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Jun 26

Random notes on a Sunday

Posted on Sunday, June 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

People have asked me why I call my husband HabMoo. It is not my pet name for him. It’s just a pseudonym for use here. I thought that for comsec and general privacy in a public place, I’d make up names for real people I write about. Except for my Mom, who was special, and can’t be harmed by stalkers now, as far as I know.

So where did the name HabMoo come from? It’s from one of the numerous Metal Gear Solid random name generators. HabMoo is short for Habitual Moose. My name came out as Buckshot Bumblebee, in case you’re curious. But I do not answer to it. So don’t try.

More things to avoid during deployment

Yesterday on my daily walk I was listening to the podcast of “Stuff Your Mother Never Told You” and learned that there’s a new reason I could become depressed while the man is gone. Apparently semen contains anti-depressive chemicals. Or there’s some correlation between having unprotected sex and being non-depressed. The correlation between unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancy is probably higher.

Exploding head syndrome

Yah, it sounds crazy but it exists and I’m thankful to the guys at “Stuff You Should Know” for giving me a name for the startling, but thankfully, rare noise that will wake me up. The American Sleep Association’s definition:

Exploding head syndrome is a rare and relatively undocumented parasomnia event in which the subject experiences a loud bang in their head similar to a bomb exploding, a gun going off, a clash of cymbals or any other form of loud, indecipherable noise that seems to originate from inside the head. Contrary to the name, exploding head syndrome has no elements of pain, swelling or any other physical trait associated with it. They may be perceived as having bright flashes of light accompanying them, or result in shortness of breath, though this is likely caused by the increased heart rate of the subject after experiencing it. It most often occurs just before deep sleep, and sometimes upon coming out of deep sleep.

For me the sound is one of the following: rotary dial phone ringing once, childhood doorbell chime, knocking at a wooden door (terrifying if it sounds like an interior door), and maybe a dog bark. Last month I had my best one which was HabMoo’s voice saying a single word. It woke me up, but this time my heart wasn’t racing in fear. I was really impressed that it sounded so realistic since I can’t just call that sound to mind at will. The syndrome is supposedly connected to stress, but hearing HabMoo’s voice was actually quite calming. I hope his voice becomes to new de facto explosion.

Thursday Next

She will have to be the title character for the deployment warm-up. Since Alex has gone to AT (annual training) this year, I have listened to three Jasper Fforde novels. I’m not sure that I would have devoured them in print, but I do so love having a woman with a British accent read to me. It’s very comforting.

Disgusting things I’ve experienced or thought about recently and just thought I’d share. You’re welcome.

I was picking flower only to find a spittle bug on the stem. I’m sure that spit is a great place to house your eggs. Who would want to chew through the spit to get to them?

Have you seen video of the flying fish depositing their eggs? It’s disgusting. A couple of months ago I thought of that video footage while I was taking a bubble bath. I had to get out of the tub. And then shower off.

Many animals pee on themselves to cool off. I’m glad it’s been a cool summer so far. It’s not something I really want to try, but once I know something like this I feel the need to try it out.

I said something the other day to a friend about how I once witnessed a drake basically rape a female duck. The duck got pulled under the water by a snapping turtle, struggled, and then was gone. Beware of Lake Calhoun, if you’re a mating duck. That got me thinking about duck rape and I found this. If you decide to click, don’t blame me for any shudders.

Speaking of birds, how do woodpeckers stand having their tongues wrapped around their heads?

Urban turkeys

Are they getting too smart? I’ve seen them outside the Ace Hardware on Como Avenue, crossing the street to a local park, in the bank parking lot, and in the crosswalk on Broadway. They worry me. How can we be sure they aren’t aliens in disguise collecting intelligence on us? I love seeing bald eagles and falcons in the city, but I draw the line at poultry. It’s just wrong. I’d be happier without the geese and turkeys. The blue-winged teals and wood ducks can stay.

Worst tag line

“Rock Solid. Heart touching.” Not a bad tagline for a family readiness group, but a terrible one for my PC. I see it come up every time I start my computer. And since it’s been locking up a lot lately, I keep wondering it it’s had heart attacks or landslides or something.



