What’s in a name?

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“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose…”
from Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

 

So if any of you have read my blogs or have met me, you already know that I have rather…unusual luck. Well, let’s say a tendency to run toward the unfortunate side. Okay, my life is a hot mess and I walk around with an antenna/goon finder that works overtime even when I think it is shut off.

 But not this time. No sir, not last weekend. This is one time I stepped into my usual mess with my mouth but was granted not only a reprieve, but also a gift. A gift of wonderful friends. Here is what happened:

I had a booth at the Spirit of Vincennes Rendezvous May 28 and 29. It was awesome. Being fairly new to this writing business and having two published novels to display, I was nervous but excited.  I had never participated in an event like this one before, so I arrived early, all dressed in my colonial gear, and all set up with my two little novels spread out to cover as much of the table as I could. I sat patiently in my chair, smiling as the patrons strolled by. The wind blew.

A bit later I saw this gentleman, looking about in his 70’s or so, coming in with several boxes to set up at the adjoining table to my right. I sat there for awhile, and then I got up, hiked up my skirts and hopped over the divider between us. I squatted down so he could hear me and asked if I could help him set up his books. He is probably new to this, I thought. I will do what I can to help.

He politely declined, saying that his wife would be along shortly to set things out. He then asked me if I was an author. I beamed. “Yes, I am,” I proudly announce, waving my hand toward the table where my two piles of books lay. “I have written a YA historical fiction novel about George Rogers Clark, and it is set right here in Vincennes,” I added, in case he needed clarification.

He nodded. “I have written a couple of novels about George Rogers Clark myself,” he said mildly. One is called From Sea to Shining Sea and the other is titled Long Knife.”

I grin with encouragement. “That is awesome! I will have to wander over and take a look.”

“What is your name?” he asked.

“Pamela Horner. And yours?”

“Jim Tom.”

“I’m sorry; Jim what?”

“Tom”.

“Nice to meet you,” I said, taking the hand he proffered, smiling and thinking what a nice person he was. How lucky was I to be neighbors with such a nice man? And this must be his wife, I think as a beautiful woman sits beside him and begins to unpack the boxes. And pull out more boxes. And here came even more boxes brought in by staff. Wow. He has brought a lot of stuff. I hope he does well, I think to myself, worried.

It didn’t take long for the crowd’s numbers to increase. It didn’t take long to notice that the crowds had gathered at my neighbor’s table, yet I had only had a couple of people wander by my table. What the heck? And then I began to listen to some of the comments from the people in line, as well as noticing the excitement on their faces. Huh? What is going on? It went something like this:

Red Heart? That is my favorite!”

“Really? My favorite is this one!”

“I love all of his work!”

I sat there. Alone. I began to think. I replayed our conversation over in my mind. What have I missed? I nod to myself as it unfolded like a film in my head, all the way to the point where he introduced himself. Jim Tom, right?

And then it hits me. Like in the movies, you know, when a bunch of things happen at once, and it’s like:

Jim Tom? Jim is short for James.

Tom? Or could it be Thom?

One excited patron says, in slo-mo, “I love Follow the River!”

…all at the same time that my stomach rolls over and I am in danger of losing my breakfast, I have armpit sweat and sweat in other parts that I shall not name here, and I close my eyes and whisper, “James Alexander Thom”, just as another patron squeals, “Aren’t you…?” and my whisper fills in the blank as she simultaneously says his name. I don’t even look. I start straight ahead, just like my dog Baloo did when he stole some food he wasn’t supposed to have ~ and if he looked straight ahead, well then, you know. He didn’t do it.

I wait.

I wait for the crowd to thin, and then I slowly get up. I gather my skirts, but this time I do not hop over the divider. No, I walk with what shred of dignity I had left, which was none, to the front of the table. I stand in line.

He looks up at me and smiles.

“You tricked me.”

“I did?” This with a twinkle in his eye.

“Yes. Jim Tom? Jim? You knew I did not put it together that Jim was indeed James Alexander Thom, one of my favorite authors, someone whom I have admired for years and is one of my mother’s favorite authors, as well. I pretty much want to kill myself right now.”

And it went from there, ladies and gentlemen. That is how I met one of my favorite authors, and probably one your favorites, as well. And the fact that I was a complete buffoon did not faze him in the least. He and his wife are some of the most gracious, kind, and genuine people you will ever meet. In minutes you can feel their peaceful auras, and you can’t help but benefit from their generous spirits.

His lovely wife brought some gorgeous flowers from her mother-in-law’s garden and was kind enough to share them with me, even giving them to me to take home. What a wonderful weekend; what a gift I was given! I shall treasure that memory for as long as I can keep it.

