancel the trip now? Do we waste all this excitment and go back home to a cooling house, normal showers and TV???

We got to the campground moments later, set up in thirty minutes or less, and let the kids run around until darkness solidified. It was nearly midnight before all was calm and quiet, but we were experiencing a quick trip that held the promise of an exciting fathers day weekend.

Being without power seems easier when we were roughing it in a tent years ago. Now that we have the 30 foot travel trailer, why suffer at home when we can float into a powered facility and enjoy most of the comforts of home away from home? We had a wonderful day with our oldest daughter and her husband joining us for a cookout and swim, and last night the kids were all back on normal sleep schedules, ready to start today bright and early.

Hubby had an early morning meeting at work, so the kids and I ate packaged cinnamon rolls at the picnic table. We will start packing up to return home today, another camping memory in our minds.

The Storm that felt annoying, even devastating to some in our area, was over. Many of our friends are still without power today. We were able to share our home with a friend even in our absence. But today we will be back and thankful for all the comforts of home.

I hope we have learned a bit of something from our experience. Like, we can live without a TV and have fun playing....and, morning coffee and warm showers are not everything.

But they sure are nice!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Rest In Peace, Dear Grandma

I woke up this morning to one of "those" calls. The kind that causes the thumping in your heart, the intensity while you try to focus on the words you are listening to.

"Grandma passed away peacefully in her sleep this morning. She passed just like I remember her mother passing when I was a teenager."

Dad left me a message. At 94 years old, and in a frail body whose heart was surrounded by fluids that made her breathing labored and painful, she closed her eyes and met Jesus. Just like that. Due to a form of dementia, she had left us years ago.

Dad assured me he was not grief stricken. Sad, yes. But also so happy for her.

As I look around, I experience a surreal feeling about her passing. We live in the house that her and grandpa built over 70 years ago. Coming from West Virginia, they settled here when Grandpa got a job at the train yards. From all the stories I heard growing up, he worked hard, helped anyone who needed it, and loved to tell a corny joke. Because their youngest daughter and I are less than 2 years apart, we became fast friends in our childhood and I spent many happy years as I grew up right here in this house.

When we bought the house 13 years ago, Grandpa had been gone for years and Grandma was still living on her own, but traded the responsibilities of this property for a small house trailer that was more manageable. She eventually moved to a much smaller apartment in town, just big enough to house her treasures until she finally had to be placed in a care facility. With the house, I inherited Grandpa's wonderful collection of books about World War II, along with the memories of him rocking contentedly next to them as he studied, almost as if he were preparing a great speech for thousands who would hang on every word he uttered. He slowly lost his ability to perform mathematical equations, a sad rekoning for a man who had built every inch of his family home with his own design and strong hands. The books sat silently on the shelf as Grandpa wandered aimlessly down the streets of our town, smiling and happy with the travels he took in his mind, until a neighbor would return him safely back to his home. The home that surrounds my family now.

So much of who he was is reflected in the hand sawed wooden floors I walk on, the walls that shelter us, and the barren property that is lush and grown up now all these years later for my children to thrive on just as I did. He was the first family member I had lost, and I was saddened by the death of a great man. I reasoned that his mind had left us several years before, and he was at peace. But grandma was still with us, so I cherished her in a different way now.

She was strong, loving, part of who I have become as a woman. She was my only grandma, since my mothers parents died before I was born. Grandma and I shared a love for writing, taking words and laying them out to express an idea, or recording an event that was important in our worlds. She wrote for the local news paper years ago, sharing her heart about how difficult it was to be the caregiver for an alzheimers patient, but how willingly she did that for her loving husband until his death. The first article I had published in the local paper, she clipped and saved in a folder that I received after she entered the nursing home. She had saved everything I had written, beginning with silly poems in my childhood, to actual articles that I was asked to cover for local events.

She sent me encouraging notes through the years, urging me to continue writing, expressing my thoughts, even if it were just in a journal that no one else would ever see. She believed in the power of words to comfort, heal and sustain us. She poured over the written words in Scripture, balancing her lifestyle with her own 7 children and setting an example for all of us to follow. One time she spent hours with me, as I tape recorded an interview about her first published work, "That Girl from West Virginia". I realized when I heard the recording years later that our conversation was so much more than an interview, and although I covered the article for our local post, the recording rests among my most treasured earthly items because it contained her giggle, her voice and our love for a craft that I had learned to enjoy as much as she had in her prime.

So now she is gone from my life for good. She was trapped in a mind that failed her many years ago, her body eventually giving over to the years it had supported this wonderful woman, her spirit floating above the earth to join her adored Savior, leaving us to put her to rest for eternity. I envision her wearing a colorful scarf at her neck, large earrings adorning her glowing face, perfectly matched to the heavenly garments that gracefully flows around her. She told me several times that a good pair of black slacks was a necessity in a woman's closet, because they always made you look slimmer. Such a beauty, so understated, a classic lady in whatever she wore. She will be beautiful today in Heaven, wearing all white on her perfect body, a splash of color to set off her eyes and smile.