Jun 10

Deployment moves in

Posted on Friday, June 10, 2011 in Army wife, Military Spouses

Even though HabMoo will be coming home for a couple of days before he leaves the country, the deployment is beginning to feel real. I can tell because of these tell tale clues:

  • I can’t look at the calendar. I’m having a terrible time with days and putting things on my calendar.
  • I’m paying all the bills and not liking it. (Normally I don’t like it that he’s been taking care of them. I like knowing where all the money is.)
  • I haven’t cleaned the toilet recently.
  • It’s after 7 and I haven’t thought about dinner yet.
  • I’m playing a lot of Phantom Brave.
  • I’m being careful about the music I listen to. Liking Country music makes things tough.

I wrote HabMoo a letter today. It’s terribly old fashioned, but it feels more personal and more intimate than a phone call. I wrote about feeling like I unwittingly married the National Guard when I wedded him; it’s a third member of our partnership. I feel like the other woman. Right now he’s with her and there’s nothing I can do about it.

I hate to admit that I’ve been watching Army Wives, but I started when I needed to make myself give in to some tears. The writers have had the wives talk about “choosing this life” and I just don’t get that. I chose my husband. I did not choose his career. I did not choose this life. I would never consider choosing a career for him. I’m not even sure if I have any problems with it except that I don’t feel like I’m an equal partner.

The Guard calls and he answers. The Guard tells him what to wear and he wears it. I got him to buy cowboy boots, but he won’t wear them every day for me. The Guard tells him where and when to sleep. It feeds him. He serves it. I’m not sure I want that much power over him—but damn it—if someone is going to have that kind of control of him shouldn’t it be his me?

Like a mistress, I remind myself that it’s really me he loves. I know that when he can come to my side, he will. I want to get into a direct competition, but I can’t and I won’t. There’s legitimacy to what he’s doing and where he is. Luckily I’m not a naturally jealous woman.

It’s a little weird, though, to be paying the bills with money coming from that legitimate partner. It’s a little like a wife paying the mistress for the nights her man is at home. Except my taxes go to make that payment. It’s really much messier than Army Wives would lead you to believe (and the people are much less pretty and articulate).

May 16

Deployment oddities

Posted on Monday, May 16, 2011 in Army wife, Military Spouses

So has HabMoo deployed yet? He’s at Camp Ripley right now but will be home at the end of the week. So not really. His formal deployment ceremony is on Sunday. Will he be deployed the next day? Not really. He has home station activities. After that? I’m saying yes. Although he won’t be leaving the country yet and he’ll have another visit home.

This really messes with my head. Can I grieve yet? Can I begin some new activity to occupy my time alone yet? Can I get his stuff out of my way yet? I’m not sure.

HabMoo’s last deployment (or pre-deployment) training phase didn’t have much of an effect on my life. I went to his going away party, watched him open silly gifts, and get drunk, but then I left the party early. I felt a little sad but he was just a friend, and I was more concerned about my boyfriend’s second departure for a Peace Corps assignment after being evacuated from the Ivory Coast when fighting broke out there.  HabMoo’s trip abroad to represent the United States seemed like it would be better supported, better funded, and better organized.

A few months later and HabMoo was still in the states and I visited a few times. During one of those visits we said I love you and on another he asked me to marry him. So we used that deployment, really pre-deployment, time to give us the perspective on our feelings. So maybe that’s why I’ve been feeling more relaxed now that he’s out of the house. I expect something good from this time.

But now that the short trip I took to take my mind off his deployment is over, I’m turning my attention to his coming back home (I look forward to it. I miss him.) I’m also turning my attention to his departure ceremony (But he just left. I’m going to miss him.) I’m pretty good with contradictions and paradoxes, but this one is juggling my emotions like a Cirque du Soleil performer. I can’t imagine having to explain this all to little kids. Daddy’s back! No dear, he hasn’t actually left even though he was gone and we said good-bye.

I’m a little afraid that HabMoo is going to come home to a greeting from me that is just as confused. “I miss you! Haven’t you left yet?”