 

But when I do, I shall replay it in my mind, just like in the movies. And I will do some careful editing, like perhaps cutting out some parts, starting with some faux-colonial girl hopping like a large cricket over a divider and saying, with an encouraging smile to help out a fellow author, “May I help you set up your books?” IMG_20160530_145138IMG_20160530_143355

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You Are Being Watched

A good Sunday morning to everyone.

It’s been a long time since I have sat at these keys to connect with you. A long time. Days, weeks, and months have passed. Seasons have changed. Worlds have changed. Time, though asked repetitively, continued his interminable step.

I, somehow, found a crack, a mere tear in the cosmos, and I accidentally slipped through it. I am just now finding my way back.

There are times during our lives when we think the world is about us. Then we grow up and realize the childish foolishness of that notion. We sagely nod and agree, whether we like it or not…we are such tiny dots in the stratosphere that we are not sure if we even register a microdot on life’s radar.

You truly realize this when a catastrophic life event hits. Poor health, a loss, finances, you name it, and it can happen. You hate it; you really do, when these things happen to someone else. What a shame, you think, and you roll up your sleeves and try to help, or you slightly turn your head, thankful that it was not you. You might even take the slightest side step, in case proximity might reach over and drag you into the mire, depending upon the type of person you are.

But when it’s you…

That is when you beg God, Time, the cosmos, somebody or something, to stop. Stop. Stop the world from its incessant whirl on its axis because you cannot keep up. You cannot deal; you cannot-breathe.

But it doesn’t.

And that is when you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you are so tiny that you did not even cause a blip on life’s radar.

But do not, I repeat, do not…be fooled. None of that is true.

You matter. You really do matter, and you are never so tiny that you did not create that blip on life’s radar, because…you did. You may never know it, but you did-because someone was watching.

Everything you do, matters. What you say, matters. How you live and respond to that living, matters. Because no matter who you are or where you are, someone watched. You may never know who it was, but I can tell you now, it made a difference. For the greater good or negatively, it registered with someone and it mattered.

So make it count.

Last year, I lost my mother. Oh, I am so sorry, you murmur, and you mean it. But this was my catastrophic moment. I lost so much more. Oh, so much more. I lost my best friend, my touchstone, my cornerstone, my rock, my person to talk to, the person who understood me when no would else wanted to…and so on.

I went through the motions for that first year of loss. That’s what you do. I wrote a book about it; The Long Road Home. It tells my mother’s story when she could not tell it herself; she had Alzheimer’s and could not tell you who she was, let alone her story. I lost her before her death as she not only failed to know who I was, she feared and despised me. I hope that in reading it, it can help those of you who are dealing with an issue; dementia, illness, or loss. For those who have family members in some like situation, or perhaps you are the caregiver and you feel like you are the lone survivor on the Island of Misfit Toys and you cannot leave-my hope is that this will help you, as you are never alone.

And you matter.

My mother never thought much about herself. She thought she was lower in intelligence than she wanted to be. She never, ever realized or understood the impact that she had on those who knew her.

She never realized that she mattered, or how much she mattered.

She did not realize how many of us were watching her. And her ripple on our surfaces was so great that I have lost the ability to follow them with my eyes. They are infinite.

And so will be yours.

You matter.

So know, always know, that someone is hearing what you have to say, or someone is watching how you handle life, or someone is having a bad day and sees your smile as you walk through the day. Whatever it is, please know and never forget-you matter, for someone is watching you and will pass bits of you on through life.

Make it matter.

 

The Long Road Home https://www.amazon.com/dp/1545272964/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_XMgRzb8NA9V18

The Eternal Boys of Summer

20161103_150035.pngTradition. Tradition? How important is it? Hmmmm….well, according to Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, it was very important. Some of you may think, eh, maybe not so much. Better to strike out on your own and blaze new trails. Could it be that both are right, that each camp has merit, but, oh, the magic it creates if the two can somehow be harmoniously blended?

 My family is steeped in tradition. We revel in it, we look forward to it, and God help the lost sheep who strays and tries to change things (as I did when I erroneously suggested we try Cordon Bleu for Thanksgiving this year in the place of a turkey…they are still screaming about that one!).

 We gather together each holiday, adjusting the days or times each year as the family expands and embraces new families, but we gather. We gather together every Friday night to eat, joke, laugh, cry, and play games, whichever suits the occasion or mood. These have all become part of the fabric of our family. Tradition.