I am, in large, a part of Grandma. Growing up in the home full of love and prayers, cherishing the times I saw her knelt beside her couch on an early saturday morning, her Bible open before her, hands clasped in prayer, beginning her day with appreciation to the God who created her. My security grew as I came back to live in the peaceful home she loved, a treasure in my life, I have become who I am because of my grandma's faithful prayers.

I have missed her for years. But her memory has lingered, and I think she would be proud of who I have become. Her great encouragements are nestled in a worn folder in my office, written in her beautiful penmanship until the later years when her hands grew weaker, a treasure that I will pass on to one of my children some day.

Even more than the precious pieces of paper I have to look at, Grandma's gentle spirit will remain with me forever. Today I mourn her passing, but continue on the path that will eventually lead me to eternity beside her, praising Jesus and holding each other tightly. I can hear her laughing this morning, basking in HIS glory.

Rest in Peace, Mary Thelma Thompson Meador. You are loved.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Birthday's are Wonderful

I celebrated my 50th birthday last Friday. It's funny how that number loomed in front of me for months, as if something tremendously devastating would happen when the clock struck midnight!! I must admit, I survived the big 5.0. and the days ahead look promising!

Yesterday my youngest son turned 6, and we are celebrating the birthday today with a water party. He doesn't know it yet, but besides the blow up pool in our back yard, he is also opening a new pool that looks like a whale and blows water at the swimmers from his spout!!

I love parties for 6 year olds. They are happy with so little, and enjoy it all so much. Around here, the kids get to go with me to the local grocery to pick out their birthday cake, their dinner or lunch foods, and get a special prize while we shop. Tommy wanted a football cake, but when I told him the other decorations were TRANSFORMERS, he decided on a white and yellow cake that we can put a real Transformer on top of!! So easily pursuaded!!

On the way to the grocery store, I asked Tom what he wanted to feed his guests. He has 7 cousins and neighbors coming over, along with his 6 siblings. He decided his dad could take his bb gun out and get a deer for lunch. He said that's what they did in the olden days. Well, since Dad had to go to work today, he choose a few different lunch items. Bagel bite pizzas, mini corn dogs, corn on the cob and ice cream in special cups. For a treat when they get hungry, it will be Spiderman fun fruits. A perfect lunch, as far as Tommy is concerned. And then topped off with that awesome Transformer cake!!

Myself, I was thrilled with a chocolate cake, and a special Cookie bouquet from my dear niece. I also had a bit of spoiling all weekend while we camped, and even got to take a saturday afternoon nap!! No noise. No kids. No kidding!!

I think today will be a fun day for the kids, and for me, it's a great feeling knowing once again, we can celebrate another year that is as perfect as a year can get - being a family, and being together forever.

Happy Birthday, Tommy boy!!

Saturday, June 5, 2010


I have been pondering a life change lately.
I mean, a totally radical, extremely different type of life change.
I began discussing it with the older children today.

I carefully laid out the ideas that have formed in my heart and mind. I was very surprised at their reactions.

I have no idea if any of these things will ever come about, but it's been challenging my heart. I wanted to share the ideas and see if the teenagers in our family could grasp the things that I have been thinking of.

Without going into details right now, I will just say it's encouraging to my heart that at least one of them is very open to it, and had added her own ideas to it as well. That is exciting to see, because a large part of this idea has formed because I wonder if I am teaching the kids the most important parts of life that I think they need to be learning.

The privileges they enjoy (and sometimes demand) are just that: privileges. But have I conveyed enough with our lifestyle here that they are aware of just how blessed their lives are? Or am I encouraging their selfishness? I fear the latter.

One of the kids is totally negative. What about friends? What about my interests? How will this affect ME?

Call me crazy, but these responses are exactly what I was hoping for. How will this affect me?

Sometimes I think we have gotten so bogged down with "ME" that we have totally forgotten there are others around us, who matter, very much so. But what is important in life? Our things, or who we are to who we meet?

I have a friend who is downsizing their home, their stuff, their jobs, all to make a different impact on this earth. To experience physical life on a smaller scale, to spiritually and mentally grow without the overbearing trappings of the GRAND scale lifestyle. I like that mentality. Doing more, with much less.

How will that fit into our family lifestyle? Is it possible to change what we have become to re-invent who we are that better fits with our overall plan to raise happy, healthy children who will know how to impact their worlds on a positive path?

I don't know all of that yet. But it's really interesting to begin a dialogue that includes all of our ideas and start to formulate what changes we need to make to live the healthiest lifestyle possible.

This is what I am thinking. Thoughts I have formulated over the last few weeks. I wonder just where God is taking us?