Apr 25

An awkward time

Posted on Monday, April 25, 2011 in Army wife

Today is probably HabMoo’s last day at his day job before he’s deployed. It’s hard to believe that the time is finally approaching.

I learned a little about how I’ve been coping with the upcoming deployment from Scientific American Mind. I successfully keep the actual date of the deployment very vague in my mind. Apparently humans see complex and difficult tasks as far in the future until you put a date or deadline on them. “Simply imposing a deadline reversed the mind’s relation between work and time. Difficult tasks loomed all too close.”

Now that I can’t quite avoid the date I’m gone into mode of coping with the anxiety of a difficult task near at hand. I’m wanting to get everything done ahead of time. I want to move HabMoo’s stuff out of the way right now. I packed up all his winter jackets before the last April snow and had to unpack them. I want all the paperwork organized. I want the workbench cleaned. I want the study cleaned up. I want him to take care of everything tonight even though he has several days at home ahead.

I’m also wanting to spend quality time with him. I want to go places and play games and watch movies and just hang off of him. Since I hate feeling needy like that I’m sure I’m pushing him away while trying simultaneously trying to hold him close.

I’m not so good about asking for help or even knowing when I need someone around since I’m typically very comfortable being alone. I’ve joked that I want his friends to keep coming over on weekends and hang out while I ignore them. I like having people around without feeling any responsibility towards them. So I’m getting clingy towards those guys, too.

I’m a little surprised that I’m not feeling angry. I could be angry at him for remaining in the National Guard. Or I could be angry with U.S. government for continuing to send troops to the Middle East. I could take my pick of all sorts of politicians to be angry with. But I’m not. I think I’m treating this war on a personal level more like a natural disaster. Shit happens and what matters is how you deal with it. You keep moving forward.

That’s what I want: forward motion. If he’s got to go, then let’s go as fast as possible so he can get back home.

Mar 22

Pre-depoyment stress

Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 in Army wife, Military Spouses

In no particular order …

Predeployment stress indicator #1

Refusing to commit to memory any dates associated with his deployment. It must be something like 6 weeks to his annual training which immediately precedes deployment. In my silly mind the date is sort of associated with the royal wedding in England, although I’m sure that’s wrong.

Predeployment stress indicator #2

Jealousy over how he gets to plan for what he’s going to pack and buy, e.g., new laptop, board games, video games, books on Kindle. I’m trying to plan on how to keep occupied at home. For some reason his planning seems a lot more interesting. I’m only planning trips to FL and Vancouver to visit family and friends I’d rather see with him. When he was in Iraq I only got to go to Buenos Aires for a week. (Jealously isn’t know for its rationality or logic.)

Predeployment stress indicator #3

Wanting to pick a fight with him. So far I haven’t done it, but I’m angry that he’s leaving and he’s the only person around to take it out on. I also feel pride, or assume I”ll feel pride once I’m past some of the anger and resignation.

Predeployment stress indicator #4

Beating myself up (and HabMoo, too) about stuff we should have done last fall. We should have painted the trim. We should have cleaned out the shed. Now I’ll get to take responsibility for that.

Predeployment stress indicator #5

A desire to push all his stuff out the door. I think what I really want is to take over all the house and make it just mine so I won’t notice his absence later. Plus I’m one of those people who rips the band-aid off so I can marvel at the mess underneath.

Predeployment stress indicator #6

Jealousy that he’s going to be surrounded by friends and people who understand what he’s going through. I’m going to have to seek out my friends (hard for an introvert like me) and most are not going to understand what I’m going through.

Predeployment stress indicator #7

Wanting to make lists of everything we should be doing in preparation.

Predeployment stress indicator #8

Avoiding the lists I’ve already made. Anger that they aren’t completed already.

Predeployment stress indicator #9

Anger that he’s not going to be around to take my annual picture with my sister’s goat kids. I love those photos. He’s going to miss a lot more events, like Xmas and tax day, for instance, but those are too far away and too painful to think about now.

Predeployment stress indicator #10

I’ve begun to wonder about how I’ll cook for just me. It seems like an awfully big chore–even worse than cooking for two.