 We have another tradition, too. The Chicago Cubs. Boy, that is a big one that our family has revolved around even before I was born. My father, who was extraordinarily talented athletically, loved most any type of sport. He played on the varsity basketball team all four years of high school. He played basketball on a league at Central Foundry when he worked there. He played whenever and wherever he could. But there was this one sport, this one team, though, that he would orbit around, and that was baseball and the Chicago Cubs.

 During my childhood, we would drive to Tunnelton, a very small town in southern Indiana where I grew up, to have lunch with my grandmother and my father’s rather large family. If there was a Chicago Cubs baseball game played that afternoon, he and all of his brothers would cram into one of the trucks or cars and strain to put their ears to the static emitting from the radio, which was the only way they could follow the games at the time. They wouldn’t miss it, no matter how hot it was, how stormy, how crowded…you get the picture.

 I didn’t. I did not and still do not have one athletic bone in my body. Not even a ligament. My mother could skate and bowl. My father played basketball and baseball well. My sister was the treasurer of the school’s club, GAA, Girls’ Athletic Association, and played softball. I, well, I played in the stands, and that was it.

 Here is the thing, though. What I lacked in athletic ability, I made up for it with my love for and appreciation of tradition. My family would travel to games together. Did I enjoy the games? Nope; not at all. But what I did love was the family time, the laughs, the picnics, and the enjoyment of being together. Every spring, my father would journey to Arizona with a group of his friends to watch the Cubs Spring Training, and it was a big deal for them and for us. He would bring home stories as well as souvenirs, with which I would happily add to my Cubs’ paraphernalia. Pennants, bats, hats, large paper Harry Carey glasses…you name it and we had it, and I was happy because it was an annual tradition for him, his friends, and our families.

 I don’t know if some of you are aware of the traditional folk lore of the ‘curse’ of the Cubs’ team, but it involves a Greek and his goat being ousted from the stadium (obvious reasons…think of stinky goat plus hot weather in close quarters!), and the upset man, upon leaving, cursing the team by saying that they will never win another World Series. Well, let me tell you, as the years passed it was almost enough to make you believe in curses and goats because year after year rolled by with no World Series success. Some close but always marred by misses.

My father, however, never lost his faith in his team. No matter what, no matter how many people laughed and jeered, or how awful they played, his belief in his team was never shaken. I admired that as I watched, sometimes wondering how he could hang in there so many years, but hang in there he did; he and his faithful friends never missed a year for spring training.

 Until the spring of 2002, that is. My father had become ill by then, and by the spring of that year, he was bedridden. I remember how heartbroken my mother was as she had to hear my father say quietly, “I wish I could go with them, at least one more time,” as they drove off, telling him their good-byes and that they wished he could have joined them. He was gone by the next month, and the knowledge that he could not make his trip to his ‘Mecca’ one final time was a something over which she always grieved.

But now, she, too is gone; I lost my mother three months ago. For the first time in my life, I watched every game of this World Series 2016. For them; for my parents. For tradition, because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt neither wild horses nor goats could have kept them from watching this momentous occasion, and I am pretty certain they enjoyed their seats much more this time as they watched it side by side.

 

 When we gather together, I sometimes find myself tempted to look around and focus on the chairs that now stand empty, and I feel gripped by an overwhelming sense of sadness and loss, but then I remember the things I have been taught and the traditions we have treasured as a family. When I do that, I can’t help but smile because I know how happy my parents must be, how elated they must be at this uncommon win, and, now that most of them are together for their everlasting trip to Cubs’ spring training, how ecstatic the eternal boys of summer are.

Just Breathe

  Hello to everyone out there. It has been awhile since I have sat down in front of my computer to write, so….No, that’s not true at all. I have been here. Quite a few times. It’s just that the words refused to flow from my head and heart through my fingertips, so I just sat here and stared at a blank screen. I still don’t know what I am going to say, so I will ramble, if you don’t mind.

 

A lot has happened since we last ‘talked’. Some good, some tragic. Some wins, and one colossal loss. Such is the way of life; I get that intellectually, but I am having a devil of a time talking sense into my heart.

 

Every one of the grandchildren and my nephew are entering into a new chapter of their lives. Blake is entering high school. There is enough right there to write another blog. Gabriel is entering eighth grade and ready to make the most of his final year of middle school. Sayge is just starting middle school and will be concentrating on both how to conquer the ever mysterious locker combination while maintaining ‘cool’ status, and Lennon will be embarking on her preschool career. God help us all on that venture.

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My son-in-law, PJ, has opened a Ninja gym/Spartan training course in his backyard to give the community endless opportunities, and my daughter and niece are planning to work together on a book, which will be beyond amazing because they both are. These are all wins.

 Our family took quite a blow this summer. My beloved mother lost her battle and bodily left us one month ago today. She fought so gallantly and with every weapon in her arsenal. She was beleaguered with diabetes, mini-strokes, seizures, Parkinson’s, and the most evil of them all, Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Her mind actually left us some time ago. Those of you who have family members tortured by this disease or who are caretakers of someone afflicted by dementia already know. You know that you will never know where they are in their minds, you know that while they appear the same, they are not who they once were as they stare vacantly at you, trying to place who you are and why you are not letting them ‘go home’. You know that every trick you try, it won’t work the next minute, and you know that when you are treated with a glimmer of who they really are…one flicker of recognition or one second of peace instead of the tortured hell in which they are trapped, you have been blessed, indeed. It is a gift you will hold dear and take out periodically to examine and cherish.

 My daughter commented the other day that she has become almost frightened as she had never seen me sad. No matter what, I have always bounced back, and like everyone else, there has been a lot to bounce back from. Through divorce, through my only child moving out too soon to live with her father so that I always felt ‘incomplete’, as if I had never finished my job, through the loss of some of my eyesight through a surgery gone amok, through the loss of my father, through the loss of my beloved dog, Baloo, through a move that meant giving up my house to move in with my mother (which turned out to be one of my greatest blessings), and on and on…I was always happy.

 

You know why? Because I had my best friend to pull me through all of these trials. I have always played the Game of Life by holding all my cards pretty close to my chest, never letting too many people in. My mother knew this and kept at me, chiseling away at the wall that I felt was necessary to protect me, and without her, I feel that I am back to playing Solitaire.  

 

This is not true, and I know this deep within my heart. I still have that crazy, eclectic group that is our family, and we are here for each other. They are suffering as well, because this wonderful woman left such a gaping hole in our tribe. As one dear friend put it, “There will never be another Betty Horner”, but as another dear friend, my ex-husband, said, “She would not want to look down and see this crying shit! She wouldn’t want that.” And that is the truth. She would be the first to tell me enough is enough and to get on with the business of living. And this I shall do. I just wish it didn’t hurt quite so badly.

 

She often said, before she became so lost, that she was so grateful that she could come with me on my journey of writing. So the time has come for me to quit looking at this blank screen and get on with it. Stop fearing life, and stop fearing that I won’t be able to pull off being the head of this most wonderful yet most challenging family of mine. I always think of that quote, “What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” by Erin Hanson. That would be the essence of what Mother would tell each of us. I am not her and I never will be. But I am me, and I will try to be the best me I possibly can. I will breathe. I will teach, I will love my family, I will write, I will fall but will get back up, and I will live this crazy, wonderful life.

 

 But, step one. Breathe…

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The Fall of a Warrior Woman

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In this alternative universe, time has no meaning and reality is seen through lenses fogged by someone else’s memories. We cannot really be in this play; there are too many parts to try out for.

Rather, we can be Alice and roam around this Wonderland full of creatures that are unlike any we have ever encountered before. But be careful; this Wonderland is as much Hell as it is magical. I would tell you to be prepared, but that would be laughable if not for the horror of this truth.

My beloved Mother is somewhere in this land of unreality. She was walking strong and independent, always looking to work, to help, to fill any need, a spitfire full of life, full of love, full of spunk and spirit. A warrior in her own right who was the honored head of this ragtag family of ours that she treasured so much.

Until she was taken.

 

Unlike Alice, she didn’t willingly follow a rabbit down the hole. She was grabbed unceremoniously and without consent by the jagged, ripped, consuming teeth of Alzheimer’s and forced down a hole where she can’t find her home. She wanders unfamiliar halls in her mind; trying to find the sanctuary she so loved. It is gone.

Oh, we show her pictures of the past; pictures that reflect the room in which she sits, but the ability to make the connection, to find the solace of familiarity has been forever taken from her.

She cries.

She calls out for my father, who has been gone for fourteen years. She seeks her father and her mother. She looks at me, her daughter, and sees many characters, and I play the hell out of each part. Sometimes I am my father, sometimes I am my daughter, at times I am my niece, but most often I am the unfamiliar caretaker who she really does not like very much, but I will never, ever be her daughter; the one who loves her beyond measure.

She weeps.

I look at her and the companion tears swim in my eyes. I see us as we used to be, riding around with no destination, music on, enjoying each moment. She looks at me and sees me as her enemy, one who is holding her hostage in a place that is unforgiving in its torment, unfamiliar, unclear, unhappy and full of pain and loss. How could she love that?