Mar 14

Me, Mom, and body image

Posted on Monday, March 14, 2011 in Me, Mom

I started this post before Mom died and found that I couldn’t write while her body, her heart, was failing her. So I’ll attempt it once more.

Mom was not athletic or particularly proud of her body. Not until she had dementia did I ever hear her refer to her body with pride. At age 88 she let it slip that she thought she looked better in her jeans than anyone else at “the home.” She was correct.

I feel lucky to have grown up in a home that really didn’t pay much attention to body image. Nor did anyone show any shame. I don’t recall Mom ever shutting a bathroom door. I find this hard to believe as an adult, imagining how the bathroom could be the one place you could be alone as a mother, but perhaps my sister and I were very independent kids.

Mom was never embarrassed when I asked her questions most kids probably have. I remember asking her, while we were bathing together, why people had hair on different parts of their body. She tried to explain pubic hair. I was curious about eyebrows. Around this time I really wanted a raccoon mask and a monkey tail and was probably hoping I could grow out my eyebrows until they covered my entire face. I think she told me that we had eyebrows to shade our eyes. How dull.

Later, in first or second grade there was a playground argument about where babies come out. Most kids thought that babies came out the mother’s butt like poop. I insisted that this was not the case, but I just wasn’t sure. So Mom showed me on my own body. That was the end of that issue ’cause it is absolutely impossible for a little girl to imagine pushing out a baby from that small little opening. It hardly gets any easier after you’re an adult.

I only remember being embarrassed once about my body or my attire. The girl next door liked to be outdoors without a shirt like her brother. And my cousins came over and the boys and younger girls were all topless so I decided to try it to. Not a problem. Until we all got into the pony cart and someone decided to take pictures. I’m not sure if I was embarrassed to have my photo taken because my nipples showed, or because I was doing something like a boy. My guess is that since I was about 5 it was probably the gender bending that bothered me.

It seems like most girls argue with their mothers about wanting to wear skimpy clothes. My mother made me mid-drift shirts, taught me how to make a halter top out of a scarf, and let me go to school in a smock top with hot pants shorter than the top. My high school home ec sewing project was a Daisy Mae tie front crop top. I never thought about any of this clothing as being sexy or revealing or anything. I don’t think my sister had any mini skirt arguments with Mom during the late 60s either.

I know that when I tell this story the listeners are a little horrified, but I wasn’t. When I was in sixth grade I had bites or a rash across my breasts that just wouldn’t go away. Mom wasn’t sure what caused this problem so while eating dinner with my grandparents she asked me to pull down my tube top so everyone could take a look. I did it and not until afterward did I think that was a little unusual.

I recall teasing Mom, telling her I didn’t want any fat mama, when I was young. But I don’t think she ever dieted or had any weight issues. My sister dieted in high school a bit, but in order to gain some weight. I was a size 5 in high school and ate whatever I wanted. I think weight wasn’t an issue because we had so much home grown foods,  no pop unless we were sick or Daddy wanted some, and I lived on peanut butter anyway. I didn’t have any weight issues until I started living with an obese person.

No one in the family was an athlete. Dad had muscles from working. I don’t think Mom had any. She claimed that she couldn’t reach down and touch her toes without bending her knees until after her first child was born. But after about age 70 she really started to limber up. You’d ask her how she was doing and she’d declare “I can still got my foot in the sink” meaning she could lift it up and into the sink. I’m not really sure why she did this, but it must have been a regular occurrence. Maybe that’s how she clipped her toenails.

Many girls have dramatic stories about their first menstruation. I knew exactly what was happening and told Mom. Her response was something like “I wonder if we have anything for that. I hope your sister left something.” She was already through menopause. That was pretty much our entire talk, beyond me asking if I could use tampons and her saying yes, but that she didn’t like them herself. I told Mom and Dad both if I needed any additional supplies. I was surprised to find out that my best friend had already started her period and hadn’t told me. Where I grew up everyone would know. I’d go back and visit with old friends and get the entire listing of girls who had crossed into that stage of growth. It really wasn’t much different than talking about which guys were shaving.