She screams.

Just let me go home. Take me home. I need to find my home, as she paces the rooms in which she has lived for sixty years.

She hurts.

I bleed.

How will this end?

Maybe I should ask Alice, but I don’t have time. I am still wandering in this place in search of my mother. I refuse to believe that she is nothing but this disease. She must still be in there somewhere. I search for her soul behind those eyes which show nothing but fear now. I seek the fire of her spirit underneath the cutting words that spew from the lips of this demon disease. That is not my mother, but I know she is in there. The warrior, the fearless warrior who is fighting behind walls none of us can see.

Don’t give up on me, Mother. I am coming.

I love you.

 

Defeat Alzheimer‘s disease.

Mother’s Day; It’s All Relative

 I have always loved Mother’s Day. It is a time that has given me a chance to reflect on all the blessings I have been given by my relatives, my daughter and all of my family, but most importantly, it was a day to celebrate my own beloved mother.

 This year, however, is bittersweet. Oh, I realize that it is bittersweet for a lot of women for a variety of reasons. There is the camp that wants a day to be recognized, and there is the camp that gets irritated by those women because they feel the only gifts/recognition should come from that woman’s children.

 Me? I guess I always looked at it as a day to celebrate motherhood in general; a day to give a nod to those who soldier on while undertaking one of the most rewarding/difficult/jobs/privileges in the world. It would be like saying to atheists or Jews that they cannot wish Merry Christmas or give a token plate of holiday fudge to a Christian, because, well, you know…that would be “mixing”.

 I also feel that these strong feelings and opinions follow that adage that opinions are like a certain part of everyone’s necessary but olfactorily unpleasant anatomy; we all have them, but that does not mean that we should stick our noses inside of anyone else’s. Let it be.

 For any of you who have ever read most of my blogs or have met me, you probably already know how important my mother is, and always has been, to me. What you may not know is that during our school’s spring break this year, somehow my beloved mother left me. No, not in body, thank God, but the beautiful essence of her that wove what I always thought would be an unbreakable bond between us – broke. In the blink of an eye, she no longer knew me as her daughter.

 Oh, things had been happening for quite some time; don’t get me wrong. Her confusion had been deepening, but I had always been able to ‘bring her back’, or so I thought. But on this one day, she never slipped back through that door of darkness back to me. She knows me as her caregiver; she thinks of me as having a twin. She kind of likes the twin, though! Me, not so much, but I get to hear good things about my twin, Pam! This makes me smile now, though I have had to shed many tears and go through quite a steep learning curve – that I do not think I will ever master –  to get to this point of finding some humor in this situation.

 Whatever has gripped her mind, this dementia or Alzheimer’s, or whatever it is, I think of it like the Black Thing in Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.(If you have never read it, you must.) This Black Thing, it is pure evil, and it wraps its toxic thickness around its victim, choking off his or her light source until there is nothing left but fragments of his or her shell.

 I wrote out her card last night, tears dropping on its page, because I knew that she probably will not realize exactly who was giving it to her. I propped it with her little gift, again, fear mixed with hope that it would not scare of confuse  her, but that it would make her happy in some way, if it can, even though she may not know it is her daughter (the evil twin, not the good Pam!) who gave it to her.

 She asked me yesterday as I was getting her ready for our annual pre-Mother’s Day who I was. Those are the moments that steal my breath. I literally cannot breathe. But when I told her, “I am Pam, your daughter”, she looked up and repeated, “You are my daughter?” Then, more definitively, “You are my daughter.” These are the moments I live for now. This is my Mother’s Day present.

 For everyone out there who Mother’s Day touches in some way, I say to you “Happy Mother’s Day”. I beg you to not let one minute go in disappointment or anger, either at the lack of thought or token on someone else’s part or anger and resentment at those who long for someone to recognize them in some way on this day. Those are moments wasted. I would say to you to please just treasure the memories you may have – I always have, whether they be good or bad, because believe me, I have a treasure trove of both., but we do not always have that guarantee, now, do we? Just ask my mother, if you could, as she has lost so many of the beautiful memories that she loved so very much. So just breathe, take life one moment at a time, and embrace the bad along with the good because the whole mixed bag is what will make you the wonderful person you are, if you let it happen with grace.

Have a wonderful day!

  Side Note: Remember when I said, “That is my gift”; like that is all I need in life? That is really a load of bull. What I would like on TOP of that and what I would gladly trade my new little female cat that I rescued for my mother to have as a companion while I am away at work, and who she thinks is a male dog and named “Clark”…is one night of uninterrupted sleep! And that is the truth!!