It’s too bad that there are so many messages out there about how sexual or flawed a woman’s body is because I did not learn any of that at home. I no longer feel so comfortable with my body. I look at wrinkles differently and no longer want them to become as deep as my grandfather’s were. I look at my stomach and feel fat. I wonder if I’m showing too much cleavage. I miss the innocence I was able to keep in early adulthood.

Mom never lost it, as far as I could tell. I once asked her about the very large varicose vein on her ankle and she told me that sometimes it scared her when she’d see it out of the side of her eye and think it was a snake. Otherwise it didn’t bother her. I pointed out that I bought her a shirt with 3/4 length sleeves so no one would notice her floppy arms. Her response was “I don’t care if anyone else sees that. I just don’t want to have to look at it.” She made Daddy show me the dimples that had developed near his hip bones after he turned 80 or so. She was curious about what happened to their bodies as they grew old. She came out of the shower once when I was in the bathroom with her and laughed at me when I turned away. She warned me that I was just seeing what was going to happen to me in the future. During her first visit to the nursing home she almost changed clothes in front of her grand-daughter’s husband. OK some of that lack of judgment could be attributed to delirium but she probably thought that since she was keeping on her underwear he could just politely look away as she changed.

I remember the time on our way to her eye doctor when she informed me that she had lost her belly button and we looked for it together while waiting for a light to turn. That misplacement can be attributed solely to her dementia. She didn’t normally lose track of her body parts, she just wasn’t worried about how they looked or what people thought of them.

Jan 28

More about LaMata

Posted on Friday, January 28, 2011 in Mom

I have more stories about my mother.

She was a dancer. She began as a child when her parents went to dances. She’d play and then wander into the room with all the coats, try to find a fur one or two, and snuggle in to fall asleep. She danced as an adult to Big Band music and dated men based on how well they could dance. I just heard a story about her dancing in the kitchen and kicking the handle off the stove. She and I would dance in her apartment to Brooks and Dunn, and Gretchen Wilson, and just let the assisted living staff laugh at us if they caught us. My father couldn’t dance at all.

So did my mother date a lot of men? Apparently she was the party girl. She said that her neighbors once commented that she was always coming home as they were getting up in the morning. Once we were visiting her folks in the late ’70s and a man came over and we all visited. After she left she wondered out loud, “I wonder why I never dated him.” She told her daughters that she was frequently just curious about what made some guy tick. I don’t think she dated anyone for very long.

Dad had MeMe (Mom’s future step-mother) to help his cause. MeMe had moved in with Mom and PaPa after leaving an abusive marriage. She took care of the house and shared a room with Mom. She was very interested in PaPa and getting his daughter married off was in her interest. She she kept inviting Daddy over for cake. My father never really like cake much, but he kept coming anyway. Mom decided that he’d be good to her and let the two of them lead her to the alter.

Retired in Texas.

Mom and Dad and MeMe and Papa got married one right after the other directly after a church service. It was a quick ceremony because the minister had to get somewhere else for a dinner. The two couples acted as each other’s witnesses. Mom and Dad honeymooned in the Ozarks. They would periodically quoted some weird sign they saw during the trip. I can’t remember the saying because it never made any sense to me, but it was special to them.

Mom had almost no chores as a child, but I think she did iron. She probably didn’t think of it as a chore. If Mom was upset, she liked to iron out her problems. She’d turn my corduroy pants inside out and give them a crease down the leg. I was the only kid in school with creases in her jeans and cords. One of Mom’s favorite memories of Bev’s childhood was playing Mrs. Chipmunk (little Beverly) and Mrs. Squirrel (Mom) while she ironed and Bev pretended the ironing board was a tree and made up stories.

LaMata also loved to weed. Daddy planted very large vegetable and flower gardens. Mom weeded them. She spent so much time weeding the huge strawberry patch that she burnt her back black. She was weeding just last fall. We walked over to the nursing home and she started weeding their foundation plantings when she fell, hit her head, and ended up getting two stitches. Daddy didn’t like it when she weeded public places, but she did it a lot. I do it, too.

She was a mean card player. Mean in a mostly good way. She refused to play Go Fish or War, but she would play Kings in the Corner with children. She once drew the entire draw pile without ever being able to play a card. (This is a favorite memory of those of us there, but I realize it doesn’t shine as an anecdote.) She would apologize for winning, but she never held back. Bev swears they played cribbage for two years before Bev won a game. Mom wouldn’t help her count or give suggestions. She and Dad played gin every night for years. Dad won so rarely that he recorded the dates on the card box. It seemed like she always knew what cards you had in your hand. I could beat her at Canasta with some regularity and am very proud of that fact.

There were a couple of things Mom perhaps didn’t do as well as other mothers. One was sing. She sang a lullaby which my sister and I love. Her grand-daughter and I both sang it to her as she was dying. But these are the words: bye, oh bye oh bye, oh bye oh bye, oh bye oh bye. It’s sung to the tune of the “Missouri Waltz.” I just now learned that it’s also known as “Hush a Bye Ma Baby” so apparently those were more words than Mom could recall.

The other thing I thought Mom was good at, but she didn’t, was cooking. She didn’t learn to make anything but pies until after her mother died. She suddenly had to cook for herself and her father and never felt confident in the kitchen. She frequently went to her neighbor for help. Then she married into a family of amazing cook. Some of her sisters-in-law literally cooked for thrashers. They made meringues back before power mixers. Their recipes fill church cook books. But Mom could hold her own. I didn’t know it then, but several of my elementary school classmates remember my mother as the one who baked snicker-doodles. She also made a great rabbit carry-out (think chicken and stuffing casserole) and pecan caramel rolls.

LaMata and FluffyI’m going to be a little ornery and end with three stories about my mother’s own orneriness. As a child she tried to make her own cigarettes. She tried corn silk, coffee grounds, and string. None of these worked. She started smoking the real things around age 16.

As an adult she was at a dance and a guy came by and said something she didn’t like. Nothing really offensive that she could later recall exactly. But enough that she wondered what it would be like to put her cigarette out on his face. Which she did. It was a bit more satisfying than regretful.

She threatened my husband, and apparently she did this only to my husband. Her words were something like “If you ever hurt my baby, I’ll come back and haunt you.” They got along fine and Mom seemed to like him. She came behind him at a dinner once and tweaked his ear, just because she felt the itch to do it. At least she didn’t say things just to try and make him blush like she did with my niece’s husband. She was still trying to find out what made a guy tick.

OK, one more. This isn’t ornery, but after she said this one word she wondered why she sometimes just let out whatever came to mind instead of watching what she said. My nieces and I were in the ER with Mom in Colorado and the doctor came in. He was a young handsome man and he asked “How are you feeling?” She replied, “Foxy.”

Jan 26

LaMate Faye Bullwinkle, 1921-2011

Posted on Wednesday, January 26, 2011 in Mom

My family doesn’t seem to be one that does things the normal way. We had no funeral for Daddy, nor did we place an obituary in the local paper. (Mom was afraid of being robbed as other recent widows had been.) We’re not having a real funeral for Mom either. And I’m writing her obituary only for this space.

LaMata Faye Bullwinkle, née Anderson, dies at age 89

LaMata Bullwinkle passed away January 24 at Have Homes in Maple Plain, Minn., from coronary heart disease.

LaMata was born in Berwick, Ill., to Eva Faye and Emil Anderson. Her brother, Wyatt, preceded her in death. She graduated from Roseville High School, Roseville, Ill., and was employed at the lumber yard, telephone company, and Methodist Church at various times. She moved to Maple Plain, Minn., in 1973. After retirement she resided in St. Petersburg, Fla.; McAllen, Texas; Mission, Texas; and then returned to Maple Plain to be near family after the death of her husband, David Albert Bullwinkle.

She is survived by her children, Sharon Dixson of Griggsville, Ill.; Larry Bullwinkle of Ocala, Fla.; Beverly Nohr or Glencoe, Minn.; and Kristeen Bullwinkle, of Minneapolis, Minn. She is also survived by six grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and three great-great grandchildren.

The more interesting stuff

I know only a couple of stories from her childhood. Her first memory was of being rocked while she was sick with whopping cough, I think. When she was a toddler her parents used to ask her to say what she was and she’d screw up her face like she was working really hard and shout “I’m a svede!” And she couldn’t say the words “corner” or “moccasin” for a long time.

As a child she worried at night about the possibility of her mother dying. She was surprised to learn that I never worried about that. She did lose her mother the summer she graduated from high school in 1939. She didn’t want to visit her mother in the hospital because she was afraid of remembering her that way. She was finally convinced to go, but was too late. She missed her mother terribly and I’m sorry I never got to meet her. I think she taught Mom some good lessons.

She was close to her cousins and used to spend time during the summer with them at Aunt Ivy’s. Ila and Una, I think were the names of two of them. And their Grandpa Hall used to hide bananas for them to find. They kids played and gossiped and had a great time together.

She loved to make mud pies. She made the best mud pies in the world, I think, and used suds from the wash to imitate meringue. Sometimes she added rose petals to the top. She forever lamented the fact that once cars with their fat tires and gravel for the roads came along, you didn’t get the proper dirt for making a proper mud pie. I remember her making Daddy stop the car once on a road trip because she thought she saw the right kind of dirt, but, alas, it was sub-standard.

LaMata and Wyatt

She was very close to Wyatt, her brother, even though he would sometimes get her in a corner and punch at her. She never did anything in return because she didn’t want to hurt him. They double dated or went out with the same crowd to dances. When he entered the service during WWII, she took the train with him and his new wife and baby, to Florida where he was stationed. She thought every girl should have an older brother.

She had several marriage proposals. I think even with her dementia, she remembered this. About a year ago she asked me how many times she had been married and scoffed when I told it had been only once. She laughed at the first poor guy. I have the necklace and earrings another beau gave to her. She lost a friend in WWII, but I don’t know if he ever spoke of marriage. Daddy never actually proposed. He just gave her a ring, told her it could mean whatever she wanted it to mean, and her future step-mother went ahead and planned their double wedding.

She didn’t marry until she was 32. Prior to that she remained at home and lived a very independent life with her father. After she’d return from a date, he’d ask her if she had swapped spit with the man. She had the kitchen remodeled and spent money on clothes. (This was always hard for me to believe because I almost never saw her spend money on herself.) She met Daddy at a roller rink. A friend pointed out David Bullwinkle and asked her if she wanted to meet him. She replied, “If I had a name like that, I’d change it.” But they married and she had an instant family with him and my sister and brother whose mother had died a couple of years prior.

The first couple of years of marriage were hard for Mom. I’m not sure she ever talked about her ambivalence with anyone but me. She was terrified of being seen as the evil stepmother. She was afraid she wouldn’t get pregnant. Then once she had Bev, she was afraid that she’d break her. She got past all of that, however. She eventually learned to give Bev a bath and only pushed her out of bed twice while nursing her.

Wedding day, June 14, 1953. A bird pooped on that hat.

I came along later in her life. I don’t think her father thought it was proper for her to get pregnant at 40. She was a bit more confident with me, but when I threw up all over myself, my crib, her, and her bed, she cried until Daddy came home from bowling.

That’s as far as I can go right now. I’m hoping Bev or others will correct me where I’ve made mistakes and let me know of facts or stories I should add.

One last thing about her name…

She was ahead of her time in making up her name. She was named after a friend of her parents, named Lumata. She was named after two aunts, Lu, and Mata or Mattie. Mom said that she changed the spelling to LaMata in grade school because she liked the way it looked. Mom would call herself MaLata Faye when she was upset with herself. Others called her LaM’ata with a short a sound or LaM’äta (LaMahta). Her mother called her Angel Face.

Jan 25

Death Be Not Tardy

Posted on Tuesday, January 25, 2011 in Daddy, Mom

I’ve now watched both my parents die and I have a few observations.

It’s a powerful experience being with someone as they die. Even as you sit in silence, it is very intimate and humbling.

No one really knows how to make it an easy experience for the person dying or the witness. Nevertheless, little comforts matter.

It’s an emotional road trip for  the witness. When I got the phone call from the nursing home suggesting that I come in, I felt all of the following: elation, fear, grief, relief, love, gratitude, anxiety, anger, love.

I placed elation first in that list because it was the first emotion I felt. No more tossing and panting and restlessness Mom was experiencing during her struggle to depart. No more frustration over the loss of a word or concept. No more waiting and worrying for me or for others who love her.

My more consuming feeling about death is that he can be a laggard. That’s where the anger in that list of emotions comes from. I’m not angry that death came, but that he seems to take his own time about it. Both Daddy and Mom were ready to go. Neither was scared of death. Both had a strong belief in heaven. Yet both had to wait days for him to arrive. Daddy did it quietly for weeks; Mom was in bed waving her arms trying to get his attention for days. I have a large chip on my shoulder about this. If I ever write a fantasy story in which Death appears, I’ll show him as easily distracted from his task, a little soft in the head, dragging his scythe along the ground; or he’ll be sitting in a bar somewhere watching a football game when he should be out releasing souls or oiling and sharpening his scythe.

But perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps it was my parents’ choice to go slowly. It gave their loved ones time to understand what was happening and complete a bit of grieving before they actually left us. They would be that generous. Or perhaps it was just part of their characters. They both taught me to use something up before replacing it. It’s because of their examples that I unroll the toothpaste tube and give it another long squeeze before I throw it away. And just like Mom, I wash sandwich bags and reuse them until they are no longer transparent. Maybe they both felt like they didn’t want to leave until they’d squeezed the last bit of life out the bodies they had been given.

Today, a day after Mom’s death, I’m willing to be a bit more forgiving. Mom would have forgiven a Death who stopped to watch squirrels at the feeder or stayed with another client longer than he should have because that client was scared. She was a patient woman.

Jan 5

Mommy, Mother, Mama

Posted on Wednesday, January 5, 2011 in Mom

Women are supposed to go through three stages: maiden, mother, crone. But I’ve known the woman who gave me life only as Mommy, Mother, and Mama.

As Mommy, she was the soft, warm grown up who covered me up when I feel asleep on the floor, brought me juice and cookies when the kids on Romper Room had a snack, and cleaned up after me when I vomited. She was the one who told stories about how wonderful the dirt was in her day and how much fun she had making mud pies. Then when I tried making pies from mud, she made me strip at the pump and washed me down right there outside the back door.

She made snicker-doodles when I had to bring cookies for kindergarten. She would clean my bleeding knee every time I fell while walking home from school. She put up with me trying to make her say “wash” instead of “warsh.” She made me eat salmon patties, but let me put peanut butter on them first. She called me a “Do-bee” when I was good. And she still cleaned up after me when I vomited.

Then slowly she became my mother. She sewed my clothes, kept track of how long I practiced my bassoon, and took me to orthodontist appointments. She shoveled the drive so I wouldn’t have to wear boots to catch the bus. She investigated strange smells to determine if I might be smoking pot.

Then as my mother, we developed a relationship of two adults. She dealt with my coming out. She ate food I cooked. She called me long-distance with a list in front of her of topics to cover, covered them, and then said good-bye. She no longer sewed any of my clothes. She never pestered me to get married or have a child. She treated me like an equal, but remained my mother.

While Daddy was dying she was almost Mommy again. We washed his body together after he died and cleaned the carpet the following day, never anticipating all the visitors who would arrive with casseroles. As a widow back to Minnesota, she was just Mom who I visited once a fortnight or so to play Canasta. When I told her I’d be sure to introduce Hab Moo to her before I married him, she responded “Why? I won’t have to live with him.” And she was simply happy for me.

Eventually, as her independence faded with her memory, she has become Mama. My sweet little Mama. I took her to doctor appointments and to Colorado to visit her grand-daughter. I helped her resolve an at-the-door sales scam. I listened to her confession that she no longer balanced her checkbook to the penny each month.

Now she’s in a nursing home and greets me with a smile when I visit. We don’t talk much. Mostly I just touch her and smile back. She’s even tinier now that she’s in the wheelchair. She credits me with pretty much anything anyone does for her. Yesterday she showed me her nails, telling me that I had trimmed them for her even though one of the aides had done them just a few hours prior.

She’s always thought the best of me and trusted me. That’s what has made her such a good Mommy, Mother, and Mama.